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The history of Being

The history of Being
September 13, 2009, 09:37:12 PM
In the West, 3 eras:

1 – Phusis (The Heroic Greek Age)

Being shows up as phusis, a blossoming, a rising up and then rapid withdrawal. This is an age of heroism, in which lives can rise up and fall away in a flash. The narrative of the Iliad focuses on one hero, or God, for a short time and then they are removed from the field. Holy days allowed for celebration of the strangeness and wonder of Being; a contemplation of the “ownmost” of beings (i.e. what they are and might be independent of our purchase upon them as resources). Truth was “alethia,” or unhidden, as Being “en-owned” (came into its ownmost) in the clearing of the cultural world.

2 – Cipher (The Christian age)

Being shows up as a cipher. All beings are the creation of God and can be used to interpret his truth. The discipline of hermeneutics develops from Biblical studies where the part is understood within the context of the whole. God was not yet reduced to a “divine mechanic” in the Deistic/Newtonian sense, but was held responsible for the fourfold of causality: the causa materialis (the material out of which something is made), the causa formalis (the shape into which the material is made), the causa finalis (the end to which the form will be placed), and the causa efficiens (that which brings about the actual finished creation). Creation is not a simple ontic fact but an ontological structure of care that, in the divine narrative, reveals creation as a gift. As a gift from God, beings are sacred; not yet pure standing-reserve. St Francis shows that one’s comportment towards “creation” should be reverential, like the awe felt when standing in a cathedral.

3 – Gestell (The pure commodification of Modernity)
Christianity is reduced to a series of propositional truth claims about reality. Being shows up as standing reserve – that which must be dominated and used solely in accordance with functional need. Art is understood functionally (as opposed to disclosively) and trivialised into the theory of aesthetics (the best art is not contemplated by a subject but founds the very cultural world by which a subject understands his public identity). The sacred vanishes underneath a vulgar materialism. The “ownmost” of beings is levelled into a commodity. Gestell sees a river as merely a potential power source, a forest solely as fuel for a fire. The Earth becomes a gigantic gas station. The National Socialist party betray the once revered “Fatherland” by turning it into purely a fuel source for war. Industrial deforestation and environmental activism attempt to gain purchase on forests as polarised but essentially indifferent “being-resources.” Food is purchased as standing-reserve at a supermarket. Gestell gains a hold on man: people are cattle for profit; universities create automatons to earn a salary; worst and above all else, a race of people is mechanistically exterminated and disposed of in the Holocaust.

The task is to return to 1 (or even 2) without the methods of 3.

Simple revivalism cannot return us to past Being-historical ages. Dressing up in the trappings of a past age is not the same as dwelling in the cultural world that brought those trappings forth. If we wish gestell to go away, we need to rediscover the Greek notion of the holy day, and cultivate a contemplative thinking within the noise of modern life.* This change must come from the bottom up. We must nurture the remnants of culture and sow seeds that a new god, or leader might emerge.

If we are concerned about overpopulation, mass eugenic execution is not the “answer” to the “issue.” The “problem” cannot be solved by activism, ideology or generalised metaphysics (eugenics) – these things are endemic to gestell. It is rather that both “answer” and “issue” are symptoms of gestell. If we were able to get rid of gestell, careful, restrained, delicate and sober discourse about the problems of culture and overpopulation would become possible. Human being would not be reducible to an IQ number but would be understood in its ownmost structure. I suspect that children would not be understood as a necessity, or an accessory for living a full adult life, but as a rare gift for the community. “Overpopulation” would never be formulated as a problem because life would be valued as something of quality, not quantity.

* = I think that within the realm of modern architecture, bridges might well serve as our new cathedrals. I would like to see "chapels" placed in the middle of all crossings, so that the traveller might take a break and enjoy a moment of contemplation. From this, perhaps in time it is possible that something like holiness, or reverence might return.

Re: The history of Being
September 17, 2009, 03:57:39 PM
I suggest mythic imagination and a fusion of science and mysticism.

The organization and patterning is the same; the material, well, all stuff is thought at some level...