Introductory essay.

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Favorite Philosopher: Nietzsche

Introductory essay.

Post by Self-Lightening »

By way of an introduction, here's roughly the first half of an essay (attempt) I wrote less than two weeks ago for an audience of philosophical esotericism scholars—as distinct from mystical esotericists… I've supplied it with some footnotes and some slight corrections.


I started my [recent little essay] "What Is Nietzsche's Sovereign Agent? [The Will to Power as Insight]"¹ as follows:

"I have always found 'Of the Sublime Ones' the most beautiful of Zarathustra's speeches. I associate it, by way of a mind-expanding experience, with the 'lower form' of the Beatific Vision, on which Aleister Crowley writes:"

Now when I wrote "by way of", I was aware of the ambiguity, but only meant "via". However, later I realized that the meaning "by wise of" was actually quite apt, too. For people stuck in the cave beneath the cave², quoting not just philosophers and scholars but also an occultist may be a mind-expanding experience.

"The essential characteristic of the Grade [of Magus] is that its possessor utters a Creative Magical Word, which transforms the planet on which he lives by the installation of new officers to preside over its initiation. This can take place only at an 'Equinox of the Gods' at the end of an 'Aeon'; that is, when the secret formula which expresses the Law of its action becomes outworn and useless to its further development.
(Thus 'Suckling' is the formula of an infant: when teeth appear it marks a new 'Aeon', whose 'Word' is 'Eating').
A Magus can therefore only appear as such to the world at intervals of some centuries; accounts of historical Magi, and their Words, are given in Liber Aleph." (Crowley, "One Star in Sight".)

I do not agree with Crowley on who the historical Magi were, although there is some overlap. For example, Crowley lists the Buddha and identifies his Word as Anatta. I agree on this one, but would also list Homer, for example, whose Word I'd identify as Hades. Thus [Seth] Benardete speaks of "[i]ts invisibility, which seems contained in its name (Aïdēs or 'Unseen,' [Iliad] V.846)", and writes:

"If we may distinguish between cosmic gods like the Sun—gods whose possible existence is manifest to sight—and Olympian gods, about whom there is only hearsay, then Homer begins [the Odyssey] with a cosmic god who punishes human folly, but he is at once corrected as soon as the Muse takes over and introduces Homer and us to Poseidon, Zeus, and Athena.” (The Bow and the Lyre: A Platonic reading of the Odyssey, page 5. The comment about Hades is from page 88.)

The Homeric turn consisted fundamentally in the promotion of the Olympian gods to the highest rank and the demotion of the cosmic gods to a lower rank.—And as for Crowley himself as the Magus of our "Aeon", whose Word be Thelema ("Will"): wouldn't it be more accurate to say that Nietzsche was the Magus of our "Aeon", whose Word (then) is "will to power"? We shouldn't mind that "will to power" is not a single word; thus a(n)-atta and a-(v)idēs both are compounds, and Heidegger not only argued that "will to power" should be written as "will-to-power", because it couldn't be analyzed further, but he also wrote an essay titled "Nietzsche's Word 'God is dead'." "God is dead", by the way, is perfectly symmetrical to anatta, which latter we could describe as "Atman is mortal (and hence isn't really Atman)":

"[The former means] that even while God lived he never was what the believers in him thought him to be, namely, deathless." ([Leo] Strauss, Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, page 179.)

Be that as it may, "God is dead" and "will to power" ultimately mean the same thing:

"At bottom, it is only the moral god [Gott] that has been overcome. Does it make sense to conceive a god 'beyond good and evil'? Can we remove the idea of a goal from the process and then affirm the process in spite of this?— This would be the case if something were attained at every moment within this process—and always the same. […] Every basic character trait that is encountered at the bottom of every event, that finds expression in every event, would have to lead [the] individual who experienced it as his own character trait to welcome every moment of universal existence with a sense of triumph. […Now morality] taught men to hate and despise most profoundly what is the basic character trait of those who rule: their will to power." (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, section 55, Kaufmann translation.)

