| PHILOSOPHY IN THE
FOURTH EMPIRE AND UNDER THE TYRANTS:
1. FREE WILL AND DETERMINISM
Most of the themes of philosophy in the first part of the Fourth Empire had already been adumbrated in the closing decades of the Third Empire, which we have already studied, and in some cases continued on from the thought of the Romantic and materialist philosophers of the late Second Empire. These topics could be discussed even more freely after 750 than before, of course, now that the censorship of the old regime had been completely abolished. One of the main problems argued over was the conflict between the ideas of free will and determinism. How far can men determine their own fates or order their own conduct? In some respects this was linked to notions of society, and man's place in it. From the 720s one strand of thought had been to look on all societies from a relativistic point of view - i.e. their are no absolute codes of behaviour or morals -, and developing from this grew the feeling that man's actions, and even his character, were wholly moulded by the society in which he was nurtured. This obviously leads to pure determinism. However other philosophers believed that man's mind was independent of his environment, and hence he could always choose his conduct - therefore free will does exist.
Determinism was the preponderant philosophical belief until the 770s. One of its main advocates at this time was Crehon Mestos. He not only thought mankind's behaviour and morals were wholly determined by society, but also was a thorough-going materialist, who considered the mind as purely made up of and functioning as matter. He was one of the most pessimistic philosophers of an increasingly pessimistic era. He felt that men and women were little more than machines, which could not alter their destinies from the time of their birth. If their lives were likely to be unhappy, or miserable or poverty-stricken, the best advice Mestos could give them was to commit suicide - there was no other way to escape their fate, and after all no -one is under any obligation to anyone else - man or god - to live out his life or to live it well or happily.
In the 770s a reaction in favour of free will set in - that is to say, there had all along been philosophers who rejected hard determinism, but whereas they had earlier been the minority, now their views became more generally acceptable - possibly we should use the word fashionable. This change was based on the supposed support of science and studies of the development of intelligence and emotional development from childhood; it now appeared these things were not caused solely by the environment, but were probably equally the result of inheritance and other chance factors – and indeed the individual had an independent mind, which could make its own decisions. This soon led to the opposite extreme to determinism, whereby life was seen as a matter of chance, as much as anything else. One could make any choices – indeed the best way to get through life was to impose one’s own choices and beliefs on to other people. This philosophy led easily to the " do as you want" art for art’s sake movement of the 790s and after, as well as to the "Brotherhood Faith" and the Tyrants’ beliefs that the world is at the mercy of those people with the strongest will, and the most ruthless ambition. Certain types or races of mankind, and certain "Great Men" had the ability to dominate and lead others and indeed mould circumstances in general - they seized free will by forcing events to go their way.
Thus in the 790s this view was combined with the earlier atheistic determinism. For although strong men could force the world to do what they wished, and tyrants, artists and people alike could do whatever they wanted, because they had complete free will, and anyway there was no fixed code of morality any more. (This is rather similar to the beliefs of some of the liberal religious thinkers of the early 400s, who said that we could "force" the gods to do as we wish. A similar idea cropped up again amongst the later Romantics in the sixth century, who claimed that man, by exercise of his will, can and should impress himself on the world.) At the same time, though, in the 790s and early 800s, it was felt that such events were also predetermined in a way, and could not be avoided or changed.
