Highest Reality. Thought of the Day 70.0

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यावचिन्त्यावात्मास्य शक्तिश्चैतौ परमार्थो भवतः॥१॥

Yāvacintyāvātmāsya śaktiścaitau paramārtho bhavataḥ

These two (etau), the Self (ātmā) and (ca) His (asya) Power (śaktiḥ) —who (yau) (are) inconceivable (acintyau)—, constitute (bhavataḥ) the Highest Reality (parama-arthaḥ)

The Self is the Core of all, and His Power has become all. I call the Core “the Self” for the sake of bringing more light instead of more darkness. If I had called Him “Śiva”, some people might consider Him as the well-known puranic Śiva who is a great ascetic living in a cave and whose main task consists in destroying the universe, etc. Other people would think that, as Viṣṇu is greater than Śiva, he should be the Core of all and not Śiva. In turn, there is also a tendency to regard Śiva like impersonal while Viṣṇu is personal. There is no end to spiritual foolishness indeed, because there is no difference between Śiva and Viṣṇu really. Anyway, other people could suggest that a better name would be Brahman, etc. In order not to fall into all that ignorant mess of names and viewpoints, I chose to assign the name “Self” to the Core of all. In the end, when spiritual enlightenment arrives, one’s own mind is withdrawn (as I will tell by an aphorism later on), and consequently there is nobody to think about if “This Core of all” is personal, impersonal, Śiva, Viṣṇu, Brahman, etc. Ego just collapses and This that remains is the Self as He essentially is.

He and His Power are completely inconceivable, i.e. beyond the mental sphere. The Play of names, viewpoints and such is performed by His Power, which is always so frisky. All in all, the constant question is always: “Is oneself completely free like the Self?”. If the answer is “Yes”, one has accomplished the goal of life. And if the answer is “No”, one must get rid of his own bondage somehow then. The Self and His Power constitute the Highest Reality. Once you can attain them, so to speak, you are completely free like Them both. The Self and His Power are “two” only in the sphere of words, because as a matter of fact they form one compact mass of Absolute Freedom and Bliss. Just as the sun can be divided into “core of the sun, surface of the sun, crown”, etc.

तयोरुभयोः स्वरूपं स्वातन्त्र्यानन्दात्मकैकघनत्वेनापि तत्सन्तताध्ययनाय वचोविषय एव द्विधाकृतम्

Tayorubhayoḥ svarūpaṁ svātantryānandātmakaikaghanatvenāpi tatsantatādhyayanāya vacoviṣaya eva dvidhākṛtam

Even though (api) the essential nature (sva-rūpam) of Them (tayoḥ) both (ubhayoḥ) (is) one compact mass (eka-ghanatvena) composed of (ātmaka) Absolute Freedom (svātantrya)(and) Bliss (ānanda), it is divided into two (dvidhā-kṛtam) —only (eva) in the sphere (viṣaye) of words (vacas)— for its close study (tad-santata-adhyayanāya)

The Self is Absolute Freedom and His Power is Bliss. Both form a compact mass (i.e. omnipresent). In other words, the Highest Reality is always “One without a second”, but, in the world of words It is divided into two for studying It in detail. When this division occurs, the act of coming to recognize or realize the Highest Reality is made easier. So, the very Highest Reality generates this division in the sphere of words as a help for the spiritual aspirants to realize It faster.

आत्मा प्रकाशात्मकशुद्धबोधोऽपि सोऽहमिति वचोविषये स्मृतः

Ātmā prakāśātmakaśuddhabodho’pi so’hamiti vacoviṣaye smṛtaḥ

Although (api) the Self (ātmā) (is) pure (śuddha) Consciousness (bodhaḥ) consisting of (ātmaka) Prakāśa or Light (prakāśa), He (saḥ) is called (smṛtaḥ) “I” (aham iti) in the sphere (viṣaye) of words (vacas)

The Self is pure Consciousness, viz. the Supreme Subject who is never an object. Therefore, He cannot be perceived in the form of “this” or “that”. He cannot even be delineated in thought by any means. Anyway, in the world of words, He is called “I” or also “real I” for the sake of showing that He is higher than the false “I” or ego.

Odyssey. Note Quote.

In tracing an interpretation of the Odyssey it is not necessary to follow the order of the poem as arranged by Homer or by whoever compiled the Homeric legends; it is easier and more rewarding to take the simple narrative in the natural sequence of events. After leaving the battlefield of Troy, Odysseus embarks for his native isle, “Ithaca the Fair,” expecting to arrive there quickly; but at the very outset a tempest drives the fleet off its course, and a great fight impedes his progress. The destruction of all his ships but one, and of many of the sailors, follows quickly. One of the strangest incidents in this introductory part is the encounter with Polyphemus, the Cyclopean giant with a single eye in the middle of his forehead. Before we shrug him off as a creature of early man’s distorted imagination, we should hold in mind the possibility of a symbolic meaning. Creatures of a similar type were mentioned by many archaic peoples far removed from each other; possibly they referred to some past event in human history, now forgotten.

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After their escape from this one-eyed monster and some further perilous adventures, Odysseus and his companions soon reach the island of the enchantress Circe, who represents the fascination of sensual delights. Odysseus is unaffected by the gross enticements which overwhelm his fellows, now turned into swine by the goddess; and his boldness and “confidence in heaven” finally conquer the temptress and compel her to serve him. She restores the men to human form and instructs Odysseus how to find the way to the Underworld.

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The entrance into Hell or the Underworld, the “open tomb,” has more than one meaning in ancient allegories, and is always introduced in some form in myths of initiation; Orpheus, Aeneas and many others had to make the dread “descent.” In the legend of Perseus and Andromeda, the hero aided by the gods flies to the hideous regions of cold and darkness and destroys the deadly Medusa before he can rescue the princess of Ethiopia from the monster. For Odysseus the event is an ordeal of terror. Circe has warned him that before he may go further, he must gain information about the future from Tiresias, a venerable prophet, who lives with the inhabitants of Hades, though he himself is not dead. The approach to the entire experience is surrounded by fearful dangers and to pass safely through the multitudes of vengeful shades calls for the highest physical and moral courage. Like all heroes of epics of the soul, he has to traverse the Valley of the Shadow of Death: to face the shades, the lingering remains of past sins and errors; then to learn what is necessary for his further progress.

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The tone of the poem changes at this point; the lightness and gaiety with which Odysseus has related his adventures is replaced by a deep solemnity, and the scenes of Hades are described with intense vividness and many touches of realism. Are these portrayals actual revelations of postmortem life? Leaving the more impure regions, Odysseus moves on, sees stern Minos, the Judge of the Dead, and even gets a passing view of the heavenly world or the Elysian fields, where the higher and immortal parts of man are held to exist between incarnations on earth. (Plato and Plutarch give valuable insights into the Greek teachings on this mysterious subject which are found to be practically identical with the Egyptian, Indian, and other ancient views of these after-death states.)

At length, having interviewed the sage Tiresias, Odysseus returns to Circe who outlines the perils still lying ahead on his homeward journey. Then come the hazardous Straits between Scylla and Charybdis, and the subtle allurements of the Sirens. Exquisitely fair, they offer him the satisfaction of the pride of knowledge, telling him they know “Whate’er beneath the sun’s bright journey lies,” and singing with all the charm of celestial music:

Blest is the man ordain’d our voice to hear,
The song instructs the soul, and charms the ear.
Approach! thy soul shall into raptures rise!
Approach! and learn new wisdom from the wise.

Having passed successfully through the trials of the Underworld, will he be overcome by pride and rash self-confidence? Knowing well the overwhelming power of this temptation, the hero takes every precaution, has himself tied to the mast and stops the ears of his crew with wax against the Sirens’ songs. They steer safely through the Straits — only to plunge again into difficulty when his men, to satisfy their gluttony, kill and devour Apollo’s sacred oxen. This so arouses the wrath of the god that he sends a great tempest to destroy the last of Odysseus’ crew, and the brave man is left with nothing but his own strength and the favor of Athena, his guide.

In his desperation and loneliness he meets with a temptation that almost proves his undoing. He succumbs for seven years to the blandishments of the lovely nymph Calypso in her enchanted Atlantean island. Calypso even offers him “immortal life, exempt from age or woe.” But with the help of Athena, the personification of divine wisdom, he summons the strength to resist.

