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Spunti di Riflessione
by Marco Biagioli
Translation by Patrizia Giammarioli
Looking for God is looking for the most beautiful part of ourselves
Jupiter, wanting to punish man without destroying him, split him into two parts. Since then each of us is the symbol of a man, a half looking for the other half, that is the corresponding symbol. Plato, Symposium, 191 d
The word “symbol” comes from the Greek symballein, meaning “ putting together”. In ancient Greece people used to split a ring, a coin or any object and give one of the two halves to a friend or a guest. These halves, kept in different parts, from generation to generation allowed the two friends’ descendants to recognize each other. This recognizing sign was called symbol.
It’s typical of man living the fragmented dimension of being, which, unaccessible in its original unity, shows itself to man only as laceration.We can think of history as an attempt at composing this cut; we can think of religion as a beyond projection of our wish to restore; we must think of art and philosophy as the high and strong proclamation of the impossibility to reunite this laceration, whence man was born as a separated fragment between earth and heaven, to adfirm its whole distance. Things appeared confused to the bodily glance of primitives, because it wasn’t influenced by the distinctions (separation = diaballein) of reason yet; the sun that made harvest ripe was the same as draught, the rain that moisturized it was the same as flooding. Their upset glance, not distinguishing good from evil, true from false, grasped the truth in things, neither of which is only positive or negative, as all of them are ambivalent.
“God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, famine and satisfaction and changes like the fire when mixing with perfumed scent, getting each time its smell. Man considers something right and something else unfair , for the god everything is nice, good and right”. Eraclitus
When the body , from a vehicle in the world becomes the obstacle to overcome to be in the world, then there is alienation (meaning: far from one’s being), where body wanders enigmatically in regions where sense is nonsense , where anguish spreads on all the things, charging them of exceeding meanings, or better eccessive, because its being “ambivalent” is explained in being “polyvalent” , where everything is possible, because reality has gone so far, to leave only hallucinated traces behind. If alienation means being far from oneself, maybe there isn’t a greater alienation than the one man suffers from today, under the unquestioned power of science. “Body is the life boat saving you from the ocean of nothing” Turold
Anyway didn’t alienation start in western world the day when suspicious lights coming from another world began to shine over us? From “yperuranius” by Plato to Freud’s unconscious the western world has always known, overestimated some issues that, coming from a “backworld” in Nietzsche’s words, didn’t allow the body to live its world. Grown up under the reflection of ideas, we lost our real shadow, the one caused by the sun, without even realizing that, along with this, our body itself left us. “Listen, brothers, to the voice of body. It speaks of the sense of Earth”. Nietzsche.
The combination of body and existence ins in that wealth when the”I” joins with its bodily essence, letting the calm, the silence invade itself, listening and listening to its living. Disease is a living imbalancement: in sorrow I separate from myself. The problem of evil is closely linked to conscience, that, in turn, is connected with the problem of knowledge. Maybe for this reason Socrates thought that evil could be committed only by the one who knows. And maybe for the same reason Jesus forgives his crucifyiers “because they don’t know what they are doing”. So conscience is “con science” of good and evil, the capability to keep the two sides of the antinomy together. Their division (dia- ballein) leads to the split of the personality in the individuals that, in clinical field, is the metaphor of the evil. Our attitude to witnessing, our dedication to presence, where the deeds we represent appear as the deeds of a body that is always involved, don’t know conditions or intervals. “Glorify God in your body”, St. Paul, “Letter to Corynthians”. Existing is living (live – leben from the old leiben, that is living body): this coincidence means to abolish any distance between the I, the body and the presence revealing the world. Existentia goes back to exodus and exitus; the direction of humanitas , expressed by exitus and included in the ec of ec-sistentia, can be followed only if the essence of man is no longer thought biologically as an expression of animalitas, but ontologically as that unrestrained opening , that place of the appearance, of the being where any sense or meaning is possible. “ The body is the only and the one psychic object ” Sartre. The greatness of man is in his ability to shape his own strength that Aristotle calls energheia, Spinoza conatus , Leibniz vis, Schopenhauer life will, Nietzsche power will and Freud libido.
