Whitehead and Peirce’s Synchronicity with Hegel’s Capital Error. Thought of the Day 97.0


The focus on experience ensures that Whitehead’s metaphysics is grounded. Otherwise the narrowness of approach would only culminate in sterile measurement. This becomes especially evident with regard to the science of history. Whitehead gives a lucid example of such ‘sterile measurement’ lacking the immediacy of experience.

Consider, for example, the scientific notion of measurement. Can we elucidate the turmoil of Europe by weighing its dictators, its prime ministers, and its editors of newspapers? The idea is absurd, although some relevant information might be obtained. (Alfred North Whitehead – Modes of Thought)

The wealth of experience leaves us with the problem of how to cope with it. Selection of data is required. This selection is done by a value judgment – the judgment of importance. Although Whitehead opposes the dichotomy of the two notions ‘importance’ and ‘matter of fact’, it is still necessary to distinguish grades and types of importance, which enables us to structure our experience, to focus it. This is very similar to hermeneutical theories in Schleiermacher, Gadamer and Habermas: the horizon of understanding structures the data. Therefore, we not only need judgment but the process of concrescence implicitly requires an aim. Whitehead explains that

By this term ‘aim’ is meant the exclusion of the boundless wealth of alternative potentiality and the inclusion of that definite factor of novelty which constitutes the selected way of entertaining those data in that process of unification.

The other idea that underlies experience is “matter of fact.”

There are two contrasted ideas which seem inevitably to underlie all width of experience, one of them is the notion of importance, the sense of importance, the presupposition of importance. The other is the notion of matter of fact. There is no escape from sheer matter of fact. It is the basis of importance; and importance is important because of the inescapable character of matter of fact.

By stressing the “alien character” of feeling that enters into the privately felt feeling of an occasion, Whitehead is able to distinguish the responsive and the supplemental stages of concrescence. The responsive stage being a purely receptive phase, the latter integrating the former ‘alien elements’ into a unity of feeling. The alien factor in the experiencing subjects saves Whitehead’s concept from being pure Spirit (Geist) in a Hegelian sense. There are more similarities between Hegelian thinking and Whitehead’s thought than his own comments on Hegel may suggest. But, his major criticism could probably be stated with Peirce, who wrote that

The capital error of Hegel which permeates his whole system in every part of it is that he almost altogether ignores the Outward clash. (The Essential Peirce 1)

Whitehead refers to that clash as matter of fact. Although, even there, one has to keep in mind that matter-of-fact is an abstraction. 

Matter of fact is an abstraction, arrived at by confining thought to purely formal relations which then masquerade as the final reality. This is why science, in its perfection, relapses into the study of differential equations. The concrete world has slipped through the meshes of the scientific net.

Whitehead clearly keeps the notion of prehension in his late writings as developed in Process and Reality. Just to give one example, 

I have, in my recent writings, used the word ‘prehension’ to express this process of appropriation. Also I have termed each individual act of immediate self-enjoyment an ‘occasion of experience’. I hold that these unities of existence, these occasions of experience, are the really real things which in their collective unity compose the evolving universe, ever plunging into the creative advance. 

Process needs an aim in Process and Reality as much as in Modes of Thought:

We must add yet another character to our description of life. This missing characteristic is ‘aim’. By this term ‘aim’ is meant the exclusion of the boundless wealth of alternative potentiality, and the inclusion of that definite factor of novelty which constitutes the selected way of entertaining those data in that process of unification. The aim is at that complex of feeling which is the enjoyment of those data in that way. ‘That way of enjoyment’ is selected from the boundless wealth of alternatives. It has been aimed at for actualization in that process.

