Have you heard of Simeon Styletes? He was a Christian ascetic from near 200ce in Persia, I believe, who sat up on a 50 foot pillar for like 40 years (40 years !!). I guess his whole life was in effort to get away from people and to devote himself to God, cuz he went into a monastery when he was young but they kicked him out for being too ascetic. He went in a cave first for a couple years, but people had heard of him, thought he was a saint, and so bothered him all the time. The pole, it seems, was so he could more thoroughly devote himself to God.
I’ve heard his whole sustenance was lettuce, which people would give to him from a long stick. And his excrement would petrify in the heat and people would take them as holy relics.
Other ascetics also abounded back then. Archeologists excavating monasteries from the early Christian Era would find these little rooms with no apparent doors or way to enter them. After excavating them they figured out what they were. The floors of some of these rooms had layers of (2000 year old) excrement and some had human skeletons. The archeologists surmised that these rooms were for ascetic practice; the monk would go into the little room and then seal himself in with a little hole for food and water. Some would die in there.
I’m sure you have heard of the flagellants. They were particularly famous in the Black Death; when nothing seemed to be relieving the plague, some (many enough) figured it was Gods wrath, and so walked around town to town flailing themselves in repentance earning others to join them.
There is a whole history of people rebuking themselves for the sake of some spiritual endeavor, the art of which rose to new heights with Christianity. It is based in an extreme form of the idea of discrepancy between spirit and body. The apparent stubbornness of habitual or conditioned thoughts that do not conform with other more spiritual thoughts reduce and emphasize for many this basic divide of spirit and body, for such markers become analogies that characterize thoughts to be attributes of such polemics. It is easy to point at the world, and accuse and try to make the world appeal to reason, but when it is oneself, the pointing can get quite nasty; only those who are of a particular sensitivity renounce the ‘outside world route’, but then they are left with themselves, and the world that resides in them.
It is not difficult to see that this sort of conceptual discrepancy or mythical analytic construction is at work everywhere, and it can be seen to characterize what we know as history. The inability for people to reconcile certain thoughts to other thoughts is the basis for our current paradigm of spiritual religious reckoning, indeed, of our current historical- political situation, how people coordinate themselves to groups that advocate a particular way to reconcile the discrepancy. Of course, this is a vast over estimation, but there is a seed root of veracity here.
Such a discrepancy seems innate to being human. It seems to be a characteristic of being human that an overwhelming majority of people will not be able to find a sensible and non-violent (that which does not aggravate through blatant denial) reconciliation of themselves in the world. Just this fact in itself opens up a cornucopia of topics.
Here is a tentative offering of a speculative sort.
History is capable of being viewed as a dealing with this apparent issue that cannot be solved. At every juncture, the group, presented as masses of human beings arrive on the scene, is assessed and a solution is put forward. The solution addresses some of the individuals situations but the remaining people who’s problem was not solved, or only partly solved, are left still wondering. The group is assessed again, and a solution applied, and still, most remain unsatisfied.
Prophets are seen to advocate the necessity of reconciliation. But the prophets job is not to bring about a change; this is evident from the OT Biblical prophets. For if the prophets were sent by God to deliver a message, the message had the same effect as any other proposed solution; only some heard but most did not or could not. But in so much as the prophet did indeed become privy to Gods communication, then the true meaning of the communication cannot be said to reside at the moment of the communication any more than any other type of solution for various problems; in consideration of what we come upon, the prophets attain their effectiveness inso much as their message is was delivered unto the future. In this way we can then say that the prophets job is to insist upon an immanent and dire present situation that needs be addressed now, but that the situation is effectively eternal, which can be to say, ‘for a history of the future’.
It is also not difficult to see how discourses arise in response to the ongoing and persistent discrepancy. If the ancient Greeks, near 3000 years ago, Heraclitus and Socrates in particular, to name two, were pondering what must have seemed ‘new’ at the time, a moment wherein the discrepancy erupted as a known experience, then the messianic social event that occurred around the Mediterranean near 2000 years ago was an indication of the development that continued from the marking that was noticed in a particular fashion by the Greeks, such that it returned as a solution to the Greeks in that they were the ones who ‘popularized’ the writings about this solution to their 1000 or so year old problem. Nevermind that Abraham wandered around the south east Mediterranean near the same time as the ancient Greek philosophers sat in their drinking halls; say it is a geographic and cultural manifestation.
