From mysticism to materialism – ‘the tremendous power of the negative’, before which everything but change is doomed

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By arguing that Hegel was not only a mystic, but that he was specifically the consummate Neoplatonist, I address in my thesis the part his philosophy played in a continuum that was and is by its nature always open to development – running from the idealism of Plotinus (consciousness is primary) to its ‘inversion’ in the materialism of Marx (matter is primary). My thesis also argues that Hegel’s system, encapsulated in his Encyclopaedia, is based on Proclus’ triad of triads and that Hegel was fully aware of Cusanus whose De docta ignorantia was also structured on that triad, never mentioning him both because of the degree to which he was indebted to him and because of the implications of that acknowledgement. I provide evidence from Hegel’s own sources.

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Konstantin Yuon, ‘A New Planet,’ 1921. Tempera on cardboard, The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

I address Magee’s claim that Hegel was an Hermeticist and argue that Magee misrepresented both the Hermetica and Hermeticism in order to argue that claim. I also argue that the response of the bourgeoisie to the revolutionary core that Marx and Engels brought out in Neoplatonism is fundamental to why Hegel’s thorough-going Neoplatonism is not recognised and acknowledged. With ‘the tremendous power of the negative’ – the source of all development, before which everything is also ‘doomed’ – as that core, this current is the greatest current in Western philosophy, and now, as dialectical materialism, is the epistemology of the future.

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The Crab Nebula and its pulsar

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‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ A

‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ B

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Astronomy, formal and dialectical reason

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Formal reason:

‘Since fire is the rapid acquisition of oxygen, and since oxygen is a key indicator of life, fire on any planet would be an indicator of life on that planet.’

Dialectical reason:

To consider this statement dialectically, one would think creatively – of the relationship between destruction and creation. Hegel did this from the idealist perspective –

‘Everything that surrounds us may be viewed as an instance of Dialectic. We are aware that everything finite, instead of being stable and ultimate, is rather changeable and transient; and this is exactly what we mean by that Dialectic of the finite, by which the finite, as implicitly other than what it is, is forced beyond its own immediate or natural being to turn suddenly into its opposite. We have before this (§80) identified Understanding with what is implied in the popular idea of the goodness of God; we may now remark of Dialectic, in the same objective signification, that its principle answers to the idea of his power. All things, we say – that is, the finite world as such – are doomed; and in saying so, we have a vision of Dialectic as the universal and irresistible power before which nothing can stay, however secure and stable it may deem itself.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Logic, Trans., William Wallace, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1975, Remark to §81, 118

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‘Massive stars form and explode, and brown filaments of dust are strewn about.’

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Spiral Galaxy NGC 4038 in Collision

‘Everything that surrounds us may be viewed as an instance of Dialectic. We are aware that everything finite, instead of being stable and ultimate, is rather changeable and transient; and this is exactly what we mean by that Dialectic of the finite, by which the finite, as implicitly other than what it is, is forced beyond its own immediate or natural being to turn suddenly into its opposite. We have before this (§80) identified Understanding with what is implied in the popular idea of the goodness of God; we may now remark of Dialectic, in the same objective signification, that its principle answers to the idea of his power. All things, we say – that is, the finite world as such – are doomed; and in saying so, we have a vision of Dialectic as the universal and irresistible power before which nothing can stay, however secure and stable it may deem itself.’ G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Logic, Trans., William Wallace, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1975, Remark to §81, 118.

The hostility towards Neoplatonism and dialectical materialism by the learned servants of the bourgeoisie and their inability to embrace them are for the same reasons – both the prime importance to this current of what they have assigned to ‘the feminine’ – the ephemeral, the creative, that which resists control and particularly, its recognition of the engine of contradiction with its resultant flux. Everything but change itself will pass.

The ideological silence for so long in academia with regard to the pervasive impact of mysticism on Western culture, particularly its primary Western form Neoplatonism and the distortions and fluff written and spoken in the attempt to explain that influence away can be compared with the erasure of a two thousand year history of materialism from Indian philosophy. The only place where this ‘survives’ is in the writing of those who hated it. Some of those in the West who built their careers on never using the word ‘mysticism’ other than disparagingly or on explaining it away are now teaching it as though it has been ever thus. They make a mockery of philosophy and excellently exemplify the early stages of a major adjustment in capitalist ideology – from ‘modernism’ to ‘postmodernism’ to…? What will the new ‘ism’ be that denies or instils doubt regarding the primacy of objective reality? 

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What is primary for truth and art?

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Painting with Jupiter

Materialist dialectics, a philosophical method for investigating nature and society, holds practical activity to be the basis of our relations with the world and therefore of cognition. Praxis is thus a criterion of knowledge. Only when practical activity confirms the coincidence of ideas and hypotheses with reality can it be said that they are true. Since practical activity is relative to the level of technological development, truth can never be that absolute ardently sought and equally trembled before by the idealists, rather, it is a deepening relative in relation to an absolute which can only ever be theoretical. Lenin wrote:

’From living perception to abstract thought, and from this to practice, such is the dialectical path of the cognition of truth, of the cognition of objective reality. Kant disparages knowledge in order to make way for faith: Hegel exalts knowledge, asserting that knowledge is knowledge of God. The materialist exalts the knowledge of matter, of nature’, V.I.Lenin, Collected Works, Vol., 38 (Philosophical Notebooks), Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1976, 171.