The Concern for Historical Materialism. Thought of the Day 53.0


The concern for historical materialism, in spite of Marx’s differentiation between history and pre-history, is that totalisation might not be historically groundable after all, and must instead be constituted in other ways: whether logically, transcendentally or naturally. The ‘Consciousness’ chapter of the Phenomenology, a blend of all three, becomes a transcendent(al) logic of phenomena – individual, universal, particular – and ceases to provide any genuine phenomenology of ‘the experience of consciousness’. Natural consciousness is not strictly speaking a standpoint (no real opposition), so it can offer no critical grounds of itself to confer synthetic unity upon the universal, that which is taken to a higher level in ‘Self-Consciousness’ (only to be retrospectively confirmed). Yet Hegel does just this from the outset. In ‘Perception’, we read that, ‘[o]n account of the universality [Allgemeinheit] of the property, I must … take the objective essence to be on the whole a community [Gemeinschaft]’. Universality always sides with community, the Allgemeine with the Gemeinschaft, as if the synthetic operation had taken place prior to its very operability. Unfortunately for Hegel, the ‘free matters’ of all possible properties paves the way for the ‘interchange of forces’ in ‘Force and the Understanding’, and hence infinity, life and – spirit. In the midst of the master-slave dialectic, Hegel admits that, ‘[i]n this movement we see repeated the process which represented itself as the play of forces, but repeated now in consciousness [sic].

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


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.

Indian Classical Music

किन्तु वयमिदानीं ते न शक्नुमः परिचर्यां कर्तुम् : भूयिष्ठां बहुतरां ते नमउक्तिं नमस्कारवचनं विधेम नमस्कारेण परिचरेम ।

kintu vayamidānīṃ te na śaknumaḥ paricaryāṃ kartum : bhūyiṣṭhāṃ bahutarāṃ te namauktiṃ namaskāravacanaṃ vidhema namaskāreṇa paricarema |

But now I am not in a position to serve you; I offer you many verbal salutations; I serve you through salutations.

Hindustani Classical Music (2)

Music has been a cultivated art in India for at least three thousand years. It flows from the essential element of chant in ancient Vedic religious expression. More than any other musical form, the Indian raga tradition structurally and acoustically corresponds to and embodies the spiritual/religious experience. It offers a direct experience of the consciousness of the ancient world, with a range of expression rarely accessible today. All Indian instruments are played as extensions of the ultimate, because most natural, instrument — the human voice — that chants the sacred poems, mantras, and invocations of the gods.

In India music is practiced by members of hereditary guilds, often families, whose traditions remain unbroken for hundreds of years. It is the chamber music of an aristocratic society where the livelihood of the artist does not depend upon his ability and will to amuse the crowd. The musician’s education begins in infancy and he must absorb, thoroughly understand, and reproduce all that preceded him before adding his unique perspective to the living tradition. The listener is expected to respond with an art of his own: he must be technically critical, schooled in appreciation of the spirit of musical experience, contribute an attitude of reverence for the tradition, have a desire to “commune with the gods,” a preference for conviction over prettiness, authenticity over legitimacy, and an appreciation of the song apart from the singer/player.

The European musical scale has been reduced to twelve fixed notes by merging close intervals such as D sharp and E flat — a compromise of necessity in the development of the mathematical harmony that made possible the triumphs of Western orchestration, causing the Western keyboard, unlike instruments from other musical cultures, to be inherently “out of tune.” The Indian scale, on the other hand, covers the same tonal range using a twenty-two note scale to develop a purely melodic art which retains the advantages of pure intonation and modal coloring. What is fixed in Indian music is a group of intervals. The precise vibration value of a note depends on its position in a progression, not on its relation to a tonic. Following the Eastern idea that the emptiness enclosed by the form of a vessel is the actual purpose, essence, or soul of that vessel, the interval more than the note is heard as producing the continuity of sound that is the essence of music. In the Indian tradition the interval is what is sung or played as distinct from the vertical harmonic division of European song and the nature of the sound of keyed and fixed-key instruments. The quarter-tone or sruti is the microtonal interval between two successive scale notes, but as raga themes rarely employ two and never three of the seven primary scale notes in succession, microtones are heard only in ornamentation of the theme. They reveal that which lies unmanifest in the emptiness that is the heart of the vessel of melody composed of the primary scale notes. Sruti also designates the word of the guru, impossible to write but revealed by teacher to student in hushed tones or, more often, as an expression of the essence of understanding from one heart or consciousness to another.

