Spengler: about Cosmic Anguish and the Religious Sentiment of the World

“Among the primordial sentiments, the cosmic anguish is certainly the most creative. To it man owes the most profound forms and figures, matured not only from its conscious inner life, but also from the repercussions of it in the innumerable works of external culture. Like a secret melody not perceptible by everyone, the anguish becomes known through the language of the forms of every true work of art, of every deep philosophy, of every significant action”.

“In every work that expresses the whole man, the whole sense of existence, anguish and desire, despite being intertwined, remain distinct”.

“All living forms in which the soul expresses itself, all arts, theories, customs, all mathematical and metaphysical worlds of the forms, every ornamentation, column, verse, idea is, deep inside, religious and can only be religious. But now it can no longer be such. The essence of every culture is religion, therefore the essence of every civilization is irreligion”.

“At the beginning of history there is a deep religious sense of the world, there are sudden illuminations, shivers of anguish in front of the awake being toward which we proceeded, there are dreams and metaphysical desires: at the end of it there is an intellectual clarity so exasperated to be painful”.

“That the birth of the Self and that of the cosmic anguish are one, is one of the fundamental mysteries of humanity and, in general, of the life capable of free movement”.

-Oswald Spengler

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Le Besoin d’Impossible

The first book published by Marie Cachet, Le Besoin d’Impossible, is a purely philosophical work but at the same time multiform in its implications: in this article I’m going to indicate and expose the issues that have mostly caught my attention during the reading of the book.

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Let’s start from an assumption that, although discussed and deepened by the author in another context, is essential for a thorough understanding of the work that concerns us now: the modern European man is, fro ma biological point of view, a slightly hybridized Neanderthal man (today we are on average, genetically speaking, 99,7% Neanderthal): what does this have to do with questions of philosophical nature? According to Marie Cachet one of the consequences of this hybridization, even after its stabilization, was the birth or surfacing of a metaphysical vertigo, a disharmony and despair of the mind that manifested itself simultaneously with the dramatic transition to a temporal, and thus finite, perception of the Universe: a real “fall” that led us far from the possibility of fathom and living the concepts of eternity, intended as the atemporal point that we call instant, and infinity, intended as spatial infinity.

At that point our ancestors, as well as us today, tried instinctively, unconsciously and obsessively to compensate this metaphysical despair without being overwhelmed by the “terror of time”; an explosion of human dynamism, individual and collective, led progressively to the birth and development of civilizations, arts, sciences, spiritualities, religions and philosophies, all attempts to recreate the lost harmony of the mind and extend one’s personality beyond the boundaries of the biological duration of existence, in an attempt to forge a sort of simulated eternity: the need for the impossible, as suggested by the title of the book.

Examples of materialization of the collective genetic memory of a people, in an attempt to be remembered in time:
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Examples of materialization of the genetic memory of an individual, the sculptor, in an attempt to be remembered in time:
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Therefore, according to Marie Cachet, every external creation as well as all forms of teaching are manifestation of a deep necessity of the human beings, namely the selfish need to go beyond the yoke of time, beyond the finitude, so as to preserve themselves in time, through other people, symbolic containers of their self, potential reincarnations of their self. Therefore creating and teaching (the equivalent Italian word is “insegnare”, “mark within”) are therefore a means to conquer eternity and defeat the illusion of a finite time: we project our self in the future, through an imaginary or real reincarnation, which in turn will transmit in the future the essence of our self, in an eventual endless chain.

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An essential distinction that emerges during the reading is that between the individuals conscious of their metaphysical despair, active and subjective individuals, and the vast majority of those who are not aware of it, passive and objective individuals, which unconsciously suffer the consequences of this disharmony. The religions – especially the organized religions – and spiritualities that give us dogmatic and established metaphysical responses, the daily repetitiveness, the social conventions and all the entertainments we create in our societies are, although we do not realise it, tools that distract us and allow us to flee from the metaphysical anguish inherent in us, from the sacred terror that we experience in front of the ultimate mysteries of the universe and of life. Only by getting rid of all this – especially of what provides us standardised metaphysical answers – and through boredom, certain men will fall into the metaphysical despair and find their authentic self (through the manifestation of the memories of their previous lives, memories engraved and latent in our blood), their true essence, undergoing a sort of awakening: achieved this superior spiritual state, a deep impulse will force them to find their subjective responses to the fundamental dilemmas that surround us.

You dare to face the metaphysical abyss?

