Seeing Through

Attached                      -                    Detached
Connected                    -                   Disconnected
Engaged                       -                    Disengaged
Absolute                       -                    Relative
Immanent                     -                   Transcendent
Literal                           -                   Figurative
'Is'                                 -                    'May be' 

"If atoms are mostly empty space then how come we don't see through things?"

To the Jews God said, 'you must play the game.' It was inferred that the meaning of life was in this activity: the game is life, and to avoid playing it - to say, 'its only a game' - is to avoid living life. This is perhaps why the Jews do not revere the ascetic life.

To others, it was said 'you must see through the game.' It was inferred that the meaning of life was to see beyond the falsehoods of Māyā and to penetrate to the spiritual truth of existence.

Crucially the Judaic philosophy has at its core a mystery or a secret; a curtain that must not be looked behind. The Jew can know too much, and so must refrain from flying too close to the sun. In this sense the Jew is forever destined to play the game and to find all of life's meaning within it. To see through everything is to see with the eyes of God; and so the Jew must accept that there are certain things that must remain opaque; that there are limits to his vision.

The ascetic sees through the veil of Māyā and so refuses to play the game. In attempting to avoid the endless cycle of desire and satisfaction, they have perhaps, from the Jewish perspective, gone too far; they try to see too much.

When you can see everything then choosing between things becomes arbitrary. Why choose one thing over another? This is God's view, and explains, perhaps, why God cannot intervene. If you can see far enough then you can see that every outcome is good, and also bad. When all outcomes are good, and all are bad, then there is nothing to recommend any option over any other. Thus God simply observes, and leaves the choosing to those who cannot see far enough.

Moses must learn to live in ignorance because seeing too far may lead to 'not feeling so bad about things,' and ultimately to complaceny. He may begin to tolerate darkness. Yet his role is to fight darkness, and to play his role well he must believe in the game.

This is perhaps part of Dr. Strange's dilemma in 'Civil War.' He refrains from playing the game - from choosing sides - and it is significant that he is joined at this time by another who is gifted with far-sightedness and who also chooses to remain non-partisan, Uata The Watcher. Both see too much to be able to involve themselves in the fray; as Strange says, there is no right or wrong, only differing perspectives. I'm putting a spin on this, because both also have other important reasons for not interfering; but I can't help think that in spite of these other considerations, their long-sightedness is a primary factor.

It can be hard to engage with things when you see through them. There are those who give their lives to a game, in spite of the knowledge that it is, in the end, 'only a game'. And there are those who would mock them for such short-sightedness.

I believe that all of us are born somewhere between the binary at the top of this page; that there are those of us whose tendency is to attach to things, and who struggle to disengage or to hold a detached viewpoint. And on the other hand there are those of us who tend to detach, and who struggle to engage and to take things seriously.

We can put a negative slant on Dr Strange's action (or inaction), characterising it as 'cowardice', or 'indecision'; and at the same time we can see it in a positive light, as coming from 'wisdom,' the same wisdom that leads certain spiritual types to embrace the ascetic life of withdrawal. The view we take, as Strange says, is a matter of perspective.

I believe that as individuals, and as a collective, we need both attachment and detachment. There are times when we must get close and commit ourselves, and there are times when we must stand back and see through. As with any binary, it is the job of one side to remind the other of what it is lacking. The balance, the health, of the individual or collective rests on this dialogue.

Māyā connotes a "magic show, an illusion where things appear to be present but are not what they seem".

Māyā is also a spiritual concept connoting "that which exists, but is constantly changing and thus is spiritually unreal", and the "power or the principle that conceals the true character of spiritual reality"

Jews are familiar with the ascetic ideal inherent in the Christian tradition [...]

[and] they have come to know the hedonistic ideal inherent in the secularism of our day [...]

The Jewish attitude has in fact stood in sharp contrast to both extremes and the Jew has maintained an age-old resistance to both views and the practices they generate.

[The] image of the ascetic is not the Jewish idea of a holy person. On the contrary, there is reason to argue that although such asceticism is not forbidden, such a disassociation from life and the assumption of additional prohibitions is actually frowned upon in Judaism.

A Jewish definition of holiness may be put in these terms: Holiness does not lie in the ascetic, saintly withdrawal from life, or in excessive denial to oneself of all human pleasures, or in the repression of all human drives. 

It consists, rather, of full participation in the stream of human community life, sharing the joyous as well as the sorrowful experiences which life has to offer, denying to oneself no legitimate pleasures; but at the same time so developing one's sense of discernment as to be able to distinguish and choose the right from the wrong, the true from the false, the good from the bad, the sacred from the profane, the pure from the impure, and the clean from the unclean.