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This is one of the passages in the Odyssey that reveals the high understanding of the poet and the profound quality of his teaching. For here is shown the wide gulf between any artificial prolongation of the life of the personality with its selfish cravings and that genuine immortality born of steadfast aspiration and self-control which leads to union with one’s inner god. Such a philosophy nourishes the roots of our being and reminds us of the words of the Nazarene:

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. –– Matthew, 16:24-5

Paul, the wise master builder, in common with the great teachers of antiquity, refers to the same principle when he speaks of being changed “in the twinkling of an eye.” This is a cryptic saying suggesting the spontaneous springing into activity of the power of intuition which sees the difference between a nobler life and the delusions of sensual gratification.

When Odysseus makes his decision, the irresistible power of the Olympian deities is exerted in his favor, Calypso abandons her inducements and, like Circe, is transformed from a temptress into a helper. Odysseus builds a new vessel with his own hands and sets out joyfully for home, a voyage still not without its risks. Upon his arrival, he discovers the terrible conditions to which his wife and son have been reduced by the outrageous conduct of her admirers and soon perceives that his greatest battle is yet to come. His wife, Penelope, who stands for the climax of his endeavors, his goal, does not immediately throw herself into his arms. Ragged, worn, and disguised as an old man, he is not easily recognized by her, though his aged nurse and faithful dog know him quickly. Even when Athena restores him to the prime of life, and to greater dignity and beauty than before, he has to prove his identity to Penelope before she will accept him. This hesitation on her part is not, as some have thought, a blemish on the story; it could not be otherwise. It is traditional that anyone wishing recognition by the higher self must make a clear demand; he must unmistakably recognize and call upon his inner god before it can help him.

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Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew., 7:7).

Odysseus’ supreme opportunity comes when he finds his palace invaded and his wife surrounded by a mob of suitors, all trying to persuade her that he is surely dead and that she should choose a second husband from among them. Repugnant as they are, they have no power over Odysseus, but he must destroy them before he can regain his rightful place. They represent lingering traces of lower desires which must be slain forever if he will be master in his own household. At last the battle is won, the evil forces overpowered, and Odysseus, calm, purified, asserts his noble identity to Penelope and is joyously received by her.

From a practical point of view, the scene of this last struggle and the method adopted by Odysseus in challenging the suitors may appear singular, but there is good warrant for these in the mystical symbolism obviously familiar to Homer. The contest takes place at close quarters, in the confined space of the palace hall, yet the hero has to depend upon his mighty bow for success — the bow that none other can wield — instead of the more logical weapons of sword or spear. The bow is the weapon of Apollo, god of light, and the day of Odysseus’ victory is sacred to that deity. In Hindu philosophy also, the bow, or in some cases the arrow, stands for man himself who must be strong enough in texture to stand the strain. In one of the Upanishads, it says:

Having taken the bow, the great weapon, let him place on it the arrow, sharpened by devotion. Then, having drawn it with a thought directed to That which is, hit the mark, O friend — the Indestructible. . . . It is to be hit by a man who is not thoughtless; and then, as the arrow becomes one with the target, he will become one with Brahman. — Mundaka,II ii, 3-4

The Odyssey closes with the hero, now triumphant as the rightful king and leader, going forth and subduing the few remaining rebels after which, the poet says, the “willing nations knew their lawful lord.” His future reign is left to the imagination, but it is secure in peace and wisdom for, having conquered the enemies in his own house, he cannot fail.

Spiritual Suicide. Thought of the Day 22.0

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असुर्य नाम ते लोका अन्धेन तमसावृताः ।
तांस्ते प्रेत्याभिगच्छन्ति ये के चात्महनो जनाः ॥

asurya nāma te lokā andhena tamasāvṛtāḥ |
tāṃste pretyābhigacchanti ye ke cātmahano janāḥ ||

‘In to the worlds of the asuras, devils, enveloped in blinding darkness, verily do they go after death who are slayers of the Atman, the Self.’

A deep philosophical truth is couched in mythical, symbolic language. Life lived without the consciousness of our divine nature is trivial; it is life of darkness and sorrow. The word ‘darkness’ used in this verse is not physical darkness, but the darkness of ignorance; it is spiritual blindness. The verse compares this darkness to hell. In myths, hell is abode of the asuras, the demons. An alternating reading is asurya, literally ‘without sunlight’, absolute darkness. The verse further tells us that those who prefer to live in such spiritual blindness are really killing themselves. Ātmahana means ‘people who kill themselves’. The death of the body is not so serious as the death of the soul. By neglecting our true nature, by ignoring it by clutching at the shadows of the non-Self all the time, we commit suicide of the most serious kind. Shankaracharya, in his commentary on this verse, explains the nature of this extraordinary kind of suicide which the world practices on the widest scale. Says he:

अविद्यादोषेण विद्यामानस्यात्मनस्तिरस्करणादात्महनेत्युच्यते ।

avidyādoṣeṇa vidyāmānasyātmanastiraskaraṇādātmahanetyucyate |

“Because a man neglects his ever-present Self through the evil of ignorance (spiritual blindness), he is called ‘one who commits suicide”.

Prometheus and Hinduism. Note Quote.

Prometheus: Yes, I caused mortals to cease foreseeing their doom.
Chorus: Of what sort was the cure that you found for this affliction?
Prometheus: I caused blind hopes to dwell within their breasts.
Chorus: A great benefit was this you gave to mortals.
Prometheus: In addition, I gave them fire.
Chorus: What! Do creatures of a day now have flame-eyed fire?
Prometheus: Yes, and from it they shall learn many arts.
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound

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After the coming into being of the world, the stories tell us, everything had found its place. But one creature, capable of lofty thought, was still missing. When Kronos ruled Olympus, the deathless gods decided to fashion a golden race of mortal men. Knowing of the divine seed that slumbered in the Earth, only recently separated from the heavenly aether, Prometheus mixed clay and running water. He shaped this into likenesses of the all-controlling gods, including also qualities taken from all the animals. This is how the first humans came into existence. In the course of ages, after Zeus had banished the ancient gods to Tartarus, humans populated the Earth, but lumbered witless as if in a dream. They did not know how to see, hear, or understand, or how to create things with their hands. Prometheus’s empathy led him to steal for them the forbidden divine fire hidden by Zeus, which allowed him to teach them skills and sciences that used all their potentials.

Angered by the theft, Zeus plotted revenge on both humanity and its benefactor. He had Hephaestus, smith of the gods, create a beautiful virgin, Pandora, who was furnished with disastrous gifts by Athena, Aphrodite, and other gods. When a box she was carrying was opened on Earth, all evils and diseases escaped from it and spread among mankind. One single good thing, Hope, had not escaped when she clapped the lid closed. Meanwhile Prometheus was dragged to earth’s remotest wilderness and bound to a rock over a terrifying abyss with chains that could not be undone. Every day an eagle came and ate from his liver, which would regenerate each night. He endured this torment for centuries until the hero Hercules set him free.

This myth calls to mind stories of divine fire brought to mankind in many other traditions.

The allegory of the fire of Prometheus is another version of the rebellion of the proud Lucifer [“light-bringer”], who was hurled down to the bottomless pit, or simply unto our Earth, to live as man. The Hindu Lucifer, the Mahasura, is also said to have become envious of the Creator’s resplendent light, and, at the head of inferior Asuras (not gods, but spirits), to have rebelled against Brahma; for which Siva hurled him down to Patala. But, as philosophy goes hand in hand with allegorical fiction in Hindu myths, the devil is made to repent, and is afforded the oppor­tunity to progress.

Also in Hinduism are the Manasaputras or “sons of mind,” who brought mankind the fire of thought. In the Nordic Edda the name of the god Loki – a blood brother of Odin – comes from the old word liuhan, “to illuminate.”

What then is the inner significance behind these particular stories? Long ago the early human race had undergone a certain amount of evolution but “thinkers” had not yet been born: nature had succeeded in developing a suitable body but the soul-giving principle, the fire of self-conscious thought, had not yet been awakened. Adam and Eve, to a certain extent, existed in paradise without self-awareness. Like Lucifer, Prometheus is an allegorical representation of the incarnation of our higher self, the awakening of the active, self-reflective capacity for thought. This subject is therefore of the highest significance for human evolution.