The Indian song form, or raga (literally, coloring or passion), may be best defined as a melody-mold or ground plan of a song. Origins of the ragas are varied but all flow directly from human experience of the spiritual or religious and the responsive feeling (rasa) of love, joy, longing, or devotion. The ragas evoke feelings both human and spiritual. A myth tells of the bird Musikar or Dipaka-Lotus whose beak has seven apertures. Through each of these openings it blows a different note, and at different seasons of the year it combines them to produce ragas specific to the hour of the day and season. An egg was created from the ashes of a fire ignited by the magic sound of a raga; from this egg another Musikar was born, followed by many others. Like all myths, this conveys a truth, that of the ideal of raga — a form growing naturally, like ripples on water, a flower toward the sun, or ice crystals on a leaf of grass, whose beauty and meaning are enhanced by a sympathetic human response to the movement of spirit in the world of matter. The myth suggests the numinous, sacred qualities embodied in the raga form.

We can hear in Indian music the richest correlation of sound with the origins and manifestations of spiritual consciousness. The idea of nonmanifest sound — the essence in the interval between notes — is akin to the New Testament conception of the Word, and underlies and pervades the music. It lies beneath all that is manifest in nature, cosmic and microcosmic, and realizes itself as the multiplicities and differentiations of existence.

Philosophically, this cosmic nonmanifest sound continually creates, destroys, and recreates manifold universes. Its capacities are infinite, therefore measureless. For those who can “hear” it, it brings news of vast starry firmaments and interstellar spaces, of all universes past and all possible worlds of the future, whether those firmaments are galactic, atomic, physical, or spiritual. It is a potency, presence, possibility, and performance all at the same time. In India, music is heard not as a thing that humans make but as an aspect of the divine revealing itself (revelation/sruti) to which the musician and listeners contribute by their skill, understanding, acceptance, and appreciation.

The Dipaka-Lotus bird with its seven natural tones which make up the octave is an analogy of the seven principles or souls of sound, the seven veils of Isis or Prakriti, the seven spheres of resonance which constitute a grama (village or brotherhood), and the seven aspects not only of human but of universal nature.

The ancient Indians and their modern musical descendants believe that to one who understands fully the complex nature of a tone, the innermost secrets of our universe are revealed. Each tone in the raga is considered to have a specific spiritual and emotional charge in relation to the whole. The word svara (tone) is often defined as that which shines by itself. Tones are said by Indian musicians, as well as their ancient Chinese and Sufi brethren, to originate in the heart that responds with a spontaneous sensitivity to the movement of purusha (spirit) through prakriti (matter). The purpose of Indian song is not to dwell on and confirm the confusions of life, but to express and arouse ideal feelings and passions of body and soul in man and nature in response to the impulse of divine spirit. There is a magical aspect to sound, growing from the Vedic chants invoking the divine, though music is heard as essentially impersonal:

it reflects emotions and experiences which are deeper, wider and older than the emotion or wisdom of any single individual. Its sorrow is without tears, its joy without exultation and it is passionate without any loss of serenity. It is in the deepest sense of the words all-human. (Ananda K Coomaraswamy, The Dance of Shiva

In appreciating Indian music we experience and appreciate the consciousness of the ancient world embodied in it. It focuses and expresses the individual’s organic oneness with cosmic and natural forces that are the world we know. The materialistic focus of modern consciousness sees itself as separate from and threatened by nature. Indian music reflects a social order based in the awareness of unity and cooperation rather than on division and competition which leads to economic, social, and cultural insecurity and alienation. Goods produced and services rendered were not based on a perceived economic need for constant expansion leading to exploitation but were generated to serve needs of the organic whole. Ancient Indian consciousness focused, as does its music, on serving the needs of spirit rather than the demands of matter. Though Indian music is ancient it is not primitive: sophistication, subtlety, and assumption of the experience of spirit as the root and goal of all existence can best be described as primal. To appreciate it modern listeners must expand their ability to perceive and express human and cosmic spiritual nature, in much the same way that a child matures the primitive sing-song approach and simplistic rhythmic insistence of nursery school to include the subtlety of expression of which adults are capable.

