Stoicism and Paul: Making a Cosmology-Anthropology-Ethics for Today

Laura

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Someone else may think of a better title for this thread where I am going to work on defining FOTCM theology and anthropology and how that could and should personally guide each member. This topic is inspired by the recent Cs session of 25 March 2017, to wit:

Q: (L) And who do we have with us this evening?

A: Frilipiaea of Cassiopaea. Good evening! You have brought two books here tonight which contain great insights. We can see the many questions in your mind. Let us answer in advance that, yes, it is true that a network can operate as suggested. Also, the model of personal transformation is exactly correct with the modifications you have devised.

Q: (L) So, in other words, I was prepared to ask all of these questions, and I had my books with me, and you just basically stole my thunder! [laughter]

(Galatea) No! They helped you. It's called helping.

A: Yes
I think it is necessary to give some background on the ideas and the model I'm going to present here. Throughout, I'll be comparing systems; however, I don't want to overwhelm the reader with more than they need at this point, so I'm going to try to keep it simple.

First, it would be helpful if the reader has read the Secret History series: "The Secret History of the World and How to Get Out Alive", "Comets and the Horns of Moses", "Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection". In "Comets", I discussed ancient Greek philosophy at some length, with particular emphasis on the Stoics.

In studying ancient religions and philosophical systems (they were often overlapping or one and the same thing in a certain sense), the main questions of modern scholars are how to categorize the different ideas that appear: are they theological, that is, the "systematic study of the divine and the exploration of religious truths", which usually includes a cosmology (how the world really is and how it works), anthropological, ethical, etc. Cultural anthropologist, Clifford Geertz, pointed out that there is a dynamic relationship between what people believe about their world and their ethos: from "what is" to "how we ought to act".

In the writings of the apostle Paul, according to Troels Engberg-Pedersen (hereafter TEP), there are ideas about God and Christ and how the world is put together in time and space. These ideas TEP calls "broadly 'theological' or 'religious' and 'cosmological'. There are also ideas about how human beings relate to God, Christ and the world cosmologically understood; and ideas about how they relate to other human beings in and outside the group of Christ-believers. These ideas we may call broadly 'anthropological' and the latter group more especially 'ethical'.

So, we have:

1) Cosmology/Theology: ideas about God and how the world is.
2) Anthropology: ideas about how humans fit into the world and relate to God/Cosmos.
3) Ethics: how humans relate to each other in different contexts.

The famous German theologian, Rudolf Bultmann claimed that "every sentence [in Paul] about God is at the same time a sentence about man and vice versa ... the Pauline theology is at the same time anthropology". What he meant was that Paul's vision or "take" on cosmology/theology was profoundly influential on how he worked out how humans were to relate to God/Cosmos and each other. That is to say, if you REALLY understand how the Cosmos is/works, what IS, then it should profoundly affect how you act in all contexts, both in your relationship with the reality and your relationships within the reality.

Right here is where a very close correspondence between the Stoics, Gurdjieff, and the Cs can be noted. I'll develop some of these ideas further on, but for the moment, I'll just point out that from the Cs perspective, the ideas about densities, dimensions, higher density beings and their influence on our reality and lives, should profoundly influence how we live our lives and how we treat each other in varied contexts.

The next thing to add to the list to help clarify the issues is people's self-understanding. "Self-understanding" is a sort of formal term describing how a person thinks of themselves, how they see themselves fitting into the cosmic scheme of things. That is, is a person responsible only to themselves or only to God, or to their society; do they have free-will, is everything deterministic (no free will); and so on.

TEP: "First, Paul's construction of the self and the initial I-perspective is not at all 'individualistic' in any modern sense. And secondly... the basic thrust of Paul's writing is towards some form of communitarianism. The overarching theory to be found in Paul abut how the self should see its relationship with God, Christ, the world and the others is about a move from an I-perspective to a totally shared one. ...the whole point of his thought lies in practice. It is social practice that is his primary target."

Again, we find a striking correlation between the Stoics, Gurdjieff, and the Cs. The Stoics were focused on the "community of Sages" who acquired sufficient knowledge to move into a higher state of being; Gurdjieff makes it abundantly clear that only a GROUP can move out of the 'I-perspective'; and the Cs have been pushing "networking" as a 4th Density STO principle from the very beginning.

TEP: "First, we shall see that there is a basic similarity between Paul and the Stoics not just with regard to a number of particular, relatively minor topoi, but to a whole cluster of motifs that together constitute a major pattern of thought. That is the pattern that goes into Paul's idea of 'conversion' or 'call' understood as a change in self-understanding: a move away from an identification of the self with itself as a bodily, individual being, via an identification with something outside the self, and to a perspective shared with and also directed towards others, a perspective that will then also issue immediately in practice."

TEP then, as a modern scholar, begins to discuss how to "read Paul". He points out that "until some obstacle arises, a reader will immediately read 'eye to eye' with the author, (a) expecting to be able to understand the author, that is, to 'speak the same language as' him or her, (b) aiming in addition to understand the author's point of view as distinct from the reader's own, and (c) immediately expecting the author to express a truth - or at least what I shall call a 'real option'. ... {then quoting philosopher Bernard Williams} 'Many outlooks that human beings have had are not real options for us now. The life of a Bronze Age chief or a medieval samurai are not real options for us: there is no way of living them." By contrast, 'an outlook is a real option for a group either if it already is their outlook or if they could go over to it; and they could go over to it if they could live inside it in their actual historical circumstances and retain their hold on reality, not engage in extensive self-deception and so on."