It is owing to this rebellion of intellectual life against the morbid inactivity of pure spirit, that we are what we are — self-conscious, thinking men, with the capabilities and attributes of Gods in us, for good as much as for evil. Hence the rebels are our saviours. . . . It is only by the attractive force of the contrasts that the two opposites — Spirit and Matter — can be cemented on Earth, and, smelted in the fire of self-conscious experience and suffering, find themselves wedded in Eternity.

By the gods allying themselves with us for this period of development, it became possible for us to attain knowledge and wisdom. But why was Prometheus harshly punished? Other legends suggest a motive; for instance Genesis reports:

And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. – 3:22-4

As with Pandora’s box, all evil in this world arose from the joining of the spiritual with the human world. Many commentators see in this a question of guilt, but this misses the crux of the matter: Adam and Eve are driven out of paradise because, with the power of thought, there is no longer any paradise for them. The human being, equipped with the divine capacity for self-reflective thought, can use this newly-won strength to create or destroy, to accomplish wonderful things or great crimes. One day we will ascend again and establish a human race worthy of the gods, but there is still a long way to go in overcoming “I am I” (egoic awareness) to reach “I am” (universal consciousness).

This evolutionary process is also clearly reflected in symbolism. Spirit, represented by a vertical line, is linked with the material world, represented by a horizontal line. Together these give rise to the cross, the son or third logos. If this logos becomes active, as with the awakening capacity for thought through the incarnation of the higher self, then this cross begins to turn. The turning of the cross produces the swastika, a symbol found in many religions. Quite a number of terracotta discs were found under the ruins of ancient Troy that contained this symbol in two forms:  Svastika1 and Svastika2. Again, Pramantha, the Vedic divine carpenter, unites himself with Arani, nature or Maya (illusion). They produce the divine boy Agni, god of fire. In the Bible too, Joseph is a carpenter, a master builder, and Mary is very reminiscent of Maya. Their child is mankind, with the fire of self-aware thought bestowed by the Holy Spirit. The son of the creator nailed to the cross – is he not a symbol of this process that speaks the same clear language as the legend of Prometheus, spirit chained to the cross of matter? The Crucified Titan is the personified symbol of the collective Logos, the ‘Host’, and of the ‘Lords of Wisdom’ or the heavenly man, who incarnated in Humanity.

We are also told that the suffering of Prometheus – the “one who foresees” – will end. He who has sacrificed himself for mankind is redeemed out of pity by the demigod Hercules, a son of Zeus, despite the fact that he may not take off the indestructible chains (karma). Still, the vulture – our base nature – will no longer come to eat the Titan’s liver. Human mental development, accelerated by the incarnation of the higher self, became unbalanced, with physical and moral development unable to keep pace. Once we regain our inner equilibrium, we will recognize our true destiny and nature, release the god chained within us, and as mankind conquer the darkness of ignorance.

Conjuncted: Richard Wagner: Parsifal

 

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The second act of Parsifal takes place in the magic castle (maya) of the black magician Klingsor. Here Satan, personified as the magician, tests Parsifal’s will power. Wagner regards Klingsor “as the counterweight to the god-seeking impulse, which beclouds the power of discernment [the thinking principle, manas], with two sources of illusion: the power of sense impressions and passionate desire [maya and kama].”

How does maya becloud our knowledge? If we were to rely on sensory perception alone, we would conclude that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and that the sun therefore orbits the earth. If we use manas, however, which provides us with knowledge of the earth’s rotation and the motion of the planets and stars, we come to a different conclusion and one which is far nearer to the truth. There are more subtle deceptions, such as external beauty which conjures up what appears to be a higher, more ideal world; it courts us with diverse attractions and casts a pleasant veil over the world of appearances. If we mistake the attractive veil for reality, we succumb once again to deception. The driving force behind this deception is passion.

Klingsor evokes those forces of passion which compel us into a seemingly endless cycle of reimbodiment, rest, and fulfillment, ever seeking redemption. Through self-castration Klingsor has forcibly rendered himself unreceptive to desire. He has obtained magic power over Kundry (desire, kama connected with lower manas) and possession of the holy spear (mind, higher manas). Now he intends with her aid to gain possession of the Grail: Kundry, here representing kama or desire-mind, is to seduce Parsifal, as she did Amfortas before him. Kundry suffers because of herself: she longs for satisfaction and the stilling of her eternal urges. But a knight must be able to withstand, control, and refine the dark forces of desire — ultimately it is desire which impels us to aspire to higher things.

Kundry resists the entreaties of the magician, but when Parsifal enters the realm of Klingsor, she succumbs to the magician’s power lower mind naturally feels drawn to its divine origin. The violent love which she feels, however, is the result of desire. Thus tragedy is preordained.

When Parsifal enters the magic castle, Klingsor conceals himself and turns the area into a beautiful tropical garden where young maidens clad in soft-colored veils dance. When Parsifal approaches, they embrace him, and the game with the flower maidens begins. The higher self can only play with beauty; as soon as one is entrapped by it, his powers become bound to the physical realm. The maidens want more than just to play, and they crowd around him. Firmly driving them off, Parsifal cries: “Have done! You shall not catch me!”

The first attempt at seduction through the power of deceptive beauty has been repulsed. But when Kundry enters and calls his name — Parsifal — he is shocked, because his mother had once addressed him in just the same way in a dream. The flower maidens fade away and Parsifal recognizes the deceptive nature of the material world. Now the power of the desire world is revealed to him: Kundry becomes visible. She tells Parsifal of his origin: Parsifal (the monad) left the world of illusion and went his way, following the laws of spirit. In the world of appearances it is impossible to understand such decisions. So great is the sorrow of his mother (his biological origin) at his decision that she finally dies. When Kundry tells of his mother’s grief when he ran away to seek higher things, she awakens the pity of the higher self with regard to the personal self. Parsifal sinks down at Kundry’s feet and torments himself with severe self-reproaches.

Parsifal experiences here the possibly strongest temptation the aspiring human being can encounter. Overpowering pity in the face of suffering has proved the undoing of many who betrayed their divine ideals for the sake of alleviating suffering. In his state of weakness, Kundry tells Parsifal of the great love between his parents; nevertheless, he does not give in to Kundry’s fantasies but sees Amfortas before him. This time he does not merely see the sorrow in the realm of the Grail, as in the first act, but suffers it directly. Parsifal suddenly starts up with a gesture of the utmost terror, his demeanor expresses some fearful change; he presses his hands hard against his heart as if to master an agonizing pain. He cries: “Amfortas! The wound! The wound! It burns within my heart!”

Parsifal remembers what he saw in the temple of the Grail and “falls into a complete trance.” The vision of his link with divinity awakens once again within him. He is filled with deep compassion which no longer relates to the personal self, nor to the suffering of the spiritual self (Amfortas), but to the inmost divine heart of creation calling us to liberation. It is compassion for his own essential divinity (atma-buddhi, the higher duad) which is enchained by the fetters of desire. This compassion for the divine activates love of the divine and sets in motion the will to complete the process of attaining divinity.

Kundry tries to hinder Parsifal’s compassion, but he recognizes the demonic nature of her attempt. Kundry tries to kiss Parsifal, but he forcefully repulses her. This is the turning point of the whole drama. The deceptive maneuver of the black magician which brought about the downfall of Amfortas and the knights of the Grail, is penetrated by Parsifal, enabling him to achieve clearness of vision. He sees through the bewildering attacks of his adversary and hears the call of the divine will to redemption “in proving himself through the active pity he feels for the sorrow of humanity”attack.

Only now does Klingsor begin his most powerful attack on the initiant. Through Kundry he attempts to conjoin universal love with the personal. Kundry reveals to Parsifal the tragedy of her existence and her own suffering, saying:

One for whom I yearned in deathly longing, whom I recognized though despised and rejected, let me weep upon his breast, for one hour only be united to you and, though God and the world disown me, in you be cleansed of sin and redeemed!

Parsifal here recognizes Klingsor’s seductive attack on his will to redemption. He discerns the way in which the human desire nature repeatedly feigns reformation and binds us to things of matter. He again repulses Kundry, saying: “For evermore would you be damned with me if for one hour, unmindful of my mission, I yielded to your embrace.”

