Reply to Inese – mysticism, Marxism and beyond 

 

Hello Inese,

thank you for your very interesting and honest reply and for reading my blog.

Bronze plaque of Hegel by Karl Donndorf (1870-1941) emplaced in 1931 at Hegel-Haus in Stuttgart.

Bronze plaque of Hegel by Karl Donndorf (1870-1941) emplaced in 1931 at Hegel-Haus in Stuttgart.

Marxist epistemology was built on Hegel’s mystical philosophy, which Marx acknowledged in Capital: ‘I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker…The mystification which the dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be inverted, in order to discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.’1

That mystical theory of knowledge (the knowledge of God) was not static but underwent development from Plotinus right up to Hegel who, himself drawing on multiple influences (a common practice in mysticism), took it to new heights.

Marx in 1875

Marx in 1875

Marx then took it further by ‘inverting’ Hegel’s great structure and standing it on its material feet. What Hegel theorised about the world within, Marx applied to the world without.

For Marx (and for me – I am not a Marxist), ‘matter’ (objective reality), not consciousness is primary.

The main purpose of my blog is to argue, through a mix of posts intended to exemplify the theoretical interconnections between mysticism and dialectical materialism and the development from the former to the latter, for an awareness, appreciation and a thorough review of the entirety of this current – particularly the work of Marx in relation to that of Hegel because I think, as dialectical materialism, it is the only philosophical current that can truly reflect the world in thought, in its poetry and creativity, and be our epistemological tool in relating with it – on the basis of praxis.

What had been mechanical materialism became, post the ‘inversion’ and absorption of mystical epistemology, dialectical materialism. This in turn requires further development, despite the death rites that the well-paid agents of capital keep giving it.

Best wishes,

Phil

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Note

1. Capital, vol. 1, Postface to the Second Edition 1873, Penguin, London, 1982, 103

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Reply to Anand – capitalism, socialism, mysticism and materialism

090127-F-7383P-009

Hi Anand,

thank you for your interest.

The causes for the collapse of the Soviet Union are obviously multiple and complex but they include the fact that the Soviet Union was the first socialist state (which the capitalists will never forgive Russia for, as can be seen in their ongoing hostility to Russia), that, impoverished, it was surrounded from the outset by a hostile and invading West, that the arms race was a drain it could not maintain and, in my view, it was the price paid for ‘overleaping’ the bourgeois stage of development (the Chinese have learnt from this).

But again, fundamentally it is not a matter of what people like or don’t like, it is the working of objective reality and its necessity, and of understanding this.

That a system we know as ‘capitalism’ grew from another system we know as ‘feudalism’ was necessary, as the productive forces developed. Likewise, and for the same reason, capitalism will be replaced by another known as ‘socialism.’

Invasion, drone technology, black ops, psy ops and internet monitoring etc. can delay this as long as possible (again, that is the working of objective reality), but nothing can stop it. Consciousness is secondary to/the product of objective reality.

On your second point, the dominant mystical theory in the West (Neoplatonism) is a theory of knowledge and that theory, having been turned by Marx from ‘standing on its head’ to its material feet became the theory of knowledge of dialectical materialism.

At a time when there has been so much disillusion with Marxism and the ‘possibility’ of socialism (a mainly manufactured disillusion), this whole current needs to be reconsidered because after Marx, it is the epistemology of the future, because of the immense and ongoing contribution of mysticism to all aspects of culture which should be acknowledged and discussed openly, not denied and treated like pornography as academic philosophers do to it, and because by examining both its potential and shortfalls (particularly its teleology – one reason I am not a Marxist) embodied in Marxist theory, the theory now known as dialectical materialism can be further developed.

My blog is to argue for the living significance of mysticism in the West, for its relationship with materialism and for the entirety of that current’s reconsideration because of its importance.

Best regards,

Phil

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Comment to Late Night Live on the rise of China

President Xi Jinping

President Xi Jinping

Hi Phillip,

I listened to your interview of the professor from Defence Studies at the ANU with regard to China.

I wonder if he referred to the many pigs at the trough (the most responsible, unpunished) when the latest crisis of capitalist dynamics – the ‘GFC’ (which came within an ace of bringing down capitalism and has not gone away) broke out? I strongly doubt it.

The Chinese are way ahead of the West for three reasons:

> they have had their socialist revolution which the Western nations are yet to have – for the fundamental reason not that I wish it or to provoke your guest but as Marx identified (I am not a Marxist) – that of the level of development of the productive forces, the uncontrolled ramifications of which can be seen everywhere in the West

> they have the potential of the one-party state (cf. the obligatory myopic street-theatre of Republican/Democrat, Liberal/Labor etc.) which, since Deng Xiaoping, has shown a crucial capacity to release the engine of reward for individual initiative within a socialist framework – something the Soviet Communist Party was never able to do (Lenin first unsuccessfully attempted this with his NEP in 1921)

> bearing on this is the consequential rapid rise into the middle class of hundreds of millions of Chinese – a class historically associated with ‘democracy’ – i.e. ‘a voice’ and power. There will be an increasing tension between the Chinese one-party state and their rising middle-class and I think that the Chinese will continue to successfully address this and other matters and lead the world with forms of political and economic organisation that will be models for it.