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Trump (consciousness) is secondary, necessity (nature) is primary

 

From the current initiated by Plotinus – an idealist and a materialist on necessity:

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Hegel (1770-1831) with his Berlin students, Sketch by Franz Kugler

‘All actions, including world-historical actions, culminate with individuals as subjects giving actuality to the substantial (see Remark to Paragraph 279). They are the living instruments of what is in substance the deed of the world mind and they are therefore directly at one with that deed though it is concealed from them and is not their aim and object (see Paragraph 344). For the deeds of the world mind, therefore, they receive no honour or thanks either from their contemporaries (see Paragraph 344) or from public opinion in later ages. All that is vouchsafed to them by such opinion is undying fame in respect of the subjective form of their acts.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Trans. T.M.Knox, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1979, 348, 218

Lenin, Red Square, 1920

Lenin in Red Square, 1920

‘Engels takes the knowledge and will of man, on the one hand, and the necessity of nature, on the other, and instead of giving any definitions, simply says that the necessity of nature is primary, and human will and mind secondary. The latter must necessarily and inevitably adapt themselves to the former. Engels regards this as so obvious that he does not waste words explaining his view.’

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 171

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What does Uluru have to do with Neoplatonism and dialectical materialism?

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Neoplatonic dialectics, culminating in the philosophy of the ‘German Proclus’ Hegel and implicitly recognised by Marx in his acknowledgement in his Postface to the second edition of Capital of his debt to Hegel’s mysticism, is the philosophical core, stood by Marx and Engels on its material feet, of dialectical materialism.

Neoplatonic dialectics can be simply illustrated – Uluru, like the second hypostasis Intellectual-Principle, is a unity (in this case, a monolith). While the ‘ageless’ ‘stillness’ of its mass impresses in its rise from the desert, in its composition, in its infinitely divisible elements, it is in unceasing motion.

The contradictory motion of those elements and the laws bearing on them are the very factors which result in its appearance of immobile, permanent unity.

I am reminded of Plotinus’ profound and profoundly poetic position regarding activity in stillness and the relation between them, both maximal in the One.

What was, for Plotinus, a process of generation and the resolution of contradiction became recognised as one without God and without end.

The interaction of this rock, this material composition, with the greater, infinite material whole of the world, together with its own processes, will one day result in the passing of its form and contents into other material structures.

It will disappear.

Thus everything passes, and only matter (objective reality), driven by contradiction and the absolute of change, remains.

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A nebula, its pulsar and a top – from Plotinus to Marx, the epistemology of the future

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The Crab Nebula and its pulsar

The greatest activity in the greatest stillness

CARDINAL: I shall try [to show you such an image]. I will take [the example] of boys [playing with] a top—a game known to us all, even in practical terms. A boy pitches out a top; and as he does so, he pulls it back with the string which is wound around it. The greater the strength of his arm, the faster the top is made to rotate—until it seems (while it is moving at the faster speed) to be motionless and at rest. Indeed, boys speak of it as then at rest.

So let us describe a circle, b c, which is being rotated about a point a as would the upper circle of a top; and let there be another circle, d e, which is fixed.  Is it not true that the faster the movable circle is rotated, the less it seems to be moved?

BERNARD: It certainly seems true. And, as boys, this [is how] we saw [it].

Nicholas of Cusa, De Possest (‘On Actualised-Possibility’), 1460, in A Concise Introduction to the Philosophy of Nicholas of Cusa, Trans., Jasper Hopkins, The Arthur J. Banning Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1986, 914-954, 18, 923-924

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From my thesis ‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’: ‘there is no evidence that Hegel ever read Cusa’ (Magee, quoting Walsh)

 

In his Introduction in Volume I of his Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-1826 (Trans. Robert F. Brown and J.M. Stewart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2009), Hegel named nine of his sources (pp. 99-101).

In that order (I use the details from the Bibliography), I exemplify references to Cusanus below the title:

Wilhelm Gottlieb Tennemann, Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie für den akademischen Unterricht, 3rd edn., ed. Amadeus Wendt (Leipzig, 1820) 

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From Contents

Thomas Stanley, Historia philosophiae vitas opiniones resque gestas et dicta philosophorum sectae cuiusuis complexa… (Leipzig, 1711) (Latin translation from English)

Hegel wrote ‘Its dominant viewpoint is that there are only ancient philosophies, and the era of philosophy was cut short by Christianity. So this treatise only contains the ancient schools…’

Jacob Brucker, Historia critica philosophiae, 4 vols. (Leipzig, 1742-4). (Hegel owned the 1756 edn.)

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From page 360 of vol. 4.1

Dieterich Tiedemann Geist der spekulativen Philosophie  6 vols. (Marburg, 1791-7). (Hegel owned vols. i-iii)

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Page 321 of vol. 5

Dieterich Tiedemann Dialogorum Platonis argumenta, expounded and illustrated 12. vols. (Zweibrücken, 1786)

This text, as its title indicates, is a study of the Platonic dialogues.