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As I have previously explained, these are just some of the issues discussed in this book, a unique work of its kind, the ones that most involved me: I urge you to read it and give shape to your personal opinion.

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The Book of Coming Forth by Day

The Book of the Dead of the Egyptians consists in a numerous series of chapters intended to reveal the initiatory process through which a divine ancestor could reincarnate in a chosen descendant.

The Weighing of the Heart:
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I will try to interpret some brief quotes that have caught my attention:

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“I am the Today.
I am the Yesterday.
I am the Tomorrow.
Through my numerous Births
I subsist young and vigorous”.

-Chapter LXIV

Through his numerous rebirths (in this context rebirth and reincarnation are always interchangeable terms) the honourable ancestor has lived in the past, is living in the present and will live in the future, returning periodically to be young, healthy and strong.

“He aspires to eternal life
As is the Sky, without end and without limits.
Because, in truth, to the Sky belongs your Soul,
But the Earth owns its corporal form”.

-Chapter CLXIII

The honourable ancestor aspires to live eternally through endless rebirths: the soul, i.e. the spirit, is associated with the Sky, since they are both eternal and immutable entities, whereas the body is associated with the Earth, since they are both temporary and mutable entities.

“May my Soul dwell in my Body,
My Body unite with my Soul!”.

-Chapter CLXIII

The deceased aspires to a rebirth that will necessarily takes place through the reconciliation of the soul with the body.

“Know this, your head will be saved!
It will not be stolen from you, for all eternity!”.

-Chapter CLXVI

For our ancestors the head was the symbol of the wisdom, memory and identity of a person: the skull had thus an essential role during the initiatory ritual of rebirth, and the text assures to the deceased that his head will be preserved and that his identity will belong again to him by means of future reincarnations.

“In truth, you are the same Horus
shining in the middle of your Cosmic Egg”.

-Chapter CLXX

Horus – the child that attempts to accomplish the initiatic ritual of rebirth – and the divine ancestor inside the pyramid – which is like a fetus inside the womb – are the same entity: both are waiting to be born from the cosmic egg.

The cosmic egg wrapped by a snake symbolizes the womb during pregnancy and the umbilical cord:
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The ankh was the symbol of life and represented the female reproductive system, intended as universal matrix:
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“Horus himself puts you erect
Like many times he has already done, with the sanctified”.

-Chapter CLXX

The child puts in erect position – a prerogative of those who are alive and a synonymous of life and return to life – the mummy of the divine ancestor, like many times has already happened in the past.

“Behold, I rise up from the Bowels of the Universe,
And for the second time I come to the world…
I return little child, without father, a new-born…
Nobody will be able to prevent me, when the time will come,
From answering to the questions that I will be asked…”.

-Chapter CLXX

The divine ancestor inside the pyramid has finally reincarnated in the body of the chosen descendant which has accomplished the initiation ritual: back in the world of the living and he will be able to answer to all questions concerning the metaphysical truths.

“Your navel is the Realm of the Dead.
Where Light and Darkness are in equilibrium”.

-Chapter CLXXII

The concept of “navel” (as well as those of “navel of the earth”, “navel of the world”, “center of the earth” and “center of the world”) symbolized the realm of the dead, in this context the pyramid, the place where life and death are in equilibrium, the divine ancestor being not alive but not even definitively dead: he is in an intermediate state between these two, awaiting to be reborn.

“In truth, in the moment when I was born in the world of the Beyond,
A new deity was born: and it was me!
Now, with my own eyes, I can see…
I look around me; I exist.
My vision is clear and piercing.
Erect, I resume the interrupted thread of my existence…”.

-Chapter CLXXIV

The divine ancestor is reborn inside the pyramid, he returns to see with his own eyes and becomes aware of his renewed existence: alive again, he resumes the thread of his existence, interrupted only by a temporary death.

“The Yesterday has generated me.
Behold, Today
I create the Tomorrow”.

-Chapter CLXXIX

He who becomes aware of his own cycles of rebirths owns the past, the present and the future.

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Bhagavadgītā (Part 1 of 2)

The Bhagavadgītā is a Hindu sacred text, a part of the Mahābhārata, the Hindu epic poem. It is a dialogue between the prince of the Pandava, Arjuna, a hero son of the god Indra, and his charioteer Krishna, an incarnation of the divine principle.

The war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas is imminent and the dialogue takes place in the centre of the battlefield, right before the beginning of the Kurukshetra’s battle: Arjuna is confused and torn by moral dilemmas after noticing that among the enemy army there are his relatives, teachers and friends: he seeks advice from Krishna, which reminds him his duties as a kshatriya (i.e. as a warrior) through the exposition of philosophical and religious concepts.

