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A Revolution of the Soul
by Nikos Laios
2014-05-01 12:17:50
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We live on the precipice of an abyss, where humanity is just a step away from plunging into a deep nihilistic meaningless Nietzschean universe empty and alone.

Above one of the doorways in the oracle of Delphi in Ancient Greece where inscribed the words; 'Know Thyself".

Can we honestly state that we in our modern developed world know ourselves?

For as the philosopher Socrates once said, that the first step to the path of wisdom and truth is the acceptance that we firstly know nothing; and this entails the destruction of our ego to enable us to undertake the journey down the path of wisdom.

img_1144_400Yet in our current age,humanity has been shunted aside as the central figure in the organisation of human civilisation; where modern conditions of life have become somewhat alienated and meaningless under the thin volcanic crust of materialism; where we have lost our spirit,soul and imagination.

The great English poet T.S.Eliot had a pre-awareness in the early twentieth century of the destructive effects that modern life has had on humanity,where he succinctly described these effects in the first verse in his poem 'Preludes';

"The winter evening settles down
With smells of steaks in passageways.
Six o'clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps."

When the embers of democracy first ignited in the golden age of ancient Athens,humanity was  placed at the centre of the reorganisation of the needs and wants of society;where the economic requirements of running a society were but just one of the equal components of this societal organisation; alongside social,educational,cultural,health and spiritual needs.A balancing of man's Dionysian and Apollonian psyche; a balancing of our ID and super-ego; a balancing of our animal physical needs and our spiritual and intellectual needs.

Yet in today's modern world, our spiritual and cultural needs have been pushed aside,where our base physical needs and the economic management of the world have have obliterated our other higher spiritual and noetic needs.Which are the only faculties that can actually give some meaning and depth to our drab and empty lives in this dark and empty universe.

Where today in Europe and the rest of the western world,we are facing a crisis of consciousness,an existential crisis.Where the great American writer Ernest Hemingway summed this up in the twentieth century and stated;

"The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is the inflation of currency;the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin.But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists."

The results of the use of these tools by politicians and bankers has been the fracturing of society,and a crisis of our identity as humans,and our identity as civilisations and as citizens.

Where instead, bookish accountants have now taken over the world; and people and nations have just become numbers in their columns of profit and loss ledgers,causing great poverty,loss,death and unhappiness across the world.

Reducing once proud nations to beggars at the feet of the world bank - or in the case of European nations - at the feet of Frau Merkel and her 'Randite' cronies.

Instead of despairing at the potential nihilistic Nietzschean holocaust,of the potential mass destruction of our souls on the pyre of the modern abrogation of the primordial position of our souls in society,overridden by the weeds of a base economic imperative;  we need to look at this potential existential crisis that the human condition faces today as a catalyst,as an opportunity for liberation.An opportunity to define a meaning for ourselves; for a moral autonomy beyond good and evil.

But at present,we live under the illusion that we are all like some fantastical figures in an Hieronymus Bosch painting,living in our own version of the garden of earthly delights; but in the end, it is just a shallow materialistic illusion.

Whilst our world has become a little like a sterilised, cold and clinical hospital ward; humanity does have a chance at redemption,for the realisation of the true nature of our human condition.

The great Italian sage and poet Dante once said; "In the middle of the journey of our life,I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost."

In Dante's masterpiece of an epic poem 'The Divine Comedy'; Dante journeys down to the circles of hell and up to his divine vision and the redemption of his soul and human condition; and his guides for this journey were the Roman poet Virgil to guide him down through the circles of hell, and Beatrice,the embodiment of the knowledge of the divine mysteries guiding him to salvation and the unification of his fractured human condition.

But the question begs to be asked,who will be our guides?

Whilst we might be living in the meantime through the circles of a hell of our own making,existence is punctuated by poignant,simple,yet lyrical moments of existence.Where as Nietzsche stated, that music, poetry and the arts give colour and meaning to the surrounding darkness; and for me it is ephemeral moments of poetry and music; of dancing,music and singing that suspends cynicism and resurrects my lost childlike innocence.

When the delicious musical notes through the movement of dance makes my soul whisper and float poetically;reaching out like silk gossamer threads; gently floating,all the cosmos connected in that one movement in time: or like the times when I enter my favourite jazz club 'Blue Notes.'

The cornet softly squealing mellow musical notes wafting,mingling with tendrils of cigarette smoke and perfume lingering in the air.The jazz club jumping, the crowd  reclining,sinking into a soft musical embrace in their mahogany leather bound chairs; ice clinking in crystal scotch glasses; the present mingling with the past.Amongst the chaos of this world,this one small jazz bar pulsates warmth and humanity; for in that fleeting moment,I became aware that we are the only creature that is aware of its own existence; caught between being a creation and a creator.From this small pulsating warm jazz bar at the end of the world.

But we have much more than the temporal delights of our modern age to guide us,and give meaning and colour to our existence; and there is no better start then the timeless wisdom of the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato.

Who lived in a world where he believed in absolute truth and justice; where Plato believed that essence precedes existence; that in fact there is an invisible world where beauty,justice and truth remained eternal.The divine logos; and shapes and forms of the universe and cosmos, which present day scientists and physicists from Einstein and Stephen Hawking, through the assistance of modern science are uncovering and identifying the structures of the cosmos down to a molecular level; giving flesh to Plato's theories of forms.

Where outside the cave of our existence,exists a physical universe that cannot be completely quantified and measured by the senses.