2. MORALITY AND THE TRIUMPH OF RELATIVISM,
Another topic, which preoccupied philosophers throughout this period, was: how should men behave in their personal and social lives, and what code of morality should they follow? In the Third Empire era, as we have seen, public philosophers knew that there was an absolute moral code set out in the state religion, State Theism, and in the autocratic conditions of the time, they could only tacitly accept this, as any serious discussion of it was forbidden. The individual must act always out of duty to this moral code. The furthest they could speculate was to declare that perhaps the moral code of State Theism was not perfect or complete; nevertheless humankind needs an absolute moral code which must be universally accepted and binding on everyone. After 700, as speculation became more freely permitted, philosophers began to see the role of society as all important, and after 740, they decided that every aspect of man's way of life - art, religion, morals - was determined by his society and the historical era in which he happened to live. They spent much time on psychological studies as to why people behave as they do, without now having an absolute moral code as a point of comparison in the back of their minds. Therefore, so far as a moral code was concerned, there could be no universally accepted code of values binding on all people on all societies for all time. The closest most philosophers would come to describing a modern code of values was to say that personal happiness or fulfilment was the greatest good, and that everybody should be allowed to believe their own moral code and do as they wished. In fact, one standard assumption was made by several philosophers and commentators after the 770s, suggesting that people should be allowed to do anything, except for murder, inflicting of pain on others or theft. In other words, there should be no sexual taboos any more, nor any prohibitions on blasphemy, atheism, political or personal beliefs, or artistic licence. Here they were in fact developing further the ideas of the hermetic and solipsistic philosophers of the late Second Empire. This extreme permissiveness was popularised by Pouton after the 780s, and it was in this form that it slipped into the beliefs of the Tyrants, especially Borbar Measel. (He notoriously promulgated a Code of Law based on this, but excluding members of the Brotherhood Faith, that is his own ruling elite, from the prohibitions against murder, torture and theft). Of course, the State, whether the Fourth Empire Emperors or the Tyrants, was quick to step in and add an increasing number of civil and political laws and prohibitions to this permissive moral code.
This whole attitude was of course denied by those who believed in religion, especially Theism. Nevertheless it became the prevailing ethos after about 785, and led to increasing social problems. As philosophers and artists and other pundits claimed that there was no absolute Good and Evil, or even Right and Wrong, ordinary citizens began to lose faith in the old religious teachings on morals and many adopted a purely selfish/personal attitude to life. The way in which this change of attitude was manifested in Atlantean society was very controversial at the time, but with the hindsight of time now seems fairly clear. Basically standards and behaviour in all areas of society declined gradually in the years after about 785. This can be seen in numerous places - an increase in crime - robbery, murder, rape-, a fall in standards of behaviour - less loyalty both between married couples and at work, less trust and more strikes, less obedience by children, - and above all, a growing reluctance to abide by codes of behaviour or morality, which had been automatically accepted only a few decades earlier. At the time, arguments raged as to whether some or all of these really were an increase in immorality and bad behaviour, or simply changes in behaviour, which could not be condemned, because relativistic morality allowed everyone to have their own moral codes and values, and hence behave exactly as they themselves wanted to - there was no generally accepted norm against which they could be measured.
MORALITY IN THE TIME OF THE TYRANTS
There is little doubt that this slippery slope led in the end to the terrible time of the Tyrants (805-828), when the rulers of the Empire carried out policies which would have been inconceivable in earlier periods - murder, torture, forced emigrations of whole peoples, incarceration in prison camps - and ultimately wholesale genocide. This went on for so long partly because ordinary people had ceased to believe in absolute standards of morality, and retreated into their own private worlds. Indeed the behaviour of the Tyrants and their followers was reflected on a smaller scale by considerable numbers of the general population, and "immorality" of all sorts flourished throughout this era. To put it plainly, a lot of people took advantage of the ruthless and amoral atmosphere created by the Tyrants to cheat, rob, use violence on or murder their fellow citizens, as well as to free themselves from traditional sexual constraints, for purely personal reasons. The Tyrants encouraged this, of course, especially after 812, when they expressly allowed anyone to do and belief almost anything in the moral and social spheres, as long as they did not speak or act against the political regime of the Tyrants. (This strange ideology can be compared to that of AD 1990s Communist China.) Borbar Measel went to the extreme in 816 of lifting the exceptional prohibitions on murder, torture and theft, when they were carried out against non-Atlanteans. (And of course the "Brotherhood" elite were absolved form these prohibitions in any case).
