THE BEGINNING

The problem of the beginning of philosophy is well know.   One must choose a fundamental approach and then forget the choice, refuse to acknowledge its contingency.  One then builds a massive edifice on the presupposition, a castle on a cloud - which makes the cloud invisible.   It is more honest to note that there are four possible approaches (the four cardinals) and that each corresponds to a mode of will that is to some degree not accountable - or at least not consciously chosen.   But to stop here is not enough.  One then has to order  the approaches -  as an ascending path of liberation - and construct a provisional system that derives from all four.    



JUDGMENT

Kant posited that will is inextricable from judgment:  one can only have goals if one has representation, concepts, a manifold of sensation etc.   Schopenhauer proposed that will is more primordial than judgment, separable from it, a kind of cosmic, painful striving which produces representational manifolds only in certain cases.   But he then went on to judge the will itself - pejoratively. Of all the figures in German Idealism, Schopenhauer is the only true ascetic, the only one with a genuinely religious attitude towards the world (despite his avowed atheism).   To turn the will against itself, to negate it - as Schopenhauer recommended - is the fundamental ascetic gesture.   But isn’t his version of asceticism ludicrously shallow compared to that of, say, the Upanishads (which he frequently invoked)?  Genuinely religious asceticism always opens the ascetic to a higher world of angels and metaphysical realities that satisfy the will on a higher plane.  Being a transcendental philosopher, Schopenhauer could not permit the existence of these higher planes - all he had access to was art as a kind of soporific.  



THE HORIZON OF ASCESIS

Thought begins where hyperborean desire stops working.    Thought rejects the illusions of immediacy and reaches ecstasy in the apprehension of a higher mode of desire that is attuned to true reality.   In some ways it hardly matters what thesis about true reality is arrived at - yet in another way it does matter.  I can think of five basic possible theses:  stoicism, tychism, skepticism, heathenism and theism.  

For the stoic, true reality is completely determined.  It is an illusion to think that I am able to change the outcome of my situation - beatitude comes from a deep apprehension of this fact, and I am liberated by a gnosis of amor fati.   Marcus Aurelius and Spinoza present examples of this thesis.

For the tychist, true reality is absolute chaos.  Nothing is determined, and I merge with an abyss of radical freedom in the face of pure contingency.  Sartre and Meillassioux present examples of this position. 

The skeptic professes radical nonknowledge: I do not and cannot know the nature of true reality - no deliberation will provide me with the information I need to connect my act to its outcome, so I am freed for my abyssal step of courage.   Kant and Bataille approach this thought in different ways. 

 

The theist claims to apprehend God's will and the power to merge with it.  This gnosis entails the attunement to God's command in the name of an eschatological destiny.  Duns Scotus and Mulla Sadra could be examples here. 

The heathen apprehends a will, not of a God, but of nature or matter.  He feels able to merge with an acephalic creative force beyond representation and to rejoice in riding it as a creative wave, not knowing where it will arrive (perhaps at destruction).  Lao Tzu and Deleuze point to this attitude.   

If we grant that there is some truth in each of these theses, a task for Transcendental Qabala is to propose an ascetic horizon that orders these insights correctly and makes a choice about which to privilege.  Each is a path to transcendental freedom, but in fundamental ways they are not compatible.

This requires a metaphysical account: the doctrine of the Four Alimonies



BIRTH

Something is born as a result of ascesis.  Thought operates on the mind itself, teaching it to renounce finite, reflected exterior energy sources and to instead to attach its inputs to an immanent and infinite one.    From there it gains a new dimension of autonomy.



FACTS

Ascesis has nothing to do with facts.  It is a mode of awareness and conduct.   If it goes too far, it becomes demonic because it loses its capacity to doubt.  Ascesis must fail in order to work.  If it works, it fails.  