Still, if we want a single Word, albeit a compound, Laurence Lampert has inspired me to (re)baptize "will to power" as "self-lightening"—not in the sense of the lightening of some "self", but [of the lightening] of that very lightening:

"[F]orce is the drive to discharge itself within a field of forces enacting the same necessity. […W]ill to power has no aim but discharge of the total quanta of its force at every moment; such discharge is always an event within a relatively unstable field of such impulses to discharge, the relation among them being simply that of greater or lesser; all beings are ultimately more or less stable collections of such impulses and themselves express the fundamental quality of impulse, will to power." (What a Philosopher Is: Becoming Nietzsche, pp. 264 and 266n29.)³

Now Crowley immediately continues:



¹ The gist of that little essay is this: "Strauss's Nietzsche abolishes the distinction between the fictional and the factual by willing the whole present and past to recur as will to power and nothing besides. This is how his philosopher of the future is the first man who consciously creates values on the basis of the understanding of the will to power as the fundamental phenomenon, for he is the first to understand that understanding means creating, valuing, willing to power." (Cf. Leo Strauss, Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, pp. 176-78 and 189-90.) I later elaborated on this: "Nietzsche did not start from the premise that reality is will to power. It's not some kind of axiom. If you want to start from the object of knowledge, not from the subject, you may start as follows: 'Knowledge in itself in [a world of] becoming is impossible; so how is knowledge possible? As error concerning oneself, as will to power, as will to deception.' (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, section 617, Kaufmann translation.) So you start with the observation that the world is a world of becoming. You then infer from that that all knowledge must be will to power. But if all knowledge is will to power, the only way there can be a harmony between the knowing and the known is if the known, too, is will to power.
More precisely, the knower must will the known to be will to power, for that is the only way he can 'know' it, relate to it,—exegete it. If all exegesis is eisegesis, the only way it may still be considered exegesis is if the exegeted is itself eisegeted to be eisegesis. And this act can only be directed toward the future: we can only will the past to be will to power by willing it to recur, in the future, as will to power."

² "For a variety of reasons, [Strauss] suggests, the modern mind has worked itself into a very unusual and unnatural condition—what he occasionally calls, playing on the famous Platonic metaphor, the 'cave beneath the cave.' 'The cave' is Plato’s term for the imbeddedness of the human mind in its historical situation. For Plato, we naturally grow up in a cave of prejudice and illusion, deriving from the limitations of the human senses and the arbitrary conventions of social life. But at the same time, these elemental illusions tend to be crude and riddled with contradictions, so that there is a relatively clear dialectical path, for those willing to follow it, leading beyond these illusions and into the light of reality. In speaking of the cave beneath the cave, Strauss suggests that modern thought has created for itself a second, artificial layer of prejudice and historical entrapment—and one that, being a product of philosophical thought, is much more difficult to see through and escape. The modern mind is uniquely imprisoned in its historical situation.
With this strange-seeming claim, Strauss is just giving his own elaboration to the observation of a long line of thinkers—Schiller, Hegel, Husserl, and Heidegger among them—to the effect that modern thought, especially as compared with ancient thought, is peculiarly abstract and derivative: it lacks direct connection to pretheoretical, commonsense experience. It is out of touch with the sources of its own premises, concepts, and questions. Because of this, when we moderns study the thought of some earlier modern philosopher or even when we consider our own thought in an honest and reflective way, we almost always have the same experience: we are struck by the fact that this thought is based on presuppositions that remain unproved and even unexamined, that it is based on ideas and attitudes that were inherited from some time in the past and never radically questioned. In short, our repeated experience is of the historical imbeddedness, the historicity, of our own minds. That is why we moderns naturally gravitate to historicism and find it so immediately plausible: it corresponds to our own inner experience." (Arthur M. Melzer, Philosophy Between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing, pp. 358-59.)

³ I actually don't think self-lightening is always an event "within a field of forces enacting the same necessity". That is, I think "matter" radiates space-light… For the form, though not the content, of this latter term, compare the term "wave-particle": particles are collapsed waveforms which can again "uncollapse" into waves of radiation; quantum excitations of a field which may become less excited and more field, less particular and more wavelike. In fact, at the most basic—quantum—level, all "beings" are getting lighter all the time, less all the time, meaning more and more space emerges. This is the infinite universe-equivalent of the "expansion" of the universe. (Logically, it makes no difference whether the universe is expanding or everything in it is contracting.) The Big Bang itself is the absolute maximum accumulation of force discharging itself into space (the heat death of the universe is when the universe almost entirely consists of space). Self-lightening into light-space is not so much discharge into the void as it is discharge into void: the self-lightening becomes light-space, never completely but more and more (approximating an asymptote). The discharge creates more void, or more precisely it is a creating of more void (empty space, vacuum). Self-lightening in light-space is not even a particle('s) becoming a quantum of space, but the relative un-kinking of a wave of space. The whole is infinite, but its "parts" can never be infinitesimal. The elementary charge becomes ever smaller—not in the sense that 1e becomes, say, .5e, but in the sense that e itself decreases. The Big Chill is the ending that never ends, just as the Big Bang is the beginning that never began.
"[If nature is esoteric,] the puzzle-quality of an esoteric text would not be artificial and obstructive of philosophy but rather natural and necessary, being an accurate imitation of reality." (Melzer, Philosophy Between the Lines, page 234.)
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