Wednesday, November 25, 2015



D. R. Khashaba


“I will tell you”, Hermes said to me, “about the visit of William James to the grove of Socrates. He arrived to find David Hume and Immanuel Kant engaged in conversation with a goodly audience surrounding them. Greetings and words of welcome were exchanged and those who happened to be closest to Hume and Kant made room for William James to lie beside them on the verdant ground.”

William James said, “You remind me of the will-o’-the-wisp of my lifetime. I spent the whole of my earthly life studying and researching and could not form the faintest idea of what consciousness might be.” Hypatia said, “Permit me to say that you sought in vain because you were looking in the wrong place. I am informed that more than twelve decades after you published the book in which you expressed despair of ever finding what consciousness might be, learned neuroscientists and philosophers of mind are trying to capture the mind with no more success than you had. Consciousness or mind or intelligence cannot be found by any objective means because consciousness is simply the luminescence of the soul and the soul is simply our inwardness or, if I may be permitted the word, our innerness. Giordano Bruno has wisely spoken when he said, ‘ The whole soul is in the whole body, in the bones and in the veins and in the heart; it is no more present in one part than in another, and it is no less present in one part than in the whole, nor in the whole less than in one part. ’ Or, in the words of John Milton, ‘The mind is its own place’, though Milton may not have meant what I mean by these words.”

When Hypatia paused someone asked, “Since you agree with Giordano Bruno in saying that the whole soul is in the whole body, do you hold that there is soul in all body?” – “Father Plato has said: psuchê pasa pantos epimeleitai tou apsuchou, all soul has charge of all that is without soul, but Father Socrates has taught us that we know nothing of the world outside us; it is more than enough for us to know ourselves. Therefore I do not affirm anything of the outer world, but I am within my rights in saying I cannot see how any being can be intelligible apart from mind.” At this moment a golden butterfly fluttered above their heads: Hypatia said, “I am confident that this beautiful creature is inwardly as beautiful as outwardly, I am confident she enjoys the blissful flow of life in her.”

For a while all were silent, meditating on Hypatia’s words. Then William James spoke again. “Another riddle that kept evading me all my earthly lifetime was the problem of free will.” Immanuel Kant said, “Although I was inwardly convinced of the reality of free will, I felt that my attempt to reconcile moral freedom with universal physical causality was somehow defective.” David Hume said, “It seems to me that you put too much trust in physical causality.” Hypatia spoke again: ‘What you say, dear friend, is only part of the answer. It is true that all so-called laws formulated by science are approximations, rough schemata of observed regularities, so that the so-called causal necessity is merely a practical affair. Ludwig Wittgenstein who lived on earth long after your sojourn there said that ‘belief in the causal nexus is superstition’. And Albert Einstein said, ‘As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.’ But what do we have to do with the physical world and its so-called laws? We have immediate awareness of freedom in the spontaneity of creative intelligence. What makes the ‘problem’ of free will seem like an insoluble conundrum, beside the false assumption of universal causal necessity, is the confusion of moral freedom with freedom of choice. This latter should be called liberty, consisting in freedom from coercion. In itself choice and deliberation are always necessarily conditioned by antecedents. But a deed of love, an act of intelligent creativity, are always spontaneous and originative.”

Here Aspasia said, “We are not showing proper hospitality to our dear visitor. Let us regale him and ourselves with music.” Lastheneia of Mantinea hummed a tune and forthwith all the place resounded with music.

Cairo, November 24, 2015.

Sunday, November 22, 2015



D. R. Khashaba


Once I asked Hermes: “Are the denizens of a grove always confined to the grove they are allotted to?” Hermes answered: “How can there be confinement in the realm of spirit? The denizens of a grove are attached to their particular grove but members of different groves freely exchange visits.” Hermes then told me of Plato’s visit to the grove of Parmenides:

Plato announced that he would visit Parmenides. Lastheneia of Mantinea and Axiothea of Phlius, both of whom had studied under him at the Academy, said they would accompany him. They crossed the portal of The One and came to where Parmenides was discoursing with a group of his companions. As they approached Parmenides said, “Welcome, Son; you have called me Father and I gladly call you Son.” – “That is an honour that fills my hear with joy.” – “But you have spun many fables around my name.” – “Yet I did not falsify your teaching when in the dialogue that I named after you I made you say that whatever we assume to be or not to be, it will seem that both the One and the Many, will be, both in relation to themselves and to each other, all things and no-thing.” – “There you are right. How could a determinate formulation of words or of thought be true to the One that is beyond all thought, nay, beyond all being?”

After a pause Parmenides resumed, “But in the dialogue named Sophist you yourself confessed you were doing violence to my thought.” Plato said, “Even there I was unfolding the insight in your dictum: tauto gar esti noein te kai einai. Whether, in one sense, we mean that to be is to be thought, or, in another sense, we mean that to be is to think, we see that the real is living, active, creative intelligence. Giordano Bruno has well said of God, ‘He is the highest point of the scale, pure act and active power, the purest light’. In contradicting your denial of all motion and all change in the One I was simply exploring the notion of the One.” – “You identified the One with the Form of the Good.” – “The Form of the Good while breeding all thought and all being is one with the One in being beyond all thought and all being.”