Artists too, betrayed their calling most disgracefully at this time by pandering to the Tyrants' whims, and, as we have seen, in many cases willingly employing their talents in music, painting or literature to create so-called works of art out of the basest actions of the Tyrants - for example, designing the prison camps, providing settings or music for the mass murders of Kelts and others, and writing plays glorifying absolutely anything their rulers did, and depicting it in revolting detail. Such amoral "art for art’s sake" was particularly encouraged by the third Tyrant, Brindor Credhos Ruthopheax, who saw himself as an artist, and behaved during his reign like an even more murderous and amoral Nero. As was said at the time: "Art’s purpose then was to decorate his (Brindor’s) murderous desires."
3. THE SELF, THE SOUL AND IMMORTALITY
One area where the interests of philosophy and religion increasingly overlapped was the problem of the mind and the body, and the subjective self and objective reality; and, speculating further, the soul, and life after death. Saiphoyon, around 600, had been the last great philosopher to think about these matters. He believed that the mind was independent of the body, though resident in the brain, which also controlled the body. The mind also acted as a conduit to some sort of transcendental realm. Through the mind, we can contact this realm, which transmits to us noble ideals such as the moral code, beauty and perhaps religious faith. The more the mind is open to this superior realm, the more easily it can control its emotions. It produces these as a result of its contact with the outside world via the senses, but while some are good (love, happiness, hope), others are intrinsically bad, or may lead to evil (hatred, anger, lust). But the truly "good" or "philosophical" person will, by strength of will or faith in the "Good", be able to control, regulate or suppress these emotions by means and in the interests of the transcendent realm of ideals.
After the 630s, and the triumph of the Ruthoyon and State Theism, further speculations along these lines was not welcome, and Geledin, the philosopher who flourished between 610 and 650 showed his successors that philosophy must now concentrate either on man's role in society, or on a more or less complete withdrawal from the world. This avoidance of investigations into the self and the mind lasted by and large until the 720s, and to some extent till the overthrow of the Third Empire. (One exception, however, was Gestanu, who, at the end of the seventh century, had also speculated secretly and widely on the basis of the tenets of State Theism. We must also remember the mystics and speculators about the afterlife, some of whose writings were not published until the 750s. they were to have considerable influence on the new generation of thinkers who wanted to fight against the materialism and scientific literalism of the Fifth Empire.)
During the Fifth Empire, as we have seen, the overall trend of philosophy was towards determinism, relativism and materialism. But there was another group of thinkers who wanted to reattach themselves to the speculation which had ended with Saiphoyon over 100 years earlier, and to do so, they increasingly joined forces with religious thinkers. In particular, they tried to reassert the reality and importance of the subjective, the inner realm which seems to be personal and separate to every individual, in the face of scientific materialism. This led to a fascinating period in philosophical history, where philosophers and religious thinkers sought, over the next 80 years or so, both to validate the subjective, and to "see through" the so-called reality of this world, into the real meaning behind it. The religious thinkers, in particular, wanted to investigate what this meant to us after death, and how this world was connected to any invisible realm behind or beyond the material world. As time went by, certain intellectual discoveries regularly led to new or changed religious creeds, often in the religion of Theism, and these would create their own groups of followers, even while other thinkers were advancing on to still deeper and more insightful thoughts. Ultimately the insights of Theism, Naturism and the philosophers were combined into a single, universally valid system of beliefs.
Indeed, it can be argued that religion itself had gradually developed along an increasingly philosophical and even intellectual path throughout the history of the Empire. We can see a progression from myth, polytheism and superstition in the early State Religion, before the third century, to more advanced notions of monotheism, and even an agnostic Theism after the third and fourth century. Then Populism and State Theism led to a more personal religion, involved in everyday life, as well as belief in an afterlife, and a clearer moral code. Finally Naturism abandoned all unnecessary ritual and ceremony, and sought the meaning of life in a much more spiritual and personally orientated faith. On the other hand, Manralianism developed the anti-theistic tendencies of naturism to an extreme, and grew ever closer to agnostic or atheistical science. But it was Theism initially, which was now to be revitalised by philosophy, as the latter moved further into metaphysical speculation about the soul, the reality of the world, man’s relationship to the transcendental realm, and his fate after death.