THE ORDER OF THE CARDINALS

Ascesis is the primary cardinal.  This means that the primary task of thought is the intensification and enhancement of life.  The other three cardinals are necessary only because ascesis cannot do its job without them.  Pure ascesis leaves one vulnerable, weak, and perhaps overly sensitive - vulnerable to ideology, solipsistic, deluded.  The pure ascetic turns away from the world and loses his or her grasp on it.   The promise of transcendence that it offers - it is a lie.  It can only yield New Age solipsism or fundamentalist bigotry.  Thus catharsis, which is complete, potentially mathematizable knowledge of all there is to know,  ideally expressed in highly compressed form, is a grappling hook cast onto the edifice of the Real World - dispelling fantasy and illusion.  Although acceptance towards and engagement with the current state of the mathematics-scientific project is a key aspect catharis, there is another aspect as well - catharsis also represents a deep, existential and affective knowing of the horror of present reality (e.g. the refugee crisis).  In both cases, the knowledge attained is objective.   Given that catharsis is obviously not attainable in perfect form, Fervor follows:  the creative moment in thought, the iconoclastic urge to consolidate and synthesize in a new way.  Here is the "eternal return" aspect of thought in Deleuze's sense of the term.   It is difficult to accept the thesis that pure being really, actually, is becoming - perhaps it is more difficult to endorse an ethics of becoming in 2017 than it might have been in 1968 - nevertheless affirmation of becoming finds its place in Transcendental Qabala as its third cardinal.  Finally Majesty finds its place as the interface between thought and the world - expression in poetic form, engagement with pre-existing forms of thought and life - the skin of thought, its promotion and expression.  It is at this stage that the Artist is produced, HAELEGEN.   



VERIFICATION

Ascesis does not require external verification.  One who has acquired the truth of ascesis laughs at all skepticism.   For ascesis there is no doubt.   Ascesis authorizes, and it also deflates all imperatives.  Is ascesis the highest truth?  From its own perspective, it certainly is.   But it cannot erase its cognitive and neurological coordinates.  Ascesis is a habit and a state.   It may very well know the absolute, tap into the élan vital, be the very object that it intuits and participate in God's creation of the world.  Nevertheless, it is only one of four modes of truth



INTEGRATION

According to Dan Siegel there are nine aspects of integration: consciousness, vertical, bilateral, memory, narrative, state, interpersonal, temporal, transpirational.   Each of these, at a different level, involves resonance between clearly differentiated elements - whether at the level of cognition, the brain, phenomenal consciousness, or society.  The result in each case is an optimal mode of functioning involving flexibility, adaptation, coherence, cohesion, energy and stability (FACES), a pattern of development and learning that can be modeled mathematically.   Generically it is always a matter of sharply differentiated elements (as opposed to a sort of vague adulteration) that resound in a circuit sustaining their differentiation (as opposed to chaos).   This pattern of functioning is inherently expansive: learning, creation and an increase   in integration are inevitable if a steady state of integration is at play.  Practical reason at its finest



BLESSEDNESS

Ascesis can be seen as the highest form of truth or as virtually no truth at all.  For myself, I can say that I have no idea which it is.   The highest knowledge is not known piecemeal, is not discovered by means of experimentation or any sort of induction, deduction or abduction.  Ascesis is a kind of training, a re-wiring.  It seems that Plato had great difficulty with the choice of either thinking ASCESIS and CATHARSIS together or separating them.  To know, to really know, to get it - it is a joy beyond joy.  A sorrow-joy that is also an all-seeing blindness.  It doesn't require any content.  If there's a ladder needed to get to the truth-cloud of ascesis, it can surely be kicked down.   It is beyond obvious to us today that this kind of knowledge has practically nothing to do with the type of knowledge promised by a scientific-cosmological theory of everything, or any quantity of intellectual knowledge.  Plato wanted knowledge and virtue to be the same, and for them to both amount to blessedness.  We can say definitively that this is not so - and yet the question remains.  There is a connection.  The reason that Transcendental Qabala is necessary is that blessedness-knowledge has to be grounded.   If it is couched in religion - whether the creed of a Christian denomination, the gentle exhortations of a  yoga instructor or whatever - it simply is not grounded.   Catharsis drives research into the nature of ultimate reality - by means of all the tools modernity has to offer - and Ascesis drives research into the meaning of blessedness