It is here that TEP creates the divide that he believes exists between Paul's view of the world, and that of the modern human. He writes: To put it bluntly, by far most of Paul's basic world-view, in other words, the basic apocalyptic and cosmological outlook that was his, does not constitute a real option for us now - in the way in which it was understood by Paul."

And yet, it is exactly here, in his "apocalyptic and cosmological outlook" that we find a convergence between Paul and the Cs, AND Paul and scientific work that has been excluded by historians and theologians alike. I spent the entire Wave Series wandering around the idea of our world being embedded in a hyperdimensional reality, considering the possibilities of densities and other dimensions, the paranormal, etc, looking at all of it from as many angles as seemed useful, with, at the end, a positive outcome: things are NOT as they appear on the surface of our reality, and never have been.

It is also exactly in this area of apocalyptic cosmology that Paul was in accord with the Stoics and even Gurdjieff. All of them have a position on periodic cataclysms on planet Earth that "reset the system" that is closely parallel.

So, TEP considers that central parts of Paul's ideas are no longer a "real option" for the modern person to believe or consider as a Cosmology. But I take a different point of view: I think that Paul was really onto something important in a way that definitely fleshes out certain parts of what the Stoics were teaching, and is almost parallel to what the Cs say in relation to Gurdjieff's obvious Stoic background. TEP then wants to go on to extract what he can from Paul that might be still valuable by comparing it to Stoic philosophy and other ethical systems of the time, but he ignores the Stoic's own apocalyptic cosmology in the process as also no longer an option to be considered as a realistic portrayal of the Cosmos. TEP wants to compare Paul's "form of life" that was a direct outcome of his cosmology, with modern forms of life to which we do have access, to draw analogies to our own modern reality that has divested itself of any such thing as apocalypticism (in the true meaning of the word: revelation). TEP wants to salvage Paul's anthropology and ethics out of his cosmology, leaving the latter behind. He writes: '...what we present as a real option is not exactly what it is in Paul since we have cut off connections with other parts of his thought that we are not prepared to take over."

At the end of his book, "Paul and the Stoics", he writes: "We may think, indeed we should think, that Paul's belief in the story of the Christ event, in the direct form in which he understood it, was false. But we may let ourselves be stimulated by the kind of 'theologizing' that we find in Paul to think that we should ourselves adopt the same kind: one that attempts to tease out the meaning for human beings of the Christ event in a manner that makes immediate sense philosophically and in that way presents the special shape of the Christ-believing form of life as a real option to one's contemporaries."

The problem is, of course, by removing the Cosmology, TEP has essentially deprived Paul's ideas about how humans should live in relation to one another of any real, compelling justification.

Next, I'll present the model and what it means to move from "I-centeredness" to "We-centeredness", the group, the network.

Overview of instalments in this series:

Paul and the Stoics: Introducing the Model
Paul and the Stoics: Philippians
Paul and the Stoics: Galatians
Paul and the Stoics: Romans
Paul and the Stoics: Cosmology
 

Laura

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Re: Cosmological-Anthropological-Ethical Reflections and Guidance

I said at the end of the previous post that I would present the model. However, after thinking about it for a bit, I think it would be better to talk a little bit more about cosmology first. Note from the above: "Cultural anthropologist, Clifford Geertz, pointed out that there is a dynamic relationship between what people believe about their world and their ethos: from "what is" to "how we ought to act"."

So far, we have this list of terms/relationships:

1) Cosmology/Theology: ideas about God and how the world is.
2) Anthropology: ideas about how humans fit into the world and relate to God/Cosmos.
3) Ethics: how humans relate to each other in different contexts.

There are two additional terms I’d like to bring in before we launch off here: Ontology and Epistemology.

Ontology: The branch of metaphysics (philosophy concerning the overall nature of what things are) is concerned with identifying, in the most general terms, the kinds of things that actually exist. In other words addressing the question: What is existence? and What is the nature of existence? When we ask deep questions about "what is the nature of the universe?" or "Is there a god?" or "What happens to us when we die?" or "What principles govern the properties of matter?" we are asking inherently ontological questions.

Epistemology: The branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of knowledge itself, its possibility, scope, and general basis. More broadly: How do we go about knowing things? or How do we separate true ideas from false ideas? or How do we know what is true? or "How can we be confident when we have located 'truth'?" "What are the systematic ways we can determine when something is good or bad?"

So ontology is about what is true and epistemology then is about methods of figuring out those truths.

The split between Plato and Aristotle is both ontological and epistemic. The split between religion and science is both ontological and epistemic. For example, religion and science offer two very different ontologies (theories about what is out there) and epistemology (ways to figure out what is out there). And the split between Plato and Aristotle appears to be the origin of the split between religion and science…

According to Plato, Truth is an abstract “Ideal” The natural world around us is only a shadow of the True. The True forms of things exist only as concepts, that possibly can be modeled by mathematics or thought of only via pure reason. Thus, attempting to understand Truth by examining the natural world is a waste of time. The only road to Truth is contemplation and “philosophizing”. The logical result of this view is that only those who have a strong grasp of philosophical Truths (because they say they do?) should be allowed to make important decisions or declare what is or is not “true”. Another obvious thing to take home about this view is that this “mystical idealism” is related to apocalypticism: revealed Truth. Obviously, there are problems with this view.

