The history of philosophy, in its substance, deals not with the past, but with what is eternal and fully determinate; in its result, it should be compared not to a gallery of human delusions, but rather to a pantheon of divine images.
The question of Truth is not just the question of knowledge. As the matter of fact, it is a question of the knowledge of a certain Reality. More accurately, it is the question of What Truly Exists. That Which Truly Exists, the Reality Proper, the Reality Itself, may be preliminarily designated as a self-sufficient Being which, in a way, embodies all the rest of beings. The latter, taken independently, appear as just beings, or conditional beings which have true existence not in themselves, but in What Truly Exists. So, What Truly Exists is That Which the rest of beings depend upon, That Which affords the basis for all things in existence.
The True Reality is not readily manifest. Most of the time it remains hidden, dissolved, as it were, in all existing things, and, in this sense, there is nothing on earth or in heavens but This. And the problem is and has always been how to discern True Being among all the variety of beings, to distinguish It from what “just exists” or “conditionally exists”.
And yet, the time comes when True Being gets concentrated in One Particular Being and separates from other beings. Then True Being becomes fully available. But before this happens, man develops an anticipating image of True Being, which more or less correctly reflects some essential properties of the Latter. Even when hidden and dispersed throughout all beings, the True One somehow lets people know of Itself, makes Itself felt. It stirs human imagination, worries human minds, making up the source of religious beliefs and philosophical teachings. Anyway, man has always had some idea of What Truly Exists.
1. Primitive religion: True Being is anthropomorphous, immortal, and redoubtable
From the very outset, primitive people tried to single out something in their surroundings which was preferred to other things. This could be any inanimate object (fetish), an animal, a plant or an insect (totem) or even human genitals (phallicism) which man considered himself to vitally depend upon and which was revered.
As time went by, man was getting more and more prominent among the rest of beings. Eventually, he excelled the latter in beauty, power, and other properties. The time came when man found himself the most perfect of the beings in sight. So, the question could well have arisen: is it not man himself that truly exists?
But as soon as the above question might have been raised, man displayed an unfortunate drawback which prevented him from recognizing himself unreservedly as True Being. It was his mortality. In other respects, this drawback might have seemed of not so big importance; but when it comes to testing the truth of one’s being, this proves crucial. The point is that this drawback virtually nullified all man’s advantages and equated him to the most inferior of living things. Surely, what is mortal cannot be true.
On the other hand, man apparently remained the most perfect of living things, and mortality seemed to be the only obstacle barring him from being considered true. Therefore, rejecting himself as unfit for being unconditionally true, man, however, was firmly convinced that True Being must resemble a human, must be anthropomorphous.
Hence, True Being was assumed as a Being Which would have a human appearance and, at the same time, be immortal. Such beings were hardly to be encountered around. Still, ancient man was not that hopeless empiricist and was quick enough to make use of his imagination where it was needed. In other words, the problem was to imaginarily complete man to True Being. And that was done. There emerged imaginary anthropomorphic, immortal beings. They were Gods.
Recognition by man of his merits and, at the same time, refusing himself in being unconditionally true was laid in the foundation of figuring True Being in the person of Gods. The ambivalent position of man was reflected here: his superiority over the rest of beings and his inferiority towards the True One. Gods came as the first full-blooded image in which True Being heralded of Itself. And this image was bound to appear, anticipating the appearance of the Prototype Which was still to come.
Since those primary Gods were imaginary, not real, beings, they were necessarily burdened with purely human preconceptions and prejudices. Gods were often referred to as just immortal humans and were ascribed many purely human aspirations and passions, whereas real True Being might as well be much more modest and reserved.
As the time was passing by, the life of Gods was being supplemented with more fresh details. A hierarchy of Gods was formed with a supreme One being singled out, whom all the rest of Gods were subordinate to. In other versions, a single God emerged, with other Gods being relegated to just “heavenly beings”. Here, much depended on the people’s temperament, their historical background and natural surroundings. Anyway, this early image of True Being was just prospective and not yet corroborated by Its manifestation. Therefore, it is not without reason that those primitive religious ideas are most commonly referred to as rather mythology than religion proper.
