April 5, 2010 at 7:56 am #33825
note: Kierkegaard is a famous Swedish Christian mystic who famously predicted the time of his own death. This essay puts some Taoist issues into a western perspective and gives a nice summary of Platonic and Christian theology on the topic.
I think a core Taoist perspective would be that we should cultivate deep spiritual passion for the the Life Force’s innate balance and harmony. This is beyond emotion, and is not a rational pursuit in the intellectual western sense. It involves transforming or aligning lesser passions and thoughts to this deeper pursuit of cultivating chi, the source of emotions and thoughts. – Michael
By Philosophy Religion Guardian UK editor, Clare Carlisle
The human being is above all an erotic creature: a being who, conscious that she lacks something, reaches out beyond herself
At the end of his 1843 book Fear and Trembling , Kierkegaard writes that passion is “the genuinely human quality”, and he adds that “the highest passion in a human being is faith”. Today we are used to hearing people talk of their passions, whether they are “passionate about football”, “passionate about music”, or “passionate about retail”. Such talk expresses enthusiasm, dedication, and often a thirst for success. It also indicates ways in which we find meaning and value in our lives. But what might it mean to regard passion is the most essential feature of the human being? What does Kierkegaard mean by passion?
In order to answer these questions, we need to look back at the philosophical tradition that Kierkegaard inherited. The dominant view within this tradition, from Plato and Aristotle through to Descartes, Spinoza and Kant, is that reason is the most important aspect of the human being. Philosophers have frequently opposed our capacity for rational thought to “the passions”, or the emotions, and many have argued that living a good human life involves controlling, subduing, or even eliminating one’s emotions and appetites. According to this view, reason ought to rule over the passions.
We can also trace through the history of philosophy a counter-movement which reverses this relationship between passion and reason. Kierkegaard might be located within this movement, alongside David Hume and the Romantic poets. When he emphasises passion, Kierkegaard challenges the idea that rational thought could or should encompass and direct human existence.
However, for Kierkegaard “passion” does not just signify emotion. More importantly, passion is a kind of desire. Again, this is an idea that Kierkegaard takes from the philosophical tradition. In his dialogue The Symposium , Plato dramatises a dinner-party at which the intellectual and cultural elite of Athens take turns to speak about the nature of Eros, which means desire or love. Socrates, the guest of honour, suggests that Eros is characterised by the absence of the desired object: one desires what one does not possess. Even when a lover seems to possess her beloved, she desires to continue to possess it in the future, which is not yet secure.
Plato uses this conception of Eros to explain the life of the philosopher. (The Greek word “philosopher” means “lover of wisdom”.) The philosopher desires and pursues the truth, which she does not yet possess. And in the case of truth, not to possess it is also not to know it, for possession of the truth is knowledge. This particular object of desire is not only elusive, but unknown.
In Plato’s philosophy, this account of Eros is applied not just to romantic love and to the philosopher’s pursuit of truth, but to human existence as a whole. The human being is characterised by a movement between untruth and truth; by an attempt to reach beyond one’s current situation to seek something one does not yet possess. This Platonic way of thinking was readily taken up by Christian theologians, who could depict the religious life as a restless and amorous journey from a state of ignorance and sin to an encounter with God, and an understanding of him.
Kierkegaard was influenced by Plato’s philosophy as well as by the Platonism embedded in Christian thought, and in his lengthy book Concluding Unscientific Postscript he explains that his concept of passion owes much to Socrates’ discussion of Eros in The Symposium. Kierkegaard’s claim that passion is “the genuinely human quality” indicates that the human being is above all an erotic creature: a being who, conscious that she lacks something including, perhaps, the knowledge of what this “something” is reaches out beyond herself. In fact, this continual reaching out constitutes the movement of becoming that Kierkegaard identifies as “existence”.
This basic structure of human life shows itself in a variety of ways within Kierkegaard’s works. For example, he emphasises that human existence is oriented to the future. Like the object of desire invoked by Socrates, the future is not yet possessed or known, and remains an elusive, ever-retreating horizon towards which life is lived. Kierkegaard famously wrote that, although life is lived forwards, it can only be understood backwards: only the past can become an object of knowledge. He thought that this fact challenged the philosophical claim particularly prominent within Hegelian philosophy that reason can encompass the whole of human life.
In a more specifically Christian context, Kierkegaard’s focus on passion as opposed to reason finds expression in his claim that Christian teachings are paradoxical. He regards the doctrine of the incarnation the appearance of God in human form, of the eternal within history as a paradox that cannot be thought. Reason certainly plays an important role in relating to this doctrine, since it is reason which recognises the paradox as a paradox. But rational thought comes to a halt in the face of a paradox, and cannot penetrate it or assimilate it. This means that the Christian can only appropriate the teaching of the incarnation by a passionate movement beyond the limitations detected by reason. This provides one indication of what Kierkegaard means when he describes faith as a passion.April 22, 2010 at 8:22 am #33826April 22, 2010 at 8:34 am #33828
Just a little correction:
Essay was about Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher.
Swedish mystic Michael was refering to (the one who predicted his own death; guy full of visions, generally) is Emanuel Swedenborg. Much more interesting fella – at least for people concerned with spiritual (or ”spiritual”).
This should be verified, but I’ve heard that Swedenborg wrote somewhere (according to his visions)that in the ancient times people were not breathing with their lungs but ”up the spine and down the front”. Sounds familiar? 😉
Swedich Dragon, please see to check this out! (I think that’s not in ”Heaven and Hell” though, but in his less known scriptures)
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