The best account of modern gnostic doctrine I think is H.N. Frye’s Fearful Symmetry, a book on Blake. Frye I know. He is a Jungian. Most of Bergson would seem to be naively gnostic too. You have seen Victor White’s book on gnosticism called God and the Unconscious (Harvest Press, London, 1952)? White is a Dominican. Now I assume that your own program of activity includes illumination of these secret relationships which have so long masked the power politics of the modern world. Since the arts in a very special way are the focus of all the esoteric speculation of the cults, I am baffled to know what attitude to take up toward them. For me, of course, art is no channel of grace or gnosis, but an activity of making – analogous to the act of cognition itself. As such, art is a humanist, not a religious, affair. But I should much welcome any reading suggestions you could give me that would clear up some of the historical relationships between the arts and the cults, as for example you do apropos of Hooker in suggesting that he was quite aware that puritanism was the re-emergence of the pagan cults.
E Gilson’s recent Métamorphoses de la Cité de Dieu is curious in omitting Joachim of Flora [sic] and Thos More, and Marx. In fact, Gilson ducks the gnostic tradition. Would you say that the gnostic is EASTERN, neo-platonic and that the opposite cult is WESTERN, platonic? This split occurs everywhere in the techniques of the arts. It seems to divide Gilson and Maritain.
In rewriting my doctoral dissertation I am going to include a history of Senecanism as the opponent of Ciceronianism. Can you suggest any available research done on Senecanism beside Zanta?[ii] Seneca is the way of gnosis. Cicero of expression. Senecans stress connatural, irrational knowing via the passions. Use of the passions [or not] as a way of knowing seems to divide the cults of every age.
I look forward immensely to the appearance of your complete study.
A few weeks after I first watched the film, I read the novel on which it is based, published in Polish in 1961 and in English in 1970. Sections of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris consist of discussions of ‘Solaristics’, a research programme attempting to understand how contact with an alien intelligence might be achieved. It was a project, the narrator tells us, which seemed to its critics to be ‘the space era’s equivalent of religion: faith disguised as science’. The struggle to contact an alien mind is a surrogate for the mystical quest for God.
In another interpretation, also suggested in the book, those who claim to be trying to understand the water-covered planet are not attempting to contact an alien mind at all. They are only ‘seeking Man. We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors’. The struggle to understand an inhuman intelligence then becomes a critique of solipsism, the inability or unwillingness of the human mind to move outside itself. For Lem, this may have been the meaning of the book.
Tarkovsky’s Solaris is different. It is a stream of numinous images, which – as we see them on the screen – seem intermingled with our memories and desires. Yet what we see is not manufactured by our conscious selves. Instead, film releases parts of ourselves we had not known before. We cannot fully articulate what they tell us. For me, though, the epiphanies evoked by Tarkovsky are revelations of the dream-like transience of the human world.
Accordingly, the 19th-century “Innovation Parties”—broadly made up of those seeking upward mobility by overturning exclusive hierarchies—looked very different in Europe than they did in America. In the same lecture, Emerson defined conservatism in opposition to radicalism, the future, hope, liberalism, “the reformer”, “the partisan,” and even “Reason” itself! But the logic of his argument makes it plain that he is equating all of these things with idealism, and that he equates conservatism with so-called Burkean pragmatism. “Each theory has a natural support,” and the clash between them is “the primal antagonism, the appearance ... of the two poles of nature.”
In other words, in Emerson’s view politics is not a battle of the correct side winning out, but “the counteraction of the centripetal and the centrifugal forces.” It requires understanding to see that each makes “a good half, but an impossible whole,” and this is the sentiment that drives the American public toward a divided government. They understand intuitively, as Emerson did, that conservatives and reformers “expose the abuses of [each] other,” and that “in a true society, in a true man, both must combine.”
By “true man”, he meant something like “in touch with reality.” Speaking from personal experience, he warned Boston’s conservatives that, by denying ambitious young men meaningful participation in society, established institutions would breed radicalism and revolt. “The country is full of rebellion,” he noted, “full of kings” vying for control of the emerging order. He hoped that the authorities would meet this challenge with understanding, reason, and pragmatism—a wish that is very much relevant to the state of political affairs today
The first recorded case of Covid-19 in the United States was reported on January 20, 2020—a person who traveled from Wuhan, China, to Washington State. As the virus spread across the country, global supply chains that are usually invisible suddenly became highly visible. News headlines tracked a surge in demand for personal protective gear for frontline health care workers. At the same time, however, factories had shuttered or were operating at a fraction of capacity, causing shortages and panic.
China’s role in supplying masks, gowns, gloves, and testing kits for the United States and other countries became evident. But the media were strangely silent about China as the top global producer of components to make generic drugs, which represent 90 percent of medicines prescribed in the United States.
Days before Congress shut down, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held a hearing on Covid-19. Testimony revealed the extent of U.S. dependence on China for medicines as the country was facing a surge in hospitalizations. China produces 90 percent of the core components for the generics needed to treat people hospitalized with Covid-19. The sedative propofol (which is administered to people on ventilators), antibiotics including azithromycin and vancomycin for secondary bacterial infections, and anti-inflammatories such as hydrocortisone are among the generic medicines in America’s intensive care units that are made with China-sourced materials.
