Collingwood and the stasis of Religious Essentialism

nochange

There is no one body of practice called ‘art’. There are various arts, various skills used in creative production and those modes of production change and develop over time. A distinction between ‘craft’ and ‘art’ is arbitrary – while the former is demeaned and relegated to the realm of labour,1 the latter is exalted and, wrapped in philosophical interpretation, made the bearer of a visual ideology which conceals, denies the engine of the world – contradiction – and its effects – change.

‘Eternality’, ‘universality’ and the subjectivity of intentionality are employed to freeze transience and set bourgeois domination in place. Philosophy raises art not merely above ‘craft’, but beyond impermanence.

One could explore the writing of Plato and Collingwood on art and craft and find seeming significant differences between the views of the two men – that for Plato art and craft were subsumed under techne and the work of artists was of less worth than that of craftsmen, at third and most distant remove from reality, while Collingwood separated art from craft on the basis of six characteristics he attributed to craft, holding ‘art proper’ in high regard and critical of the latter; that Plato considered the poet’s expression and arousal of emotion so dangerous to the commonwealth that he should be banned from it, while fundamental to the art so valued by Collingwood was not only that same expression but that it should involve an exploration of his emotions by the artist, and that exploration could be ‘overheard’ by his audience.

But to approach Plato and Collingwood thus on the subject of art and craft would be to miss the religious essentialism which applies equally to both, in those particulars – particulars that can only be understood on the basis of that essentialism.2 Plato’s essentialism was built on the realm of Forms – ‘Form’ being not ‘essence of’ but essence itself (the essence beauty etc.). The essence for Collingwood, a Christian Neoplatonist, was God as self and, consistent with Neoplatonism, the impetus of desire for and return to unity with God and the flow of emotion, studied by ‘reason’, carried one back to that source of greatest activity.3

Those areas of the philosophies of Plato and Collingwood which bear on aesthetics and which sustain their views on art and craft exemplify the two great pathways to ‘god’, to stasis, which run through our culture – those of contemplative ‘reason’ with an objective standard and ‘active emotion’ with that standard internalised.4 The former was established by Plato as central to the theory of beauty and the Good and the development of the philosopher. That of emotion, which also occurs in his writing (e.g. the power to convey upwards of desire in the Symposium and of inspiration in the Ion) was developed by Plotinus in his Enneads.

The test of worth, of the (ultimately spiritual) value of art and craft, of his attitude to them for Plato, which was taken over and used by Collingwood, was that of the relationship he perceived between the intentionality of the person and religious purpose. On the one hand there was the philosopher whose contemplative ‘reason’ was focused on the realm of intellect, on the Good, truth and beauty. On the other were the artisans whose creative attention was focused on this world.

Whereas the makers of beds and the makers and users of bits and bridles could lay claim to a degree of knowledge because their honest intention was simply to make and/or use them – they had integrity to those things, the work of the artist was at furthest remove from knowledge and truth because the artist had the intention of deception and manipulation through representation – the likeness of bed, the knowledge of generalship, the drama of theatre. The lack of truth in their intentions was reflected in the lack of truth in their products.

The ‘quarrel’ that Plato wrote of between the philosopher and the poet amounted to his assertion of the supremacy of ‘pure’, essentialist religious belief and its methods and of a claim to the rights that went with them (intellectual and moral guidance – equally Collingwood’s concern)5 over the norms of the philosopher’s society regarding the place of the poet.6

Collingwood made the same claims in his expression theory of art – between the ‘proper’ and pure artist, expressing and exploring his emotions, his only intention that he do so, his reason following them wherever they lead and the artist or craftsperson who represents, who considers all the issues relevant to achieving an end, who deceives and manipulates, who appeals to our ‘lower’ qualities – those who produce pseudo-art: magical art and ‘amusement’ art – both of which Plato warned about,7 both the art of appearances.

Plato and Collingwood tied their theorising on the creators who bring intentionality to the process of creation, who manipulate and deceive (for Plato, the artist and Plato’s particular enemy – because of his significance in the aspects of culture most important to Plato – the poet, for Collingwood the craftsman – the person who consciously and deliberately crafts, usually for financial benefit) to a warning of the danger such work presents to society. In asserting these divisions informed by philosophy on the basis of art and craft, Plato and Collingwood expressed their reaction against their own popular cultures – Collingwood wrote that civilisation itself is the enemy of art.8

In his writing on art, Collingwood is best known for his theory of expression, set out in The Principles of Art published in 1937, but in 1924 in ‘The Philosophy of Art’ he put the same essentialist argument but from the perspective of the Platonic contemplation of beauty: ‘Art, in the sense which we are to discuss it, is not ars = techne in general … We are discussing fine art, that is the special case of production where the production is that of beautiful objects. … art means, for us, the activity by which the beautiful as such is apprehended’.9

In this article he wrote of beauty the same as he wrote later about expression – that an unintended imagining (in the case of emotion, an unintended emotional process) takes possession of the artist and the depiction (or the working through in the case of emotion) of this is art. While both types of essentialist artists are motivated by an intention to engage with their practice, worldly intention (how to attain an end or how to arouse or manipulate their audience in some way) does not besmirch and demean their pure religious purpose once that process has begun.10 With regard to beauty on this basis, even the products of craft such as an undecorated cup, a battleship or train can be beautiful.

The consequences of the involvement of (calculative) intentionality in art, seen in Collingwood’s distinction between ‘art proper’ and ‘pseudo-art’, between ‘art proper’ and craft in The Principles of Art are clear in ‘The Philosophy of Art’, but on a different essentialist basis (one which he was to reject in his book)

‘human artefacts are vehicles of natural beauty when and insofar as they are not designed to be beautiful. The unsophisticated traditional life of a village, with its observations of feasts and fasts, its costumes, it cycle of agricultural and pastoral occupations, is beautiful with a beauty which is at bottom natural beauty. When the villagers dress up to look smart, instead of dressing up because tradition requires it, or when they consciously ornament their cottages with antimacassars and oleographs, the beauty vanishes. They are beautiful so long as they do not try to be beautiful.’11

In The Principles of Art the artist, in exploring his emotions aesthetically, comes to know himself, and as a result of that ‘successful’ exploration he is ‘overheard’ by his audience, his fellow humanity. He does not tell his audience through his work the knowledge he has gained directly, but suggestsindicates and thereby evokes that knowledge through his art – as Proust’s madeleine in the same manner evokes knowledge of the past. Through the flow of emotion and of the sharing, recognition and recollection of knowledge all are carried back to a universal pool of the most intense one-ness.

In a chapter titled ‘The Self-Expression of God in Man’ in Religion and Philosophy Collingwood wrote

‘But if a man has won his union with the mind of god, has known God’s thought and served God’s purpose in any of the countless ways in which it can be served, his monument is not something that stands for an age when he is dead. It is his own new and perfected life; something that in its very nature cannot pass away, except by desertion of the achieved ideal. This is the statue of the perfect man, more perennial than bronze; the life in a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’12

Plotinus expressed this far more powerfully than Collingwood, not least because of his honesty regarding his mysticism, his writing in the hands of a superb translator

‘But how are you to see into a virtuous Soul and know its loveliness? Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiselling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendour of virtue, until you shall see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine.’13

Plato’s condemnation of the poet and his products in the Republic (and of his own artistic nature) is swept aside in the Ion, where he describes the poet as a light thing, winged and holy, a prophet of supremely valuable things from the god.14 In The Principles of Art, where the practical and intentional skills of craft distinguish between people, the expression and exploration of emotions overcomes difference and unites both creator and audience. 

Plato’s demeaning of art and craft in relation to philosophy and Collingwood’s demeaning of ‘pseudo-art’ and craft in relation to the philosophy and practice of ‘art proper’ disguised their religious purpose.

Where Plato argued the knowledge of and unity with the elements of stasis through contemplation – which underlies Collingwood’s ‘The Philosophy of Art’ – Collingwood also argued another current much less developed in Plato’s philosophy but developed in that of Plotinus – knowledge of self and unity with others in stasis (the greatest activity in the greatest stillness)15 via the expression and exploration of emotions.

What Plato hoped for of philosophy, Collingwood hoped for of philosophically informed art – that they might counter the ills they perceived in their societies – ultimately the ‘ill’ of change.16 What was a quarrel between philosophy and poetry for Plato Collingwood rebadged as that between philosophical art and twentieth century capitalist society. In effect, for the two, it was a ‘quarrel’ between the advocacy for religious stasis or for the contradictoriness, change and complexity of life. The most intellectually stimulating creative production is that which aesthetically reproduces the latter.

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Notes

1.Art is … distinguished from handicraft. The first is called free, the other may be called industrial art. We look on the former as something which could only prove final (be a success) as play, i.e. an occupation which is agreeable on its own account; but on the second as labour, i.e. a business, which on its own account is disagreeable (drudgery), and is only attractive by means of what it results in (e.g. the pay), and which is consequently capable of being a compulsory imposition.’ Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgement, trans. James Creed Meredith, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1988, 164

2. ‘Religion has not yet been explored in connection with Plato’s aesthetics to the degree that it should, even though a religious orientation informs what (Plato) has to say about beauty, inspiration, and imitation. … Perhaps Plato’s aesthetics will come together more satisfactorily within Plato’s theology. The question is worth pursing, especially now, for scholarship of recent decades has much advanced the study of Greek religion, providing unprecedented resources for an inquiry into how religious elements enter Plato’s claims about beauty and art.’ Nickolas Pappas, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy/Plato’s Aesthetics. Guthrie correctly referred to Plato as a ‘philosophical theologian’, William K.C. Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy, The Sophists, Cambridge University Press, 1971, 247; Collingwood wrote ‘Every philosophy has a God’ Robin. G. Collingwood, Religion and Philosophy, Thoemmes Press, (1916) 1994, 19 and ‘Religion … lies at the very heart of civilisation.’ quoted in David Boucher, The social and political thought of R.G. Collingwood, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1989, 236

3. ‘art unites us with God … It unites subject with object (the unification of the self with God) and the mind discovers its true nature as the creator not only of imaginary worlds but of the real world. The life of the spirit is thus a dialectic whose three terms are art, religion, and thought, or the beautiful, the holy and the true. And the place of art in this life is the place of a foundation and starting point. All else grows out of it, and is a differentiation of it. The life of the spirit is always and eternally a life of art’ Robin G. Collingwood, ‘The Philosophy of Art’ in The Philosophy of Enchantment, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2005, 79-80, ‘The union with God thus attained does not deprive the individual of all activity. Rather it directs and makes more fruitful and potent this activity’ Robin G. Collingwood, Religion and Philosophy, op. cit., 29

4. ‘Great’ with regard to what has been created and the energy expended on them. On the impact of apophaticism see William Franke’s groundbreaking two volume anthology On What Cannot Be Said, University of Notre Dame Press, Indiana, 2007 which traces its history in the West through the writing of its greats in philosophy, religion, literature and the arts. Mark Cheetham has written on its impact on the advent of modernism in the visual arts. Mark Cheetham, The Rhetoric of Purity, Essentialist Theory and the Advent of Abstract Painting, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1991.

5. In coming to know his emotions (through his art) the artist comes ‘to dominate them, to assert himself as their master.’ He has taken ‘an indispensable step’ towards ‘the life of morality’ ‘He has learnt to acquire by his own efforts a new set of mental endowments. That is an accomplishment which must be learnt first, if later he is to acquire by his own effort mental endowments whose possession will bring him nearer to his moral ideal.’ Robin. G. Collingwood, The Principles of Art, Clarendon, Oxford, (1937) 1967, 291

6. For Plato the philosopher was a ruler and guide, for Collingwood, the artist-philosopher a prophet. The Principles of Art, op. cit., 336

7. Republic 601a

8. Robin G. Collingwood, ‘The Philosophy of Art’ in The Philosophy of Enchantment op. cit., 76

9. Ibid., 49

10. the artist’s activity is a mystery to himself … In a word, he feels himself inspired. … This universal experience is expressed sometimes by saying that the artist is inspired by gods, sometimes by ascribing the origin of art to the unconscious mind … The artist who feels himself inspired feels that the aesthetic activity which goes on in him is not his activity; consequently his correct attitude towards it is not to work hard in the attempt to promote it, but to place himself passively at its disposal.’ Ibid., 57-58

11. Ibid., 60. In The Principles of Art, the book he began with ‘I do not think of aesthetic theory as an attempt to investigate and expound eternal verities concerning the nature of an eternal object called Art’ vi, Collingwood wrote ‘If we go back to the Greek, we find that there is no connection at all between beauty and art’ 37 and ‘aesthetic theory is the theory not of beauty but of art. The theory of beauty, if instead of being brought (as it rightly was by Plato) into connection with the theory of love it is brought into connection with aesthetic theory, is merely an attempt to construct an aesthetic on a “realistic” basis’ 41. In his application of Platonic then Neoplatonic philosophising to art and craft, he was likewise utterly contradictory with regard to the requirement for and tuition of technique (by the most Academic methods) and on the subject of the depiction of likeness – ‘The essence of a portrait is that it does not narrate, it copies.’, ‘The Philosophy of Art’ in The Philosophy of Enchantment op. cit., 68. His expressionist position on this matter is consistent with what Porphyry wrote of Plotinus – that he would not allow a portrait (‘an image of the image’) to be painted of him.

