The machinery of the Gothic, traditionally relegated to both a formulaic and a sensational aesthetic, gradually evolved into a recyclable set of images, motifs and narrative devices that surpass temporal, spatial and generic categories. From the moment of its appearance the Gothic has been obsessed with presenting itself as an imitation.
Recent literary theory has extensively probed into the power of the Gothic to evade temporal and generic limits and into the aesthetic, narratological and ideological implications this involves. Officially granting the Gothic the elasticity it has always entailed has resulted in a reconfiguration of its spectrum both synchronically – by acknowledging its influence on numerous postmodern fictions – and diachronically – by rescripting, in hindsight, the history of its canon so as to allow space for ambiguous presences.
Both transgressive and hybrid in form and content, the Gothic has been accepted as a malleable genre, flexible enough to create more freely, in Borgesian fashion, its own precursors. The genre flouted what are considered the basic principles of good prose writing: adherence to verisimilitude and avoidance of both narrative diversions and moralising – all of which are, of course, made to be deliberately upset. Many merely cite the epigrammatic power of the essay’s most renowned phrase, that the rise of the Gothic “was the inevitable result of the revolutionary shocks which all of Europe has suffered”.
The eighteenth-century French materialist philosophy purported the displacement of metaphysical investigations into the meaning of life by materialist explorations. Julien Offray de La Mettrie, a French physician and philosopher, the earliest of materialist writers of the Enlightenment, published the materialist manifesto L’ Homme machine (Man a Machine), that did away with the transcendentalism of the soul, banished all supernatural agencies by claiming that mind is as mechanical as matter and equated humans with machines. In his words: “The human body is a machine that winds up its own springs: it is a living image of the perpetual motion”. French materialist thought resulted in the publication of the great 28-volume Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des méttrie par une société de gens de lettres by Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d’ Alembert, and which was grounded on purely materialist principles, against all kinds of metaphysical thinking. Diderot’s atheist materialism set the tone of the Encyclopédie, which, for both editors, was the ideal vehicle […] for reshaping French high culture and attitudes, as well as the perfect instrument with which to insinuate their radical Weltanschauung surreptitiously, using devious procedures, into the main arteries of French Society, embedding their revolutionary philosophic manifesto in a vast compilation ostensibly designed to provide plain information and basic orientation but in fact subtly challenging and transforming attitudes in every respect. While materialist thinkers ultimately disowned La Mettrie because he ran counter to their systematic moral, political and social naturalism, someone like Sade remained deeply influenced and inspired for his indebtedness to La Mettrie’s atheism and hedonism, particularly to the perception of virtue and vice as relative notions − the result of socialisation and at odds with nature.
The problem of the principle of reason/ground is architectonic. As such it is the great theme of modern philosophy: how and where to begin? The two classical answers are provided by romanticism and enlightenment thinking. If there is a romantic side to Heidegger, as Deleuze says, then Meillassoux inherits and continues a long-standing tradition of enlightenment. Whereas the first always looks for a foundation or ground, even if it turns out be an abyss, the critical reason of the latter rabidly dismantles all grounds. Alternatively, Deleuze calls for a third answer which he calls modernism or constructivism and which always begins by the milieu (par le milieu). Instead of rising out of first principles like a tree from its roots, his metaphysics proliferates like a rhizome, never straying far from the events at the surface in a groping experimentation with the conditions of real experience. For Deleuze, the milieu is not the solid ground on which we stand, but neither is it an abyss or a void. Rather it is the fluctuating ground in which we must learn to swim. It is the element of the problematic as such, an element that matters and calls for an ethics of life. To think by the milieu means to think both without reference to a fixed ground yet also without separating thought from the forces it requires to exist. Whereas Meillassoux reinstalls the Kantian tribunal of reason and the generality of its judgments, Deleuze always emphasizes his own conditions of enunciation, i.e. the matters of concern that enable him to learn. While the anti-correlationist position is one of right, Deleuze’s own position is always one of fact.
Art which transcends its own time, in addition to mirroring the artist’s quest for truth, is also a source of inspiration for those who contact it. Such art is often extremely complex and its profound meaning difficult to discern. Richard Wagner is one of the most controversial and wholly misunderstood artists of the past 200 years; and his opera Parsifalone of the most complicated works.
Wagner felt the first impulse to write Parsifalat the age of 31. He was in Marienbad working on the opera Lohengrinwhen he read Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival. This epic poem brings together various mythical traditions; Wagner later added elements from other legends. Three years later, in 1848, the main features of Parsifal flowedover into the draft of a drama entitled “Jesus of Nazareth,” in which Mary Magdalene takes the place of Kundry. In May 1856 Wagner wrote the draft for a Buddhist drama with the working tide “Der Sieger” (“The Victor”), in which the features of what later became Parsifalare already clear. Wagner spent Good Friday 1858 in his Zurich retreat where he had a vision and decided on the main motifs of the opera.
