2012年2月28日 星期二


Martin Scorsese, director of Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), the Last Temptation of Christ (1988) The Gangs of New York (2002) The Aviator (2004), The Departed (2006) may not  exactly be the type of director one would expect would direct a film about the adventures of a 12-year-old orphan  boy who lives by his wits and his fascination with mechanical toys between the walls of a clock tower at the Gare Montparnasse in Paris in 1931 France. Yet he did and in 3-D too, the very first one he did in this format.The film,starring Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz,
Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Jude Law
and Christopher Lee,
is adapted by John Logan from a historical fiction called "The invention of Hugo Cabret", a heavily illustrated story book by Brian Selznick first published in January 2007. Selznick described the book as "not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things."

In many ways, it's an unusual film, with excellent photography, realistic and tastefully done costume and plenty of the most intricate mechanical gadgets, well acted by Asa Butterfield,(playing the protagonist Hugo Cabret) and
Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle, a timid orphan who has never seen any film, raised in a very formal middle class family by her godfather Georges Méliès ( Ben Kingsley ) a quiet, authoritarian and enigmatic owner of a toy shop at the Gare Montparnasse, dying for a bit of girlie "adventure", It's been nominated for 11 Oscars in 2011, including best film and best director but won only 5 for best sound effects, sound editing, visual effects, art direction and cinematopgraphy and two BAFTAs and Scorsese's third Golden Globe Award for Best Director.

As the film opens, we see Hugo deftly adjusting the clock at the Montparnasse Railway Station, stealing apples from a passing pedlar's trolley and pinching spare parts from the toy shop for repairing his favourite toy, a broken automaton supposed to be able to write with a pen, something his father left him as his own only legacy. Before his
father, an excellent clockmaker died during a museum fire, he had been working indefatiguably on the the repair of that automaton which he
loved so much. Hugo
went about his work meticulously and was sure that his father would have a message for him through the hands of the automaton when fully repaired. In any event, after
teaching him how to set and repair the clock, his uncle another clock maker and an irredeemable drunkard, disappeared for
I don't know how many years, a fact which nobody knew about until his body was found by the side of the Seine with a metal whiskey bottle with his name carved upon it, leaving Hugo to fend tor himself and to regularly service the huge Montparnasse station clock. Quite by accident,
Hugo met a girl at the station, Isabelle, became friends with her and through her was introduced to a second hand book shop owner Monsieur Labisse (Christopher Lee), a benign old gentleman who knew exactly where which book on what subject could be found on what shelf in his old bookstore. As Hugo's father used to take him to the movies before he died, he fell in love with the movies of one director Georges Meliès and wanted to find out all he could about him but didn't think reading might help because he was a hands-on boy, not the bookworm type. In a jiffy, Monsieur Labisse directed Hugo to the exact book that he wanted, a book on old movies written by one René Tabard .

In the meantime Hugo continued his life of petty theft, stole from the station toy shop once too often and was caught. He was interrogated by its tough looking  owner who unbeknownst to him  (and us when we first saw him), was the real George Melies. He asked him why he stole the various mechanical parts. Hugo reluctantly told him. To support his incredible story, he showed him the little book he carried with him wherever he went. It was a book showing the notes and design drawings of the automaton. The toy shop owner confiscated it. He said he would not give it back and made Hugo promise to work for him to repair broken toys until Hugo had repaid the cost of all items he stole from him. The boy reluctantly agreed and to his surprise, was given all the parts he needed for is automaton repair. He continued until it was completed. But he still needed one vital component: a heart shaped key which would start all the mechanism working. By accident,he found the key which Isabelle wore around her neck. He tried it. It worked! The automaton started writing but stopped but just as he was at the height of despair, it slowly started to work again. Hugo discovered that it traced a picture of a moon being hit by a huge rocket. He remember it resembled the scene in a film his father took him to see:
Voyage to the Moon.  As the key fitted the automaton, they were sure that the girl's father held the secret to the mystery. The girl took him home to steal back Hugo's notebook because they were determined to find out what the picture meant. The girl showed her god mother the picture drawn by the automaton Upon seeing it, an enigmatic smile appeared on her face, a faraway look. Upon hearing the arrival of her husband, she shushed them off to hide in the attic room. Isabelle took Hugo to hide in an upper attic store room where her father had a chest which he stored high up on a cupboard. They decided to get to the bottom of the connection between Isabelle's heart-shaped key, Hugo's automatons and the picture of Voyage to the Moon. They succeeded in reaching the chest with a help of a chair. But at the last minute it fell off the top of the cupboard. There was a huge crash. The room was flying  with paper drawings and sketches of all sorts of mechanical contraptions. At that moment, the girl's father appeared at the door, his curiosity having been aroused by the noise he heard upstairs where the children were.

The children were terrified. There was was a strange look on his face. Instead of giving the boy a sound thrashing, he told him what he most wanted to know. He was George Meli
ès, the director of the favourite film the boy saw. He told him how he had made 500 silent movies on all kinds of subjects but stopped making them after the first world war when people interest in his types of films abruptly fell because his films were all about magic,fantasy, fun and creations of the imagination. The mood just wasn't right. They wanted hard dry facts about the tragedies of war and the harshness and miseries of post-WWI life, not things they could not relate to. His film company went bankrupt. To keep body and soul together, he rented the toy shop at the station and buried his glorious past as a famous film director as a secret forever sealed and did not want anything further to do with the film industry, until he saw the boy, in whom he saw the very image of his former self.

In the meantime, by another accident, the boy made the acquaintance of René Tabard at the girl's favourite bookshop, a professor mad about the films of George Meli
ès and now working at the French film archive. The children told him about their secret, the picture drawn by the automaton. Once he saw it, he  knew Isabelle's godfather was none other than the now forgotten and thought to be dead George Meliès, formerly magician, inventor of numerous toy machines and director. Tabard had combed through all kinds of sources and successfully recovered 80 films by the famous director which the latter thought had been lost ,damaged or burnt  As the film ends, we see a retrospective of George's Meliès films being held at the Cinemateque. Meliês appeared on the stage and recounted the dreams of youth. He was happy. Imagination had an unexpected way of making a come back! Time will not extinguish it nor the bitterness of age!

Now that I come to think about it, it's not so surprising he made the film. After all, Scorsese is the founder of Film Foundation in 1990, a non-profit organization dedicated to film preservation and in 2007, he founded another similar organization The World Cinema Foundation and has long had a serious interest in preserving the film as an art form.

2012年2月27日 星期一

Pavel Haas Quartet in HK

Saturday was all clouds and fog. Not really a good day for photographs. Would the fog lift in the evening? I went to the Pavel Haas Quartet concert at the Academy of Performing Arts in the evening to find out. Hailed by the Times early last year as "The world's most exciting string quartet", I went with great expectations.

Two young ladies in evening gowns and two young men in black came out: Veronika Jaruskova (violin), Eva Karova (violin), Pavel Nikl (viola) and Peter Jarusek (Cello). They played for us Claude Debussy's String Quartet in G minor Op 10 in four movements in Animé et très decidé, assez vif et bien rythmé, Andantino, doucement expressif and Très modéré. It was Debussy's first attempt at the traditional traditional quartet format. As he was Debussy, it wasn't just an ordinary quartet. It was full of the kind of half tones for which he was famous for in his later compositions and full of a new kind of rhythm with his characteristic ear for unusual harmonies. It has a very distinctive motif which was repeated many times but had some completely new musical texture and rhythm to it. The piece really required some energy. The performance was not bad but nothing to rave about. I did not detect the kind of passion in the play that the Times wrote about. Perhaps it was the fog. It may have affected everyone, young musicians not excluded.                                 

The second part of the concert was Schubert's String Quintet in C in Allegro ma non troppo, , Adagio,  Schezo (Presto) -Trio (Andante sostenuto) and Allgeretto Finale, a much more "traditional" piece. In this piece, they had an additional guest cellist Danjulo Ishizaka. It had two very contrasting themes and some fairly abrupt changes of mood. I do not know why, the addition of the new cellist seemed suddenly to infuse life into the play of the quartet and the kind of passion the Times talked about returned.They were back in form! As an encore, they repeated one of the passages they played. The fog had lifted, in the end!

2012年2月26日 星期日

Sans Objets d' Aurélien Bory

What could one reasonably expect to find in a small suburban theatre hidden in the middle of nowhere in the New Territories on a cold spring evening, a night like last night? Never underestimate the forces of creativity! This is what I found. From whence did it come? And in what form? I'll start with the second question first.