Aristotle, on the other hand, believed that systematic observation and analysis of the natural world and all within it, combined with rigorous logic, was the road to Truth. Only by doing this can you say what the nature/essence of something is, and say anything about causes. Obviously, Aristotle’s view is what was taken up by science. There are problems with this view also, though they are not so obvious. As Bertrand Russell put it: “Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths.” Aristotle also said that women, compared to men, he says, they are “immature,” “deficient,” “deformed”; they are even a bit “monstrous.” He thought that men have hotter blood than women, have a more important role in reproduction, and are generally more perfect. The evidence he gives for these claims? He notes that if you “mutilate” a boy — lop off his testicles — his voice never breaks and he never grows bald: he becomes feminized. The inference then is that women are naturally mutilated men and that seemed reasonable to him.

Aristotle also believed in slavery as an institution. In his Politics he wrote that prisoners of war don’t deserve to be enslaved: they’re free men who just got unlucky. But he also argued that some people do deserve to be enslaved. “Natural” slaves are the sort of people who have the ability to take orders, but aren’t smart enough to think for themselves. They’re machine people. They’re not much better than animals.

Aristotle couldn’t find any gonads in eels when he cut them open, so he declared that they spontaneously generate from mud. He also thought that a lot of other critters were spontaneously generated from inanimate matter.

Aristotle also thought that the Earth was at the center of the cosmos because that was where he was and from where he viewed everything. One thing he did hold in common with other systems was a conviction that celestial objects are alive. But, if you have read “Comets and the Horns of Moses”, you will understand where he came by that belief.

His ultimate God is the Prime Mover; an immaterial entity who lives beyond the stars, and indifferent to life on earth, just spends his time thinking about thinking. The stars and the planets desire to be like Him and so rotate eternally; he’s an eternalist: he thinks that the cosmos, the earth, and all the species of animals and plants it contains have been there for ever.

Oddly enough, when you think about it, declaring that only observation and analysis can be a path to Truth, and only that which can be observed and analyzed can be “real”, is a sort of “mystical idealism” that gives itself the right to declare what is or is not True. Science arrogated this right to itself and took it to an extremity of materialism that create impossible ontological paradoxes. The Big Bang Theory, for example, is science’s equivalent of creation ex nihilo by the word of God. From this event, everything in the cosmos came into being from a “primal atom” and inconceivable force with no conclusion about where the primal atom or the explosive force came from or how they “got there” to begin with. But, not to worry: we can examine everything that resulted from this, assume that’s all there is, and everything will be fine. This is pretty much modern cosmology in a nutshell.

Obviously, human behavior on the planet today is based pretty much on what different groups "believe about their world" with nearly all of them being – to one extent or another – influenced by the scientific materialist view. We even notice TEP, above, discarding a large chunk of what Paul was saying because he considers it to NOT be an option that he can "go over to"; what he obviously means is that he does not believe in any kind of divine revelation (apocalypsis: unveiling) nor does he think in terms of any kinds of cataclysmic events vis a vis humans in response to their actions/behaviors. Those kinds of ideas have been tossed out thanks to modern "reflection" and "rationality" based on materialist science. And yet, as I mentioned, there are many, many things that happen on our planet, and have happened in the past and reported by reliable witnesses, that do not fit this world view. He quotes the philosopher, Bernard Williams, who wrote: 'an outlook is a real option for a group either if it already is their outlook or if they could go over to it; and they could go over to it if they could live inside it in their actual historical circumstances and retain their hold on reality, not engage in extensive self-deception and so on." And yet, it seems to me that there is a great deal of self-deception based on so-called "science" which appears to have lost its way. And with this deception, there comes a LOSS of humanity's hold on reality with the results that we see all around us today: political and social living is ruled by liars and lies. That seems to be the "fruit of the tree" by which we can know it.

We came from nothing, we return to nothing, and in between, nothing matters except what scientists (including sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, etc) declare to be the new “right way” of viewing things. We went from the Renaissance to the Copernican Revolution to the Enlightenment to scientific methodology and empiricism to the Age of Reflection (end of 18th century) to Modernism and then, finally, in a bizarre twist, to Post-Modernism where it is claimed that Reason and science are Ideologies in the Nietzschean or Marxist sense: simply myths created by man. In short, not only did we come from nothing and end up as nothing, we can know nothing in the meantime.

Post-Modernism claims that there is no universal, objective means of judging any given concept as “true”; ALL judgments of truth exist within a cultural context (cultural relativism). The application of pure Reason (predicated Cartesian Radical Skepticism) disproves the universal nature of a priori human freedom. Independence/Freedom are Western Ideologies (just like reason and science) used to colonize foreign cultures (ie Belgian Congo, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan) or subjugate women. Science is no more universal than is any other culture’s definition of “truth”. Language is fluid and arbitrary and/or rooted in Power/Knowledge relations. Meaning is fluid and arbitrary. There are “…no eternal truths, no universal human experience, no universal human rights, overriding narrative of human progress” (Faigley, 8).Truth may exist independent of human consciousness but there is no objective means of nailing it down. There is no objective means upon which to predicate morality and right/just governance. The categories male/female, masculine/feminine are themselves culturally constructed and/or Ideology. Gender roles are culturally relative in all cultures and contexts. The “self” is a myth and largely a composite of one’s social experiences and cultural contexts. The "self" is an Ideology. (Source: Borrowed heavily from Jane Flax, via Lester Faigley's Fragments Of Rationality)

In the end, it seems that the Cosmology of our civilization (the part of said civilization that is in power, at least), is defective because it has produced so defective a society: the fruit of the tree of scientific materialism. Of course, correlation is not necessarily causation, but I think we've surveyed enough of what goes on in our reality in The Wave series to be convinced that the cosmology of such as Dawkins and his ilk, and the post-modernists, is inaccurate at the very least, grossly in error at worst. So, I think it would help to survey a few other takes on cosmology in order to orient ourselves.

