Thursday, April 18, 2013

History of the Blue Flower
A Short Story by Novalis

The old people were already asleep; the clock was beating its monotonous tick on the wall; the wind blustered over the rattling windows; by turns, the chamber was lighted by the sheen of the moon. The young man lay restless in his bed; and thought of the stranger and his stories. "Not the treasures is it," said he to himself, "that have awakened in me so unspeakable a desire; far from me is all covetousness; but the Blue Flower is what I long to behold. It lies incessantly in my heart, and I can think and fancy of nothing else. Never did I feel so before: it is as if, till now, I had been dreaming, or as if sleep had carried me into another world; for in the world I used to live in, who troubled himself about flowers? Such wild passion for a Flower was never heard of there. But whence could that stranger have come? None of us ever saw such a man; yet I know not how I alone was so caught with his discourse; the rest heard the very same, yet none seems to mind it. And then that I cannot even speak of my strange condition! I feel such rapturous contentment; and only then when I have not the Flower rightly before my eyes, does so deep heart felt an eagerness come over me: these things no one will or can believe. I could fancy I were mad, if I did not see, did not think with such perfect clearness; since that day, all is far better known to me. I have heard tell of ancient times; how animals and trees and rocks used to speak with men. This is even my feeling; as if they were on the point of breaking out, and I could see in them, what they wished to say to me. There must be many a word which I know not: did I know more, I could better comprehend these matters. Once I liked dancing; now I had rather think to the music.

The young man lost himself, by degrees, in sweet fancies, and fell asleep. He dreamed first of immeasurable distances, and wild unknown regions. He wandered over seas with incredible speed; strange animals he saw; he lived with many varieties of men, now in war, in wild tumult, now in peaceful huts. He was taken captive, and fell into the lowest wretchedness. All emotions rose to a height as yet unknown to him. He lived through an infinitely variegated life; died and came back; loved to the highest passion, and then again was for ever parted from his loved one. At length towards morning, as the dawn broke up without, his spirit also grew stiller, the images grew clearer and more permanent. It seemed to him he was walking alone in a dark wood. Only here and there did day glimmer through the green net. Ere long he came to a rocky chasm, which mounted upwards. He had to climb over many crags, which some former stream had rolled down. The higher he came, the lighter grew the wood. At last he arrived at a little meadow, which lay on the declivity of the mountain. Beyond the meadow rose a high cliff, at the foot of which he observed an opening, that seemed to be the entrance of a passage hewn in the rock. The passage led him easily on, for some time, to a great subterranean expanse, out of which from afar a bright gleam was visible. On entering, he perceived a strong beam of light, which sprang as if from a fountain to the roof of the cave, and sprayed itself into innumerable sparks,which collected below in a great basin: the beam glanced like kindled gold; not the faintest noise was to be heard, a sacred silence encircled the glorious sight. He approached the basin, which waved and quivered with infinite hues. The walls of the cave were coated with this fluid, which was not hot but cool ,and on the walls, threw out a faint bluish light. He dipped his hand in the basin, and whetted his lips. It was as if the breath of a spirit went through him; and he felt himself in his inmost heart strengthened and refreshed. An irresistible desire seized him to bathe; he undressed himself and stepped into the basin. He felt as if a sunset cloud were floating round him; a heavenly emotion streamed over his soul; in deep pleasure innumerable thoughts strove to blend within him; new, unseen images arose, which also melted together, and became visible beings around him; and every wave of that lovely element pressed itself on him like a soft bosom. The flood seemed a Spirit of Beauty, which from moment to moment was taking form round the youth.

Intoxicated with rapture, and yet conscious of every impression, he floated softly down that glittering stream, which flowed out from the basin into the rocks. A sort of sweet slumber fell upon him, in which he dreamed indescribable adventures, and out of which a new light awoke him. He found himself on a soft sward at the margin of a spring, which welled out into the air, and seemed to dissipate itself there. Dark-blue rocks, with many-coloured veins, rose at some distance; the daylight which encircled him was clearer and milder than the common; the sky was black-blue, and altogether pure. But what attracted him infinitely most was a high, light-blue Flower, which stood close by the spring, touching it with its broad glittering leaves. Round it stood innumerable flowers of all colours, and the sweetest perfume filled the air. He saw nothing but the Blue Flower; and gazed on it long with nameless tenderness. At last he was for approaching, when all at once it began to move and change; the leaves grew more resplendent, and clasped themselves round the waxing stem; the Flower bent itself towards him; and the petals showed like a blue spreading ruff, in which hovered a lovely face. His sweet astonishment at this transformation was increasing, – when suddenly his mother's voice awoke him, and he found himself in the house of his parents, which the morning sun was already gilding.