The ingredients of creativity? Not much. Just some dozen or so mechanized rectangular metallic plates arranged in the form of a raised platform of equal regularity, another machine of three main parts, a round bottom, above which swivels an L-shaped body over which sits and turns another mechanical arm which looks like a gigantic old-fashioned news camera hood the side of which shows some bolts and nuts and some kind of tiny little meter or other of certain  devices behind it whose surveying, turning, stretching, dipping, sweeping, lifting, "catching" are remotely controlled by another man sitting incognito on stage left in a dark booth  the side of which is exposed to the audience and from which one could see a pair of hands manipulating what appears to be an I-Pad like control panel, another huge rectangular panel, another wooden "drawer" of about 5 feet square, two young men in black suit and tie on a white shirt, plus an enormous black plastic sheet. That's all. Imagine that. Try to keep the audience's eyes riveted on to the stage with just such unpromising and minimalist materials without yawning! Yet the artists succeeded in doing just that!

One may wonder how? Through ingenuity, through perfect timing, through precise control of the movements of the huge mechanical "beast" and the various panels of the raised platform, and the synchronized and oddly "mechanical" motions of the two young men, with the assistance of well-timed lighting and focusing and equally calculated use of sound and/or music. We got constant suspense, unending surprises, shocks and even humor! Traditions of years of French mime and the shadows of Tati and Charlie Chaplin seemed to fill the darkened stage. One could almost see the ghostly hands and the minds of the two artists directing the mechanical "beast" and the two "actors".  

It was not theatre. It was not circus. It was not mime. It was not dance. Any way, not just those in isolation. It was art involving theatre, circus, mime, and a curious dance between instrumental rationality, its imperious needs and the need of human beings to conform to it. One feels and quite literally "see" the pathos behind the subtle humor. Like the predominant color of the set, it was dark. It was excellent. Superb! The discursive mind always asks: what does it all "mean", as if art can be reduced into words, as if it should be mere Aristotelian mimetic "representation"!  Like all art, it "means" itself, what it "expresses" concretely on the stage. But if one insists, one may perhaps get a glimpse of it from the programme notes. There its originator and director Aurélien Bory says, "I wanted to introduce on stage an industrial robot strong enough to move the scenery, as well as the performers around. The machine becomes a fully-fledged protagonist. It is an articulated mechanical arm. It will be used as a "puppet"...in its dialogue with an ordinary contemporary man. It's as if today's man were composed of two facets: he is still on the human side but moves increasingly into technology...It is not a question of judging it, but of accepting it....People have always tried to cross the frontier between the living and the non-living through the imagination: this is true of objects to which you lend a soul, of the myth of a statue that comes to life, or even or many areas of science fiction...Are we not already mixing the biological and the electronic--i.e. the living and inert! We can observe a double movement: the robot tends to become humanized and the man to become robotized. Human risk becoming 'not so good' as the robot. Man will be forced to become 'technologised.' if he wants to stay in the race. In the past, to test his capabilities, he measured himself against the animals. Today, the challenge is in technology....The story would be: robots and men, what have they got to tell? It could also be mankind's capacity to adapt or the unexpected emergence of beauty...or the future of humankind after humankind or the simple pleasure of form. I'm not looking for laughs but I try to get humor to increase the tension. I show men in uncomfortable, unstable and unknown situations. Burlesque action occurs to add spaciousness, a sort of 'no, this is not quite serious' " 

The performance was given at the Kwai Ching Town Hall by Oliiver Alenda, Oliver Boyer. Entitled "Sans Objet" (Without Object/Purpose/Aim/Useless), the project was conceived, designed and directed by Aurélien Bory and the "Robot" was programmed and operated by Tristan Baudon, its original music composed by Joan Cambon and the lighting designed by Arno Veyrat and the stage was designed and built by Pierre Dequivre. All from the country I spent some of the best years of my life:France.  Bienvenu. C'etait merveilluex! Merci beaucoup, mes amis ! A la prochaine!

2012年2月25日 星期六

Saturday Jokes

These days, all we read about on headlines upon the front pages of local newspapers are how "honest" our CE and would be CEs are. Every one feigns surprise at the lack of integrity of our politicians. In fact, when have our politicians or for that matter politicians in general, with rare exceptions, ever been honest or possessed integrity? If  ever one were asked to name any one characteristic shared by all politicians around the world and throughout human history, I think it would be difficult not to opt for their complete lack of honesty. Don't look at me with your eyes wide open in disbelief and just read about them from these jokes most probably distilled from tears of endless disappointments of electors from all over the world. Some say we deserve the kind of politicians we have. Whatever the truth may be, let's have the jokes!

1.    It's tough being a politician. Half your reputation is ruined by lies. The other half is ruined by the truth!

2.    What's the difference between a statesman and a politician? A statesman shears us whilst a politician skins us.

3.    Politicians and diapers have one thing in common. They should both be changed regularly. And for the same reason.

4.    Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, mis-diagnosing it and then  mis-applying the wrong remedies.

5.    Even crime wouldn't pay if the government ran it.

6.    To succeed in politics, it is often necessary to rise above your principles.

7.    Stop repeat offenders - don't re-elect them!

8.    Don't steal. The government hates competition!

9.    A little girl asked her father, "Do all fairy tales begin with 'Once upon a time...'"?    The father replied, "No, some begin with 'If I am elected...'"

10.  Some people tell political jokes... we HAVE them!.

And don't vote - it only encourages them!

Have a fun week-end watching the jokes rolling from our press about our CE and CE hopefuls !

2012年2月23日 星期四

From Soul to Self to Annihilation of Self.9


We now know a little about how the ancient Greek Christians, the so-called early Church Fathers or Patricians think about the soul. What about the views of St. Thomas Aquinas, upon whose theology the present day Roman Catholic Church relies? According Anthony Kenny, in his article "Body, Soul, and Intellect in Aquinas", Aquinas got into serious trouble with the mainstream Church when he first tried to apply the Aristotelian theory of form and matter to the nature of the human "soul" and its relation to the human "body".

For Aristotle, animals and vegetables had souls no less than human beings (the vegetative/nutritive soul being the principle behind the growth and propagation of plants and the sensitive soul being the explanatory principle for animal's sensory activities. What made human beings special was that he is thought to possess a rational/intellective soul. To Thomas' contemporaries, there was not just a single form, the intellective soul but also sensitive and nutritive souls and some theorists even thought that human beings had a "corporal form", in more or less the same way that a stick would have a "stick form" and a stone, a "stone form". But Aquinas held that there was no need for man to have so many forms and that only one form would be sufficient to explain all of man's various functions.viz. the rational/intellective soul and that when a man died, there would be no further relationship between the formerly living person and his corpse other than his basic prime matter. For this view, Aquinas was condemned at Oxford in 1277. To Aquinas, even animals possessed some form of intellect which enabled it to think simple thoughts. What was special about human beings was that only man had the ability to think thoughts not only by sensory images but also by and in language. Man's "intellect" was special because his "intellect" had two kinds of power: "agent power" which enabled him to abstract universal ideas from particular sense experience (something which animals did not have) and "receptive power" which formed the storehouse for the ideas, concepts, beliefs thus abstracted. However, he thought that what was abstracted from individual or particular matters (each with individual and particular forms), was not its particular form but only its universal form. But he thought that it was impossible for the pure intellect to grasp "material objects" by itself. Knowledge of "material objects" can be obtained only through the joint efforts of both our intellect and our sensory faculties, which he thought included also perception, imagination and memory.Thus it is only by enlisting the assistance of our "sensory" experience that our " agent intellect" can "know" individual/particular objects/persons and is thereby enabled to "form" singular propositions about such particular objects/persons e.g a proposition like "Socrates is a man." Aquinas called this relationship of the intellect to the sensory context of its activity "reflection upon phantasms." ("phantasm" including effectively the whole range of our "sensory" experience, which for Aquinas, included what we now call our "perception" and our "imagination"). To Aquinas, if something is physically absent from our sight, we can only "see" it by means of our "mental images" of it or (and this is special to man) the imagined sounds and shapes of the relevant "words" representing such picturable objects and with regard to non-picturable "spiritual" entities like souls, spirits, God, we can only use words corresponding to such entities, which we "perceive" or "see"  in our fragmentary inner monologues.

