Words of Wisdom #63

“Sky and earth are a great furnace and nature is a great smith”.

-Zhuangzi

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Marcus Aurelius: about Destiny, Time and the Cyclicality and Metamorphosis of the Universal Nature

“Love only what happens to you and that is woven in the great plot of life: there is nothing that suits you best”.

-Marcus Aurelius

“Whatever happens to you was predisposed for you since the time of times, and an impenetrable intertwinement of causes, starting from then, has bound your life to that particular event”.

-Marcus Aurelius

“Don’t live as if you had still thousands of years ahead of you: it chases you, fast, destiny. As long as you live, as long as you can, become virtuous”.

-Marcus Aurelius

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“Many are the superfluous and annoying things that you can eliminate, because they exist only in the opinion that you create about them: so as to be able to give a wider space to your mind, to embrace with the thought the entire universe, to reflect on infinity and eternity, to verify how rapid is the transformation of every single thing, how short is the time that flows from birth to death and what infinite abyss is that which precedes birth and that which follows death”.

-Marcus Aurelius

“All the things you see will soon be transformed by the universal nature, that from their substance will give birth to other ones, which in turn will transform into still other ones and so on, and this in order for the universe to remain forever young”.

-Marcus Aurelius

Observe the course of the stars and participate of their movement, then think intensely about the continuous and mutual change of the elements: you will feel purified by the filth of earthly life”.

-Marcus Aurelius

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About Destiny: Words of Wisdom #12
About Time: Eternal Regret (Part 1 of 2), Eternal Regret (Part 2 of 2)
Quotes by Marcus Aurelius (and Epictetus) about Stoicism: About Stoicism

About Sorcery, Spirits and Gods

If you have ever read “The Golden Bough” by James G. Frazer then you will know that our ancestors had a vision of the world permeated by sorcery. Frazer describes sorcery as based on two principles included in the same definition of “sympathetic sorcery”, since both presuppose an interaction at distance:

The similar generates the similar, the effect resembles the cause. From this law of similarity/imitation the sorcerer deduces of being able to obtain the desired effect simply by imitating it.

The things that have come once into reciprocal contact will continue to influence each other, even when the physical contact has been interrupted. From this law of contact/contagion the sorcerer deduces that every action he performs on a material object will influence in equal measure the person with which the object has been once in contact, whether it was or not a part of his body.

Our most ancient traditions were obviously permeated by sorcery, for example: -The custom of calling the newborns with the names of dead relatives, so that the descendants would become their ancestors. -The celebrations in which, through a dramatic representation, our ancestors staged the opposition between Summer and Winter, during which some actors interpreted the role of Summer and others the role of Winter, symbolically fighting each other; the faction that represented Summer had always to win, so that, in the same way, Summer would come back after “defeating” Winter. -When the Sacred King reached the end of his annual function sometimes he hid for a short period in a symbolic grave and was believed to be dead, since similarly to the dead he too was in a grave.

Sorcery has never left our minds and thoughts: we still use it today, everyday, without realizing it. Some trivial example? -Many people today (between 7 and 70 years…) think that, simply by imitating others aesthetically, they will receive the same appreciation among their peers. -Many people today when playing football (or other sports) using the t-shirt of a player they admire, think or are convinced to have abilities that they don’t really possess, or achieve performances that normally they would have never attained: this because in a sense they identify themselves with the name written in the t-shirt.

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The sorcerer believed of being able to influence – through the application of these principles – even nature, i.e. the spirits. For our ancestors the spirits consisted in invisible essences/vital principles that governed nature and its cycles; not directly visible forces, that manifest themselves revealing their existence through the observation and ascertainment of their effects. The word “spirit” derives from Latin spiritus, with the meaning of “breath, breathing”, perhaps from PIE *(s)peis- “to blow”. Why? I don’t know, maybe in relation to the fact that a breath is invisible and intangible, but still a force that can manifest itself in the material world and alter it; likewise the spirits were seen as the “wind/breath” that caused the changes inherent to the cycles of the natural world.

stagioni

So originally our ancestors saw nature as animated by these spirits, and only after some time they passed to a view of nature that saw it governed by external deities: this change of perspective is known as anthropomorphism, i.e. the attribution of an increasing number of human characteristics to the spirits of nature.

An example in this regard can be found in Ancient Rome, where the Numen (defined by Julius Evola as a “nude force, defining itself with its ability to produce effects, to act, to manifest itself – and the meaning of the real presence of such powers, of such <numina>, as something transcendent and immanent, at the same time marvelous and fearsome, constituted the essence of the original experience of the <sacred>”) was later conceived as Deus.

We’ll return later to this change of perspective.

You see, there is a subtle difference between sorcery and science compared to how the latter is understood (as well as adored and revered…) today. Our ancestors knew perfectly, exactly as us today, the immutable laws and the regular and certain sequence of the natural events. Our ancestors have never believed (or even wanted…why on earth they would have wanted to alter the natural cycles, in themselves perfectly harmonious and balanced?) that through sorcery they could have attained, for example, a perennial Spring or Summer. What they believed – wrongly – was that the course of nature was guaranteed by man’s spells, without which all the natural cycles would have been at the mercy of chance.