Worth considering are Engels’ words from a letter to America  in 1894:

‘The war in China has given the death-blow to the old China. Isolation has become impossible; the introduction of railways, steam-engines, electricity, and modern large-scale industry has become a necessity, if only for reasons of military defence. But with it the old economic system of small peasant agriculture, where the family also made its industrial products itself, falls to pieces too, and with it the whole old social system which made relatively dense population possible. Millions will be turned out and forced to emigrate; and these millions will find their way even to Europe, and en masse. But as soon as Chinese competition sets in on a mass scale, it will rapidly bring things to a head in your country and over here, and thus the conquest of China by capitalism will at the same time furnish the impulse for the overthrow of capitalism in Europe and America…’

Philip Stanfield

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ABC Radio National/Late Night Live 25.08.15/China crash

Breaking News! Nicholas of Cusa failed Aristotle in First Philosophy!

Aristotle portrayed in the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle as a scholar of the 15th century AD.

Aristotle portrayed in the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle as a scholar of the 15th century AD.

NICHOLAS: I laud your remarks. And I add that also in another manner Aristotle closed off to himself a way for viewing the truth. For, as we mentioned earlier, he denied that there is a Substance of substance or a Beginning of beginning. Thus, he would also have denied that there is a Contradiction of contradiction. But had anyone asked him whether he saw contradiction in contradictories, he would have replied, truly, that he did. Suppose he were thereupon asked: “If that which you see in contradictories you see antecedently (just as you see a cause antecedently to its effect), then do you not see contradiction without contradiction?” Assuredly, he could not have denied that this is so. For just as he saw that the contradiction in contradictories is contradiction of the contradictories, so prior to the contradictories he would have seen Contradiction before the expressed contradiction (even as the theologian Dionysius saw God to be, without opposition, the Oppositeness of opposites; for prior to [there being any] opposites it is not the case that anything is opposed to oppositeness). But even though the Philosopher failed in first philosophy, or mental philosophy, nevertheless in rational and moral [philosophy] he wrote many things very worthy of complete praise. Since these things do not belong to the present speculation, let it suffice that we have made the preceding remarks about Aristotle.

Nicholas of Cusa, De Li Non Aliud (‘On God as Not-Other’), 1461-2, in Nicholas of Cusa on God as Not-other, Trans., Jasper Hopkins, The Arthur J. Banning Press, Minneapolis, 1999, 1108-1166, 89, 1150

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Reply to Jason – what is idealism? 2

Pieter Claesz, Still Life, 1643, oil on panel, Saint Louis Art Museum

Pieter Claesz, Still Life, 1643, oil on panel, Saint Louis Art Museum

Hi Jason,

You have motivated me to reconsider my definition of ‘idealism’.

By ‘inspiration’ I refer to a heightened emotional state that is conducive to creative activity in some way.

If I was lying in bed and heard something on the radio that motivated me to get out of bed (an ethical speech, music I think uplifting…), it would be to get up and do something productive – to ‘get on with the day’, to ‘get things done’.

Inspiration is an intensification of that feeling, hence the urge to productivity becomes more concentrated, more creative – I might start on that painting I had been thinking about or enrol in a photography course…

Idealism, as well as having a spiritual focus (a focus on ‘connectedness’, however one thinks of that – it may be to one’s team, to ‘God’, to the flag, to nature, to one’s community, to the world community…) is an orientation and commitment to a prolonged state of creative potential, realised to whatever degree.

The expression ‘felt to be “higher than”’ does two things – it points to and emphasises the emotional nature of what idealism is and leaves the manifestation of idealism open – it specifically avoids the containment of what idealism is by linguistic thought.

That linguistic thought both gives it direction and, in the case of philosophical idealism, appropriates it through definition, is secondary to this.

An improved definition of ‘idealism’ would then be that it is ‘the inspiration to that which is felt to be “higher than,” manifest as a prolonged and creative emotional state with a spiritual focus’.

Definitions, while most important in philosophical discussion are deceptive. Cusanus believed that our ‘minds’ (try defining ‘mind’ – after you’ve defined ‘reason’!) are the image of Divine Mind, that how the latter functions is modelled by ours.

He believed that just as we can never fully know the Divine Word and embody a complete knowledge of it in our ‘mental’ words, because the Divine Word is infinite while we are finite and therefore limited to perspectives, so too the words of the sensory world cannot fully ‘know’ and express the words of our ‘mental’ world.

And in the latter part of this, having been ‘stood on its feet’, he has a very good point.

I can give you a ‘working’ definition of any word, but there will always be much more in our thought (including memory) regarding what that word symbolises for you and me, which completes our perspectival definition of the word.

Of ‘cat’ I can say that it is ‘a small domesticated carnivorous mammal with soft fur, a short snout, and retractile claws.’ But my experience of cats inevitably completes my perspectival definition of the word.

Words dealing with the emotions further complicate the issue. Exploring what lies beyond a ‘working definition’ of words and how those perspectival ‘definitions’ inter-relate is fundamental to poetry, just as exploring what ‘lay beyond’ the material reality of a madeleine had so much potential for Proust.

