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.


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