The objective of the raga is the rasa — the aesthetic emotion — the motif embodied in the melody. As souls inhabit bodies, so every rasa is embodied in the rupa (form) of a particular raga or ragini (feminine form of raga). To invoke rasa, one meditates on the rupa that is appropriate to that raga’s essence, the distillation of mood, mode, time, and season. This meditation is shared by musician and listeners. The experience invoked by a master musician’s meditation on a fine instrument with a knowledgeable, appreciative audience is the disappearance of player, instrument, and listener — pure song, spirit singing itself into being.

Rather than confining melody to the necessities of an intellectualized harmonic concept, Indian musicians and listeners do not attempt to “chain with the mind the feet of the mysterious bird that goes to and away from the cage” (Indian folk song). The bird is pure melody, song of spirit supported by and interacting with the essential, complex rhythms of life. It is the spontaneous response of the heart, that which shines by itself, the spiritual fire of a soul lit by the radiance of nonmanifest sound, the Word, Brahman, Atman, God — divinity containing all worlds within it and evolving all worlds forth into being. The song of Brahman is AUM. Indian musical art is an imitation of the perfect spontaneity with which gods and enlightened beings understand and acknowledge that which is beyond inner and outer, rises above good and evil, is beyond conflict, is the perfection of compassion love and wisdom — the very heart of All.

The omnipresent keynote (Aum) of the universe coming into being swells from the tambura (drone) making a pedal point rich in overtones. Like all that is profound it rewards those who with patient humility seek the divine hidden in the heart of the musical experience. The drone corresponds to Brahman, the Unmanifest Logos, source and ultimate goal of Being. From and against this infinite potentiality the musician draws forth the raga whose rhythm is initially free, with the direction of what is to come subtly implied until the essential elements and graceful implications of this universe/song have been as fully explored as the musician’s inspiration and training allow. At a nod the power of the drums begins slowly to unfold, as Daivi-prakriti (Divine nature; divine will; the vital force of the universe; the “electricity” of cosmic consciousness; the Greek Eros; the Tibetan Fohat. Fohat carries the divine thought to become that which it truly is: a song of wonder at the manifold surprises hidden within and evolving from its Self, a reverential awe at the unmovable serenity from the heart of which dance and flow in waves the myriad, ever-changing aspects of THAT which is one and unchangeable. It is spirit discovering itself. The drone is Brahman, the raga is the world, as artistic microcosmic realization of the macrocosmic experience of spirit.

European rhythms are based on repeated stress, as in marching. Rather than using the bar as the fixed unit and marking its beginning with a stress or accent the Indian musician’s fixed unit is a section, or group of bars which are not necessarily alike. The rhythmic cycle of Ata Tala, for example, is counted as 5 plus 5 plus 2 plus 2. Indian rhythmic complexes count into the fifties, and cycles involving half beats (i.e., 5½, 9½) are now developing in this living musical tradition. But even during the most ecstatic moments of the second stage (gat) of the raga, during which the explicate rhythmic pattern unfolds, the drone remains as the omniscient, omnipotent cause from which proceed the origin, subsistence, and dissolution (Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva) of the raga — of the world. The activity and ecstasy of the musical universe build to a glorious climax then fade away into the drone from which they sprang like myriad bubbles of sunflecked foam that danced briefly on the swells of eternity.

As “one can never step into the same river twice” one can never play a raga exactly the same way twice. The musician seeks to express the uniqueness of the moment: time, season, audience, instrument, planets, musician, and stars will never again occur in the same relationship. Though the river is never the same it is always a river, an aspect of the ocean of divinity made manifest. With the assumption that each dewdrop and river flows from and seeks return to its divine source the musician improvises a spontaneous expression of that journey. The raga form conveys all the joy and grief of being human, yet the final absorption of that experience in Brahman transports all to a state in which the universe is perceived as neither good nor bad but simply as TAT (THAT). The raga manifests this understanding and acceptance in a personal, spontaneous, improvisatory, and fully realized expression of artistic beauty and power. It is the inner reality of things rather than any transient or partial experience that the singer/musician voices.

Richard Wagner: Parsifal

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 Parsifal one of the most complicated works.