12. Robin. G. Collingwood, Religion and Philosophy, op. cit., 167

13. Plotinus, The Enneads, trans. Stephen MacKenna, Penguin, London, 1991, 54 1.6.9

14. Ion 533e-534d Plato almost never referred to the imitative and divinely inspired types of poetry together – it is as if they are two different accounts of poetry.

15. The One in The Enneads

16. Collingwood wrote of the insatiable craving for amusement and of ‘The decay of our civilisation, a whole world of men, shadows themselves … we are imprisoned in ourselves, becalmed in a windless selfishness.’ The Principles of Art op. cit., 335 In ‘Man Goes Mad’ (1936) he wrote ‘It will be contended in the following pages that what we are now witnessing is not a minor ailment of our civilisation … but its death.’, in The Philosophy of Enchantment op. cit., 306, ‘we know that our civilisation has in it a sickness of the mind, a morbid craving for excitement, a hyperaesthesia of emotion, for which it offers no cure. There is a cure, if only we could get it: the deep, primitive, almost unconscious emotion of the man who, wrestling with the earth, sees the labour of his hands and is satisfied.’ Ibid., 335

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The expunged two thousand year history of Indian materialism

The facade of Lomas Rishi cave, Barabar Hills, Bihar

The facade of Lomas Rishi cave, Barabar Hills, Bihar

Nothing could better exemplify pure cant and the results of hatred than that those who themselves have developed intricate religious systems and argue or have argued for the use of intellect and the  focus of philosophic and spiritual concern on self and fellows, should succeed in expunging from the face of this earth, other than in their own polemics against them, every trace of two systems of belief, both existing almost concurrently, that lasted for two thousand years. As the Dvaita Vedantist Madhvacharya (1238-1317 CE) wrote: ‘The efforts of Carvaka are indeed hard to be eradicated’.1

The core of this hatred towards the Ajivikas and the Carvakas or Lokayatas2 was the determinism3 of the former and, particularly, the materialism of the latter. In raising the subject of materialism one is discussing a subject no less emotive now than it was in India in the lengthy period under review. The creative bile of the fifteenth centuryCE Jaina Gunaratna regarding the Carvakas4 is echoed in the much more recent words of Rhys Davids who argued that ‘Lokayata’ and ‘Lokayatika’ were pegs on which certain writers hung views they attributed to their adversaries, giving them an odious name, that such a philosophy hardly existed, like European materialists – although ‘one or two may be discovered by careful search …’5

On the other hand, and about the same Lokayatas, another wrote ‘They exhorted all people to cast off all their shackles which had bound them for ages and to march shoulder to shoulder towards freedom.’ One can almost hear the cry ringing through the villages ‘Lokayatikas of the world unite!’ Yet theirs was the one philosophy that did utterly reject not only ‘another world’ but the ‘buffoons, knaves and demons’6 who made a living advocating it. Clearly, words and views concerning the Ajivikas and Carvakas must be treated with the utmost circumspection. Nevertheless, what comes through in the writing of those who hated them or were opposed to them are somewhat more than bare outlines of two most important philosophies – particularly the Carvakas who were astonishingly bold and different to all the other schools.

My definition of ‘materialism’ is simple – it is a system of belief holding that that which is independent of consciousness and thought – matter – is primary and that consciousness and thought are secondary to and derivative from it. The world comes first and exists independently of us. We as products of it reflect it in our consciousness and thought. Shastri wrote that materialists in India did not attempt to lay down a system of philosophy but only to refute the foolish orthodoxy of other schools.7 The evidence argues clearly against this, both with regard to the materialist Carvakas and the religious Ajivikas, whose philosophy had elements strongly recognising the primacy of the world.

Basham wrote that not only did the Ajivikas have a canon of sacred texts in which their doctrines were codified, they had a fully developed system of belief and their own philosophers and logicians. At the core of their beliefs was niyati – the universality of which controlled all phenomena and actions and which made effort futile.8 The Ajivika universe in which time was infinite had finite contents, was highly complex, ordered and material,9 and within which samsara (like a ball of string unravelling)10 and karma (which for Gosala was effectively replaced by niyati and was without moral force) functioned.11 Chance (sangati), nature (bhava) and causality were illusory modifications of niyati – niyati was manifest through them. The Ajivika nirvana did not entirely transcend the world. Basham wrote that the atomist Pakudha Kaccayana and the amoralist Purana Kassapa were, with Gosala, among the founders of the Ajivikas and that when the King in the Milinda Panha asked Purana ‘Who rules the world?’ he replied ‘The earth rules the world’.12

The Jaina version of the Ajivika canon, given in the Bhagavati Sutra, in addition to two Maggas,13 include an eightfold Mahanimitta14 which clearly shows the importance they placed on the recognition and consideration of the world. This is again clear in the four key elements of the Ajivika faith.15 The four material elements had characteristic properties and tendencies: earth (hard with a downward tendency), water (cold with a similar tendency), fire (burns, moves upwards), air (motion in a horizontal direction). These elements16 and the atom of life17 (different to the material elements) were held together by wind or air, they were united by ‘eternal action’ (most probably a synonym for niyati. These theories, along with a theistic bent, were developed in the Dravidian south, after the decline of the Ajivikas in Magadha, from the end of the Mauryan period.

Although Madhvacharya begins his study of sixteen schools with the Carvakas – that school furthest from his beliefs – ‘the crest gem of the atheists’18 come through wonderfully as cocky, with a belief in themselves, humorous, determined, contemptuous of religious and philosophic fraud, straightforward and materialist. They have been referred to as sceptical, empiricist, positivist and pragmatic. As with the Ajivikas, what has been written about them – both anti- and pro- should be carefully considered. Although I have only found some internet references linking them to atomic theory I consider them materialist, not because of what they rejected (everything otherworldly)19 but because of what they asserted – which in effect amounts to the primacy of matter, and because of their consistency in doing so.

They held that the world and all in it are real, that everything is comprised of the four elements – earth, air, fire and water; that as alcohol is made from mixing certain elements, everything is constituted of those four, as is the body with its intelligence. When the elements separate, the body dies and intelligence ceases with it – our only ‘liberation’ is the dissolution of our bodies after death.20 ‘Soul’ or ‘self’ are only the body.21 Their assertions that consciousness is a material construct and that consciousness, sensation and perception are dependent on the body were both utterly logical and, in understanding the relationship between the body and the world, immensely sophisticated.

The fundamental principle for the Carvaka is nature (svabhava). It comprises the four elements behaving according to their own principle, combining and dissolving.

Fire is hot, water cold,

refreshingly cool is the breeze of morning;

By whom came this variety?

They were born of their own nature.22

Svabhavavada denies the existence of over-all purpose in the universe23 but does not contradict purposive activity on the part of humans. As the protagonist in the Samannaphala Sutta sought the fruits of a homeless life, the Carvakas condemned asceticism and argued that the fruits to be found in this life lie in how we live it – with our thought oriented to a material world and to do the best for ourselves and  live life to the fullest.24

I strongly suspect that the repeated attempts by their opponents to argue that the Carvakas rejected inference were another distortion,25 that their objections against inference were to show that not certainty (Truth) but only a practical probability (truth) can be established, that their fundamental objection to inference was that it be used to establish the existence of fate, the soul, another world and God/s, that their objection was not to reason as a tool. Likewise their rejection of testimony was with regard to testimony that relates to the unverifiable, particularly the religious. Still, the replies of their opponents to the arguments they attributed to the Carvakas on inference and testimony are often significant explorations of those concepts.

In his book The Notion of Ditthi in Theravada Buddhism – The point of view, Fuller gives an account of the various views that are stated to be wrong-views in the four primary Buddhist Nikayas. He writes that for Buddhism, our actions produce consequences – the view of ‘nihilism’ (attributed to the Lokayatas/Carvakas) is sometimes used to explain attachment (to sensuality, to view, to precepts and vows and to the theory of the self). ‘To deny that actions have consequences is … in a certain way, an expression of greed, hatred and delusion.’26 He wrote that K.N.Jayatilleke holds that ‘nihilism’ is based on the notion that ‘perception’ alone is the only valid means of knowledge and that since this is so, ‘higher perception’ is denied. Since, according to the ‘nihilist’ view the person is composed of the ‘four great elements’, there is no self and morality has no value. He cites Tucci who holds that the essential part of the view of ‘nihilism’ is the phrase ‘no fruit or result of good and bad actions’, and that this is in fact the central idea of Indian Materialism. The view of ‘nihilism’ denies the possibility of transformation and is a view that produces an unwholesome course of action and it is a wrong-view.27

I have several disagreements with the Buddhist positions, some already discussed. For the Lokayatas/Carvakas there is a self – it is the living body, and only the living body. The Lokayatas/Carvakas did have an ethic – not only to make the best of this one life we have but, by implication from their sharp and mocking criticisms of those who exploit religion, to do so honestly. A comparison could be made with Aristotle’s ethics on this point – although they are ultimately directed towards the perfection of the self of a self-focused man, and to a contemplative life. The central idea of ‘Indian Materialism’ is not the phrase ‘no fruit or result of good and bad actions’, nor the rejection of god/gods, of an afterlife, samsara and karma but the affirmation that matter (represented by svabhavavada and the four elements) is primary and the recognition of the consequences of that. The only possibility of transformation denied by the Lokayatas/Carvakas was that in ‘another’ world. And it is for this (essentially, their materialism) that they earned the hatred of the Buddhists and of those who advocated karma.

The Ajivikas were religious ascetics, the Carvakas/Lokayatas were materialist hedonists, similar to the Greek Epicureans. Both sects (as the Buddhists and Jainas) had arisen at a time of great intellectual ferment. Although the Ajivika doctrine of niyati was developed into a Parmenidean-like notion of ‘unchanging permanence’ by the southern Ajivikas and incorporated with theistic elements that facilitated their eventual absorption into Jainism, niyati was the taking of rta to its conclusion – the recognition of order in the universe. Basham wrote that by so doing, Gosala anticipated by over two thousand years the world view of the nineteenth century physicist.’28 The Ajivika canon and their belief in the four primary elements embodied their recognition of a material universe. Their theorising on the atom in that universe was brilliant, but they still were a religion – a sect for whom earthly forces assumed unearthly forms. The Brhaspatyas/Lokayatas/Carvakas were unique amongst all the schools.

If beings in heaven are gratified by our offering the Sraddha here,

Then why not give the food down below to those who are standing

on the housetop?29

Earth, air, fire and water are the original principles.

From these alone, when transformed into the body, intelligence is produced.

When these are destroyed, intelligence ceases also.30

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Notes

1. Madhava Acharya, The Sarva-Darsana-Samgraha, Review of the Different Systems of Hindu Philosophy, trans., E.B.Cowell and A.E.Gough, Trubner, London, 1882, p. 2 Basham wrote of the intense odium theologicum felt by the Buddhists and Jainas towards the Ajivikas. A.L.Basham, History and Doctrines of the Ajivikas, A Vanished Indian Religion, Luzac and Co., Ltd., London 1951, p. 38 The mutilation of the inscriptions of Asoka and his grandson Dasaratha on the Barabar and Nagarjuni caves which were given to the Ajivikas by the Mauryan king Asoka, and the omission of his grandson’s name from the king-lists both of the Buddhists and the Jainas suggests that their patronage of the Ajivikas was strongly disapproved of by both other sects. The inscriptions were mutilated in such a way that indicates that the original inhabitants of the caves were evicted in favour of their religious opponents. Basham wrote ‘The selective nature of most of these defacements indicates that they were carried out by the religious rivals of the Ajivikas, who made use of the caves after them, and did not wish to be reminded of the former occupants.’ A.L.Basham op. cit., p. 156. ‘Salting the earth’ – which Carthage was supposed to have experienced at the hands of the Romans, is another example of ‘erasing’ one’s opponents. I am now thinking again about the writing of Democritus who wrote as much and as widely as Aristotle…

2. As with so much to do with these two sects, even who founded them and their names present problems. Of the Ajivikas, Basham, citing the Bhagavati Sutra wrote that there were Ajivikas before Makkhali Gosala, Basham op. cit., p. 27. Again ‘There are arguments to prove that (the Ajivikas) originally had nothing to do with Gosala. Ajivika was the name of a much older sect and Gosala’s father Mankhali also belonged to it.’ Sharma, Brij Narain, Social Life in Northern India AD 600-1000, Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 1966, p. 215. Another has argued that even the name, consistent with the supposed humble origins of Gosala, was given to them by their enemies: ‘The name Ajivikas was given to the sect by their opponents. The word ajivika is derived from ajiva, meaning one who observes the mode of living appropriate to his class.’ http://philtar.ucsm.ac.uk/encyclopedia/hindu/ascetic/ajiv.html. Of the Carvakas/Lokayatas my view is that their school originated with Brhaspati who wrote a Bhraspati Sutra and his school then became known as either the Lokayatas (‘worldly ones’) or Carvakas (‘fond of debate’). Other possibilities are that one was a sub-sect of the other or that Carvaka was the follower of Brhaspati. The meaning of the names might be a clue to any possible temporal order. Basham and Fuller use ‘Lokayata’ and ‘Carvaka’ interchangeably, Bronkhorst gives a number of versions as interchangeable.