He went to the window. The choir of the Stars stood in the deep heaven; and in the east, a white gleam announced the coming day.

Full of rapture, Heinrich exclaimed: "You, ye everlasting Stars, ye silent wanderers, I call you to witness my sacred oath. For Matilda will I live, and eternal faith shall unite my heart and hers. For me too the morn of an everlasting day is dawning. The night is by: to the rising Sun, I kindle myself, as a sacrifice that will never be extinguished."

Heinrich was heated; and not till late, towards morning, did he fall asleep. In strange dreams the thoughts of his soul embodied themselves. A deep blue river gleamed from the plain. On its smooth surface floated a bark; Matilda was sitting there, and steering. She was adorned with garlands; was singing a simple Song, and looking over to him with fond sadness. His bosom was full of anxiety. He knew not why. The sky was clear, the stream calm. Her heavenly countenance was mirrored in the waves. All at once the bark began to whirl. He called earnestly to her. She smiled, and laid down her helm in the boat, which continued whirling. An unspeakable terror took hold of him. He dashed into the stream; but he could not get forward; the water carried him. She beckoned, she seemed as if she wished to say something to him; the bark was filling with water; yet she smiled with unspeakable affection, and looked cheerfully into the vortex. All at once it drew her in. A faint breath rippled over the stream, which flowed on as calm and glittering as before. His horrid agony robbed him of consciousness. His heart ceased beating. On returning to himself, he was again on dry land. It seemed as if he had floated far. It was a strange region. He knew not what had passed with him. His heart was gone. Unthinking he walked deeper into the country. He felt inexpressibly weary. A little well gushed from a hill; it sounded like perfect bells. With his hand he lifted some drops, and whetted his parched lips. Like a sick dream, lay the frightful event behind him. Farther and farther he walked; flowers and trees spoke to him. He felt so well, so at home in the scene. Then he heard that simple Song again. He ran after the sounds. Suddenly some one held him by the clothes. "Dear Henry," cried a well-known voice. He looked round, and Matilda clasped him in her arms."Why didst thou run from me, dear heart?" said she, breathing deep: "I could scarcely overtake thee." Heinrich wept. He pressed her to him. "Where is the river?" cried he in tears. – "Seest thou not its blue waves above us?" He looked up, and the blue river was flowing softly over their heads. "Where are we, dear Matilda?" – "With our Fathers." – "Shall we stay together?" – "Forever," answered she, pressing her lips to his, and so clasping him that she could not again quit hold. She put a wondrous, secret Word in his mouth, and it pierced through all his being. He was about to repeat it, when his Grandfather called, and he awoke. He would have given his life to remember that Word.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Interview with a Right-Hegelian: A Summary of Hegel's Christian Philosophy

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Q: Why do you think Hegel's relevance as a specifically Christian thinker has been downplayed over time?

A: There is a long-standing reticence to acknowledge Hegel as a Christian theologian. Controversy surrounding the Christian and orthodox content of the philosophy of Hegel has swelled since before Hegel passed from the world in 1831: Hegel had already in his lifetime been accused of denying a personal God, logizing the Holy Trinity, theologizing history, eleaticizing Spinozism, Pantheism, materialism, idealism, reactionary conservatism, radical republicanism, Prussian nationalism, liberal cosmopolitanism and Bonapartist imperialism. Some of these allegations may be more warranted than others, but even a cursory glance through the diversity of allegations and appropriations which have been made of the philosophy of Hegel during and after his life testifies to the bewilderment, excitement, and animosity stirred up by Hegel's philosophy. There are, to my mind, three primary reasons for this medley of bamboozlement and controversy: First, like no philosopher since Airstotle in the age of Alexander the Great, Hegel claimed, in the age of Napoleon, the imperial crown of sovereign philosophy by negating the conclusions of all hitherto existing philosophical systems, as well as asserting the superiority of his own doctrine - which simultaneously incorporated and appropriated the philosophies which he asserted himself to have superseded in thought. Second, Hegel announced the messianic and world-historical importance of his very own philosophy, which he held to have completed - as far as was possible in his own historical moment - the truth of religion and reason, that was only signified for imagination in the Christian Gospel. Ordinarily such claims would result in either confinement to a lunatic asylum or - as with Friederich Nietzsche - a struggle with immovable reality to the contrary that might well precipitate a mental collapse, but Hegel's extraordinary claims were plausibly, as with those of Jesus Christ's, fulfilled by extraordinary results. Third, there is the unmistakable circuitousness, complexity, and gothic intricacy of Hegel's writings, which belabor scholars for years just as they baffle and frustrate casual readers. The consequence is a general unwillingness of most - even scholarly readers - to devote the considerable labor of thought required to grasp the central ideas of Hegelian philosophy. The grandness of Hegel's self-estimation combined with the difficulty of his texts contributes to the suspicion and hostility towards the philosophy of Hegel among most thinkers, but especially among Christians for whom Hegel represents both the potential for the dialectical advancement, negation, and nullification of the central tenets of the Christian religion. 

