The Militant Mystic. A Sketch
Let’s say there is one universe with many worlds.
Any theory starts with a “let’s say...”. The ones claiming to stand on more solid foundations are an instant and immediate threat, both intellectually and politically.
A world consists of facts, myths, truths, lies, false and accurate perceptions, right and wrong interpretations.
Each world creates its own respective criteria through what has recently been dubbed discourse, or: discursive processes.
See also Wittgenstein’s language-game theory.
One world can mainly consist of numbers and statistics, another mainly of ghosts and fairies. Strong epistemological terms as “reality” or “truth” will only make sense within the context of each world’s self-definition.
How these self-definitions come about is of no relevance in the context of this essay.
But no two worlds are ever completely separated, nor is one world ever completely isolated. We do share a common universe.
Without this common universe we wouldn’t know of other worlds, wouldn’t live next to them, wouldn’t clash with them. More tangibly speaking, we all breathe the same air and walk the same earth, even if they differ in our respective worlds.
This is also to say that I’m far from supporting any idealistic, leave alone solipsistic speculations here. I think these are rather boring.
A lot of apparent philosophical oppositions or contradictions are hence indeed none: no difference between unity and diversity, subject and object, realism and idealism, absolutism and relativism. Two sides of the same coin.
The side we sense and know is the one defining our diverse, subjective, idealistic, and relative worlds. This is the side we are part of, creating and defining it as much as it creates and defines us.
The other side, the unifying, objective, real, absolute, remains hidden. We never entirely sense it, though the connectedness of our respective worlds assures us of it being there.
I’m not talking of a Kantian Ding-an-sich here. This still seems to be a concept too strong, suggesting a hidden, yet certain truth. The point of the mystic is to reach a comprehension of the truth (the objective, the real, the absolute) being ever uncertain.
It’s not a question of whether this is true or false. It just is.
Since we never sense the unifying side, its existence remains its only comprehensible character. The truth in all mysticism is the acknowledgement of the divine, and the concession to know nothing about it.
To pay respect to the unifying and life-assuring forces of the divine is the sole appropriate way of relating to the hidden side.
There are as many ways to do this as there are worlds. Mystics exist in pagan, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and various other worlds. They are all as righteous.
To lay claim on knowing anything about the divine violates the law of the universe that lets us live in the relative only. No man nor woman knows anything about the absolute. In fact, it’s a concept alien to our lives, possibly alien to the divine itself whose diverse sides are not separate from but part of it.
There is no self-contradiction in this classical Pyrrhonian observation. This is not an absolute statement. It’s a statement being made on the grounds of our diverse worlds – hence, on a level where no absolute exists.
Claims of knowing anything transcending the relative worlds we are part of is the ultimate fascist threat to a content existence celebrating the diversity of the life we are given.
This is the eternal danger of what has been called the Platonic philosophical tradition. See Gilles Deleuze’s writings on the history of philosophy to discover its historic opponents.
Modesty and respect for the other and the different are the principal moral guidelines for this celebration. Any intellectual and/or practical attack on these values are a threat to collective happiness. Self-righteousness is the face of evil.
a) This makes anarchism the force of good. But I won’t elaborate on this here.
b) The opposition of good and evil is regarded here as a useful, yet unpretentious model to express our moral evaluations within the realms of our diverse worlds. No general ethical teachings are introduced by the employment of such terminology.
Maybe the only universal ethical question concerns the one between the self-righteous and the modest, between the ones threatening the joy of diversity and the ones defending it.
This opposition allows us to think of a Manichaistic ethical universe without contradicting our concession of complete ignorance. We are not explaining the universe. We are taking a stand. There’s a big difference.
This is where a critique of Pyrrhonism should begin. For premeditated social purposes its adherents turned a revolutionary epistemology into reactionary politics with lame arguments about moral decision-making processes. The desire to eat and the desire to end injustice are much less different from each other than the Pyrrhonists wanted to make us believe. But that’s a story to be told some other time.
The good fight for life’s freedom and multiplicity. This is their universal ethic destiny.
All other ethical questions – the ones related to defining our moral worlds – are part of this freedom and multiplicity and will be asked and answered – and reasked and reanswered – within the realms of our relative worlds.
To fight deception without knowing what is true, to fight evil without knowing what is right. That’s the path of the militant mystic.