Philosophy was born out of a comic scene. The first philosopher. Taletes, observing the sky fell down a ditch making a maiden laugh ( is there more truth in the laugh or in the thought?). When a young maiden laughs at the beginning of philosophy, as if the female part realized in advance the lack of confidence of a thought that presents itself too seriously, isn’t the same philosophy that laughs at itself, even though not sincerely, with the ironic Socrates? Also the psychic health is accompanied by laughter, if what Freud says is true: “my patients laugh when they are going to discover something unconscious”. They laugh at their false conscience, at the betraying of rationality, at the misconfirmation of the certainties that their accommodating beliefs had built to defend the unpleasant truth. As Lichtenberg used to say: “you can’t take the light of truth among the crowd without burning someone’s beard”. Hegel’s beard with Kierkegaard’s laughter and Plato’s beard with Nietzsche’s beard. “ Man will be free when reality ‘loses its seriousness’ and he, no longer conditioned by need and necessity, will be able ‘to play’ with its faculties and potentialities and with those of nature” Marcuse.
“There is more reason in your body than in the best knowledge” Nietzsche
Arcaic societies initiated adolescents to social life marking their bodies, so they regarded the body as the only right space to bring the group “sign” , the “trace” of the passage delivering individuals to society ( see the importance of potlàc).
Words like “mind” and “body”, “psyche” and “soma”, “Es” and “Id”, “Super-ego”, “conscious” and “unconscious”, beside dividing man according to the supposed reference system, focus on him as an isolated entity, whose main quality isn’t to relate with the others and the world.
In 1917 Freud wrote: “ Humanity certainly knows to possess the spirit, I must show them there ar also istincts”. The Es isn’t the master in his own home (“It was stronger than me, I wasn’t able to resist”); thoughts we don’t know where they come from appear all of a sudden. With the term unconscious Freud recuperates at a psychic level a reality that, closely observed, is manifested as the result of a break of the symbolic, exactly like the God of the biblical religion. The disturbed relationships between conscious and unconscious (Freud conceived unconscious as the place of the removed, the horizon of the symbolic for Jung) well represent the trouble of that split, through which our nearest things (our body, its voice, its image – body and world) are detached to make room for that inner ideal principle of subjectivity called “anima (soul)” (from the Greek anemoi, that is” brought by the wind”, a wind penetrating in the breathing bodies) in religious language and “conscience” in psychoanalysis. For the Greeks divinity is that vague background, that area of any difference, that indifferentiated whole that men, after separating from it, recognised as their origin and kept away from them, out of their community , but in the world of gods, that for this reason come before them. The world they live in is the world of the symbol, where there is no distinction. Freud called this world unconscious. Men have always known unconscious in the more dramatic form of sacred and divine. “Sacred” is an Indoeuropean word meaning “separated”. So the sacre is not a spiritual or moral condition, but a quality referring to what is linked with powers that man, being unable to dominate them, perceives as greater than himself and for this reason belonging to a dimension later called “divine”, however believed “separated” and “other” from human world.
This ambivalent relationship is the essence of any religion, that, according to the word, encloses (re-legere) and keeps close the sacred area, to maintain the separation and the contact at the same time; anyway they are ruled by rites that on the one hand can avoid the uncontrolled spread of the sacre, and on the other its inaccessibility. It is like all this was felt in advance by human beings , before fearing or appealing to any divinity. In fact God arrived in religion with a great delay. In contact with the sacre world we find consacred people, separated from the rest of the community ( the priests), separated spaces from the others because charged with powers (springs, trees, mountains and then temples and churches), separated times from the others, called festivities, limitating the “sacred” and “profane” where , out of the temple (fanum) everyday life runs, ruled by work and prohibitions (taboos), whence rules and transgressions originate. According to Citati, Christ’s incarnation is the most sublime paradox of the Christian theology. God who makes himself Man: an unmentionable and undefinable God, who takes a name ; the infinite accepting the finite, the illimitate assuming the limit, what is spirit or above it turning into flesh; something eternal and immortal seeking death; the being who wants nothing; the supreme wisdom wishing folly; never had the man’s intellectual imagination conceived something so wonderfully absurd.