Q: What do you think is the key theological truth of Hegel?

A: There is nothing in Hegel's philosophy of Absolute Idealism which is not implicitly related to the Absolute, to theology, and to God. God is present from the first moment of sense-certainty, as the "richest and poorest truth," to the complete realization, in thought, of the Absolute Idea. In the introduction to the Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences Hegel wrote: "The objects of philosophy, it is true, are upon the whole the same as those of religion. In both the object is Truth, in that supreme sense in which God and God only is the Truth. Both in like manner go on to treat of the finite worlds of Nature and the human Mind, with their relation to each other and to their truth in God." All thought from the barest manifold of intuition to the most majestic apprehension of the entire cosmos is ideal participation in the divine life of God. For Hegel as with Paul of Tarsus, God is Hen Kai Pan - All in All -in whom we all "live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). In this regard, Hegel follows the ancient idealist tradition of Parmenides, Plato, Philo, Plotinus, Porphyry, and Proclus; as well as the medieval mystics from Augustine and John Scotus of Eriugena to Bonaventure, Meister Eckhart and Joseph Boehme; and finally the modern idealists of Spinoza, Kant and Schelling.   

Since the 13th century nominalists had overturned the great medieval synthesis of the Angelic Doctor Thomas Aquinas, theology had suffered from an ever-widening chasm between saecula (the sacred) and seculorum (the profane), Deus (God) and mundi (the World), Caelo (Heaven) andTerra (Earth). This is Lessing's Chasm which characterizes the dualisms of modern philosophy. In the theology of Thomas Aquinas this chasm results from the transcendence of God's simple unity over the composite created world; in the theology of John Duns Scotus this chasm was the consequence of the division between God's necessary and accidental attributes, or between those things which are rationally necessary by divine reason and those things which are merely possible according to divine will; in the philosophy of Descartes this is the dualism of the perfect infinite incorporal God and the mechanistic corporal universe; in the philosophy of Leibniz this is the dualism of the Monad of Monads and the necessary cooperation of the infinite multiplicity of subordinate monads; in the philosophy of Spinoza, this is the dualism of thought and extension; and finally in the philosophy of Kant, this is the dualism of reason and intuition, concepts and percepts, and of the noumenal and the phenomenal realms. In every case, infinite Eleatic-Platonic simple transcendent One is opposed to finite multiple composite Milesian-Democritean atoms of material Nature. The ambition of the identity philosophy of Schelling and Hegel was conceived to be a purgative corrective to modernity's infinite repetition of the antitheses of the infinite non-Ego with the finite self-positing of the Ego. Schelling writes:

"The genuinely speculative question remains: how may the absolutely One, the absolutely simple and eternal Will from which all things flow, expand into multiplicity and be reborn as a unity, i.e. into the moral world... The question would be an indispensable and unavoidable problem if this philosophy [of Fichte] actually made what is for it the Absolute into a principle as well - but it rather carefully guards against this and lets the whole of finitude be given to it, very conveniently along with the... common dogmatism that the Absolute is a result and something that needs a justification... What is the characteristic of this philosophy [of Fichte] is just that it has given new form to the age-old dichotomy between the infinite and the finite; but such forms may be legion - none lasts, and each carries impermanence within itself. It cannot found anything permanent. An enthusiasm that fancies itself to be great if it sets its own Ego up in its thoughts against the wild storms of elements, the thousand thousand suns and the ruins of the whole world, makes this philosophy popular; and also makes it dumb and hollow otherwise - a fruit of the age whose spirit has for a time exalted this empty form, until the age sinks back as its own ebb sets in, and the fruit along with it. What abides is only what supersedes all dichotomy; for only that is in truth One and unchangeably the same... Only what proceeds from the absolute unity of the infinite and finite is immediately and essentially capable of symbolic presentation; capable of true philosophy; of becoming religion, or an objective and eternal source of new intuition; a universal model of everything in which human action endeavors to portray the harmony of the universe." - 
F. W. J. Schelling, On the Relationship of the Philosophy of Nature to the Philosophy in General, Kritisches Journal der Philosophie, I, no. 3, 1802