We need to find out what there are in terms of cosmological options that we might “go over to” that can be supported by 1) real life and experience; 2) rationality; 3) a careful consideration of apocalypsis/revelation for those areas of ontology that are beyond where we can go with our rationality and empirical observations. In short, we will explore some things that suggest a different Epistemology or method for figuring out what may or may not be true, and can we “go over to it” and thereby gain a greater grasp on reality, and divest ourselves of extensive self-deception. And then, can this option really work for us in our lives in a life-changing way.
 

Approaching Infinity

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Paul and the Stoics: Introducing the Model

This is the first in what will be a series of posts summarizing Troels Engberg-Pedersen's (TEP) work on Paul, the similarities between his thought and that of the ancient Stoics, and perhaps what use it can serve us and how we can develop it. The two books in question are "Paul and the Stoics" (2000) and "Cosmology & Self in the Apostle Paul" (2010). The first covers Paul's anthropology and ethics. The second covers his cosmology.

A lot of the sections in the books involve extended arguments where each point builds on the next. That's tough to replicate without just paraphrasing the whole thing. So rather than essentially rewrite the books, I'll to try to distill them. Hopefully that will do them some tiny bit of justice, but it's a tough job, so if it seems that I've left something out or not gone into enough detail, just ask and I'll do my best to fill in the gaps. (If anyone else has read the books, feel free to do the same, or correct me or expand on what I've written.)

I'll start with a summary of "The Model" Laura mentioned in the first post in this thread. TEP uses it to make sense of Paul's views on how humans should relate to each other (ethics) and the wider reality of the world/Christ/God (anthropology). The Stoics used a very similar model, but with some important differences. After looking at each element of the model, I'll get into how Paul uses it in each of the letters TEP analyzes. This will show the model in practice. Then I'll get into the second book and Paul's ideas of the "Spirit".

To put "The Model" in a very small nutshell: for Paul, life is religion, and vice versa. What does that mean? There's no separating theory and practice - between ideas about reality and the nitty gritty of actually applying those ideas in your everyday life. In his letters, Paul describes a new state of being and a new way of life in which his fellow "Christ-believers" find themselves, and gives them moral advice and commands that urge them to make that new state REAL by putting it into practice. In most of what he writes, he is actually providing a forceful reminder to them: "This is who you are now, so act like it!" He's not just laying out a theory - he's telling them how to live it.

As a Jew, Paul didn't see anything wrong per se with the Jewish law. But as a way of life that actually got the results it preached, it was insufficient. In his mind, "Christ faith" could and did succeed where the law failed. How did it do so? Paul apparently experienced something that radically changed the way he perceived himself and his place in the world, and tried to replicate that experience in others. His "call" or "conversion" to God via Christ was in fact a change in self-understanding from one state (selfishness, sinfulness, identification with the body, self-directedness) to another state (altruism, identification with something higher and external, yet also within, which resulted in being directed towards others). This change in how we see ourselves means some things grow in importance for us, and other things lose their importance. And if we value different things, we will behave in different ways.

As Engberg-Pedersen puts it, this process is "a move away FROM an identification of the self with itself as a bodily, individual being, VIA an identification with something outside the self, and TO a perspective shared with and also directed towards others, a perspective that will then also issue immediately in practice." This process or dynamic is present in both Paul and Stoic philosophy.

Let's unpack it by looking at TEP's useful diagram:



We'll look at it bit by bit. Before getting to what "I", "X", and "S" represent, notice two details. The x axis is temporal: it shows past, present, and future. The y axis shows higher and lower, above and below. In this model, "past" and "below" are bad. "Now", "future", and "higher" are good. For those familiar with Dabrowski, there is a similar dynamic at work: a higher level of being now and in the future is better than a lower level of being in the past. "We are better now; we were worse off then." In other words, the diagram charts a type of development or growth.

First we have the "I" pole. This is the default state of all humans: our individual, embodied self. Most importantly, this is how we UNDERSTAND or perceive ourselves: "I", "me", an individual mind and body distinct from all others. Its concerns are "my" concerns. (Its self-preservation instinct is MY self-preservation instinct.) Its desires are "my" desires. (Its hunger is MY hunger.) And everything "I" do is in service of those desires: self-preservation, reproduction, self-image, pride, social status, etc.

Paul used the word "flesh" in various ways to describe this state. A few related definitions culled from a Bible concordance show some of the meanings with which Paul imbued the word: man's "sensuous, animal nature", "mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God"; "accordingly it includes whatever in the soul is weak, low, debased, tending to ungodliness and vice"; "note that 'flesh' signifies the entire nature of man, sense and reason, without the Holy Spirit". So the "flesh" isn't merely the body; more comprehensively, it's an entire way of feeling, thinking, and acting as shaped by a "lower", "bodily" orientation.

For Paul, being "in the flesh" or "under the control of the flesh" essentially means living a life of sin. And for those Jordan Peterson fans, you know the word for sin comes from an archery word that means "to miss the mark" or "to err". Basically, sinning means missing the target - and in a religious context that means not doing what God wants, and what God wants is what would be objectively best for us and the world at large. When you sin, you're not getting the best results. You're doing your body's will and not God's will. And when you DO hit the bullseye, that means you are doing God's will. (More on that later.) (Note: Paul used the word hamartia/sin, the Stoics used the word hamartemata/errors.)