The advent of pagan Gods signified the first, religious, or, to be more precise, religious-and-mythological, stage in the development of the ideas of True Being. At this stage, It was imagined in the form of anthopomorphous, immortals Persons. Man, however, being godlike and mortal at the same time, could not enjoy true existence in full. Nevertheless, he could somehow bring himself closer to and become familiar with true life, pleasing Gods, affecting Them with sacrifice and prayer.
A certain relationship was being established between the conditionally existing man and True Being, that is, Immortal Gods, and this relationship came to be known as “religion”. Thanks to this relationship, man did not retreat into himself and was not confined altogether within his finite world, but always had a way out to True Being, although peculiarly imagined. He could communicate with It somehow. Given this opportunity, Man’s life, while remaining mortal, was acquiring a certain fullness and even becoming “true” in a way, if one can say so.
Gods were believed to abide somewhere in a high place inaccessible to man or, according to later ideas, in an extramundane space. Yet, it would not be quite correct to believe that they only existed by themselves, having nothing to do with the world and just enjoyed true life. Since Gods represented the Truth, the Quintessence, of the world, Their life could not but acquire significance for the latter, and They were meant to manifest Themselves in the world now and then.
From it, another important property of True Being springs. No matter how It might be portrayed, It is not so innocuous or just “theoretical”, as It might seem, but fraught with tangible consequences for the rest of beings. It is not without reason that, according to ancient notions, the slightest movement or even slightest thought in someone of Gods could set in motion a whole array of world events. Ultimately, all that occurred on earth was proving just a visible manifestation of the life of Gods.
Actually incarnated or just imagined, True Being still permeates the whole world, influencing and governing the course of worldly events. Therefore, one should be careful towards It or even towards what is just assumed to be Such. Anyway, It is not something to be trifled with. As our poet Mikhail Lermontov put it:
• The abandoned temple is still a temple, • The fallen idol is still God.
Three major conclusions can be drawn from the above. True Being must be anthropomorphic, It must be immortal, and, being intrinsically connected with the rest of beings, It affects the latter.
2. The “philosophy of Nature”: True Being is not outwardly anthropomorphous
The time was going by. Man kept on exploring and cultivating his surroundings. The development of navigation helped open up and bring closer new lands. Curious new plants and animals were encountered by man, new tribes and races met each other. Many heroes and bright personalities turn up around, and some of them were even recognized as “God-like”. But Gods proper never were found anywhere. Their whereabouts were being moved farther and farther, and Their very existence was being called into question.
The enthusiasm for Gods was fading. Now They appeared rather as personifications of natural phenomena and various aspects of human life, or even human character, but Their position as Truly Existing Beings was getting more and more vulnerable. The point is that, despite all Their glamour, Gods suffered from the very start from an essential defect: They represented an imaginary, not real, True Being. This defect was firstly being left “unnoticed”, but gradually it undermined Gods’ might, giving rise to fresh doubts as to Their existence. This defect was more and more difficult to hide. True Being earnestly demanded a basically different approach to Itself.
Worshipping Gods was becoming more and more just honouring the tradition. Few people were convinced in the real existence of Gods, although as few dared to raise this question in public. Of course, theomachists had always been around, but no one could suggest something more convincing instead of Gods, something that would match a hugely increased volume of human knowledge.
Ordinary people could hardly recover from the avalanche of impressions that rushed into them. In the meantime, sages were already bored by this obtrusive variety, in which they discovered nothing new, but just the repetition of the same. And this made their yearning for True Being more acute. Attempts became more frequent to find It among things available in the vicinity, among so called “natural elements”, which entailed a denial of the anthropomorphism of True Being. Anyway, the time of Gods had passed. Philosophy was taking over.
