The Womb of Cosmogony. Thought of the Day 30.0

Nowhere and by no people was speculation allowed to range beyond those manifested gods. The boundless and infinite UNITY remained with every nation a virgin forbidden soil, untrodden by man’s thought, untouched by fruitless speculation. The only reference made to it was the brief conception of its diastolic and systolic property, of its periodical expansion or dilatation, and contraction. In the Universe with all its incalculable myriads of systems and worlds disappearing and re-appearing in eternity, the anthropomorphised powers, or gods, their Souls, had to disappear from view with their bodies: — “The breath returning to the eternal bosom which exhales and inhales them,” says our Catechism. . . . In every Cosmogony, behind and higher than the creative deity, there is a superior deity, a planner, an Architect, of whom the Creator is but the executive agent. And still higher, over and around, withinand without, there is the UNKNOWABLE and the unknown, the Source and Cause of all these Emanations. – The Secret Doctrine

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Many are the names in the ancient literatures which have been given to the Womb of Being from which all issues, in which all forever is, and into the spiritual and divine reaches of which all ultimately returns, whether infinitesimal entity or macrocosmic spacial unit.

The Tibetans called this ineffable mystery Tong-pa-nnid, the unfathomable Abyss of the spiritual realms. The Buddhists of the Mahayana school describe it as Sunyata or the Emptiness, simply because no human imagination can figurate to itself the incomprehensible Fullness which it is. In the Eddas of ancient Scandinavia the Boundless was called by the suggestive term Ginnungagap – a word meaning yawning or uncircumscribed void. The Hebrew Bible states that the earth was formless and void, and darkness was upon the face of Tehom, the Deep, the Abyss of Waters, and therefore the great Deep of kosmic Space. It has the identical significance of the Womb of Space as envisioned by other peoples. In the Chaldaeo-Jewish Qabbalah the same idea is conveyed by the term ‘Eyn (or Ain) Soph, without bounds. In the Babylonian accounts of Genesis, it is Mummu Tiamatu which stands for the Great Sea or Deep. The archaic Chaldaean cosmology speaks of the Abyss under the name of Ab Soo, the Father or source of knowledge, and in primitive Magianism it was Zervan Akarana — in its original meaning of Boundless Spirit instead of the later connotation of Boundless Time.

In the Chinese cosmogony, Tsi-tsai, the Self-Existent, is the Unknown Darkness, the root of the Wuliang-sheu, Boundless Age. The wu wei of Lao-tse, often mistranslated as passivity and nonaction, imbodies a similar conception. In the sacred scriptures of the Quiches of Guatemala, the Popol Vuh or “Book of the Azure Veil,” reference is made to the “void which was the immensity of the Heavens,” and to the “Great Sea of Space.” The ancient Egyptians spoke of the Endless Deep; the same idea also is imbodied in the Celi-Ced of archaic Druidism, Ced being spoken of as the “Black Virgin” — Chaos — a state of matter prior to manvantaric differentiation.

The Orphic Mysteries taught of the Thrice-Unknown Darkness or Chronos, about which nothing could be predicated except its timeless Duration. With the Gnostic schools, as for instance with Valentinus, it was Bythos, the Deep. In Greece, the school of Democritus and Epicurus postulated To Kenon, the Void; the same idea was later voiced by Leucippus and Diagoras. But the two most common terms in Greek philosophy for the Boundless were Apeiron, as used by Plato, Anaximander and Anaximenes, and Apeiria, as used by Anaxagoras and Aristotle. Both words had the significance of frontierless expansion, that which has no circumscribing bounds.

The earliest conception of Chaos was that almost unthinkable condition of kosmic space or kosmic expanse, which to human minds is infinite and vacant extension of primordial Aether, a stage before the formation of manifested worlds, and out of which everything that later existed was born, including gods and men and all the celestial hosts. We see here a faithful echo of the archaic esoteric philosophy, because among the Greeks Chaos was the kosmic mother of Erebos and Nyx, Darkness and Night — two aspects of the same primordial kosmic stage. Erebos was the spiritual or active side corresponding to Brahman in Hindu philosophy, and Nyx the passive side corresponding to pradhana or mulaprakriti, both meaning root-nature. Then from Erebos and Nyx as dual were born Aether and Hemera, Spirit and Day — Spirit being here again in this succeeding stage the active side, and Day the passive aspect, the substantial or vehicular side. The idea was that just as in the Day of Brahma of Hindu cosmogony things spring into active manifested existence, so in the kosmic Day of the Greeks things spring from elemental substance into manifested light and activity, because of the indwelling urge of the kosmic Spirit.