In the years that followed, individual characters began to take shape. At the same time, however, Wagner experienced the immense difficulties presented by the subject matter. Time and again he postponed committing anything to paper — he was plagued with such doubts that he felt like giving up the whole idea. It was not until August 1865 that he wrote a detailed draft at King Ludwig II’s insistence. But a further twelve years elapsed before the work was completed in April 1877, being published in book form the same year. The composition of the music took five more years, and only on July 26, 1882, did the first performance take place in the “Haus Wahnfried” in Bayreuth. Thirty-seven years had gone by between the first idea for the work and its completion.
Concerning Wagner’s knowledge of occultism, we know he was acquainted with Freemasons, with whom he entered into fierce debate, and with the Rosicrucians. In his library, now situated in Bayreuth and open to the public, there are translations of the Upanishads and the Mahabharata, which were just being published in his time. I suspect that Richard Wagner had exceptional intuitive abilities and could see many extremely subtle realms and interrelations directly; also that he suffered deeply because all too often he simply could not find the words to express what took place so clearly before his spiritual eye. It is therefore understandable that he identified with the figure of Amfortas: Wagner believed in living life to the full; he also saw things but could not grasp them. The basic spiritual tendency running through the opera is compassion or buddhi. Reincarnation and karma are clearly described in several places — without them the whole drama would be inexplicable.
A number of symbols and mythical elements are important for a general understanding of the work. First, the symbol of the Grail combines elements of legends from Persia and Asia Minor with those from Celtic mythology. The Grail, the cup which Jesus Christ used at the Last Supper, was made from the stone which fell from Lucifer’s crown as he plunged to earth. Lucifer (the Light-bringer) brought the mental principle to evolving humanity. The stone from Lucifer’s crown can therefore be regarded as ego-consciousness or “I am I”: without the awakening mind principle humanity would not be able to acquire knowledge, and the first step along this path is “I am I.” That this stone was fashioned into a cup or bowl which was used to catch the blood of Christ elevates its meaning because it then stands for the divine self, atma-buddhi. As Wagner remarked, it becomes “Grail consciousness” — purified, redeemed “I am.” The Grail is entrusted to Titurel. He gathers a brotherhood of knights around him, called the knights of the Grail, who devote themselves to the service of this Grail consciousness through noble deeds.
A second important symbol is the spear, derived from the spear of Longinus who, it is said, thrust it into Christ’s side during the crucifixion, shedding the Savior’s blood. It stands for higher mind, that part of us which must decide whether the mind will aspire to spirit or succumb to material desire.
A third central symbol is the swan, denoting the north. Wagner uses the swan as a symbol of those beings who, though still devoid of individual consciousness, are located in the divine realms, but have their whole development before them; this symbol is identical with that of the angel. In the last scene a dove appears, symbol according to Wagner of “divine spirit, which floats down idealistically onto the human soul.” It is the Holy Ghost or Spirit — atma-buddhi.
The first act of the opera, which takes place in the realm of the Grail, begins with trombones sounding the reveille. Gurnemanz, teacher and guardian of the secret wisdom of the Grail, wakens two squires lying asleep under a tree, saying: “Do you hear the call? Give thanks to God that you are called to hear it!” That the reveille sounds from the realm of the Grail indicates that it is a spiritual call. Buddhi penetrates the consciousness of the awakening men and Gurnemanz feels it to be a blessing. He calls on his pupils to give thanks, for he knows that few are granted the privilege of feeling this call of buddhi.
At this time Amfortas, King of the Grail, lies sick and wounded, the wound being an external symbol for inner events. In his striving towards higher things, Amfortas battled in the realm of the lower mind ruled by the black magician Klingsor and lost the spear (mind). Klingsor wounded him in his side with the spear, a wound which will not heal. This wound is the pivot of all further action. It is the fissure between the higher self and the personal self, caused by the fact that the mental principle was directed into the earthly realm where it is now ruled by Klingsor, or mind linked with desire. Gurnemanz and the squires, impelled by buddhi, now try to alleviate the pain suffered by the King of the Grail. They wish to bathe the wound, though Gurnemanz in his wisdom knows this will be of no avail. The King’s wound, an inner wound, cannot be closed by baths or ointments. Wrapped in thought, he sings: “There is but one thing can help him, only one man.” When a knight asks the man’s name, he avoids answering.
Then Kundry enters the scene, appearing wild one moment, lifeless the next. She presses on Gurnemanz a small crystal vessel containing balsam with which Amfortas might be healed. Kundry personifies the desire nature, messenger and temptress at the same time. On the one hand, desire binds us to earthly things, while on the other it provides the first impulses to understand what is hidden. Thus Kundry serves both the Grail and also, as temptress, Klingsor who seeks to divert people from the quest for the divine through the power of the senses. Wagner remarks that the black magician
beclouds the divine judgment of man through the sense impressions of the material world, and thereby leads him into a world of deception.