The seducing skills become increasingly spiritual (geistig). Kundry begs for pity and promises Parsifal the attainment of divinity. But the initiant understands that in no event must he allow himself to be ruled by the desire nature; only if desire is used to liberate the aspiring human ego will it be redeemed. He says to Kundry: “Love and redemption shall be yours if you will show me the way to Amfortas.”

Kundry tries once again to win Parsifal’s act of redemption for herself: she tries to embrace him and implores him to take pity. But it is too late: Parsifal is already in a higher state of consciousness. He vigorously pushes her aside. The initiant has withstood the test. Kundry flies into a fury and curses “the fool” in her selfish longing for redemption. She tries to prevent him from reaching the Grail. Klingsor appears in person and hurls the spear at Parsifal, but Parsifal catches the spear and holds it above his head: sensuous lower mind is transformed into aspiring higher mind. Parsifal says: “With this sign I rout your enchantment. As the spear closes the wound which you dealt him with it, may it crush your lying splendor into mourning and ruin!” In the light of the higher mind the demonic illusion fades away; Klingsor’s magic realm sinks as if by an earthquake.

The third act, concerning redemption, takes place in the realm of the Grail on the morning of Good Friday: flowers are in bloom all around and desire moves through the whole of nature, awakening it to new life.

Gurnemanz enters from a humble hermit’s hut, when he hears Kundry moaning. He notices a change in her: the wildness has vanished. She allows Gurnemanz to reawaken her from her paralysis. Her only concern seems to be to serve the knights of the Grail, but Gurnemanz informs her of a change in the knightly order: the spring of divine wisdom has failed. Everyone now looks after himself.

Meanwhile Parsifal enters clad in black armor, which Wagner regarded as a symbol of will power, the fighting strength of the personal self. He saw the conquest of the powers of illusion as an act requiring personal effort and struggle — the assertion of the higher will in the midst of personal, earthly life:

a strong awareness of [suffering] can raise the intellect of the higher nature to knowledge of the meaning of the world. Those in whom this sublime process takes place, it being announced to us by a suitable deed, are called heroes. — Collected Writings of R. Wagner, vol. 10

Gurnemanz calls upon the “stranger” to lay down his weapons at this holy spot. Parsifal then “thrusts the spear into the ground before him, lays shield and sword beneath it, opens his helmet, takes it from his head and lays it with the other arms, then kneels before the spear in silent prayer. . . . Parsifal raises his eyes devoutly to the spearhead.”

In the realm of the Grail or buddhi, the weapons of the personal consciousness are sacrificed to the power of intuition: the helmet of intelligence, the shield of courage, and the sword of the active will, while the point of the spear (mind) represents the moment of maximum concentration which leads to an intuitive understanding of the world. Gurnemanz now recognizes the spear and also the man who had once slain the swan. The spear is back in the realm of the Grail: the power of intuition shines again. When asked where he comes from, Parsifal answers: “Through error and the path of suffering I came; . . . An evil curse drove me about in trackless wandering, never to find the way to healing; numberless dangers, battles, and conflicts forced me from my path even when I thought I knew it.”

Gurnemanz reports that since Titurel’s death the state of the Order has worsened: intuition has been completely lost, and the Grail itself remains enclosed within the shrine. The knights now feed only on dogmas. Parsifal springs up in intense grief — he feels responsible for the knights’ suffering since he, the chosen “Redeemer,” had succumbed to maya (illusion). Amfortas is due to open the shrine in which the Grail is concealed on that very day, when his father is carried to his grave. Gurnemanz wants to take Parsifal to him. But first, one of the most significant scenes of the opera takes place: as Kundry bathes Parsifal’s feet, the full consciousness of his task awakens in him. Once the purification and cleansing of the personal self (the feet) have been carried out, Gurnemanz proceeds to anoint his head — his spiritual judgment must likewise light up pure and spotless within the personal self — enabling the personal self to be united with the divine self of its own free will.

Parsifal is thereby made King of the Grail. His first office is to baptize Kundry: the desire nature is incorporated into the community as an element necessary to progress, and becomes the driving force of pure divine love. That desire no longer serves the lower, but the higher self, brings about a transformation in the whole of nature. In Gurnemanz’s words: “Thus all creation gives thanks, all that here blooms and soon fades, now the nature, absolved from sin, today gains its day of innocence.” Parsifal then kisses Kundry gently on the forehead.

In the distance the sound of bells is heard. As they approach the temple of the Grail, time once more becomes space and the interior of the temple becomes visible. It is the same scene as at the end of the first act, but more gloomy. Two processions of knights enter the stage, one carrying Titurel’s coffin, the other with Amfortas on his deathbed. The knights are aware that without the creative power of intuition of the Grail, they are doomed to die. They are not strong enough to open the shrine themselves and therefore insistently press Amfortas to do so, but in his immeasurable pain he is no longer able to open the shrine. He calls upon the knights to kill him, since no one is able to close the wound.

At this moment the divine love of the higher self breaks through: Parsifal enters the hall, accompanied by Gurnemanz and Kundry and, touching the wound with the end of the spear, says: “But one weapon serves: only the spear that smote you can heal your wound.” The personal mind, gravitating to things of earth, opened up the gulf in human nature; the intuitive mind closes the fissure between the spiritual and earth-bound poles. Parsifal continues: “Be whole, absolved and atoned! For I now will perform your task. O blessed be your suffering, that gave pity’s mighty power and purest wisdom’s might to the timorous fool!”

Parsifal steps towards center stage, holding the spear aloft before him, saying: “I bring back to you the holy spear!” All gaze in reverence at the uplifted spear, to whose point Parsifal raises his eyes and intones:

O supreme joy of this miracle! This that could heal your wound I see pouring with holy blood yearning for that kindred fount which flows and wells within the Grail. No more shall it be hidden: uncover the Grail, open the shrine!

[Parsifal mounts the altar steps, takes the Grail from the shrine now opened by the squires, and kneels before it in silent prayer and contemplation. The Grail begins to glow with a soft light, increasing darkness below and growing illumination far above.

A beam of light: the Grail glows at its brightest. From the dome a white dove descends and hovers over Parsifal’s head. Kundry slowly sinks lifeless to the ground in front of Parsifal, her eyes uplifted to him. Amfortas and Gurnemanz kneel in homage to Parsifal, who waves the Grail in blessing over the worshipping brotherhood of knights.]

Wagner by these stage directions for the final scene epitomizes the ultimate triumph of the hero-soul. Through Parsifal’s act the earthbound human mind is directed upwards again towards divinity; the power of creative intuition flows again through all the realms. As a result, the fossilized spiritual tradition of Titurel is reinvigorated, and he rises from his coffin. The divine spirit, symbolized by the dove, hovers over Parsifal’s head, i.e., the consciousness of the higher ego experiences its innate divinity. This represents a transformation into something completely new: the attainment of Mastery.

Descent

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Many religious traditions express the cyclic initiation associated with the vernal equinox as a descent into the underworld. Jesus, for example, is said to have spent three days in Hell at this time. A similar story concerns the journey of the Norse god Hermod, son of Odin, through the black mists of Niflheim into the underworld. His brother Balder, the sun god, had been slain with a twig of mistletoe by the blind god Hoder, guided by Loki, and Hermod undertook to free him from the realm of Hel, Loki’s daughter.

On his journey Hermod rode nine nights astride his father’s remarkable eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, through the inky darkness of a deep valley that bordered the frigid region of Hel’s domain. As he crossed the mighty river Gjoll, he was confronted by the warden of the bridge, who knew immediately that Hermod belonged among the living. But, determined of purpose, he passed her and rode without pause to the massive gates leading to Hel’s hall.

Because he was still alive, Hermod could not open the gates or penetrate the hall’s icy walls. Refusing to give up, he spurred Sleipnir toward the gates and with a mighty leap he bounded over. Passing the horrible shore of corpses, Hermod dismounted at Hel’s doors and walked boldly into the huge hall. Thousands of faces, millions of eyes, stared at him — he knew these to be the despairing dead trapped within the hall of the underworld. He soon saw his fair brother sitting quietly on a high seat at one end of the fog-filled room.

Hermod waited patiently in silence all night until at last Hel herself entered the room to greet him. Half of Hel’s face and body were those of a living woman, but her other half was that of a putrid, moldering corpse. Hermod told her that all Asgard mourned for his unfortunate brother, and asked if she would agree to let Balder return with him. She slowly replied that she did not agree that Balder was missed by all, and offered Hermod a test: “If everything in the nine worlds, dead and alive, weeps for Balder,” she promised with a sly smile, “let him return to Asgard. But if even one thing demurs, Balder must remain in Niflheim.”