The Stoics saw this "I" state as that of a child: self-centered in nature. I form my identity on the basis of what belongs to me and what doesn't. As a body, everything outside that body isn't me. I naturally want my body to survive. I seek pleasure, and avoid pain and discomfort. I acquire goods that will assure my body stays safe. This is all self-love: to me, my bodily existence is intrinsically good, and my goals and actions are in service of my body's desires. I see as valuable those things that serve my bodily desires, things like food, shelter, money, mates, children to take care of me when I get old.

Now, by valuing these things, I actually expand on what "belongs" to my self. This is a key point, because it points forward to "the way out", as we'll see. By valuing the things that serve my bodily self, in a sense they become part of "me", a part of my identity. So, for example, the sphere of "me" expands to include my family, and so I will altruistically protect them and treat them in a similar way. But my basic attitude hasn't really changed all that much. Really, I am just treating them as extensions of my body. They are an extended means of attaining things for myself: comfort, security, status, etc. As such, all those things exist on the same "level", so to speak. It may be altruism, but's a primitive form of altruism.

However, it's possible to change fundamentally how I understand myself - to NOT identify just in this strictly body-centric way. Just as considering my family as part of myself means that I will value them more than I otherwise would, if I fundamentally change the basis on which I identify, I can fundamentally change what I value. And if I truly value different things, I will desire those things and WANT to do them. Just as I can't help but like tasty foods and the feeling of a full stomach, I won't be able to help but to do other sorts of things…to be revealed! My desires will be fundamentally different than the desires of my body which were previously my master.

So what is that thing which can so fundamentally change how I see myself? "X".

The "X" pole is something higher and external to "I". For Paul, this is Christ and God. For the Stoics, it is reason and God (keeping in mind that the Stoic God didn't have much in common with the Jewish God). But even though it is external to us from our perspective at the "I" pole, it's related to us in some fundamental way as well, because we can come to identify with it. These relationships and interactions are represented by the arrows between "I" and "X". In "X->I", the individual at "I" is somehow "struck" by "X". In "I->X", we stretch up toward "X", to the extent that we come to identify with it and see our "self" as belonging to it, and it as belonging to us. We cease to see ourselves as "I", and become "X" instead.

For the Stoics, an adult individual develops (ideally) their reason. And the result of a truly rational view is that we will come to see what is truly valuable, and what the best possible goal in life is. They got this idea from Aristotle, who sought "the best overall shape of human life and behaviour" - the good to which all things aim, happiness - not just an emotion or state, but a whole life. The Stoics summed up this goal as living life "in accordance with nature". In other words, living as we are designed to function. The childish state is correct and in accordance with nature as far as it goes - a child must value the things that it values in order to function and survive, as nature intended. But with the development of reason, I can now see a new conception of what is good, in addition to - and over and above - the "bodily" values of the child. Because reason too has a purpose: to see the truth. And because truth is the highest function of reason, it now becomes important not just to preserve the body, but to preserve one's status as a rational being - by understanding the world correctly, identifying what is truly valuable, and acting in the correct ways in accordance with those values. That's where moral virtue and virtuous acts come into play (it's not all theory!).

In the "I" state, I relate to other things subjectively, from my own particular bodily perspective. But from the point of view of "X" - reason - I relate to the world objectively, looking down at the world and myself from above, judging whether or not things are true or false, which things are truly valuable, and whether my own actions are in alignment with my true nature as a rational being. There is an element of self-detachment, observing the self - its actions, feelings, thoughts - from a higher perspective with a critical attitude.

An individual at "X" is consumed with the "ultimate goal and purpose of life" to the point that all valuations, desires and acts reflect that goal in each and every possible situation. I value what is objectively valuable, desire what is objectively good, and act in ways that embody those values and goals. I understand the world in theory AND embody it in practice. Nothing else matters. This is the state of wisdom, of the wise man who has left the old world of "I" behind and sees every aspect of the "I" level from that higher perspective. Food is still important, for example, but in some contexts it becomes less important. If a desire for food comes into conflict with the preservation of my rationality, food takes second place. I would rather starve then sell my soul. Food is not valuable in and of itself; it's only valuable relative to, and in service to, the higher aim.

The wise man is morally virtuous. In relation to himself, he is magnanimous - taking anything that may happen to him in life as beneath him. He sees his own "self" and the world at large with a sense of detachment. This is where virtues like courage and temperance come into play. In relation to others, he is just. And how does he see others? As rational beings. "X's" interests aren't limited to any particular individual - they apply to all rational beings. So for the Stoics, once you come to see yourself as a rational being, you realize that you are a member of the whole community of rational beings. If this is true, it means you should put the concerns of all rational people above your own.

This is what the "X->S" arrow represents. The result of "I->X" is that you now see yourself as part of a wider social group, the "S" pole. Whereas "I" is concerned with the self, "S" is concerned with others. All people within "S" share a common understanding and way of life, and all participate within "X". Each member of this group is still an embodied self, but the pull of "we" is stronger than the pull of "I". So just as previously we were concerned with fulfilling the desires of "I", now we are concerned with fulfilling the desires of "we", because we now identify our self with all others who participate in "X", and not with the desires of our own individual "I".

The arrow "S->X" is the same dynamic as "I->X". It represents the fact that all members of "S" relate to "X", participate in "X", and strive towards "X" in the same way. In that sense, they share the same identity. For Paul, "S" is the community of Christ-believers, and it is the best possible group on the planet. All other people are in the "I" state, as were the Christ-believers before their encounter with Christ. Only Christ-believers occupy "S".