Like Aristotle and Plato, Aquinas thought that the real "object" of all human "knowledge" was "form", both with regard to sensory "objects" or "objects" forming the subject matter of human "intellectual understanding". To Aquinas, our senses perceive only the "accidental forms" of the relevant objects appropriate to each of our sensory modalities (eyes/sight, ears/audition, tongue/tasting, nose/smelling, skin/tactile feeling) e.g with our eyes, we can see the colors, the shape, the size of sensory objects and with our nose, we perceive its smell but all such colors, shape, size and smell etc. are considered its "accidental forms"  specific to one object e.g. this particular rose. Its "substantial/essential form" is not perceived by our senses but can only be grasped by our "intellect". To Aquinas, all "material objects" are composed of both "matter" and "form" but the "individuality" of a parcel of matter is not something that can be grasped by our "intellect" . Thus our "intellect" can grasp with its "agent power" what makes Socrates "human" but not what makes him "Socrates" as an individual person.To Aquinas, there is no such thing as the "form of humanity" or "human nature" considered as a species outside of the human mind. But how does the human "agent power" of our "intellect" act or function according to Aquinas? Faced with individual/particular/specific embodied human persons consisting of both form and matter, the "agent power" of our intellect acts by abstracting from such particular individuals and create therefrom an "intellectual object" a "universal form" called "humanity" only with the help of both our "senses" and our "imagination". But he did not elaborate on how exactly this was done. We can't really blame him because in his days, he simply could not be expected to have the kind of knowledge about the functioning of the human body, the human mind and the human emotions or the human psyche which we now have.

As briefly mentioned above, to Aquinas, human "intellect"  has,  not only what he called an "agent power", but also what he called a " receptive power". something we nowadays would refer to as our capacity to remember the things previously learned (stored in the form of ideas, concepts, beliefs, "knowledge") or  our  "memory", which Aquinas conceived of as a kind of tabula rasa into which we deposit such new ideas etc. as and when they are "formed", a process which Aquinas thought was quite passive (contrary to what our present day psychologists and cognitive scientists tell us). This kind of thinking however has left its traces even nowadays in the way we talk e.g. we speak of being "informed" about a matter and we call gaining "knowledge" about something the acquisition of "information."

How is Aquinas' "intellect" related to our sensory perception? To Aquinas, "sense perception" was, like the acquisition of "intellectual information", also a matter of "reception" of the "forms" of "immaterial matter" e.g. our sense takes in the color of gold, without the gold and the "forms" thus received by our senses were then passed to or stored in the "fancy" (phantasm) ) (our "imagination" in the original sense of formation of  internal mental "images" of the object perceived by our sensory organs) which can be reshuffled later to produce images of whatever we later wish to think about. Thus when we "see" the sun, what enters our "eyes" is not the "actual sun" with all its mass, light, colors etc: we "perceive" only the various "forms" associated with the sun. In the same way, when I "think" of a horse, what appears in my "intellect" is the immaterial and universal "form" of the horse. What makes a "real horse" a "horse" is the "form" of a "horse". It is just the universal and immaterial "form" of the horse which exists in my mind, individualized and materialized in the "real horse". What we would call the "real horse" has a natural existence in the "real world" and when Aquinas "perceives" it or when he "thinks" about it, it has an "intentional existence" in Aquinas' "intellect".

Although Aquinas distinguishes between the "universal form" of a horse and "my mental image" of it as it is embodied in my own mind and thus peculiar to "me", he is not very clear about the exact relations between the two. It seems that to Aquinas, as far as we can gather, our thoughts are "ours" in so far as they must be "expressed" through "our" mind (what we would now call our "brain) which in turn is contained in "our" body.   Kenny thinks that this is just as well because he thinks that terms "me", "my self" , "my ego" and "I" are not different from or do not refer to anything different from the human being to which such terms are applied. In his words, "the belief in a self which is different from the human being whose self it is is a grammatical illusion generated by the reflexive pronoun. It is as if a philosopher was puzzled what property of "own-ness" was which my own room possesses in addition to the property of being mine."

To Kenny, the "grammatical error which is the essence of the theory of the self is a deep error" but this mistaken notion or "illusion" of the "self"  has a number of different roots the most important of which according to him, are what he calls the "epistemological root" and the "psychological root".

The epistemological root of the notion of the "self" is what Kenny calls "Cartesian skepticism" initiated in DescartesMeditations in which he convinces himself that he can doubt whether the world exists and whether he has a body but not that he has a mind: "I can doubt whether I have a body, but I cannot doubt whether I exist; for what is this I which is doubting". Thus the "I" must refer to something not involving the body but nonetheless forming a part of Descartes as a human being. Thus to Descartes, his ego  or self is a substance whose essence is pure thought: the mind or res cogitans.(the thing which thinks). The psychological root comes from the idea that "imagination" is an interior sense of a posited "self", which according to the Lockean empiricism, is the "subject" of the relevant inner sensation, the eye of inner vision, the ear of inner hearing and the mystical possessor of both inner eye and inner ear and whatever inner organs of sensations may be "fantasized". To Kenny, "What sense the thoughts in my mind have depends on my mastery of the language in which they occur, in my decoding of the symbols and imagery in which they are embodied" and "What reference they have depends on the history of this body, making the links between the current image and the remembered events which provide the context for the reflections of" what Aquinas calls "phantasms" (or "images"). Currently some philosophers regard "memory" as the key to our "personal identity" whilst others see "bodily continuity" as its essence, whilst still others would use both memory and bodily continuity as the relevant criteria. Those who separate personal identity from bodily identity follow those medievals who argued for the plurality of forms whilst those who identify the two effectively subscribe to the thesis for which Aquinas was condemned.

However the "illusion" of the "self" or the "ego" arose, it is certain that it is a question which has interested people besides philosophers. What is the right way to think of the continuity between a foetus and a baby, between the "soul" of the baby as his foetus or as his born body( an issue related to the present day debate about whether abortion should be permitted) as the continuance what Aquinas calls his "vegetative soul" in an unconscious human body be looked upon as an indication of the "permanence" of a "rational soul" which is charged with his "moral duty"? Since  1914, the Catholic church has accepted that "the same rational soul is united to the body in such a way that it is one and the only substantial form and through it a human being is animal, living, bodily and substantial." But it remains an issue for many philosophers.

Gerard Manley Hopkins in his treatise on St. Ignatius' spiritual exercises, wrote: "We learn that all things are created by consideration of the world without or of ourselves, the world within. The former is the consideration commonly dwelt on, but the latter takes on the mind more hold. I find myself both as man and as myself something most determined and distinctive, at pitch, more distinctive and higher pitched than anything else I see: I find myself with my pleasures and pains, my powers and my experiences, my deserts and guilt, my shame and sense of beauty, my dangers, hopes, fears and all my fate, more important to myself than anything I see...And this is much more true when we consider the mind, when I consider my self-being, my consciousness and feeling of myself, that taste of myself, or I and me above and in all things, which is more distinctive than the taste of ale or alum, more distinctive than the smell of walnut leaf or camphor, and is incommunicable by any means to another man (as when I was a child I used to ask myself: What must it be to be someone else. Nothing else in nature comes near this unspeakable stress of pitch, distinctiveness, and selving, this selfbeing of my own. Nothing explains it or resembles it, except so far as this, that other men to themselves have the same feeling. But this only multiplies the phenomena to be explained so far as the cases are like and do resemble. But to me, there is no resemblance: searching nature I taste self but at one tankard, that of my own being."

Hopkins is not alone. David Hume also tried to find out the nature of this "self" by introspecting and looking within himself and by trying to reflect on what is going on in his own mind and his own consciousness but failed to find anything which could reasonably be identified as his own "self". All he found was a bundle of sensations: " When I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception."

