8. Empedocles of Acragas (492 - 432 B.C.): God - Man, Subject - Object
A Transhistoric Fata Morgana, A hypokeímenon - antikeímenon
S ist noch nicht P. (1)
Gigni de nihilo, in nihilum nil posse reverti. (2)
Eppur si muove. (3)
I am caught in endless strife,
Endless ferment, endless dream;
I cannot conform to Life,
Will not travel with the stream.
So it rolls from year to year,
From the Nothing to the All,
From the Cradle to the Bier,
Endless Rise and Endless Fall.
Tendency Towards Blue
As dark as Nyx, as the Night; and yet, since Edison and Watt, most of us do not know anymore how dark the Night really is. The globalized demons and fascist ghosts are being driven out of their last obscure refuges. The globe becomes lit up, but not necessarily enlightened. However, the historic Patria still seems to have the blue Leibnizian dialectical tendency, the concept of its ex-revolutionary-explosive nature. Let us illustrate this with two examples from philosophic „science fiction“.
Dreaming nobly of the blue soul
Selene fully smiles at Aphrodite. Minerva’s owlet bewails the moonlit, telluric panorama, irritated by the yowling and howling of Empedocles’ hungry, phantasmagoric werewolves. Helios rejoices in his prodigious divine powers, of being able to light up, even the darkest celestial Night.
Midnight approaches. The Prince of Darkness luciferously nears. The chthonic Promethean-Heracleitean, fiery flame flickers; it receives new Aristotelian enérgeia and dýnamis. Its colour turns Blue. Maliciously, Malvolio instantaneously covers his sublime seat of sophía with a malignant blanket of silence. He continues to dream „nobly of the soul“ (Shakespeare, Twelfth Night). Horatio gets goose-flesh, shivers in cold sweat, expecting any moment strange heavenly visitors from Hades. (Hamlet).
Midday - the Winter solstice has reached its acme. The Heracleitean agon of the elements has subsided. Sophia, filled with joie de vivre (4), winter-clad in a warm red, impatiently scurries into a bright sunny, snowy day. Frivolously she frolics with her black running shadow, which, as Bias stated, is one of the few possessions, which she always carries with her. A „je ne sais quoi“ (5) abruptly terminates her hilarious hide-and-go-seek fun, generating a ferly ecstasy.
Consciously, she stares at the sugary snow-mass of the garden-path, beholding her shadow. „Eureka! My Shadow is turning Blue“. Filled with awe, young Sophia leaves the earthly unimensions, and gazes perplexed at omnipotent Helios, into the blue heavens, void of concentrated Anaximenian-Diogenian aêr, as if she was thundered by a divine subjective bolt from the Blue. But, per aspera ad astra (6), she has still to take praxical possession of the Luciferous Blue of the Azure Cosmos, which comes out of the Burning-Becoming of the Promethean-Heracleitean eternal pýr. As Ernst Bloch would say: Diana, Athena and Sophia, Subject, have not yet become Predicate, not yet Object, and vice versa. They did not relate themselves as yet, did not contradict themselves, have not become blue, they still do not think as yet. Marx’s dream of something, of objectivation and subjectivation, has not yet changed from potentiality and potency into materialization, actualization and realization.
Skias onar ánthropos -- Man is a Dream of a Shadow
At first, let's highlight, spotlight our solitary sojourn through the serpentine wilderness of "Western Wisdom". Facing a bleak, black, racist future, ánthropos is also facing the fascist blues, gazing at Everything or Nothing -- instead of embracing Everything a n d Nothing, excelling towards Neither Everything Nor Nothing. Multiversally and polyhistorically, S can become O, and vice versa, but, in the Patria, S is not yet P (Bloch).
However, as we will note, armed with Empedocles’ materialist solidarity, the hen kai pan is not eternally staring at its non-contradictory, non-related, absolute unomnia; , it can self-shine lovingly-hatefully into its own crystal-ball, the sphairos: philosophico-chemically, Fire, Earth, Water and Air homoeomerically can be mixed by and separated with profound Love, with Eros, and with earnest, militant endeavour, with Agon, with Strife. In this way, universally, all these elements can be radicated and eradicated in the variegated things and omnifluent processes.