Philosophers advanced from Saiphoyon's position in the following ways: firstly, they became very interested in the idea of the self, and the subjective, as against the objective world of reality and everybody else. In this respect, they wanted to re-establish the importance and sanctity of the individual and the Self, which were disbelieved by materialists, and downplayed by the later Naturists, who were more interested in pantheistic beliefs. These thoughts were taken up with particular urgency after the terrible period of the Tyrants in the next century. Secondly, they took ideas from the Romantics of the 500s, the thinkers of the Third Empire and the Naturists about the relationship between the subjective realm and the world of objective reality. Thirdly they became fascinated by what happens after we die, and whether or in what way the "self" could survive death. This was linked closely to the topic just mentioned, as they sought to find evidence of the eternal and immortal outside world of reality, in a transcendent realm which might be identifiable with the subjective viewpoint, that is to say, the world of the Self. These subjects are discussed below in more detail. Finally, again after the period of the Tyrants, philosophers generally became most concerned to build up a new objectively acceptable moral code, without the prop of a generally accepted religion (though not without a belief in God – most thought that a belief in a deity was a necessary condition of a belief in the afterlife and an objective code of morality). These thinkers interested in the self and the soul sought to find a basis for such a code in the transcendental realm, which they were postulating and investigating.
BEYOND THE WORLD OF THE ACTUAL
Science and materialist philosophers seemed to carry all before them in the second part of the eighth century, and those philosophers who thought there was more to the world than this tried to discover how they could prove or at least demonstrate this. They wanted to show that the universe was not a meaningless place, that it had been created by a god of some sort and that humans occupy a privileged place in this world, being more than brute "things" or animals and able to perceive a transcendent realm beyond it, which gives meaning to both our lives and the whole of reality. Traditional Atlantean religion had believed the gods operate through humans and that humans could in turn influence the gods, though both these were viewed in a facile way. The Romantics of the sixth century developed this notion, claiming that they the divine worked directly through humans, and by their acts, men could both bring God into the world and be like gods themselves. Later some of them became less certain about the divine realm, believing that either that it did not exist, or that it was almost unattainable, except perhaps via our emotions or the arts, when we might be "taken out of ourselves". This latter line of thought was summed up by Saiphoyon, who said we were in contact with a transcendent realm via our emotions and senses, but he seems not to have believed this proved the reality of personal immortality or the necessary existence of God.
One of the upshots of all this thought was the formation of a loose group of thinkers after about 760, all anti-materialist, who called themselves the "Transcendentalists" ("Narcusspiccuyonix"). They stressed the long-held belief that a transcendent realm gave meaning to our limited lives and that it was indeed reachable. This was not the pantheism of the Naturists but a belief that this supra-reality lay somewhere behind the world of everyday appearance. They thought the existence of this realm was connected to the strange contrast between the objective, contingent, determined realm of objects, constrained by time and space, and the subjective, free-willing world of the self, which is in some ways beyond time and space, because within our minds we have memory into the past and will into the future and our souls may exist in some form both before birth and after death. So, following Saiphoyon to some extent, some thinkers again considered the Subjective as the path to the transcendent, believing that we come closest to this realm through "subjective" attitudes, that is to say, via our emotions (at a very basic level), through human-produced arts, through our appreciation of nature and via our belief in the existence of "absolute" ideals. Just as the Self, which is infinite and timeless, can somehow operate and act in the contingent objective world, so can God relate to this world through our boundless subjective selves.
"Transcendentalist" philosophers were however split amongst themselves as to how easy it is for us humans to contact the Numinous realm, and whether we can really know anything specific about it. Most agreed its real nature is as much beyond the ken of humans as we are beyond that of material, unthinking objects or even animals. We can only know the world as it appears to us, but can sometimes have "intimations of immortality" via it. Thus specific religious creeds and stories about God could only have "mythic" reality but these might at least be imbued with transcendent meaning. More extreme thinkers, close to the materialists, said we may be able to prove there is such a realm, but as we can know nothing about it and can't even really contact it in any sensible way, we may as well ignore or deny the existence of God. The other extreme to these positions was represented by the pantheists who were mostly Naturists.