Kenny explains why this is so. He argues: "This is because the self is a mythical entity. A taste of which everything tasted would not be a taste, since taste is a faculty of discrimination; a self which is perceived no matter what it perceived is no better than a self which is not perceived at all.". In so finding, he mirrors the view of the great Buddha, to whom the concept of "self" is "empty" because there is nothing in the so-called "self" which stays the same from moment to moment. The self is not something "concrete" like a stone, which "has" or more accurately "is" what we normally understand as "substance/matter" which as Descartes says, has "extension" and takes up physical "space". It is something intangible. something which exists nowhere except in our own "mind" (which "mind" is itself nothing but a concept we created inside our "brain" and only insofar as we give it a name). Are we our body? If so, is the body we have at birth, the body we have at age 7 when we enter primary school, the body we have at age 17 or 18 when we graduate from high school, the body we have at age 21 or 22 when we graduate from college and the body we have when we die the same body or a different body? Are we our personal biography? If so, isn't it true that with each moment, with the happening of more and more "events" in our lives, our biography too is changing all the time? Are we what we own or possess? A house, a car, a spouse, children, bank accounts, stocks and shares? Is our ownership of these just "notional" or what lawyers refer to by the legal fiction as "chose in action" (literally, "things in action" or metaphorical "things" which have meaning only in so far as they form part of certain legal relations between people recognized by the law courts but in reality just a "bundle" of abstract rights and obligations  which themselves are nothing but abstract "concepts" invented by our minds) with only such "reality" as people will continue to treat them "as if" they were truly "ours". Physically, it is quite clear that "we" are not the same as our house, our car, our spouse, our children, our bank accounts, our stocks and shares etc. except as Fromm says, we choose to live and relate to others and to the world in a "having" mode of existence. Are we our "fame". our "reputation", our "honours", our "qualifications"? Again, are these things as "real" as say, an egg, a table, a chair? If they exist, where in the world do they exist except in our "imagination" (in its original meaning of forming or creating an image in our mind)? In so far as they are "real" in the sense of being "recognized" by others, how long will they last? Do they have any true or real permanence or stability at all? Did not the Pharoahs build pyramids? Are the pyramids now nothing but the objects of curiosity and wonder by people who are anxious only to click on their cameras and then hurry away to their salads and barbecued chicken or beef? Where or what or how exactly is that "self" we normally so treasure and stress "ourselves" out to protect, defend and whose interest we try so desperately to promote?  Shall we not find the kind of emptiness at the core of our psyche that Peer Gynt found in Henrik Ibsen's play as he followed the troll's motto, ""Be thyself and to hell with the world!" ?.

(To be cont'd).

From Soul to Self to Annihilation of Self.8


Ware  next examines whether the notion of the "soul" is coterminous with reason or can extends "downwards" to include the Greek notion of "pathos" (emotions and the passions, there being no English word corresponding exactly with the Greek "pathos" ) and upwards to include the faculty of spiritual insight or vision higher than discursive reason.  As far as "pathos" is concerned, some Greek Fathers follow the Stoics and see it negatively as a disease of the soul, something unnatural, excessive and disordered which needs to be eliminated through "apatheia" (dispassion or passionlessness or absence of passion) e.g. Clement of Alexandria states that the truly good person has no passions ( Stromateis 7:11 ed. Stahlin 47:1) and Evagrius of Pontus (d.399) highly influential amongst the Greek ascetic tradition, associates them with the "daimon" ("demon", not to be confused with "devil" but more in the sense of uncontrollable passions) and excludes them from the soul but other Greek Fathers, following Plato and Aristotle rather than the Stoics e.g. Theodore of Cyrus (c 393-460) and Abba Isaias (d.489) and Maximus the Confessor (c 580-662)  (Triads 3.3. 15 ) view the passions as neutral such that whether they are good or bad depends to how we use them. Thus when they use the word "apatheia", they mean not the elimination of passion but their purification and per Palamas, our aim with regard to the passions is not "nekrosis" or their "mortification" but rather "metathesis" or their "transposition" or "redirection" and "epithymia" (desire) is to be turned into "eros" (an intense longing for God) and "thymos" (wrath or anger) is to become unselfish agape (an generalized love or unconditional love for even strangers) ( On Love 248)) and thus, on such views, the passions are not in themselves parasitic distortions but have a place in the true nature of the soul. Instead of eliminating, suppressing, and destroying our passion, we are to educate, re-orient, re-direct and transfigure them.

Can we re-orient our passions and our emotions and transfigure to achieve a spiritual understanding superior to the our reasoning. Some Greek Christians follow Plato in distinguishing between thinking (dianoia) in the sense of reasoning from premises to a conclusion and intellect or intellection (nous, noesis) but view that through the nous (serving as an eye of the soul), truth is simply “seen” to be true and whilst "dianoia" is marked by plurality, "noesis "is seen as unified so that at its higher level, the subject-object dichotomy vanishes: through dianoia we "know about" God but through "nous", we know God. Whilst "dianoia" forms general concepts by a process of abstractions from the data of sense-perception, by manipulating these concepts, dianoia then argues to a conclusion through the use of classification and analysis. In dianoia, the mind derives its information from outside of itself but on the level of nous, we participate directly in the reality we contemplate: “the direct experience (peira) of a thing suppresses the concept (logos) which represents that thing” per Maximus: we do not simply contemplate about the thing but we ourselves enter into it or it enters into us, so our knowledge ceases to be multiform and becomes simple and integrated. (To Thalassius, question 60 PG 90.624A; ed. Laga and Steel, 77).

It is often said  that "language" is the "essence" of the human "mind". Maximus would readily agree that this is true of the "dianoia" but they would be more hesitant to say such a thing about the "nous" because at higher levels, intellection may reach out beyond language, visual images and mental concepts to include what we today would call “mystical experience” (which doesn't include such things as levitation, telepathy, trances or other paranormal phenomena) but includes the "direct awareness" of "supra-normal reality": we are never more authentically human when through this exercise of noesis, we "transcend" ourselves and enter into communion with the Eternal and in this sense, "nous" as our highest and our most God-like faculty, expresses our own "true self". If so then, the imagination (phantasia) understood by" the Greek Fathers as the image-forming faculty dependent on sense-perception, stands on a level below "noesis". Ware notes that all the references to "phantasia" in Lampe's Patristic Greek Lexicon carry a pejorative meaning. In fact, Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain (1748-1809) states that “the devil has a very close relationship and familiarity with the imagination” and goes so far as to style the "phantasia" as “a bridge of the devils”. This analysis shows that to the Greek Fathers, there are two kinds of thinking in the human "soul": a natural and rational thinking not involving any emotions and a more emotionally committed and more intuitive type of thinking which enables us to "know" and to "encounter" God.

Can the concept of "soul" be extended to include animals? Do animals have souls? There is no lack of texts which suggest that animals do have some kind of soul too. In the Euchologion (or Book of Prayers) used officially in the contemporary Greek Orthodox Church, there are several prayers for animals “…if a righteous man shows pity to the souls of his animals (cf. Prov.12:10), how should you not take pity on them, for you created them and you provide for them? In your compassion, you did not forget the animals in the ark. ..Through the good health and the plentiful number of oxen and other four-footed creatures, the earth is cultivated and its fruits increase; and your servants, who call upon your name, enjoy in full abundance the products of their farming." (Prayer of St. Modestos which is attributed to Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain) Origen argues at some lengths that animals have souls: “No one, I suppose, will doubt that all living creatures whatever, even those that live in water, have souls” and quotes Scripture in support of his view (Gen. 1: 21, 24 (LXX); Lev. 17:14 (LXX) On First Principles 2.8.1). In addition, Origen thinks that the animal souls has certain similarities with the human soul: “The instinct (physis) in hunting dogs and in war horses comes near, if I may say so, to reason itself” (ibid 3.1.3)  but Theophilus of Antioch (c180) goes further and say that the instinct in all animals, wild and domesticated, which leads them to mate and care for their offspring shows they possess understanding” (To Autolycus 1.6). Other Greek Fathers maintain that animals share with humans, not only a certain reason and understanding but also memory and a wide range of emotions and affections e. g.
Basil of Caesarea. says that they display feelings of joy and grief and they recognize those whom they have met previously (Hexaemoron 8.2 PG 29.168A) and John Climacus says they express love for each other, for “they often bewail the loss of their companions” (Ladder of Divine Ascent 26 PG 88.102A) and we might add, recalling the story of Balaam’s ass in the Book of Numbers  22: 22-34 that animals also possess spiritual vision, sometimes perceiving things to which we humans are blind  and the Italian G-P Monti (1713-83) even thinks that animals can have a genuine spiritual life though only at a rudimentary level (See E Amann Dictionnaire de theologie catholique 10:2 (1929) col 2394). If so, Nemesius of Emesa is right to affirm that all living things—plants, animals and human beings share together the same vital energy (zoe); creation as a whole constitutes a single unity. This seems to also to be the view of the Buddha. But to Origen, ,there is a crucial difference: the human soul is made in the image of God but not the animal soul (Against Celsus 4.83 ): they have no conscious relationship with God and are not endowed with immortality. According to Basil, the animal soul is made from the earth and after death is dissolved into earth again (Hexaemeron 8.2 PG 29.168A) but human being possessed “the breath of life” breathed into them directly by God (Gen 2:7) and it is this which enables them to attain the realm of eternity: they expect individual human beings in all their particular personal characteristics, will rise from the dead but not the animals.Christ did say that not a single sparrow is “forgotten in God’s sight” and God is concerned about the death of each of them (Lk. 12:6; Matt. 10:29) but that human beings are of more value than the sparrows (Lk.12:7; Matt. 10:31) but though he did not say that birds have souls, neither did he exclude such a possibility. In any even, the Greek Christians believe in a hierarchical univierse in which humans, by virtue of their being created in the divine image, have dominion over the animals (Gen. 1:27-8). To Ware, dominion does not mean arbitrary dominion or cruel exploitation although this is the way it has been interpreted by many Christians through the ages. He thinks that dominion is "dominion according to the image and likeness of God" and such power as we have must be exercised solely in obedience to God. Therefore, we must show the same loving kindness and compassion God show us: note the respect shown to animals in the Jewish tradition (Robert Murray: The Cosmic Covenant  1992 pp 94-125)

