THE CONCERNS OF ATLANTEAN PHILOSOPHY
Philosophy as such asserted itself only gradually as an independent mode of thought independent of religion in the period of the First Empire. Indeed throughout much of this time, the ruling hierarchy of the Official Religion was very wary of independent thought which might either concern matters not properly covered by the traditional codes of belief of the Religion, or expand or contradict its doctrines. Nevertheless philosophers and writers had a strong ally in the Atlantean State, and particularly in certain of its more liberal Emperors, such as Carel I, Cao-Melďon and Siphirixo. Later, in the first part of the 300s, when Emperors became more conservative, the climate was much more favourable towards the religious traditionalists.
There are certain themes which permeate Atlantean philosophy from its very beginnings right up to the fall of the Fifth and final Empire in the late ninth century. These were, firstly, metaphysical speculations :the nature of the Universe and man's place in it ;specifically, what is the point or purpose of the Universe, and what is man's place in it. This leads to the question as to who or what made the Universe, and its occupants, and what will be its ultimate destiny? Another equally important series of problems surrounded man himself : how does he relate to the Universe, and its creator: is he separate from the world, the rest of creation, and God, or is he intimately linked to and enmeshed with every other part of creation? What will happen to him after death, and does he have an immortal part to him - a soul? What does it mean to say he has a consciousness and a sense of self independent of everyone and everything else in the world? And what is reality, the objective world? Does it exist independently of the subject, or not? Does the mind, or the soul, exist independently and act through matter, or are they simply a development from matter itself? In due course, this led to the development of two seemingly opposing ways of viewing the world: the subjective, which concentrated on human perceptions and feelings, and the inner world; and the objective world of materialism, of matter as it can be investigated by science.
Secondly there were a series of questions relating to more immediate and earthly concerns - how should humans live - by what code of morality and ethics, and how is this code derived? Is he free to live as he wishes, or should he accept moral constraints. What is the significance of art and religion to the individual? And finally, what sort of society should men set up on earth, how should he govern and be governed, and how should he educate himself and others?
Each of these themes came to the fore at different times, depending very often on the feelings of the Church and the State. So, for example, speculation about the state and how it should rule was discouraged during the period of the later Republic (after 600), while metaphysical philosophy was frowned on by the Church when it was strong, as in the early 200s and later from 310 to about 350. But however long the gap in years between philosophers who wrote about one of these topics, there was a sort of continuous line from one era of philosophy to the next. In the mainstream at least, later philosophers took up the themes and concerns of earlier ones, and thus there was a continuous development of ideas throughout the whole history of Atlantean philosophy.
THE EARLIEST PHILOSOPHERSThe first philosopher we know of was Liclencu (168 - 228). From what little we know of his work, he was a metaphysical speculator in the broadest sense, who thought about man's relation to the universe, and his relation to the gods. He did not doubt that they existed (he had no conflict with the Official Religion ), but he wondered where they dwelt, and how they could be in contact with mortal men. After 270, such speculation was increasingly frowned on by the Church. Nevertheless, the great religious thinker Ciblaphu claimed that behind the religious myths of multiple gods there lay a single god (see the section on religious thought above), and philosophers mostly agreed with this. Philosophers became increasingly agnostic in their beliefs, and while not usually denying the existence of the gods, pushed them more and more to one side. So, for example, whereas religion traditionally taught that emotions in humans are caused by the gods themselves, philosophers after about 350 sought to account for them either as impersonal forces of nature, or as caused within the human body or brain. Some could not see how external beings, like the "gods", could influence human emotions, inside their very heads.
They also wanted to lay stress on human free will. The earliest religious belief had been that men and women were completely ruled by the gods, and the emotions they evoked in us. This complete determinism gradually gave way, even in the opinions of religious thinkers, to a feeling that as humans can evidently influence and alter the will of the gods by prayer and supplication, there is quite considerable scope for free will in human life. As philosophers came to find the source of all human feelings in the mind, they were able to completely lay aside the old deterministic beliefs. In this period, there was no doubt as to the existence and importance of the subjective nature of man, or of his soul: philosophers considered this existed in addition to and separately from the objective, material world.
By the time of the Second Empire, man's nature was viewed as basically amoral or neutral, and he needed to be guided into good behaviour by society, or, for those who believed in Him, by God.
Reverting to the early third century again, and particularly to the reign of Carel I, who was himself fascinated by intellectual thought, philosophers also turned their minds to personal moral and ethical behaviour, the second great theme of Atlantean philosophy throughout the ages. Thulpas, who lived from 183 to 239, had great influence on Carel, and helped to adapt religious ethical precepts to the needs of the legal system of the fledgling Atlantean state. This suited Carel, who wanted to wrench as much ground as possible from the control of the priesthood, and subordinate it to the State.