There was a long pause interrupted by Zeno of Elea who addressed Plato saying, “Your writing in parables misled many acute persons who should have known better.” Axiothea of Phlius said, “Yet had he not written in parables and myths, he would have been like all the others promulgating lifeless dogma and superstition. The parables and myths of Plato had the same purpose as your paradoxes, to alert all thinkers to the inherent contradictoriness in all thought.” Zeno acknowledged Axiothea’s remark with a nod then said to Plato, “It is reported that two-and-a-half millennia after our earthly existence people there are still grossly misunderstanding the poetical imaginary flights of your youthful dialogues into the regions of pure Forms. They say that you took the Forms to constitute an immaterial reality existing apart from the physical world.” Lastheneia of Mantinea said, “They also say that Plato denied the ‘reality’ of the outer world. They do not understand that Plato’s denigration of the objective world and of the human body is not a denial of the existence of the world of nature but is meant to highlight the sole reality that sustains and brings forth all objective existence which is essentially transient.” Axiothea added, “It is this misunderstanding that makes them designate Plato’s position as a dualism, overlooking that in Plato’s philosophy reality cannot be but one, that all multiplicity is relative and inherently evanescent. This brings us back to the One of Father Parmenides.”

Cairo, November 21, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015



D. R. Khashaba


I said to Hermes, “Tell me about Immanuel Kant’s arrival in the underworld. I am sure he was sent to the upper regions, but tell me what went on, to which grove was he directed?” – “What makes you so sure he went to the upper regions? – “If Immanuel Kant was not sent to the upper regions I will lose my faith in the justice of the gods,” – “You don’t have to. Of course he went up.” – “To which grove was he directed?” – “Kant was given a special favour. He was allowed to sample a number of groves and then decide where he wanted to lodge.”

Hermes continued: He first went to the grove of Aristotle. He was welcomed by Ibn Sina who accompanied him to where Aristotle was walking up and down a path bordered by a variety of exotic herbs, together with a group of men and women among whom Kant recognized Thomas of Aquino. Greetings and words of welcome were exchanged, then abruptly Aristotle said, “You thought your table of categories was an improvement on mine.” Kant was taken aback but replied gently, “Believe me, sir, I did not think of vying with your philosophy. I thought my categories followed necessarily from my system.” Thomas to change the drift of the conversation said, “I have been studying your refutation of the Ontological Proof. It is brilliant, but it seems to me to leave something out. The Proof does not prove anything, as you rightly say, but it gives voice to a philosophical insight: that the idea of perfection in our mind is our model, our criterion, and our assurance of ultimate Reality. It is kin to Plato’s Form of the Good, which is only an idea, but an idea of Reality in which we discover and attain our own reality. I have come to see this since I came here.” Kant for the first time felt that the idea of Reality, no less than the starry heavens above and the moral sense within, can fill the mind with awe and wonder. He said, “Thank you for throwing this flood of light on a question I had only treated superficially.”

Kant then asked to be excused, walked out of Aristotle’s grove, and headed to the grove of René Descartes. There besides Descartes he saw Malebranche, Leibniz, Spinoza, and his old master Christian Wolff. Leibniz and Spinoza were engaged in a lively discussion. Wolff said to Kant: “When you said you were awakened from your dogmatic slumber you were alluding to the philosophy I had taught you.” Kant said apologetically, “It was the philosophy I kept teaching for many years before arriving at my Critical system.” After exchanging a few more words with Wolff and greeting the others he left Descartes’s grove. He lingered before the portal of Francis Bacon’s grove and for a while seemed undecided, then, as if he had a sudden inspiration, moved with determination to the Gnôthi Sauton portal and entered the grove of Socrates.

He found his way to Socrates’ habitual haunt. He was welcomed and was bid to make himself comfortable on the lush grass. David Hume addressed him: “I have learnt that you had the answer to my quandary.” Kant said, “I wrote a bulky elaborate volume to escape the predicament you put us all in, but since I came here it has suddenly become plain to me that Socrates had the whole answer long before our time. We live, strictly speaking, in a world of thought. Our world is in a genuine sense ours because it is constituted by our ideas. The world conforms to our ideas simply because the world we live in is made of the forms and the patterns generated by our mind. Our friend George Berkeley here was not far wrong when he saw in the world nothing but ideas, because all things in the world are, for us, formed by our ideas.” “Plato explained that to me”, Hume said, “when I came here; but you put it beautifully.” After a short pause Kant resumed: “There are two puzzles that still perplex me: the noumenon that remains unknown and the transcendental unity of apperception that despite all my endeavours continues to elude me.”

