Plato’s allegory of the cave

(The Republic , Book VII)

Socrates And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened:, Behold! human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets. Continue reading “Plato’s allegory of the cave”

“prime trustfulness” and love

… our own existence in fact testifies to nothing less than our being loved by the Creator. What this can specifically mean for man’s relationship to the cosmos is movingly expressed by a remarkable, little-known writer with somewhat old-fashioned solemnity, “But insomuch as God loves me because I am, I am truly irreplaceable in the world.”

It seems clear tome that only through a conviction such as this can man achieve solid ground underfoot, within his own consciousness, as well. Presumably there exists something like a prime trustfulness by virtue of which one can live a “simple” life (in the biblical sense of “simple”), that is, ultimately without complications… And if such prime trustfulness does exist, then it must consist in nothing less than the certainty of being so surpassingly, effectively and absolutely loved. I recall the words of a great student of human nature and a master of spirituality: that simplicity, and he was referring here to the simplicitas of the New Testament, was at bottom nothing but “trusting to love” (Josef Pieper, “Faith, Hope, Love” p. 178-179).

the companions and peers of despair

“Though not the only offspring of acedia, despair is the most legitimate. Saint Thomas Aquinas has assembled the filiae acediae, the companions and peers of despair, in a demonic constellation that it will be rewarding to consider for a moment… In addition to despair, acedia gives birth to that uneasy restlessness of mind that Thomas calls evagatio mentis: “No one can remain in sadness”; but since it is precisely his most inward being that causes the sadness of one who has fallen prey to acedia, the result is that such a one struggles to break out of the peace at the center of his own being.

For its part, evagatio mentis reveals itself in loquaciousness (verbositas), in excessive curiosity (curiositas), in an irreverent urge “to pour oneself out from the peak of of the mind onto many things” (importunitas), in interior restlessness (inquietudo), and in instability of place or purpose (instabilitas loci vel propositi). All these concepts that are inseparably related to “uneasy restlessness of mind” (evagatio mentis) are to be met with again in Heidegger’s analysis of “everyday existence” (which, however, is not concerned with the religious significance of acedia): “being’s flight from itself”, “loquaciousness”, “curiosity” as concern about the “possibility of abandoning oneself to the world”, “importunity”, “distraction”, “instability”.

Evagatio mentis and despair are followed by a third offspring of acedia–a sluggish indifference (torpor) toward those things that are in truth necessary for man’s salvation; it is linked by an inner necessity to the denial of man’s higher self that springs from sadness and sloth. The fourth offspring is pusillanimity (pusillanimitas) toward all the mystical opportunities that are open to man. The fifth is irritable rebellion (rancor) against all who are charged with the responsibility of preventing man’s true and divinized self from falling prey to forgetfulness, to “self-forgetfulness”. The last offspring is malitita, malice par excellence, a conscious inner choice and decision in favor of evil as evil that has its source in hatred for the divine in man” (Faith, Hope, Love, p. 120-121).

Acedia and Kierkegaard

“Acedia is what Kierkegaard, in his book on despair (Sickness unto Death), has called the “despair of weakness”, which he considers a preliminary stage of despair proper and which consists in the fact that an individual ‘is unwilling, in his despair, to be himself'” (Faith, Hope, Love, p. 120).

Acedia as perverted humility

“One who is trapped in acedia has neither the courage nor the will to be as great as he really is. He would prefer to be less great in order thus to avoid the obligation of greatness. Acedia is a perverted humility; it will not accept supernatural goods because they are, by their very nature, linked to a claim on him who receives them” (Faith, Hope, Love, p. 119).