Philosophers were the first to proclaim outright that Gods, as human-like Entities, were non-existent. They asserted that it would be naive to imagine True Being in the form of Gods. Instead, they proposed a more “realistic” approach by discerning True Being in Nature Itself without turning to Gods. So, first philosophers started to directly explore Nature trying to find the Primary Substance which everything had come from. At the same time, this Substance had to be intelligent enough, because It was not only supposed to be just a substance which everything consisted of, but also an entity capable of somehow governing whatever happened in the world.
European philosophy is known to have originated in Ancient Greece, approximately, in the 6th century B.C. Early philosophers tried to single out what was true in their surroundings, what was staying the same, despite whatever visible changes. In doing so, they first of all fixed their eyes on powerful and pervasive natural elements that raged or rested quietly around. Here is a brief review of the evolution of the antique philosophical notions of True Being.
Xenophanes “bridged” primary religious beliefs and philosophical ideas proper. He still called True Being a “God”. At the same time, he distinctly opposed likening It to Man. “Ethiopians claim that Gods are snub-nosed and swarthy, – wrote Xenophanes, – Thrakians insist that Gods are blue-eyed and red-haired. If bulls, horses, and lions had hands and could draw, – argued Xenophanes, – horses would picture their Gods horse-like, bulls, bull-like…”, etc.
Xenophanes defines True Being as a single “God” Who “does not resemble mortals neither in appearance or thought”. Xenophanes’ God is a stranger to bustling, He is absolutely immovable. In all His entirety, He sees, hears, and thinks, and is capable of shaking the whole world with the slightest flash of His thought. In the final analysis, however, Xenophanes’s “God” is proving to be nothing but Earth “Which everything comes from and returns to”. Of course, He is not just Earth. The Latter only makes up God’s body. Rather, He is a “thinking Earth”. He still resembles Man, although not in appearance, but in essence.
Thales made a point of the fact that all land and all therein was surrounded by water, contained water and, apparently, had originated from water. Hence Thales inferred that it was Water that was that very primordial element that existed in truth. According to him, everything comes from water and returns to It.
Anaximenes assumed Air as the truly existing substance. All comes from Air through cooling (condensing) and converts back to It in due time.
Heraclitus seems to have been the most paradoxical of ancient thinkers. Of all elements he picked the most detrimental, Fire. Nevertheless, he tended to treat Fire as identical with Reason or Logos, that is, the guarantor of the world order. Fire was considered by him the equivalent which everything was exchanged for. All that exists is born and perishes in a world fire. Heraclitus extolled war and struggle. Still, it was a “concealed harmony” that he valued most.
Empedocles in a conciliatory manner assumed all the Four Elements, that is, Earth, Water, Air, and Fire, to be truly existing. In so doing, however, he got Love and Strife involved to put the Four in order, which, in his view should make the resultant Entity complete. Thus, Empedocles moves away from the purely “elemental” interpretation of True Being and again hints, although remotely, at the anthropomorphism of the Latter. Empedocles’ True Being comes out as a Super Entity, the body of Which consists of the above four elements, while Love and Strife make up Its spiritual faculty.
It should be noted that neither Thales’ Water, nor Anaximenes’ Air, or Heraclitus’ Fire were just elements the way they could be found in nature. Rather, They were living and thinking Super-Entities. In particular, Heraclitus identified his Fire as Logos, i. e. Law, or Reason, Which people become imparted to by inhaling It. The signs are that philosophers effectively conceive of True Being as the same single God, but devoid of the human appearance. This is exactly what mysticism of any philosophy consists in that it tries to breathe life into evidently nonviable, artificial formations.
Anaximander tried to put an end to the “elemental” interpretations of True Being and proclaimed the “Unlimited” to be Such. In Anaximander’s view, the whole world, including all the elements, comes from the Unlimited and disappears into It in due time. The Unlimited is quality free or, better to say, of infinite quality, any. It is not Water, not Air, not Earth, and not Fire. At the same time, It contains all these in Itself.
