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Breaking Asunder The Harmony

 
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Peter Blumsom



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Location: Wembley, London, UK

PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2018 3:18 pm    Post subject: Breaking Asunder The Harmony Reply with quote

1. Hamlet’s Mill caused quite a stir when it was first published at the end of the 1960’s. Not among the swirling vapours of literary circles of course nor did it impinge upon the ingrowing toenail of what passes for academic philosophy these days. But among other, perhaps freer, minds it made more than a ripple and it is still doing so today, but in a subtle way.

It looks at the Hamlet myth and poses some important and curious questions, mainly astronomical and mythical, about the history of the human mind without which of course there would be no astronomy nor mythology.

The implications of what its authors, Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, are saying are perhaps too wide to be tackled on this forum, certainly by me. I would like to concentrate on a particular remark made by Santillana himself in his introduction and tease out what it could mean to a Plato Forum. Here is the quote:

“The theory about “how the world began” seems to involve the breaking asunder of a harmony, a kind of cosmogonic ‘original sin’ whereby the circle of the ecliptic (with the [attendant] zodiac) was tilted up at an angle with respect to the equator, and the cycles of change that came into being”

The ‘breaking asunder of a harmony’ for some reason I see as the invoking of the harmonic mean - a remark that will no doubt cause confusion until explained. So for the time being let's call it a kind of rotation or reversal but on an immense even universal scale. But it’s too soon to get into that without preparing the way and there are so many interesting connections that ‘the way’ is everything.

I start with Shakespeare but not Hamlet:

In As You Like It the old duke, banished to the forest, suffers the winter’s reproach:

“Here feel we not the penalty of Adam,
The seasons' difference, as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind,
Which when it bites and blows upon my body
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile, and say
‘This is no flattery. These are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am’”


Arden’s note is helpful on what the penalty of Adam is:

“In Eden there was eternal summer. After the Fall, earth shared the curse, see Genesis 3.17 “cursed is the ground for thy sake” and Roman’s 8.22 “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain …” The seasons altered, the axis of the earth was tilted and it becomes subject to extremes of climate.”

‘Cursed is the ground’ points to a ‘cosmogonic sin’, something that affects the very cosmos itself, so it isn’t just about man – or is it? “No!” I hear someone say “for Lucifer and the heavy mob are also involved”. And it’s true that the curiousness of what we are discussing centres on a dilemma which needs much reflection to resolve - if it can be resolved. ‘Groaneth and travaileth in pain’ certainly maps to ‘breaking asunder’ but would such a rude interruption of eternity occur if there were no man and no human mind. This in part poses the curious dilemma.

Then Arden then points to a passage from Book Ten of Milton’s Paradise Lost, on how God commanded the angels to push the axis of the earth from its universal norm so that spring no longer “smiled perpetual on earth with vernant flowers”.

Here is the whole quote as given in HM:

Some say, he bid his angels turn askance
The poles of earth, twice ten degrees or more
From the sun's axle, they with such labour pushed
Oblique the centric globe: some say, the sun
Was bid turn reigns from the equinoctial road ...
...else had the spring
Perpetual smiled on earth with vernant flowers
Equal in days and nights, except to those
Beyond the polar circles: to them day
Had unbeknighted shone; while the low sun
To recompense his distance, in their sight
Had rounded still the horizon, and not known
Of east or west; which had forbid the snow
From cold Estotiland, and south as far
Beneath Magellan. At that tasted fruit
The sun, as from Thyestean banquet, turned
His corse intended; else how had the world
Inhabited, though sinless, more than now
Avoided pinching cold and scorching heat?"

PARADISE LOST, Book 10

Santillana himself caught Milton’s passage (HM p.377) but missed out on the Shakespeare – which of course was earlier and contains some subtleties that might be relevant later.

Plato described it best. He notes in Timaeus that the Form of the soul needed to contain two great circles, one of ‘the same’ and a second of ‘the other’. The first is that which presides over Milton’s Garden of Eden and the second is the ecliptical result of what happens as a result of man’s ‘disobediance’. Plato’s cool Greek assessment takes out Old Testament guilt, and, if we include the Statesman Myth, sets it on a rather grander stage.

I would like to unfurl all this further and will do anon but in the meantime wonder if there any comments or even insights from readers.

Pete


Last edited by Peter Blumsom on Mon Aug 13, 2018 4:15 pm; edited 5 times in total
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Peter Blumsom



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Location: Wembley, London, UK

PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 7:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

2. We may not all agree on everything, indeed, disagreement is a spur to unity, as two themes complying with the sonata-principle struggle for a greater resolution or as Socrates said in Republic that by the friction of comparison we may strike a spark which will illuminate justice for us.

In what I talked about in my first post many ends are yet to be tied together.

I think that Santillana is edging carefully towards a viewpoint which one could call neither heliocentric nor even geocentric but rather soulcentric. This is in accordance with certain precepts laid down in Plato's Timaeus. I interpret the passage at 41de as meaning that although each soul was originally allotted a star on which it was mounted 'as if upon a chariot' it was subsequently born into a (human) body. The central experience of a soul is therefore 'star-like' in its depth and profundity. This was its Phaedran 'immortality' before it suffered its Phaedran fall. One can trace the history of this fall quite easily from Phaedrus through Timaeus to the cave allegory of Republic with certain nods towards other dialogues such as Statesman.

In Timaeus it is explained how this soul was then given a (human) body and experientially things changed for the worse for that individual entity. The body, ruled by the senses, saw everything in reverse (like Gurdjieff's organ kundabuffer). We can pretty much run this story side by side with Milton's description of man's expulsion from Eden. It has also parallel echoes in the Katha Upanishad.