Conjuncted: Hobbes’ Authoritarianism (2)

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Hobbes built up a theory of most thorough going collectivism but a rationale of such a collectivism was the peace and the security of the person and property of the individual, which gives a tinge of individualism to the theory of Hobbes. He even allowed his individual the right to resist his Sovereign if the latter attacked the individual’s life for whose preservation the contract was entered into. In certain contingencies the individual could withdraw the allegiance to the Sovereign who was not supporting the individual’s life. “The obligation of the subjects to the Sovereign is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth, by which he is able to protect them.” A man has a right to disobey his Sovereign if the latter commands to “kill, wound or maim himself; or not to resist those that assault him; or to abstain from the use of food, medicine or any other thing without which he cannot live.” An individual has the right to refuse allegiance to a deposed Sovereign. Hobbes is an individualist, since his entire system is based on the individual psychology of fear and self-defence. In so far as Hobbes equates the right of resistance of an individual to his capacity to resist, the right equally vanishes against the strength of the Sovereign. The right of the individual to resist the Sovereign if the individual’s life is endangered implies that the individual is the judge as to when his life is endangered. On the Hobbesian view of human nature, the individual will misuse this right and resist the Sovereign as often as he can. This will destroy what Hobbes wanted to create i.e. unlimited absolutism of the Sovereign.

Religion:

Hobbes always considered hereditary absolute monarchy as the best form of the State. He does consider the possibility of elected monarchy, under which the ‘people is sovereign in property’, but not ‘in use’. Hobbes always maintained the distinction between the natural and the artificial State. He distinguished between the ‘commonwealth by acquisition’ and the ‘commonwealth by institution’; the former being based on natural force and the latter on voluntary subjection to an elected Government. Hobbes stresses on the fact that the law of nature is obligatory not only on the basis of Sovereign command but also as delivered in the ‘word of God’. Hobbes mentions solicitude for the eternal salvation of the subjects. With dual intentions, Hobbes becomes an interpreter; of the Bible in the first place to make use of the authority of the scriptures themselves. He does criticize religion in his most important three discourses. We have seen how he answers the question, “on what authority does one believe that scriptures are the word of God?”

Historicity:

Hobbes turning to history is filled with philosophic intentions. Hobbes reiterated the fact that it is history and not philosophy that gives man, prudence. The study is concerned with the historicity of its material; that the clear knowledge of application of the norms which obtain for human actions is the knowledge of actions, which have taken place in the past. Philosophy seeks general precepts, while the study seeks the application and realization of the precepts, the conditions and results of those precepts.

Through history a reader is to be taught which kinds of aims are salutary or destructive. History is often taken up to remedy man’s disobedience. It can be stated that the development, at least in the 16th century, justifies the assertion that the reason why philosophy turned to history is the repression of the morality of obedience.

Contribution to political philosophy:

The cardinal contribution made by Hobbes in the field of political philosophy was his doctrine of sovereignty. The concept of sovereignty had begun to develop in the hands of Machiavelli, Bodin and Grotius, but Hobbes was facile princeps to give it the shape and content, which sovereignty holds today. He was one of the first to see that the idea of sovereignty lay at the root of any State. His Leviathan aroused the indignation of almost all-important interests in England. His Erastianism (adherence of the supposed doctrine of Erastus. Subordinating ecclesiastical to secular power), was distasteful to the Church. Devoted churchmen found it absolutely intolerable that the Church was a mere department of the State. The monarchists, who adhered to the belief in the Divine Right of Kings, did not appreciate his secular theory based on a social contract. The Royalists on the other hand did not like the Hobbesian view of sovereignty because it justified the de facto Government of a successful dictator as much as that of a legitimate monarchy, and justified the absolutism of a Parliament as much as that of a King. Hobbes thought of the Divine Right of the State as compared to the Divine Right of the King. The parliamentarians viewed with scorn the opposition of Hobbes to mixed Government and constitutional checks. Although his political philosophy was little noticed in England, it created a stir on the continent. While Machiavelli had separated politics from religion and morals, Hobbes not only kept them separate but subordinated religion and morals to politics. Hobbes scored over Machiavelli in his exaltation of the State; for Machiavelli was never so absolutist as to declare that the laws of nature and the laws of God were to find their expression only through the interpretation and the will of the sovereign. The sovereignty of Hobbes was indivisible and unlimited. Hobbes knew that the basis of moral and legal right was reason, but to Hobbes, this reason was the reason of the sovereign expressed through his will only. Hobbes was an individualist in so far as he believed in the natural equality of men. His cardinality as a political philosopher lies in his deriving logically from a mass of free and equal individuals the concept of an omnipotent State. The brilliance of Hobbes was that he turned the theory of early liberalism to the defence of unlimited absolutism at a time when absolutism, born of Divine Right of Kings, was quickly losing its theoretical applications and practical implications.