3. ‘Fatalism’ has a certain relevance here – Basham recounts that Gosala, having experienced ‘repeated failures in all his ventures’ bought two bulls with the remainder of his resources. These were both killed by a camel. He thereupon ‘uttered a long chant on the power of destiny, and the advisability of desirelessness and inactivity.’ He ‘cast off all desires and attained immortality.’ Basham op. cit., p. 38

4. ‘They take spiritous drinks and meat and also copulate with those unfit to be sexually approached (agamya) like the mother, etc. Every year, on a particular day, they assemble and copulate randomly with women. They do not consider dharma to be anything different from kama. Their names are Carvaka, Lokayata, etc.’ From Gunaratna’s Commentary on Haribhadra in Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya Ed., Carvaka/Lokayata, An Anthology of Source Materials and Some Recent Studies, Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi, 1994, p. 267a. Such charges were made over and again against both the Ajivikas and the Carvakas by their opponents – to extend the metaphor, ‘eat, drink and be merry’ is the standard fare.

5. Rhys Davids, ibid., p. 371

6. The Sarva-Darsana-Samgraha, Review of the Different Systems of Hindu Philosophy, op. cit., p. 10

7. D.R.Shastri, A Short History of Indian Materialism, Sensationalism and Hedonism, (1930) in Carvaka/Lokayata, An Anthology of Source Materials and Some Recent Studies op. cit., p. 399

8. Basham stated that the Ajivikas did recognise free will in ‘everyday’ life. History and Doctrines of the Ajivikas, A Vanished Indian Religion op. cit., p. 230 Bronkhorst provided an expansion on this by stating that the Ajivikas held that bodies act according to their own natures, that although the real self does not act, that ‘activity belongs to the material world, which includes body and mind.’ Johannes Bronkhorst, Greater Magadha, Studies in the Culture of Early India, Brill, Leiden, 2007, p. 47 This could offer a connection between life under niyati and svabhavavada.

9. Basham op. cit., p. 258

10. Samannaphala Sutta in The Long Discourses of the Buddha: a Translation of the Digha Nikaya, Trans., Maurice Walshe, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 1995, p. 95

11. Bronkhorst argues that the Jainas and the Ajivikas ‘interpreted the doctrine of karma in the same way, believing that bodily and mental movements were responsible for rebirth. But whereas the Jainas believed that motionlessness might destroy past karma, the Ajivikas did not accept this.’ Greater Magadha, Studies in the Culture of Early India, op. cit., p. 45

12. Basham succinctly stated the core reason for the loathing of the Ajivikas: ‘The fatalism of Makkhali entails the antinomianism of Purana. Since there is no possibility of modifying one’s destiny by good works, self-control, or asceticism, all such activity is wasted.’ Their opponents then accused them of luxury and licentiousness. This charge can be countered in different ways: Basham repeatedly pointed to the severe asceticism and self-mortification of the Ajivikas, that references to this are in Chinese and Japanese Buddhist literature. Basham op. cit., p. 112 Again, regarding Jaina hypocrisy on their charge of the Ajivikas’ non-celibacy he wrote ‘It is clear that many ancient Indian ascetics, including the proto-Jainas who followed Parsva, took no vows of chastity. … Their own religious literature shows that the Jaina monks themselves were not always as strict in the maintenance of chastity as the founder of their order might have desired, and that occasional lapses were often looked upon as mere peccadilloes.’ Basham op. cit., p. 126 That the Ajivikas survived for so long in the face of such intense hostility is testament to their sincere austerities and moral discipline. ‘Ajivikas generally pursued their religious quest by the traditional Indian paths of pain, fasting, and gentleness.’ Basham ibid. He wrote that their community was drawn from all sections of society, that women were inducted into their sect, they had educated members, they did not encourage caste distinctions, their monks were active in everyday life, that not only had they enjoyed the support of the kings of Magadha and got their greatest support from industrial and mercantile classes, in later centuries the Dravidian Ajivikas were supported by ‘men of substance’ Basham op. cit., p. 134. Because the Carvakas denied another world and denied karma they were hated by all the other sects. Johannes Bronkhorst, op. cit., pp. 364-365

13. Religious song and ritual dance.

14. ‘Of the Divine’, ‘of portents’, ‘of the sky’, ‘of the earth’, ‘of the body’, ‘of sound’, ‘of characteristics’, ‘of indications’

15. The atomic structure of the universe, the Lord, the Elements, their modifications. The divine Markali delivered these scriptures.

16. Later additions to these elemental categories were ‘joy’, ‘sorrow’ (dukkha) and ‘life’ (jiva). Basham wrote ‘These elemental theories seem gradually to have gained in importance at the expense of the doctrine of niyati, which … plays a lesser part in the Tamil than in the Pali and Prakrit texts.’ Basham op. cit., p. 263 The atoms are neither destroyed nor created, cannot penetrate one another and will not split, multiply, nor expand. The atoms in Manimekalai do move and combine, at least on the lower level of truth. They may come together densely or loosely. In Manimekalai and Civanana-cittiyar atoms combine in fixed ratios. Single atoms can only be detected by a divine eye, but large aggregations can be seen when they form objects. The Ajivika atomic theory was most probably derived from Pakudha Kaccayana and was possibly the first in the world (Basham op. cit., p. 3). The Buddhists, Jainas and Vaisesikas also had atomic theories, again most probably derived from Pakudha and therefore from the Ajivikas (Basham, op. cit., p. 269)

17. Basham wrote that throughout their history, the Ajivikas maintained the material nature of the soul. Basham op. cit., p. 269. He attributed the origins of the Ajivika doctrine of the atomic nature of the soul to animism whereby the life of man was viewed as a solid substance. Basham op. cit., p. 284 For the Jainas, the soul is not material but both dharma and karma are atomic.

18. The Sarva-Darsana-Samgraha, Review of the Different Systems of Hindu Philosophy op. cit., p. 2

19. ‘The Carvakas’ denial of another world is enough for those who hold that ethics must be rooted in it to pronounce that the Carvaka had no ethics.’ Materialism in Indian Thought op. cit., p. 55 ‘Rejecting sacrifices on the basis of their involving bloodshed and obscene rites, the Carvakas are little expected to preach adultery, stealing and the like (crimes) which they are represented to do.’ Ibid., p. 59 The parallels between the charge against the Carvakas by their opponents (including the proponents of caste) that they were (at the least) pleasure seeking egoistic hedonists and that against the atomist Epicureans by their rivals the Stoics and Christians (who shared a belief in ‘Providence’) is noteworthy. The damage done to the philosophy of Epicureanism persists to this day, encapsulated in ‘epicure’. The arguments of Epicurus against a fear of death are also echoed in words attributed to the Carvakas: ‘While life is yours, live joyously/None can escape Death’s searching eye/When once this frame of ours they burn/How shall it e’er again return?’ In The Sarva-Darsana-Samgraha, Review of the Different Systems of Hindu Philosophy op. cit., p. 2 Jaina morality is expressed negatively (non-stealing, non-killing) and the Jainas believe in mortification as a positive element of right conduct. Compare with the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha and the tortured death of Christ which point to salvation through the recognition of suffering as being at the heart of life.

20. ‘Fools and wise, at the breaking-up of the body, are destroyed and perish, they do not exist after death’ attributed to the materialist and possible forerunner of the Carvakas Ajita Kesakambali. In Samannaphala Sutta op. cit. p. 96 ‘The Carvaka view on the soul or consciousness especially that of its discontinuity at death … met with severe criticism from the Buddhists who sought to maintain that there is an eternal flow of momentary conscious states’ The Buddhists argued that ‘the Carvaka cannot assert that the self (soul) dies at the dissolution of the body because in so doing he contradicts his epistemological position that nothing is to be accepted as true that is not given in perception. Nobody can report his own (absolute) death unless we hold belief in some sort of survival.’ Kewal Krishan Mittal, Materialism in Indian Thought, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, New Delhi, 1974, p. 48

21. In his Sariraka-bhasya (commentary on the Brahma-sutra) Sankara wrote ‘Here now, some materialists (Lokayatika), who see the Self in the body only, are of the opinion that a Self separate from the body does not exist; assume that consciousness, although not observed in earth and the other external elements – either single or combined – may yet appear in them when transformed into the shape of a body, so that consciousness springs from them … and that man is only a body qualified by consciousness. … in the same way as we admit the existence of that perceptive consciousness which has the material elements and their products for its objects, we also must admit the separateness of that consciousness from the elements. And, as consciousness constitutes the character of our Self, the Self must be distinct from the body. … consciousness is permanent … the body may be used (by the Self) as a mere auxiliary.’ In Carvaka/Lokayata, An Anthology of Source Materials and Some Recent Studies op. cit., pp. 237-240

22. Sarvadarshansamgraha, quoted at:
http://www.humanistictexts.org/Carvaka.htm

23. For the Carvakas svabhavavada was the chance flow of nature, the coming into being and passing away of its formations. Nyaya-Vaisesika thinkers rejected the view of the Carvakas as ‘chance theory.’ Materialism in Indian Thought op. cit., p. 52

24. In his book, Mittal made excellent points regarding the Jainas – that there is very little in common between Carvaka and Jaina thought. He argues that the Jainas are not intentionally materialist. On the contrary, they are opposed to materialism. According to them, matter and the material are responsible for human bondage. The goal of human endeavour is to achieve kaivalya of the jiva from pudgala (matter). Further, one is to mortify the flesh and undergo austerities to achieve this end. Subduing and even destroying the instincts is recommended. Matter binds and degrades the jiva, the real self of humans – it is chaff to be sifted from the grain. Materialism in Indian Thought op. cit., p. 103 The Carvarkas, through Madhvacharya, would reply ‘The kernels of the paddy, rich with finest white grains/What man, seeking his own true interest/would fling them away/because of a covering of husk and dust? Sarvadarshansamgraha, quoted at:
http://www.humanistictexts.org/Carvaka.htm op. cit.  

25. ‘The Carvakas do not admit any pramana (validity) except perception. According to them, that which is not perceived cannot be admitted as existent; its non-apprehension proves its non-existence. … the Carvaka assertion that whatever is not perceived is proved to be non-existent leads to sheer absurdities. One leaving one’s home does not perceive his relations, and therefore should believe in the non-existence of these relations and even of his home itself. There will be no point for such a man to return home.’ Gautama’s Nyayasutra with Vatsyayana’s Commentary/Elucidation in Carvaka/Lokayata, An Anthology of Source Materials and Some Recent Studies, op. cit., pp. 79-80

26. Paul Fuller, The Notion of Ditthi in Theravada Buddhism – The point of view, RoutledgeCurzon, London, 2005, p. 17

27. The Notion of Ditthi in Theravada Buddhism – The point of view, op. cit., pp. 14-18

28. History and Doctrines of the Ajivikas, A Vanished Indian Religion op. cit., p. 285

29. The Sarva-Darsana-Samgraha, Review of the Different Systems of Hindu Philosophy op. cit., p. 10

30. Ibid. p. 2

References

Basham A.L., History and Doctrines of the Ajivikas, A Vanished Indian Religion, Luzac and Co., Ltd., London 1951

Bronkhorst, Johannes, Greater Magadha, Studies in the Culture of Early India, Brill, Leiden, 2007

Chakraborti, Haripada, Asceticism in Ancient India, S.K. Bhattacharya, Calcutta, 1973

Chakrabarti, Kisor Kumar, Classical Indian Philosophy of Mind, The Nyaya Dualist Tradition, State University of New York Press, 1999

Chattopadhyaya, Debiprasad ed., Carvaka/Lokayata, An Anthology of Source Materials and Some Recent Studies, Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi, 1994

Fuller, Paul, The Notion of Ditthi in Theravada Buddhism – The point of view, RoutledgeCurzon, London, 2005

Acharya, Madhava The Sarva-Darsana-Samgraha, Review of the Different Systems of Hindu Philosophy, trans., E.B.Cowell and A.E.Gough, Trubner, London, 1882

Mittal, Kewal Krishan, Materialism in Indian Thought, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, New Delhi, 1974

Organ, Troy Wilson, The Hindu Quest for the Perfection of Man, Ohio University, 1970

Sharma, Brij Narain, Social Life in Northern India AD 600-1000, Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 1966

Internet resources (accessed 26.10.10)

Ajivikas

Carvaka

Encyclopaedia Britannica/Charvaka

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy/Lokayata/Carvaka

Image

Ian Whicher on Yoga and freedom

Scruton, mysticism and music

Joseph Karl Stieler (1781-1858), ‘Portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven When Composing the Missa Solemnis’, 1820, oil on canvas, Beethoven-Haus, Bonn

Joseph Karl Stieler (1781-1858), ‘Portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven When Composing the Missa Solemnis’, 1820, oil on canvas, Beethoven-Haus, Bonn

26.10.12

A spectre is haunting Western culture – the spectre of mysticism. All the powers of Western culture have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre.1 Mysticism, that great pornography of modern philosophy, assiduously studied and absorbed (by predominantly male philosophers) as its influence is dissembled about, denied2 – or simply not recognised – has not only been fundamental to the rise of Western culture, of Western science – and to Marx’s materialist theory of knowledge via the Christian Neoplatonist Hegel,3 but continues to be pervasive today – particularly in our philosophy, in our visual arts and in our literature.4 To progress in the most rounded manner – positioning linguistic, propositional reason as one form of thought – we must be honest and own all that has made us and the entirety of who we have become. What has nurtured and nurtures, what comprises the ‘reason’ and ‘thought’ we pride ourselves so much on?