A dispute arises between the knights of the Grail and Gurnemanz about Kundry (desire). The squires mistrust her, but Gurnemanz says:
Yes, she may be under a curse. She lives here now — perhaps reincarnated, to expiate some sin from an earlier life not yet forgiven there. Now she makes atonement by such deeds as benefit our knightly order; she has done good, beyond all doubt, serving us and thereby helping herself.
Naturally, Kundry was also involved when Klingsor seized the spear of mind from Amfortas.
In his pain, Amfortas addresses the Grail and asks for a sign of help. In a vision he describes how someone will come to help him: “Enlightened through compassion, the innocent fool; wait for him, the appointed one.” This announcement of the foolish innocent (“Fal parsi,” hence Parsifal) refers to the reincarnating ego, which hastens from life to life. If the reincarnating ego gives full expression to its divine individuality in its personal life, the inner fissure — the wound — will be closed again, for the mind which has been directed to things of matter will be turned back to the divine.
Before divinity can be attained, however, human evolution has to be experienced. At the outset, mankind is completely unself-conscious and lives in a state of divine innocence, untouched by things of matter and without an independent mind, a state symbolized by the swan. It has to leave this state, descend to the physical realm, and experience all the conflicts that evolution entails. Through the associated suffering and the development of the thinking principle, humans learn from their own experience to feel compassion for other beings.
These developments find their corollary in the departure of young people from their parental home, the maternal plane. Such a departure is often very difficult and may be accompanied by a great deal of pain and many reproaches; but this break is absolutely necessary if young people are to go through their own experiences and develop the ability to think for themselves, though this simultaneously causes the maternal principle much grief. The result is often condemnation by one’s fellowmen.
This “descent” or gaining of independence by the monad is represented by Wagner in the slaying of the swan by Parsifal. Gurnemanz sternly reproaches Parsifal for killing the swan with an arrow. Parsifal is at first filled with childlike pride at his accuracy but becomes increasingly disturbed when he looks at the dead bird, and for the first time he feels pity. Gurnemanz inquires of Parsifal his name and origin, but Parsifal cannot remember and replies: “I had many, but I know none of them any more.” The only name he remembers is that of his mother: Herzeleide (Heart’s Sorrow). Kundry is able to provide more information about his origin: his father was killed in battle, and his mother ” reared him up in the desert to folly, a stranger to arms.” Parsifal nevertheless recalls that one day he saw the knights of the Grail riding along the forest’s edge: “I ran after them, but could not overtake them; through deserts I wandered, up hill and down dale.”
The monad yearns for more than a solitary, peaceful life. Kundry confirms this, and informs him of his mother’s death. Parsifal springs furiously at her, but Gurnemanz restrains him. Thus although the monad is endowed with a feeling of right and wrong, mind is not yet fully developed. It therefore turns, in conjunction with desire, to anger and rage. Gurnemanz, the initiate, restrains him.
The rest of the opera describes what takes place during this descent of the human monad. Gurnemanz has already recognized that Parsifal is someone who can restore the divine harmony. He offers to lead him to the feast of the Grail. Both move into their inner, spiritual realms, represented by the temple of the Grail. This realm lies beyond the differentiation of space and time. Hence Parsifal remarks: “I scarcely tread, yet seem already to have come far.”
Gurnemanz answers: “You see, my son, time here becomes space.” This is because the inner vision appears to the physical person as space. Gurnemanz warns Parsifal to pay close attention to everything he encounters and later to take it back into the realm of his personal consciousness. Before them both a scene opens with a pillared hall where the knights of the Grail carry in Amfortas. The covered shrine of the Grail is carried before them. In the background can be heard the voice of Titurel, the former guardian of the Grail, who received the Cup from the angel’s hands and learned the occult mysteries in an inner vision. He says, “Amfortas, my son, are you in your place? Shall I again today look on the Grail and live?” This indicates that the life forces of spiritual traditions steadily weaken if they are not renewed by intuitive, creative individuals. Time and again attempts are made to establish a spiritual, compassionate brotherhood. If, however, the innovators fail, the effort comes to a standstill; the teachings ossify, and what used to be the content becomes a veil, until nothing is left of the original impulse. Titurel must therefore die.
So Titurel calls upon Amfortas to view the Grail. But Amfortas is incapable of doing so — he has lost the mental principle to Klingsor, the lower mind. Titurel now calls for the uncovering of the Grail, the revelation of occult wisdom. When, at his insistence, this takes place, Amfortas is racked with pain: for those imprisoned in the lower mind, the sight of divine wisdom is unbearable. The tragedy of such a situation is clear. On the one hand, such people are impelled by divine, buddhic impulses; on the other, they are completely entangled in the world of deception and sensuality. When the full, idealistic nature of the Grail appears to Amfortas, so great becomes his despair that he begs to die. But the Chorus sings again: “Enlightened through compassion, the innocent fool: wait for him, the appointed one.”