Wagner felt the first impulse to write Parsifal at the age of 31. He was in Marienbad working on the opera Lohengrin when he read Wolfram von Eschenbach’s ParzivalThis epic poem brings together various mythical traditions; Wagner later added elements from other legends. Three years later, in 1848, the main features of Parsifal flowed over 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 Parsifal are 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.

Spirit is Matter on the Seventh Plane; Matter is Spirit – on the Lowest Point of its Cyclic Activity; and Both — are MAYA. Note Quote.


In the 1930s the scientist Sir James Jeans wrote:

the tendency of modem physics is to resolve the whole material universe into waves, and nothing but waves. These waves are of two kinds: bottled-up waves, which we call matter, and unbottled waves, which we call radiation or light. If annihilation of matter occurs, the process is merely that of unbottling imprisoned wave-energy and setting it free to travel through space. These concepts reduce the whole universe to a world of light, potential or existent . . . . — The Mysterious Universe

The idea of matter being crystallized light echoes what H. P. Blavatsky wrote half a century earlier in The Secret Doctrine, where she speaks of “that infinite Ocean of Light, whose one pole is pure Spirit lost in the absoluteness of Non-Being, and the other, the matter in which it condenses, crystallizing into a more and more gross type as it descends into manifestation” (The Secret Doctrine). Material particles, she said, were infinitely divisible centers of force, and matter could therefore exist in infinitely varying degrees of density. Our physical senses have been evolved to perceive only one particular plane of matter, which is interpenetrated by countless other worlds or planes invisible to us because composed of ranges of energy-substance both finer and grosser than our own.

Modern science has analyzed matter down to the point where it vanishes into wisps of energy. Energy is said to be a measure of motion or activity. But motion of what? It is a truism that there can be no motion without something that moves. Scientists in the last century believed that wave-motion took place in a universal medium called the ether. This hypothesis was abandoned because the ether proved to be chemically and physically undetectable, and science was left with the unlikely idea that waves are transmitted through “empty space.”

Modern physicists believe that underlying the material world there is a quantum field, also called the quantum void or vacuum. The quantum field is said to be “a continuous medium which is present everywhere in space” (The Tao of Physics) and matter is said to be constituted by regions of space in which the field is extremely intense. Scientists assert that the quantum field is non-material, but deny that it is mere nothingness. Paul Davies states that the quantum void is not inert and featureless but throbbing with energy and vitality, a seething ferment of “Virtual” particles and “ghost” particles. (Superforce) It therefore seems to be actually a form of ether, which is non-material only in the sense that it is not composed of physical matter. Rather than material particles being “knots of nothingness,” as Davies calls them, they may therefore be seen as vibrations in an etheric medium composed of a subtler, superphysical grade of substance. The same reasoning applies to all the other “non-material” fields and forces postulated by science.

Everything is relative. Physical matter is condensed energy, but what for us is energy would be matter for beings on a higher plane than ours, as is suggested by the fact that energy does not exist in a continuous flow but is composed of discrete units or quanta. Likewise, the energy on the next plane would be matter to an even higher plane. The loftiest form of energy in any particular hierarchy of worlds is what we call spirit or consciousness. As H. P. Blavatsky put it: “Spirit is matter on the seventh plane; matter is Spirit – on the lowest point of its cyclic activity; and both — are MAYA.” (The Secret Doctrine). To say that spirit and matter are “maya” or illusion does not mean that they do not exist, but that we do not understand them as they really are. Any particular plane of energy-substance can be understood only with reference to superior, causal planes. Everything — from atom to human, from star to universe — is the expression of something higher.

Throughout the ages, sages and seers have suggested that hidden within the phenomenal world in which we live there are inner worlds of reality — astral, mental, and spiritual — and that the physical world is but a pale shadow of the spiritual world. These inner worlds cannot be investigated with physical instruments, but only by delving into the depths of our own minds and consciousness, and this requires many lives of self-purification and self-conquest. Scientists using only materialistic methods are in no position to deny point-blank the possibility of such higher planes.