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The complexity of the Enneads is structured around the apophatic device of a sculptor hewing his marble. Beautifully translated by MacKenna,5 it advocates a spiritual artistry of self that has resonated through Western culture. In its return from furthest emanation in the material world back to the One, Soul dances with desire in a profoundly aesthetic process of beauty, power, life and creativity. For these reasons Neoplatonism is a philosophy that has been particularly attractive to many with a belief in or commitment to creativity – but the Neoplatonic realm is one of contemplation and exists in consciousness divorced from practice and the material world – the former is counterposed against the latter. It will be my contention that key elements and the processes of Plotinus’s philosophy, modified over a long period,6 form the basis for Scruton’s ‘acousmatic realm’, down to his divorce of that from the material world – with, as Plotinus also correctly held, no third possibility,7 that the arguments he used to justify that ‘realm’ are Neoplatonic, that those who he discussed in support showed those same influences and that even those of whom he was critical – Adorno and Schoenberg – also, in turn, wrote and composed in the apophatic tradition.

As the divine creator of the Timaeus modelled the world of becoming on the world of being, Scruton, in reverse, modelled his phenomenal acousmatic realm (which ‘beckons to the Platonic imagination [though] it will never persuade the sceptical philosopher’)8 on that eternal moving image of eternity.9 At the point where time intersects with the timeless,10 the ‘impassable’11 metaphysical barrier we cross when we listen to music strips sound and the space it occurs in of physical causality leaving tonality, behind the acousmatic veil, as a force of nature. Tonality is subject to the causality of ‘reason’, the causality of ‘life’, and functions in a dynamic and flowing tonal world of ‘pure process.’12 In this virtual world of non-representational striving and metaphor, ‘above’ the world of mere contingency, the movement of the soul and the eternal order is revealed – ‘even though the how of it lies deep in the nature of things and hidden from view.’13 As we listen to music, we engage intuitively with “a peculiar ‘reference without predication’ that touches the heart, but numbs the tongue.”14

Scruton repeatedly emphasised movement in music, arguing that ‘musical motion is pure motion, a motion in which nothing moves15 (my emphasis) and attributes this motion to the inter-related functions of melody, harmony, rhythm and pitch.16 The meaning and aesthetic worth of music depends on its expressive power. We, as ‘pure subjectivity, beyond the reach of concepts,’17 respond to the expression (which Scruton defines negatively)18 in music of another subjectivity and in recognising this, we empathetically absorb that expression – ‘what it is like to be you’, gaining a first-person perspective made immediately available to us. This awareness is non-discursive and ineffable.19 ‘Expressive’ and ‘ineffable’ go together.20 The experience of another’s expression ‘may provide an intimation of a whole state of mind, regardless of whether the state can be described’.21 The voice for example, as in the polyphony of Palestrina, automatically transports us into a religious context of Neoplatonic duration.22

Tonality with its melody, harmony and rhythm has the power to carry us through tonal space to unity: melody provides the unity of movement, rhythm the pulse of ‘life’ and rationality, miraculously fused, and harmony fills tonal space with an image of community beyond language. As one individual finds unity with another through their intuition of the expression of that person, so bodies of individuals – audience and orchestra. Scruton referred to Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, writing of a community that embraces each of us and of the cancellation of our separation from each other. Reaching back to unity through the communitarian resolution of alienation in Hegel, he writes ‘art endorses life only through the “we” of the implied community, which redeems the death and grief of the mere individual.’23

Key elements of Scruton’s ‘acousmatic’ realm are also central to the philosophies of those on whom he drew or to whom he referred:

there is another realm which can not be linguistically known or given expression to but only referred to with mystical devices:24

Nussbaum, writing of the ‘idealists’’ ‘horror of the contingent’25 discussed ‘the seldom-noted fascination of (the) arch rationalist (Kant) with a brand of Neoplatonic mysticism.’ He wrote ‘Toward the end of the Dreams of a Spirit Seer, Kant concludes, with characteristic resignation, that “human reason was not given strong enough wings to part clouds so high above us, clouds which withhold from our eyes the secrets of the other world”.’26 That other noumenal world of ‘in-itself’ Schopenhauer named ‘Will’ – an arational, creative and pervasive flux27 – of which essence music ‘speaks.’ We can only describe music by analogy.28 The ‘Will’ of Schopenhauer became Nietzsche’s Dionysiac will of ineffable Oneness.29 Nietzsche wrote: ‘music forces us to see more and more deeply than we otherwise would … to our spiritualised inner vision … How could the verbal poet supply anything analogous, striving as he does to achieve that internal expansion and illumination of the visible stage-world indirectly, with the much more imperfect mechanism of words and concepts?’30 Busoni wrote ‘In the pursuance of my observations I have been gradually forced to the opinion that our conception of the essence of music is still fragmentary and dim; that only very few are able to perceive it and fewer still to grasp it, and they are quite unable to define it.’31 Wagner wrote ‘[T]his unspeakable is not a thing unutterable per se, but merely unutterable through the organ of understanding.’32

that realm entails unity:33

Of Will Schopenhauer wrote that it is ‘free from all plurality although its manifestations in time and space are countless. It is itself one, though not in the sense in which an object is one, for the unity of an object can be known only by contrast with a possible plurality; nor yet in the sense in which a concept is one, for the unity of a concept originates only by way of abstraction from a plurality; but it is one as that which lies outside time and space, the principium individuationis, i.e. the potential for plurality.’34 Since music is the objectification of Will and therefore acts directly on the emotions of the hearer, it enables us to identify not only with Will but – therefore – with others. For Nietzsche, the Dionysian is a primal ground of Oneness which resolves differentiation and alienation, affirming the unity between people.35 Music stimulates our intuition of Dionysiac unity. For Busoni, in music, Oneness and essence equate. He wrote that this is one of the most important and uncomprehended truths.36

that realm is ‘higher’, ‘deeper’, more substantial and more profound than the material world:37

Hegel wrote ‘music … lifts the soul to the apprehension of a higher sphere.’38 ‘Nietzsche wrote of ‘an ecstatic reality, which again pays no heed to the individual, but even seeks to destroy individuality and redeem it with a mystical sense of unity’39

the material world exists in time, that other in duration/eternally:40

Nietzsche wrote of ‘the eternal life that lies beyond the phenomenal world … music is the immediate idea of that life’41 and Dionysus transforms our experience into that timeless unity. Busoni wrote ‘Come, follow me into the realm of music. Here is the iron fence which separates the earthly from the eternal.’42

that realm is the pinnacle of an aesthetics of self: 43

Hegel described the musician as ‘fully alive … himself made into an animated work of art.’44 The core simile of the spiritual sculptor in the Enneads recurs over and again in Nietzsche’s writing, most overtly in The Birth of Tragedy and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. It also appears in Collingwood’s writing – for whom the essence was God as self.45 For Croce, the aesthetic work of art is internal.46

there is a process of emanation and (particularly) of return:47

Schopenhauer put it simply, in musical terms: ‘Thus … the nature of melody is a constant digression and deviation from the keynote in a thousand ways, not only to the harmonious intervals, the third and dominant, but to every tone, to the dissonant seventh, and to the extreme intervals; yet there always follows a final return to the keynote. In all these ways, melody expresses the many different forms of the will’s efforts, but also its satisfaction by ultimately finding again a harmonious interval, and still more the keynote.’48 Augustine, to whom Scruton repeatedly refers, wrote of ‘the heavenly stream that flows from your fountain, the source of all life which is in you …’ 49 For Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy (modelled on the Christian birth, death and resurrection echoed in the mythic life of Dionysus) Apollo individuates in a world of fragmented individuals – causing suffering; Dionysus closes the gulfs between people and unifies – in ‘the womb of the sole true reality.’50 The end of individuation is met with a ‘roaring hymn of joy.’51

movement – profoundly dynamic, vital, creative, aesthetic and powerful is emphasised:52

Nietzsche, (pre-dating Bergson’s Creative Evolution) wrote ‘For a brief moment we really become the primal essence itself … the constant proliferation of forms of existence forcing and pushing their way into life, the exuberant fertility of the world will. … we become one with the vast primal delight in existence and sense the eternity of that delight in Dionysiac ecstasy. … (we become) the single living thing, merged with its creative delight.’53 Croce wrote of ‘feeling as a non-cognitive activity ‘that has caused great embarrassment to philosophers, who have therefore tried either to deny its existence, insofar as it is an activity (my emphases), or to assign it to the natural, by excluding it from the spirit.’54 Collingwood wrote that art is action. … as the expression of emotion55 and that ‘The union with God thus attained does not deprive the individual of all activity. Rather it directs and makes more fruitful and potent this activity’56

contemplative intuition and emotion or expression are the means we employ to attain that realm and to move others to it:57

Of the singer of a work by Rossini, Hegel wrote ‘in the act of divine service … nothing at all is left beyond the universal note of feeling.’58 Schopenhauer, Croce and Collingwood believed that the artist intuits and in successful instances, their audience does so also, after them.59 Schopenhauer wrote ‘the artist … can give no justification of what he does. He works … from pure feeling, unconsciously, indeed instinctively.’60 Scruton wrote that Collingwood made the concept of expression central to aesthetics61 and the latter argued that the vision in the ‘mind’ of the artist is conveyed to the ‘mind’ of the viewer – ‘the feeling evoked by the artefact resembles the feeling evoked by the original’62 – so a unity forms between artist and interpreter and, on the basis of feeling, there is no distinction between artist and audience. The expression and exploration of emotions overcomes difference and unites both creator and audience.

an experience or recollection can initiate that process:63

For Croce: ‘from time to time, from the index we pass to the book, from the label to the thing, from petty intuitions to the greater, and so to the sublimest and greatest.’64 For Collingwood, the artist suggests and indicates the knowledge he has acquired through the exploration of his emotions aesthetically, thereby evoking that knowledge through his art in his audience. Through the flow of emotion and of the sharing, recognition and recollection of knowledge all are carried back to a universal pool of the most intense one-ness.

there are two types of knowledge – the lesser, of this world (conceptual, analytic, step-by-step – the knowledge of science) and a deeper, of the other (intuitive, immediate, non-discursive, unified, non-representational): 65

Of Kant’s position on ‘intuition’ Nussbaum wrote ‘Not only is active intuition (that intuitive understanding that relates directly to its objects) unmediated by concepts; it is also unmediated by extended chains of material causes, whereas human sensible intuition is causally mediated. … This Kantian notion of active intuition accords with a constant and pervasive theme in personal accounts of mystical religious experience, an awareness of the immediate presence of the deity.’66 Schopenhauer wrote ‘the scholar, whose merit lies in abundance of abstract knowledge, is so inferior to the man of the world, whose merit consists in perfect intuitive knowledge, which an original disposition has conceded to him … (with intuition) no concept stands between the object and us: we do not lose sight of it.’67 and of ‘a direct and intuitive knowledge that cannot be reasoned away or arrived at by reasoning; a knowledge that … cannot be communicated, but must dawn on each of us. It therefore finds its real and adequate expression not in words.’68

Nietzsche opposed Dionysiac ‘wisdom’ to ‘science’. For him, the ineffable offers a new form of knowledge ‘As soon as one puts one’s faith in reason and reasoning, as opposed to intuition mediated through music, one has forfeited the possibility of genuine knowledge.’69 Croce wrote: ‘Knowledge takes two forms: it is either intuitive knowledge or logical knowledge … knowledge of individuals, or knowledge of universals; of particular things, or of the relationships between them.’70 For him, art and the expression of intuitive knowledge are identical.71

consciousness and what that consciousness is conscious of unite – subject, in ‘thinking’ (contemplating), unites with object:72

Collingwood wrote ‘‘art unites us with God … It unites subject with object.’73 Developing on Brillenburg Wurth,74 one can achieve Neoplatonically what one cannot by subscribing to the sublime, which, although it has Neoplatonic elements (theological language, longing for Oneness, negative definition through lack, movement from multiplicity and division towards unity), the movement is endless, and unity of subject and object is impossible.

