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Philosophy – Table of Contents



Philosophy, from the Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), literally means ‘love for Sophia.’ Sophia, as a goddess – an anthropomorphic entity – is wisdom, but the very essence of wisdom is contained in Non-Being.

Non-being is ‘beyond being’ or rather, ‘being nor non-being’ – the One Reality (Brahm in Hindu philosophy). This is where the genuine philosopher strives for. As long as the philosopher regards himself as separate from universal non-dual Reality, his pursuit of his philosophy is a path over which he desires to reach Truth. Once reached there are no more paths, and, with the great mystical philosopher from Tamil Nadu, J. Krishnamurti, it can be said: “Truth is a pathless land.”

That does not mean that it is the end. It is where real life actually begins. No longer blurred by imperfect conceptions nor disturbed by the erratic movements of the mind, the verily wise man or woman lives in Truth and can no longer err. He needs no more speculation.

Philosophy in the true sense goes beyond rational considerations, but in its generally accepted western connotation it is just that.

Philosophy is one of the pursuits of the higher human mind to reach deeper understanding of the divine. The higher mind of man strives to elevate itself, through philosophy, through religion, science and art. The practice of ethics is philosophy; of dedication to and unification with ‘the highest’ or ‘purest,’ or ‘transcendental,’ often called ‘God,’ is religion; the zeal to gain knowledge and the testing and application of this knowledge is science and her subject – knowledge – is its perception and study of the manifestation of the wisdom on our plane of mental understanding; but this wisdom is itself beyond manifestation and beyond science; esthetics is the intuitive, abstract recognition and creative expression of the beyond in nature and, if perceived through man, in art.

Philosophy, in the occidental sense has become a merely rational pursuit – to safeguard ourselves from emotional and prejudiced or self-interested pursuits. Philosophy, as defined in Wikipedia, is “the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.” This is true for occidental philosophy, based on the Greek, but tragically misunderstood philosophy, and parts of Arabic philosophy, which puts the ratio as the highest human faculty.

For Plato or the neo-Platonists, for the ancient Greeks in general, the ratio was not considered the highest faculty at all. They called it the faculty of reasoning dianoia1 (lower mind) and made clear in all of their writings that is via Nous2 which transcends the mere reason that the One can be realized, via higher Thinking (or better: Knowing), Feeling and Willing .

However, following the original Platonic and neo-Platonic way of looking at philosophy, it can be considered as the dialectic path towards the One (the ‘Absolute’ or Brahm, the One without a second), which according to the ancients can be experienced by the higher Mind (the Nous) as The Good, The True and The Beautiful. These are not ontological realities in themselves, but experiences of the One, even revelations, by and to the Nous which as Mind is the synthesis of Thinking, Feeling and Willing. It is a big mistake to reduce the mind, even the lower one, to only the cognitive part of it. It also has an affective and voluntative (or connotative) part, as has become the dominant interpretation in modern times. Philosophy for the ancients – in east and west – was indeed the training of the mind, but that encompassed more than training the thinking faculty (which it has become in the academic intellectualized west – and even then only the lower aspects of it, especially in postmodernism) So the philosophy as the pursuit of Wisdom, means the realization of the One Self as being the Good, the True and the Beautiful, which relates to Will, Feeling and Thought, and that is again reflected in Ethics (i.e., to will the Good), Religion (to feel connect with the One and express it, via art, in that sense any art should be religious art) and Science (to know the True).

In Hindu philosophy the three faculties of the Mind (thought, will and devotional and artistic feeling) are reflected in the philosophical three paths of Jñāna yoga3, Karma Yoga4 and Bhakti yoga5 respectively, which in ancient Greece meant the Dialectic path, the path of Virtue and the path of Theurgy… but that is what we have lost after the renaissance…

Philosophy, when only based on rational argument, is also the continuous creator of new problems. If the ratio is pure and great it can organize all perceptible, mental and axiomatic information. It is humanity’s greatest instrument to develop the practical mind, but not the higher philosophical mind – and humanity being mind (manas) itself it is our duty to do just this. But even the higher mind has a its limit. There is a ‘beyond,’ where the ratio cannot go – and that is buddhi, direct perception of Truth. Plotinus and some other Greeks may have understood that.