Johann Gottlieb Buhle, Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Philosophie und einer kritischen Literatur derselben, 8 pts. in 9 vols. (Göttingen, 1796-1804)

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From page 101 of vol. 6.1

Wilhelm Gottlieb Tennemann, Geschichte der Philosophie, 11 vols. (Leipzig, 1798-1819)

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Contents of vol. 9

Friedrich Ast, Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie (Landshut, 1807)

 

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From page 315

Thaddä Anselm Rixner, Handbuch der Geschichte der Philosophie zum Gebrauche seiner Vorlesungen, 3  vols. (Sulzbach, 1822-3)

Hegel wrote ‘Most worth recommending is Rixner’s Handbuch der Geschichte der Philosophie in 3 volumes (Sulzbach, 1822-3)…he is a man of intelligence who provides a particularly useful selection of key passages…the accuracy of the citations and the other features make it highly commendable.’

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From page 164 of vol. 2

Most importantly, Hegel did not name the other history by Buhle that he usedGeschichte der neuern Philosophie seit der Epoche der Wiederherstellung der Wissenschaften, 6 vols. (Göttingen, 1800-4). Brown, the editor, showed in his Notes that Hegel paid close attention to it with regard to his writing on Bruno (see vol. III, The Second Period: Medieval Philosophy, Notes 102, 104, 126, 129).

The most thorough discussion of Cusanus’ philosophy in comparison to Hegel’s sources above is in volume 2.1 of this history by Buhle, between pp. 341-353 (the Notes refer to both 2.1 and 2.2).

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From page 342 of vol. 2.1

Cusanus’ texts referred to in volume 2 of Buhle’s History

De concordantia catholica (On Catholic Concordance, 1434)

De docta ignorantia (On Learned Ignorance, 1440 – Buhle discusses)

De coniecturis (On Surmises, 1441-2 – Buhle discusses)

De Ignota Litteratura (On Unknown Learning, 1442-3 – Johannes Wenck)

De quaerendo Deum (On Seeking God, 1445)

De dato patris luminum (On the Gift of the Father of Lights, 1446)

Apologia doctae ignorantiae discipuli ad discipulum (A Defence of Learned Ignorance from One Disciple to Another, 1449)

(Idiota) de sapientia (The Layman of Wisdom, 1450 – Buhle discusses)

Epistolae contra Bohemos (Epistles Against the Bohemians/Hussites, 1452)

De visione Dei (On the Vision of God, 1453)

De mathematica perfectione (On Mathematical Perfection, 1458)

Cribrationes Alchorani (Cribratio Alkorani, A Scrutiny of the Koran, 1461)

De venatione sapientiae (On the Pursuit of Wisdom, 1463)

De apice theoriae (On the Summit of Contemplation, 1464 – Cusanus’ last work)

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From the Index, vol. 6

‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ A

‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ B

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Second email to the Chair of Philosophy at the University of Sydney

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Bust of Socrates. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek original from the 4th century BC. From the Quintili Villa on the Via Appia.

05.12.17

Hello Professor Smith,

On 21.04.15 I sent an email to Professor Benitez who was then the Chair of Philosophy to explain why I failed to submit my Honours thesis. I also made the strongest criticism of the Department and of academic philosophers with regard to your failure over a very long period to teach mysticism and its profound impact on Western culture – even as it is now, with the decline of postmodernism, finally and increasingly taught in other sections of your University and at other universities in Australia.

I processed of my experience of Kerry Sanders who teaches at the University’s Centre for Continuing Education, who now not only teaches mysticism, and in a range of areas, having described in class a person who questioned Derrida about the possibility of Neoplatonism’s influence on him as a ‘complete fuckwit’, but also friendship and truth. I copied that email to others in your Department and in the University, including the Vice-Chancellor, and received no reply from any, other than an acknowledgement of receipt on behalf of the latter.

As the current Chair of Philosophy, I want you to know that I have not only kept my word – to complete my thesis (in which I argue that Hegel was the consummate Neoplatonist) and make it available on the web (I have attached copies of it, with two versions of the title page, below) – but I have far exceeded that promise, having processed one of not 12,000 words but 125,000.

I completed my thesis both because my criticisms, while they would have been in no way invalidated, would have rung exceedingly hypocritical if I had not done so and because of what I believe so well exemplifies a key aspect of the significance of Neoplatonism – the contrast between the reason of Plotinus and the claims for it used to justify Western patriarchy and supremacism, both regarding and in the philosophy of the ‘master of conceptual reason’, Hegel.

Sincerely,

Philip Stanfield

‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ A

‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ B

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‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ download

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I have put two links with a choice of title page colours for the PDF download of my thesis under my statement on my Home/About page and under both my emails to the Chair of Philosophy at the University of Sydney. ‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ A has the above left title page, ‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ B has the one on the above right.

Instead of a thesis of 12,000 words, which I did not complete on time, I have completed one of 125,000 words.

If you find any processing errors, please let me know.

‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ A

‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ B

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