Hermod rode without rest back to the heavenly Asgard, and word of the promise of Loki’s daughter went quickly to all the nine worlds. Soon everything was weeping. As messengers from Asgard were returning, convinced of the success of their mission, they came across a giantess sitting by herself in a cave. She alone refused to weep for Balder: “I have no use for him,” she answered to all their pleas. “Let Hel hold what she has.” Thus Balder was destined to remain with Hel. On hearing this despairing news, the gods knew that the giantess was none other than the shape-changer, Loki.

The tale of the slaying of Balder is typical of “dying gods” such as Tammuz, Adonis, Attis, and Osiris. It is the story of a divine one descending into a lower plane or sphere of existence. Many of these gods return again, resurrected like the vegetation in the spring. But some, like Balder, remain in the lower realms, to return to their rightful place only after “everything in the nine worlds, dead and alive, weeps.”

In Buddhism such a one is called a bodhisattva, and the underworld is this very earth. However, a bodhisattva is not a god, but a spiritually enlightened human being. Just as some gods descend into the underworld, so some enlightened ones, from time to time, are said to descend into material manifestation to be born into our world to keep truth alive among mankind and to help all living beings in whatever way they can. The true bodhisattva takes a solemn vow to incarnate in the world as long as even a single being needs his help.

The Occultic Brotherhood

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Millions upon millions of years ago in the darkness of prehistory, humanity was an infant, a child of Mother Nature, unawakened, dreamlike, wrapped in the cloak of mental somnolence. Recognition of egoity slept; instinctual consciousness alone was active. Like a stream of brilliance across the horizon of time, divine beings, manasaputras, sons of mind, descended among the sleeping humans, and with the flame of intellectual solar fire lighted the wick of latent mind, and lo! the thinker stirred. Self-consciousness wakened, and man became a dynamo of intellectual and emotional power: capable of love, of hate, of glory, of defeat. Having knowledge, he acquired power; acquiring power, he chose; choosing, he fashioned the fabric of his future; and the perception of this ran like wine through his veins.

Knowledge, more knowledge, and still greater knowledge was required by the maturing humans who looked with gratitude to the godlike beings who had come to awaken them. For many millennia they followed their guidance, as children lovingly follow the footsteps of their mother.

As the ages rolled by, a circulation of divine instructors succeeded these primeval manasaputras and personally supervised the progress of child-humanity: they initiated them in the arts and sciences, taught them to sow their fields with corn and wheat, instructed them in the ways of clean and moral living — in short, established primeval schools of training and instruction open and free to all to learn of things material, intellectual, and spiritual. At this early period there were no Mystery colleges: the ancient wisdom was the common heirloom of all mankind, for as yet there had been no abuse of knowledge, and hence no need for schools kept hid and sacred from the world. Truth was freely given and as freely accepted in that golden age. (H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings)

The race was young; not all were adept in learning. Some through past experience in former world periods learned quickly and with ease, choosing intuitively the path of spiritual intellection; others, less awake, were good though wayward in progress; while a third class of humans, drugged with inertia, found learning and aspiring a burden and became laggards in the evolutionary procession. To them, spiritual apathy was preferable to spiritual exertion.

Mankind as a whole progressed rapidly in the acquisition of knowledge and its subsequent use. Some obviously wrought evil — others good. What had been latent spirituality now became active good and active evil. Suffering and pain became nature’s most merciful method of restoring the heart to its primeval instinct, that of spiritual choice. As mind developed keener potentialities and the struggle for mental supremacy overcame the spiritual, the gift of intellect became a double-edged weapon: on the one hand, the bringer of spiritual awareness and undreamed of intellectual ecstasy; and on the other, the wielder of a weapon of destruction, of horror and, in the worst cases, of deliberate spiritual wickedness — diabolism. As H. P. Blavatsky wrote:

The mysteries of Heaven and Earth, revealed to the Third Race by their celestial teachers in the days of their purity, became a great focus of light, the rays from which became necessarily weakened as they were diffused and shed upon an uncongenial, because too material soil. With the masses they degenerated into Sorcery, taking later on the shape of exoteric religions, of idolatry full of superstitions, . . . — The Secret Doctrine  

Nature is cyclical throughout: at one time fertile in spiritual things, at another barren. At this long-ago period of the third root-race, on the great continent of Lemuria, now submerged, the cycle was against spiritual progress. A great downward sweep was in force, when expansion of physical and material energies were accelerated with the consequent retardation and contraction of spiritual power. The humanities of that period were part of the general evolutionary current, and individuals reacted to the coarsening atmosphere according to their nature. Some resisted its down- ward influence through awakened spirituality; others, weaker in understanding, vacillated between spirit and matter, between good and evil: sometimes listening to the promptings of intuition, at other times submerged by the rushing waves of the downward current. Still others, in whom the spark of intellectual splendor burned low, plunged headlong downstream, unmindful of the turbulent and muddy waters.

As the downward cycle proceeded, knowledge of spiritual verities and living of the life in accordance with them became a dull and useless tool in human hearts and minds. Such folly was inevitable in the course of cosmic events, and all things were provided for. Just as there are many types of people — some spiritual, others material, some highly intelligent, others slow of thought — so are there various grades of beings throughout the universe, ranging from the mineral, through the vegetable, animal, and human kingdom, and beyond to the head and hierarch of our earth.

During these first millennia the spiritual head and guardian of the earth had been stimulating wherever possible the individual fires of active spirituality. Gradually as knowledge of divine things became abused by those strong in will but weak in morality, truth was increasingly veiled. The planetary watcher now felt the need of selecting a band of co-workers to act as bodyguard and protector of the ancient wisdom. Alone a handful of spiritually illumined human beings, in whom the divine fervor burned bright, acknowledged wholehearted allegiance to their planetary mentor — the spiritual hierarch of humanity. Through long ages certain individuals had been watched over and guided, strengthened and tested in innumerable ways, and those who passed the test of self-knowledge and self-sacrifice were gathered together to form the first association of spiritual-divine human beings — the Great Brotherhood. As G. de Purucker elaborates:

Then was formed or established or set in operation the gathering together of the very highest representatives, spiritually and intellectually speaking, that the human race as yet had given manifestation to; . . .

. . . the Silent Watcher of the Globe, through the spiritual-magnetic attraction of like to like, was enabled to attract to the Path of Light, even from the earliest times of the Third Root-Race, certain unusual human individuals, early forerunners of the general Manasaputric “descent,” and thus to form with these individuals a Focus of Spiritual and Intellectual Light on Earth, this fact signifying not so much an association or society or brotherhood as a unity of human spiritual and intellectual Flames, so to speak, which then represented on Earth the heart of the Hierarchy of Compassion. . . .

Now it was just this original focus of Living Flames, which never degenerated nor lost its high status of the mystic center on Earth through which poured the supernal glory of the Hierarchy of Compassion, today represented by the Great Brotherhood of the Mahatmans, . . . Thus it is that the Great Brotherhood traces an unbroken and uninterrupted ancestry back to the original focus of Light of the Third Root-Race. — The Esoteric Tradition  

Hence the elder brothers of the race remain

the elect custodians of the Mysteries revealed to mankind by the divine Teachers . . . and tradition whispers, what the secret teachings affirm, namely, that these Elect were the germ of a Hierarchy which never died since that period” (Secret Doctrine)

— since the foundation and establishment of the Great Brotherhood some 12 million years ago. From this center for millions of years have been streaming in continuous procession rays of light and strength into the world at large and, more specifically, into the hearts of those whose lives are dedicated to the service of truth. From this Fraternity have gone forth messengers, masters of wisdom, to inspire the grand religions of the past, and they will continue to send forth their envoys as long as mankind requires their care.

The Occultic

The whole essence of truth cannot be transmitted from mouth to ear. Nor can any pen describe it, not even that of the recording Angel, unless man finds the answer in the sanctuary of his own heart, in the innermost depths of his divine intuitions. — The Secret Doctrine

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How are those “innermost depths” to be sounded, so that knowledge of reality may be won? Through training, discipline, and self-born wisdom. Such training and soul-discipline is the distinguishing mark of the Mystery colleges, which since their inauguration have been divided into two parts: the exoteric form commonly known as the Lesser Mysteries, open to all sincere and honorable candidates for deeper learning; and the esoteric form, or the Greater Mysteries, whose doors open but to the few and whose initiation into adeptship is the reward of those whose interior nobility enables them to undergo the solar rite.