(For now, we will set aside the Eastern presentation.)
This solution of the Hebrews thus took hold in the northern Mediterranean and Europe as a social event, and the substrative route was laid for progressive discourse for the next 1200 some years, if not even to this present day, the progress that is marked as a type in its envisioning of solution of the aggravating discrepancy. Yet when this solution does not work for the predominance of people, indeed exponentially more and more people, the imperative that is the endeavor for solution, which is inherent in the manifestation of human consciousness, represented in the conglomerate that is the unreconciled populace, whether they cognitively know it individually or not, asserts its agenda, which is the demand for solution. This demand does not view itself with such detachment, with such survey, as a history for the future; no, it sees itself with reference to The past as toward a future. Application needs be haved now. So it is the past is looked to as representative of success and failure, such that each may be used to refine the application for now. But in as much as the problem is persistent, as to the discrepancy addressed here, the past is primarily looked to for evidence of what has not worked. After 1200 hundred years of applied spiritual solution upon a basic substrate, the period we call the Middle Ages of Europe, from Aristotle to probably Scholasticism, eventually the substrate was played out, its routes traversed enough that the only route left was to change the substrate. Again, this does not necessarily occur due to some ‘ah ha ‘ moment, but more due to some social imperative where enough people are not content in the route’s ability to find solution; for a while, so long as the route holds still a reasonable possibility for solution, the route still stays the true route, holds reality in its truth function and defines the individual’s method for knowing itself. Then, when the route has played out, people situate another route. This ‘new’ route, following this European model here, could be said to be the ‘enlightenment’, or the Renaissance, and Descartes is often said to be the one who spelled out how this new route was to take shape, though many were involved in shaping the route.
The route, whatever its situation in history, whether ‘new’ or ‘old’, is always is looked upon as ‘real’, which is to say, as ‘now we have enough information from the past to establish what is actually true’, and solutions are applied always toward a grand solution that is proposed to be held at the end of the process of finding truth that the people are involved with in the effort of applying a solution. In one sense, the new always accounts for the old, but in another sense, the new is always already the old, for there was no human situation that did not belong to the condition of the real individual, which is discrepant.
In reality such contradiction is always denied in the acting upon the route; the solution to the discrepancy is always viewed with reference to the route’s potential. In reality, people view their purpose with reference to the problem that needs a solution, but the manner through which the series (problem-solution) is set has already given the condition by which the series may be termed, and thus meant, and always in reference to the particular route accorded to the condition of the route, as to its possibility of having or containing the possibility of solution. Presently, it seems, the route particular to our moment, is showing its failure.
Such discourse of history is always a social event, always of the pure multiple, of the ordination of reality. What concerns us, though, is the confusion that arises faced with a history that seems to inform our ability and capacity to view the truth. Hence the question of one’s orientation upon the Object, as well as faith in the True Object. What concerns us, so far as a human consciousness is concerned, is the individual of reality, and how such an individual may be determined in reality, which is to say, how real freedom leads to still more discrepancy. It seems like the old adage that says “insanity is doing the same thing, and expecting different results”. The insanity is the romantic view, but ironically, it is the Romance itself that leads one out of the chaotic relationship; what is romantic leads one on, manipulating and deceiving in a power play of want and desire, where the Romance fulfills love and brings truth in union. Hence we can speak of a ‘co-dependent’ reality, an ‘addicted’ reality, the ‘abusive’ reality, where despite the problem, the problem persists due to an incessant operation of denial, or its ‘positive’ formation, faith. So ubiquitous reality is, though, to speak with such adjectives still leads one along the route, and at that, of real insanity.
Who or what is speaking? To what or from where does the discourse indicate its solution?
I gotta say: the answer to both is always real but not always true.