Anaximander’s teaching, as it seems, should have reconciled all the philosophers’ views. In reality, though, it was only the beginning of philosophy. The point was that True Being’s qualitative interpretations were largely exhausted.
If the quality of True Being can be any, it might as well be discarded. Here, quantitative regularities come forward. This was positively expressed by Pythagoras. According to him, what is true in all existing things is Number. The Latter appears here as cleared from material sediments and serves not only as a means of settlement between merchants, but gains, so to speak, Its own footing. All the variety of things turns out capable of being brought to mathematical ratios, or the “harmonies”. In Pythagoras’ view, with those harmonies, or “ties”, the entire world is fastened together.
So, the essence of the world revealed Itself to Pythagoras as Number. That was a real apotheosis of mathematics. Pythagoras’ teaching spurred immensely the development of science. Now, to get at the roots of things one only needed to expose mathematical ratios underlying them. Such an approach proved very fruitful and helped make many scientific discoveries. Operations with things could well be replaced by operations with numbers. And that came in handy.
Parmenides took up the line of the quantitative interpretation of True Being. He, however, stipulated that True Being was not just Number, it was the “One“. Parmenides did not allow for motion or multiplicity in True Being and considered It immovable and even finite. For visualization, he admitted perceiving of it as a sphere. And that was not only a metaphor. For all that, Number could not be long kept in Its fragile purity and little by little was starting to put up flesh again.
Parmenides’ follower Zenon the Elean pressed ahead with the idea of the “One”, showing what absurdities came about if one ascribed True Being motion, divisibility, or plurality. Motion was shown to be contradictory, because it would assume being present in two different places simultaneously. And that was considered unthinkable. For example, the assumption of infinite spatial divisibility resulted in the impossibility for a long-legged Achilles to catch up with a tardy tortoise, because he had to cover an infinite number of spatial stretches to do that. Therefore, True Being, again, should be “one and motionless”.
And yet, there was a different view allowing for both plurality and motion in True Being. Anaxagoras, for example, conceived of the Latter as representing the Infinite Number of infinitesimal particles which gave rise to all things in existence. According to Anaxagoras, those “Seeds of Things” are penetrating everywhere, so that in each particular thing there is a certain amount of all other things to be found. Still, those particles could not constitute by themselves a well-proportioned unity of the Cosmos. So, Anaxagoras introduces one more principle, Mind, as a harmonizing factor. Here again, as the case with Empedocles is, True Being come out in the form of a remotely anthropomorphic Entity, the body of Which represent the “seeds of things”, while Mind is drawn in as a spiritual faculty.
Democritus was also an adherent of True Being’s plurality and taught that in reality there only existed “Atoms”, or tiny, further indivisible, material particles of various shape. In his view, they fly in the void with great speed, come to grips and get coupled with each other, thereby forming all the variety of things. Democritus, however, introduces no regulating factor in this unchecked flux of atoms. For all that, he denied accident, and all that happened he accounted for by “Necessity”.
At that point, philosophy found itself running into a dead-end of sorts. Qualitative as well as quantitative interpretations of True Being proved exhausted. It turned out to be “anything you like”. So, a way was given to Its arbitrary interpretations, or even to an outright negation of Such. If True Being can be whatever you like, then why should It exist at all?
Then, there emerged fellows calling themselves not “philosophers”, but “sophists”. They argued that it was up to everyone to decide on what truly existed and what not. Whatever way a thing appeared to one, this is exactly the way it really is, sophists would reiterate. Man was proclaimed the “measure of all things”.