Krishna assists Arjuna:
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In this first part I quote verses that reveal mainly the doctrine concerning the immortality of the spirit, but also concepts in relation with Stoicism and the thught of Parmenides.

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 Second Chant:

12.”In truth, there has never been a time when I was not, nor you, nor these chiefs of peoples; and, in the future, will not come that in which we will not be”.

13.”The soul incarnated in the body experiments childhood, youth and the old age; then it takes another body. The man that knows this doesn’t suffer [any] bewilderment”.

The verses 12./13. begin to expose the doctrine concerning the immortality of the individual spirit and its eternal rebirth (governed by karma, an automatic and inescapable metaphysical law according to which what we are today on one side is the direct result of what we have been in our previous existences, on the other will contribute to determine what we will be in our future existences) through the piṭryāna (“way of the fathers”).

14.”Son of Kunti, the impressions of the senses [born] from contact with material things produces hot and cold, pain and pleasure, they come and go and are impermanent. Endure them, Bhārata”.

Krishna calls Arjuna with many epithets in the Bhagavadgītā: Bhārata, Mahabahu, Pārtha, Kaunteya and Paramtāpa in the verses that I quote here.

15.”Best of men, one who from them [impressions] is not disturbed, [that remains] equanimous and firm in pleasure and pain is worthy of immortality”.

The verses 14./15. express a concept that we find in Stoicism: men must understand that the things that doesn’t depend on us (like the sensations of hot and cold, pain and pleasure) must be endured firmly/indifferently, without being disturbed or fascinated by them.

16.”What doesn’t exist can’t come into being, of the being there is no cessation of existence. This ultimate truth has been unveiled by those who have seen the essence of things”.

This verse expresses a knowledge identical to that of Parmenides: nothing is created from nothing and nothing can be destroyed into nothing.

18.”These bodies of the eternal ātman, indestructible, immeasurable, are called perishable. Fight, then, Bhārata”.

The ātman is the intimate essence of every being, the principle of life (i.e. the individual spirit).

19.”The one who believes to be killed and the one who thinks of killing are both in error. That one [the ātman] can’t kill nor be killed”.

20.”It is never born and never dies. Having always been, it can’t cease to be. Unborn, permanent, imperishable, ancient, it is not killed even when the body is killed”.

22.”Like a man deposing the old clothes takes new ones, so the embodied soul (dehi) deposes the worn-out bodies and enters in other new”.

23.”The weapons doesn’t pierce [the ātman], nor fire burns it, nor is bathed by waters, nor wind dries it”.

26.”If you believe that it is born and dies continuously, likewise, Mahabahu, you must not afflict yourself,”

27.”because, in truth, sure is death for he that is born and sure is rebirth for he that is dead. Therefore, for an inescapable fact, you should not feel pity”.

The verses 19./20./22./23./26./27. continue to expose the doctrine concerning the immortality of the individual spirit and its eternal rebirth, in very explicit terms.

38.”Equally impartial in pleasure and pain, in gain and loss, in victory and defeat, prepare therefore to fight; in this way you will not be able to commit error”.

55.”When, Pārtha, a man eradicates from his mind all desires and finds his satisfaction in the ātman and for the ātman, he is said to have a stable intelligence”.

57.”The one who has given up all attachment, that is not flattered by praises nor offended by reprimand: that person owns a stable intelligence”.

The verses 38./55./57. continue to praise the man who treats the things that doesn’t depend on him as they must be treated: in a detached way and without subjective reactions.

Third Chant:

34.”The attraction and the repulsion for the objects are inherent to the corresponding sense: nobody should submit to these two for they represent the two enemies”.

39.”Knowledge is [so] wrapped by this constant enemy, Kaunteya, insatiable fire that takes the form of desire”.

The verses 34./39. express an explicit critique of materialism, seen as opposed to the pursuit of knowledge.

Fourth Chant:

5.”Numerous are my past lives and yours too, Arjuna. Just that I know them all, while you don’t know them, Paramtāpa”.

Also this verse refers to the eternal rebirth of the individual spirit.

Sixth Chant:

40.”Pārtha, nor in this nor in the other world such a man is lost, because there is no author of beautiful and good deeds that incurs in a bad destiny”.

The content of this verse can be compared to that expressed by this maxim: “there is no death for the honourable, only an eternal rebirth”.

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