Friday, 2 June 2017

From Plato to Pluto (and back)!

From Wikipedia: "In Plato's Phaedrus, Socrates uses the maxim 'know thyself' as his explanation to Phaedrus to explain why he has no time for the attempts to rationally explain mythology or other far flung topics. Socrates says, "But I have no leisure for them at all; and the reason, my friend, is this: I am not yet able, as the Delphic inscription has it, to know myself; so it seems to me ridiculous, when I do not yet know that, to investigate irrelevant things."

Self Knowledge

In other words the first and perhaps most difficult thing, is to understand ourselves. This has long been the subject of philosophers throughout the ages. Jesus talked about humans being obsessed with "outer appearance, whilst God looked upon the heart". Another view from the Bible regards, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked"! We are continually being reminded of the desperately bad things done by humans but does it even apply to me?

Just as self deceit is embedded in our own nature, so groups and societies also sometimes work hard to prevent the awful truth from entering the public domain particularly reputations are at stake. We may however all be part of the deception, unprepared to face up to the reality of the human psyche and its manifestations. We may wish to emulate C G Jung's mystic certainty but we should not forget he was also part of a largely discredited Freudian School of thought.

Some have thought that God was appreciated in the silence ("Be ye silent and know that I am God") a practice still pursued by Quakers to this day, whilst others see God in nature, music or art. Whatever position we take, "real" as an adjective must always be subjective and may be very misleading. This is easily demonstrated by multiple versions of 'visual illusions' and even magicians' tricks. Psychosis we regard as indication of illness rather than an insight into reality, although R D Lang and others begged to differ.

Famously Rene Descartes starting from fundamentals argued, "I think therefore I am". It is where we must all start, before moving on to universal imponderables. We live within ourselves and our mental coordinates programmed by our genetic inheritance and cultural environment. To be sure of something subjectively, is no guarantee of its ultimate truth or reliability. Even the scientific method may be unreliable and need modifying as knowledge increases.

Nevertheless most humans 'feel' there is more to human existence than electrical impulses and more to the universe than matter and the physical forces that control them. There is much in human nature that runs counter with what we regard as being 'good', and 'goodness' both etymologically and ethically are of course closely related to "God", though it would be a brave person to suggest we cannot be the one without the other. (It is complimented of course by the concept of "D)evil")

So we must all as a first step, strive to understand and come to terms with ourselves, aiming always to do as much 'good' and as little 'harm' as it is possible to do. If in addition we are convinced of the inner presence of the ultimate spiritual force - well that must be regarded as an illuminating bonus, during this very short and vulnerable existence called "life".

A Concept of the Underworld

The Greek God Hades appears later to morph into Pluto the God of the Underworld. In this context it relates mainly to the ancients view of the earth, from whence everything needful for life and prosperity arose.

Both crops and the animals that feed on them, plus the many precious metals that were increasingly being utilised, came from that source. But there was also the clear association to death and the concept of the underworld, which gave underground caves and burial chambers a special significance. Everything living in the end return to the earth and so perhaps the soul also.

We can see how Jewish/Christian ideas of 'hell' and its fiery tortuous nature could have developed, if as seems likely the ideas of under world and the terrifying natural power of volcanoes could have been combined. 

From Wikipedia: 

"Orpheus was regarded as a founder and prophet of the mysteries called  "Orphic", "Dionysiac", or "Bacchic". Mythologised for his ability to entrance even animals and trees with his music, he was also credited in antiquity with the authorship of the lyrics that have survived as the Orphic Hymns, among them a hymn to Pluto. Orpheus's voice and lyre-playing represented a medium of revelation or higher knowledge for the mystery cults."

As it happens the great Greek philosopher Plato, is one of the chief sources of what is known about this ancient mythology which for all intents and purpose can be consigned to the realm of the absurd and superstitious, but the dark arts and secrets have a great artistic power over the human imagination that secures their continuation. Pluto it should be noted is said to be "incapable of tears", what today we might label an indication of psychotic personality often demonstrated in political leaders.

Modern Applications of the Underground Theme

It, with its rituals, creates the entrance into a modern 'underground', in Masonic and pseudo Masonic ceremonial. It also employs real subterranean locations and may employ both sexual and masochistic, even fatal, practices as heavily hinted at in the literature put out by a pizza establishment in Washington with high level political connections to the Democratic Party.

In the words of Comet Ping Pong in Washington: 

“This month we have five fresh pizzas for your enjoyment. We also have four surviving pizzas from last month’s session. All are on sale at extremely low priced [sic] as they are in poor health and not expected to survive. Our requirement is that you finish eating your pizza after your session…. Very few have broken the rules and needless to say, the penalties are harsh.”

So we see how ancient beliefs can be adapted and adopted to fulfil, often the baser impulses of the human psyche, in the parallel worlds of cosmology and psychology from Plato to Pluto.

"You alone were born to judge deeds obscure and conspicuous.
Holiest and illustrious ruler of all, frenzied god,
You delight in the worshippers respect and reverence.
Come with favour and joy to the initiates. I summon you."

Religious Belief and the Eternal Soul

Was Jesus a real person? Did he do and say the things recorded of him in the four Gospels written up to century after the events described? 

We are in the realm of belief here, and human beliefs certainly influence human life and society but they are notoriously unreliable. How are we to validate our beliefs? 

As we see in the comments in the discussion*, people either resort to reason or experience. Reason though can lead to quite opposite conclusions and personal experience can also be unreliable and unreplicable. 

Science has provided us with many answers that previously religion tried erroneously to do. However humans search for, and appear to need, answers to their own existence and purpose, that only religious experience and belief can provide. 

Even if the historical Jesus was not exactly the person described, we would need to create him. Faced with our own doubts and failures, we need heroic exemplars to whom we can aspire. Whatever we believe about God, there is no doubt, "My soul knows right well we are fearfully and wonderfully made: and marvellous are his works." And who knows, if there is such a thing as an immaterial mysterious force in the universe, to which "God" is the only adequate description, he might even want us to be good, happy and fulfilled? 

Every one of the seven billion humans on the earth have to make their own journey of spiritual discovery, either to a place of faith in some divine revelation and purpose, or perhaps the much more brave realisation that we are alone in our consciousness, to disappear completely. 

Are Voltaire's words: "I believe that when I die I shall rot" the summation of it all? James Boswell noted that the famous philosopher, David Hume told him he sincerely believed it a “most unreasonable fancy” that there might be life after death. 

He joked about his conversation with Charon, the mythic ferryman over the Styx to Hades, to delay getting into the boat that would take him there. "Good Charon", he said, "I have endeavoured to open the eyes of the people. Let me delay until I see the results of my labours." He replied, "Oh you loitering rogue. That will not happen for two hundred years. Do you fancy I would give you lease for so long a time?" 

We now live in an age where reason-induced-disbelief has largely undermined religion and its practitioners. Or have we?

*From an earlier thread.


Pluto the Planet: 

Pluto the God of the Underworld:

Orpheus and the Underworld: 

Dante's Inferno:

The death of David Hume:

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