As such, in the hylozoism of Empedocles, divinely inspired by Aphrodite and Ares, -- that is, by the contradictory blue animae of Motion, angel-devil, éros-agon, -- primitive quantitative mechanical materialism with crypto-dialectical features, could come-into-existence, and could agonize and agitate the universal disjunctive mixture of Parmenides’ One and Heracleitus’ Fire.
E contra, on the „right“ wing of sophía and philosophía, on the idealist metaphysical side, Thales’ ghost in the lodestone, the panpsychic, panvitalist psyché in the phýsis, living on in Pythagoras’ anima mundi, could now take the Socratic path to the ousía (essence) of arete (virtue), or even to the alétheia (truth). Eventually, it will become Plato’s idea, and much later, it will successfully mature in Hegel’s Absolute Idee or Weltgeist, eternally cycling, in space and time, like a mad dog, trying to bite its own tail.
As such, the psyché would be moving along, changing mechanically-quantitatively according to the moíra of cosmic clockworks and human idealist phantasy; but, S will always remain S, true to the „laws“ of formal logic. Of course, this idealist pneuma can follow logically all the laws of dialectics, but, it will not be related to its matrix anymore, to its phýsis, to Matter, to Cosmos.
Consequently, the essence of S will never change, its shadow will always remain bleak and black, will always be: plus ca change, plus c’est la méme chose -- the more that it changes, the more it remains the very same static thing, the one and only Uni-Verse.
Here we are experiencing the Coming-Into-Being of the Capitalist Weltgeist, of its superstructural, Ideological Zeitgeist. In the following sections, we will now actively follow the complex-multiplex movements and velocities of Thales’ psyché, its various levels and degrees, the intrinsic dialectical process of Becoming-Being - based in the eternal fiery agon of Heracleitus --, as it enters the sphairos (or sphaira) of Empedocles, then it becomes Anaxagoras’ nous, eventually fills Democritus’ finest átomos, then passes as morphé through Aristotle’s dynámei on and kata to dynaton, and eventually, it will pervade the revolutionary class struggle of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky; by surpassing Bloch’s concrete, utopian experimentum mundi; and, it ultimately will self-realize itself in the Heimat, in the Patrian Home Land, in "Home, Sweet Home", as Alles, as Everything, as the Universal Subject of Becoming-Being.
Its patrian "history" is the history of so-called Human Thought or Reason, of perverse, perverted Society. Furthermore, transhistorically this "Wisdom" itself shows the infinitesimal minuteness of capitalist, egoistic avarice and roguery, the poverty of bourgeois-intellectual, disinformative epea pteroenta (of erudite "winged-words" -- Homer, Iliad).
Hence, as intrasystemic "Negation", from Thales’ psyché, over the proletarian theories of Marx and Lenin, continuing with Trotsky’s dum spiro spero, to Bloch’s Prinzip Hoffnung, we could witness the revolutionary, internal, intensive trails of the Becoming-Being of the Universal Subject, which permanently throws its dialectical Rembrandtesque Shadows of Death on, onto and into azure, emancipatory Transhistory, trying progressively to educate, to conscientize, to enlighten Labouring Social Being and Capitalized Social Consciousness.
At least, this is what the "young", humanist Marx, in his youthful philosophy -- of a fiery "Left Hegelian", philosophic, radical, bourgeois youth --desperately intended to teach the not yet totally mentally-enslaved 19th century proletarian workers about dialectically humanizing, subjectifying, socializing Nature; and about naturizing, naturalizing, objectifying, objectivating Man.
In the mid-millennium B.C., at the dawn of Modern Globalized Newspeak, in ancient Greek hylozoism, the above was still an evident, obvious historic task: it was childlike simple: for the "Pre-Socratics", the Object has a Subject, and the Subject has an Object, the psyché or nous lives in the phýsis, in the arché or hýle, and, certainly, man’s pneuma is no exception to this Cosmic rule, is nothing strange or divine. For the ancient materialists, in this matter, there was no black shadow of doubt, nothing strange came out of the blue.
Just like Descartes later, they taught us, principally-archaically, to doubt everything, as in the case of Gorgias, even our very essence and existence. This is surely a very healthy and sane transhistoric "point of departure" against "absolute truths" and "know-all", "know-everything", erudite, eminent, tenure and extra-ordinary professors. Here and there, now and then, many ancient Greek philosophers were still creatively tantalized by maternal, mythological, transhistoric enchantment.
Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera - Help Yourself and Heaven will Help You
Now, let us approximate the social-philosophic habitat of Empedocles. As explained before, during the 5th Century B.C., in the youthful, social creativity and productivity of Pericles’ Golden Age, in the virulent intellectual atmosphere - which was never surpassed by ruling class man ever again --, the philosophic contradiction, Thought a n d Thinking, Being-At-Rest (Parmenides) a n d Being-Becoming (Heracleitus) could not hold sway for very long; eternally, this hylozoistic unity a n d contradiction of opposites could not hold its own, its internal dialectical equipoise.
Fiercely, agon, the "negation" in Becoming-Being attacked Being, more precisely, Becoming attacked its own Affirmation, Being, the static, sleeping, moribund, monolithic substance of the hen kai pan. In formal-logical terms, Non-A attacked itself, related, more precisely, internally self-related, non-related itself, to A. This caused cosmic, material, universal tohu wa bohu in the equilibrium of Aphrodite’s queendom; her son, Eros, had to retire towards the very innermost core of Being-At-Rest.
Driven on by the fury of agon and the hatred for unproductive dolce far niente (obscure pleasure), Empedocles split the sphairos; he quadrified, and radically synthesized its quadrantals, in agony and love, as the first scientific attempt to introduce a materialist atomism. The to kenón, the vacuum, crypto-space, which was left between the four archaic elements, he carefully filled with his new primordial, eternal, living elements, Love and Strife (or Hate or War), thus negating the Democritean void.
It is noteworthy, that in ancient Greek philosophy, everyday phenomena like work, labour and even space, until then, did not appear or were very sporadically mentioned in the aristocratic or democratic slave-owning Hellenic superstructure.
In spite of the philosophic controversy, which till today surrounds the concept of to kenón, we will use it here to express the Atomistic vacuum, the material What-Is-Not, thus, that what they considered to be Not-Being. For example, for Plato, matter was indefinite, indeterminate, and he calls it to kenón. Aristotle completely discarded the vacuum, he negated its very existence, in other words, he denied to kenón. (See: Aristotle, Physics, IV, 8 p. 214b, 28ff.)
Obviously, Empedocles magnified Parmenides’ Universal Sphere, by changing its archaic density; but, how the blue power-spirits, Eros and Strife, were moving within it, having no space, remains a philosophic aporia. However, we should not forget that our topic is hylozoism - hýle with zoé, a living, ever-moving phýsis-psyché, an Object-Subject.
Nevertheless, as far as we can gather from his over 150 preserved fragments, the crux of the matter was, that Empedocles still depended heavily on the aid of the Olympic gods. They, themselves intrinsically endowed with chthonic qualities and attributes, including virtues and vices, benevolently sanctioned his earthly philosophic hard endeavours. Hence, in the One, in Nature, Aphrodite and Ares had kicked up a universal chaotic racquet and dislocated the static root elements; a cosmic whirlpool resulted, moving from the circumference towards the core.
Mechanical Becoming-Being, a disjunctive - mixing commotion ensued; and with the divine help of anánke, tyché and heimarméne, but also of Adrásteia and the Moiraí - Klotho, Láchesis and Atropos --, a certain Cosmic justice, a new Pythagorean harmony, was established. Thus, with Empedocles, mechanically, the eternal cosmic clocks began to tick; only very faintly a dialectical tick-tack could be heard, diminished by the amplitude of Themis’ roar for „law and order“.
However, another aspect may be relevant, that transhistorically he had a deja vu of the coming God-Man of the Third Millennium, that Production preceded Creation. However, firstly, let us now introduce our obscure, controversial subject, who, in his very historical existence, reflected the essence of our specific thema qua problema.
Empedocles: God-Man, Subject-Object, hypokeímenon-antikeímenon
Empedocles of Acragas (492 - 432 B.C.) - today Girgenti - was born of wealthy, democratic parentage, and spent his youth in the polis region of Agrigentum. Like most of the biographical data concerning the „pre-Socratic" philosophers, the above dates are approximations, based on the research work of nearly impeccable bourgeois scholarship (Diels, Windelband, Zeller and Jacoby).