For the Stoics, "S" included all rational people. How did they reason their way from "I" to "S"? First, we've already seen the precedent in the "I" state: family. Parents already naturally expand their bodily self via children. Not only is the incorporation of children into the parent's identity an extension of the natural "I" attitude; there is also an element of loving children for their own sake. With that parent-child dynamic as a formative experience for all humans, we all have at least the potential to expand on it. So, as rational beings, we can realize that whatever/whoever else is rational will also belong to us. Each is part of the universe, governed by God's will; therefore, all rational beings take on a level of importance greater than just "I". Coming back to virtue for a moment, when we identify with reason, magnanimity ("X->I") and justice ("X->S") naturally follow.

That's the basic model, but there are some finer distinctions within it. The Stoics divided all people into two categories: the wise and the stupid. The wise was the full deal: the sage, the wise man who has a full understanding of the good in theory and in practice. Everyone else is stupid. Some are just less stupid than others. (Same with Paul: you're either fully "in Christ", or you're not.) Among those stupid people are the weak-willed (who have some grasp of the good, but are unable to consistently put it into practice because their desires are conflicted, and the body is stronger than the rational mind) and the strong-willed (whose desires are still conflicted, but are able to overcome them and put the good into practice consistently - still with at least the risk of backsliding, however). In contrast to those stupid people is the wise man, for whom acting against the good is impossible.

The Stoic wise man does not anticipate the future with desire or fear. Rather, he "wishes" for the best and has a sense of caution. To have material goods and avoid material hardships would be ideal, if possible, but if not, it's no big deal. In the present, the wise man is unmoved by pleasure or pain, experiencing only joy - whatever happens, everything fits into its right place, according to his objective understanding of the world and his place in it. This is because the Stoic wise man has faith: "pistis", conviction, steadfastness, fidelity. As such, there is no risk of acting on the passions of the body. Only the desires of the higher-level reason (logos) have any pull. Similarly with Paul, when we are filled with "spirit" (pneuma), there is no possibility of acting against it. It takes us over in a sense. As TEP puts it, "If a person is really in it, then he or she is filled and led by the spirit or reason in such a way that there is no possibility of acting against either." Just as the Stoics had "wise and good" men, Paul had "just and holy ones".

As a couple Stoics described the new community of "S": it is an "anarchic, radically non-hierarchical community", characterized by unanimity (oneness of mind), friendship and freedom (no coercion) - all govern and are governed by willing the same thing, having the same desires and goals. Paul's "church" - the body of Christ - had those same features.

Already we can see similarities to ideas from the Cs (plus Gurdjieff and Dabrowski). "I" is the default STS state of humanity. "X" is Divine Cosmic Mind via 4D STO. "S" is a network aligned with higher-density STO. We'll see more similarities as we progress.

Coming next: Paul's use of the Model in his Letter to the Philippians
 

Laura

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Thanks very much for this brilliant synopsizing of the TEP work on Paul and the Stoics, AI.

For all forum members and readers, what we want to do here is to sort through this ancient cosmology in light of what we know from Cs, Gurdjieff, Collingwood and modern psychology and cognitive science. I strongly recommend keeping up with this thread as well as the Collingwood/Gurdjieff thread here: https://cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php/topic,44650.0.html
 

MaZ

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Approaching Infinity your explanation is brilliant, and that's the first word that came to my mind when I've read your post/reply (and now I see Laura using the same word). I'm still getting "in touch" with all of those threads on the forum but I must say that this explanation (and Laura's of course) made a LOT easier to understand some of teachings from Stoics/Paul/Gurdjieff/C's. In more simple words I must say that word "objectively" is always and still ringing in my head, 'cause my mother always used this word during my upbringing and still does. Actually both of my parents taught me that objectivity is key of understanding the people I interact with in my life; "You put yourself in their "skin" and examine yourself how would you feel if someone does it to you the same way." (actually understanding my own self thru others, and detach from "I" awareness to merge it with higher sense of "Us" or "S" group) At first it does sound too simple but only when you get some deeper understanding or insight at this kind of relationship with others is when you realize that you must continue to work on and fully understand the whole deeper meaning of those simple words/sentences. This is perfect thread to study (and of course those books you recommend). Sorry if I made too much noise here but it REALLY "moved me" in a good way and made my day. :) Looking forward to your posts and explanations.
 

Approaching Infinity

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MariZ said:
Approaching Infinity your explanation is brilliant, and that's the first word that came to my mind when I've read your post/reply (and now I see Laura using the same word). I'm still getting "in touch" with all of those threads on the forum but I must say that this explanation (and Laura's of course) made a LOT easier to understand some of teachings from Stoics/Paul/Gurdjieff/C's.
I'm glad you appreciated it, MariZ! I'm striving for clarity and simplicity. It's hard work, requiring a lot of thinking, and thinking about my thinking, but it's super fun, too. I hope it can be fun for others too - and that you all will contribute ideas and questions. That will not only help me, but everyone else too, as we look at these concepts from all angles and refine them so that they're the best they can be.

