The fount of philosophy

23 08 2010

Souls cannot ascend without music.


The common intellectual history of the West, especially since the Enlightenment, has stated that philosophical thought grew out of a rejection of the old mythologies that had come before it. The Greeks were the first “Europeans”: those who truly began to question the ungodly superstitions of the Egyptians and Babylonians, as well as their own. The evident skepticism of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle is thought to be at the very least inimical to the interests of classical Greek religion. Philosophy is thus seen as the beginning of the death of myth, and the prelude to the rational world in which we inhabit today.

It is a very reassuring story, but it is not necessarily the real one. Recent scholars have begun to dig into the roots of ancient philosophy, and are finding more continuity than rupture; more sympathy with “ancient superstition” than an inveterate form of rationalist positivism. There was of course the hubbub of a couple of months back when a scholar came up with evidence that the Platonic dialogues were embedded with Pythagorean musical scales. There came forth the idea, quite foreign to modern people used to the “data in, discourse out” model of philosophizing, that the text has more in it than words and ideas. It is a sort of divine play in itself: a representation of the eternal cosmogony. On the other hand, many scholars are seeing at the root of the philosophical enterprise an ancient method of inner transformation that is quite distant from our own ideas of philosophy. Philosophy was more tied to ritual and religion than it is in contemporary practice. What philosophy was trying to do initially was not break free from the “mythology” that came before it, but radically return to its source.
Read the rest of this entry »

On the tetrad

14 10 2009


If number is the form of all things, and the terms up to the tetrad are the roots and the elements, as it were, of number, then these terms would contain the aforementioned properties and the manifestations of the four mathematical sciences- the monad of arithmetic, the dyad of music, the triad of geometry and the tetrad of astronomy, just as in the text entitled On the Gods Pythagoras distinguishes them as follows: “Four are the foundations of wisdom- arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy- ordered 1,2,3,4.” And Cleinias of Tarentum says, “These things when at rest gave rise to arithmetic and geometry, and when moving to harmony and astronomy.”

-from The Theology of Arithmetic attributed to Iamblichus

A Pagan Apologia for Petrine Primacy

27 08 2009


When I first read this a year ago, I had to chuckle to myself. I was tempted not to write a post about this, but here I present my gracious hommage to Amercian Catholic apologetics culture.

Why should we listen to the Pope? Because the pagans said so.
Read the rest of this entry »

The Feminine Dyad

14 07 2009

At the most fundamental level, the Monad is the Primordial One and the Indefinite Dyad is Primordial Matter, because Prima Materia is the indeterminate, formless, quality-less foundation of all being; She is Sub-stance — She who stands underneath. Like the One, Primordial Matter is ineffable, obscure, dark; therefore They are both called Abyss. Thus, the Goddess of Matter is also called Silence (Sigê), because Silence must precede the Word, the in-forming Logos, embodying the Ideas of the Craftsman. Her role as Mediator between the Father of the Gods and the Demiurge is confirmed by the Chaldean Oracles:

between the Fathers is Hekate’s Center borne.

-John Opsopaus, from A Summary of Pythagorean Theology

Common Magic

7 07 2009


Everyone practices magic, whether they realize it or not, for magic is the art of attracting particular influences, events, and situations within human life. Magic is a natural phenomenon because the universe is reflexive, responding to human thoughts, aspirations, and desires; students of cosmology, for example, realize that the universe will correspondingly provide evidence for any theory projected upon it. Because of the magical, reflexive nature of reality, a certain amount of awareness is required, for people attract to themselves what they really desire. People who don’t know what they want ususally attract what they need. This may be a seemingly random series of situations and perhaps unhappy events, destined to jolt them to a higher level of awareness in the long run. Since the universe does respond to our innermost desires, true philosophers have always held that one should be idealistic in spirit and perpetually aim to invoke the highest. People who have a low-minded view of things will discover this reflected in the events of their lives, thus confirming their perspective, while others who are high-minded and invoke the spirit of excellence find themselves capable of attracting it.

-David Fideler, Jesus Christ, Sun of God: Ancient Christian Cosmology and Early Christian Symbolism

On Miracles

6 07 2009


above: from the parish church in St. Martinville, Louisiana

Disbelieve nothing amazing concerning the gods or divine dogmas.

-the third Pythagorean symbol

Two blogs that I read, from two entirely different people, have had posts on miracles recently. The first comes from that rather snarky Lutheran blogger who says what all Protestants think but don’t feel they can say, Josh S. In his post on miracles, he basically takes the “minimalist” position: the miraculous only exists to sustain and establish the Word of God, which is faith in Jesus Christ; the only thing of any importance:
Read the rest of this entry »

To the Muses

3 07 2009

Daughters of Jove, dire-sounding and divine,
Renown’d Pierian, sweetly speaking Nine;
To those whose breasts your sacred furies fire
Much-form’d, the objects of supreme desire:
Sources of blameless virtue to mankind,
Who form to excellence the youthful mind;
Who nurse the soul, and give her to descry
The paths of right with Reason’s steady eye.
Commanding queens who lead to sacred light
The intellect refin’d from Error’s night;
And to mankind each holy rite disclose,
For mystic knowledge from your nature flows.
Clio, and Erato, who charms the sight,
With thee Euterpe minist’ring delight:
Thalia flourishing, Polymina fam’d,
Melpomene from skill in music nam’d:
Terpischore, Urania heav’nly bright,
With thee who gav’st me to behold the light.
Come, venerable, various, pow’rs divine,
With fav’ring aspect on your mystics shine;
Bring glorious, ardent, lovely, fam’d desire,
And warm my bosom with your sacred fire.

-Translated by Thomas Taylor

Adore the sound

13 05 2009

The wind blowing, adore the sound.

Pythagoras here reminds his disciples
that the fiat of God is heard in the voice of the elements,
and that all things in Nature manifest
through harmony, rhythm, order,
or procedure the attributes of the Deity.

-Iamblichus, commenting on one of the aphorisms of Pythagoras

The Very Eye of Night

20 03 2009

Film by Maya Deren

Music by Teiji Ito

Choreography by Antony Tudor

Moreover, we think that from the swift and orderly revolution of the heavens originates musical harmony; that eight tones are produced by the motions of the eight spheres, and a ninth, a kind of harmony, is produced from all of them. And so we call the nine sounds of the heavens, from their musical harmony, the nine Muses. Our soul was endowed from the beginning with the Reason of this music, for the celestial harmony is rightly called innate in anything whose origin is celestial. Which it later imitates on various instruments and in songs.

-Marsilio Ficino, Commentary on Plato’s Symposium on Love

The Music of the Spheres

11 03 2009


A BBC program on the origins and development of this key idea.