Gurnemanz, who led Parsifal to this inner vision, stands beside Parsifal throughout the scene. At the end he asks Parsifal: “Do you know what you have seen?” But Parsifal cannot answer, as he is overcome by the suffering he has seen. Gurnemanz angrily dismisses him. Parsifal is not yet able to help, as this requires more than just a vision of things occult. He must first acquire occult knowledge on the physical plane. This alone will enable him to internalize what he has seen and make it part of his consciousness. Only in this way can the divine be carried over into all realms.
The new critique is an invention of a new form of autonomy from hyper-heteronomy, a therapeutics of the pharmakon. This critique is dimensional in that, it is pharmacological, a critique that consists in analyzing the specifics of the pharmaka, a critique that invests its energy in finding the toxic possibilities of individuation, through an approach that is both theoretical and absolute and that is without a context, but not totally context-free, since it is an organological approach, an approach which is always within a context, in the Nietzschean genealogical sense of the term, but is at the same time independent of any particular political situation.
The very idea that some mathematical piece employed to develop an empirical theory may furnish us information about unobservable reality requires some care and philosophical reflection. The greatest difficulty for the scientifically minded metaphysician consists in furnishing the means for a “reading off” of ontology from science. What can come in, and what can be left out? Different strategies may provide for different results, and, as we know, science does not wear its metaphysics on its sleeves. The first worry may be making the metaphysical piece compatible with the evidence furnished by the theory.
The strategy adopted by da Costa and de Ronde may be called top-down: investigating higher science and, by judging from the features of the objects described by the theory, one can look for the appropriate logic to endow it with just those features. In this case (quantum mechanics), there is the theory, apparently attributing contradictory properties to entities, so that a logic that does cope with such feature of objects is called forth. Now, even though we believe that this is in great measure the right methodology to pursue metaphysics within scientific theories, there are some further methodological principles that also play an important role in these kind of investigation, principles that seem to lessen the preferability of the paraconsistent approach over alternatives.
To begin with, let us focus on the paraconsistent property attribution principle. According to this principle, the properties corresponding to the vectors in a superposition are all attributable to the system, they are all real. The first problem with this rendering of properties (whether they are taken to be actual or just potential) is that such a superabundance of properties may not be justified: not every bit of a mathematical formulation of a theory needs to be reified. Some of the parts of the theory are just that: mathematics required to make things work, others may correspond to genuine features of reality. The greatest difficulty is to distinguish them, but we should not assume that every bit of it corresponds to an entity in reality. So, on the absence of any justified reason to assume superpositions as a further entity on the realms of properties for quantum systems, we may keep them as not representing actual properties (even if merely possible or potential ones).
That is, when one takes into account other virtues of a metaphysical theory, such as economy and simplicity, the paraconsistent approach seems to inflate too much the population of our world. In the presence of more economical candidates doing the same job and absence of other grounds on which to choose the competing proposals, the more economical approaches take advantage. Furthermore, considering economy and the existence of theories not postulating contradictions in quantum mechanics, it seems reasonable to employ Priest’s razor – the principle according to which one should not assume contradictions beyond necessity – and stick with the consistent approaches. Once again, a useful methodological principle seems to deem the interpretation of superposition as contradiction as unnecessary.
The paraconsistent approach could take advantage over its competitors, even in the face of its disadvantage in order to accommodate such theoretical virtues, if it could endow quantum mechanics with a better understanding of quantum phenomena, or even if it could add some explanatory power to the theory. In the face of some such kind of gain, we could allow for some ontological extravagances: in most cases explanatory power rules over matters of economy. However, it does not seem that the approach is indeed going to achieve some such result.
Besides that lack of additional explanatory power or enlightenment on the theory, there are some additional difficulties here. There is a complete lack of symmetry with the standard case of property attribution in quantum mechanics. As it is usually understood, by adopting the minimal property attribution principle, it is not contentious that when a system is in one eigenstate of an observable, then we may reasonably infer that the system has the property represented by the associated observable, so that the probability of obtaining the eigenvalue associated is 1. In the case of superpositions, if they represented properties of their own, there is a complete disanalogy with that situation: probabilities play a different role, a system has a contradictory property attributed by a superposition irrespective of probability attribution and the role of probabilities in determining measurement outcomes. In a superposition, according to the proposal we are analyzing, probabilities play no role, the system simply has a given contradictory property by the simple fact of being in a (certain) superposition.