Especially, sophists succeeded in the art of controversy. To attain the needed end, they could invent most unlikely arguments which, however, might seem to be formally correct. They were often hired to help win a court suit. There is an anecdote about a sophist who once saw his neighbour battering his dog. “What are you doing, – cried the sophist, – don’t you know that this dog’s got puppies”. “Well, what of that?,” – replied the neighbour. “How what, – went on the sophist, – it means that this dog is a father”. “This doesn’t make any difference for me, either,” – answered the neighbour”. “Poor man, the dog you are beating is your dog, so it means that your are beating your own father”, – didactically concluded the sophist.
In the above case a sophism was used for a noble purpose, to stop the neighbour from beating the poor animal. For all that, nothing will prevent one from putting this confusion of ideas for evil ends, to justify murder, theft, lies, and many other such things. Then man can easily fall prey to cunning and unprincipled politicos, or demagogues, or, what even worse, to forget how to tell the truth to yourself.
Despite the apparent lack of principle, sophistic philosophy came as a natural and rightful enough, humanistic reaction to somewhat whimsical constructions by older philosophers. Despite all his weak points, man still remained the most prominent and tangible figure in sight, and, his likes and dislikes could not be completely ignored. Anyhow, this confusion was indicative of a new approach being needed to reinstate True Being.
It was exactly at the time of this philosophical mess that Socrates started his talks. Unlike sophists, he was convinced of the possibility of reaching true knowledge. In doing so, he would pretend to be a simpleton, asking naive, “innocent” questions. Step by step, gently, but stubbornly he would lead his interlocutor to admit the existence of eternal and universal values. Thus, the way was being cleared for reinstating True Being on a new basis.
For example, the question is discussed of what can be regarded as beautiful, or what makes a beautiful person or a beautiful thing beautiful. Because you know, one can decorate a person or a thing with jewellery, to heap one with gold, add other adornments, but all this will not necessarily make the object under discussion beautiful. The object in question may still be lacking something that Socrates designates as “Beauty Itself”.
Socrates arrived at the conclusion that there must exist the “idea” of Beauty, which, being impressed itself on an object, makes it beautiful. That is, there must exist Beauty Itself in contrast to a beautiful jug, a beautiful horse, or a beautiful youth. It is also the case with any other things or properties. They only become such, when they become to correspond to their “ideas”. So, the path of Socrates was that of ascending from individual beautiful things to Beauty Itself, from looking at individual things to Thing Itself, or its “idea”.
Socrates was a crucial figure in the development of antique culture, philosophy, and religion. A humanlike What Truly Exists, represented by pagan Gods, was being replaced by a shapeless and faceless Nature, an assemblage of ideas and things, fastened together by the cosmic Soul. Socrates paid with his life for this “blasphemy”. But that was an imperative of those times: replacing Human the Primitive, Human the Cognizing was being born, in the throes, for Whom nothing existed, except Nature being cognized by Him.
In his views of Nature, Socrates preferred Ideas, not Things. Thus, the teaching of “ideas” emerged. It was further developed by Socrates’ disciple and friend Plato. He taught that, in truth, there only existed eternal and invariable Ideas, or the Ideal Prototypes of things, whereas worldly things were just reflections of their divine prototypes. Unlike worldly things which are always becoming and never are, ideas always are, and never becoming. It is exactly those ideas that come out as the source of true knowledge, which, as a matter of fact, is not just the knowledge of things but, ultimately, the knowledge of ideas.
In Plato’s teaching, at last, a full-fledged synthesis of qualitative and quantitative interpretations of True Being was reached. Here, the Pythagorean Number was filled with a content and became flesh, as it were, although remaining pure. At the same time, the discovery of the realm of “ideas” gave a fresh impetus to the development of scientific knowledge, since the latter immediately operates not with things themselves, but rather with their ideas.
Human soul can directly contemplate “ideas” only when it is free from its bodily capsule, that is, before birth or after death (that is, the death of the body). When in the world, however, the soul recollects and recognizes in things and persons around the gleams of what it has seen earlier. Hence, true cognition in Plato’s teaching is proving to be rather re-cognition, or recollection.