The third perennial area of interest to Atlantean philosophers, the sort of State by which citizens should be governed, was adumbrated by Rathildel (243-291) during the middle years of the century. He laid down a fiercely legalistic philosophy, supporting what was really an authoritarian view of the State and its role, and arguing that citizens must be closely controlled by their government. This view was not fashionable at the time, nor throughout most of the Second Empire, but it was revived in later eras such as the Early Third and Fifth Empires.
SECOND EMPIRE PHILOSOPHY OF THE STATE AND THE INDIVIDUAL
In fact the basis of Second Empire national liberalism and "laissez-faire" philosophy was laid by a slightly later Chalcran thinker, Dissi. He wrote most of his work between 300 and 330, and stressed the importance of rationalism and justice on the part of the State, of duty and obedience by the citizenry, and generally that the goal of State and individual should be for the good of all. He thought too that the State should interfere as little as possible in the affairs of its subjects, an idea which was erected into a principle of government by Atlaniphon I, who famously wanted the Empire to run itself with an absolute minimum of control from himself.
However these ideas were only generally accepted some years after Dissi's death in 340. Indeed they were only set down in their classical form by Iairos Lincon (388-465), and he based them on Atlaniphon I's style of government. He claimed that the State should run like clockwork, and Emperors and other rulers should interfere as little as possible. But they must be morally "good", and set an example to their subjects. These subjects should be allowed
"freedom within reasonable limits". Like most philosophers and thinking people of the Classical period, Reason was elevated very highly. Mankind was able to step beyond its emotions and passions, and rule him or herself and the community’s destiny by Reason alone (- and hence, if one believed in the State Religion, the gods themselves could be constrained to human will). "Balance" and moderation were what mattered, within society and the state, but also within the natural world as a whole. Most thinkers thus wanted to recognise the position of human beings as part of the natural world. No one person had ultimate authority and power over animals, or over other people. Equally humans had their own dignity even in the face of God, Who would treat them all with the respect they were due. The subjective should be viewed as equally important as the objective, neither being over-stressed.
Closely linked to the philosophy of the state in this period was the philosophy of personal behaviour and morals. The philosophers of the classical era, from 400 to 500, approximately, felt that the ideals of personal behaviour were inextricably linked to the ideal of the well-run state, as described above. Thus personal and public behaviour were inseparable, as far as the "Good Ruler" was concerned. It was believed that personal virtue could be encouraged by a moral upbringing and by moral training (an idea which was taken up again centuries later in the Fifth Empire, after 830).
There was one other philosophy, thought up and written down by Steccon Lillaya (365-429), which, though obviously formed by the general ethos of this period, came to rather different conclusions, and would have a recurring influence in later times. Lillaya taught that just as Atlaniphon wanted the Empire to run itself with a minimum of control from himself, so all men and women should try to stand outside the turmoils and stresses of life. This philosophy was called "Andourso", or "apartness", but it did not mean that we should retire completely from worldly matters, rather that we should seek a "golden mean" in our actions, behaviour and emotions, despite the buffets and pressures from all sides. This attitude was valid in our social interactions, in the political field and within our own minds. This ideal of the perfectly self-contained person, with exquisitely balanced emotions, often resurfaced in later Atlantean history in times of political turmoil. At these times, "andourso" provided people with a refuge from what was going on around them. Thus it was taken up by the hermetic artists and thinkers of the later 500s, and in their case involved an almost complete physical withdrawal from the everyday world. It again emerged in the Third Empire, as detailed below, but was dealt a fatal blow during the terrible time of the Tyrants after 805 by the philosopher , who showed that such passivity could provide no valid solution for coping with life in such a period, either for the individual or for society as a whole.
METAPHYSICAL SPECULATION DURING THE EARLY ROMANTIC ERA:460 - 540
At various times throughout the period of the late First and Second Empires, most philosophers favoured what were basically either idealistic or materialistic views of reality. Prior to about 460, as we have seen, philosophy had been growing ever more materialistic, but no philosopher seriously doubted the independent existence of the human inner, or subjective, world. Most mainstream philosophers, like the more advanced religious thinkers, adopted a general deism, adopted by the Emperor and the ruling elite. These professed to believe in a realm of the divine, or at least of the Absolute. However, such a realm was not allowed to have much influence on human life and behaviour, which was controlled either by man’s own mind or by society.