For another disanalogy with the usual case, one does not expect to observe a sys- tem in such a contradictory state: every measurement gives us a system in particular state, never in a superposition. If that is a property in the same foot as any other, why can’t we measure it? Obviously, this does not mean that we put measurement as a sign of the real, but when doubt strikes, it may be a good advice not to assume too much on the unobservable side. As we have observed before, a new problem is created by this interpretation, because besides explaining what is it that makes a measurement give a specific result when the system measured is in a superposition (a problem usually addressed by the collapse postulate, which seems to be out of fashion now), one must also explain why and how the contradictory properties that do not get actualized vanish. That is, besides explaining how one particular property gets actual, one must explain how the properties posed by the system that did not get actual vanish.
Furthermore, even if states like 1/√2 (| ↑x ⟩ + | ↓x ⟩) may provide for an example of a candidate of a contradictory property, because the system seems to have both spin up and down in a given direction, there are some doubts when the distribution of probabilities is different, in cases such as 2/√7 | ↑x ⟩ + √(3/7) | ↓x ⟩. What are we to think about that? Perhaps there is still a contradiction, but it is a little more inclined to | ↓x⟩ than to | ↑x⟩? That is, it is difficult to see how a contradiction arises in such cases. Or should we just ignore the probabilities and take the states composing the superposition as somehow opposed to form a contradiction anyway? That would put metaphysics way too much ahead of science, by leaving the role of probabilities unexplained in quantum mechanics in order to allow a metaphysical view of properties in.
Cataclysm after cataclysm occurred, and the leaden slag of the fourth race sank to its doom, deluged by the waters of heaven and earth as they flooded the lands according to karmic law. Along with the sinking of Atlantis, which extended over several million years, new lands had been rising in other parts of the globe, and these became peopled as time went by with certain of the Atlanteans who settled there in two or three great migratory waves.
Thus the fourth root-race gave birth to the fifth whose cradleland was the Desert of Shamo or Gobi and surrounding tablelands — a country whose present sandy wastes give no hint of lands once rich with verdure, where forests and lakes witnessed a succession of civilizations as grand as any the world has ever known. Here for many millions of years, while Atlantis was involved in her death struggle, seeds of the new race were being sown in virgin soil.
Nature is beneficent in her workings. While the consequences of her human children must be met and faced by them through the working of karma and cyclic reimbodiment, yet at each new racial birth she casts her seed in freshly-turned soil, so that the child-race may be conceived in purity and nurtured in spirituality. Peopled thus with egos who had remained clean and strong through the Atlantean upheavals, and helped once again by the reentrance into their midst of semi-divine beings, the new race became a focus of spiritual light. As the Master Koot Hoomi (KH) wrote:
the highest Planetary Spirits, those, who can no longer err . . . appear on Earth but at the origin of every new human kind; at the junction of, and close of the two ends of the great cycle. And, they remain with man no longer than the time required for the eternal truths they teach to impress themselves so forcibly upon the plastic minds of the new races as to warrant them from being lost or entirely forgotten in ages hereafter, by the forthcoming generations. The mission of the planetary Spirit is but to strike the KEYNOTE OF TRUTH. — The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, Letter IX,
Simultaneously with the establishment of the Mystery schools in Atlantis some four or five million years ago, the fifth or Aryan race was slowly coming into being, immensely aided by egos of spiritual refinement attracted there by ties of divine kinship. Gradually the soil was prepared and, the work of striking the “Keynote of Truth” having been accomplished, the demigods retired to their superior spheres. One million years ago the new race was ushered into adult existence impressed with the knowledge of “eternal truths.”
As the centuries passed and civilization succeeded civilization, the love of truth once again became dimmed in human hearts and the ancient precepts fell into disuse. The Mysteries were withdrawn even further, so that the knowledge once universal became the prized guerdon bestowed by the great Brotherhood upon that choice minority whose lives were dedicated to truth and truth alone, unstained by weakness or selfish ambition. With enduring consistency the ongoing purpose of the Mysteries has remained threefold in character:
(1) the persistent spiritualization of the thought-life of humanity so that knowledge of things spiritual may penetrate into the heart, and life in time may become a benediction of peace instead of a tragedy of conflict;
(2) seeding grounds of adepts, nurseries for future recruits, who through trial and initiation may become fit to receive the supreme dignity of membership in the great Brotherhood; and
(3) the preservation of truth for future races unsullied by human hand; and the polishing of the knowledge of truth through investigation by trained seers of the secrets of nature in worlds visible and invisible.
The first of these aims is fulfilled by the periodic appearance of world teachers, the inspirers of what later became the great religious and philosophical schools: messengers from the Lodge who come forth at cyclic periods to strike anew the “Keynote of Truth.” Hence every great religion, every noble philosophy, every fundamental scientific insight was born from the Sanctuary, to become a new religion, a new philosophy, a new science: fresh and new for the age and the people, but ancient beyond time because nurtured in the womb of esoteric antiquity.
