A reflection on Plato’s Timaeus
Facing the problems of the world, or even beginning to understand the underpinning issues of reality, can be a difficult task. If we begin to enjoy the process of contemplation, we may find it in and of itself an addicting action, engaging in thinking rather than attempting to deal with a flawed world filled with intractable problems. Facing down the seductive call of this ‘pure’ contemplation, I must examine whether such a life of intellectual seclusion is positive and negative, and if it is harmful how we can best overcome this siren song.
To begin with, we should look to the definition of contemplation. To contemplate is the act of examination, deep thinking upon a subject to strip back the layers of presupposition, acculturation, fable and fiction. With this solvent applied, the bones of an argument or debate are laid bare, open to examination, modification and rejection. With this definition, it would appear that contemplation is a necessary aspect of dialectic and personal growth.
However, pure contemplation – as in contemplation as an act devoid of examination of the exterior world and focused completely within – is something subtlety different from its more benign cousin. Pure contemplation involves a complete turning inwards, a rejection of exteriors and a focus on internal truth. In this sense, pure contemplation is the act of accepting monism (see Against Grand Unity), and in doing so, rejecting society as an artificiality. If you reject external relationships you, by definition, reject the act of love, which can only occur selflessly between two objects of different nature. In contrast, to love the ‘one’ is to love oneself. By rejecting society and love, a person can only embrace selfish self-obsession, leading to ignorance of externals and, eventually, a rejection of reality.
If we accept pure contemplation, devoid of external sensation, as a path to mental calcification it poses an unwholesome question: how can contemplation be redeemed to save it from selfishness? I would posit that the only way to overcome the rejection of reality is to transcend contemplation by experimentation. If you contemplate on issues of gravity, but then take the results of your thinking and compare them to the lived experience and history of humanity, you can slowly begin to conform your theorems to nature, as opposed to bending nature to your beliefs.
Although this prescription presupposes that the physical world is of value and that the metaphysical world doesn’t override the perceived reality around us, I am confident in at least one aspect of this argument. As physical creatures, we must exist within the physical realm, and if we reject the physical we are rejecting ourselves – an act tantamount to rejecting the ability to improve the self and thus acceptance of apathy.
Konstantin Apollonovich Savitsky, The Monk-Inok, 1897