So although Santillana can talk of a “Harmony which is broken asunder” both parts still exist: the zodiacal world of the ecliptic and the pristine world of the fixed stars. This chimes with the provision Plato makes in Timaeus for man (man's soul) subsequently to be sown in some planetary situation with a planetary body - an 'instrument of time', as Plato puts it. This is indeed a fall - from mounted as charioteer on a star to, well, chained struggler in the cave.

To me the myth seems at times unclear but veers towards the following interpretation: there is one situation where man has star-like being, where he knows he is soul with all the ramifications of such knowledge i.e. he is aware of his immortality; and there is another situation whereupon he has forgotten all this and all he feels inclined to accept is what his senses tell him, and they tell him of body and of earth. This is not categorical in Timaeus - seldom is it in Plato, where surface uncertainty gives wriggle room for the peruser to reflect also. It is expressed as a ‘likely story’ where it takes its place alongside other muthikoi - for he makes sure we have to do our work also.

Moving on from this, it is obvious that the man of the second situation will believe himself ultimately to be a body and his environs body-composed. Astronomically he will assume himself to be some kind of animal wandering on the surface of the planet. And ‘being a body’ will also affect what he sees around him; he will know that the sun comes up the moon fadeth and that the earth stands still while the universe revolves around it.

Gradually he will learn by way of logic that the pattern of the stars tell him a different story, that the great and goodly lump of rock he inhabits, almost as a microbe, is not the centre of heavenly motions but is itself a vassal circling the sun. This however will not be what his senses tell him but what his thinking tells him. His senses will stubbornly hold on to his former view, even though he will see it as an illusion. He cannot help this, so highly does he value the product of his thoughts.

Therefore is the asundered harmony something within or a truly external cosmogonic event?

What Santillana says is that this ‘new wisdom’ in an important way takes him further from himself, from the ‘star being’ of Timaeus the Pythagorean and the earth-being his own doxa persuades him he must be. This seems to be the drift of Santillana’s thought. He puts the situation like this:

“When [man] discovers more remote galaxies by the million, and then those quasi stellar radio sources billions of light years away which confound his speculation, he is happy that he can reach out to those depths. But he pays a terrible price for his achievement. The science of astrophysics reaches out on a grander and grander scale without losing its footing. Man as man cannot do this. In the depths of space he loses himself and all notion of his significance. He is unable to fit himself into the concepts of today’s astrophysics short of schizophrenia. Modern man is facing the non-conceivable.”

What seems to happen is, if man lets go of himself he gains the cosmos, the outer filled with illimitable but sensually theoretical space, but this at the expense of his soul and all hope of inner space and, perhaps, a child-like good night’s sleep.

This is, then, another way of the schism or the breaking asunder, where the inner, which still exists (remember), no longer partakes in his thoughts, especially in his scientific (and pseudo scientific) thoughts. For it seems we can only interrogate the models brought forth by these thoughts via the ‘outer’, the asundered part. And by outer and inner in this way we are not speaking of the largeness of interstellar space or the smallness of the sub-particle for even the inconceivable dimensions that modern technology avails us of are still ‘outer’ and not, in Santillana’s and especially Plato’s terms, 'inner'. That is, they are not of the Soul.

Both authors seem to offer a third way which, because it has not been fully teased out, has no official name. Above I have called it soul-centric. This must acknowledge not only the ‘body-view’ which is correct at the level of the body but also another view, that of the soul's own self awareness.

This is the model duality I wish to explore in what I hope is an entirely novel way. If I don’t make a good fist of it you can put me in the e-stocks and chuck as much cyber fruit at me as you wish.


Last edited by Peter Blumsom on Mon Aug 13, 2018 4:26 pm; edited 5 times in total
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Tim Addey1



Joined: 02 Feb 2018
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Location: Bream, Glos. UK

PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 8:38 am    Post subject: Breaking Asunder The Harmony Reply with quote

Peter

You've introduced some important issues here. Not the least, the difference of emphasis between the Judeo-Christian tradition's "disobedience" and the Platonic tradition's "ignorance" as the root of our various problems. Speaking as a Platonist, I think it's a pity that the disobedience side seems to be the one that our culture is still obsessing about (even amongst those who call themselves primarily secular): addressing ignorance, would, I think, be a better solution to our most pressing problems. Especially if we directly dealt with the ignorance of what we are: "know thyself" has always been the key to divine and human truth.

But leaving that aside, the Timaeus image of the two great circles of "same" and "other" seems to me to be wonderful insight into the nature of harmony: for the circle of the same is undivided but the circle of the other is divided according to the ratios which allow the sound of the moving cosmos to be other than a single note - many notes, but properly related to the one.

In the late Platonic commentaries on both the Alcibiades and the Gorgias much is made of the relation of the Good, the Beautiful and the Just: Proclus and Olympiodorus suggest that the Good belongs to the realm of the One and the Gods; the Beautiful to the eternal realm of Form; but the Just is especially the expression of the Good and the Beautiful in the realm of soul. Justice, after all, is required when reality is marked by manyness and relationships. Once the temporal world is set in motion with all its almost uncountable "bits and pieces" the only way it can cohere is by establishing just and harmonious relations between them all.

This is why, I think, Socrates continually pushes his associates towards justice: for us there is no good life except one that is just. Or harmonious. Olympiodorus in his Commentary on the Gorgias (at 0.5) says that every good constitution (whether of states or our own internal one) should be based on the pattern set before us in the Cosmos. And, of course, the Timaeus suggests (90d) that we cure ourselves of the disruption to our own circles by contemplating the harmonies and cycles of the Cosmos.

A rich and fertile area of investigation and I hope you have many contributors to this thread.

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Peter Blumsom



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Location: Wembley, London, UK

PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2018 8:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for this thoughtful response, Tim. I will develop this line of thought further in my next post.
Pete
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