Already his father, Meton, had been theorico-praxically engaged in the formulation of the democratic constitution of Acragas in 470 B.C. As homme sérieux, the young Empedocles supported the democratic tradition of the family, which in Periclean times really was a revolutionary act, as compared to the tyrannis or aristokratia, whose leaders had claimed that they are the best (aristos) in power (kratos). Empedocles favoured the „power of the people“; people’s power, which, certainly had excluded women- or slave power, and thus, he created numerous political enemies, especially when he refused to accept the „royal order“ -- a primitive kind of Nobel Peace Prize -- , so gracefully offered to him by the opposition.
However, he was also a master of many practical trades. He was seriously concerned about social health, and as prominent physician, in the Pythagorean tradition, he saved many human lives, when malaria threatened the polis of Selinunt to fade into oblivion. Like most systemic, revolutionary, praxical figures, Empedocles was exiled and had to follow „the toilsome path" of a political emigree and refugee. Thus, began his wandering, wondering „Sophist“ modus vivendi, and many claimed that this hylozoistic-natural scientist and pantheistic philosopher had performed miracles.
Certainly, as lover of Sophía, aided by Minerva, and scientifically armed with healthy, philosophical wondering, in an age of „Seven World Wonders“, of the coming of HAARP, it was surely „miraculous“ for an homme d’esprit „to control the winds“, by means of his "radical powers“; and, as homo medicus, he truly, had no insuperable medical problems to restore life to a woman, who had „appeared“ dead for thirty days.
At any event, it seems that Empedocles would have enjoyed our epoch of genetic engineering, cloning, genome and "life sciences". As we will see below, he himself stated that "he must wander thrice ten thousand years from the abodes of the blessed, being born throughout the time in all manners of mortal forms." Who knows, perhaps Empedocles is now one of our current United States world leaders!
And, surely, the Olympic gods, especially the top divine echelon - the Big Twelve, the „Twelve Apostles“, the "Twelve Mass Media", the "Twelve World Corporations" --, were very much pleased with Empedocles’ earthly praxis, benevolently rewarded him, by allowing him to consecrate his human heautós (self) to divine dimensions:
„Friends, that inhabit the great city looking down on the yellow rock of Acragas, up by the citadel, busy in goodly works, harbour of honour for the stranger, men unskilled in meanness, all hail. I go about among you an immortal god, no mortal now, honoured among all as is meet, crowned with fillets and flowery garlands. .... But why do I harp on these things, as if it were any great matter that I should surpass mortal, perishable men?“ (Russell, p. 74; also: Diels, Frag; 112, 113, p. 68.)
Well, there we have the God-Men of the future, of the postproductive era. However, he arrived too early still, and was exiled. According to him, his exile was a divine wish, coming from the Oracle of Anánke, but it was at the same time a chthonic lesson and terrigenous ordeal in „insensate“ agon:
„There is an oracle of Necessity, an ancient ordinance of the gods, eternal and sealed fast by broad oaths, that whenever one of the daemons, whose portion is length of days, has sinfully polluted his hands with blood, or followed Strife and forsworn himself, he must wander thrice ten thousand years from the abodes of the blessed, being born throughout the time in all manners of mortal forms, changing one toilsome path of life for another. .... One of these I now am, an exile and a wanderer from the gods, for that I put my trust in an insensate Strife“. (Russell, p. 74; Diels, Frag. 115)
Apart from the obvious magical-religious, mythological-cosmogonic influences of Bacchic-Orphic, Pythagorean-Socratic metempsychosis, and his belief of having „sinned“, by „polluting“ his innocent hands with revolutionary „blood“, in this fragment, Empedocles very clearly elucidated the earthly, „toilsome path of life“ of a revolutionary political-praxical exile, wandering across the planet „without a visa“ (Trotsky), as ordained by permanent Strife and universal Anánke. Of course, the opposite could also be true, that this God-Man or Man-God was organizing one fascist "new war" after the other.
