Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sirach and Heraclitus


There are perhaps three areas of particular fascination for the AMAIC regarding philosophy – that is, over and above everything else that is right and good in that most important discipline.

Central to it all is:

1.The Philosophy of Jesus Christ - restoring Christian philosophy to its biblical roots, with Jesus Christ, Wisdom Incarnate, as the focal point. The Fathers of the Church rightly recognised the profound influence of Hebrew wisdom, the Bible, upon the Greco-Roman world. As‘Salvation is of the Jews’, so is Wisdom. “Jesus”, as we read above, “appealed to God’s previous revelation in the Hebrew Scriptures (Matt. 5:17–19; John 10:31) and issued authoritative revelations of His own as God Incarnate. … Jesus reasoned carefully about the things that matter most — a handy definition of philosophy. His teachings, in fact, cover the basic topics of philosophy. …. As an apologist for God’s truth, He defended the truth of the Hebrew Scriptures as well as His own teachings and actions”.

2.A Re-orientation of the History of Ancient Philosophy. This actually pre-supposes 1.and needs to be viewed in parallel fashion to the way that the ancient Scriptures pre-figure Jesus the Word, but are also brought to perfection in Him.

Whilst textbooks on the history of philosophy universally commence with the supposed Ionian Greeks, the AMAIC would urge for a complete re-orientation of influence by arguing that certain (if not all) of the key figures labelled ‘Greek’ (or Ionian) philosophers, ostensibly influenced by the Hebrews (as say the Fathers), were in actual fact Hebrew (Jewish) biblical characters who later became distorted and re-cast in Greco-Roman folklore. The Greco-Romans confused the ethnicity, geography and chronology of these original sages, who were essentially prophets and mystics, and down-graded them by turning them purely into natural philosophers.

It seems imperative that the common mystical element has to be re-considered, contrary to Mark Glouberman’s mistaken (we believe) view of “Western rationality’s trademark mastery over the natural world”, over the “earlier [religious] mode of thought” of the Hebrews. (“Jacob’s Ladder. Personality and Autonomy in the Hebrew Scriptures”, Mentalities/ Mentalités,13, 1-2, 1998, p. 9).

For studies more astute than Glouberman’s, whose opinion, sadly, the majority might share, would indicate that some of these ancient philosophers – now so cramped to merely natural philosophy andthe elements (earth, fire, water, etc.) – were actually men of great wisdom and enlightenment, religious and mystical. Nicolas Elias Leon Ruiz (Heraclitus and the Work of Awakening) has perceived this mystical quality in the case of the enigmatic but highly significant Heraclitus, supposedly a Greek of Ionian Ephesus. In his Abstract, Ruiz well explains why commentators have invariably found Heraclitus to be an ‘obscure’ thinker (https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache):


Heraclitus is universally regarded as one of the fathers of western philosophy.

However, the characterization of the nature of his contribution varies widely. To some he is an early example of rational, empirical, scientific inquiry into the physical world. To others he was primarily a brilliantly innovative metaphysician.

Still others prefer to see him as the distant ancestor of the great German dialecticians of the 19thcentury. In the 20th century, certain existential phenomenologists all but claimed him as one of their own.

Behind all of this stands a fundamental set of assumptions that is never questioned. Whatever else may be the case, we know that Heraclitus was, essentially, a rational human being like ourselves. He was a philosopher, concerned with explanation and exposition. He was a thinker, and his fragments encapsulate his thought.

It is because of this that Heraclitus has been completely misunderstood. We have no idea of who and what he was. We do not understand what he was saying. Perhaps the greatest irony is that Heraclitus himself, at the very outset of what he wrote, explicitly predicted that this would happen.

Everyone who writes about Heraclitus will make at least passing reference to his legendary obscurity. Some will talk about the oracular character of his writing. A few go so far as to say that his thought bears the traces of revelation, his expression, of prophecy. This is as far as it goes. The problem is that this rather metaphorical way of talking about Heraclitus misses the point entirely. His writing was not just “obscure,” it was esoteric.

Heraclitus did not merely employ an oracular mode of expression: he was an oracle. What he said was a revelation and he was its prophet. Heraclitus was far from the early rationalist or primitive scientist he has been made out to be. He was what we today would call a mystic.….
[End of quote]
Now it seems that Saint “Clement of Alexandria even believed that Sirach had influenced the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (Strom. 2.5; Bright 1999:1064)”. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:ABbefHere occurs that same sort of chronological ‘difficulty’ (in a textbook context) with a Father of the Church as also in the case of Saint Ambrose's conjecture (in De philosophia) that Plato had met Jeremiah in Egypt. Whilst, chronologically, this is an extraordinary statement by Saint Clement, considering that Sirach would be located centuries after Heraclitus, the presumed chronological problem may actually be due to the ignorance of the real identity of the supposedly ‘Greek’philosopher. What if Heraclitus, whose special element was fire, were in fact the same person as the Hebrew Sirach (also known as “Siracides”, hence Heraclitus?), who wrote of fire (Sirach 51:3, 4): “You liberated me … from the stifling heat which hemmed me in, from the heart of a fire which I had not kindled …”. The ancient concept of Divine Wisdom, as written of by Sirach, was supposedly absorbed by Heraclitus, who, we think, may have been but a pale Greek version of the biblical scribe.

3.The Philosophy of Modern Science. Whilst the real world (physis) was still generally the object of philosophical study for the ancients, modern scientists and philosophers have largely shifted the emphasis on to law and convention (nomos). Our inspiration in this area is Dr. Gavin Ardley, who wrote (“The Physics of Local Motion”, I): “… the system of physics inaugurated by Galileo and Newton is only prima facie physics in the proper sense of that science, namely, an inquiry into the physics or nature of things. According to this contention … physics since Galileo has been progressively detached from the family of the real sciences and no longer has any community with the head of the family, namely, metaphysics”.

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