The Greek Christians believe that at one time before the fall, Adam and Eve lived at peace with the animals in the garden of Eden but sin destroyed this harmony but in the eschatological kingdom at the end of time the primal harmony will be restored: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid…and a little child shall lead them” (Isa 11:6). In paradise humans and also the animals, ate only plants (Gen. 1:29-30) and presumably, this will be the case in the eschatolgocal kingdom and meat eating was allowed to humankind by God only after the fall (Gen.9::3) and thus not in itself sinful but it represents a decline from perfection: thus the Orthodox Church has never been vegetarian as a matter of principle and they usually abstain from meat and they just eat cold blooded fish, as Christ himself did (Lk 24: 42-43). Though animals do not have an immortal soul, that does not mean that they should not be treated with respect. On the contrary, the lives of many Christians abound in stories of close fellowship between men and beasts. They are not merely sentimental stories, but make a theological point according to Crabbe: it recalls the understanding and respect between human beings and animals before the Fall and points forward to the end time when such harmony may be restored. Isaac of Nineveh, honored in the Greek tradition as Isaac the Syrian (7thC) said,  “the humble man approaches the wild animals, and the moment they catch sight of him, their ferocity is tamed. They come up and cling to him as to their master, wagging their tails and licking his hands and feet. For they smell on him the same smell that came from Adam before the transgression...What is a merciful heart?…It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for the demons, and for all that exists…As a result of his deep mercy, the heart of such a person shrinks and cannot bear the  hear t to look on any injury or the slightest suffering of anything in creation. That is why he constantly offers up prayer full of tears even for the irrational animals…He even prays for the reptiles as a result of the great compassion that is poured out beyond measure in his heart, after the likeness of God” (Homily 74 ibid 341). Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938), a 20thC Orthodox saint, expresses the same intensity of compassion:  “The Lord bestows such rich grace on his chosen that they embrace the whole earth, the whole world, with their love…One day…I saw a dead snake on my path which had been chopped in pieces and each piece writhed convulsively and I was filled with pity for every living creature, every suffering thing in creation and I wept bitterly before God” (Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakhrov)  Saint Silouan the Athonite 1991 p367, 469)

(To be cont'd)

2012年2月22日 星期三

From Soul to Self to Annihilation of Self.7


It is usual for people with religious beliefs to talk about "souls".Jesus once asked rhetorically: "What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?". It is obvious that our "soul" is regarded as the most valuable and most precious part of our "possession" , the protection and advancement of which is the duty or ideal of the the faithful to attain through various kinds of religious worship, rites, rituals and practices etc. Not only the Jews and later Christians and  even later Muslims, many people in various primitive societies have got their own concept of some kind of "spirits" (e.g the spirit of their ancestors, the spirit of wild animals, the spirit of plants or even spirit of various natural forces or spectacular natural phenomena like mountains, seas, lakes, clouds, rains, stars etc ) which are supposed to somehow survive their death or destruction or exist "supernaturally"  and have some kind of "perennial" or even "eternal" existence. What exactly is a  "soul"? What kind of characteristics is it supposed to have? Do animals and plants have "souls"? If they have, are their "souls" the same as or different from human "souls" and if different, in what way are they different? How do we come to have such concepts?

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "A soul--in certain spiritual, philosophic and psychological traditions--is the incorporeal essence of a person, living thing or object...Soul can function as a synonym for spirit, mind or self, scientific works in particular often consider soul as a synonym for mind. I also looked up "From Soul to Self" (1999) ed. M James C Crabbe. which contains many articles on the subject. In addition, I consulted the Wikipedia, according to which, the word soul is derived from the Old English "sáwol/sáwel" first apearing in the 8th century poem Beowulf (v 2820) and in the Vespasian Psalter (77: 50) and is similar to other Germanic and Baltic words for the same idea including the Gothic "saiwala", old High German "sêula/sêla", old Low Franconian "sêla/sála" and the Lithuanian "siela". Another suggestion is that it is connected to the German root word for "binding" or "sailian" or Old English words "selian" or Old High  German "seilen" meaning being "bound in death" and the ritual practice of binding or restraining the corpse of the deceased in the grave from returning as a "ghost". It is probably an adaptation by early missionaries and a translation of the original Greek word "psyche" or "life, spirit, consciousness". The Greek word "psyche" is itself derived from a verb meaning "to cool, to blow", referring to the vital breath or the animating principle in human and animals, as opposed to "soma" or "body" which could refer to either a ghost or spirit of the dead (as in Homer) and since Pindar, to the more philosophic notion of an "immortal and immaterial essence" left over at death and since Terence, the word "anima" has been used as translation of the original "psyche"in the English translation of the Greek and Latin "anima" in Matthew 10: 28 "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.". In the Septuagint LXX the Greek word for "psyche" is translated from the Hebrew word "nephesh" which means "life, vital breath" and is later translated into English as "soul, self, life, creature, person, appeitite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion." e.g. in Genesis 1: 20 : "And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth." And St. Paul distinguished between the Jewish notion of 'nephesh" (vital breath) and "ruah" (spirit) in Septuagint LXX e.g. Genesis 1:2 "the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. "

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the term "soul" in the Sacred Scripture refers to human life or the entire human person. and it also means  "the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God's image or ...the spiritual principle in man" and that our body becomes "human precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit" and that, "though made of body and soul, is a unity." and such unity "is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature." and that "it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection." although "sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit" but that "this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul" because "Spirit" signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God."

What were/are the Christian view on the human soul? According to Kallistos Ware in "The Soul in Greek Christianity", to Clement of Alexandria (c150-c215), the greatest of all lessons is to know yourself because " if someone knows himself, he will know God; and if he knows God, he will become like God" (Pedagogue3.1.1 )(cf. 1 John3:2). Cyril of Jerusalem (c.315-87) said" I have a soul and yet I cannot describe its characteristics." (Catechesis 6.6) whilst John Chrysostrom (c 347-407) said, " The essence of our own soul is not known to us fully or rather it is not known to us at all” ( in On the Incomprehensiblity of God ed. Malingrey 259-60). They they all echo C G. Jung's view that the psyche is a foreign, almost unexplored country (Modern Man in Search of a Soul 1984 p 86).Gregory of Nyssa's (c.330-395) view is the standard Christian view that man is made in the image and likeness of God, as affirmed by the Scripture (Gen.1:26-27) i.e. that each of us is a created icon of the uncreated God but “an image” is only truly such in so far as it expresses all the attributes of its archetype. If one of the attributes of the divine nature is to be beyond our understanding, does that mean that we must resemble the archetype in that respect? ( On the Creation of Man 11 in Petrologia Graeca 44 156AB) ("PG").

However much they differ in other respects, Greek Christian thinkers from New Testament times to the end of Byzantine era (i e. 1st to 14thC) are in agreement on one point viz. to understand ourselves, theory alone  (i.e. philosophical speculations, abstract doctrinal definition etc.) is never itself sufficient and to have any self-knowledge, practice or ascesis (fasting, crouching, prostrating, making the sign of the cross,repeating invocation of the Holy Spirit, incantation of the Jesus Prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us" and linking the words with the rhythm of breathing, gazing at the navel, simultaneously practicing an inner exploration, striving to make their intellect descend into their heart) is also required. Thus self knowledge can only be gained through silence,  prayer and worship and through sharing in the sacraments.