All that is good, noble, and grand in human nature, every divine faculty and aspiration, were cultured by the Priest-Philosophers who sought to develop them in their Initiates. Their code of ethics, based on altruism, has become universal. — “The Origin of the Mysteries,” Blavatsky Collected Writings
The second of these aims is ages-long in accomplishment and deeply occult: to rouse the hidden fire of divinity in the human soul, and through the kindling of that flame burn the dross of imperfection, sloth, and unworthy desire from the heart. One of the impelling aims of such discipline is to restore to humanity inner sight, to free people “from every danger of being enslaved whether by a man or an idea”.
The disciple must become vajradhara (“diamond-bearer”), a title used for Bodhisattva Gautama, whose many-faceted heart was ever merciful in reflecting human sorrow, but whose spiritual essence was like a diamond, unyielding at its core to the subtle disguise of illusion (maya).
The third of these aims is made possible through the selection of new recruits into the Brotherhood, so that (a) truth may be preserved untarnished by human selfishness; and (b) investigation into the arcana of nature may go on unhindered, and the results of such examination by generations of trained seers be checked and rechecked, and only then recorded as occult fact for the benefit of humanity.
As far as the labor of the Masters is concerned, the following written by one of their number in 1881 speaks for itself:
If, for generations we have “shut out the world from the Knowledge of our Knowledge,” it is on account of its absolute unfitness; and if, notwithstanding proofs given, it still refuses yielding to evidence, then will we at the End of this cycle retire into solitude and our kingdom of silence once more. . . . We have offered to exhume the primeval strata of man’s being, his basic nature, and lay bare the wonderful complications of his inner Self — something never to be achieved by physiology or even psychology in its ultimate expression — and demonstrate it scientifically. It matters not to them, if the excavations be so deep, the rocks so rough and sharp, that in diving into that, to them, fathomless ocean, most of us perish in the dangerous exploration; for it is we who were the divers and the pioneers and the men of science have but to reap where we have sown. It is our mission to plunge and bring the pearls of Truth to the surface; theirs — to clean and set them into scientific jewels. And, if they refuse to touch the ill-shapen, oyster-shell, insisting that there is, nor cannot be any precious pearl inside it, then shall we once more wash our hands of any responsibility before human-kind.– Mahatma Letters,
Unthanked, unknown, unconsidered, the Masters go on in their compassionate work for mankind’s enlightenment, a work that has never ceased in its outpouring of spiritual vitality for many millions of years, to continue another such period if necessity demand, until such time as humanity stirs from its lethargy and once again wills to unite its heart with truth. Master KH continues:
For countless generations hath the adept builded a fane of imperishable rocks, a giant’s Tower of INFINITE THOUGHT, wherein the Titan dwelt, and will yet, if need be, dwell alone, emerging from it but at the end of every cycle, to invite the elect of mankind to co-operate with him and help in his turn enlighten superstitious man. And we will go on in that periodical work of ours; we will not allow ourselves to be baffled in our philanthropic attempts until that day when the foundations of a new continent of thought are so firmly built that no amount of opposition and ignorant malice guided by the Brethren of the Shadow will be found to prevail.– Mahatma Letters.
Kōjin Karatani’s theory of different modes of intercourse criticizes architectonic metaphor thinking that the logic of mods of production in terms of base and superstructure without ceding grounds on the centrality of the critique of political economy. the obvious question is what remains of theory when there is a departure not from the objective towards the subjective, but rather the simultaneous constitution of the subjective and the objective dimensions of the social under capitalism. One way of addressing the dilemma is to take recourse to the lesson of commodity form, where capitalism begets a uniform mode of mediation rather than disparate. The language of modes of production according to Moishe Postone happens to be a transhistorical language allowing for a transhistorical epistemology to sneak in through the backdoor thus outlining the necessity of critical theory’s existence only in so far as the object of critique stays in existence. Karatani’s first critique concerns a crude base-superstructure concept, in which nation and nationalism are viewed merely as phenomena of the ideological superstructure, which could be overcome by reason (enlightenment) or would disappear together with the state. But the nation functions autonomously, independent of the state, and as the imaginative return of community or reciprocal mode of exchange A, it is egalitarian in nature. As is the case with universal religions, the nation thus holds a moment of protest, of opposition, of emancipatory imagination. The second critique concerns the conception of the proletariat, which Marxism reduced to the process of production, in which its labor force is turned into a commodity. Production (i.e., consumption of labor power) as a fundamental basis to gain and to increase surplus value remains unchanged. Nonetheless, according to Karatani surplus value is only achieved by selling commodities, in the process of circulation, which does not generate surplus value itself, but without which there cannot be any surplus value. Understanding the proletariat as producer-consumer opens up new possibilities for resistance against the system. In late capitalism, in which capital and company are often separated, workers (in the broadest sense of wage and salary earners) are usually not able to resist their dependency and inferiority in the production process. By contrast, however, in the site of consumption, capital is dependent on the worker as consumer. Whereas capital can thus control the proletariat in the production process and force them to work, it loses its power over them in the process of circulation. If, says Karatani, we would view consumers as workers in the site of circulation, consumer movements could be seen as proletariat movements. They can, for example, resort to the legal means of boycott, which capital is unable to resist directly. Karatani bases his critique of capitalism not on the perspectives of globalization, but rather on what he terms neo-imperialism meaning state-based attempt of capital to subject the entire world to its logic of exploitation, and thus any logic to overcoming the modern world system of capital-nation-state by means of a world revolution and its sublation in a system is to be possible by justice based on exchange. For Postone Capital generates a system characteristically by the opposition of abstract universality, the value form, and particularistic specificity, the use value dimension. It seems to me that rather than viewing a socialist or an emancipatory movement as the heirs to the Enlightenment, as the classic working class movement did, critical movements today should be striving for a new form of universalism that encompasses the particular, rather than existing in opposition to the particular. This will not be easy, because a good part of the Left today has swung to particularity rather than trying to and a new form of universalism. I think this is a fatal mistake.