Yet there is a modern existentialist argument, that regardless of this framework of the essence,of the physical existence of the universe and cosmos; that unless we assign meaning subjectively to our own individual lives within this framework,that the essence and presence of the universe is meaningless; a dark empty Nietzschean abyss.

Yet it is ironic that our Christian values of truth-telling,has lead to the institutionalisation of truth-telling through the form of science and which has undermined the belief in god; leading to a decoupling of morality from its divine origins.

The great French philosopher Sartre exclaimed: "existence precedes essence",from an atheistic axiom.Where existence is independent of essence,that we as individuals create our own existence in this cold universe by assigning meaning to our own lives through our own choices - good or bad - via our own subjectivity.

By living life with freedom,rebellion and passion, and through being authentic; that by retaining our integrity,we attain authenticity and therefore freedom.

In presupposing the existential thought that existence precedes essence,the French thinker Descartes categorised our existence as; 'I am'; that it is an emanation of our thoughts.

But in Heidegger's definition of 'I am'; it exists independently and just is, devoid of any pre-existing scientific systems.

For mine,in struggling between essence and existence, and which precedes which - though it can be contradictory - I have been influenced by seminal events in my own life where both notions are balanced.

Like the time when I was in a car accident in Australia, in a head-on collision at 150 km per hour; impacting into an oncoming minibus which contained ten child passengers, who all died on impact, and where I lived on.

Where though I was initially pronounced dead on the scene, i was revived later despite a large loss of blood; and whilst in the state prior to resuscitation, I experienced an 'after-death' experience,of a  floating ball of white fire floating towards me, and the closer it came to me,the more at peace I felt.

That experience marked my life,because for the first time, I had a peek behind the curtain of this essence,of the universal structure that exists.

But in spite of this insight, I realised that regardless of religious belief or dogma - be it a literal belief or a metaphysical symbolic appreciation - that whilst I'm on this world, I fashion my own existence through my own choices,by being authentic; but that does not necessarily preclude one from the appreciation of the beauty and order in the societal structures of our socio-cultural beliefs that assist in giving order to our society and civilisation.

Yet here we are in our modern world, ruled by accountants and bookkeepers, where the human factor in running civilisation has been devalued and where we have lost our imagination,spirit and soul. But all it takes is the common denominator of human empathy and feeling.

Where the great Ancient Greek sage and poet Homer succinctly stated;

"Yet,taught by time,my heart has learned to glow for other's good,and melt at other's woe"

But our twentieth century and now our twenty-first century,have been marked by the eternal struggle of two materialistic philosophies that were offered as the panacea and solution to the ills of human existence,on a materialistic basis.

Communism on the one hand that narrowly focused on the solution of human existence through the organisation of the materialism of a society, by valuing the production of materials by the workers; whereas on the other side,we have the cold-hearted capitalism and selfish individualism and the promotion of a Darwinianist laissez-faire capitalism of 'Randism'.Which organises society on the same narrow path as communism; namely, through the production of capital,not by the workers,but by the owners of production and the bankers.

But both philosophies are equally corrupt, and equally an abject miserable failure,and which has brought us to our current impasse.Which is perfectly highlighted by the failure in current political events today in the European Union; which have brought abject misery,poverty, and an existential crisis to hundreds of millions of Europeans through the rejection of a spiritual and intellectual authenticity, which are deemed as nowhere near as important in ordering a civilisation as the narrow confines of economics and accounting.

Where human beings have been reduced to numerical statistics of profit and loss; an utter absurd situation and a failure of humanity.

Like hope that was left in Pandora's box, do we still have hope left in the heart of our Civilisation?

As the great English poet T. S.Eliot further articulated in the fourth verse of his poem 'Preludes' that;

"I am moved by fancies that are curled.
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing."

Is this hope Sisyphean?

In searching for a solution,we have to be aware of the 'dark shadow' that exists in the psyche of every human, and within the archetypes of nation-states, where the originator of this theory, the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung stated;

"To confront a person with their own shadow is to show them their own light."

That within us lies the dark shadow of chaos and a propensity to violence; that in candidly reflecting and getting to 'know thyself', we are partly on the road to redemption, to the redemption of our human condition and soul; and for us in today's world,this means in the tearing down and the rebellious rejection of the banking system, of the monetary system,and of the materialistic system which devalues humanity. They are important cogs in the daily machine that run our daily lives,but it should be remembered that these faculties are only but a small part in the whole societal scheme of things.

What is required is nothing less than a revolution of the soul; communism has had its victory, then capitalism its own victory, and now comes the turn for the soul to have its own revolutionary victory; and thus in this context, the leftist,right-wing dichotomy and conflict that has been the pivot of so much conflict in the twentieth century, suddenly becomes anachronistic and redundant in today's world.

Yet in our journey down through our modern man-made hell,who will be our 'Beatrice' to lead us from our darkness to our divine redemption, to the redemption of our human condition?

For today unfortunately, we live in hollow days, that flutter on street corners like scraps of paper caught in the wind, that travels and scrapes down wet and lonely roads past street vendors under midnight street lamps; past alley-cats and empty scattered food tins,or the bag-lady sleeping in shop front doorways in a dark abyss.

Yet, we are in the fortunate position of being able to take a step back from plunging into a dark Nietzschean Abyss; and to take a leap of faith forward into the human condition and reorder our world.

To start this process,our world firstly needs to undertake a process of self-examination; of looking into that mirror and remembering the Delphic maxim that was etched above the doorway to the oracle;

"Know thyself"


With a digital drawing from Nikos Laios


Nikos Laios, North Sydney, Australia


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