It was Hypatia that spoke: “Your two puzzles have but one answer. The noumenon remains unknown to you because you seek it in or behind or underneath the things in the outer world. The real noumenon is within you; it is none other than what you call the transcendental unity of apperception and keeps eluding you because you seek to find a thing, an entity, an observable object, while it is nothing but your inner reality. Your inner reality is the only noumenon. It is not a thing or an object but is the activity of your creative intelligence. It cannot be observed because it is the observer, it is the agent but even this statement has to be taken with caution because it is not a thing that is but is pure act. For, as Plato rightly saw, all reality is nothing but dunamis, activity.”

When Hypatia stopped Aspasia said with a smile, “You have to excuse Hypatia’s didactic vehemence. She is prone to forget herself and think she is lecturing her students in the School of Alexandria.” Then Hypatia said, “Dear Aspasia does not let an opportunity for teasing me go by. I cannot suppress my vexation at the way humans ignore the inner eye. When I taught that true salvation is in philosophy they shredded my body and burned my books. When Mansur Al-Hallaj found all truth within himself and proclaimed: \I am the Truth’ they put him to death. When Giordano Bruno sought the light that was dimmed by the mythological creed he was burned. And now they go to all lengths to find the mind in this and that and cannot see that the mind itself is the sole reality.”

Cairo, November 17, 2015.

Thursday, November 12, 2015



D. R. Khashaba

Some time ago I reported a conversation that took place in Hades as it came to me. But lately an akolouthos of Hermes gave me a more detailed account of Plato receiving David Hume on his arrival at Hades’ abode, and in return for a favour I nad shown him has been regaling me from time to time with reports of goings on past and goings on present in the realms of the departed. I will make a record of these reports here, but let me begin by giving the fuller account of what took place when Hume first arrived there.


When David Hume arrived in the underworld and stood before the judges Radamanthus, Minos and Aiakos he was unanimously voted to go to the upper regions but while Aiakos was inclined to send him to the grove of Democritus, Minos thought that, despite appearances, he properly belonged to the grove of Socrates, and Radamanthus ruled thus, and Hermes conducted him to the Gnôthi Sauton portal. As soon as he entered Plato welcomed him and had with him the conversation I reported earlier before taking him to Socrates’ favourite haunt.

There was a small group gathered around Socrates, seated or reclining on the lush grass. Hume’s attention was first attracted by two fair nymphs, one on either side of Socrates. Plato caught Hume’s glance. “Those are”, he explained, “Aspasia of Athens, to the left, and Hypatia of Alexandria, to the right.” Next Hume’s eye rested on a face that somehow looked familiar to him. “You should recognize him”, Plato said. “that’s George Berkeley. I am confident you will soon smooth out your philosophical differences.”

As they approached Socrates said, “Welcome, friend; we have been expecting you.” Plato said, “I am to blame for keeping him a while. We had an interesting discussion and agreed that those who are responsible for giving Philosophy a bad name are her foolish friends who claimed for her territories beyond her rightful domain.” “It’s curious”, said Socrates, “how mortals persevere in error. I told them plainly that Philosophy has nothing to do with the physical world and my friend Plato told them, though in parable, that Philosophy does not seek and cannot offer the certainty proper to geometry or number what they now call mathematics, usurping the word we used for all that can be taught and learned. Philosophy begins – and never ends – in the injunction of the Delphic oracle: know yourself.”

“May I ask”, Hume interposed, “why you intoned the phrase ‘and never ends’ with such emphasis.” Socrates turned with a sly wink to Hypatia who spoke: “In seeking to know ourselves we explore our inner reality, a reality that is as inexhaustible as it is ineffable. In exploring our reality we both live intelligently and live the life of intelligence.” Socrates smiled saying, “Hypatia speaks as enigmatically as my friend Diotima. Diotima once said to me: theôn oudeis philosophei oud’ epithumei sophos genesthai, esti gar. oud’ ei tis allos sophos, ou philosophei (no god philosophizes or desires to become wise; he already is; nor does anyone else who is wise philosophize). Now this surely has to be taken with more than a grain of salt. It would be straightforwardly true if philosophy or wisdom were a fixed asset, as businessmen say, to be possessed once and for all. But philosophy, as Plato has been teaching, is never a definite body of knowledge, but is the activity of philosophizing, or as Hypatia says, is the constant exercise of creative intelligence.” “And that”, said Aspasia, “ is the philosophical life.”

After a pause Aspasia resumed: “But sometimes I wonder, is it only by philosophizing that a human being can live a good life? I have known simple individuals who lived at peace with themselves and with everybody around them, who were tender and loving not only towards their fellow human beings but also towards all living things, filled with happiness when they do a good deed, contentedly enjoying doing whatever they have to do.” “Yes”, said Plato, “there are such persons who are by nature so happily attuned that they cannot but do what is right. But we have to take account of two considerations. First, most of us need to be constantly examining our motives and impulses, scrutinizing our judgments snd convictions, clearing the muddles and confusions of our opinions. Secondly, (and this especially concerns us who busy ourselves with philosophy and philosophizing) human beings, whose distinctive characteristic is reason, fall short of their proper excellence if their mode of life and their doings are not founded on reasoned principles.”

A lively tune sounded; they all stood up abs began dancing to the music.

Cairo, November 11, 2o15.