that realm is often associated not only with melody, harmony and rhythm, ‘beauty’ and ‘the Good’, but with a theological/religious perspective:75

Scruton points to the post-Kantian ‘elevation of the aesthetic to a position that had hitherto been reserved for religion.’76 For Croce ‘beauty is not something physical and does not belong to things, but to human activity, to spiritual energy.’77

All of these are the fundamentals of Neoplatonism and developments – particularly Christian – on it. Scruton’s repeated assertion that ‘musical motion is … a motion in which nothing moves’ summarises the heart of Plotinus’s system, the One – the greatest activity in the greatest (Platonic) stillness. The centrality and complexity of movement (of Soul in its emanation from and return to unity in the One) in Neoplatonism is what most distinguishes it from the overt stasis of Platonism.78

Music can’t express the ineffable but in performance, it functions Neoplatonically to initiate ‘movement’ towards unity. Not only do performer/s and audience constitute themselves by reference to the other, in the expression of emotions musical performance further stimulates our recollection of unity. Another means for stimulating recollection and thereby movement towards unity is the audience’s manner of attention to the performance.79

Scruton’s view of musical performance – ranging from that of the individual composer for their self80 to a body of musicians in a concert hall for an audience – is Neoplatonic. He not only argued that music offers the kind of solace once offered by religion, comparing the orchestra performing for an audience (like Plato’s rhapsode81 – between muses, poet and audience) with the priest mediating between the worshippers and God,82 he and those on whom he drew described a process of Neoplatonic inspiration generated by the composer which flowed through performer/s and conductor to audience – in which process religious purpose is made profoundly aesthetic – and returns to unity in the ‘tonal space’ within each

Silence before the music which ‘speaks’ – whether that of the listener at home83 or audience in space or concert hall as modern church84 is that of reverence and submission.85 Hearer, in the act of hearing, seer in the act of seeing merge with the heard and the seen and each person, as ‘part’, becomes the whole.86 We thereby attain a perfection otherwise unachievable in everyday life. Schopenhauer wrote ‘With the disappearance of willing from consciousness, the individuality is really abolished also’ 87 leaving all present as ‘pure subject of knowing’.88

Scruton argued that serial atonality was a failure. But Adorno’s and Schoenberg’s ‘harbinger of a new religion’89 was no less justified by apophaticism than Scruton’s own musical affirmation of ‘life’ through tonal music. Both formally divergent commitments placed equal emphasis on the centrality of expression – but for Adorno and Schoenberg it was the expression through dissonance of suffering in modern life – the ‘shedding of tears’ musically for Adorno and Schoenberg bore one along the same current of return that Scruton drew upon in his philosophising.90

Adorno’s view of the artist was not Marxist91 but romantic.92 He drew the Neoplatonic distinction between discursive knowledge93 and intuition94 and wrote that music contains a theological dimension – that dimension, I add, being apophatic. For Adorno, the ‘truth’ of an artwork lies in its expressive mimetic potential to restore, through the subject’s non-discursive remembrance, the dirempted subject to their collective universal95 – music presents the ‘name’ of God.96 Scruton wrote that the redemption that Adorno promised was not to be achieved by social reform but by personal salvation. He well described Adorno as Hegel’s ‘beautiful soul.’97 Adorno wrote of Schoenberg’s espressivo style which ‘differs in quality from Romantic expression precisely by means of … intensification’98 Franke quotes from unfinished operas by Schoenberg exemplifying the overt apophaticism in the libretto.99

In his advocacy for his ‘acousmatic realm’, that filled with ‘movement’, culminating in the most intense activity and stillness in unity; in his divorce of that from not simply the physical world – ‘the world of sound’ – but and thereby from the complexities of real life – essentially from change – Scruton again exemplifies an aspect of that philosophical commitment which runs back to Plotinus and beyond. The final words in Armstrong’s translation of the Enneads are ‘“This is the life of gods and of godlike and blessed men, deliverance from the things of this world, a life which takes no delight in the things of this world, escape in solitude to the solitary.”100 Armstrong referred to this as the ‘flight of the alone to the Alone’. That same extremely negative view of the world and others was held by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Collingwood – and Scruton. His defence of bourgeois ideology101 to which the philosophy he advocates has been fundamental (particularly in the humanities and the field of creativity) precisely because it advocates ultimate stasis – is particularly Nietzschean. Eagleton wrote:

The (Kantian) aesthetic is in one way cognitive, but it has about it something of the form and structure of the rational; it thus unites us with all the authority of a law, but at a more affective, intuitive level. What brings us together as subjects is not knowledge but an ineffable reciprocity of feeling. And this is certainly one major reason why the aesthetic has figured so centrally in bourgeois thought.102

Creativity and its products in the West, particularly since the advent of Romanticism, cannot be understood and therefore fully appreciated without an understanding of Neoplatonism and the developments within and upon it and how these are reflected in creativity. Given the centrality of creativity to Neoplatonism, the relation between artistic practice and Neoplatonic theory has been profound. But it must be asked, what is the price paid in asserting and reflecting a philosophy which advocates flight from the material world and argues for an ‘acousmatic realm’ that rejects material change?

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Notes

1. Pace Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848

2. Some examples:

– regarding Leibniz: ‘The major representative of … a pantheistic world view in the seventeenth century was, of course, Baruch Spinoza. … For Spinoza … God was simply identical to the world grasped in its entirety or as “one”.  Leibniz, whose conception of the relation of god and world had elements of this Neoplatonist emanationism, was clearly influenced by Spinoza and interested in his ideas, but at the same time did much to cover up this interest. … Leibniz’s interest in Neoplatonism was … not simply manifested in his metaphysical conception of the universe, which combines elements of the Platonic and Aristotelian traditions with those of the emerging new physics … He also seems to have been attracted to, and interested in, mystical experience such as that of the medieval Christian mystics. According to Jean Baruzi, Leibniz was “nourished on mystic literature. He was familiar with Jacob Bohme, [John of] Ruysbroeck, John of the Cross, [Valantin] Weigel and [Johann Angelus] Silesius, as well as Saint Terese and Angela of Foligno” (Baruzi 1907: 436nl).’ Paul Redding, Continental Idealism: Leibniz to Nietzsche, Routledge, London, 2009, pp. 33-34. In his Notes Redding wrote ‘Kristeller (2001) and Popkin (1992) have drawn attention to the Neoplatonic features of Spinoza’s thought.’ and ‘Hence Leibniz seemed to downplay his famous visit to Spinoza at the Hague in 1676.’ p. 184.

– regarding Schopenhauer: ‘The third dimension of silence concerns the reception of Schopenhauer’s musical remarks. … Schopenhauer’s specifically musical remarks pervaded musical discourse amidst an aura of silence. Incorrectly I believe, some commentators interpret this silence as indicative of neglect. … I shall suggest that, regarding Schopenhauer’s specifically musical remarks, the fact of their silent reception was indicative not of neglect, but of a pervasive and uncritical approval.’ Lydia Goehr, ‘Schopenhauer and the musicians: an inquiry into the sounds of silence and the limits of philosophising about music’ pp. 200-228 in Dale Jacquette, Ed., Schopenhauer, philosophy, and the arts, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996, p. 203.

– regarding Nietzsche: ‘Nietzsche had sent his student Adolf Baumgartner to borrow Max Stirner’s works from the Basel library in 1874. Was it perhaps a precautionary measure to have the student bring them? In any case, that is how the news was received by the public’. Rudiger Safranski, Nietzsche, A Philosophical Biography, Trans., Shelley Frisch, Granata Books, London, 2002, p. 126. On the following page Nietzsche was quoted from a conversation in which he said that people would say he was a plagiarist but that the person with whom he was talking, who reported the conversation in her memoirs (Ida Overbeck, a close friend of his in the 1870’s), would not let on that he was familiar with the writing of Stirner (referred to by Marx and Engels in their lengthy critique of him in The German Ideology as ‘Saint Max’ and ‘John the Divine’). Safranski quotes one contemporary of Nietzsche’s having written that Nietzsche would have been ‘permanently discredited in any educated milieu if he had demonstrated even the least bit of sympathy for Stirner’ p. 126.

– regarding Scruton: while seeking to delicately distance himself from Schopenhauer, Croce and Collingwood, he advocates (and uses them to advocate) the same Neoplatonism they do – Schopenhauer’s ‘bold theory of music’ should be ‘properly amended’, Roger Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1999, pp. 49, 365 and Croce and ‘his disciple’ Collingwood ‘set the concept of expression within a discredited metaphysical framework’ (although) we should do well to respect their theorising, ‘even if we cannot endorse them entirely.’ Ibid., p. 148.

3. Redding wrote that Hegel linked the allegedly “speculative” dimension of Aristotle (his doctrine of noesis noeseos) ‘to what for Hegel was the most developed form of Greek philosophy, late-antique neo-platonism, which could equally be considered a form of neo-aristotelianism (Hegel 1995: vol II, 381), especially in its Proclean form (438), and thereby to the trinitarianism of the succeeding Christian theology (440-9) which neo-platonism had influenced.’ Paul Redding, ‘Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion’ in Graham Oppy and Nick Trakakis Eds. The History of Western Philosophy of Religion, Volume IV: Nineteenth-Century Philosophy and Religion, Chesam: Acumen, 2007, pre-print, p.13; ‘Hegel’s link to Proclus was not lost on Ludwig Feuerbach, who labelled Hegel “the German Proclus.” ’ Ludwig Feuerbach, Principles of the Philosophy of the Future, Trans. M. H. Vogel, Intro. T. H. Wartenberg (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1986), p. 47. Nussbaum wrote ‘Hegel’s philosophy … has been aptly described as “the crowning achievement of Neoplatonism.”’ Charles, O. Nussbaum, The Musical Representation, Meaning, Ontology, and Emotion, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2007, p. 266. Redding wrote ‘It is common within recent accounts of the emergence of German Idealism to find stressed the impact of Spinozism on the generation to which Schelling and Hegel belonged, but it is less common to find discussion of the neoplatonic aspects of their thought, despite the fact that this was commonly noted in the 19th century. … Both early Schelling and Hegel were clearly attracted to Plotinian thought, and especially the particular role Plotinus had given to the processes of life.’ Paul Redding, ‘Mind of God, Point of View of Man, or Spirit of the World? Platonism and Organicism in the Thought of Kant and Hegel’, pp. 9 and 10, in Von Kant bis Hegel 4, Concordia Univ., Montréal, October, 2008. Again, ‘in contrast to Aristotle, Hegel’s “theology” insists on the “incarnation” of God in man, symbolised in the divinity of Jesus. Thus Hegel might be said to have been a Christian Aristotelianised Platonist, but his is a form of Christianity in which … there is no “transcendent” place for the God of Augustine.’ Paul Redding, ‘The Metaphysical and Theological Commitments of Idealism: Kant, Hegel, Hegelianism’, 30.11.2008, p. 22, for volume, Douglas Moggach, Ed., Politics, Religion and Art: Hegelian Debates, Northwestern University Press, forthcoming. Neoplatonism was primarily built on an amalgamation of the writings of Plato and Aristotle – Porphyry wrote ‘Aristotle’s Metaphysics, especially, is condensed in (the Enneads), all but entire.’ ‘On the Life of Plotinus and the Arrangement of His Work’  in Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), Trans. Stephen MacKenna, Penguin, London, 1991, p. cxii.

4. William Franke’s groundbreaking two volume anthology On What Cannot Be Said, University of Notre Dame Press, Indiana, 2007 traces the history of apophaticism in the West through the writing of its greats in philosophy, religion, literature and the arts. Mark Cheetham has written on its impact on pivotal moments in the visual arts: M. Cheetham, ‘Mystical Memories: Gaugin’s Neoplatonism and “Abstraction” in Late-Nineteenth Century French Painting’, Art Journal, Spring, 1987, Vol. 46, No. 1 and The Rhetoric of Purity, Essentialist Theory and the Advent of Abstract Painting, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1991.

5. ‘But how are you to see into a virtuous Soul and know its loveliness? Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiselling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendour of virtue, until you shall see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine.’ I.6.9, Plotinus, The Enneads, op. cit., p. 54.

6. ‘Early Christian theologians, for example, the fourth century thinker Marius Victorinus, “telescoped” the first two hypostases (the One and Intellect), combining them in the divine mind. According to Blumenthal, Plotinus himself occasionally telescoped the second and third hypostases (Intellect and World Soul). Later Neoplatonic thinkers, including Cusanus and Bruno, telescoped all three hypostases. This tendency to telescope the original Plotinian hypostases seems to have carried through to Kant’s conception of the intuitive understanding.’ Nussbaum, The Musical Representation, Meaning, Ontology, and Emotion, op. cit., pp. 348-349

7. Scruton refers to the question underlying all others: ‘Which precedes or is the product of the other – consciousness or matter (the philosophical concept for objective reality)?’

8. Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, op. cit., p. 76.

9. ‘Of course, all this is a sophisticated illusion … Plato in the Timaeus, and following him Plotinus, described time as the moving image (eikōn) of eternity.’ Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, op. cit., p. 74.

10. Ibid., p. 64. His quotation on this point is from T.S. Eliot/‘The Dry Savages’: ‘The point of intersection of the timeless/With time, is an occupation for the saint.’ The ‘time’ of Scruton’s acousmatic realm – ‘time lifted from the tangle of causes and presented in all its mystifying simplicity’ – is Neoplatonic duration (to quote Scruton ‘in the acousmatic realm temporal order is dissolved’ [my emphasis] … time emancipated from itself). Scruton writes ‘the temporal nature of experience is so deep a fact, that it can never be explained without assuming it.‘ Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, op. cit., pp.74-76.  ‘Time’ can, in fact, be explained quite simply – it is matter in motion. ‘Clock time’ is the conventional standard of measure of this.

11. Ibid., p. 74.

12. Ibid., p. 12.

13. Ibid., p. 76.

14. Ibid., p. 132. The desire for a unifying intuition (the immediate unity in ‘knowledge’ of subject and the object of its creation) underlies Plotinus’s doctrine. He held that it is by this method that Soul attains complete unity with the One, thereby shedding all distinction and that any intuition depends on how much of what is being intuited we have within ourselves.

15. Ibid., p. 49. Scruton makes this point a few times – again: ‘Although musical understanding involves the perception of imaginary movement, it is a movement in which nothing moves.’ Ibid. p. 211. Scruton continued in the above quotation ‘it is therefore the most real motion, motion manifest as it is in itself. Bergson too writes of melody as a “change in which nothing changes”. ’ Bergson, who acknowledged his profound obligation to Plotinus (H. Larrabee, Ed., Selections from Bergson, New York, 1949, p. xiii) and who suggested the possibility of applying the term ‘God’ to the source from which all things flow, also positioned intuition and ‘movement’ at the centre of his Neoplatonic, vitalist philosophy. Proclus wrote of ‘the unmoved principle which is unmoved even in its activity’ Prop. 20, Proclus, The Elements of Theology, Trans. E.R. Dodds, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004, p. 23. Another indebted to Plotinus was Augustine who wrote ‘‘You are ever active, yet always at rest.’ I.4, Saint Augustine, Confessions, Trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin, Penguin, London, 1961, p. 23.

16. ‘Through melody, harmony, and rhythm, we enter a world where others exist besides the self, a world that is full of feeling but also ordered, disciplined but free.’ Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, op. cit., p. 502.

17. Ibid., p. 350.

18. Ibid., p. 169.

19. ‘I imagine what it is like to be you, feeling this; I then entertain your emotion within my own point of view.’ Scruton writes a little bit later of ‘entering into’ someone’s state of mind. ‘There is nothing to be said about what I thereby come to know (because it is inexpressible) … But the experience may be of peculiar importance … cementing the bond between us’ Ibid., p. 362. In On Hunting Scruton wrote ‘There by the willow-cumbered banks I saw the moving image of eternity. Here was the unselfconscious union between species … It was like God … as inward and secret and comforting as the soul is, and as durable.’ p. 35. Again, ‘God intended that we … see into the subjectivity of one another, and into the subjectivity of the world – which is God himself.’ p. 79. In M.W. Rowe, British Journal of Aesthetics Vol. 39, Issue 4, October 1999, pp. 423-429.

20. Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, op. cit., p. 364.

21. Ibid., p. 363.

22. Ibid., p. 167. ‘The masses of Palestrina are important … because they present, in musical form … an experience of serene belief in the midst of tumultuous change, of timeless stasis in the stream of time. (my emphases) Ibid., pp. 430-431.

23. Ibid., p. 495.

24. These include simile, metaphor, parataxis, suggestion, analogy and negation. Plotinus: ‘strictly speaking, we ought not to apply any terms at all to It; but we should, so to speak, run round the outside of It trying to interpret our own feelings about It, sometimes drawing near and sometimes falling away in our perplexities about It…’ VI.9.3, Plotinus, Enneads, op. cit., quoted in Vol. I, p. xv; Proclus: ‘Prop. 123. All that is divine is itself ineffable and unknowable by any secondary being because of its supra-existential unity, but it may be apprehended and known from the existents which participate it: wherefore only the First Principle is completely unknowable, as being unparticipated.’ Proclus, The Elements of Theology op. cit., p. 109.

25. ‘This horror of the contingent, as it might be called, is at the root a metaphysico-religious sentiment.’ Nussbaum, The Musical Representation, Meaning, Ontology, and Emotion, op. cit., p. 259. ‘Already in the Dreams of a Spirit Seer (65) we find Kant claiming that “[t]he moral quality of our actions can, according to the order of nature, never be fully worked out in the bodily life of men, but it can be so worked out in the spirit-world, according to spiritual laws.”.’ Ibid., p. 353. Nussbaum himself accepts musical ontology with its ‘types’ and ‘tokens.’

26. Ibid., p. 297.

27. Schopenhauer’s ‘Will’ is Plotinus’s One – undifferentiated power beyond comprehension. ‘‘So he was all will, and there is nothing in him which is not that which wills – nothing, then, before willing. So he himself is primarily his will. So then he is also as he willed and of the kind he willed, and what follows upon his will, what this kind of will generated – but it generated nothing further in himself, for he was this already.’ VI.8.21 in Plotinus, Enneads (in seven volumes), Trans. A.H. Armstrong, William Heinemann, London, 1966-1988, Vol. VII, p. 297. The title of the tractate is ‘On Free Will and the Will of the One.’ Plotinus also wrote on free will in relation to providence and fate in III.2-3. Also ‘Neither can it have will to anything…’ VI.9.6. Plotinus The Enneads op. cit., p. 543. Augustine’s notion of free will was derived from Plotinus.

28. ‘Schopenhauer works also within an age-old tradition of German anagogical mysticism’ Goehr, op. cit., p. 202.

29. ‘the world-symbolism of music cannot be exhaustively interpreted through language, because it symbolically refers to … the primal Oneness, and thus symbolises a sphere beyond and prior to all phenomena. In comparison with this, all phenomena are mere symbols: hence language, as the organ and symbol of phenomena, can never uncover the innermost core of music’ Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music (1872) Trans. Shaun Whiteside, Ed. Michael Tanner, Penguin, London, 1993. p. 35. In stating that the language of the phenomenal sphere is utterly inadequate for that of ‘the primal Oneness’, Nietzsche has exemplified a ‘limitation’ with a very long and extremely influential history in which ‘the ineffable’ functions in a person’s relations with another and theological world and not in this material one. Augustine, for example, wrote ‘Then with a sigh … we returned to the sound of our own speech, in which each word has a beginning and an ending – far, far different from your Word, our Lord, who abides in himself for ever, yet never grows old and gives new life to all things.’ IX.10, Saint Augustine, Confessions, op. cit., pp. 197-198.

30. The Birth of Tragedy, op. cit., p. 103.

31. Ferruccio Busoni, The Essence of Music and Other Papers, Trans., Rosamond Ley, Rockliff, London, 1957, p. 193. He continued ‘My earlier realisation of the Oneness of music might pass as a premonition of what I set myself to formulate here: a premonition hitherto perceived intuitively by philosophers’.

32. ‘Beethoven’s symphonies reveal to us through our feelings, Wagner writes: a schema of the world’s phenomena quite different from the ordinary logical scheme … [I]t thrusts home with the most overwhelming conviction … that the logic-mongering reason is completely routed and disarmed.’ in Goehr in Dale Jacquette, Ed., Schopenhauer, philosophy, and the arts, op. cit., p. 221

33. Plotinus: ‘The Unity is none of all; neither thing nor quantity nor quality nor intellect nor soul; not in motion, not at rest, not in place, not in time: it is the self-defined, unique in form or, better, formless, existing before Form was, or Movement or Rest, all of which are attachments of Being and make Being the manifold it is.’ VI.9.3, Plotinus, The Enneads, op. cit., p. 539; Proclus: ‘Prop. 20. … all things, whatsoever their grade of reality, participate unity (prop. 1), not all participate intelligence: for to participate intelligence is to participate knowledge, since intuitive knowledge is the beginning and first cause of all knowing (my emphasis). Thus the One is beyond the Intelligence./Beyond the One there is no further principle; for unity is identical with the Good (prop. 13), and is therefore the principium of all things, as has been shown (prop. 12).’ Proclus, The Elements of Theology op. cit., p. 23.

34. Arthur Schopenhauer, The World As Will And Idea, ed. David Berman, trans., Jill Berman, Everyman, London, 1995, p. 45. Regarding Kant’s similar transcendental unity of apperception, Redding wrote ‘In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant had interpreted Plato’s “ideas” as non-empirical (“pure”, “transcendental”) concepts which while not constitutive of any knowledge claims, were nevertheless essential for regulating all rational scientific inquiry with its drive to unify knowledge. The Platonic conception of the cosmos as a unified whole, he noted, expresses the goal of such explanatory unification … for Kant, Plato’s ideas were rightly understood as demands for the unification of the understanding’. Paul Redding, ‘Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion’ op. cit., p. 6.

35. ‘Under the charm of the Dionysian not only is the union between man and man reaffirmed, but nature which has become alienated, hostile, or subjugated, celebrates once more her reconciliation with her lost son, man … Now, with the gospel of universal harmony, each one feels himself not only united, reconciled, and fused with his neighbour, but as one with him, as if the veil of maya had been torn aside and were now merely fluttering in tatters before the mysterious primordial unity.’ Quoted in Nussbaum, The Musical Representation, Meaning, Ontology, and Emotion, op. cit., p. 283. In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche repeatedly refers to ‘the primal Oneness.’Schopenhauer and Nietzsche equally ‘rejected’ the life of this material world and equally affirmed ‘life’ theorised Neoplatonically – which they based on ‘Will’ and the ‘Dionysian’. In Scruton’s ‘acousmatic world’ the driver is tonality – ‘the irreplaceable core of music’ Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, op. cit., p. 490.

36. Busoni, The Essence of Music and Other Papers, op. cit., p. 21. He wrote that inspiration gave him the ability to compose – ‘a thought which leads us out of the Jewish Orthodoxy into the sphere of Catholic mysticism.’ p. 46.

37. Plotinus: ‘The Unity … is great beyond anything, great not in extension but in power, sizeless by its very greatness as even its immediate sequents are impartible not in mass but in might. We must therefore take the Unity as infinite not in measureless extension or numerable quantity but in fathomless depts of power. Think of The One as Mind or as God, you think too meanly’ VI.9.6, Plotinus, The Enneads, op. cit., p. 542; Proclus: ‘Prop. 137 … the One is constitutive of all things’ Proclus, The Elements of Theology op. cit., p.121.

38. Hegel, G.W.F., Aesthetics – Lectures on Fine Art, Trans. T.M.Knox, Vol. II, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2010, p. 933.

39. Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, op. cit., p. 18.

40. Plotinus: ‘To that Intellectual Cosmos belong qualities, accordant with Nature, and quantities; number and mass; origins and conditions; all actions and experiences not against nature; movement and repose, both the universals and the particulars: but There time is replaced by eternity and space by its intellectual equivalent, mutual inclusiveness.’ V.9.10, Plotinus, The Enneads, op. cit., p. 433; Proclus: ‘Prop. 52. All that is eternal is a simultaneous whole. …’ Proclus, The Elements of Theology op. cit., p.51, ‘Prop. 54. Every eternity is a measure of things eternal, and every time of things in time; and these two are the only measures of life and movement in things. For any measure must measure either piecemeal or by simultaneous application of the whole measure to the thing measured. That which measures by the whole is eternity; that which measures by parts, time. There are thus two measures only, one of eternal things, the other of things in time.’ Ibid., p. 53.

41. Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, op. cit., p. 80.

42. The words he continued with are a compendium of Neoplatonism: ‘Have you undone the fetters and thrown them away? … Unthought-of scales extend like bands from one world to another, stationary, and yet eternally in motion. Every tone is the centre of immeasurable circles. And now sound is revealed to you! … Now you realise how planets and hearts are one … sound, movement and power are identical, and each separate and all united, they are life.’  Busoni, The Essence of Music and Other Papers, op. cit., p. 188. Circles are important in the Enneads. The third hypostasis circles around the second and both around the first. ‘There is, we may put it, something that is centre; about it, a circle of light shed from it; round centre and first circle alike, another circle, light from light; outside that again, not another circle of light but one which, lacking light of its own, must borrow.’ IV.3.17, Plotinus The Enneads, op. cit., p. 270.

43. Plotinus: ‘What is this Dionysiac exultation that thrills through your being, this straining upwards of all your soul, this longing to break away from the body and live sunken within the veritable self?’ I.6.5, Plotinus, The Enneads, op. cit., p. 50; Proclus: ‘Prop. 131. Every god begins his characteristic activity with himself. …each divinity is filled to overflowing’ Proclus, The Elements of Theology op. cit., p. 117.

