Originally posted 30.03.14
Email sent to Phillip Adams 06.09.09
To Phillip Adams, host of Late Night Live, ABC Radio National, copied to John McDonald
Would you be interested in delivering a very serious blow against ‘god’, against time-serving academics in a dozy, servile culture and in so doing, delivering an immense blow for intellect, the love of knowledge and the freeing-up of the potential of the most advanced organisation of matter yet known to us in the universe – what we all have between our ears?
If so, I strongly urge you to consider contacting and interviewing on Late Night Live William Franke from Vanderbilt University regarding the 2 vol. anthology he edited – ‘On What Cannot be Said’.
Despite one student posting on RateMyProfessors.com ‘Dr. Franke is the most boring professor I have ever had. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I sit in the back of Benson 200 and wait for death. Also, he answers every question with “Yes, that’s a question, isn’t it?”‘ and despite his intent in his editorship being far more limited than the result he achieved, he has compiled a body of texts from Western religion, philosophy and arts that, together, have the potential to contribute most significantly to the above.
In his anthology Franke presents the history of mysticism in Western culture till now, the evidence that clearly indicates the degree to which it suffuses our culture and underlies and informs the work of many of our culture’s most significant figures and particularly, he addresses how it functions now, despite the denials of those who would be thought of as representatives of ‘reason’ and the new – when in fact they argue for mysticism and the ancient. Franke himself believes his anthology comfortably extends the academic corpus – he does not see the former’s liberating potential.
The teaching of mysticism is rejected from Australian universities – ‘If you want that’ those in ivory towers behind cloistered walls believe, ‘do not even stop at religious studies, go straight to a college of theology – you will find one at the dead end of the street.’
As a materialist (those who describe themselves as ‘physicalist’ or ‘realist’ cause me to think of a mouse trembling before a trap, the cheese on which is ‘materialist’, the trap being ‘communism’…) I argue that the failure to even know about and understand this theological current let alone to teach it (not to advocate it but to teach the analysis of it, the understanding of it) as fundamental to our culture, which analysis and understanding is again fundamental to moving forward in the most rounded way, is the most massive failure, the most massive display of determined ignorance, dishonesty and servility to the dominant ideology by generations of academics – those in philosophy and the arts hold the greatest responsibility.
In relation to ‘god’, the most sound way for knowledge to progress is not to deny the concept, to dismiss it, to mock it. Doing this rejects engagement with it and does not show respect either for the religious who believe in that concept (for the a-theists who reject it – because they describe themselves against it) or for the cultural achievements made in its name. It is to do as Franke has done. He not only traced the history of mysticism in the West, but thereby showed how the arguments in its maintenance developed. He let ‘what cannot be said’ speak for itself. To fully understand the work of so many, particularly those in philosophy and the arts who dissemble about their sources and influences, would be impossible without such work.
Of the greatest importance, in his two volumes, Franke has unerringly and unintentionally flushed out a concealed priesthood, a priesthood that argues it is doing nothing other than the most principled and often most abstract reasoning – a priesthood that often denies its belief. With this priesthood, Franke has flushed a living ‘god’ into the open. And behind this ‘god’ there stands a dominant class and the most fundamental question of all – which precedes which – consciousness/thought or ‘matter’ (that which exists independently of consciousness/thought)?
I have tried for 25 years to get academic support towards my analysis and exposure of the impact of this mystical current on the visual arts – and to date have met, in the end result, with the most adamantine commitment to the dominant bourgeois ideology re- this crucial subject from academics in the visual arts and philosophy.
I know of no university in this country where one of the greatest philosophers and aestheticians in the West (in terms of an impact comparable with that of Plato and Aristotle) – Plotinus – is taught. It is an outrage against intellect, an utter failure in social responsibility by time-serving academics in their guardianship of a distorted and limiting understanding of ‘reason’. To expose and exemplify the extent to which mysticism pervades what they believe to be the products of the best ‘reason’ and what it has inspired in philosophy and the arts must challenge their understanding of ‘reason’ itself – an understanding increasingly at odds with the exponential growth of knowledge in brain science.
A couple of weeks ago you interviewed Jane Montgomery Griffiths re- the Neoplatonist Hypatia. For the sake of doing something truly new for philosophy and the arts in this country – and that to begin with, I urge you to expand that focus immensely, beyond Hypatia, to address the current of which she was a part, and interview Franke on your program.
Images: top/2nd, 3rd and 4th/bottom