Beyond medicines used to treat Covid-19 and related illnesses, China controls the global supply of raw materials and chemicals, called key starting materials (KSMs), for thousands of generics sold in retail pharmacies and big box stores. Take the case of the antibiotic azithromycin. Ground-zero Wuhan is a global manufacturing hub for the key ingredient in the antibiotic. When the city shut down, production did too.
In the aftermath of Covid-19, supply chains for products used by millions of Americans have been disrupted. Shortages of semiconductors, critical minerals, batteries, household refrigerators, and much more ripple through the economy and drive rising prices. As government and industry reassess global supply chains, actions to strengthen U.S. manufacturing are being debated in Washington and corporate board rooms.
Antibiotics and other life-saving medicines should rank high on the priority list for domestic production. The U.S. supply chain for essential generic drugs is at high risk of catastrophic failure. Mitigation measures are needed now if we are to be prepared for the next pandemic.
The painting is among Velázquez’s best-known, and among the best-known works in the figurative canon more generally. Deservedly so; it is the product of a mature artist who began powerfully and precociously and only deepened and intensified as he entered middle age. The so-called Siglo de Oro, the remarkable flourishing of the arts and sciences in Spain that roughly coincided with the rise and fall of the Habsburg dynasty there, produced many stellar talents: Miguel de Cervantes and Félix Lope de Vega in literature; Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera in architecture; in painting El Greco, Bartolomé Murillo, and Francisco de Zurbarán. But Las Meninas remains, perhaps, the most strikingly iconic painted work of the period. This is likely due at least in part to the painting’s complexity. From this still but somehow tense portrait of royal life innumerable interpretive avenues lead away. Consider, for example, Velázquez’s self-insertion into the painting. Is the work a comment on itself? On painting as a discipline? There is an echo of the famous self-inclusion Cervantes performed in the second volume of Don Quixote — and the painting’s mingling of light and shadow, clarity and obscurity, only adds to this mystery.
This is just one of the many possibilities a closer look at Las Meninas, which dates from 1656, just four years before the painter’s unexpected death, provides. Indeed, one might argue that what separates Velázquez from the other court painters who pictured the lives of royals throughout early modernity is precisely this invitation to peer, to scrutinize, to think. Yet sussing out a specific intent somewhat misses the point, Cumming argues. Las Meninas is remarkable not because we can derive a philosophical or ideological schema from it — though of course many serious thinkers have. Cummings cites in particular the French cultural theorist Michel Foucault, who called the work the “representation of Classical representation.” But it was not postmoderns alone who saw the painting in this way: the Neapolitan Baroque painter Luca Giordano saw in it the “theology of painting.”
To be sure, there is a great deal of truth in Bork’s critique of the Warren Court and other past judicial excesses. Prior to the ascendance of originalist methodology, justices and judges did regularly depart from the original meaning of the constitutional text and enshrine social policy preferences in law. But Bork’s position in The Tempting of America represents a kind of arch-formalism that masks an important reality: no one—and certainly no judge—stands wholly outside the set of background assumptions they bring to the judicial task.
Indeed, Bork’s own argument in The Antitrust Paradox is a case for the value of economic rationality as an “objective” interpretive principle for the federal antitrust laws. Bork’s defense of the consumer welfare standard was rooted in an effort to strip problematic elements of ambiguity from the task of judicial interpretation—for ambiguity, of course, is an invitation for judicial mischief-making. Better, rather, to focus on something that can actually be quantified, like consumer price within a defined market. If the eponymous tempting of America is the judicial “habit of legislating policy from the bench,” does not The Antitrust Paradox offer such an object of judicial desire?23
Largely absent from Bork’s picture of judging is any conception of what Aristotle called phronesis—or practical reason—the analytical faculty by which one acts to apply principles gleaned from experience to new and contested circumstances that do not fall seamlessly within prior categories. Without such a notion, any account of judicial behavior is strikingly incomplete, because it is flatly impossible to perfectly systematize the application of legal text to facts—else, there would be no need for judges at all. It is one thing to argue that the outcomes of cases should be reasonably predictable, but it is quite another to contend that expansively written statutes—such as the antitrust laws—must be interpreted narrowly in order to conform to an arbitrarily mechanistic understanding of judging. And where the specificity of the legal text runs out, fundamental metaphysical and political intuitions must inevitably reassert themselves.
Voegelin conceived of his own philosophic effort as a rearticulation of Plato’s effort millennia ago, and he perhaps finds in Plato what he expected or hoped to find there: a mystical quest for the divine ground’s penetration into human consciousness that made important contributions to science and politics. In this article, I have tried to show how Voegelin arrived at this vision of Plato—a vision that is grounded in historical and textual analysis as well as meditative exegesis—and what some of the consequences of this vision are, both in terms of interpreting the dialogues and understanding the substance of Platonic philosophy. Voegelin’s unique approach to Plato, which is the result of rigorous analysis over a lifetime of study, deserves a broader scholarly hearing if only for the questions that it raises—questions to which rival interpretations of Plato would do well to respond and questions that point any thoughtful reader back to the dialogues in search of answers. In other words, Voegelin’s reading of Plato certainly encourages the continuation of the quest. That, to me, seems perfectly aligned with any serious interpretation of the ancient philosopher and reason enough to follow Voegelin’s lead to the middle of Plato’s thought.
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