In a sense, Buddhist and Theosophical philosophy starts where traditional western philosophy ends – especially if traditional means post-renaissance.

For the Buddhist, it is the leaving behind of the merely rational mind which will bring him to true wisdom or insight. From a Theosophical point of view – something Plato repeatedly hinted at – contrary to many of the occidental philosophies, especially the more modern ones where philosophy stands apart from ethics, the True is identical with the Good. Ethics is the application of what is universally true. This is because in Theosophy it is stated that the wisdom towards which humanity strives has in the past, and repeatedly, already been conquered and gained by the gods – those who are ahead of humanity in evolution.

Devotion to the teachings and characters of the gods or enlightened humans as laid down in holy scriptures and passed on orally and – best of all – held in the hearts of the truly wise, and confirmed by continuous actual experience of these teachings by aspirants, is true religion – not devotion to personalities, images or idols6 without understanding their inner meaning.

The Hindu goddess of wisdom is Sarasvatī, the spouse of Brahmā who is creative intelligence. She is depicted with a closed book and a vīna, India’s sacred lute. She is the holder of secret knowledge and art which is hidden within creation and will only be conveyed to those who have abandoned all efforts of lower purity. It is from Brahmā’s meditation on transcendental wisdom that intelligence creates. Therefore a ‘God’ as ‘the creator’ or ‘a host of creators’ is not the first highest aspect of Eternal Universal Being. It is however that aspect what the ratio can handle.

In Buddhism, the mind (manas) is derived from buddhi (wisdom, spiritual, supramental power of distinction) while buddhi is gained for the individual by absorbing the essence of the fruits of the highest processes of the mind. In one sense, buddhi is the pure ratio, when this is freed from its out-going movements and mundane connections.

According to the Christian Gnostic work Pistis Sophia, “the power of Sophia resides especially in the solar Logos” i.e. the wisdom-essence of the human higher mind, which in occult teaching is ‘the son of the Solar Mind’ (mānasapūtra).

Several Buddhist Sanskrit terms are often translated as ‘wisdom’ in English:

One term is bodhi (derived from the verbal root budh, to acquire understanding, to awaken). It means ‘perfect wisdom or enlightenment; true divine wisdom.’ It is a state of consciousness in which one has so far emptied the mind of facts that it is filled only with the ‘selfless selfhood’ of the eternal. In this state one realizes the ineffable visions of reality and of pure truth. This bodhi is a consciousness beyond the rational mind of most western philosophers. In Mahayana Buddhism bodhi- citta is sometimes translated as ‘spirit of enlightenment,’ meaning to have the wish to attain wisdom for the sake of all living beings while discarding the bliss of nirvāṇa for oneself. Bodhi is a term for the enlightened intellect of the Buddha or a buddhaBuddhi is the faculty in man of which the characteristic is bodhi, and someone who has centered his wisdom-consciousness (bodhi) at one with buddhi is a buddha.

Another Buddhist term is prajñā. [from pra, before and  jñā, to know] which means to know through, but beyond, clear perception, to discern clearly; it is the wisdom of seeing the emptiness7 or illusion of all existing things and concepts, and is direct perception of true knowledge as contrasted with brain-mind ratiocination.

The higher Buddhist path to perfection ultimately leads to perfection – pāramitā – of wisdom or transcendental virtue, prajñā. There is a vast literature extant about prajñāpāramitā, but the essence is contained in the Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya Sūtra, literally meaning ‘the short phrasing expressing the heart (Hṛd) of perfection of wisdom or transcendental virtue’ and is generally known as the Heart Sutra.