Brassier starts his philosophical journey by undertaking the contrast between the ‘manifest’ and the ‘scientific’ images of reality. This way, he accomplishes to undermine the reality of subjective experiences through his own brand of realism that finds its culmination in the overt skeptical view he possesses towards phenomenology. He asserts the upholding of the enlightenment legacy at all costs and admonishes the thinking creatures to pursue the enlightenment legacy right through to its ends. In a slightly apocalyptic tone to begin with, he sets his aim right when he talks about the defunct subject of philosophy and then claims “…philosophy is neither a medium of affirmation nor a source of justification, but rather the organon of extinction.” Continental philosophy has always held Materialism and Realism as hostile to each other, but for Brassier, ‘material’ only denotes a blockade thus indicating a point where thought fails. His book, ‘Nihil Unbound‘ is therefore an attempt to accolade the return to matter without assuming a pre-established harmony between the conceptual apparatus and the world. Nihilism for Brassier has nothing to do with the limitations of reason in apprehending the meaning of existence in the world nor a crisis ridden subjectivity. Nihilism is:
the unavoidable corollary of the realist conviction that there is a mind-independent reality, which despite the presumptions of human narcissism, is indifferent to our existence and oblivious to the ‘values’ and ‘meanings’ which we would drape over it in order to make it more hospitable.
Brassier asks of philosophers not to try to mend ways to suture the discordance between men and nature, either by positing the meaningfulness or purposefulness of life, as for him, nature isn’t particularly benevolent. Brassier opens the first part of the book by focusing on the disjunction between reality and thought, nature and reason and strongly contends the view of thought being transcendentally separate from nature.
As briefly mentioned above, the genesis of Brassier’s philosophy is from contrasting the ‘manifest’ and the ‘scientific’ images. The former being the conception of man as created by himself and the latter being the image of man as getting created by the ‘complex physical system’ in the words of Wilfred Sellars. Both these thinkers agree on the dominance of ‘manifest’ image controlling the way philosophy is done today, albeit in varying degrees as practiced on the continent and in the Anglo-speaking countries. The shared thinking although spanning 4 decades, does not mitigate the profound hostility they both connect with philosophers as against the ‘scientific’ image that is held culpable for robbing a person his self-intentionality. This is the point of departure for Brassier with regards to Sellars as the latter holds the primacy of the ‘manifest’ image, while unable to legitimize the ‘scientific’ image as a substantive derivation from ‘manifest’ image. Brassier is against this reductionism of the ‘Philosophical’ with regard to the ‘Scientific’. This position of anti-reductionism culled with the disjunction-ing of reason and nature is his primary import.
When I talk of the tragedy of modernity, I don’t want to form the impression of the total destruction of the meaningful whole and the thread of hope that it contains. On the contrary, it opens up the vistas for the possibilities of deliverance of the project of enlightenment. This is done by critical insight into the current situation by making it clear that this critical thought is beyond the current historical situation and hence being utopian. It is looked as a concrete utopia because the normative point of departure of critique is set out of the concrete historical situation.
