Herman Hesse, Siddhartha (1922), 122p.
Siddhartha is the son of a Brahmin, who wanders into the wood to become a Shramana, renounces all ideology and teaching, returns to the world, to reject the secular riches he accomplished again and becomes a simple sage, spending his life as ferryman on the river.
Siddhartha rejects the Buddhist teachings of achieving nirvana through breaking out of Samsara, the cycle of desires. Instead Siddhartha embraces his desires, first his intellectual wanting as a Shramana, then his physical desires as the lover of Kamala and a rich trader, finally as father of his son. But only when he becomes a child again, when he no longer seeks, and therefor finds, does he find peace in the thoughtless unity of Om.
There are elements of Nietzschean and Heracleitan philosophy in Hesse’s story about an Indian sage. Siddhartha undergoes the three transformations of man according to Nietzsche from camel, to lion, to child. And the Heracleitan metaphor of the river forms the central Leitmotif in the wanderings of Siddhartha. The story lacks as in every story by Hesse the emotionally convicting human empathy and is a ideological story based on intellectual ideas. Hesse totally lacks the capacity to understand others as do Dostoevsky or Kazantzakis, and as Hesse lacks this capacity in his writing, so does his character Siddhartha lack the capacity to love. Siddhartha is worth reading because it’s a short read and it’s a great philosophical refute of Buddhism.
The ideological capture of the book is that only those who stop searching will find what they seek, we are all constantly changing, there is no single path to truth for all, each we must walk our own to find our peace.
“I mean by the first principles in every genus those elements whose existence cannot be proved.”
Aristotle, Posterior Analytics
Is reason not under siege then? The theoretical foundation of the Classics, the empiric inquiries of the Islamic world, the practical discoveries of the Renaissance, the progress of Enlightenment, the professionalization of the sciences during the Industrial Revolution, the information explosion of the Computer Age, are they not constantly battling the irrational frenzies of faith? And are they not the sole merit of reason only? What principle of faith has led us forward out of darkness that surrounds us still?
The deduction from the first principles that find proof in demonstration, this is what we call Science, the method of the logos of reason that holds the truths of modernity. Is there a single claim by religion that is essentially religious that can be proven similarly? Well then! And only those who believe in the reason of science, know what truth truly is, for if truth has no reality it does not exist. Continue reading
The definition of religion is traditionally strongly tied to the concept of a deity. When we speak of religion many people will think of Christianity, Islam of Buddhism. But this is a very narrow minded view of religion, more closely bound to socio-political history and existing and known religions than to the very idea of religion. The religious idea however should be seen in term of physics and psychology. Afterall, religion deals with the perception of life, man and the world, the interpretation of this perception and the attachment of values to these perceptions.
In a more inclusive definition of the term, religion deals with every supernatural object, event and interpretation. In concreto, we should categorize the celebration of birthdays and New Year, and also language and concepts of our imagination in so far it does not represent directly or indirectly physical objects and physically knowable forces and their interactions, such as ‘soul’, ‘god’, ‘word’, ‘hope’, ‘value’ or ‘meaning’. As far as I know, there does not exist a table of the hierarchy of abstraction, which depicts the level of indirect representation, but obviously most words directly or indirectly in some degree represent a concrete object or interaction. Spoken in the metaphore of mathematics, the unknown variables of our knowledgeable world might be defined as necessarily concrete, but until known they too would be part of the religious world. Continue reading
Now there’s nothing in this, that should suggest that there’s a hierarchy of interest that allowed me reach closer to a absolute truth, if this is what will be the aftertaste that lies on your tong, it’s too bitter of a taste for me to offer you. However, I should not want to exclude the impression that I learned anything from this.
My earliest exceptional interest in life, was that associated with the development of the body. I was an excellent athlete, and I was a devoted and serious soccer player until my sixteenth. This interest, which offered me an excelling outlet of my capacities in life, allowed me to reach a respectable level at the young age I owed at that time. But, as I grew older and physically more mature, my interest in soccer, due to a coincidence of events, was lost, and I became exceptionally interested in philosophy and in its peripheries, literature and psychology. It was with excelling interest that I devoured most classics from Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, and the literary classics as the local curriculum prescribed them. Once, I established firmly the meaning of life, I turned to my professional skills, and related to it, I developed a deeper interest for science.
These stages of interest, or the growing phases of interest, could be of course a simple coincidence of events that led me to cross certain paths in life, like rolling dice. But what if they represented a physical and neurological immaturity, that I strived to overcome, first Continue reading
Is arts of less importance than cosmology, genetics or medicine? Maybe I am wrong see an engineer as an illiterate blue collar job. Maybe it is more meaningful to understand the redshift of the expanding universe than to have read Virgil’s Aeneid. Does the chemist have a more lasting impact on humanity than the humanist? What mystery is revealed to the enlightened man: does he follow a path of career or does the mysterious road leads him inside his heart?