A Sorcerer (but in those days they had only their minds, no books…):
mago-merlino-copia

Gradually they understood that the course of nature manifested itself immutable and indifferent to the support and practices of men, which simply began to celebrate the magnificence of nature in its multiple aspects (including man itself, which is part of nature), addressing individually to each spirit instead of trying to support/manipulate them: to do this they needed to give them a name and consequently they began to think of them as anthropomorphic beings, that is to say the deities as we today intend them, each having as attributes, for example, the elements, animals and trees that were associated with each spirit. It is the birth of religion and of the deities, the Sorcerer and the Sorceress became the Priest and the Priestess, and the Sorcerer-King and the Sorceress-Queen became the God-King and the Goddess-Queen. As you may have understood, the usual approach to life based on sorcery didn’t fade neither easily nor quickly, and this is why the Kings and Queens of Europe during the Neolithic ended up becoming specific deities (respectively the Sky/Sun God [the incarnation and living symbol of the principles of “immutability” and “being”] and the Earth/Moon Goddess [the incarnation and living symbol of the principles of “mutability” and “becoming”]), simply by imitating them, i.e. assuming their roles, functions and names, their attributes and external characteristics, etc.

Hail to the Gods and Goddesses of Europe!

The Harmony of Opposites

Heraclitus was an enigmatic Greek philosopher, defined because of this as “the obscure”. During his last years of life he became a hermit of the mountains, being an aristocratic spirit that disdained the multitudes: not bad for one who lived in Ancient Greece! He should have seen the world as it is today…

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Anyway, one thing that is clear from the fragments at our disposal is his doctrine concerning the harmony of opposites:

“The opposites concordant, and from the discordant comes beautiful harmony, and everything happens according to contention”.

“The same thing are the living and the dead, the awake and the sleeping, the young and the old: these indeed changing are those and those again changing are these”.

“What is cold becomes hot, what is hot becomes cold, what is moist becomes dry, what is dry becomes moist”.

“Immortal mortals, mortal immortals, living their death and dying their life”.

“One and the same is the path that goes upward and the path that goes downward”.

“The same are in fact the beginning and the end in the circumference of the circle”.

“God is day-night, winter-summer, war-peace, satiety-hunger”.

“Junctions are entire-not entire, concordant-discordant, harmonic-disharmonic, and from all things the one and from the one all things”.

Listening not to me, but to the lógos, it is wise to agree that all things are one“.

Heraclitus understood that the Law of the Universe, the Logos (intended as “relation” or “connection”, in reference to the infinite series of relations/connections generated by Nature and operating in it, through the mediation of opposites that alternate), is the relation of contraposition, complementarity, interdependency and alternation between two opposite concepts (being-becoming, one-many, eternity-time, infinite-finite, life-death, past-future, inhalation-exhalation, peace-war, hot-cold, etc.) that are apparently in constant conflict with each other, but in reality, at the same time, need each other because everything originates from its opposite: the opposites can indeed be defined only for opposition, and they can never be independently determined; nothing would exist if there was not, at the same time, also its opposite.

Note: here lies the meaning of the figure of the Androgynous (from Greek androgynos, composed by andros, “man”, and gyne, “woman”), the complete and undivided being best known for its description made by Plato in the Symposium. The symbolism inherent in this figure refers to the coexistence of opposites and their interdependence, the underlying unity hidden by their apparent separation and opposition: in biological terms it refers to the restoration of the absolute and primordial unity of the being. The coincidentia oppositorum (a Latin phrase meaning “coincidence of opposites”) is the state of being in which the opposites coincide: for example, at the climax of sexual love occurs a coincidence between man and woman, a momentary emersion of the androgynous state of being, the erotic impulse having its deepest meaning in the reintegration and reunification of the two divided parts of the human being; this biological coincidence, in specific cases and conditions, allows to momentarily experience a purely spiritual and trascendent state, what in philosophy would consist in the culmination of the metaphysical speculation, namely the inner realization of the coincidence between the concepts of Being and Becoming (that are therefore two ways of appearing of a single reality), union that results in a single principle, a metaphisical reality that is beyond the opposition between contraries, that in it instead coincide: the Universal Reality.

androgino

If there was no night, what would give us the opportunity to define day as such? If there was no winter, what would give us the opportunity to define summer as such? If there was no war, what would give us the opportunity to define peace as such? If there was no death, what would give us the opportunity to define life as such? The same on the contrary and for all the opposites that exist, they are two faces of the same coin, bound in the same way as an uphill path seems a downhill path if seen from above.

winter-summer

As it’s evident from the fragments cited above, Heraclitus thought that everything is destined to pass eternally from one state of the being to another: what is cold and becomes hot will cool, what is slow and becomes fast will slow down, what is alive and dies will return to life. I’m alive (again) because I died, and I am destined to die (again) and then to return to life (again), in the same way as I’m awake (again) because I fell asleep, only to be destined to fell asleep (again) and then return to be awake (again). The end of the circle coincides exactly with its beginning. There is no immobility, only an eternal and unceasing metamorphosis, a current with no beginning and no end, a constant change and transformation: panta rei (“everything flows”). As Heraclitus said: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river (in its perennial flow) and he’s not the same man (in his perennial becoming)“.

We can affirm that Heraclitus believed in the immortality and eternal rebirth of the individual spirit: if it is possible to be reborn then it is necessary that the spirit exists (from what we would return to life if not from it that is eternal and immortal, while the body is temporary and mortal?) and that it doesn’t disappear after death, but that instead it continues to exist even outside the body.

Anyway, we need both the opposites and there will always be both: their result is harmony and equilibrium: after peace will come war but at a certain point there will be peace again, after summer will come winter but at a certain point there will be summer again, etc. In this flux Heraclitus saw the Logos, the Universal Law of Nature!

hendrik_ter_brugghen_-_heraclitus

Words of Wisdom #13

What we see and try to understand as natural is the divine…the most faithful image of reality is at the same time the most lively proof in favour of the existence of the gods“.

-W.F. Otto

We should always observe and imitate Nature, we should always be curious about what happens in the Sky and in the Earth, and in this way we’ll be closer to the divine!

walter-friedrich-otto