44. Hegel, Aesthetics – Lectures on Fine Art, Vol. II, op. cit., p. 955.

45. ‘Man is no longer an artist, he has become a work of art: the artistic power of the whole of nature reveals itself to the supreme gratification of the primal Oneness amidst the paroxysms of intoxication. the noblest clay, the most precious marble, man, is kneaded and hewn here, and to the chisel-blows of the Dionysiac world-artist there echoes the cry of the Eleusinian mysteries, ‘Do you bow low, multitudes? Do you sense the Creator, world?’ Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy op. cit., pp. 17-18; again ‘Ah, you men, I see an image sleeping in the stone, the image of my visions! Ah, that it must sleep in the hardest, ugliest stone!/Now my hammer rages fiercely against its prison. Fragments fly from the stone: what is that to me?/I will complete it: for a shadow came to me – the most silent, the lightest of all things once came to me!/The beauty of the Superman came to me as a shadow. Ah, my brothers! What are the gods to me now!’ Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra – A Book for Everyone and No One (1883-85), Trans. and Introduction, R.J. Hollingdale, Penguin, London, 2003, p. 111. Collingwood wrote ‘But if a man has won his union with the mind of god, has known God’s thought and served God’s purpose in any of the countless ways in which it can be served, his monument is not something that stands for an age when he is dead. It is his own new and perfected life; something that in its very nature cannot pass away, except by desertion of the achieved ideal. This is the statue of the perfect man, more perennial than bronze; the life in a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’ Robin G. Collingwood, Religion and Philosophy, Thoemmes Press, Bristol, 1994, p. 167

46. ‘It is customary to distinguish between the work of art which exists inside us and that which exists in the outside world: this way of speaking seems infelicitous to us, since the work of art (the aesthetic work) is always internal; and what is called the external work is no longer the work of art.’ Benedetto Croce, The Aesthetic as the Science of Expression and of the Linguistic in General (1902), Trans., Colin Lyas, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992, p. 57.

47. Plotinus: ‘To Real Being we go back, all that we have and are; to that we return as from that we came. Of what is There we have direct knowledge, not images or even impressions; and to know without image is to be; by our part in true knowledge we are those Beings; we do not need to bring them down into ourselves, for we are There among them. Since not only ourselves but all other things also are those Beings, we all are they; we are they while we are also one with all: therefore we and all things are one. When we look outside of that on which we depend we ignore our unity; looking outward we see many faces; look inward and all is the one head.’ VI.5.7, Plotinus, The Enneads, op. cit., p. 461; Proclus: ‘Prop. 31. All that proceeds from any principle reverts in respect of its being upon that from which it proceeds.
… all things desire the Good, and each attains it through the mediation of its own proximate cause: therefore each has appetition of its own cause also. Through that which gives it being it attains its well-being’ (my emphasis), Proclus, The Elements of Theology op. cit., p. 35.

48. Arthur Schopenhauer, The World As Will And Representation, Trans. E.F.J.Payne, Vols. I and II, Dover, New York, 1969, Vol. I, p. 260.

49. IX.10, Saint Augustine, Confessions, op. cit., p. 197. Scruton wrote of ‘the mysterious movement that flows through music’ Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, op. cit., p. 161. Plotinus wrote ‘Then the soul, receiving into itself an outflow from thence, is moved and dances wildly and is all stung with longing and becomes love.’ VI.7.22, Plotinus, Enneads, op. cit., pp. 156-157.

50. Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy op. cit., p. 106.

51. Ibid., p. 52. The same ‘roaring hymn of joy’ with which Beethoven concluded his ninth symphony, which, in its entirety, is a testament to Neoplatonism. Of the Ode to Joy, Scruton wrote ‘We are made to rehearse, in our extended sympathies, a particular movement of the soul. We return from private struggle to public comfort, and we feel this return as natural, inevitable. We sense that it is possible, after all, to explore the depths of human isolation, and still to re‐emerge in communion with our fellow men. Beethoven’s sincerity lies in the process whereby we are led from isolation to community.’ Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music , op. cit., p. 359. Beethoven’s language is apophatic: ‘Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend. … Every real creation of art is independent, more powerful than the artist himself and returns to the divine through its manifestation. It is one with man only in this, that it bears testimony to the mediation of the divine in him.’ (quoted in letter from Bettina von Arnim to Goethe, 1810 in The Life of Ludwig van Beethoven, Alexander Wheelock Thayer, ed. Henry Edward Krehbiel, vol. II, G. Schirmer, New York, 1921, 188-189). Scruton wrote that the coda culminates in a Dionysiac presto and of the frenzy with which the work ends – ‘which seems more like a loss of reason than a celebration of it, and a sign of an underlying lack of balance in Beethoven’s vision.’ Roger Scruton, Understanding Music, Philosophy and Interpretation, Continuum, London, 2011, pp.116-117. Plotinus wrote ‘But whoever has become at once contemplator of himself and all the rest and object of his contemplation, and, since he has become substance and intellect and “the complete living being”, no longer looks at it from outside – when he has become this he is near, and that Good is next above him, and already close by, shining upon all the intelligible world. It is there that one lets all study go…’ VI.7.36. Plotinus, Enneads, op. cit., Vol. VII, p. 199.

52. Plotinus’s philosophy concerns one vast living system, streaming from the One – ‘Life streaming from Life; for energy runs through the Universe and there is no extremity at which it dwindles out…’ III.8.5, Plotinus The Enneads, op. cit., p. 238. The life (activity, movement) of Intellect is far superior, far more vital, creative and real, than life in this world. Of the intelligible, Plotinus wrote of an ‘…endlessness for ever welling up in it, the unwearying and unwearing nature which in no way falls short in it, boiling over with life’, VI.5.12, Plotinus, Enneads, op. cit., Vol. VI, p. 357.  Armstrong: ‘Here we touch an element in Plotinus’s thought which is of great importance, the emphasis on life, on the dynamic, vital character of spiritual being. Perfection for him is not merely static. It is a fullness of living and productive power. The One for him is Life and Power, an infinite spring of power, an unbounded life, and therefore necessarily productive.’ Plotinus, Enneads, op. cit., Vol. I, p. xix. Proclus: ‘Prop. 84. All that perpetually is is infinite in potency.’ Proclus, The Elements of Theology op. cit., p. 79. ‘Life’ for Plotinus is eternal creativity and creation – ultimately that of self.

53. Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, op.cit., pp. 80-81.

54. Ibid., pp. 82-83.

55. Robin G. Collingwood, The Principles of Art (1937), Clarendon, Oxford, 1967, p. 332.

56. Collingwood, Religion and Philosophy, op. cit., p. 29.

57. For Plotinus, intuition is the most perfect form of expressive act. He defined ‘intuition’ as ‘knowledge with identity’ IV.4.3, Plotinus The Enneads, op. cit., p. 289; Proclus: ‘intuitive knowledge is the beginning and first cause of all knowing.’ Prop. 20, Proclus, The Elements of Theology op. cit., p. 23.

58. Hegel, Aesthetics – Lectures on Fine Art, Vol. II, op. cit., p. 957.

59. ‘The critic holds himself honour bound to set aside, when confronted by a work of art, all theories and abstractions and to judge it by intuiting it directly.’ Croce, op. cit., p. 1.

60. Doss-Davezac, Shehira, ‘Schopenhauer according to the Symbolists: the philosophical roots of late nineteenth-century French aesthetic theory, pp. 249-276 in Jacquette op. cit., p. 262.

61. Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, op. cit., p. 348.

62. Collingwood, The Principles of Art op. cit., p. 53.

63. What concerned Plotinus was not memory but self-recollection. He believed we have forgotten our true nature, which lies within us – resulting in self-contempt, self-alienation and an acquisitiveness for material things. So this ‘ascent of the mind to God’, fuelled by desire and remembrance, is equally a journey within, to the core of our being. ‘For who that truly perceives the harmony of the Intellectual Realm could fail, if he has any bent towards music, to answer to the harmony in sensible sounds? … surely no one seeing the loveliness lavish in the world of sense – this vast orderliness, the Form which the stars even in their remoteness display – no one could be so dull-witted, so immovable, as not to be carried by all this to recollection, and gripped by reverent awe in the thought of all this, so great, sprung from that greatness. Not to answer thus could only be to have neither fathomed this world nor had any vision of that other.’ II.9.16, Plotinus The Enneads, op. cit., p. 129; ‘The nature of an Ideal-form is to be, of itself, an activity; it operates by its mere presence: it is as if Melody itself plucked the strings.The affective phase of the Soul or Mind will be the operative cause of all affection; it originates the movement either under the stimulus of some sense-presentment or independently – and it is a question to be examined whether the judgement leading to the movement operates from above or not – but the affective phase itself remains unmoved like Melody dictating music…the Melodic Principle itself is not affected, but only the strings…’ III.6.4, ibid., p. 193; ‘any skill which, beginning with the observation of the symmetry of living things, grows to the symmetry of all life, will be a portion of the Power There which observes and meditates the symmetry reigning among all beings in the Intellectual Cosmos. Thus all music – since its thought is upon melody and rhythm – must be the earthly representation of the music there is in the rhythm of the Ideal Realm.’ V.9.11, ibid., p. 434.

64. Croce, op. cit., p. 10.  Again ‘And what, other than physical stimuli to reproduction, are those combinations of words that are referred to as poetry, prose, poems, novels, romances, tragedies, comedies, and those series of tones that are referred to as operas, symphonies and sonatas, and those combinations of lines and colours that are called pictures, statues, works of architecture? The spiritual power of memory, subsidised by the physical things which are provided, makes possible the conservation and reproduction of the intuitions man continually produces.’ p. 108. Proust’s madeleine served a similar purpose.

65. Plotinus: ‘And again the reasoning thing is not of that realm: here the reasoning. There the pre-reasoning.’ VI.7.9, Plotinus The Enneads, op. cit., p. 478; Proclus: ‘(that which is a thing of process is) therefore object of discursive reason. If, then, the gods are supra-existential, or have a substance prior to existents, we can have neither opinion concerning them nor scientific knowledge by discourse of reason, nor yet intellection of them.’, Prop. 123, Proclus, The Elements of Theology op. cit., p. 111.

66. Nussbaum, The Musical Representation, Meaning, Ontology, and Emotion, op. cit., p. 266.

67. Schopenhauer, The World As Will And Representation, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 76.

68. Ibid., Vol. I, p. 370.

69. Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, op. cit., p. xx.

70. Croce op. cit., p. 1. These are the first words of his book.

71. ‘The spirit only intuits by making, forming, expressing.’ Ibid., pp. 8-9. Scruton wrote “For Croce a work of art expresses an ‘intuition’, and he had in mind something like the immediate and preconceptual apprehension of the world which Kant (and Croce likewise) contrasted with the discursive ‘concept’ required by scientific knowledge.” Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music op. cit., p. 346.

72. For Plotinus, in Intellect (the realm of unity-in-multiplicity) the subject’s thought and the object of desired knowledge have identity as the partless essence of what is, complete within itself. In bringing one’s contemplation to vision, one perceives substance from within it and comes to unity with oneself. One contemplates…(One)self – as the god ‘silently present’. V.8.11, Plotinus The Enneads, op. cit., p. 422. Restating this, and clearly pointing to Hegel – Proclus: ‘Prop. 168. Every intelligence in the act of intellection knows that it knows: the cognitive intelligence is not distinct from that which is conscious of the cognitive act. For if it is an intelligence in action and knows itself as indistinguishable from its object (prop. 167), it is aware of itself and sees itself. Further, seeing itself in the act of knowing and knowing itself in the act of seeing, it is aware of itself as an active intelligence: and being aware of this, it knows not merely what it knows but also that it knows. Thus it is simultaneously aware of the thing known, of itself as the knower, and of itself as the object of its own intellective act.’ Proclus, The Elements of Theology op. cit., p. 147.

73. Robin G. Collingwood, ‘The Philosophy of Art’ in The Philosophy of Enchantment, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2005, p. 79

74. Kiene Brillenburg Wurth, The Musically Sublime: Indeterminacy, Infinity, Irresolvability, Fordham University Press, New York, 2009

75. Plotinus: ‘(The musician is sensitive) to tones and the beauty they convey; all that offends against unison or harmony in melodies or rhythms repels him. He longs for measure and shapely pattern./This natural tendency must be made the starting-point to such a man; he must be drawn by the tone, rhythm, and design in things of sense … he must be shown that what ravished him was no other than the Harmony of the Intellectual world and the Beauty in that sphere … the truths of philosophy must be implanted in him to lead him to faith in that which, unknowing it, he possesses within himself.’ I.3.1, Plotinus The Enneads, op. cit., p. 25.

76. Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, op. cit., p. 477.

77. Croce, op. cit., p. 108. For him, what is ugly is that which is false. p. 109. This too is Plotinus’s position: ‘Why is the living ugly more attractive than the sculptured handsome? It is that the one is more nearly what we are looking for, and this because there is soul there, because there is more of the Idea of The Good’  VI.7.22, Plotinus The Enneads, op. cit., p.492.