The philosophy of Spirit of G.W.F. Hegel can be conceived of as a dialectical reconciliation of the finite world of our ordinary experience with the infinite ideal life of the Absolute, which is God's infinite being. The success of this reconciliation is meant to fulfill the promise, in thought, of the Christian religion and restore the august throne of speculative philosophy, or metaphysics, as the sovereign science: "The germ of Christianity was the feeling of separation of the world from God; its aim was the reconciliation with God -not through a raising of finitude to the infinite, but through the infinite's becoming finite, or through God's becoming man... All the symbols of Christianity exhibit the characteristic that they represent the identity of God with the world in images" (ibid.). The genuinely gnostic ambition of German Idealism is salvation, neither through faith or works alone, but through both together in the theoretical and fideistic praxis of philosophy, which is both devotion to God and love of holy wisdom - Hagia Sophia. Hegel considered himself a religious reformer. Yet unlike Luther, Hegel did not endeavor to widen but to reconcile the opposition of faith and reason; church and state; and man with God. He brought the sword of negativity down upon only those philosophies which maintained themselves in self-certain fixidity, refused to "tarry with the negative," and thereby "blasphemed against the Holy Ghost." Like Kant, Hegel's purpose was irenic: to pacify the endemic strife of thought that tossed into ceaseless tumult the Republic of Letters - "Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God." (Mt. 5:9)

The key contributions of Hegelian philosophy to Christian theology corresponds  in a threefold way, to the persons of the Holy Trinity: First, the philosophy of Mind, in the Phenomenology of Spirit, is Christocentric as it aims at nothing less than the approach of the subject consciousness with the eternal reason of God: this culminates in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the final moment of religious consciousness; the dark night of the soul; the speculative Good Friday in which God is dead, that concludes the logical sequence of historical religions; dissolves all nature, objectivity, and natural religion into the subjective stages of consciousness; and reconstructs each and all according to the Spirit of Pentecost, the apostolic Church, and the Gospel of speculative philosophy. Second, the philosophy of logic, in the Science of Logic, is theocentric as it deduces the three persons of the Holy Trinity from logical generation of the heavenly Father into the three moments of Being, Essence and Concept; which come to be manifested in the encyclopedic divisions of Logic, Nature and Spirit; and which are altogether united in the ceaseless eternal self-loving - immanent and economic - logical procession of the Holy Trinity. Third, the philosophy of history, in the Lectures on the History of Philosophy and the Philosophy of History, is pnuematocentric as it illustrates the efflorescence and vital activity of the Holy Spirit as logic directs the sequence of events in history through the temporal realization of the eternal providence of God. The triadic division of Hegelian philosophy; into Father (Logic), Son (Mind) and Holy Spirit (History); is altogether integrally united in the Science of Logic, in which Hegel intends to demonstrate nothing less than the Trinitarian logic and essence of the Triune God. The result must, if correct, be at once the culmination and resolution of centuries of antitheses in theology, science and philosophy, and of no little interest to all speculative thinkers of some spiritual depth.

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Friday, January 4, 2013

The Infinite Waltz of Socratic Elenchus and Platonic Anamnesis
The Dialectic of Faith, Doubt and Rational Necessity
by Ryan Haecker

Thy legs must move to conquer as they fly,
If but thy coats are reasonably high;
Thy breast - if bare enough - requires no shield;
Dance forth - sans armour thou shalt take the field,
And own - impregnable to most assaults,
Thy not too lawfully begotten 'Waltz'.
- The Waltz, Lord Byron, 1813

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The primordial simple matter of abstract being is the most uniformly barren desert of monolithic reality, the richest and poorest of truths, which potentially possesses all existence even as it actually gives forth no existence.  Intellective apprehension of abstract being is "the fountain of life in which we shall see light." (Ps. 36)  Although it remains ineluctably limited in time and space, the mind may conjure before itself all abstract worlds of possible conceptual determination, as a microcosm of God's originary creative Word.  Judgment is the building block upon which all edifices of thought are erected, for in judgment, the subject matter copulates with the predicate form to generate the propositions and concepts of thought's universal substance. In the order of knowing (ordo scientiva) rather than the order of existence (ordo esse), judgment proceeds to weigh and measure the truth of all possible worlds of thought.  Each judgment is a further determination of a concept that may possibly be concretized in the actual world; for any predication is simultaneously the affirmation of some predicate; the negation of its contrary opposite (i.e. what the predicate is not); and determination is negation.  Thus thought begins in the purest generality of abstraction and, step by step; through subject, predicate and conceptual determinations; turns around and around until, in the utmost bacchanalia of its mutually coinciding centrifugal rotation, it glides by its own inner necessity through the recursive self-movement of the concept that ceaselessly interpenetrates, coincides with and illuminates all truth.