In Plato’s teaching, True Being was reinstated, this time in the form of eternal “ideas”. But it was not the end of the story with Plato. Further elaboration of his teaching, leads Plato to admit the existence of the Cosmic Mind in Which those ideas are contained. Hence, the cosmic process is taking the following shape. Mind the Father irradiates His ideas onto Cosmic Receptacle, Wetnurse the Mother, the recipient of ideas. As a result, World the Son is being born. So, True Being takes on the shape of World Mind overwhelmed with Ideas and fertilizing with them the Cosmic Receptacle. Eventually, Plato was inclined to a “chaster” interpretation of What Truly Exists, that is, as the Demiurge, or God the Creator, Who creates the Cosmos, or the “Minor God”, with regard to His ideas.
After Plato, there was his disciple Aristotle. He scrupulously decomposed and classified his teacher’s doctrine, developed basic tenets of logic, but failed to bring anything principally new into the interpretation of True Being. In the foundation of all that exists Aristotle lays the immovable God the Mind Who sets everything in motion while remaining in self-contemplating bliss.
With Plato and Aristotle, the ancient European philosophy was, in principle, completed. Further developments in the field failed to add anything essentially new to the cognition of True Being. It looked like the Universe was now resting on a reliable foundation, True Being was at last found, and philosophers could have a desirable and well-deserved respite. But, in reality, that was the point where the most tense and crucial stage in the development of philosophy, in the development of ideas of What Truly Exists, began. The fact was that all possible interpretations of It from an outsider’s viewpoint, as Something lying outside Human, had been exhausted. It was needed to take a step forward from knowing What Truly Exists towards being It. This meant that time was approaching for True Being to manifest Itself.
Despite the apparent “free-thinking” associated with the repudiation of pagan Gods, the deification of Nature, accomplished by philosophy, led ultimately to the deification of a secular Ruler. So, in anticipation of the manifestation of True Being in Its final shape, there appeared “earthly Gods”, such as Alexander the Macedonian, Julius Cesar, and Spartacus, as well as the unprecedented exaltation of “ethnic Romans” as compared to the barbarians. Here, finding their embodiment there were not only the deified Nature as a whole, by also philosophical materialism, philosophical idealism, as well as the teaching of Cosmic Soul singly. At the same time, the necessity of a new-type philosophy was dawning, turned towards Subject, and not only towards the “Cognizing One”.
3. The “philosophy of existence”
So, it looked like the philosophy of Nature was completed. But, contrary to expectations, this fact (or, maybe, appearance) failed to bring in a desirable peace and quiet to philosophers. Instead, they found themselves somewhat at a loss. On the one hand, one could contend that True Being had mainly been “cognized”. In general terms, It represents the Demiurge, or God the Creator, kind of Super-Craftsman, or Artist, Who creates Something, or rather Someone, resembling Himself, a certain Formation endowed with body, soul, and mind, that is, the Cosmos, in accordance with the ideas, or design, contained in His mind. It should seem, what else was left to be desired?
On the other hand, a doubt was ripening as to the finality of such an image of True Being. There was a feeling that It represented a Reality of a different nature, or of a higher order, that It did not quite fit into the framework of philosophical knowledge. In other words, It was not going to be complacent about the fate prepared for It by “academic” philosophers. Apparently, there was a special intrinsic logic inherent in It, which philosophers were yet unable to catch. In the meantime, what It was yearning for was not the matter of knowledge, but the matter of being. And this transition from the “subject of knowledge” to the “fact of being” was really painful.
It should be reiterated that the question of Truth is the question of a Reality. So, it cannot be confined to a purely theoretical solution, to cognition alone. A practical solution cannot be avoided here. It means that from a reality to cognize True Being turns into a reality to live through. In other words, True Being was poised to become a real, full-blooded, living and acting individual.