THE TRANSCENDENTALISTS AND THE WONDERERS
Partly as a desperate desire to counteract the scientific materialists of the time, some Transcendentalists developed the philosophy of "wonderment". Whereas atheists and materialists said there was nothing to seek beyond the physical nature of the world and the body and brain of men and women, these "Wonderers" ("bompsonix"), as they called themselves, stressed the amazing fact that the world and universe exists at all - why should it? - and, perhaps even more amazing, the existence of conscious beings in the world, who can observe it. It is evident that the Wonderers were much influenced by the mystic movement of the late 600s, although they mostly did not share their mysticism or belief in State Theism. In the 780s and 790s, they had considerable influence on the development of Slerakh's philosophy, which later overtook them. Their speculations were, in any case, rudely cut off by the tyrants after 805.
SLERAKH – THE INVESTIGATOR OF THE SELF
The greatest of the "religious philosophers", (as they were termed, in contrast to the materialist "scientific philosophers" such as Crehon Mestos) was the Helvran, Slerakh (752-845). He started, in the 770s as a Romantic idealist, claiming that each Self was unique and all-powerful. Mind was supreme, and each Mind could make its own world: in this way Slerakh countered popular determinism with his own optimistic belief in free will. In fact Slerakh was at this stage an adherent of a fashionable school, which followed the teachings of Yealtan. He had been a Romantic philosopher of the mid sixth century, who had stated that there was no external reality: everything was a projection of the mind.
Later Slerakh modified this idea, and admitted the reality and power of the real objective world, but insisted that the "real" reality lay inside our heads - in the mind, which, being in permanent contact with the transcendental realm (which he saw in similar terms to Saiphoyon), could find Right and Wrong and the whole moral code imprinted on itself from birth. He was formally a Theist, but in common with many others at this time, thought that religion was old and played out. Nevertheless, he retained this religious upbringing, and it encouraged him to speculate about what happened to the Self or Soul after death. Theism stressed the existence of God, albeit at a distance from mankind, the value of the individual, and the reality of the immortal soul in us all.
Slerakh took these on board as articles of faith, but was determined to prove it as well by reason and philosophy - in this, many Theists, as well as Naturists disapproved of his undertaking, believing that faith and feeling mattered more than reason. But a number of other philosophers and religious thinkers wanted a reconciliation between religion and philosophy, and followed Slerakh's writings with the greatest interest. We have seen that some thinkers had proved to their own satisfaction that "another" world lay behind the world of appearance and our own subjective selves are a route to it from the objective world, as we humans have a foot in both camps, objective and subjective. Many of these were Transcendentalists or Wonderers. Slerakh set out after 786 firstly to prove that the Soul and subjective individualism (which he insisted were the same thing) do exist, and could survive after death. Basing himself on Saiphoyon's writings, he sought to strip away everything relating to the Self or the individual Mind which was determined by the world as it now is, and by the body. This obviously included all the senses and probably nearly all the emotions. Did this leave anything individual appertaining to the Soul once the body and brain died, and the Soul, assuming, as Slerakh did, that it existed, was left on its own? Its personality surely related to something other than its environment, in other words it was born with it. This could survive. But there would be no objective world with which to interact, hence no experiences or emotions. Also the world involves passing time, while any transcendental world would be timeless - this also would make experiences difficult to conceive. And what of memories, which largely make up our personalities? Could they survive death, and if so, would we have any new ones after death? All of this meant that almost everything we conceive of as our "personalities" was unlikely to survive death. So how could we even begin to dream that anything of ourselves might be immortal? Yet our selves are timeless, space-less and undetermined entities, contrasting completely with the contingent and limited world of things.