Universal testimony of stone and papyrus, symbol and allegory, cave and crypt, tells of the twofold trial of neophytes. Jesus the Avatara spoke to the multitudes in parable, but “when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples” (Mark 4:34). The Essenes had their greater and minor Mysteries, in the former of which Jesus of Nazareth is believed to have been initiated.

The Chinese Buddhists hold to a well-loved tradition that Buddha Gautama had two doctrines: one for the people and his lay-disciples; the other for his arhats. His invariable principle was to refuse no one admission into the ranks of candidates for Arhatship, but never to divulge the final mysteries except to those who had proved themselves, during long years of probation, to be worthy of Initiation.

Intensity of purpose marks the Hebrew initiates in their shrouding of inner teaching. To the multitude they taught the Torah, the “Law,” but to the few they taught its unwritten interpretation, the “Secret Wisdom” — hokhmah nistorah — “in ‘darkness, in a deserted place, and after many and terrific trials.’ . . . Delivered only as a mystery, it was communicated to the candidate orally, `face to face and mouth to ear.’ ” The Persian and Chaldean Magi also were of two castes: “the initiated and those who were allowed to officiate in the popular rites only” (Isis Unveiled).

Eleusis and Samothrace are limned in exquisite silhouette against the blue-black sky of history. Classical scholars tell us that the Lesser Mysteries were conducted in the springtime at Agrai near Athens, while the Greater Mysteries were celebrated in the autumn at Eleusis. In the Lesser Mysteries the candidates who experienced the first rites were called mystai (the closed of eye and mouth). In the Greater Mysteries the mystai became epoptai (the clear-seeing), who participated in the mysteries of the Divine Elysion — i.e., communion with the divine.

Similarly, the Hindu arhat, the Scandinavian skald, and the Welsh bard guarded the soul of esotericism with the sanctity of their lives and the discipline of their sacred tradition:

Belonging to every temple there were attached the “hierophants” of the inner sanctuary, and the secular clergy who were not even instructed in the Mysteries. — Isis Unveiled.

Further, in all ancient countries “every great temple had its private or secret Mystery-School which was unknown to the multitude or partially known,” and which was attached to it as a secret body. A Mystery school is not necessarily a school of people situated at some specific place, with definite and fixed locality throughout time, and with physical conditions of environment always alike. Wherever the need is great, work must be done; and the “mistake of all scholars and mystics is to put too much emphasis upon places as Mystery-Schools” (Studies in Occult Philosophy).

A Mystery school is not dependent on location; rather it is an association or brotherhood of spiritually disciplined individuals bound by one common purpose, service to humanity, a service intelligently and compassionately rendered because born of love and wisdom. It is a fact, nevertheless, that certain centers appear to be more favorable to success in spiritual things than others. Why, for instance, were the ancient seats of the Mysteries almost invariably in rock-temple or subterranean cave, in forest or mountain pass, in pyramid chamber or temple crypt? Because the currents of the astral light become quieter, more peaceful, cleaner, the farther removed from the madding crowd. Rarely will one find a seat of esoteric training near a large metropolis, for such are “swirling whirlpools . . . ganglia, nerve-centers, in the lower regions of the Astral Light” (Esoteric Tradition).

Hence the locations of the Greater Mysteries were usually carefully chosen and their schools were those which paid no attention to buildings of any kind, mainly for the reason that buildings would at once attract attention and draw public notice, which is the very thing that these more secret, more esoteric Schools tried to avoid. Thus sometimes, when the temples were mere seats of exoteric ritual, the Mystery-Schools were held apart in secret, conducting their gatherings, meetings, initiations, initiatory rites, usually in caves carefully prepared and hid from common knowledge, occasionally even under the open sky as the Druids did among the oaks in their semi-primeval forests in Britain and in Brittany; and even in a few cases having no permanent or set location; but the Initiates receiving word where to meet from time to time, and to carry on their initiatory functions. — Studies in Occult Philosophy

It is the places of quiet, of peace, of strong silence, where the Adepts find themselves drawn, and where the secret or Greater Mysteries can most effectively function. There in the recesses of their initiation chambers the forces and currents are those of the higher astral light, the akasa, the tenuous substance which responds to the higher currents of spirit and intellect. In this way does the Brotherhood transmit its potent spiritual vitality to the initiation halls, and the candidate whose seven-rayed soul is attuned may receive the divine imprint.

Hobbesian Morality and State

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Political Philosophy, as that branch of knowledge which consists of moral philosophy on the one hand and, and politics on the other, was treated systematically and in details by Hobbes in three different pieces of work viz., Elements of Law (1640), in the second and third parts of the Elementa Philosophiae, and in the Leviathan (1651). In all of these three presentations, his political philosophy shows traces of Galilean science and more so of Galileo’s ‘resolutive – compositive’ method. Everyone who has written about Hobbes’ political philosophy has interpreted his treatises as heavily dependent upon natural science, either for his material or method, which he heavily incorporates through out his works. However, the recognition of this fact on closer and meticulous scrutiny proves to be extremely questionable.

The propensity of natural sciences in his political philosophy is questioned, because Hobbes very well knew the fundamental differences between the two disciplines in the contest of material and method. On this awareness lay his basic conviction that political philosophy is essentially independent of natural science. This independence is corroborated because the principles of political philosophy are not borrowed from natural science, and indeed not from any sciences, but borrowed from experience, which one has of him, or to put it more accurately, are discovered by the efforts of self-knowledge and self-examination of everyone. The evidence of political philosophy on the one hand, is much easier to understand: its subjects and its concepts are not so remote from the average man as are the subjects and concepts of Mathematics which form the basis of natural science. On the other hand, ‘the politiques are the harder study of the two’; by reason of their passions, men obscure the, in itself, clear and simple knowledge of the norms which political philosophy builds up. Moreover, man with his passions and his self-seeking is the particular subject of political philosophy, and man opposes by every kind of hypocrisy the self-knowledge on which the proof of these norms rests.

Hobbes considered both political philosophy and the natural sciences as the main components of human knowledge. It can be said that Hobbes’ classification of the sciences is based on a classification of existing things into natural and the artificial. It is not so much the artificially produced things that are basically different from all natural things as the production, the human activity itself, i.e. man as an essentially productive being, especially as the being who by his art produces from his own nature the citizen or the State, who, by working on himself, makes himself into a citizen. In so far as man works on himself, influencing and changing his nature, so that he becomes a citizen, a part of that artificial being called the State, he is not a natural being. ‘Manners of men’ are something different from ‘natural causes’. The basic classification of existing things which in truth underlies Hobbes’ classification of the sciences is classification under nature on the one side, and under man as productive and active being on the other.

The question whether his political philosophy is intended to be naturalistic or anthropological, bears not only on the method, but above all on the matter selected. The significance of the antithesis between naturalistic and anthropological political philosophy for the matter becomes fully apparent if one grasps that this antithesis is only the abstract form of a concrete antithesis in the interpretation of and judgment of human nature which extends throughout the whole of Hobbes’ work. Hobbes summed up his theory of human nature as it underlies his political philosophy in ‘two most certain postulates of human nature’. The first postulate being that of ‘natural appetite’. Eclectic as he was, this postulate takes its roots as rooted in man’s sensuousness, in his animal nature. Like that of all animals, his is constant movement. But, the specific difference between man and other animals is that of reason. Thus man is less at the mercy of momentary sense impressions, he can envisage the future much better than can animals; for this very reason he is not like animals hungry only with the hunger of the moment, but also with future hunger, and thus he is the most predatory, the most cunning, the strongest, and most dangerous animal. This view of human appetite is a specifically Hobbesian view, but then is contradicted in Hobbes’ writings by his repeated and emphatic statement that human appetite is infinite in itself and not as a result of the infinite number of external impressions. Seeing this, one can note that human appetite is essentially distinguished from animal appetite in that the latter is nothing but reaction to external impressions, and, therefore, the animal desires only finite objects as such, while man spontaneously desires infinitely and this corresponds to the intention of Hobbes’ political philosophy. The two conceptions viz., mechanistic and vitalistic conceptions differ not only in substance, but also in method. The mechanistic conception is based on the mechanistic explanation of perception and on the general theory of motion; on the other hand, the apparently vitalistic conception is based not on any general scientific theory, but on insight into human nature, deepened and substantiated by self-knowledge and self-examination. In spite of these differences, the two conceptions below the surface have something in common, which allows us to characterize them both  as naturalistic. 