What precisely was the content or object of Empedocles’ ancient „original sin“, we do not know, certainly, it was not his insaciable, oracular éros „to munch laurel leaves“ (Frag. 140), or „to guzzle beans“ (Frag. 141), however, it could have been his deep adoration for Aphrodite (Frag. 18, 19), the fiery act of many a "God-Man" of constantly gazing into her „eyes, opened-wide“ (Frag. 66), and admiring in them the Fire of Zeus and the Tears of Nestis (Frag. 84, 85), that is, Thales’ and Heracleitus’ arché.
Concerning Heracleitus’ everlasting pýr, the aging Empedocles was so fascinated with it, that according to ancient reports, he eternalised himself as God-Man, Subject-Object, by making a salto imortale into the fiery, flowing lava of the crater of Etna. Whether this gallant move reflects terrestrial reality, whether „that ardent soul“ realiter „was roasted whole“, scientifically, we cannot verify this typical, patrian philosophic dementia senilis anymore.
Parmenides’ One in Mechanical Motion, Ticking Nous
Let us now elucidate Empedocles’ cosmology, his panvitalism, id est, his tetratheistic materialism concerning Being-Becoming. As elaborated implicitly already, his scientific point of departure is Parmenides’ One, the World Sphere, Being-At-Rest; Arché-At-Rest. Hence, he was not searching for the arché anymore; for him, the sphairos was a tetrachotomous, eternal, infinite, living reality. What concerned him most intimately philosophically, was the explanation of change and movement of things, as reflected by sense perception.
He did not simply authoritatively declare that sense-perception was unreal, was an illusion and that Becoming-and-Pass-Away was Nothing. He focused his psyché on Motion itself, on its contradictory radical powers. We would recollect that dialectics, the science of motion, differentiates between two principal modes of change: quantitative and qualitative change. In spite of their basic difference, the two modes are dialectically inter-related, they can change into one another; they are two interdependent "sides" of the very same thing, of the same process.
Consequently, Empedocles’ arché is the quadrivalent sphairos (Frag. 29). He split this Universal Sphere into four „root powers“, tetratheistic „elements of Not-Becoming“ (Frag. 6, 7), calling them Fire (Zeus), Earth (Hera), Air (Aidoneus) and Water (Nestis) (Frag. 17, 18, 21). Originally, during Aphrodite’s Periclean Age, during the Golden Age of Eternal Rest, in the spherical arché, Eros had supreme hegemony.
Agon, Strife, Hate, luciferously invaded Aphrodite’s democratic status quo, analogous to the Persian invasions of Hellas. From where this blue "Arab" devil originated, and from where it developed the paragonic, radical psyché, Empedocles does not explain, but, hylozoism is, in any case, the primitive science of an eternal, infinite, living (that is, moving) hýle.
Furthermore, Aphrodite is the goddess of Love, but, in her Pythagorean form as Nike (Diana or Athena), she is also the goddess of victory in war, thus, she becomes related to her belligerent male counterpart, to Ares. Hence, as "negation", she has the unity-and-contradiction-of-opposites, Love-Strife, nous, in herself already. At any event, agon agonised, dislocated, the four static „root elements“ (Frag. 7), changed them mechanically-qualitatively into four „root powers“ (Frag, 6), without touching their „Not-Becoming“ essence; that is, the four basic elements retained their inert, moribund feature.
Their universal contradiction became agon, Strife, which, as contradiction of éros, Love, was progressively converting this finite dolce far niente into a new moving spirit, into a real transfinite patrian dolce vita. Later this cosmic Contradiction, this real trans-subjective novelty will become a unity-and-contradiction-of-opposites: Anaxagoras’ power-spirit, the nous. Thus, agon-éros, Ares-Aphrodite, and later, nous, were all elevated to cosmic, internal Motion, to universal Change per se. And, because in the sphairos, all six elements are mechanically thoroughly mixed and commingled with one another, motion was elevated to a function, a property of the arché, of matter, but still as an essentially quantitative-mechanical attribute.
All organic things now possessed at least Love and Hate, plus one or any combination of the other elements. Hence, sado-masochistically éros and agon not only move the four arché-substances of the quadrified Parmenidean sphairos, they themselves are commingled in the commixtures, which make up the myriads of things in the Cosmos. (Frag. 26, 3ff.)