Since to the early Greek Christians, human nature is beyond our comprehension, they have no agreed definition of the soul. Nemeisius of Emersa (late 4th Century) says of non-Christian philosophers: "the subject of the soul is differently handled by almost every ancient author."  Some of the Greek Fathers offer a basically Platonic definition of the soul. e.g. Gregory of Nyssa : “a living and intellectual essence…non material and bodiless” ( On the Soul and Resurrection PG 46.29AB). To Athanasius of Alexandria (c.296-373), the soul is “an intellectual essence that is bodiless, passionless and immortal” (Questions to Antiochus 16 PG 28.608A ) although according to Crabbe, that may be a wrong attribution. Macarius the Egyptian however equate the soul with the inner man (ho eso anthropos) and in his Spiritual Homilies (late 4thC) Collection II ("SH ") 7.8, he expresses the view that there is a certain "diversity in unity" : “Just as the members of the body, though many, are said to be a single human being, so also the members of a soul are many—intellect (nous), conscience, will, thoughts--but the soul is one”. Thus it although it may comprise of a rational mind, freewill, conscience and just ordinary thoughts, they are all different aspects of the human soul and  body and soul are seen as two complementary entities that constitute an undivided unity: neither can properly exist apart from the other and their separation at death is no more than temporary. Crabbe notes that  while it is taken for granted that we are made in the divine image, there are no authoritative source [neither the Bible nor in the Nicene-Constantinople Creed (381) nor in the doctrinal decrees of the 7 Ecumenical Councils (325-787)] do we find any clear statement specifying the precise nature of this indwelling image. As said by Epiphanius of Salamis (c 315-403) “It cannot be denied that all humans are in the image of God but we do not inquire too curiously how they are in the image”

Can the soul exist without a body? Most Greek Christians link the divine image with the soul and exclude the body from participation in it and think that upon death, the soul will leave the human body but a small but  a significant minority associate the divine image with the total human body, soul and spirit eg. Irenaeus of Lyons (c130-c200) ( Against the Heresies 5.6.1). However it is certain that the image of the divine in man is regularly associated with his possession "self-awareness" and of "reason", of "freedom in moral choice" and of "dominion over the animals" (Gen. 1:28).

But because the human soul is made in the image of God, to the Greek Christians, it cannot be understood on its own as a self-contained and autonomous reality but must always be be and can only be understood in its relationship to God. The divine is the determining element in our humanness. Crabbe thinks that God is at the innermost core of our being; apart from God, were are unintelligible. This relationship with God is what makes the human soul distinctive and unique and because of this special relationship with God, our freedom cannot be exercised arbitrarily but only in conformity with the will of God ie. only when our acts of free choice authentically  reflects God's divine love and compassion. Our freedom can only be properly exercised in love and compassion. This starting point is thus very different from Eric Fromm's view, which does not presuppose any such relationship with the divine.

Whatever the true nature or limitation of what is understood by the term "soul" and the exercise of "free will" may be, there are two clear authoritative statements on the unity and inseparability of of the soul with the human body:
1. the 5th Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 553, condemning Origen’s idea of the pre-existence of the soul because the soul and body come into existence at the same time
2. The Nicene-Constantinople Creed (381) concludes: “I believe in the resurrection of the body” because the severance of the soul from the body at death is not final and irrevocable for upon Christ’s Second Coming on the last day, the two will be united again because Christ was resurrected from the dead on the third day and thereafter, they will coexist eternally in the age to come. Thus Christianity not only believes in the immortality of the soul, it also believes in the ultimate re-integration of the body with the soul on the day of Last Judgement.. This is not based on any philosophic argument but merely based on an article of their faith. As Paul argues, our conviction that eventually, we shall be raised from the dead depends in the final analysis upon our belief that Jesus Christ truly rose from the dead. As Paul argues in 1 Cor 15: 20-24, Christ had marked out the path that we shall follow: he is the first fruits and we are the harvest

Is the body in which Christ was raised from the dead the same or a different body? As far as his disciples are concerned, it is the same body, wounds he sustained on the cross included. According to the Bible, his disciples recognized Jesus by seeing the wounds of the Cross on his hands and feet and in his side (.John 20: 20-28). What about the body of us mortals upon the day of Last Judgment? Will it be the same body? If so, our body at what age? Will it be composed of the same atoms and molecules and arranged in exactly the same way as we may be just at our hour of death or will it be composed of all our atoms and molecules but at the height of our youth and beauty or will it be an improved version of our body but without any plastic surgery? The Bible appears to be silent. All we have according to St. Paul is that we shall rise in a body "glorified" and perhaps transfigured: a “spiritual” body as Paul puts it in 1 Cor. 15:44 . But what do we mean by "spiritual"? Is that just a metaphor? It it is material, then in what way will it remain material? Or will it be "non-material"? We simply do not have any answers! According to Macarius, in his Spiritual Homilies: “all the members of the body are raised, not a hair perishes” (SH 15:10 cf. Lk. 21:18 ). Gregory of Nyssa thinks that the constituent elements making up our physical body are constantly changing but the soul imposes upon such elements a "particular form" (eidos) and by virtue of the uninterrupted preservation of this "form", it may legitimately be asserted that we continue throughout our life to have the same body and at resurrection, the soul will reassemble the particles of matters from which the body was formed during the present life and impress upon them the same “form” as before (On the Creation of Man 27 (PG 44.225C-228) ( cf. On Soul and the Resurrection PG46.73A-80A; On the Dead PG 46.532B-536B ed. Jaeger/Heil 62-66). It  seems that what is important is not the individual particles of our "spiritual" body or "glorified" body but the continuity of the "form" supplied by the soul, whatever "form" there means. Is that "form" the kind of form talked about by Plato or does it mean something else? Thomas Aquinas, a great Catholic theologian, thinks that we are not merely our Platonic form or our soul. He says, "The soul is not the whole man, and my soul is not me" (in I Cor. c 15 lect. 2 ed. Cai #924) If the body and soul come into existence simultaneously and will be reunited at the resurrection, then it follows they together constitute an integral whole, an undivided unity but the soul is not the whole man and “my soul is not me” and “me” is the combination and coincidence of the two together.In this respect see the work attributed to Justin Martyr (c 100-c 165) (On the Resurrection 8 PG 6. 158B ) who is supposed to have said that what he called "me" is not his soul without his body nor his body without his soul but the combination and coinherence of the two together. We may legitimately ask: "Is there any "sense" in talking about it like that i.e. is it "nonsense"" ? But In this regard, another Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis appeals to the example of a waterfall: the drops in the waterfall are continually changing but the curve assumed by the waterfall remains constant; since the water preserves the same form, it is indeed the same waterfall (Miracles: A Preliminary Study 1947 180 ) Gregory of Nyssa uses the analogies of a stream and the flame of a candle ( PG 46.141AB). If so, what is the basis of their respective claims?

Ware thinks that the Greek Patristic texts probably derived their ideas of what the human "soul" consists of or in from the classical Greek philosophy. They thus distinguish various subdivision within this all embracing unity of the human "soul". Some of them presuppose a simple bipartite division of body and soul eg Council of Chalcedon (451) states that the Incarnate Christ is “complete in Godhead and complete in humanity, truly God and truly man formed from a rational soul and body”, whatever that means except in a metaphorical sense. Others prefer a tripartite division, distinguishing the soul , the intellect (nous) or spirit (pneuma) eg. Origen insists  that the human being is comprised of “the soul, body and spirit” but his the "human spirit" is distinct from the Holy Spirit of God (in Irenaeus the distinction is less clear and Gregory of Nyssa is also a trichotomist in his On the Creation of Man( 8 PG 44.145D) and claims that throughout the Scripture, there is a distinction between soul and spirit (see Commentary on John 32 18 ed. Preuschen 455.17-18). Some alternate between the one scheme and the other, considering that there is no basic discrepancy between the two e. g. Apollinaris of Laodicea (c310-c390) (See R. A. Norris Manhood and Christ. A Study in the Christology of Theodore of Mopsuestia 1963 81-122). If we may rely on Origen, it may be doubted whether the trichotomist or the dichotomist scheme has a clear basis in Scripture: The Hebraic concept of personhood, as found in the Old Testament, is "embodied" and "physical": scarcely is there a soul-body contrast of the Platonic type and the person is seen as a single unity of “flesh-animated-by soul”. In the New Testament,  nowhere does Paul make a direct contrast between body and soul although he often distinguishes between flesh (sarx) and spirit (pneuma). Only on one occasion did he use the triad “spirit, soul and body” (1 Thess 5:23) but it may be doubted if he intended to provide there a systematic enumeration of the parts of the human person

As regards the soul, Greek Christian authors employ a variety of classifications, sometimes twofold and sometimes threefold e.g.Clement of Alexandria: distinguishes between knowledge (gnosis) and impulse (horme), between the cognitive and the affective/volitional parts of the soul  (Stromateis 6.8 ed.Stahlin 466.13-14). Basil of Caesarea (c300-c379) employs the Aristotelian distinction between the “active” and “passive” “receptive aspects of the soul (Homily 3.7 PG 31.213C ed. Rudberg 35.6-7). More frequently, the Greek Fathers adopt the tripartite subdivision of the soul, developed by Plato: logistikon  (the rational or intellectual aspect); thymikon  (the spirited or incensive aspect) and epithymetikon (the appetitive or desiring aspect) (see Clement of Alexandria, The Pedagogue 3.1.2 Gregory of Nazianzus Poems PG 371381A-1384A; Evagrius  Practicus 89 ed. Guillaumont 680-2 ) But Origen expresses reservation about this classification, noting its lack of support from the Scripture (On First Principles 3.4.1)

Per Ware, a second tripartite scheme popular among the Greek Fathers, again with little explicit support from Scripture, is the subdivision found in Aristotle
the vegetative soul (nutritive); the animal soul (sensitive)and  the human soul (rational/intellectual). In this threefold scheme used by e. g. Gregory of Nyssa, it is evident that the term "psyche" is being used with a connotation far wider than that normally ascribed today to the word “soul”: it signifies not just "self consciousness" also in a broader sense, "vital energy" or "life-force" but Gregory of Nyssa adds that in the strict sense, psyche can only be applied to the rational human soul and that the animal soul and still less the vegetative soul is not a soul in the strict sense (On the Creation of Man 15 PG 44.176B-177A). Thus in his view, animals and plants do not have souls.