The naturalistic conception of human appetite is clearly expressed in the proposition that man desires power and ever greater power, spontaneously and continuously, in one jet of appetite, and not by reason of a summation of innumerable isolated desires caused by innumerable isolated perceptions

‘…in the first place, I put for a generall inclination of all mankind, a perpetuall and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in Death’. And the cause of this, is not alwayes that a man hopes for a more intensive delight, than he has already attained to; or that he cannot be content with a moderate power: but because he cannot assure the power and the means to live well, which he hath present, without the acquisition of more’.

According to him, only the irrational striving after power, which is found more frequently than the rational striving, is to be taken as the natural human appetite. The only natural striving after power, and thus man’s natural appetite, is described by Hobbes as follows: ‘men from their birth, and naturally, scramble for everything they covet, and would have all the world, if they could, to fear and obey them’.1 In the case of man, animal desire is taken up and transformed by a spontaneous infinite and absolute desire which arises out of the depths of the man himself.

We find a more detailed definition of the irrational striving after power:

‘because there be some, that taking pleasure in contemplating their own power in the acts of conquest, which they pursue farther than their security requires; if others, that otherwise would be glad to be at ease within modest bounds, should  not by invasion increase their power, they would not be able, long time, by standing only on their defence, to subsist. And by consequence, such augmentation of dominion over men, being necessary to a man’s conservation, it ought to be allowed him’.

It is clearly seen here that rational permissible striving after power is in itself finite. The man guided by it would remain ‘within modest bounds’, would ‘be content with a moderate power’. Only the impermissible, irrational, lustful striving after power is infinite.

In four different arguments, Hobbes designated the characteristics in the difference between man and animal as the striving after honour and positions of honour, after precedence over others and recognition of this precedence by others, ambition, pride, and the passion for fame. Since man’s natural appetite is a striving after precedence over others and recognition of this precedence by others, the particularities of natural appetite, the passions, are nothing other than particular ways of striving after precedence and recognition. Speaking about the cause of madness, Hobbes says: “The Passion, whose violence, or continuance maketh Madnesse, is either great vaine-glory; which is commonly called Pride, and selfe-conceipt; or great Dejection of mind”. All passions and all forms of madness are modifications of conceit or of a sense of inferiority, or in principle, of the striving after precedence and recognition of that precedence.

The same conclusion is reached if one compares the arguments by which Hobbes in the three presentations of his political philosophy proves his assertion that the war of everyone against everyone arises of necessity from man’s very nature. Every man for that reason is the enemy of every other man, because each desires to surpass every other and therefore offends every other. The discrepancies between the three presentations shows that Hobbes himself never completed the proofs of his fundamental assertion, and, as is seen on closer inspection, did not complete them simply because he could not make up his mind explicitly to take as his point of departure the reduction of man’s natural appetite to vanity. At the end of the most important part of his work, “Leviathan”, Hobbes says:

‘Hitherto I have set forth the nature of Man, (whose Pride and other passions have compelled him to submit himselfe to Government;) together with the great power of the Governour, whom I compared to Leviathan, taking that comparison out of the last two verses of the one and fortieth of Job; where God having set forth the great power of Leviathan, called him the King of the Proud’.

The state is compared to Leviathan, because it and it especially is the ‘King of all the children of pride’. Only the State is capable of keeping pride down in the long run, indeed it has no other raison d’etre except that man’s natural appetite is pride, ambition, and vanity. 

Why could not Hobbes take man’s natural appetite, which is vanity as the basis of his political philosophy?  If this conception of natural appetite is right, if man by nature finds his pleasure in triumphing over all others, then man is by nature evil. But he did not dare to hold this consequence of his theory. For this very reason, in the Leviathan, he puts vanity in the end. Because man is by nature animal, he is not by nature evil, therefore he is as innocent as the animals; thus vanity cannot characterize his natural appetite. Hobbes in defence against the reproach that according to his theory man is by nature evil does not mention vanity at all. In laying the foundations of his political philosophy, Hobbes puts vanity more and more into the background in favour of innocent competition, innocent striving after power, innocent animal appetite, because the definition of man’s natural appetite in terms of vanity is intended as a moral judgment. He is finally obliged to attribute to the judges the wickedness which he disallows in the case of the guilty, the criminals; he betrays particularly in his description of the striving after power itself, that the innocence, neutrality, and moral indifference of that striving is only apparent. The apparent moral indifference arises simply and solely through abstraction of the necessary moral difference. Hobbes’ political philosophy rests not on the illusion of an amoral morality, but on a new morality, or, so to speak according to Hobbes’ intention, on a new grounding of the one eternal morality.

The second of the ‘two most certain postulates of human nature’ is ‘the postulate of human reason’. In accordance with the naturalistic reasoning this postulate is reduced to the principle of self-preservation: since the preservation of life is the condition sine qua non for the satisfaction of any appetite, it is the ‘primary good’. As a logical conclusion of this thought, Hobbes attempts to deduce natural right, natural law, and all the virtues from the principle of self-preservation. It is noteworthy that Hobbes prefers the negative expression ‘avoiding death’ to the positive expression ‘preserving life’. That preservation of life is the primary good is affirmed by reason alone. On the other hand, that death is the primary evil is affirmed by passion, the passion of fear of death. And as reason itself is powerless, man would not mind to think of the preservation of life as the primary and the most urgent good, if the passion of fear of death did not compel him to do so. According to Hobbes, the preservation of life is the primary good, an unhindered progress to ever further goals, a ‘continuall prospering’, in a word, happiness is the greatest good, but there is no supreme good in the enjoyment of which the spirit might find repose. On the other hand, death is the primary as well as the greatest and the supreme evil. For death is not only the negation of the supreme good; but at the same time, it is the negation of all the goods. Only through death has man an aim, the aim that is forced upon him by the sight of death, the aim of avoiding death. For this reason, Hobbes uses the negative expression ‘avoiding death’ to the positive expression ‘preserving life’. This is also because we fear death infinitely more than we desire life. 

But Hobbes also does not adhere to the theory of death as the supreme evil, since for him the tortured life is a greater evil as compared to death. So for him, an agonizing death is much more evil than death. But in contradiction, if Hobbes had considered agonizing death as the supremest evil, he would have attributed an ever-greater importance on medicine, which he tends to forget. When he says of an agonizing death that it is the greatest evil, he thinks exclusively of violent death at the hands of other men. This fear of getting killed at the hands of other men, is a mutual fear, i.e. it is a fear each man has of every other man as his potential murderer. This fear of a violent death, pre-rational in its origin, but rational in its effect, and not the rational principle of self-preservation, is, according to Hobbes, the root of all right and of all morality. He finally denied the moral values of all virtues which do not contribute to the making of the State, to consolidating peace, to protecting man against the danger of violent death, or, more exactly expressed, of all virtues which do not proceed from the fear of violent death.

Since, Hobbes reduces man’s natural appetite to vanity, he cannot but recognize the fear of a violent death, not the fear of a painful death, and certainly not the principle of the preservation of life as the principle of morality. The ever-greater triumph over others, and not the ever-increasing, but rationally increasing, power is the aim and happiness of natural man. ‘Continually to out-go the next before is felicity’. Man’s life may be compared to a race: ‘but this race we must suppose to have no other goal, nor other garland, but being foremost’. Absorbed in the race after the happiness of triumph, man cannot be aware of his dependence on the insignificant primary good, the preservation of life and limb; failing to recognize his bodily needs, man experiences only joys and sorrows of the mind, i.e. imaginary joys and sorrows. Living in the world of his imagination, he need do nothing, in order to convince himself of his superiority to others, but simply think out his deeds for himself; in this world, in which indeed ‘the whole world obeys him’, everything is accomplished according to his wishes. He can awaken himself from this dream world only when he feels in his own person, by bodily hurt, the resistance of the real world. ‘Men have no other means to acknowledge their own Darknesse, but onely by reasoning from the unforeseen mischances, that befall them in their ways’. Because man by nature lives in the dream of the happiness and triumph, of a glittering, imposing, apparent good, he requires a no less imposing power to awaken him from his dream: this imposing power is the imperious majesty of death.