Most scientists, in fact, now believe that some 90% of the matter in the universe exists in a state unknown to them; it is called “dark matter” because it is physically unobservable, and its existence is known of only by its gravitational effects. Such matter is suggestive of the higher subplanes and planes postulated by theosophy, which are composed of matter of increasingly slower rates of vibration and are therefore beyond our range of perception. Given scientists’ confessed ignorance of most of the matter in the universe and their inability to explain satisfactorily the evolution of life and consciousness and the “laws of nature” along materialistic lines, any suggestion that they are on the verge of discovering the innermost secrets of nature or of reducing the mystery of existence to a single equation is premature to say the least!

In theosophical philosophy, the physical universe is regarded as no more than a cross section through infinitude. Universal nature is composed of worlds within worlds within worlds, filled full of conscious, living beings at infinitely varying stages of their evolutionary awakenment. Our finite minds cannot embrace the infinite. As G. de Purucker says in his Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, we can do no more than to try and form a simple conception of the Boundless All: never-ending life and consciousness in unceasing motion everywhere. The ancients, he says, were never so foolish as to try to fathom infinitude. They recognized the reality of being and let it go at that, knowing that an ever-expanding consciousness and an ever-growing understanding of existence is all that we can ever attain to during our eternal evolutionary journey through the fields of infinitude.

++ Occult/Esoteric ++


The Greeks were adept in the use of imagery to convey profound esoteric truths, often using the form of sport; or, for instance, they would read into the exercises of the stadium inner significance. One of the best known examples of this was their portrayal through the torchbearer race of the mystic line of succession of great teachers.

In the torch-race, the torch-bearer ran from post to post. On reaching the end of his stage he handed the lighted torch which he carried to the one there waiting, who immediately took up the race and in his turn handed it to the one waiting for him. This exercise of the arena or stadium was taken by many Greek and Latin writers as symbolizing the carrying on of Light from age to age, and as pointing to the spiritual Torch-bearers who pass the Torch of Truth from hand to hand throughout unending time…. This handing on of the light of truth “throughout unending time” has formed the theme of many Mystery parables. The Greeks also referred to this spiritual succession as the Golden Chain of Hermes which they believed to stretch far into the realms of Olympus, to “Father Zeus downwards through a series or line of spiritual beings and then through certain elect and lofty human beings to ordinary men” (Esoteric Tradition).

Purucker described this mystic succession as the guruparampara. This is a Sanskrit compound literally meaning “teacher beyond beyond.” The term signifies a line of teachers reaching beyond the beyond, through past, present, and into the distant future, whose sublime purpose is ever the same: the work of spiritualization.

The ancient Mystery-Schools of every country of the globe and of whatever epoch in time, have had each one a Succession of Teachers trained and authorized by their training to teach in their turn; and as long as this transmission of the light of Truth was a reality in any one country, it was in every sense a truly spiritual institution.

An outstanding example of this ancient transmission is the succession of “living buddhas” of Tibet, which “is a real one, but of a somewhat special type, and it is by no means what Occidental scholars mistake it to be or have frequently misunderstood it to be” (Esoteric Tradition).

Further, in the Eleusinian Mysteries of Greece,

hierophants were drawn from one family, the Eumolpidae, living in Athens, and the torchbearers were drawn from another family, the Lycomidae, living in Athens; and we have reason to believe that the Mysteries of Samothrace, the seat of an older rite, and which were, like the Mysteries of Eleusis, a State function, were also conducted in the same manner by the passing on of the tradition held sacred and incommunicable to outsiders; and the bond of union between the initiates of these so-called Mysteries was considered indissoluble, impossible of dissolution, for death merely strengthened the tie.– Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy

In Persia as well as Egypt, we find this line of succession manifesting in another form. For example, there were the thirteen or more Zoroasters whose esoteric contribution to Persia’s history was the inspiration of that once mighty civilization:

The number of Zoroasters who have appeared from time to time is confusing, so long as we consider, and wrongly consider, these Zoroasters to be reimbodiments of one single ego, instead of different egos imbodying what we may interpret from the occult records as the “Zoroaster-spirit.” The truth of the matter is that in the scheme and terminology of Zoroastrianism, every Root-Race and sub-race, and minor race of the latter, has its own Zoroaster or Zoroasters. The term Zoroaster means in Zoroastrianism, very much what the term Buddha does in Buddhism, or Avatara does in Brahmanism. Thus there were great Zoroasters, and less Zoroasters — the qualificatory adjective depending upon the work done by each Zoroaster, and the sphere of things. Hence we can speak of the Zoroasters as being thirteen in number from one standpoint, or fourteen from another; or like the Manus in Brahmanism, or like the Buddhas in Buddhism, we can multiply each of these by seven again, or even fourteen if we take in every little branchlet race with its guiding Zoroaster-spirit.– Studies in Occult Philosophy.

In Egypt, Hermes Trismegistus (“Hermes the thrice greatest”) stands out from the long Hermes line, whose writings and teachings were founded on the ancient Mystery doctrine. In Greece also we find the Orphic Mysteries, from whose halls of esoteric instruction came forth many who bore the name of Orpheus.

What impelled these pupils to take the names of their teachers? Why did they sign their work, or give oral instruction, in the name of Orpheus, Hermes, or Zoroaster? Was it a kind of spiritual plagiarism, or was it rather because of a compelling gratitude to the teacher who had given them ALL, who had lighted the flame of esoteric fire in their hearts? Surely the latter, for whatever message they had of inspiration and light they deemed not theirs, but “his who sent me” — “As we have received it, thus shall we pass it on.” This practice is distressing to later historians who struggle always to attach correct labels to things, yet one cannot help but love these old disciples for that loyalty of soul which banishes all thought of individual greatness.

The relationship between disciple and teacher is a most sacred bond of spiritual intimacy. Gratitude wells up from the disciple commensurate with greatness of soul: the little of heart feel only resentment when guidance and protection are offered; but the large of heart burn with the flame of loving and inextinguishable gratitude. The links in this Golden Chain of Hermes are joined by gratitude. As each link is coupled with its brother link, heart with heart, teacher with pupil, pupil with teacher — each teacher a pupil to the one above, each pupil a teacher to the one below — all bonded by unbreakable links of love, fidelity, and gratitude to the teacher, to the Brotherhood, to the esoteric wisdom:

Like signal-fires of the olden times, which, lighted and extinguished by turns upon one hill-top after another, conveyed intelligence along a whole stretch of country, so we see a long line of “wise” men from the beginning of history down to our own times communicating the word of wisdom to their direct successors. Passing from seer to seer, the “Word” flashes out like lightning, and while carrying off the initiator from human sight forever, brings the new initiate into view. — Isis Unveiled

This “long line of `wise’ men” has been kept unbroken since the middle of the third root-race by two methods: (a) the actual reincarnation of adepts, and (b) the birth of the initiate out of the disciple. In this way the Brotherhood revitalizes its membership through the rebirth of hierophants, and the “second birth” of recruits from the ranks of the Mystery chambers. The “Passing of the Word” was the final rite of the solar initiation: without it no transmission of occult authority could be made from initiator to disciple.

Hence the line of esoteric authority and wisdom advances in serial order through grade after grade of chelaship to the adepts; from adepts to high mahatmas; from high mahatmas to buddhas; from buddhas to dhyani-buddhas; from dhyani-buddhas to the spiritual guide and protector of the planetary chain of earth; from the earth planetary spirit to the heart of the sun. Truly a line of luminous glory linking the humblest of disciples of wisdom with the solar logos.

Stiegler’s Libido Economy, or Capitalism’s Technical Mutation. Thought of the Day 11.0


Bernard Stiegler argues that our politics should aim at rendering capitalism the cure of our ills. He advocates restructuring/reconstructing a libido economy. This project does not require an exploited social class to oppose an antagonistic other, for in so far as our present crisis derives from the collapse of faith, meaning and trust, it is in effect the crisis of the spirit. Consequently, the weighty task to responding to our present predicament falls first on society’s intellectuals, as by critically appealing to existing political structures and by employing the so-called creative industries to restore faith in society and community, thereby rendering capitalist technical mutations a viable possibility.