Logical atomism took the drive to define and control in philosophy to a ridiculous extreme (for which Wittgenstein was well-suited).

Donald Phillip Verene countered this:

‘…we have so little experience in taking metaphorical speech seriously as a carrier of philosophical meaning that we read right past it. …we have become so accustomed to the monotone hum of the abstract concept and the category, the fluorescent buzz of the argument, that we have lost track of the dimensions of philosophical language. We have forgotten its secrets and cannot recollect its manner of eating bread and drinking wine.’ (Donald Phillip Verene, Hegel’s Recollection: A Study of Images in The Phenomenology of Spirit, State University of New York Press, Albany, New York, 1985, 34-35)

Regards,

Phil

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Reply to Jason – what is idealism? 1

Adolf Hitler makes keynote address at Reichstag session, Kroll Opera House, Berlin, 1939

Hi Jason,

thank you for your interest. I define ‘idealism’ as ‘the inspiration to that which is felt to be “higher than”.’

My definition places emphasis on the emotions and brain functions ‘below’ (possibly more primitive than) conscious thought because I think of idealism as an emotional orientation (‘Sarah is an idealistic girl’) or potential (just as we can love or hate), without a specific focus.

That focus is given to it – it could be spiritual, religious (organised spirituality), political or in a personal relationship (‘I love you absolutely’).

The Nazis (German capitalism in extremis) exploited it with skill (appealing to a primal mythology) as other governments aspire to do and those who achieve power.

The manipulation of idealism is essential to the practice of power.

In the US, developing on Winthrop’s ‘We shall be as a city upon a hill’ speech, idealism came to be focused on the flag. In Australia, because of the convict origin of white domination (Phillip’s words after landing reportedly included the instruction that ‘Men are not to go into the womens’ tents at night’) it has been very difficult for the bourgeoisie to find that focus, as they search and stumble from one symbol of loss, failure and defeat to another.

The military disaster at Gallipoli in the first world war – in a far-away country and in the service of the dominant power has finally been turned into some success, ideologically. The requisite amount of gore should silence all criticism.

Idealism is the source of an immense and immensely creative energy (Plato and Plotinus fully understood this) and large amounts of it (together with many of those who embody it) are consumed in every revolution, after which there is the slow but inevitable re-accumulation of its depleted reserves as idealism, having attained far short of perfection, goes into retreat to lick its wounds and prepare to dare again.

And this is my point – we are animals, and idealism is an expression of our animality.

Philosophical idealism’, beloved of cobweb-spinning academics, is the appropriation of idealism by and to linguistic thought (what is known simplistically in academic philosophy as ‘reason’) – ‘philosophical idealism is the belief that…’ It is the harnessing of, the attempt to control and constrain, the horse drawing the chariot.

Philosophical idealism is not simply the placing of consciousness and its products before objective reality – one never has to go looking too far in its manifestation before one comes upon ‘God’ or another expression for ‘higher than’.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Best regards,

Phil

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Can Anglo dominated Australia be summarised in one image?

HMS Discovery

HMS Discovery

Yes

Q. What is an Anglo-Aussie?

A. A dangerous loose cannon below decks in the above.

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Top Documentary Films: Counter-Intelligence

All five parts of this series which I highly recommend can be found here.

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Art and social life: the Russian Revolution and the creative power of idealism 13

Sergei Chekhonin, The Union of Art Workers Aids the Starving. Poster, 1921. ‘In 1921 the Volga region was hit by a terrible famine - the result of an unprecedented drought. Posters, slogans, and newspaper articles called on people to help the starving and to share their last crust of bread with them. People did everything they could and more.’

Sergei Chekhonin, The Union of Art Workers Aids the Starving. Poster, 1921. ‘In 1921 the Volga region was hit by a terrible famine – the result of an unprecedented drought. Posters, slogans, and newspaper articles called on people to help the starving and to share their last crust of bread with them. People did everything they could and more.’

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Image: Art of the October Revolution, Compiler, Mikhail Guerman, Trans., W.Freeman, D.Saunders, C.Binns, Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad, 1986

The earth is a noble star 

Full Moon, Full Earth

Full Moon, Full Earth

‘Therefore, the earth is a noble star which has a light and a heat and an influence that are distinct and different from [that of] all other stars, just as each star differs from each other star with respect to its light, its nature, and its influence. And each star communicates its light and influence to the others, though it does not aim to do so, since all stars gleam and are moved only in order to exist in the best way [they can]; as a consequence thereof a sharing arises (just as light shines of its own nature and not in order that I may see; yet, as a consequence, a sharing occurs when I use light for the purpose of seeing).’

Nicholas of Cusa, De Docta Ignorantia, 1440, Bk, II, 166, in Nicholas of Cusa On Learned Ignorance, A Translation and an Appraisal of De Docta Ignorantia, Jasper Hopkins, The Arthur J. Banning Press, Minneapolis, 1990, 94

The Sombrero Galaxy from Hubble

The Sombrero Galaxy from Hubble

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The works of Cusanus