CRITICISM OF HOBBES AS A POLITICAL PHILOSOPHER

The Hobbesian theory of social contract implies that man brings with him to the social contract ‘rights’ of the State of nature, which are devoid of social function, social recognition and hence they could only be powers. Hobbes proceeds to evolve his civil society on the basis of social contract, which suddenly transforms the chaos of the State of nature into the ordered civil society. Social contract is itself made in the State of nature. The Hobbesian sovereign is the representative of the people. But what guarantee is there that this ‘representative’ of the people will ‘represent’ the people by following public opinion and looking after the public welfare. John Locke attacked Hobbesian social contract according to which, when men quitting the State of nature entered into society, they agreed that all of them but one should be under the restraint of laws; but that he should still retain all the liberty of the State of nature, increased with power and made licentious by impunity. This is to think that men are so foolish that they take care to avoid what mischief polecats and foxes, may do them, but are content, nay, think it safety, to be devoured by lions. Hobbes builds up his theory on the basis of pleasure-pain theory and evolves a master slave relationship. Hobbes regards matter and motion alone as real. His dogmatic materialism lives him little scope for freedom of human will. He is neither fully utilitarian, nor fully an idealist.

The unsoundness of Hobbes’ State of nature was a State of war of all against all in which the cardinal virtues are force and fraud. So, its clear that Hobbes’ man is anti-social. How could such a man go against his own  nature and suddenly enter a State not of war, but of peace, a State in which force and fraud are deliberately set aside, a State which is founded upon the ideas of right and justice, and in which acts of wrong and injustice are put under the double ban of public disapproval and of positive prohibition? With Hobbes, the self-interest of an individual before the contract is suddenly changed into his duties towards the sovereign after the contract. If men are not all force and fraud, they do not need an absolute sovereign; if they are; they cannot render passive obedience to him for all time after the contract. With Hobbes, it was Absolutism or Anarchy. The only remedy for the good behaviour of men was the coercive power of the sovereign. Hobbes failed to realize that there were other characteristics besides the fear of law and punishment, which kept men from relapsing into anarchy, viz., reason, religion and public opinion based on the faculty of reason. The Leviathan of Hobbes essentially states, ‘This State is a necessary evil, an instrument to defend men against their savage instincts, not to achieve a free and a progressive civilization’. Hobbesian position is that in the case of sovereign, might is right. 

Hobbes was a materialist and a rationalist. His philosophy vindicated the absolute sovereignty of whatever Government happened to be in power. Hobbes believed that human nature was bad but he held that it could be rendered moral by the State, which must be preserved at all costs. It must be realized that Hobbesian State is authoritarian and not totalitarian.

Unlike the totalitarian system, it is based on contractual obligations. In his State, there is equality of all before law and there is no privileged ruling class. Unlike the totalitarian State, it insists on the outward conformity of the subjects to law and not inner conformity to opinions and beliefs. His State, unlike the totalitarian, does not swallow the individual. 

Role and Nature of Religion in Thomas Hobbes

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Hobbes’ three presentations of political philosophy may be with less justice called theological-political treatises. Hobbes with dual intentions becomes an interpreter of the Bible, in the first place in order to make use of the Scriptures for his own theory, and in the second place in order to shake the authority of the Scriptures. When Hobbes grants the theological motivation of political philosophy a last refuge in the discussion, which treats of the natural State, he indicates the connection between theology and the natural State in particular. As the natural State becomes less and less important to Hobbes, the theological arguments also become less and less important. Originally, when he had not yet conceived the idea of an artificial State, he was incomparably more under the spell of the theological tradition.