But after 460, both religious and philosophical thinkers also started to lay more emphasis on spirit or immaterial forces. Religious thinkers had to account for the influence of the gods on human desires in this way, while philosophers began to think that they could only account for human art and morality, and perhaps also emotions and perception in general, by positing the existence of spiritual or immaterial forces over and above humankind itself. This new philosophy, which is now called "Romantic", stressed still more the primacy of the human will. This will could be active in the moral, aesthetic and artistic spheres, and had to seek the "Good" or the "Beautiful" or the "Divine", which were seen idealistically as abstracts in a higher realm. As the years passed, philosophers proceeded to argue amongst themselves as to the exact relationship between human emotions and the mind, on the one hand, and the realm or realms of the Absolute, on the other.
More generally, the Romantic movement involved a change of perspective, so that now the world was looked at from the point of view of the subject or the individual, and in place of a classical balance between subjectivity and objectivity, artists and philosophers placed the human mind and feelings at centre stage. Indeed the period is notable as much for its artistic achievement and endeavour as for philosophical writings. The first part of this era lasted until about 540, and artists and philosophers laid stress on the following points. The emotions were seen as natural and basically good, because man's nature was essentially good. The integration of the individual into society, and his or her role as part of that society were now of less importance than the need for everyone to remain true to one's own nature, and to express it within reasonable constraints. Moreover, humans must seek to find or emulate the spiritual or Absolute realms in all they do. Some thought that each person’s subjective nature, or individualism, was itself an expression of God or the Divine within. By carrying out actions or producing art, as an expression of our own inner natures, we are therefore literally doing or showing forth God’s work in the world. This idea was taken up later by more extreme Romantics, who believed we should concentrate on acting out the expression of our will in the world, which, for some, was also to act out the will of God, which is within our inmost being. These ideas were again rediscovered and refined in the 700s by the Naturists and the later Theists.
Other philosophers became fascinated by the mind, and how the a person, who experienced the world purely through his senses, and from a subjective point of view, could relate to the objective world of reality. Bourri Ialssoulo, active between 510 and 540 taught that the individual - or the Self as he now termed it - could force reality to do as he wished by impressing his own will on the world. He could thereby forge his own destiny.
LATER ROMANTICISM - THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE WORLD: 540 - 590
After 540, one strand of philosophy. linked to the populist movement in politics and art, was a development towards complete scepticism and materialism, rather like modern-day Marxism. According to this, humans are mere atoms of reality - there is no God or reality to the spiritual side of our life; we are moulded by our environment and are part of the overall natural scheme of thing. Moreover it is society that we need to concentrate on changing, for everyone's benefit.
But most philosophers now moved to delve ever deeper into the mind and work out how it was connected to the outside world, and how our own individual subjective view of the world could be reconciled with the world itself, which had no mind of its own. The simple earlier Romanticism, which posited a straightforward split between the human and the spiritual or Absolute realms, now broke up into a multitude of differing beliefs. Some thinkers, who were tagged "hermetic" like their contemporaries in art, denied the objective reality of the world, and insisted that as one could only know anything by "looking out" from one's own mind, then that mind was all that there was, or all that we can ever really know. The material world was probably an illusion, as were other people - all part of one's own mind's projection. One philosopher, Suenno Yealtan, wrote in some of his works that one should train one's mind, and by doing so could survive death, and possibly be reincarnated into another body later. His later work, after 560, became more radically esoteric. He claimed that as the subjective realm was all there was, it actually constructed reality itself. As the "perceiver" of all that exists, and the simultaneous creator of it, each of our selves is synonymous with God, who is thus inside us. However, as he is the ultimate Subject and Perceiver within each of us, we cannot "see" him ourselves. Other hermetic thinkers played with such ideas as that our whole world is just a dream. After death, we shall wake up – or perhaps, be plunged into another dream. Even in this life, we can "see through" our dream, often, paradoxically, during our dreams while we are sleeping, and then glimpse the "real" world – or is it just another dream-world? These vague speculations had great influence on esoteric writers and artists, and the theme of life as a dream was common in plays, poetry and art of the 570s and 580s.
Some philosophers insisted these views were too extreme and speculative, and also denied that we could ever know what could happen after death. Some of them thought that there was a transcendental realm, as a sort of fourth dimension – all around us but almost imperceptible to us -, where God may reside, but about which we can know very little. We can experience something of it, however, via our emotions, and art and perhaps through religious feelings, and we may end up here after we die.