In more simple words I must say that word "objectively" is always and still ringing in my head, 'cause my mother always used this word during my upbringing and still does. Actually both of my parents taught me that objectivity is key of understanding the people I interact with in my life; "You put yourself in their "skin" and examine yourself how would you feel if someone does it to you the same way." (actually understanding my own self thru others, and detach from "I" awareness to merge it with higher sense of "Us" or "S" group)
I think that's good advice. But I think the reason that many of us hear it (and say it), and yet don't quite understand it, is that there is something missing from it. What's missing is the "X" perspective. In order to treat another person with true justice, I need to do something in addition to just putting myself in their skin. I need to adopt a perspective that is above both me AND that other person. I can't just skip from "I" to "S". I need the wide-angle view that a higher perspective supplies. If I am viewing things from that "X" perspective, then I will be able to see that other person, and the specific context in which they find themselves, and then I will know the best way to act in relation to them. Even if "I" wants something different. For example, in some contexts "I" may want to be mean when that is not appropriate. Or, in other contexts "I" may want to be nice when THAT is not appropriate. We'll see some specific examples of examples like that as we go through Paul's letters.
 

Beau

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Fascinating distillation! Thank you for putting it in such clear and easy to understand terms AI. I have a question about the graph and your explanation below:

AI said:
The "X" pole is something higher and external to "I". For Paul, this is Christ and God. For the Stoics, it is reason and God (keeping in mind that the Stoic God didn't have much in common with the Jewish God). But even though it is external to us from our perspective at the "I" pole, it's related to us in some fundamental way as well, because we can come to identify with it. These relationships and interactions are represented by the arrows between "I" and "X". In "X->I", the individual at "I" is somehow "struck" by "X". In "I->X", we stretch up toward "X", to the extent that we come to identify with it and see our "self" as belonging to it, and it as belonging to us. We cease to see ourselves as "I", and become "X" instead.
So, what does it mean exactly when you say that I is "struck" by X? Is that a case of subjectivity/STS being given a view that allows them to get out of the subjective, self-interested mindset and become more objective/STO and move to X?

Also, is it possible for someone at X to go down and become I? I mean, in my head I think it's entirely possible because it's simply a case of someone being identified with their self and no longer feeling as though they belong to X. But it's not explicitly stated, so wanted to ask about that too. Would that be a case of X being "struck" by I?
 

Approaching Infinity

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Beau said:
Fascinating distillation! Thank you for putting it in such clear and easy to understand terms AI. I have a question about the graph and your explanation below:

AI said:
The "X" pole is something higher and external to "I". For Paul, this is Christ and God. For the Stoics, it is reason and God (keeping in mind that the Stoic God didn't have much in common with the Jewish God). But even though it is external to us from our perspective at the "I" pole, it's related to us in some fundamental way as well, because we can come to identify with it. These relationships and interactions are represented by the arrows between "I" and "X". In "X->I", the individual at "I" is somehow "struck" by "X". In "I->X", we stretch up toward "X", to the extent that we come to identify with it and see our "self" as belonging to it, and it as belonging to us. We cease to see ourselves as "I", and become "X" instead.
So, what does it mean exactly when you say that I is "struck" by X? Is that a case of subjectivity/STS being given a view that allows them to get out of the subjective, self-interested mindset and become more objective/STO and move to X?
I realized when writing and revising that part that it wasn't very clear - even though that's the word TEP uses consistently for the process. I think your description is good for now - that's definitely a part of it. As I go through the letters, it should become more clear, because Paul provides some examples.

After reading Collingwood's Speculum Mentis, I think the reason I couldn't find a better way to put it in summary is that even the word "struck" is a religious symbol. It "means" something, but what exactly that meaning is, isn't exactly clear. That's why we'll have to get into some cosmology later on to figure out how exactly "X" can "strike" us. Right now I'll just say that for Paul, the "spirit" (pneuma) of God/Christ is a real thing that enters into our bodies and minds. It becomes a part of us. And once it's a part of us, we can see from "its" perspective, being "X". But that will all be explained once we get into the letters and the cosmology.

Also, is it possible for someone at X to go down and become I? I mean, in my head I think it's entirely possible because it's simply a case of someone being identified with their self and no longer feeling as though they belong to X. But it's not explicitly stated, so wanted to ask about that too. Would that be a case of X being "struck" by I?
Yep. We'll see examples of that too in the letters. But there's more to it. I don't think that for Paul or the Stoics it is ever really possible for someone at "X" to fully go back to the "I" state. Once you're there, you're there. The only room for backsliding back to "I" is for the weak- and strong-willed who have not totally killed or crucified their bodily desires and the hold they have over him.

But there is an "X->I" dynamic. And it's the one Paul carries out in all his letters, as we'll see in the next posts. Paul, representing "X", lowers himself temporarily to the level of those around him ("I"), for the purpose of bootstrapping them up to his level. By doing so, he is recreating what "Jesus Christ" did, lowering himself to the level of ordinary humans, in order to lift them up into heaven.
 

Laura

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Hopefully we'll be able to find some corresponding terms and descriptions in Collingwood and possibly elsewhere. Perhaps Gurdjieff's idea of bankruptcy can serve temporarily for the "struck" part?
 

Approaching Infinity

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Laura said:
Hopefully we'll be able to find some corresponding terms and descriptions in Collingwood and possibly elsewhere. Perhaps Gurdjieff's idea of bankruptcy can serve temporarily for the "struck" part?
I think that's a part of it. Collingwood describes how each mode of thought - e.g., art, religion, science - has an error built into it that is transcended by the next level of thought. I think bankruptcy can apply to each of those modes - the experience of the limits of your mode of thought/way of life, as the illusion comes crashing down. I'd just say at this point that the bankruptcy seems to me to be the state that allows or facilitates the "strike". It's the opening, but something else has to "come in". So maybe we can also think of it in terms of B and C influences. The "influence from above" can take the form of insight/inspiration/channeling/a book/a teacher. But the ground has to be prepared, as in bankruptcy. And maybe what comes into us can be thought of in terms of a "higher truth", a higher level of information that re-organizes us and our thinking/feeling/acting.
 