Few people know the aesthetic of Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet, but many are comforted by the magical entertainment of the images on glass. Is the technology that enables the internet more important than the information it sends around the world? Continue reading
I am not a person who is politically motivated. Politics is the battlefield of social interests, in which the individual is represented but not present. The individual’s interest is sacrificed in the system of representative government to the amassed voice of the collective. Anyone who participates in this late 19th, early 20th century system justifies the distance created between their personal interest and its representation.
A hundred years ago it was the mass organization that vied for representative government and liberated the masses from the rule of the elites. In the era of mass organization through mass media and technologies, the representative government was the logical outcome of historic development. But this system like any other organized collective gravitates intrinsically to abusive power with fascism and stalinism as a result. Only when there are absolute checks to protect the single interest is this system stable enough to maintain the status quo, like in the United States was the case.
New technologies however have created an economic production process that requires greater mobility on a macro and micro scale. Globalization and the rise of a post-industrial socio-economic structure are the necessary outcome of this process. The politicis of the representative system however has not kept pace with these technological developments that drive social organization. Continue reading
“Such is the way the gods spun life for unfortunate mortals,
that we live in unhappiness, but the gods themselves have no sorrows.”
Homer, The Iliad (24.503-26)
Milan Kundera’s novel ‘the unbearable lightness of being’ from 1984 depicts the idle attempt of man to chase happiness. But happiness to Tomas is what is the bunch of grapes to Tantalus, such is the wreath of life to man. Certainly, the greatest desires of mankind and in history is happiness. Happiness is not only the least well defined objective of man however, it is also trivial. A man of great spirit not per se rejects happiness, nor does he need to be indifferent toward it, but it has no weight in the balance of his objectives.
In the philosophy of personal integrity the pursuit of happiness is undesirable, for happiness is trivial and capricious. Continue reading
The scholastics of the dark ages were succeeded by the enlightment of Descartes (1596 – 1650 BCE), this we are taught at the public schools in western society. But these public schools are secular but still rooted in the christian dogmas on which they were founded. The Renaissance of Man had created the ideal circumstances in which the Enlightment could take root, and it blossomed and grew into the full reach of the Age of Progress of 19th century Liberalism and the Heaven on Earth of Socialism. But these versions of the history of philosophy or the history of western thought, ignore the findings of Heidegger completely, they ignore the loss of presence to the world of man that the Greeks had possessed. Strangely enough, this presence has never gone lost in the mysticism of Orthodoxy, perhaps especially because of its strong ties with the Greek and Roman orthodoxies. But Nietzsche restored our intuitive understanding of the unity of the Apollonian and Dionysiac soul, and finally Heidegger merged the two pendants into the paradoxical harmony of the Greek ontology.
Fear not those who kill the body, speaks Jesus Continue reading
At the age of twenty-five the Czech mathematician Goedel published his Incompleteness Theorems. The first incompleteness theorem is the most beautiful mathematic statement I have read, although I must confess that my mathematical knowledge is limited and random at best. But certain ideas appeal to me, it is not even clear if this means that I understand them and the appeal consists of an erupting euphoria that makes itself master of my shallow understanding: eureka, I understand! Or if it means that I stubbornly resist the idea of not grasping the essence of the thought. But eitherway, the aesthetic experience is overwhelming and rare, certainly not a daily commodity for a working man, more common I know for a student or a man unburdened by the obligation of having to make a living.
“For any consistent formal theory that proves basic arithmetical truths, it is possible to construct an arithmetical statement that is true 1 but not provable in the theory. That is, any consistent theory of a certain expressive strength is incomplete.”
When GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez wrote his Hundred Years of Solitude in 1967 he wrote it not with me in mind. Neither did Milan Kundera model his novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being after my early years when his story was published in 1984. The question if Camus when he wrote The Stranger in 1942 or if Guy de Maupassant when he wrote Bel Ami in 1884, had known of my thoughts on life and man, has to be answered almost certainly negatively. Yet, there is a common element in these men’s works and ideas, an element that is only and all-encompassing present within me.
Another work in which my influence can be traced beyond doubt is that of Max Stirner’s classic work The Ego and Its Own from 1844. In fact, the book so clearly copies the details of my later works that it may be found that Stirner’s work is one of plagiarism. So we all climb this ladder, and so we all dispose ourselves of the tools and methods by which we rose. We are now ahead surrounded by barely life but our own. Continue reading