Bibliotherapy

Algis Uzdavinis & Damascius- Silence Is The Harbour Of ‘Salvation’

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Picture: Apollo. Fresco of the 4th style. Neronian age (54—68 CE).Pompeii, Archaeological Park of Pompeii, Great Gymnasium.Villa Moregine, House with triclinia, the western triclinium (A).Credits: © 2015. Photo: Ilya Shurygin.

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Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is a quote from Professor Algis Uzdavinys‘ impressive ‘Philosophy and Theurgy in late antiquity’, Angelico Press Sophia Perennis_2015. Pages 262 to 265. It echoes the re-post we shared earlier today about Pierre Hadot quoting and commenting Ludwig Wittgenstein’s proposition and attitude towards life.

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To live means to Read

‘For the Neoplatonists, ‘Nous’ is in the One, not the One in the ‘Nous’, and likewise ‘Psuche’ is in ‘Nous’, and not vice-versa. And the first Hypothesis of Plato’s ‘Parmenides’ indicates that the One under consideration is not really one at all (‘to hen oute hen estin oute estin’, Parm. 141e12). According to the Neopythagorean tradition, this ineffable Principle was named Apollo not just to indicate its unity (the name Apollo is interpreted as constituted of a-, the privative, and pollo, ‘multiplicity’, ‘many’), but rather to show the First Principle’s transcendence of all qualities, even that of unity, as J. Whittaker pointed out.

Consequently, awareness (sunesis) of the One is provided not by intellection (noesis), but by a presence that surpasses knowledge itself, given that the very possibility of knowledge is based on the noetic articulation of ‘peras’ and ‘apeiria’ at the level of the Platonic Forms and below-down to the level of discursive thinking, ‘dianoia’, related to the mathematical method (logismos), operates by means of the reasoning process, whereas a non-discursive ‘noesis’ grasps its objects (the intelligible Forms) as if ‘by touch’ (kat’epaphen).

But this awareness of the One is itself hyper-noetic, though related to the One’s ‘parousia’-its mysterious presence in the ‘Nous’. Therefore J. Rise argues:

‘We may conclude that there is within ‘nous’ a kind of unity derived from the One’s presence, but not damaging to the One’s transcendence, which is actualized at the moment of return to the One in the mystical union…We should not regard it as an indication that ‘nous’ has in its own nature the means of transcending itself. ‘Nous’ can transcend itself only in virtue of what is not itself, but is in itself.’

The limits of speculation and, ultimately, the limits of noetic contemplation, reflection, and vision, are established as the limits of the fundamental power of ‘Nous’, derived from the Ineffable and aimed at a return to the same Ineffable. M.J. Edwards says:

‘And since the mind acquires its formal being by a process which necessitates reversion, the life which is implied in that reversion is as much the cause of mind as its effect.’

Thereby, the ouroboric archetypal circle of being-life-intelligence is established, within which all manifested reality is revealed through the ‘dunamis’ of Hekate, to say it in terms of the ‘Chaldean Oracles’.

Philosophical discourse imitates the contemplative gaze of ‘Nous’ at the discursive level of images and syllogistic reasoning. Therefore, it reflects, paradoxically, the ambiguity of the relationship between the Ineffable (though the term ‘ineffable’, in this metaphysical context, does not possess an ordinary meaning: since it has absolutely no reality, according to Damascius, it is not even a term) and the Intelligible splendor of ‘Nous’ as ‘deus revelatus’.

Consequently, the limit of philosophical speculation (which may be labelled as ‘inspired’ or not) is silence that frees the dialectician (as any other ‘inspired’ speaker) both from his own production and from the revealed divine mythology translated into the human fables. At the same time, any image and any symbol, when understood as veil (parapetasma) thrown over the unspeakable Transcendence, may serve as a limit of philosophical speculation, inviting one to accept the miraculous presence revealed by silence. In this second sense, a sophisticated philosophical system, as well as a particular doctrine, may be regarded as an ‘upaya’ (an effective soteriological ‘mirage’) and ‘yantra’ (the theurgical vehicle of concentration, re-integration, and union), to say it in Sanskrit.

Likewise, the term ‘endeixis’, used by Damascius, suggests:

‘That the language of metaphysics must be acknowledged to be at most a prompting towards inquiry into something that exceeds its own domain as descriptive. The result of this inquiry tells us more about our own states of ignorance that about the goal of the search…To describe philosophical discourse as ‘endeixis’ is to limit its ambitions. ‘Endeixis’ in this sense is not a descriptive use of language, but encompasses a number of different linguistic devices.’

However, in spite of the fact that all speech is only provisional, ‘kata endeixin’, discursive reasoning is not to be despised or rejected. It is perfectly valid in the same sense as any ‘sunthema’ (anagogic token, sign, symbol) and any archetypally based ‘muthos’ (myths, narratives, hermeneutical story) are valid, because all of them are direct or indirect self-disclosure, testimonies, traces, faces, playthings, or even tricks, of the One. And the One embraces everything: even deviations from the noetic standard and manifestation of the absurd cannot fall outside the Ineffable, because no such ‘outsideness’ can exist. Nonetheless, the noetic gaze establishes its own ‘inner’ hierarchy of paradigms and images that constitute the ‘mirage’ of transcendence revealed as immanent text of being.

To live means to read and interpret the countless chapters of this divine text, though every chapter has its own limits and its own existential logic. They are revealed in time and concealed again in the chain (seira) of birth and deaths that constitute the ouroboric crown of the One (or Aion), miraculously displayed through the contemplative gaze (or rather, through the creative Imagination) of ‘Nous’. Ultimately, silence is the harbour of ‘salvation’ (soteria) where every thought and every discourse find their ineffable repose, their metaphysical limit. As S. Rappe says: ‘Language turns back upon itself because its purpose is to negate its own function.

Damascius’ chosen name for this style of metaphysics is ‘peritrope’, and this word too has a history in the annals of Skepticism…If the Skeptics embrace ‘epoche’, suspension of belief, as their solution to the impending dangers of ‘peritrope’, one could argue that, in parallel way, Damascius embraces silence or ineffability…The ‘limit of philosophical discourse; (peras tou logou) refers to the complete removal of any proposition or any statement about reality. This limit is ‘silence without recourse’.’

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