‘Let us then apprehend in our thought this visible universe, with each of its parts remaining what it is without confusion, gathering all of them together into one as far as we can, so that when any one part appears first, for instance the outside heavenly sphere, the imagination of the sun and, with it, the other heavenly bodies follows immediately, and the earth and sea and all the living creatures are seen, as they could in fact all be seen inside a transparent sphere. Let there be, then, in the soul a shining imagination of a sphere, having everything within it, either moving or standing still, or some things moving and others standing still. Keep this, and apprehend in your mind another, taking away the mass: take away also the places, and the mental picture of matter in yourself, and do not try to apprehend another sphere smaller in mass than the original one, but calling on the god who made that of which you have the mental picture, pray him to come. And may he come, bringing his own universe with him, with all the gods within him, he who is one and all, and each god is all the gods coming together into one; they are different in their powers, but by that one manifold power they are all one; or rather, the one god is all; for he does not fail if all become what he is; they are all together and each one again apart in a position without separation, possessing no perceptible shape – for if they did, one would be in one place and one in another, and each would no longer be all in himself…nor is each whole like a power cut up which is as large as the measure of its parts. But this, the [intelligible] All, is universal power, extending to infinity and powerful to infinity; and that god is so great that his parts have become infinite…’
Plotinus, Enneads, V.8.9
Fascinating! After reading your interesting post — thanks for this — I couldn’t help googling Camille Flammarion. I found this quote: “”This end of the world will occur without noise, without revolution, without cataclysm. Just as a tree loses leaves in the autumn wind, so the earth will see in succession the falling and perishing all its children, and in this eternal winter, which will envelop it from then on, she can no longer hope for either a new sun or a new spring.” — Camille Flammarion, La Fin du Monde (The End of the World)
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thank you for liking my post and for the quote from Flammarion. I wonder how such thinking fits with the inspiring image I used from his book. While it is true that the earth will end and (obviously) all life on it, most probably in 1888 they couldn’t conceive of humans leaving the earth for any period of time.
I have often pondered the picture, often colorized, of the explorer who seems to be peering through the familiar physical world into a higher world. I say higher because the one image that draws my attention is the ‘wheel-within-wheel,’ which evokes the description of the vision in Ezekiel 1:16 (a very similar rendering can be found on Wiki under Ophanim). In Kabbalism, the next higher of the Four Worlds (our’s being Asiyah, the World of Action) is Yetzirah, the World of Formation and the realm of lower celestial beings. The Ophanim belong to the higher, first order of celestial beings according to Maimonides and to Pseudo-Dionysus. Regardless of the artist’s knowledge of celestial hierarchy, I think we all get his transcendental meaning.
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thank you for your informative comment. It is evidence of the best in the United States that NASA has that image and text on its website. My belief is that the highest product of nature known yet to us is what we all have between our ears and that image symbolises for me one such enquiring beyond the constraints of a necessary system of belief. It could be interpreted or applied transcendentally as you have done or on a materialist basis as I do.
I have set up my blog to address the relationship between those two perspectives – the former necessary to the development of the latter.
Thank you for your timely response. As in the alchemical dictum “As Above, So Below,” the exploration of outer space and the exploration of inner space do not constitute a dualism. In the unique instance of Infinity, all qualifications fall away – the infinitely large and the infinitesimally small both arrive at Infinity. For those of us who are Kabbalists, philosophical idealists Neo-Platonists, or Christians (in the more mystical sense), materiality is derivative of transcendental reality, not the obverse. I am old enough to remember watching Alan Shepherd’s brief launch into space when I was in the 2nd grade, so THAT form of space exploration predated, and was appreciated a dozen years before the inner space exploration I discovered as an undergraduate. 😉 I am a student of both!
Dr. Mark Abrahams
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Your words ‘the infinitely large and the infinitesimally small both arrive at Infinity’ reminded me very much of Cusanus. While I agree that the theory of mysticism (specifically Neoplatonism) preceded and had first to be developed to the degree that Hegel advanced it before materialism could absorb its profound benefit by becoming dialectical, we disagree on which of the two – consciousness or matter (objective reality) is the product of the other.
With likewise respect,