The approaching of True Being caused unprecedented social and emotional disturbances. Incomprehensible panic arose in many. This feeling was really frustrating. It urged people to turn to philosophy in order to find explanation of what it was all about. This suggested a completely new approach, and philosophizing was now becoming a psychotherapy of sorts, aimed not to learn what True Being was like, but, rather, how to live one’s life, keeping spiritual balance.
The source of anxiety aroused by the upcoming True Being remained obscure. It was commonly referred to as the dread of Gods, dread of fate, dread of death, dread of social instability, or even the perplexity caused by the contradictions True Being displayed in cognition. Philosophers used to be the “observers” of True Being, even though partial observers (as “philo-sophia” implies “love” for the subject of the study). They used to take a detached view while describing their Subject. And many thought such an approach would stay on. But now that True Being had drawn nearer, hardly anybody could get the point of it.
Hence, the peculiarity and ambiguity of the philosophy of that period of time. On the one hand, philosophers kept on pursuing a contemplative, detached onlooker’s line towards True Being. Here, philosophy was not noted for its originality and largely represented the repeats and elaborations of earlier doctrines (e. g. Neo-Platonism). On the other hand, philosophizing was urged by a mounting feeling of fear. In this case, people turned to philosophy, hoping to find consolation and get rid of this persisting anxiety. So, the basic question here was not “What is True Being like?”, but rather “How to live?”.
Nevertheless, philosophy remained such, that is, the science of What Truly Exists. Therefore, even if a mention of the Latter could somehow be found in those new-born teachings. Philosophical skepticism represents a good example of that mode of philosophizing. First of all, skeptic philosophers summed up all major philosophical teachings of the past and came out with a whole encyclopaedia of philosophical knowledge. In doing so, they exposed multiple unsolvable contradictions found in True Being. On these grounds, they suggested to abstain from giving any judgments on It. Freed from the necessity to comment on True Being, a philosopher was supposed to gain an unshakable spiritual stability, or “imperturbability”. That was a rather unexpected conclusion. In fact, lurking under “imperturbability” was silent desperation. In any case, philosophical scepticism cleared the way for the emergence and consolidation of new types of thinking.
Cynics were vivid representatives of this new philosophy. They led a simple and unpretentious life, being contented with what was only necessary. They admitted to being “not of this world” and called themselves “friends of Gods”. In their view, man suffers most, because he is a slave of his own passions. They considered it to be their main purpose to release man from this “addiction”. Accordingly, “dispassionateness”, or “apathy”, was their ideal. They condemned indulging in passions, lies and hypocrisy thriving in the world, and they were not afraid to speak it out loud to anybody, regardless of rank. Also, they made life hard for “academic” philosophers”. For example, some people were discussing the question of whether the Cosmos was animate or whether It was spherical. One of the cynics said to them the following. “You still keep on worrying about the Cosmos. Better think about the wicked life you lead”.
Epicurus volunteered to teach people how to get rid of fear and find peace of mind. He believed that Gods were the major source of fear for man, and people were mostly afraid of Gods intervening into their affairs. So, he tried to prove that “in reality” Gods were blissful beings who lived somewhere in the extramundane space, having nothing to do with the world. Therefore, Gods could not pose any threat to man, and man could safely go on with his life without being afraid of whatever supernatural interference. At the same time, Epicurus paid homage to “academic” philosophy, basing his teaching on Democritian atomism.
Crowning this new-type philosophy was stoicism. The stoic philosophers believed that is was death that people feared most. Therefore, much space in their works they devoted to how to get rid of this particular fear. Stoics attempted to base their fearlessness in the face of death on fatalism. In their view, everything in this world is predetermined. Therefore, man’s main purpose should be not to resist one’s fate, but, instead, accept the inevitable with serenity. Well-known is the stoic saying that “fate leads the willing, and drags along the reluctant”. So, the stoic ideal was “imperturbability”. Celebrated representatives of this trend, the citizen Seneca, the slave Epictetus, and the emperor Marcus Aurelius, were convinced that all troubles could be minimized, provided that man lived his life in harmony with nature and acted according to reason.