The common denominator between the Jewish concept of hoiness and that of other faiths is indeed expressed in the crucial concept of being removed.

[...] Views differ, however, when one proceeds to consider the question - [...] removed from what? To others it has meant being removed from life. To the Jew, it has meant being removed from idolatry; being removed from secularism; being removed from the vulgar and the profane.

[Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin]
To Be A Jew, p. 36-7, 122

"But there is one thing that, as long as you live in this world, I cannot reveal to you, one thing for which I must only say, 'Silence! So I have decided that it should be!'"

"But tell me why, Eternal G‑d!" Moses pleaded.

"Moses," G‑d asked, "if you knew the answer, if you understood why there had to be suffering from an all-powerful, beneficent G‑d. What would you do then?"

"I suppose I wouldn't feel so bad about it then."

"Precisely. And that is just what I don't want. I don't want you to be complacent. I don't want you to tolerate darkness.

You must fight it with every sinew of your flesh, with all the capacity of your soul. Until you redeem every spark of light from its captivity, until you can bring sweetness to the most bitter places, until you have not left a corner of my world untouched with acts of kindness and compassion... until then you must hate the darkness as a blood-sworn enemy."

[Tzvi Freeman]
'The Lunar Files'

Uatu the Watcher stands on the edge of Stephen Strange’s pentagram and asks him how long it has been since he has eaten.

The Sorcerer Supreme replies that he has had just a little water since the Civil War began. Uatu asks Strange if he isn’t tempted to simply end this - with his great power he could stop this quarrel with a gesture or whisper.

Dr. Strange replies that is exactly why he must remain above the fray, for there is no right or wrong in this debate, but it is simply a matter of perspective [...]

Uatu replies that, as a Watcher, he is more than familiar with such dilemmas. Uatu asks Strange to tell him why he is fasting if he favors no side - ‘What outcome are you meditating for?’ Strange replies ‘Whichever victory is best for all mankind, my friend…and spills the least amount of blood tonight!’

'Civil War #6'

When there is full parity of the opposites, attested by the ego’s absolute participation in both, this necessarily leads to a suspension of the will, for the will can no longer operate when every motive has an equally strong countermotive.

Since life cannot tolerate a standstill, a damming up of vital energy results, and this would lead to an insupportable condition did not the tension of opposites produce a new, uniting function that transcends them. This function arises quite naturally from the regression of libido caused by the blockage.

[C.G. Jung]
Psychological Types (CW 6, 1991), p. 479

To understand everything makes one tolerant, and to feel deeply inspires great kindness.

[Madame de Stael]

Beware of too much explaining, lest we end by too much excusing.
[Duc de Broglie]

[...] Nietzsche diagnoses the Socratic Dialectic as being diseased in the manner that it deals with looking at life.

The scholarly dialectic is directly opposed to the concept of the Dionysian because it only seeks to negate life; it uses reason to always deflect, but never to create. Socrates rejects the intrinsic value of the senses and life for "higher" ideals.

Nietzsche claims in The Gay Science that when Socrates drinks the hemlock, he sees the hemlock as the cure for life, proclaiming that he has been sick a long time. Nietzsche interprets Socrates' ultimate utterance as a thankful reference to the Greek god of healing.

In contrast, the Dionysian existence constantly seeks to affirm life. Whether in pain or pleasure, suffering or joy, the intoxicating revelry that Dionysus has for life itself overcomes the Socratic sickness and perpetuates the growth and flourishing of visceral life force—a great Dionysian 'Yes', to a Socratic 'No'.

'Apollonian and Dionysian'

For the rapture of the Dionysian state, with its annihilation of the ordinary bounds and limits of experience, contains, while it lasts, a lethargic element in which all personal experiences of the past become immersed. This chasm of oblivion separates the worlds of everyday reality and of Dionysian reality. But as soon as this everyday reality reenters consciousness, it is experienced as such, with nausea: an ascetic, will-negating mood is the fruit of these states.

In this sense, the Dionysian man resembles Hamlet: both have once looked truly into the essence of things, they have gained knowledge, and nausea inhibits action; for their action could not change anything in the eternal nature of things; they feel it to be ridiculous or humiliating that they should be asked to set right a world that is out of joint.

Knowledge kills action; action requires the veils of illusion: that is the doctrine of Hamlet, not that cheap wisdom of Jack the Dreamer who reflects too much and, as it were, from an excess of possibilities does not get round to action. 