78. Scruton described what amounts to the Neoplatonic process of emanation and return in his philosophy – ‘the ideal community, the act that separates us (whether error or sin), and the ultimate restoration as the community is reconstituted’, Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, op. cit., p. 462 – a community beyond language – which is the great achievement of bourgeois civilisation.’ Ibid., p. 467.

79. ‘This possibility of dual attention, of attending to the work in the performance and of attending to the performance as of the work, makes the experience of beholding a performance of a work particularly rich aesthetically. The immediate experience of a particular performance of a particular work is enriched by being related to the experience of other renditions of the same work and other performances by the same performers.’ Paul Thom, For An Audience: A Philosophy of the Performing Arts, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1993, p. 72.

80. ‘Even when writing for himself, the composer is writing for an audience: for music is the intentional object of a human experience’. Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, op. cit., p. 451.

81. Collingwood wrote ‘the artist’s activity is a mystery to himself … In a word, he feels himself inspired. … This universal experience is expressed sometimes by saying that the artist is inspired by gods, sometimes by ascribing the origin of art to the unconscious mind … The artist who feels himself inspired feels that the aesthetic activity which goes on in him is not his activity; consequently his correct attitude towards it is not to work hard in the attempt to promote it, but to place himself passively at its disposal.’ Collingwood, The Philosophy of Enchantment, op. cit., p. 57.

82. Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music op. cit., p. 439.

83. ‘I come to see myself as one member of an implied community, whose life is present and vindicated in the experience of contemplation.’ Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music op. cit., p. 460.

84. ‘when Mendelssohn introduced Bach’s St Matthew Passion into the modern repertoire he, to put the point crudely, took the music away from the church and put it into the concert hall.’ Lydia Goehr, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1992, 2003 (Online), p. 248.

85. The silence required for Cage’s work 4’33”, though more overtly apophatic, is in effect no more so than that required for any work in the standard repertoire.

86. ‘In the religious experience too there is an implied but partly absent community: for the religious rite implicates not the living only, but the dead and the unborn.’ Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music op. cit., p. 461.

87. Schopenhauer, The World As Will And Representation, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 371.

88. Ibid. Plotinus wrote ‘(Soul suffers) “…only when we withdraw from vision and take to knowing by proof, by evidence, by the reasoning processes of the mental habit. Such logic is not to be confounded with that act of ours in the vision; it is not our reason that has seen; it is something greater than reason, reason’s Prior, as far above reason as the very object of that thought must be.’ VI.9.10, Plotinus The Enneads, op. cit., p. 547.

89. Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music op. cit., p. 472.

90. ‘The human being who surrenders himself to tears and to a music which no longer resembles him in any way permits that current of which he is not part and which lies behind the dam restraining the world of phenomena to flow back into itself. In weeping and in singing he enters into alienated reality. “Tears dim my eyes: earths’ child I am again” … The gesture of return … characterises the expression of all music’. Theodor Adorno, Philosophy of Modern Music (1948), trans., Anne G. Mitchell, Wesley V. Blomster, Seabury, London, 1973, p. 129.

91. Scruton correctly advised, when considering Adorno, to ‘lay aside the Marxist mumbo-jumbo’, Scruton, Understanding Music, Philosophy and Interpretation, op. cit., p. 213.

92. ‘the artist works as social agent, indifferent to society’s own consciousness.’ Theodore Adorno, Aesthetic Theory (1970), Trans. and Ed. Robert Hullot-Kentor, Continuum, London, 2004, p.  55.

93. ‘Though discursive knowledge is adequate to reality, and even to its irrationalities, which originate in its laws of motion, something in reality rebuffs rational knowledge. Suffering remains foreign to knowledge’ Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, op. cit., p. 24.

94. ‘Art is the intuition of what is not intuitable; it is akin to the conceptual without the concept.’ Ibid., p. 126.

95. ‘(Artworks embody longing for) the reality of what is not … metamorphosed in art as remembrance. … Ever since Plato’s doctrine of anamnesis the not-yet-existing has been dreamed of in remembrance, which alone concretises utopia without betraying it to existence. … art’s imago is precisely what, according to Bergson’s and Proust’s thesis, seeks to awaken involuntary remembrance’ Ibid., pp. 174-175; ‘An artwork is, as Beckett wrote, a desecration of silence.’  Ibid., p. 177. Gerrit Steunebrink questions whether Adorno’s philosophy is a negative theology, Gerrit Steunebrink, ‘Is Adorno’s Philosophy a Negative Theology?’, in Flight of the Gods, Philosophical Perspectives on Negative Theology, Eds. Bulhof, Ilse Nina and Kate, Laurens ten, Fordham University Press, New York, 2000, pp. 293-320. From the Introduction to Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory: ‘The original paratactical text is concentrically arranged around a mute middle point through which every word seeks to be refracted … The linear argumentative structure imposed on the text by the translation thus dismissed the text’s middle point as a detour and severed its nexus.’ Adorno, Aesthetic Theory op. cit., p. xiii-xiv.

96. William Franke, Ed. On What Cannot Be Said, Apophatic Discourses in Philosophy, Religion, Literature and the Arts, Vol. 2 Modern and Contemporary Transformations, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, 2007, p. 261.

97. Scruton, Understanding Music, Philosophy and Interpretation, op. cit., p. 212.

98. Adorno, Philosophy of Modern Music, op. cit., p. 38.

99. In his unfinished Moses und Aron Schoenberg presents the true God as unrepresentable and inexpressible. ‘He is present, Moses insists, only as pure idea or thought: “Unrepresentable God!/Inexpressible, many-sided Thought!” (II,v). Especially the episode of the Golden Calf brings to dramatic crisis the conflict between all forms of idol worship and Moses’s new religion of “one eternal, omnipresent, invisible and unrepresentable God” (I, i; repeated in I, iv).’ Moses cannot express his vision which is why he relies on Aaron to be his mouthpiece. William Franke, Ed. On What Cannot Be Said, Apophatic Discourses in Philosophy, Religion, Literature and the Arts, Vol. 2, op. cit., pp. 246-247.

100. Plotinus The Enneads op. cit., Vol. VI, p. 345.

101. ‘it is still pertinent to defend the bourgeois order’, Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, op. cit., p. 468.

102. Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1990, p. 75.

Shame and the need to shame

In the mid-1990s, Ansett painted a Waltzing Matilda mural on the side of one of its Boeing 737-300s

In the mid-1990s, Ansett painted a Waltzing Matilda mural on the side of one of its Boeing 737-300s

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Email sent to Phillip Adams 02.12.04

Dear Mr. Adams,

I listened to your interview of Peter Conrad a couple of weeks ago with interest. I particularly appreciated not only his dismissal of ‘Gerald’ Henderson, but the way in which he did it, making it perfectly clear that for Conrad, Henderson’s sufficient descriptor is ‘pompous non-entity’ – and I would add, ‘in a provincial pond’. That Henderson should be given regular airings in the Herald and particularly on the ABC’s Radio National is sad evidence for the second part of my assertion.

I have also read the text of Conrad’s first three Boyer lectures. And they are, as I expected from an academic in the humanities, very frustrating. They barely move beyond a cascading display of learning, a preening of feathers, facilitated by a telling of tales, through the soft-focus of history. Charming and informative anecdotes follow upon each other. Bitterness – yes, material to work with – yes, but Conrad has so far given no indication of engaging with the depth of meaning and content that exists in the subject. His lectures sketch an interesting stream leading to our provincial pond, but the exposure and analysis of the destructiveness of the pond and how that destructiveness functions runs very weakly.

Nothing that Conrad has said so far can explain, e.g., the depth of cultural sickness in this country as displayed in that part of the closing ceremony of the 2000 Olympics when a song ‘celebrating’ the suicide by drowning of a failed petty thief, as he ran from authority, was sung by ‘candlelight’ by a packed stadium – as a hymn. Contrast this song with that of ‘John Brown’s Body’, a song of the U.S. Civil War which justifiably celebrates the courage of a man who stood against both authority and prejudice in the defence of black rights and was hung.

When one speaks of ‘Australia’ rhyming with ‘failure’ one speaks, essentially, not of what others have done to us and have told us about ourselves, but of what we have done and continue to do to ourselves and to each other. Although progress has been made and is being made, particularly as a result of immigration, Australian culture has shame and therefore the need to shame – this is where ‘tall poppy syndrome’, ‘nation of knockers’ come in – at its heart and coursing through its veins.

Our culture is built around the ‘celebration’ of (‘nobility’ in the face of) loss, failure and defeat. You are one of the very few people I have heard raise this and show interest in examples: Burke and Wills, Kelly, Breaker Morant, Dad and Dave, the heroes of Paterson and Lawson, Lasseter, Phar Lap, Les Darcy, Haines and Whitlam. Roy and HG’s savagely titled ‘The Dream’ (as Doyle said ‘If it rises above a blade of grass, cut it down.), the ABC’s Australian Story…

And in particular, Gallipoli. In 1990, when the inevitable letters from Private Jones to his mother began appearing in the papers, ex-pat Phillip Knightley argued that if we, as Australians, are going to ‘celebrate’ our involvement in the First World War (the first capitalist world war over areas of exploitation), rather than celebrating a defeat experienced on behalf of a dominant power, we should celebrate the victories of the Australian troops, e.g. on the Western Front. The ABC’s Richard Glover responded with a most bizarre article in the Sydney Morning Herald ‘Bruce Ruxton is right: we should embrace the legends of defeat’, (SMH 20.04.90 – I emailed him about this) arguing that we celebrate Gallipoli, as with our other failures, precisely because it was a defeat.

What is the sickness that runs through the above? More than that they focus on defeats and failures, it is that these are made a cause for celebration. The message in these ‘celebrations’ is the dark side of the myth of Australian egalitarianism, a myth cultivated in affluence and sunlight – the cultural imperatives ‘Thou shalt be laid back!’ and ‘Thus far and no further!’ Dream to (or worse) go beyond the cultural limits and you will be broken.

And the cultural limits are those of capital (I understand the words of Waltzing Matilda were shaped by the requirements of advertising) – you can dream, but only the small dreams of consumption – 1/4 acre block, $60,000 + p.a., 2 and 1/2 kids etc. The celebration of defeat is still not the fundamental issue, it is the celebration of a lesson. Will Conrad address this basic issue of shame as a means of class control. I doubt it increasingly as his lectures progress. He is too much the comfortable gentleman.

On the global stage we relate shame-based – both servile to a dominant power – first England, now the US (cultural imperialism only partially explains our dilemma) – and bullying in our region (Asia and the Pacific). That the ‘Deputy sheriff’ won’t sign a non-aggression pact with ASEAN is entirely consistent. What is not licked should be kicked. Our need for approval has led us into a closeness of relationship with the US as a result of which, I believe, serious consequences for this country are yet to happen.

The same need for approval (this time, awarded by ourselves) has been used by the government to cover its purpose for ‘going to the aid of’ the East Timorese – after 25 years of silence by Liberal and Labor governments and the deaths of 400,000. What else could explain such sickening, back-slapping hypocrisy, so many white, beaming faces, such an absence of geopolitical and economic analysis? The on-going corporate attempt to rape this poorest nation, even as it was declared a nation is the clearest pointer to the reality of Australia’s ‘rescue’ of East Timor.

Our self-loathing lies at the heart of the kicking Hanson got, and continues to get, even after she departed from politics. That those competing to sink the boot into Hanson the hardest were, without exception, the ‘educated’ middle-classes indicates how deeply shame and self-loathing run in our culture. Hanson was a test of how successfully we have dealt with our shame and the need to shame – and we failed that test – spectacularly. Her treatment by our ‘intelligentsia’ shows how deep and powerfully the current I write about flows. It is too her credit that Kingston showed Hanson some understanding.

That this nation has failed the test of national confidence, both internally and internationally is proven by Howard. He is in no way an aberration. He has risen from the heart of our culture and understands its meanness, shame and therefore the need to shame, intimately and instinctively. He has exploited this with absolute consistency to win four elections in a row. There could never be a clearer pointer, despite all assertions to the opposite, to how little this country has progressed in dealing with its cringe than this man and his government. Even Bush bases his meanness and aggression on his perception of the greatness of his nation, on its ‘right’ to impose itself on the world.

The greater one’s perceived capacity to achieve intellectual excellence and particularly one’s commitment to intellectual excellence, the greater the determination in our society that you should be broken, the more subtle, insidious and poisonous will be the range of devices employed against you – by family and friends. Ian Thorpe, recognising this, has assiduously (and successfully) cultivated a persona that bows to this Australian viciousness.

White, too, saw this nastiness and destructiveness – and to disguise the hurt of one who both loved and loathed what he saw and experienced, specialised in paying that nastiness back in kind. I don’t think he ever rose above that fundamental tension.

Australia will always be a servile nation until the shame – and the need to shame – that lie at its heart are named, focussed on and rooted out.

Phil Stanfield

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