The Greek Fathers affirm with varying degrees of emphasis that the soul is not only one with itself but also with the body and to indicate this all embracing wholeness of the human person, many of them employ the integrating symbol the notion of the heart (kardia) (the best discussion is still that of Antoine GuillaumontLes sens des noms du Coeur dans l’antiquite Le Coeur” Etudes Carmelitaines 29: Paris, 1950 pp 41-81). Today, the heart is contrasted with the head and the head is regarded as the seat of reason whilst the heart is considered to be the seat of the affections and emotions but in the Bible, the heart designates not simply the affections and emotions, which are located primarily in the guts or belly but rather the spiritual center of the human person but there is no head-heart contrast in the Old Testaments: the heart is the seat of memory, conscience, thought, wisdom and intelligence, the place where we make moral decisions and where we experience divine grace: God dwells in the heart and so also does Satan (see e.g. Matt.6:21; 15:19 ; Lk 2:19; Rom. 1:24; 8:27; Gal. 4:6 and Eph. 3:16-17). In some Greek Patristic texts eg. those ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagite (c 500), there are very few references to the heart but no special significance is attached to the term but other sources, such as the Macarius, ascribe to the heart the centrality and the richness of meaning it possesses in the Bible: “the heart directs and governs the whole bodily organism; and when grace possesses the pasturages of the heart, it rules over all the members and the thoughts. For there, in the heart, is the intellect (nous) and all the thoughts of the soul and its expectation and in this way grace penetrates throughout all parts of the body” (Macarius SH 15:20 cf. 22-23; 43.7). The heart is not only the physical organ in our chest, it is also symbolically the point of convergence between the body and the soul and the meeting place between the human being and God and corresponds in some measure to the modern concept of the unconscious “within the heart is the unfathomable depth” (SH 15.32 cf. Ps 63 [64]: 7 LXX: “the heart is deep”)
. The heart is thus the unifying
center of our personhood, open on one side to the abyss of our
unconscious, open on the other to the abyss of divine grace and the nous
or intellect is a faculty far higher than the reasoning brain—a
visionary power, creative and self-transcending, that reaches out beyond
time into eternity, beyond words into silence.

The Greek Patristic tradition concerning the heart is lucidly summed up towards the end of the Byzantine era by Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): some Fathers locate the mind(dianoia) or the intellect (nous) in the head and others in the heart but this does not greatly disturb him for he considers that there are no dogmas in the realm of physiology but in any case, since the mind is non-material, it cannot be precisely located in space: citing John Climacus (c 570-c649), he says the mind is “both in us and not in us” “our intelligence (logistikon) is neither within us as in a container—for it is incorporeal—nor yet outside us, for it is united to us” and expresses a definite preference for the approach found in the Macarian SH whereby the mind or intellect is associated with the heart rather than the head, describing the heart as “the shrine of the intelligence and the chief intellectual organ of the body…the ruling organ…the throne of grace, where the intellect and all the thoughts of the soul reside” and our aim in prayer is to “collect our intellect, outwardly dispersed through the senses and bring it back within ourselves—back to the heart itself, the shrine of our thoughts”. To Palamas, the Hesychasts strive to "bring their intellect back and to enclose it within their body and particularly within that innermost body within the body that we call the heart" (see Triads in Defence of the Holy Hesychasts 1.2.3-4 quoting John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent 26 PG 88.1020A and Macarius SH15.20) .Palamas thinks that “after the Fall, our inner being naturally adapts itself to outward forms" ( Triads 1.2.8 and The Encounter of the Religions: a Dialogue between the West and the Orient, with an Essay on the Prayer of Jesus Tournai 1960 92-93). He thus defends the psychosomatic techniques used by the Hesychasts (those who pursue inner stillness (hesychia) through the practice of contemplative prayer, usually in the form "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us", a bit like the Tibetan Buddhists' recitation of various Buddhist mantras. They would adopt a crouching postures in their prayers, with their gaze fixed on the heart or navel, and would link the words of the Jesus Prayer with the rhythm of their breathing and at the same time they would practice an inner exploration, striving to bring their intellect  descend into their heart and for which practice they were often ridiculed as omphlopyshoi or "navel-psychics" or people who locate the soul in the navel, a name against which they vigorously protested)  Palamas thus thinks that there is a certain correlation between the organs of our physical body and the different centres of spiritual energy within ourselves operating through in a kind of "analogy-participation" but not literally.

Palamas' interpretation of the heart has much in common with the understanding of "memoria" in Book 10 of the Confessions of Augustine (354-430) but by "memoria", Augustine meant not primarily the recollection of past events but the “deepest abyss of the ego” to use Henry Chadwick’s phrase (Augustine 1986 p 67) or in the words of John Burnaby “that deep of the soul in which is treasured not only the consciousness of the self but a consciousness of God” (Amor Dei: A Study of the Religion of St. Augustine 1938 p155). It is "aula ingens" “a vast courtyard” “a profound and infinite multiplicity” “a large and boundless interiority” (penetrale): Within the "memoria", each of us finds contained “the heaven, the earth and the sea”: there we encounter not only our own true self but God"  (Augustine Confessions 10:8.14-15; 10.17.26). The "memoria" is thus closely associated with the intellect (mens) and the spirit (spiritus): our sense of continuity and identity is rooted in the memory and it is through memory that we experience ourselves as created in the image of God and so become responsive to divine grace. Here there are very close parallels between the Biblical, the Greek Patristic notions of the functions of the heart and indeed, save for the existence of a monotheistic God, very close to the traditional Chinese conception of what the heart does as in the "heart philosophy" of Sung and Ming Dynasties. And if the Greek Christian understanding of the heart resembles Augustine’s memoria, it also anticipates the concept of the self as found in C. G. Jung, which includes not only the "ego-consciousness" but the innermost depths of our "personhood": “The self is not only the center of but the whole circumference which resembles both consciousness and the unconscious; it is the center of this totality, just as the ego is the center of the conscious mind…The self is our life’s goal, for it is the completest expression of that fateful combination we call individuality” (Memories, Dreams, Reflections ed. Aniela Jaffe 1967 417)  In short. in the Greek Patristic usage, the heart and the soul overlap. The soul is seen as non-material and is contrasted with the body; the heart is both a physical organ and a center of spiritual energy and thus symbolizes the fundamental unity of the human person and while the word soul has predominantly philosophical associations, the heart is more explicitly religious in its overtones, oriented towards the spirit and towards God and designates the human being as a creature made in the image of God and a finite expression of God’s infinite self-expression.

(To be con'td)

2012年2月21日 星期二

From Soul, to Self, to Annihilation of Self.6


Fromm has written a great deal about the differences between the "having" and "being" mode of how certain people are living and of relating to the world and to other people. To me, the important question is "why"? Although he does not tell us explicitly, one gets an idea from three quotations he puts at the fly leaf of his book:
1. The Way to do is to be .  --Lao-Tse
2. People should not consider so much what they are to do, as what they are.     --Meister Eckhart
3. The less you are  and the less you express your life--the more you have and the greater is your alienated life.     --Karl Marx
I think he is pointing to us the direction we should go if we want to achieve what we say we've always wanted: happiness and how. This is how he is related to Matthieu Ricard's little book Happiness and this is also where both of them are related to what we normally refer to as our "soul" or our "self".

