Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The good of the intellect

"We've reached the place I told thee to expect,
Where thou shouldst see the miserable race,
Those who have lost the good of intellect."

Dante, Divine Comedy, The Inferno, Canto III

When Dante is led by Virgil through the gates of Hell, before he is ferried across the river Acheron by Charon, he enters the Vestibule of Hell where the futile abide. Dorothy Sayers explains in the commentary to the Penguin Classics edition:

"The vestibule is the abode of the weather-cock mind, the vague tolerance which will neither approve nor condemn, the cautious cowardice for which no decision is ever final. The spirits rush aimlessly after the aimlessly whirling banner, stung and goaded, as of old, by the thought that, in doing anything definite whatsoever, they are missing doing something else."

Virgil explains that these people have "lost the good of intellect". In the tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas, the good of intellect is truth. It is for this reason that they cannot commit to any deed or judgement - they have no language which is able to even make sense of the word truth, and they live in a relativistic world where everything is as good as anything else. Why bother making any final decisions in such a world?

But why is the good of the intellect truth? We need to understand what intellect and good mean in an Aristotelian sense to answer that.

For Aquinas the faculty of the intellect is something different from what we would call reason - reason has to do with inquiry and proof, while intellect relates to the direct mental grasp of truths. It has a direct moral function, in that it is able to apprehend goods that are presented to the will. It is distinguished in this sense from a merely speculative function, and has a practical element.

The good of the intellect is truth, because by apprehending that truth the intellect will move the will to act in certain ways. People will lose this faculty if the will is turned continually away from the higher intellectual level. If they are willing to use only the purely speculative or rational part of the intellect, and deny that there is a moral element to truth, they will live in absurdity, like those in the Vestibule. This is one of the inherent dangers of living in the Modern Age, which is dominated by the tyranny of relativism.

There is an excellent post on the intellect here



Saturday, 10 March 2012

Da VInci on illustration

"And you who wish to represent by words the form of man and all the aspects of his membrification, relinquish that idea. For the more minutely you describe the more you will confine the mind of the reader, and the more you will keep him from the knowledge of the thing described. And so it is necessary to draw and to describe.”

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Vow of Poverty

The vow of poverty is the practice of inner emptiness that is established as a consequence of the silence of personal desires, emotions and imagination so that the soul may be capable of receiving the revelation of the Word, the life and the light from above. Poverty is the active perpetual vigil and waiting in the face of eternal sources of creativity; it is the soul ready for what is new and unexpected, it is the aptitude to learn always and everywhere, it is the condition sine qua non of all illumination, all revelation and all initiation.
Unknown Author, Meditations on the Tarot

"Truly, truly I say to you:
Unless a grain of wheat falls in the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit."
John 12:24

 How might we remove the obstacles to this state of poverty? Perhaps the desire to be full is the greatest threat to this. Radical emptying involves a conscious decision but needs to work with the unconscious forces. Many of these will pull you back to the state of desiring fullness, the pride of self-reliance and the closed circle of comforting truths. These forces are powerful and will keep growing back. An element of the chaotic must be present for creativity. It is natural to want to consolidate but self-emptying is the path to God.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Traditional Method


"The order of things that I ... deal with ... is that in which all materials
having a "historical" and "scientific" value are the ones that matter the
least; conversely, all the mythical, legendary, and epic elements denied historical
truth and demonstrative value acquire here a superior validity and
become the source for a more real and certain knowledge .... From the
perspective of "science" what matters in a myth is whatever historical elements
may be extracted from it. From the perspective that I adopt, what
matters in history are all the mythological elements it has to offer."

Julius Evola, Revolt against the modern world.