The ideal condition for self-knowledge is, therefore, unforeseen mortal danger. The vain man, who, in his imagination, believes himself superior to others, cannot convince himself of the rightness of his estimate of himself; he requires the recognition of hiss superiority by others. He therefore steps outside his imagination. Now, either the others take his claim seriously and feel themselves slighted, or they do not take his claim seriously and he feels himself slighted. In either case the making of the claims leads to contempt. The one slighted longs for revenge. In order to avenge him he attacks the other, indifferent whether he loses his life in so doing. Unconcerned as to the preservation of his own life, he desires, however, above all that the other should remain alive; for ‘revenge aimeth not at the death, but at the captivity and subjection of an enemy…revenge aimeth at triumph, which over the dead is not’. The struggle which thus breaks out, in which, according to the opinion of both opponents, the object is not the killing, but the subjection of the other, of necessity becomes serious, because it is a struggle between bodies, a real struggle. From the beginning of the conflict, the two opponents have, without realizing and foreseeing it, completely left the imaginary world. At some point in the conflict, actual injury, or, more accurately, physical pain, arouses a fear for life. Fear moderates anger, puts the sense of being slighted into the background, and transforms the desire for revenge into hatred. The aim of the hater is no longer triumph over the enemy, but his death. The struggle for pre-eminence, about ‘trifles’, has become a life and death struggle. In this way natural man happens unforeseen upon the danger of death; in this way he comes to know this primary and greatest and supreme evil for the first time, to recognize death as the greatest and supreme evil in the moment of being irresistibly driven to fall back before death in order to struggle for his life. Only for a moment can he free himself from the danger of death by killing his enemy, for since every man is his enemy, after killing of the first enemy he is ‘again in the like danger of another’, indeed of all others. The killing of the enemy is thus the least far-sighted consequence of the withdrawal from death. In order to safeguard his life, not only for the moment, but also in the long run, man needs companions, with whose help he can successfully defend his life against the others. Companions can be gained in two ways, by force or by agreement. The former appears as if it stands in the midway between the killing of the enemy and agreement with him; so it is natural enough for him to try out the latter. Since fear can hardly be made manifest, but by some action dishonourable, that betrayeth the conscience of one’s own weakness; all men in whom the passion of courage or magnanimity have been predominated, have abstained from cruelty…In one word, therefore, the only law of actions in war is honour. Thus arises the relationship of master and servant. The victor who has safeguarded his honour becomes the master. The vanquished, who ‘submitteth…for fear of death’, who admits his weakness and with that has forfeited his honour, becomes the servant. The dominion of the master over the servant, despotic rule, is one form of the natural State, and as the other part of the natural State, patriarchy, is construed by Hobbes entirely according to the pattern of despotic rule, we may even say: despotic rule is the natural State. The artificial State, which is as such more perfect, arises when the two opponents are both seized with fear for their lives, overcome their vanity and shame of confessing their fear, and recognize as their real enemy not the rival, but ‘that terrible enemy of nature, death’, who, as their common enemy, forces them to mutual understanding, trust, and union, and thus procures them the possibility of completing the founding of the State for the purpose of providing safeguards for the longest possible term, against the common enemy. And while in the unforeseen life-and-death struggle, in which vanity comes to grief, the futility of vanity is shown, it is revealed in the concord of living, and of living in common, to which their pre-rational fear of death leads them, that the fear of death is appropriate to human conditions, and that it is ‘rational’. It is even ostensibly shown that it is only on the basis of fear of death that life comes to concord and that the fear of death is the only ‘postulate of natural reason’.

Hobbes distinguishes no precisely than any other moralist between legality and morality. Not the legality of the action, but the morality of the purpose, makes the just man. That man is just who fulfils the law because it is law and not for fear of punishment or for the sake of reputation. Although Hobbes states that those are ‘too severe, both to themselves, and others, that maintain, that the First motions of the mind, be Sinnes’, he yet ‘confesses’ that ‘it is safer to erre on that hand, than on the other’. In believing that the moral attitude, conscience, intention, is of more importance than the action, Hobbes is at one with the Christian tradition. He differs from this tradition at first sight only by his denial of the possibility that just and unjust actions depend wholly on the judgment of the individual conscience. In the state of nature every action is in principle permitted which the conscience of the individual recognizes as necessary for self-preservation, and every action is in principle forbidden which according to the judgment of the individual conscience does not serve the purpose of self-preservation. If, then, in the state of nature, any and every action is permitted, even in the state of nature not every intention is permitted, but only the intention of self-preservation. Thus the unequivocal distinction between just and unjust intentions holds even for the state of nature and is, therefore, absolute.

Hobbes expressly denies the existence of a law, as if it were a natural law, which obliged man unconditionally, and therefore obliged him even in the state of nature. He says: ‘These dictates of Reason, men use to call by the names of Lawes; but improperly: for they are but Conclusions, or Theoremes concerning what conduceth to the conservation and defence of themselves; whereas Law, properly is the word of him, that by right hath command over others’. Law as an obligation is the basis of a covenant between formerly free and unbound men. Thus ‘where no Covenant hath preceded, there hath no Right been transferred, and every man has right to everything…But when a Covenant is made, then to break it unjust: And the definition of injustice, is no other than the not Performance of Covenant’. The just attitude cannot be anything but earnest striving to keep one’s given word; and is therefore far from being obedience that it is, on the contrary, nothing else but proud self-reliance. From the Leviathan, it is clearly noticeable that opinion, far from being the origin of just attitude, is rather the only origin of the unjust attitude. Not pride, and still less obedience, but fear of violent death, is according to him the origin of the just intention. It makes possible the distinction between the attitude of an unjust man who obeys the laws of the State for fear of punishment, and the attitude of the just man, who for fear of death, and therefore from inner conviction, as it were once more accomplishing in himself the founding of the State, obeys the laws of the State. 

Since man is by nature fast in his imaginary world, it is only by unforeseen mischance that he can attain to knowledge of his own darkness and at the same time a modest and circumspect knowledge of the real world. That is to say: the world is originally revealed to man not by detachedly and spontaneously seeing its form, but by involuntary experience of its resistance. The least discriminating and the detached sense is the sense of touch. This explains the place of honour which is tacitly granted to the sense of touch in Hobbes’ physiology and psychology of perception; all sense-perception, particularly that of the most discriminating and detached sense, the sense of sight, is interpreted by experience of the sense of touch.

Thus it can be seen, that the moral and humanist antithesis of fundamentally unjust vanity and fundamentally just fear of violent death is the basis Hobbes’ political philosophy. As an objection, it can be called to effect that this antithesis is to be found in Hobbes’ political philosophy only because Hobbes had not yet completely freed himself from the influence of the Christian Biblical tradition. This antithesis is the ‘secularized’ form of the traditional antithesis between spiritual pride and fear of God, a secularized form which results from the Almighty God having been replaced by the over-mighty State, ‘the Mortall God’. Is this affiliation to the antithesis in Hobbes’ moral work right by itself?

On the contrary, this antithesis is an essential indispensable element, or, more accurately, the essential basis of, Hobbes’ political philosophy. Political philosophy deprived of its moral foundations is, indeed, Spinoza’s political philosophy, but not Hobbes’. Spinoza made might equivalent to right. Thanks to the moral basis of his political philosophy, Hobbes kept the possibility of acknowledging justice as such and distinguishing between right and might. Hobbes’ political philosophy is really based on knowledge of men, which is deepened and corroborated, by the self-knowledge and self-examination of the individual, and not on a general scientific and metaphysical theory. And because it is based on experience of human life, it can never, in spite of all the temptations of natural science, fall completely into the danger of abstraction from moral life and neglect of moral difference.

The contention is that Hobbes’ humanist moral motivation of his political philosophy is more original than the naturalistic motivation. The important points of his moral motivation were firmly established well before he turned his attention to natural science and especially to Euclid’s Elements. This discovery of Euclid was an epoch in his life; everything he thought and wrote after that is modified by this happening. His discovery lent maturity to his later works and whether this is the case, can be decided only after the sparse remnants of his youthful philosophy is meticulously studied.