JGeropoulas

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This is the first time I’ve seen this thread and what a treat is was reading it first thing this morning! For my freshly-rested mind to be presented with both of your extremely clear explanations was very satisfying. After so many years reading Paul, Gurdjieff and the C’s, I look forward to learning more about the interplay of their ideas.

My anticipation reminded me of these comments by Paul:

I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. (1 Corinthians 3:2)

[But now] leaving the elementary teaching [!] about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment...

[but to become those who are] enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come…to realize the full assurance of hope until the end…imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose…[so that] we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us… as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil... (Hebrews 6)
 

JGeropoulas

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Approaching Infinity said:
But the ground has to be prepared, as in bankruptcy. And maybe what comes into us can be thought of in terms of a "higher truth", a higher level of information that re-organizes us and our thinking/feeling/acting.
Brings to mind 2 Corinthians 7:9-10
I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God...For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
and the parable of the sower
Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good [tilled] soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.
 

John G

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Approaching Infinity said:
Laura said:
Hopefully we'll be able to find some corresponding terms and descriptions in Collingwood and possibly elsewhere. Perhaps Gurdjieff's idea of bankruptcy can serve temporarily for the "struck" part?
I think that's a part of it. Collingwood describes how each mode of thought - e.g., art, religion, science - has an error built into it that is transcended by the next level of thought. I think bankruptcy can apply to each of those modes - the experience of the limits of your mode of thought/way of life, as the illusion comes crashing down. I'd just say at this point that the bankruptcy seems to me to be the state that allows or facilitates the "strike". It's the opening, but something else has to "come in". So maybe we can also think of it in terms of B and C influences. The "influence from above" can take the form of insight/inspiration/channeling/a book/a teacher. But the ground has to be prepared, as in bankruptcy. And maybe what comes into us can be thought of in terms of a "higher truth", a higher level of information that re-organizes us and our thinking/feeling/acting.
I think sometimes the initial shock (to use another Gurdjieff term) can be more of a WOW (like first seeing this forum) and the bankruptcy could be more of a being slowly cooked (to borrow a Cs phrase) thing that happens after the initial shock though you can get just as down on yourself (even more so because after something like this forum, you think you have zero excuses for not being better).
 

luc

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Thank you AI for this excellent and most helpful work!

Approaching Infinity said:
Laura said:
Hopefully we'll be able to find some corresponding terms and descriptions in Collingwood and possibly elsewhere. Perhaps Gurdjieff's idea of bankruptcy can serve temporarily for the "struck" part?
I think that's a part of it. Collingwood describes how each mode of thought - e.g., art, religion, science - has an error built into it that is transcended by the next level of thought. I think bankruptcy can apply to each of those modes - the experience of the limits of your mode of thought/way of life, as the illusion comes crashing down. I'd just say at this point that the bankruptcy seems to me to be the state that allows or facilitates the "strike". It's the opening, but something else has to "come in". So maybe we can also think of it in terms of B and C influences. The "influence from above" can take the form of insight/inspiration/channeling/a book/a teacher. But the ground has to be prepared, as in bankruptcy. And maybe what comes into us can be thought of in terms of a "higher truth", a higher level of information that re-organizes us and our thinking/feeling/acting.
The idea of bankruptcy being a facilitator for higher energies to enter sounds about right to me. When I read the passage quoted by Beau, what came to mind as the "higher" with which we can identify were ideas, concepts or archetypes that can guide us. Kind of like a new idea/ideal/principle becoming one's "God". Notice that "higher" doesn't mean "the highest" or the "absolute", but rather something that is above our current being, and is subject to change as we develop and learn more. It's more like an initial break-through of something that is above us, an entry to the path so to speak. Without it, we are stuck in the animal-like world of identification with ourselves, but with it, we leave that realm, if only a tiny step, which is nonetheless extremely significant. It's the point where we transcend "regular existence".

In this context, it's interesting that people who suffered from some form of trauma, under certain conditions, seem to change their attitude towards life dramatically. Many such cases are outlined in Jim Rendon's book "Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth" (thread). Same apparently goes for NDEs. But after such an initial break-through (bankruptcy) that allows a higher principle to guide our life, it seems we need to consciously move forward, gather more knowledge and develop our being, so that we can refine our "God" while He refines us; so it's more like a two-way thing. Otherwise we may be stuck on a higher, yet not optimal level where we can still be mislead, osit.

FWIW
 

Divide by Zero

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Approaching Infinity said:
Yep. We'll see examples of that too in the letters. But there's more to it. I don't think that for Paul or the Stoics it is ever really possible for someone at "X" to fully go back to the "I" state. Once you're there, you're there. The only room for backsliding back to "I" is for the weak- and strong-willed who have not totally killed or crucified their bodily desires and the hold they have over him.
Thanks a lot for this! It's fascinating!

Killing or crucifying the desires that have hold requires suffering. In the matrix, Neo always felt like something was wrong, eating himself up inside. But Cypher didn't have the same feelings, so he never really "got sick" of things in the matrix and decided to go back- even though it was clearly a false reality! It seems like today, people know of the deep state, lies in religion, etc, yet they subconsciously or consciously choose to ignore the truth and stay with the lies in order to "survive"
 
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