In the meantime, a different formulation and different solution was being prepared to the above questions. To feel safe and secure in this life, man could not be contented with philosophic explanation alone. What he was actually yearning for was salvation. True Being, on Its part, was seeking to materialize in a more specific form; It was yearning for incarnation.
At this point, one cannot but make a mention of yet another thinker, who may rightfully be called the “philosophical Forerunner” of the upcoming event. It is Philo of Alexandria. He was an ethnic Jew, which was not quite typical of the antique philosophical community, since Jews had largely been famous for their prophets. Still, Philo combined in himself the reasonableness of a philosopher and the insight of a prophet. Moreover, his ethnic background pointed to where actually the Evangel should be expected to come from. Essentially, Philo’s message was that True Being, or God, not only creates the World, or Cosmos, but also gives birth to the Son, or Logos, Who is due to manifest Itself in human form.
4. The manifestation of True Being
Genuine salvation can only be reached on the crest of desperation, at the climax of loss. And when it really occurs, it commonly passes off unnoticed, and many people believe it is not the very thing. For gently and imperceptibly comes True Being into this world.
It happened in the outlying districts of the Roman Empire in the year which turned out to be the reference point of a new era for mankind. A man was born named Jesus Who was destined to live through and personify True Being.
At first sight, He did not differ from other people in any way. This corroborated the ancient conjecture of the anthropomorphism of True Being. But the anthropomorphism of Jesus differed from the fabulous anthropomorphism of ancient religions. Therefore, not everyone could identify Him as the One Who He really was. The then religious people expected to see a tremendous and omnipotent God, Who would appear in all His glory and immediately materialize His will, that is, punish sinners and reward the righteous. Compared to that image, Jesus might have seemed rather humble and even helpless. The majority of philosophers, in the meantime, were preoccupied with contemplating ideal entities or practicing “self-sufficiency”. So, they did not notice that the actual subject of philosophy had become manifest.
He was immortal. But, again, His immortality was not such in the sense of the vicious infinity of earthly existence. He enjoyed the actual immortality and could reach out into the realms where there was no time and where the eternal life reigned. He called It the Kingdom of Heaven. At the same time, His immortality was not just his personal quality or personal achievement that could have been hidden. It could not but entail consequences for the world. Having discovered this faculty in Himself, He was thereby becoming the manifested essence of the world, which, in particular, enabled Him to affect the natural course of events.
The one who has tasted immortality is redoubtable. Jesus could grant absolution, heal those fatally ill, even raise from the dead. But woe was to those hurting Him. The fig-tree that happened to have its fruit missing when He was hungry and thirsty, withered right away through His damnation. The disciple who had betrayed Him hanged himself thereafter. The temple of old faith turned down by Jesus was later demolished. The state that authorized his execution was soon swept off the face of the earth. Therefore, contacting Jesus required discretion, and sometimes it was better to please Him pouring most precious myrrh on His head than to show great zeal in public charity.
In the light of the above, it becomes clear what place philosophy occupies and what purpose it has in terms of the cognition of True Being (as well as in terms of the development of the Latter). Philosophy represents a higher stage of the process, compared to mythology based largely on imagination. Still, the mythical True Being turns out to contain many true features, and, in a sense, It does resemble Zeus. Ancient beliefs proved insightful enough to outline some essential traits of True Being. At the same time, True Being was ascribed many accidental qualities having nothing in common with Its actual distinctive characteristics. This Image needs to be verified. And this is where philosophy picks up the baton.
Philosophy, however, proceeds from what is available for perception, or determinate, and here lies its advantage compared to primitive religions. Eventually, this advantage turns into a drawback, resulting in the justification and perpetuation of what is determinate, to the substitution of True Being by what is available for perception. And yet, the most sensitive philosophical intellects timely feel the approaching of True Being and manage to somehow express this feeling. And now the time comes when True Being manifests Itself in full.