Recovery of the life of Reason and Its Modern Deformations (Part 1)

The unfolding of noetic consciousness in the psyche of the classic philosophers is not an "idea," or a "tradition," but an event in the history of mankind. The symbols developed in its course are "true" in the sense that they intelligibly articulate the experience of existential unrest in the process of becoming cognitively luminous.

Though the classic analysis is neither the first nor the last symbolization of man's humanity in quest of its relation to the divine ground, it is first in articulating the structure of the quest itself: of the unrest that offers the answer to its questioning, of the divine Nous as the mover of the quest, of the joy of luminous participation when man responds to the theophany, and of existence becoming cognitively luminous for its meaning as a movement in the metaxy from mortality to immortality.

The articulation of the structure has been so successful indeed that even the modern egophanic revolt against the theophanic constitution of man's humanity has to use the language of the noetic analysis if it wants to be intelligible, thereby confirming the validity of the philosophers' articulation.

True insights concerning Reason as the ordering force in existence were certainly gained, but they had to be gained as the exegesis of the philosophers' resistance to the personal and social disorder of the age that threatened to engulf them. To separate the "truth" of insight from the effort of resistance would make nonsense of the insight into the In-Between structure of existence.

The life of Reason is not a treasure of information to be stored away, it is the struggle in the metaxy for the immortalizing order of the psyche in resistance to the mortalizing forces of the apeirontic lust of being in Time. Existence in the In-Between of divine and human, of perfection and imperfection, of reason and passions, of knowledge and ignorance, of immortality and mortality is not abolished when it becomes luminous to itself. What did change through the differentiation of Reason was the level of critical consciousness concerning the order of existence.

The classic philosophers were conscious of this change as an epochal event; they were fully aware of the educational, diagnostic, and therapeutic functions of their discoveries; and they laid the foundations of a critical psychopathology that was further elaborated by the Stoics. They could not foresee, however, the vicissitudes to which their achievement would be exposed once it had entered history and become an integral factor in the cultures of Hellenistic, Christian, Islamic, and modern Western societies.

They could not foresee the incorporation of philosophy into various revelatory theologies, nor the transformation of philosophy into propositional metaphysics. And above all, they could not foresee the radical separation of the noetic symbolism they had created from its experiential context, so that the philosophical vocabulary would be set free to endow the attack on Reason with the appearance of Reason.

The dynamics of their resistance moved from the decay of the cosmological myth and from the Sophistic revolt toward the "love of wisdom"; they did not anticipate a distant future in which the egophanic revolt would have perverted the meaning of the noetic symbols, the extensive degradation des symboles as Mircea Eliade has called this modern phenomenon, so that the dynamics of resistance would have to move from the system of thinkers in a state of alienation again toward noetic consciousness.

To present the classic insights as doxographic relics not only would be pointless, it would destroy their very meaning as the expression of man's resistance to the mortalizing disorder of the age. Not the insights are to be remembered, but the resistance against the "climate of opinion" (Whitehead) is to be continued, if the life of Reason is to be kept truly alive.

CW VOL 12,
Reason: The Classic Experience

pp 287-289.