Wednesday, May 30, 2007

(9) Inborn Ideas

As put in Stoic teaching..."inborn ideas are part of the soul's
inheritance from that universal reason of which the soul is
a fragment."
[Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Stoics," p. 861.]

Comment: We humans have ideas popping into our minds
nearly non-stop. That's part of the human condition. On the
other hand, we more than often don't concentrate enough
on most of these ideas. Often, too, a lot of the ideas that
meet our minds seem fragmented, not altogether, not concise.

There's also the environment in which these ideas form.
Our minds vary. Some are well-honed, others impoverished,
and most are likely preoccupied with our everyday living and
occasionally with the immediate issues of survival. So--inborn
ideas are not always planted in fertile ground.

When such precious ideas do match with a complimentary
environment, it's then that sometimes the idea grows from
immediate comprehension unto a profitable thought unto,
maybe, an actuality.

There are some today, both in theology and in science, who
theorize that ours is both an inner/outer universe. Like ourselves,
the universe possesses both a "without" and a "within." Some
of these theorists ponder that perhaps innate ideas are a product
of an implicate order that somehow thrusts these ideas outward
into the explicate order of the universe.

Again, theorizing, but such scholars feel that it is very important
that we connect more and more, better and better, with these
inborn ideas. They are coming from "within" and need to be
met in the "without."

If these theories are anywhere near being correct, what would
be the significance of this process? We could employ a religious
perspective, presuming that these ideas are coming from God.
But harkening more to the idea of a Universal Reason, perhaps
inborn ideas are simply part of the natural process--in which the
ideas have always been in existence in the Macrocosm and
slip forth into microcosmic forms when they have reached an
evolutionary point wherein they can receive and perhaps cope
with these ideas. Perhaps inborn ideas are meant to be the
building-blocks of cosmic development?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

(8) Seed unto Code

"The basic concept of Stoic physics is logos, a Greek word
meaning 'reasoned speech.' In Stoicism it describes divine
power, pervading all things, also referred to as a breath,
which infers *pneuma,* or a seed...It permeates animate
and inanimate matter. It is mind, nature, and disposition."
[Encyclopedia Americana, "Stoicism," p. 734.]

Comment: "Seed" is a familiar archaic term that we refer to
when we observe growth in something. There's an underlying
assumption that within a seed can be found the information
that determines the finished product, whether a weed, a
flower, a tree, an animal, or a human being.

In modern times we may tend more to think in terms of
"code." We are all familiar with the subject of DNA. We
know about genome projects. And we have discovered
that DNA, itself, is code. And all of life is permeated with
this code that wraps around itself in a myriad of ways and
produces the magnificent diversity of life we find on this

As for our minds, our nature, our dispositions--are they, too,
a response to code? Currently there are bio-medical studies
about the hard-wiring of the human brain, with some scientists
inferring that we are even hard-wired when it comes to morality,
our ability to want to be ethical. Conversely, sometimes there's
a loose or missing wire, hence psychopaths.

From another perspective, particularly that of Depth Psychology,
there are "archetypal" aspects that determine who we are, how
we are put together in terms of mind, nature, and disposition.

In the past archetypal psychologists have seen psychical
currents that not only determine who we--as individuals--are,
but also how such impacts upon the Collective Mind of our
various cultural systems. Some make out these archetypal
forces in nearly mystical terms. But what if archetypes are
actually just another form of code? We have actually labeled
those primary archetypes that have been identified, usually
again employing fundamental but mystical terms. Why?
Mainly because our myths and ensuing symbolism that
surround these archetypes have in the past been seen from
a mythical or spiritual perspective.

But in today's world, just maybe we might want to re-approach
these archetypal forces of the mind as code! James Hillman,
a famous depth psychologist, has begun to do this. See his
CALLING, that sees *code* standing behind the analogy of
the seed or the archetype.

So--it would seem that the ancient cosmology of the Stoa
could be linked with a Cosmic Intelligence, i.e. the Reason,
or the Laws of the Universe, that stand behind the coding of
the cosmos and everything in it. Yet another question arises:
is everything already determined?

Determinism vis-a-vis the Freedom of Choice has been a
debate probably since the dawn of consciousness. Perhaps
this situation need be seen half-way. There's coding that holds
the potential for a particular form, a particular completeness,
but there's no guarantee that the seed will unfold appropriately.
In flowers, plants, and trees the climate is always a variable.
And adaptation is also a variable, both for flora and fauna.
Conditions play upon the coding, if you will.

Than again, there's mind! Is it a human quality that somehow
goes beyond the hard-wiring of the brain? Or is mind simply
subservient to the brain. That's a hard question that no one has
yet managed to answer with any degree of certitude. Still, we
humans certainly do display the Freedom of Choice--more than
often wrong choices, alas! Even the Stoics got into this issue,
when it came to the Virtuous Life. We have concerned ourselves
over this issue nearly forever.

