Thursday, 14 July 2016

Popular posts on Mind, Knowledge and Perception

What has been most accessed over the fourteen months since this blog began?

1. 'Physics and the Origins of the Universe' has been accessed 5113 times since it was published on the 4th of February this year. It concerns the limitations of modern physics, which cannot provide a theoretical explanation of how the visible universe came to be. It cannot do this because the discipline of physics recognises only one cause: Aristotle's efficient cause. Aristotle had however four principal modes of cause at his disposal. One cause is not enough to provide any kind of theoretical or mathematical origin of the physical universe.

2. The much older article 'The Idea of Being in Israel', published in late April last year, has been accessed 2673 times, which is remarkable given the arcane nature of the subject (the idea that there was a philosophical aspect to the development of theological ideas in Israel). 

3. 'Cultural Parallels, and False Narratives' is a look at Augustine's definition of what religion is. When Augustine's definition is compared with Cicero's notion of religion dating from the 1st century B.C.E, they are clearly defining quite different ideas. By contrast, if Cicero's definition of cultus deorum' is compared with the Hindu notion of cult and observance in religion, they seem to possess a similar notion of what religion is. This article has been accessed 1910 times since it was published in late September 2015. 

4. 'Distinguishing Belief and Faith' explores the implication of the idea that religion is about 'binding together' (in faith), which is Augustine's definition, and not Cicero's. Ancient religions didn't require faith as such, since they are about knowledge, rather than a necessity to have an unchanging collective view about things which were then,  and still are, beyond human understanding. Alan Watts' explanation of the difference in outlook between a proper and open religious sense, and the closed mind of the believer, is referenced in this article, which has been accessed 1720 times since the 2nd of May 2015. 

5. The article 'Sameness and Difference in Plato' has been available only since the 14th of June this year, and has already been accessed 1508 times, which is around 46 accesses per day. Again, the subject is rather arcane, concerning how the ultimate Reality (as described by Plato),  which by definition does not move and is not subject to change, has to possess a relationship with itself, if a physical reality containing things which are subject to change is to have existence. The article suggests that this is the foundation of the ancient notion that the physical world is a species of illusion. It is illusion because it contains motion and change. 

6. 'The Divine and the Limit' looks at the strange nature of Roman religious observance, which shows an engagement with abstract ideas as represented in space and time (extremity, limit, beginning, ending, gateways, doorways, roads, the past, the future, etc.). This interest in abstract ideas resembles the interest that Pythagoras had in such things. But this aspect of Roman religion was understood to derive from Numa Pompilius, who is supposed to have lived some two centuries before Pythagoras. The god Janus, who looked both forward and backward at the same time, was invoked first in oaths and liturgy - even before Jupiter, the notional head of the Roman pantheon of gods.  The article has been accessed 1430 times since May 2015.

7. Modern historical writing about the ancient world is steeped in ideas developed by Marx and his successors who created the modern subject of sociology. Many aspects of the ancient world are either of no interest from the Marxist point of view, or are reframed in such a way that they can be discussed within a Marxist model of society, which understands the world to be determined in terms of material and economic dynamics. Even ideas are determined by these dynamics, so ideas in themselves are of very little interest. The article 'Marx and Historicism' discusses where Marx got his model, which ultimately was from the Platonist Proclus, last head of Plato's Academy, via the German Idealist George Hegel. Marx and Engels just turned Hegel's dialectical model upside down. Accessed 923 times since April 2015. 

8. 'The Nature of Reality' concerns the argument of the Irish philosopher George Berkeley, who argued, in relatively recent times, the immaterial basis of reality.  The universe which we perceive is held in the mind of God, and not in ours. As a consequence, physical reality, however real it may seem to us, is an illusion. The article has been accessed 913 times since April last year. 

9. Evidence from Mexico and Ancient China suggests that a similar intellectual model may lie underneath the construction of the underground interior of the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent at Teotihuacan, which may contain a burial, and the tomb of the Emperor Qin at Mount Li in China. Both underground constructions featured representation of the heavens, and featured representation of terrestrial rivers on the floor. In both cases the rivers were filled with liquid mercury. The similar use of highly reflective mercury in both cases, suggests that the terrestrial world may have been understood to  mirror the divine world of the heavens. The article 'Teotihuacan and the river of Mercury' has been accessed 901 times since it was posted on the 25th of April 2015. 

10. 'Knowledge and Belief in Ancient Israel' was posted on the 8th of May 2015, and has been accessed 862 times. A concept explored elsewhere in The Sacred History of Being,  published on the 2nd of November 2015, is that the phenomenal polytheism of the Mesopotamian states of Assyria and Babylonia enshrined a profound and noumenal monotheism, having at its core the idea that it was focused on ‘looking to the one thing’, which was, as in Greece, understood as something without shape, colour or form, The god Aššur represented this noumenal monotheism, even when given shape, colour and form. 

There may always have been such an idea of the divine present in the religion of Israel, or it may have been borrowed later from Mesopotamian sources. As now, the idea is easy to misunderstand, and the Old Testament is full of reference to the objections to cult images. Prohibitions eventually took in religious iconography and religious objects, and later images of any kind. In the end, private religious practice was discouraged, save with a simple altar of earth. The final stage was the removal of private worship of Yahweh altogether, and communion with the god of Israel was centralised in the Temple at Jerusalem.

In Greece and Mesopotamia divine images once functioned as a part of a complex system, a chain of images of Being, to enable intellectual access to the most difficult of all images which might be apprehended by man or god: the one true thing, which is the nature of reality itself, and the source of all knowledge. In Israel, the polytheistic show was entirely removed. The monotheism which emerged in Israel was necessarily no longer about access to knowledge of the divine and its apprehension - a mental discipline - but about belief.


Each of these posts is accessible through the links in the table below. 

Thomas Yaeger, July 14, 2016. Links added in text, July 26, 2016.

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