No idea ever upset the world so much. The Greek and the Chinese couldn’t accept the fact that God modified and transformed, as He ignores any change, or He assumed a human body. According to them a god couldn’t die of a violent and shameful death, nor descend onto the Earth and sacrifice for us. To them all the sorrow, the incapability, the fragility, the weakness seemed totally incomprehensible. All the western civilization originates from this paradox. Without Christ’s incarnation our religion would be meaningless. For centuries no hand would have painted a picture or written a book. That magnificent invention which is the European novel wouldn’t have existed. Philosophers wouldn’t have had the frames that contain their thoughts. Every greatest and humble expression of daily life would have lost its value and halo; the supremacy of the idea of incarnation explains also the vices of western civilization: man’s arrogance, thinking to be the highest of all creatures as God incarnated in him; the impossibility to understand spiritual matters if they don’t assume a physical aspect; the despise of nature because it hasn’t been redeemed; those of the trees because God hasn’t become a tree Himself.
For Feuerbach the perfect religion is Christianity, as in it Christ is God and man together. Perfect in two ways: firstly because, differently from all the other religions which put God in the absolute trascendence, Christianity, with incarnation, anticipates that God is nothing but the human essence surpassing the anguish of the single individualities and towards which the individualities have to tend in a sort of progressing anthropology; secondly because, stating the essence of God in love, Christianity doesn’t separate heart from reason in individuals and doesn’t separate them, but it aggregates them in that bond where the real essence of religion is expressed, in its meaning of re-ligio, that is a bond among people. Christianity “humanized God” and “divinized man” (in the western countries art is indebted to the second Council of Nicea – 787- where the cult of images was approved, the only case in the three monotheistic religions). Reason marks the great separation of the human from sacre, logics has de-limited sense. With science Earth turned from mother-earth
into indifferent material, the sky lost the mythology of stars in favour of the cosmic dust and the human psyche, that Plato had taken away from temporality addressing it to eternity, started to chase the events of time and its always new configurations, that weren’t ontologically deductable, nor depictable on the basis of the previous configurations. Nowadays technology doesn’t allow us to think of history as our aim and so it gets the world free like an absolute and continuous novelty; it gives value to the ethic of the Wanderer, who looks at the incomprehensibility of fate, refusing the illusions evocated for protection and it is willing to abandon its deep beliefs, skimming over the abyss in its opening to the world (see the starry sky and the moral law of Kant).
Poets don’t sing for a specific thing, but for nothing; this nothing is not anything, but what is not said by the rational thought. They “say the not said”. “Art is at its best when it isn’t realized and at the same time it evokes those deep and simple powers in which man recognizes himself. This is one of the rewards we deserve because we think through what we see” Arnheim
For Galimberti music is the question of the soul and the world; it takes us to the proximity of that mystery each of us is for himself. Listening in the crowd to a simple primitive sound on the downbeat and upbeat, that heart beat which is the first sound a fetus perceives not distinguishing it from its own; it lets us enter in that condition to ask questions with the body and not theoretically. In this experience of nothing, in this absence of our own name lost in the crowd, that in its anonymousness has swallowed all the names, there is a recollection of the fundating act of the first communities, in their primordial howl; they didn’t gather around the hearth, as psychoanalytical hypothesis state, but around the howl, as Severino reminds us.
Man is given brief moments to accept eternity. My body spreads till my presence is, because that space belongs to it, as the space the dancer occupies to dance belongs to him. “Those who don’t dance , don’t know what happens” (gnostic fragment). The body delivers ont-ology to geo-graphy, that is the graphic of the earth, the most speaking, the most descriptive, the one that doesn’t grant ontological privilegies, because it doesn’t know the mono-tony of speech, but also the sinuousity of the thing, that mixes up the geographers’ lines, that disorients but only to reach orientation. One cannot say if it is day or night, ambivalence confuses them (body is ambivalent), dawn and twilight are familiar to them, when day isn’t only day and night isn’t only night.
With Saint Paul we could summarize that “treasure is here, it’s us, together in assembly”. Being in the world always means, in short, being in the world with my similars, being with the other existences (Mitdaseiende-Heidegger).
Marco Biagioli - april 2006
Translation by Patrizia Giammarioli - 2014
Versione italiana - Dio equivale a cercare la parte più bella di noi stessi
Version française - Chercher Dieu c’est comme chercher la partie la plus belle de nous même
Contatore azzerato il 16-02-2017