Lest we forget, Stoic physics did refer to the "pneuma," a Spirit,
a Breath, a permeating Force that stands behind the Intelligence
(or Reason or Law(s) of this Universe. If we humans are likened
to be a microcosm to the Macrocosm, well it can be inferred that
we, too, possess our own pneuma (or spirit, or soul) that stands
behind all that we are and will become. We may be coded,
hard-wired, but more than often we seem also to have the ability
to choose what we make of ourselves--and, eventually, of our

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

(7) Cosmology of the Ancient Stoa

The word "cosmology" is defined as the science of the origin
and development of the universe. In modern times we think
of the Big Bang, of Particle Physics, and AstroPhysics--all
assisted by cutting-edge technology--when we consider
the origin of the universe. However, more than two millennia
back in time, the ancient Greek philosophers were not privy
to the theoretics and the technology so familiar to us today.

Stoics nonetheless inherited a cosmic tradition, handed down
by Greek mythology. For example, "the analogy between
living beings and parts of the cosmos [was] extremely ancient
in Greece and antedates all written records." Indeed, the
analogy between microcosm and macrocosm can be traced
back as far as the sixth century b.c.e.
Ohio State University Press, 1977, p.63.]

Ancient Greek physics consisted of air, fire, water, and earth.
Consequently, Stoic philosophers forged their cosmology
within this context. Also, early on in Greek philosophy
"the idea became popular that the cosmos as a whole is a
single living being."
[Ibid, p. 63.]

Even more specifically, early Stoic philosophers stressed
a cosmic-biological character when it came to the universe.
For example, the early Stoics believed that the cosmos
originated out of the "fire of the conflagration." And as Zeno
reportedly put, the fire is "as it were a seed of the future
cosmos, possessing the *Logoi* (Reason) of all things."

Eventually this primeval fire changes into water. Out of this
comes the concept that body and soul are as two distinct
entities. As Hahm put: "Clearly the water is body and fire
is soul."

Continuing with biological terms, the Stoics refer to seed
in terms of sperm, which was wet, watery. As put, "as the
seed is embraced in the seminal fluid, so also this (i.e. god),
being a *spermatikos logos* of the cosmos is left behind--
making the matter adapted to himself for the genesis of the
next things..."
[Ibid, p. 60.]

In time Stoic physics moved into more sophisticated terms
when it came to discussing the cosmos. They considered
*Pneuma* (Spirit) as an all-pervasive intelligent force that
mixes with "shapeless and passive matter" and "imbues it
with all its qualities."
[S. Sambursky, PHYSICS OF THE STOICS, MacMillan
Company, 1959, p. 18.]

The Stoics also referred to *heimarmene*, an orderly succession
of cause and effect. To quote: "Heimarmene is the natural
order of the Whole by which from eternity one thing follows
another...[and] embodied in the definition of heimarmene
follows its meaning as *Logos* (Eternal Reason), as the divine
order and law, by which the cosmos is administered."
[Ibid, p. 58.]

Essentially this idea of Eternal Reason--the *Logos*--is about
an intelligently designed Fire that structures matter in accordance
with it's plan. Hence, out of a "shapeless and passive matter'
the Stoics endowed the cosmos with Intelligence and Reason
via the workings of the Fire of the Spirit, the *Pneuma.*

In due course the Stoics addressed the existence of human
beings in this Living Cosmos. They considered Man as a
microcosm to the macrocosm. Referring back to the Pneuma,
the Stoic philosopher Chrysippus considered that "the cosmos
is permeated and given life by the Pneuma, the same...makes a
man a living, organic whole." Hence, the Stoic emphasis on
the microcosm vis-a-vis the macrocosm!

Friday, May 18, 2007

(6) Cleanthes "Hymn to Zeus"

Most glorious of the immortals, invoked by many names,
ever all-powerful, Zeus, the First Cause of Nature, who
rules all things with Law, Hail! It is right for mortals to call
upon you, since from you we have our being, we whose
lot it is to be God's image, we alone of all mortal creatures
that live and move upon the earth. Accordingly, I will praise
you with my hymn and ever sing of your might. The whole
universe, spinning around the earth, goes wherever you
lead it and is willingly guided by you. So great is the servant
which you hold in your invincible hands, your eternal,
two-edged, lightning-forked thunderbolt. By its strokes
all the works of nature came to be established, and with it
you guide the universal Word of Reason which moves
through all creation, mingling with the great sun and the
small stars. O God, without you nothing comes to be on
earth, neither in the region of the heavenly poles, nor in
the sea, except what evil men do in their folly. But you know
how to make extraordinary things suitable, and how to bring
order forth from chaos; and even that which is unlovely is
lovely to you. For thus you have joined all things, the good
with the bad, into one, so that the eternal Word of all came
to be one. This Word, however, evil mortals flee, poor
wretches; though they are desirous of good things for their
possession, they neither see nor listen to God's universal
Law; and yet, if they obey it intelligently, they would have
the good life. But they are senselessly driven to one evil
after another: some are eager for fame, no matter how
godlessly it is acquired; others are set on making money
without any orderly principles in their lives; and others are
bent on ease and on the pleasures and delights of the body.
They do these foolish things, time and again, and are swept
along, eagerly defeating all they really wish for. O Zeus,
giver of all, shrouded in dark clouds and holding the vivid
bright lightning, rescue men from painful ignorance. Scatter
that ignorance far from their hearts and deign to rule all
things in justice so that, honored in this way, we may render
honor to you in return, and sing your deeds unceasingly,
as befits mortals; for there is no greater glory for men or for
gods than to justly praise the universal Word of Reason.