As elaborated before, Love is the first-born in the sphairos (Frag. 13), is Aphrodite’s first-born son; whether Strife is her illegitimate son or adopted child, we do not know. But, the vendetta between the two, which has polluted Empedocles’ hands „sinfully“ with blood, has destroyed the Pythagorean-Periclean harmony in ancient Greek philosophy. Still, Empedocles maintained that „out of Non-Existing-Being, nothing can become, in the same way, as Existing-Being can impossibly pass away, for the things in it, will always be There, Where they find themselves“ (Frag. 12).
This is surely a Universal Affirmation par excellence! Thus, as far as his quadrified sphairos, the arché, is concerned, in a true Parmenidean Eleatic sense, there is no Becoming-Being, no real Coming-Into-Existence: What does happen, related to sense-perception, is only separating, mixing, commingling and commixing, (Frag. 17, 3ff;) in other words, only universal mechanical clockwork, universal quantitative motion, movement of place and direction. Virtualiter - reminding us of Anaximenes’ eternal systole and diastole of aêr - in Empedocles’ sphaíra perpetual synkrisis (mixing) and diakrisis (separation) of the six elements take place.
However, Empedocles had his own theory of the evolution of Being Becoming, based on his ancient mechanical materialism, with dialectical traces and pantheistic touches. He even expounded a bizarre theory of Darwinism, an-archetype of the doctrine of „survival of the fittest“. Let us now elucidate this evolutionary cosmorama, as illustrated by extant fragments. In circular layers of intrusions, Agon had attacked Eros from outside of the Sphairos (Frag. 26 - 29), -- note: from "B", from "outside the sphairos -- then he succeeded to dislocate the archaic subjects of Aphrodite (Frag. 35, 7) and introduced a new chaotic order (Frag. 30, 31, 35).
As a result of this intraspheric invasion, within the arché, a cosmic maelstrom was generated, and when the tempest of the hen kai pan subsided, the to ken was four-cleft, and gave rise to the earth, oceans and stars (Frag. 38 - 56). Thereafter, chimeras, phantasmata, phantasmagorias, primitive beings, mermaids, werewolves, etc., came to life; organic beings and things, heads without necks, eyes without foreheads, heads with many eyes, the arché searching for bodies, all these, and myriads more, were fluttering about - thus resulted an infernal struggle to beget essence, appearance, form, content, etc., in Dr. Frankenstein’s ancient Arché-Laboratory.
Empedocles gave vivid examples of these primitive beings, oxen with bodies of men, men with ox-faces, hermaphrodites, sterile creatures which combined features of men and women, etc.; eventually, all the malformed creatures perished, and the „fittest“ survived, that is in the variegated forms and species as we know them from history. (Frag. 57 - 61) Finally, Man, probably a miscarriage from malformed creatures, evolved (Frag. 62 - 70), and his specific sense-organs, which perceive motion. (Frag. 84 - 86).
The above is a speculative, spectacular chronology, derived from the preserved fragments of his work, On Nature. What his real order of historical evolution was, is not certain. In any case, his approach seems to be more precise than many of the reports of pre-historians, evolutionists, archaeologists and ethnologists.
Summing up, from the above, it is clear that Empedocles was profoundly influenced by the scientific and creative vigour of his epoch, by the social contradictions within the Periclean Age; he was homme d’etat, philosopher, cosmogonist, cosmologist, alchemist, chemist, physicist, physician, theologian, etc. all in one. He discovered air as a separate substance, also, the centrifugal force (Frag. 100). He postulated that the moon shines as a result of reflected light from the sun, and even propagated theories about the speed of light and about the causes of solar eclipses. According to him, a total sun-eclipse is caused by the interposition of the moon between the earth and sun - however, Thales already knew this, and certainly his contemporary, Anaxagoras.
It is very hard to "believe" that all these philosophers were geo-centrists, but this is what our textbooks, written by erudite geniuses and genii tell us. As we will note later the panvitalism of Empedocles had a significant philosophic influence on Anaxagoras and the Atomists, but also on Plato and Aristotle, who paid special attention to his moving substances, the agon and éros.
(1) Subject is not yet Predicate.
(2) From nothing nothing can come, into nothing nothing can return.
(3) It does move all the same.
(4) Joy of life, life-fire.
(5) I don't know what.
(6) Reaching for the stars.
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