Not reflection, no - true knowledge, an insight into the horrible truth, outweighs any motive for action, both in Hamlet and in the Dionysian man.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
The Birth of Tragedy, 7

[…] one will hardly find us again on the paths of those Egyptian youths who endanger temples by night, embrace statues, and want by all means to unveil, uncover, and out into a bright light whatever is kept concealed for good reasons.

No, this bad taste, this will to truth, to “truth at any price,” this youthful madness in the love of truth, have lost their charm for us: for that we are too experienced, too serious, too gay, too burned, too deep. We no longer believe that truth remains truth when the veils are withdrawn - we have lived enough not to believe this. Today we consider it a matter of decency not to wish to see everything naked, or to be present at everything, or to understand and “know” everything.

“Is it true that God is present everywhere?” a little girl asked her mother; “I think that’s indecent” - a hint for philosophers! One should have more respect for the bashfulness with which nature has hidden behind riddles and iridescent uncertainties. Perhaps truth is a woman who has reasons for not letting us see her reasons? Perhaps her name is - to speak Greek - Baubo?

Oh, those Greeks! They knew how to live. What is required for this is to stop courageously at the surface, the fold, the skin, to adore appearance, to believe in forms, tones, word, in the whole Olympus of appearance. 

Those Greeks were superficial - out of profundity. And is not this precisely what we are again coming back to, we daredevils of the spirit who have climbed the highest and most dangerous peak of present thought and looked around from up there - we who have looked down from there? Are we not, precisely in this respect, Greeks? Adorers of forms, of tones, of words? And therefore - artists?

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
The Gay Science, Pref., 4

Ever since he has been subject to compulsory education, his mind has been stuffed with “positive" scientific notions; he cannot avoid seeing in a soulless light everything that surrounds him, and therefore acts destructively.

What, for example, could the symbol of the sunset of a dynasty, like the Japanese, mean to him when he knows scientifically what the sun is: merely a star, at which one can even fire missiles. And what is left of Kant's pathetic appeal to “the starry sky above me," when one is educated by the latest astrophysics and its equations about the constitution of space?

[Julius Evola]
Ride the Tiger, p. 138

The hermeneutics of suspicion is a style of literary interpretation in which texts are read with skepticism in order to expose their purported repressed or hidden meanings.

This mode of interpretation was conceptualized by Paul Ricœur, inspired by the works of what he called the three "masters of suspicion": Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche,  whom he believed shared a similar view of consciousness as false.

Ricœur's term "school of suspicion" (French: école du soupçon) refers to his association of his theory with the writings of the three, who themselves never used this term, and was coined in Freud and Philosophy (1965). This school is defined by a belief that the straightforward appearances of texts are deceptive or self-deceptive and that explicit content hide deeper meanings or implications.

Hans-Georg Gadamer, in his 1960 magnum opus Truth and Method, offers perhaps the most systematic survey of hermeneutics in the 20th century. The title of the work indicates his dialogue between claims of "truth" on the one hand and the processes of "method" on the other—in brief, the hermeneutics of faith and the hermeneutics of suspicion. Gadamer suggests that, ultimately, one must decide between one and the other when reading.

Ruthellen Josselson similarly writes, "Ricoeur distinguishes between two forms of hermeneutics: a hermeneutics of faith which aims to restore meaning to a text and a hermeneutics of suspicion which attempts to decode meanings that are disguised."

According to literary theorist Rita Felski, hermeneutics of suspicion is "a distinctively modern style of interpretation that circumvents obvious or self-evident meanings in order to draw out less visible and less flattering truths." Felski further writes:

[Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche] share a commitment to unmasking 'the lies and illusions of consciousness'; they are the architects of a distinctively modern style of interpretation that circumvents obvious or self-evident meanings in order to draw out less visible and less flattering truths…

Felski also notes that the "'hermeneutics of suspicion' is the name usually bestowed on [a] technique of reading texts against the grain and between the lines, of cataloging their omissions and laying bare their contradictions, of rubbing in what they fail to know and cannot represent."

'Hermeneutics of suspicion', Wikipedia

Unmasking the unacknowledged motives of arbitrary will and desire which sustain the moral masks of modernity is itself one of the most characteristically modern of activities.

It was Freud's achievement to discover that unmasking arbitrariness in others may always be a defence against uncovering it in ourselves.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.86

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The Colour Wheel
All is Change
Solid Ground
Only playing
Boxed off 
The Perils of Radical Subjectivity
Nobody knows, and nobody can ever know
Radical Doubt
Infinite Doorways
Open Wound
The Healing Process
Guiding Fiction
A necessary lie
Short Cuts
Middle World