The discussion of tragedy has no better point than the one outlined by Aristotle in his Poetics. In his Poetics, Aristotle divides the Greek tragedy into three parts viz., 1) anagnorisis, 2) peripeteia and 3) pathos. By anagnorisis, Aristotle means the transition from ignorance to knowledge. After this sudden enlightening, the tragic hero enters peripeteia, wherein the happiness turns into suffering. The last phase namely pathos makes katharsis possible, by which Aristotle means a state that arises in the reader or a spectator when she witnesses the humiliation and suffering of the tragic hero. The end of the tragedy can be either happy or unhappy, but the spectator or the reader gets purified. The primary aim would be to go beyond Aristotle and study the stopping of the dialectical process of the modern history. This is because modern history characterizes itself at a standstill.
This is achievable by analysing modernity in both sociological and philosophical aspects. Sociologically, modernity refers to the last great epoch of humanity characterized by phenomenon like scientific and industrial revolution, economic and political re-organisation of societies around the capitalistic forms of production. The process of modernization has produced material and cultural resources for the development of accomplished individuality. On the one hand many of the technological innovations help people make lives easier and on the other humanity has become more and more one-dimensional culturally where even free time is mapped out to its most meticulous detail. And to add to the woes, the process of globalization has made the exploitation of the third world extremely bitter and has brought about the world on the brink of ecological and social catastrophe. This is referred to as the tragedy of modernity. On the one hand, modernity has produced material and cultural prosperity, while on the other hand; it has also produced class polarisation on a global scale, mental pathologies, and a one dimensionality that is all pervasive in the society.
But looking at this tragedy of modernity would yield concentration on Stoss more than katharsis. Walter Benjamin’s concept of Stoss comes about by his critical reading of Freud. Freud argues that some memories are too painful for the conscious mind. The rapid pace of the working life and changes taking place in the society inflict shocks that overwhelm individuals and institutions. The culture industry responds to this situation by offering means of repressing and coping with the entire negative reactions inevitably caused by the situation. This quandary can only be answered by applying dialectics more in a heuristic fashion so that we get the following picture: Stoss is needed in order to liberate the dialectical movement of enlightenment to proceed onwards from the present circling in place. It can liberate us from “the end of history” nihilistic atmosphere, to empower us. Philosophers and social scientists can dream again of the unforeseen futures. Those dreams can hope to open the avenues as to how the project of enlightenment can be realized.
The Enlightenment is the modern mode of thinking that intends to emancipate people from self-inflicted and socially heteronymous structures. According to critical theory, social freedom is linked indispensably to the Enlightenment. The meaning of the Enlightenment is seen as a concretisation of goodness in the form of a humane society. The Enlightenment is the process of maturation of humankind by means of the destruction of the myths and the authority of tradition. “The Enlightenment has always aimed at liberating men from fear and establishing their sovereignty,” but, on the other hand, “the fully enlightened earth radiates disaster triumphant.” (Adorno and Horkheimer in The Dialectic of Enlightenment). The Enlightenment destroys myths to free men, but in the process itself became an enslaving myth. It replaced myths of earlier mythological world-views with the myth of factuality and that of an engineered society. In this kind of society, the individual is drowned in the iron cage of society. The ideological mask of factuality and commodities tend to cover antagonistic social contradictions and the minority of subjects.
Within the Frankfurt School there is a discrepancy about the meaning of the modernisation process on a general level. In addition to the first generation of the Frankfurt School, we can identify at least two major new departures. Jürgen Habermas has argued that there is also a positive tendency in the process of modernisation. This tendency reveals the possibility of rational discussion and communication, and helps the evolution of a social moral consciousness to the level where it is possible to open practical discourse on social justice. Axel Honneth argues that in the modern world there is a possibility to overcome antagonisms between individuals and between individuals and institutions. This possibility is connected to the authentic reciprocal recognition in three dimensions: primary relationships (love, friendship), legal relations (rights), and community of value (solidarity).
Regardless of the fact that the Frankfurt School is a very heterogeneous research tradition, it has two principles common to all representatives and different formulations of critical theory. These two principles are also the basic driving forces behind my project: First, the empirical sciences and philosophical reflection are internally connected, and second, research is orientated toward social criticism (critique of unjust social structures) and it endeavours to take into consideration the hopes, needs and moral convictions of those people that live under unjust social structures.
The focus is on the tradition of critical theory itself and its relationship to the tragedy of modernity. The theme, which can be named as “the tragedy of modernity and the fate of critical theory,” the idea of tragedy and the paradox of modernity itself are reflected and the tradition of critical theory is viewed through this concept. Modernity has created the possibility for theoretical reflection on “the costs and gains” of the process of modernisation. We consider the tradition of critical theory the most important instance of critical reflection on the nature of modernity and the conceptualisation of the tragedy of modernity. In doing so, critical theory itself drifts into paradoxes. Critical theory is not the Fichtean third eye that views the world from the outside, but instead is a part of the tragedy of modernity and the paradox of (the dialectic of) the Enlightenment.
It follows that any attempt to actualise critical theory requires a theoretical self-understanding of the Frankfurt School and its own theoretical paradoxes.