The space devoted to the criticism of religion increases considerably on the way from the Elements of Law to Leviathan and is accompanied by the deepening of the criticism. The fundamental question: On what authority does one believe that Scripture is the word of God? Is answered differently in different presentations. In the Elements of Law: On the authority of the Church, the successors of the Apostles. In De Cive: Not on the authority of the Church, but on that of Jesus. In the Leviathan: On the authority of the teachers whose teaching is permitted and organized by the sovereign power, i.e. one confesses verbally, for thoughts are free, that Scripture is the word of God, because secular authority commands this confession. But in all three presentations, Hobbes contends that all that is needed for salvation is the belief in Jesus as Christ. In earlier presentations, the belief in the immortality of soul belongs to these premises; whereas in the later works, the resurrection of the body is tacitly substituted for the immortality of the soul. The Leviathan finally openly opposes the resurrection of the body to the immortality of the soul and admits only the first as grounded in the Scriptures. Hobbes declares that unconditional obedience to the secular power is the bounden duty of every Christian. His question: is the Christian obliged to obey the secular power when that power forbids him the profession of his faith? is answered in the earlier presentations with the finding that the right and duty of the Christian in such a case is only passive resistance and martyrdom, while the Leviathan denies the obligation and even the right of martyrdom to the ordinary Christian who has not the special vocation of preaching the Gospel. In the De Cive it is a Christian dogma that Christ’s Kingdom is not of Earth but that of Heaven; in the Leviathan on the other hand, the Kingdom of God under the Old and also under the New Covenant is to be understood as a purely earthly Kingdom. In the Elements of Law, Hobbes defends the Episcopal constitution of the Church, whose rightness is proved by the fact that Christ in virtue of his sovereignty enthroned his Apostles. He also denies that in the Christian hierarchy there was a high priest to whom the individual bishops were subordinate. In the later presentations he rejects the Episcopal constitution, even the view that officials of the Church can be instituted by any ecclesiastical authority which is not in every respect dependent on the secular authority. The apparent contradiction of the general tendency of the Elements of Law on the one hand and of the later presentations on the other, is explicated by the fact that in the later writings, Hobbes attaches much less value to conformity with the teachings of the Scriptures. That Scripture vouches for priestly rule is from now on not an argument for priestly rule, but an argument against Scripture. Thus the single apparent exception is in reality the strongest corroboration of the assertion that on the path from the elements of Law via De Cive to the Leviathan Hobbes drew farther and farther away from the religious tradition. One may say, that Hobbes kept pace in his way, which was not very edifying, with the development from Anglican Episcopalianism to Independentism.

In the earlier presentation of his political philosophy, Hobbes is relatively close to Anglican Episcopalianism. Hobbes’ personal attitude to positive religion was at all times the same: religion must serve the Sate and is to be esteemed or despised according to the services or disservices rendered to the State. This view may be seen as early as the introduction to the translation of Thucydides where Hobbes defends his author:

In some places of his History he noteth the equivocation of the oracles; and yet he confirmeth an assertion of his own, touching the time this war lasted, by the oracle’s prediction. He taxeth Nicias for being too punctual in the observation of the ceremonies of their religion, when he overthrew himself and his army, and indeed the whole dominion and liberty of his country, by it. Yet he commandeth him in another place for his worshipping of the gods…So that in his writings, our author appeareth to be, on the one side not superstitious on the other side not an atheist’.

The fact that Hobbes accommodated utterances of his unbelief to what was permissible in a good, prudent subject justifies the assumption that in the decades before the Civil war, Hobbes for political reasons hid his true opinions and was mindful of the maintenance of theological convention. He says:

‘I long infinitely to see those books of the Sabbaoth, an am of your mind they will put such thoughts into the heads of the vulgar people, as will confer little to their good life. For when they see one of the Ten Commandments to be jus humanum merely, (as it must be if the Church can alter it), they will hope also that the other nine may be so too. For every man hitherto did believe that the Ten Commandments were the moral, that is, the eternal law’. It is noteworthy that Elements of Law defend a much more conservative ecclesiastical policy than do other writings.

As for the natural religion, he was skeptical originally and throughout which is more than the maintained its skeptical outlook. He considered any natural knowledge of God, which is more than the knowledge that a First Cause exists, completely impossible. Thus he systematically excluded revealed and natural theology from philosophy. To keep up an appearance that he attacked only scholastic theology and not the religion of the Scripture itself, Hobbes fought his battle against natural theology in the name of strict belief in the Scriptures and at the same time undermining that belief by his historical and philosophical criticism of the authority of the Scriptures. An apparent progress in his Biblicism indicated of his real progress in his criticism of natural theology, and thus was a proof that he originally judged natural theology more favourable than revealed theology. According to the Elements of Law, the binding force of natural law is based on natural knowledge of God; according to the later presentations it is based on revelation. The Elements of Law bring forward the proofs of the existence of God more emphatically and in more detail than does the Leviathan; for if one compares the formulation of these two works, one positively begins to suspect that in the Leviathan the argument is not seriously meant. The connecting link in this case as so often is in De Cive, where Hobbes says that without revelation atheism is almost inevitable. The traditional arguments for the supremacy of the monarchy, which are atleast mentioned in the earlier presentations, rest on assumptions of natural theology. Finally: in the elements of Law, there is a remark countering the ‘supernaturalists’ hostility to reason, to, which there is practically no parallel in the later works. Hobbes also fought his battle against supernaturalism with his weapons of materialism. At all events, as early as in 1641 in his correspondence with Descartes he defends the conclusions of his materialism with reference to God and the Soul. Before the complete elaboration of his materialism and particularly during his humanist period, when he had not yet freed himself from the authority of Aristotle, he in principle recognized natural theology.