The philosopher escapes from the cave of ignorance to become the midwife whose art is the birth of the concept, which may be either a genuine and true offspring or an imposture and a false offspring: epigenetic thought cultivates the genuine offspring and contradictory thought terminates the imposture.  Each thought flutters about like birds in a birdcage, and judgment reaches forth, perchance, to seize one among these, even as others escape its grasp.  This is the psychic phenomena of the logical bivalency of positive and negative judgment; of affirmation and denial; of truth and falsity; in which thought moves one step forward and one step backwards.  The bivalency of logic generates all of the dualities of being and non-being from the uniformity of abstract being: abstract being has already within itself some modal potentialities which are implicitly negated when they possess contradictions in-themselves or for-others.  Hence, for any possible world to become concrete requires both that it is intrinsically consistent with itself and that it is extrinsically consistent with the actual world.  Immanuel Kant described how philosophy contemplates building a tower whose top may reach to heaven, but that this bold undertaking is "bound to fail through lack of material" (CPR B735) for antinomies of reason, in which inferences which begin with different premises produce equally valid yet mutually contradictory conclusions, sap the foundation of any tall edifice of systematic thought. When the cornerstone is rejected, the foundation must crumble and topple the structures. So must the task of philosophy fail when it raises judgments over judgments, in the merely finite and external manner of discrete conceptual and propositional building blocks, to reach the highest heights of truth. The book of Genesis describes how God "placed a cherubim and a flaming sword turning every way to guard the way to the Tree of Life" (Gen. 3:23). It is from such an invisible necessity that contradictions invariably and imperceptibly confound the languages of all finite thinking, as soon as any structure is raised to its zenith, to prohibit mankind's return from exile to the native land of thought.

A more prudent architect will reflect upon these previous efforts so as to determine a plan in conformity with the material given to us; to design a method of logic which may stands over and determine the exercise of thought itself. The copulation of subject matter and predicate forms in judgment will then be negated so that the judgments themselves may become the subject matter of thought: each judgment is then determined by the form of a method; a logic of method, or a methodologism, which arrogates to itself the form of their mutual predication. Yet in elevating methodologism to be the judgment over judgments, thought conceals from itself its very own judgment of methodologism, through which judgment is externalized from itself just as its intends to regulate itself; and in not allowing itself to be recognized as a judgment, thought presumes that methodologism, which stands opposed to judgment, to be the inner truth of all judgment. This externalization of judgment from itself, with the intention of determining itself, results in the contradiction between a judgment that is supposed to be inwardly united but is outwardly disunited and opposed to itself. The design of all thought is  destabilized in its very beginning, reducing all philosophy to a Babel of tongues, in which every thinker envisions a different edifice; designs thought differently from the others and; upon reflecting on these differences, equally doubts that any design may succeed in raising itself to the unity of reality and truth.

There lies a treasure hidden in the field for which this world is not enough.  Although thought begins mired in unsearchable diversity of the abstract being and possible worlds, thought no less endeavors to bring all possibilia within the concrete necessity of actual reality.  Plato taught that the similarity of the many changeable things within our experience could be explained by a theory of eternal ideas (εἶδος), which perfectly exemplify all instances, and are themselves the universal cause of the appearances of the particular things within our perception which participate their reality and truth. In the eternal ideas thought is endlessly repeated in cycles that simply reaffirm themselves, and impose a law of arcane necessity upon the variegated forays, conjectures and designs of thought.  Like the blooming of leaves in the changing seasons, there is appears a mysterious concord between the movements of thought and the laws through which alone reason may operate, in a seeming pre-established harmony of the mind and the cosmos that suggests that all of the paths of thought had been ordered for our minds' arrival.  The necessary laws of reason and nature are equally ignored and obeyed on account of their inviolable necessity; for in the practice of life men give little thought to that which they cannot change; yet the theoretical cognition can no more abide by an alien necessity than a midwife can allow the convulsions of labor to imperil the birthing of a child.  The task for those who adore every part of wisdom and attend to her affections, is to reproduce for ourselves the logical moments which constitute the entire formal structure of self-generated thought - the whole architectonic of ideas - to cull from the apprehension of abstract being all that lies submerged in the rough and to raise it to the concrete reality of the Absolute Idea.  Thought must stand judgment upon judgment, not as discrete self-contained units existing merely for themselves, but rather according to a transcendental  golden ratio, which no less accords with the pure forms of reason than with the shapes of the natural world, until the thinking mind may dance with whole kingdom of heaven in the gay self-motion of an infinite waltz.

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