As far as "happiness" is concerned, Fromm makes an important distinction between what he calls "joy" and what he calls "pleasure" because he thinks that most people in the modern world are living in a world of "joyless pleasures".  In popular thought, "pleasures" are related to the satisfaction of a desire that does not require much action or activity which is truly "alive" or "living"  although they may be of high intensity eg. the pleasures of social success, earning more money, winning a lottery, conventional sexual pleasure; eating to one's heart's content, winning a race, the state of elation brought about  by drinking, trance or drugs, the unusual  pleasure of satisfying one's sadism or one's passion to kill or dismember what is alive etc. Of course, to achieve some of these may require quite a lot of activity (e.g. to become rich and famous ) but one is "active" only in the sense of what Fromm calls "busyness". and when one has achieved that, one may feel for a few brief moments a certain "thrill", or "an intense satisfaction" or one may feel that one has reached a "peak" of excitement, of satisfaction, of a trance-like or orgiastic elation.  But one may be driven there by a "pathological passion" because they do not lead to an "intrinsically adequate solution of the human condition." in the sense that they do not lead to human growth and humans strength but on the contrary to their crippling. Fromm says: "The pleasures of the radical hedonists, the satisfaction of ever new cupidities, the pleasures of contemporary society produce different degrees of excitements. But they are not conducive to joy." On the contrary, "the lack of joy makes it necessary to seek ever new, ever more exciting pleasures.". This is what Moses meant when he told the people of Israel about one of the worst of their "sins": "You did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, in the midst of the fullness of all things." (Deuteronomy 28: 47) To Fromm, "joy is the concomitant of productive activity. It is not a 'peak experience' which culminates and ends suddenly, but rather a plateau, a feeling state that accompanies the productive expression of one's essential human faculties." He puts it very well in another imagery: "Joy is not the ecstatic fire of the moment. Joy is the glow that accompanies being.".  Why? He explains: "Pleasure and thrill are conducive to sadness after the so-called peak has been reached; for the thrill has been experienced, but the vessel has not grown.One's inner powers have no increased." He quotes the Latin saying "post coitum animal triste est" (after intercourse, the animal is sad) because it is a "loveless sex", a "peak experience" of intense excitation, hence thrilling and pleasureful but it is necessarily followed by the disappointment of its ending. To Fromm, "joy in sex is experienced only when physical intimacy is at the same time the intimacy of loving."

Fromm says that all the great world religions proclaim, the attainment not of pleasure but of joy because joy is the core achievement of all our spiritual exercises and practices which enhance and promote Life.Thus Buddhism conceives of the state of nirvana as a state of joy and in the Jewish tradition, the Sabbath is a day of joy and in the Messianic Time, joy will also be the prevailing mood and the prophetic literature abounds in the expression of such joy: "Then there will the virgins rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy" (Jeremiah 31: 13) and "With joy you will draw water'." (Isaiah 12: 3) and God calls Jerusalem "the city of my joy" (Jeremiah 49:25) and we find the same in the Talmud: "The joy of a mitzvah [fulfilment of a religious duty] is the only way to get the holy spirit.(Berakoth 31, a) And in the Christian tradition, gospels mean "glad tidings" and in the New Testament, joy is the fruit of giving up "having" or "possessions" whilst sadness is the mood of those who refuse to relinquish them (Matthew 14: 44 and 19:22) and before he dies, he told his disciples: "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy be in you and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11), The great Christian mystic Meister Eckhart has a beautiful passage where he talks about the creative power of laughter and joy: "When God laughs at the soul and the sou laughs back at God, the person of the Trinity are begotten. To speak in hyperbole, when the Father laughs to the son and the son laughs back to the Father, that laughter gives pleasure, that pleasure gives joy, that joy gives love and love gives the persons of the Trinity of which the Holy Spirit is one (Raymond B Blakney Meister Eckhart 245). Fromm thinks like Spinoza according to whom "Joy is man's passage from a lesser to a greater perfection" whilst "Sorrow is man's passage from a greater to a lesser perfection (Ethics 3 definitions 2 & 3). To Spinoza, the purpose of our life is to strive to get nearer and nearer to "the model of human nature" by which he means the human potential to be optimally active, free, rational and good. ( "everything which we are certain is a means by which we may approach nearer and nearer to the model of human nature we have set before us") and evil is "everything which we are certain hinders us from reaching that model" (Ethics 4 Preface). To him, joy is virtue and good and sadness/sorrow (tristitia) is sin and evil. We experience joy only when we are growing nearer towards "becoming" and "realizing" the good that is inherent within ourselves.

Like the great Buddha and now Eckhart Tolle ( The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, 1999; Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations, and Exercises from The Power of Now, 2001; Stillness Speaks: Whispers of Now, 2003, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose 2005;     Milton's Secret: An Adventure of Discovery through Then, When, and The Power of Now 2008, Oneness With All Life: Inspirational Selections from A New Earth 2008 and Guardians of Being, 2009 ), Fromm emphasizes the need to live to in the present if we want to adopt a "being" mode of life. He says: "The mode of being exists in the here and now (hic et nunc). The mode of having exists only in time: past, present and future because "we are bound to what we have amassed in the past: money, land, fame, social status, knowledge, children, memories. We think about the past, and we feel by remembering feelings (or what appear to be feelings) of the past. (This is the essence of sentimentality) we are the past; we can say: "I am what I was...The future is the anticipation of what will become the past. It is experienced in the mode of having as is the past and is expressed when one says: "This person has a future' indicating that the individual will have many things even thought he or she does not now have them." Therefore, whether we deal with the past or the future, the fundamental experience of "having" is the same! To Fromm, the present is the point where past and future join, a frontier station in time, but not different in quality from the two realms it connects. He says: "Being is not necessarily outside of time, but time is not the dimension that governs being.". He explains with an examples; "The painter has to wrestle with color, canvas and brushes, the sculptor with stone and chisel. Yet the creative act, their 'vision' of what they are going to create, transcends time. It occurs in a flash or in many flashes but time is not experienced in the vision. The same holds true for thinkers. Writing down their ideas occurs in time, but conceiving them is a creative event outside of time. It is the  same for every manifestation of being. The experience of loving, of joy, of grasping truth does not occur in time, but in the here and now. The here and now is eternity i.e. timelessness. But eternity is not, as popularly misunderstood, indefinitely prolonged time."  Eternity is in a sense a mode of existence "outside" of time, where to the person, time does not matter any more. In that sense, eternity is subjective, not objective, as commonly thought!

How to deal with our past? To Fromm, in the mode of "having" the past , e.g. by remembering, thinking, ruminating about the past, the past is dead. But we may bring it back to life. We can re-create the past or metaphorically resurrect the dead: we can bring intensity into the process of "experiencing" the past with the same "freshness" as if it occurred in the here and now and "to the extent that one does so, the past ceases to be the past; it is the here and now."  Likewise, one can "experience" the future as if it were the here and now "when a future state is so fully anticipated in one's own experience that it is only the future 'objectively' i.e. in external fact, but not in the subjective experience. To Fromm, "this is the nature of genuine utopian thinking (in contrast to utopian daydreaming)" and it is the basis of "genuine faith" which does not need external realization "in the future" in order to make the experience of it real."  However, Fromm is realistic. He does not ignore the existential fact that our bodily existence or our life, has a limited duration and that we cannot live eternally nor can we ignore or escape from the action of time. He says: "The rhythm of night and day, of sleep and wakefulness, of growing and aging, the need to sustain ourselves by work and to defend ourselves, all these factors force us to respect time if we want to live and our bodies make us want to live." But although we respect time, we do not have to submit to it! Like Camus' Sisyphus, we need not submit to our "fate".  When do we submit to time? Respect for time becomes submission when the "having" mode predominates:
" In this mode, not only things are things, but all that is alive becomes a thing. In the mode of "having", time becomes our ruler. In the being mode, time is dethroned; it is no longer the idol that rules our life." The "having" mode predominates in our contemporary society because in a capitalist society, time means money and everything, every person is made its slave because of the overriding and paramount need to make the greatest amount of profit in the shortest time possible in the relevant supply, production, distribution and sales and consumption of the relevant products, commodities and services cycles. The speed of the relevant production, transport or business "machines" and now the speed of the internet forces its own rhythm upon the worker and the managers alike . Time has become king. Only in our "free hours" do we have the semblance of a choice. Yet owing to the force of habit, "we organize our leisure as we organize our work." Or we rebel against the tyrant time by being absolutely lazy: "By not doing anything except disobeying time's demands, we have the illusion that we are free, when we are, in fact, only paroled from our time-prison.". Sounds familiar? Doesn't it?

(To be cont'd)