Thus philosophers were increasingly divided at this time into opposing sets of beliefs – materialists, who claimed that there was nothing outside the material world, which was the only reality; hermetic or extreme Romantics, who thought that all we know or can know is our own minds, which are all that should matter to us; and a more moderate group in the middle, who believed in a transcendental realm, and were still worrying over the relationship between it and ourselves. Common to all these was the problem of whether there was any truly objective or transcendent realm; and if so, how we should be guided in our behaviour or morals in relation to it.
Certainly an overriding theme of nearly all philosophy of this period was the desire to reach or attain the "Good" - not so much now from the point of view of living in society, but for purely personal reasons. Views on how to attain this varied from social training or force (the Populists), and nature (many now believed nature was basically good), that is, obeying one's own inner feelings, and trust in God. But above all, stress was laid on actualising the will or emotions of the individual. Classical ideas of balance and reason, or faith in man’s integration with the natural order, and need to see himself as a cog in the whole world order were often ignored or ridiculed throughout this period. This links up with the revival of "andourso", or "apartness" by the esoteric thinkers in this period.
And increasingly there was a real element of scepticism growing at this time – a feeling that it was impossible, or at least very difficult, to discover objective or absolute norms. This could all have developed directly into the sort of relativism and materialism, which dominated philosophy and society in the 700s, but it was all cut short, firstly by the Republican Revolution in the 590s, and then by the victory of the Imperialists in the early 600s, with their religion of State Theism. This was ruthlessly imposed on the whole population, and led to the extinction of all the philosophical movements of the 500s. On the other hand, the universalising philosophy of Saiphoyon in the early 600s could have provided the basis of a new and firmly based system of beliefs, in contrast to scepticism. But again, it was drowned by the imposition of State Theism, and was only taken up again in the late 700s and early 800s.
SAIPHOYON AND THE CULMINATION OF SECOND EMPIRE PHILOSOPHY : 590 - 630
Saiphoyon lived from 561 to 629, and clarified and summarised Romantic philosophy up to his time, as well as providing an antidote to extreme Romantic scepticism about the existence of the real world, or of a transcendental realm. He showed that the only way we, as "selves" or individuals, have contact with the outside world is through our senses and our bodies. Similarly it is only via these senses (sight, sound, touch) and, indirectly using our bodies (touch, language) that we can communicate with other selves (i.e. humans), but we can never see inside their minds. We are conscious of our own feelings, but can only know others' indirectly. Thus it seems our senses are all important in connecting us to the outer world (which Saiphoyon insisted did exist).
These senses operate via our body to our brain. But we also have a mind, which, though based in the brain, is also separate. It acts as an independent consciousness, and it enables us to make independent decisions, which can override our emotions or feelings. These emotions (love, hate, happiness, despair) are always related to events affecting us in the exterior world, and are formed within our brain. (They have nothing to do with outside forces, or the gods, as earlier generations believed).
But the mind also acts as a sort of conduit to the "Beyond", as Saiphoyon called it, in other words, a transcendental world. This realm is in contact with us - our mind and hence our body - in various ways. One is through ideals - love, duty, beauty - these affect us and our emotions, but they are in themselves timeless and come from outside our world. Art as an Ideal, closely linked to Beauty, must also reach us from the Beyond. Saiphoyon also insisted that the Moral Code, that is our conception of Right and Wrong, Good and Evil, comes from this realm too. Finally, although he was basically an agnostic, he wanted to believe that their was a God, or a divine realm, and felt that religious faith and feelings might also connect us to the Beyond. All these influences on the Mind can impose themselves on our lives in the everyday world, for our good. Saiphoyon recognised that there did also exist bad forces, - Evil in the broadest sense -, but thought these were all caused by our or others' actions in the world of reality. Man himself was basically neutral, bit had this conduit to the good and sublime.
Saiphoyon was the last and greatest of the Second Empire Romantic philosophers, though his ideas would be continued by later philosophers. He led a quiet and secluded life, teaching philosophy in his early life, but after about 600, the Republicans well as the Imperialists when Ruthopheax I took charge, became increasingly hostile to this sort of hermetic philosophy, as they saw it. Between 600 and 630 all the old Second Empire styles of philosophy were banned, and many philosophers imprisoned or killed. Saiphoyon retired to private life, and most of what he wrote was kept secret by himself after 605 and for decades after was little known. He died, virtually unknown and penniless in 629.
The future now lay open for a very different sort of thought - one with a social background where Religion was all important, and philosophy was considered as a minor, almost superfluous and potentially dangerous pastime. The exemplar of the new philosophy was Sunon Geledin, and his teachings tied in closely with the ethos of the new rulers of the Empire, and with the new religion of the Empire, State Theism.
To read the next part of this history, click on Atlantean philosophy & religion- 650 - 740