Sunday, December 12, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing: Chapter 11: Part 6

One attempt to reconcile the monists with the pluralists was the atomists championed by Lucippus and Democritus who both postulated that there were only two principles: the void, and the atoms of plenitude. Non-being is a great vacuum and this accounts for movement. He believed that nothing happened at random, and that is about all we know.

Democritus left his stain on history in a more evident manner. He believed that perception is unreliable, and learning must divorce itself from reality. Opinion flows into us from the vast external gulf and truth lies somewhere off in the abyss. Atoms exist, the void exists, and only by convention are things hot or cold, soft and hard, dark and light. Knowing makes us ignorant, and the best we can hope for is the luck of this or that opinion being at any given time true.

In other words, it's all downhill from Heraclitus. Now let's consider this for a second. Heraclitus takes us to the edge of reason, the great triumph of which is to cast doubt upon its own validity. But if this is all we can know, that no knowing is adequate then where do we go as thinkers?

This is the major glitch in Heraclitus' system, being like Taoism in the sense that it if we take it literally, it is an attempt to shut down reason, to stop thinking. But the Taoists don't transmigrate into ethereal beings once they have this revelation, they spend all day training their bodies and disciplining their minds. And this is where Heraclitus' theory of knowledge must go, into a theory disciplining, a theory of dissatisfaction which seeks to better itself in every way, and this is where we are left.

Pythagoras will be the great master who advances the Heraclitusian glitch that the end of knowledge is the beginning of wisdom which does not seek for an explanation, but rather becomes an experimental dialog with the real world.

Pythagoras was part scientist, part philosopher, part mathematician, part mystic. He is reputed to have trained under the Egyptian priests who had some twine in which the ratio of the lengths was 3:4:5. Pythagoras saw this and realized that this principle did not just apply to congruent triangles, but any right triangle could be described by this process. Pythagoras was a careful student of reality. He recognized that general principles could be extracted from anything.

Pythagoras, the story goes, chanced upon the sound of hammers clanking anvils and realized that the larger the hammer, the deeper the sound. It was from this that he acquired his doctrine of the Music of the Spheres. It was his mathematical training that allowed him to translate this idea into numbers. So among other things, Pythagoras was a musical theorist.

From this notion the doctrine of metempsychosis, or transmigration, or reincarnation came. He believed that our souls had been born and reborn many times and that they were being purified for a higher form of life, a poetical notion indeed, and an article of faith among the brotherhood.

It is precisely his insight into the real that mankind lost when the disciplines that he was engaged with specialized into their separate sectors.

It is precisely this discipline that I am attempting to resurrect; for I am after all a student of the humanities, and music is not divorced from modern theories of physics; for the the string theorists postulate that the rate of vibration of a string determines the qualities of the particle that it will become, so now is the perfect time to resurrect such Pythagorean insight into the real.

Pythagoras' insight was that we could align information, mythological, spiritual, mathematical, musical, and that the same ratios or harmonies would yield a consistent pattern. Discovery was a matter of recollecting a higher form of knowing that had been lost upon being reincarnated into this realm. He believed the spirituality of the mysteries. His dialog with nature has proven invaluable, and every student of mathematics knows his name by heart.

His insight opens up the expanding dimensionality of the Taoists, and reveals it to be a triangular revelation, the one becomes the two becomes the three, and so on toward the myriad things:

o o
o o o

He added a fourth layer to this, knowing that dimensionwise, it requires four points to define a three dimensional plane. This Pythagorean insight makes us believe that we have nothing to fear, that there is no death, that in fact this world is as far away from the source as is humanly possible. There is an underlying unity, but this unity seeks to express itself in plenitude, and that we should be grateful for the opportunity that we are given.

The fundamental nature of this reality is chaotic. The principles that are expressed in the very large are the same as the principles expressed in the very small. With discipline and experimentation our knowing can expand. It is not ourselves that we should search, but our world. This was the end of the Heraclitusian method. It works when you stop needing it. It expresses reality to an end, and this ending of searching is anathema to our method. We seek because we don't know. If we knew, we would not seek. We know better than to know. This is the end of knowing to not stop seeking for more knowledge. Knowing is a limit. We limit ourselves by knowing, and this is the basic insight that Socrates dies for. That we know that we do not know, and that this is true wisdom.

Praise be unto philosophy. I have searched myself, and now I search the world.

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