This aphorismic verse of which the explanation is spoken by Avalokiteśvara explains the highest insight a human being can gain before reaching enlightenment (here abbreviated):

The noble Avalokiteśvara (the great bodhisattva of compassion) looked upon the very practice of the profound perfection of wisdom and perceived the emptiness or absence of independent existence (śūnyatā) of all the (five) groups of properties (skandhas) [3] of which human nature is composed, and beheld those five aggregates (also) as empty of inherent nature.

He said: anyone who wishes to practice the activity of the profound perfection of wisdom should look upon it like this, correctly and repeatedly beholding the five aggregates8 as empty of inherent existence as well:

Form is not different from emptiness, and emptiness is not different from form. Form itself is emptiness, and emptiness itself is form. Sensation, conception, synthesis, and discrimination are also such as this. Śāriputra, all are empty of characteristics: they are neither created nor destroyed, neither defiled nor pure, and they neither increase nor diminish. This is because in emptiness there is no form, sensation, conception, synthesis, or discrimination. There are no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, or thoughts. There are no forms, sounds, scents, tastes, sensations, or mind-elements. There is no field of vision and there is no realm of thoughts. There is no ignorance nor elimination of ignorance, even up to and including no old age and death, nor elimination of old age and death. Similarly, there is no suffering, no origination, no cessation, and no path; There is no exalted wisdom, no attainment, and also no non-attainment. Therefore, because there is no attainment, bodhisattvas rely on and dwell in the perfection of wisdom, the mind without obscuration and without fear.

Having completely passed beyond error, they reach nirvāṇa.

All the buddhas who dwell in the three times also manifestly, completely awaken to unsurpassable, perfect, complete enlightenment in reliance on the perfection of wisdom.

Therefore, the mantra [=instrument of thought] of the perfection of wisdom, the mantra of great knowledge, the unsurpassed mantra, the mantra equal to the unequaled, the mantra that thoroughly pacifies all suffering should be known as truth since it is not false.

The mantra of the perfection of wisdom is declared:

gate gate pāragate pārasaṁgate bodhi svāhā

“Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone utterly beyond, Enlightenment, hail!”

The Buddha spoke: “It is like that; one should practice the profound perfection of wisdom just as you have indicated; even the Tathāgatas rejoice.”

Table of Contents

  1. Dianoia (Greek) [from dianoia thought] used by Plato and Aristotle often in contrast with soma (body); synonymous with logos, it is divine ideation and the root of all thought. []
  2. Nous (Greek) Mind; especially enlightened spiritual intelligence (buddhi-manas) as contrasted with the mere lower mind or ratiocinative faculty, deluded as it always is by passion and ignorance. Platonic philosophy speaks of the soul (psyche) as able to ally itself either with divine mind (nous) or with passion (thymos); thus we have the same distinction as between buddhi-manas and kāma-manas. Sometimes, however, psyche is used without qualification as the lower mind in contrast with the higher mind or nous. []
  3. The form of yoga practice and training where the attaining of union with the spiritual-divine essence within is by means of cultivating wisdom, spiritual insight, and intuition. []
  4. One of the methods or stages of yoga practice and training, involving attaining at-one-ment or union with the spiritual-divine essence within by means of unselfish action or works. []
  5. The form of yoga practice of attaining at-one-ment or union with the spiritual-divine essence within by means of devotion, faith, and love. []
  6. External devotion towards idols and exemplary personages as done by the millions is not useless, because it creates positive emotional links and a ‘supernatural’ feeling of love for the divinity represented. But true devotion goes beyond the emotional and beyond merely rational analysis. A real idol contains more than a book and can be a link to a genuine aspect of divinity. []
  7. Emptiness: śūnyatā; See the article Śunyatā and Pleroma []
  8. The five skandhas or groups of (human) properties are: (material) form, sensation, mental conception, synthesis, and discrimination. For detailed information about the meaning of the five skandhas, see the article Skandhas and Gatis LINK MAKEN []