THE SUBJECTIVE POSTULATION
Here Slerakh postulated the one thing which seems irrefutable, and which made him famous for the rest of Atlantean history. This was that whatever else we doubt, we cannot doubt that there is a subjective "I". How can it be denied, yet how could it have happened, that with all the bodies and objects which obviously exist in the real world, one, at this time and in this place, has a subjective view on the rest of the world, and an inner life of its own, and this view and life is MINE - that is, a subjective viewpoint (and the only one that exists), which I call myself, or my soul? And this subjective viewpoint, being unique to each person, seemingly totally separate from the world of objective reality, is in a different realm of being to the material world. Indeed we cannot see that it was ever created or need ever die, hence it is presumably immortal. That is to say, our souls are thus proved to be immortal!. He called this individual subjective viewpoint the "uniquely personal self", as opposed to the "personally unique" selves, which are simply the subjective natures that we all possess, in contrast to the objective world of material objects. He was particularly concerned to stress the difference between this subjective nature (our minds), which can be viewed, possibly, as at its heart a physical phenomenon, the result of the myriad connections between the neurons in our brain, and the unique personal viewpoint each of us possesses. He added on Saiphoyon's views that the Mind is in contact with a transcendental realm of Ideals, which he stated must be the world of the Afterlife. This contact, evident even in life, provides another proof that there must also be a realm beyond that of this world and this life, and this we enter after death.
This argument, and the subsequent ones which built up a possible picture of the afterlife, in which the Soul became part of a greater Whole, but also from time to time, was reincarnated in a body again, in the past or the future, possibly on this earth, convinced many, especially Theists. Without Slerakh's approval, this led to a sect, which split away from original Theism after 803, and became New Theism. In fact, this latter part of Slerakh’s work, dealing with the after-life, was intended only as speculation, and Slerakh considered that the real philosophical work to be done lay in a deeper investigation into the earthly Self, and to make sure the inner life was accorded as much importance as the external, material world.
Slerakh interacted all the time with the theist and transcendentalist thought of his contemporaries, and he was at pains to show that he was taking the beliefs of the Transcendentalists and Wonderers, in particular, one stage further: not only should we wonder at the existence of the universe and people within it who can observe it, but also we must marvel at the existence of the "uniquely personal selves", which, whatever we think of the nature of the material world and of human beings, are clearly transcendent and eternal.
Slerakh went into a sort of semi-retirement once the Tyrants came on the scene, but continued to think and write. In particular he grew angry about the growth of Genandourso at this time, which preached a philosophy of complete withdrawal from the troubles of the real world, into a personal haven of harmony and serenity. He wrote a small pamphlet which, while not at all criticising any particular regime, insisted that we should all remain involved in the world. A small number of these pamphlets were privately circulated, and came to the notice of the government in 814; at this stage, it did not react. Slerakh wrote next about morality and aesthetics, rather than the Self, and here seems to have anticipated some of Fusten’s views. Ill-advisedly, he made some of these views public in 817, in a quarrel with one of the fashionable artists of the period, who favoured art for art’s sake, and was ready to paint or draw anything to suit the Tyrants, however immoral it might be. Shortly after, his house was forced open by thugs sent by the regime, and he was severely beaten. Called upon to repudiate what he had written, Slerakh temporised, admitting that it was "philosophical speculation", which might or might not be objectively true. He then had to watch his manuscript being burnt, as well as copies of his pamphlet on Genandourso. Slerakh virtually never referred to it again, and all we know about its contents come from two of his disciples, to whom he is said to have spoken about the work in extreme old age.
THE WORKS OF HIS OLD AGE
During the 820s, under the last and worst of the three Tyrants, and the early, unsettled years of the Fifth Empire, Slerakh, now in his seventies, and living in complete retirement in Yciel Atlantis, reverted to his philosophy of the Self. He wrote quietly and secretly what is certainly his greatest work of philosophy, "The Self and its relationship to this world and the next". Surrounded by the barbarity and selfishness of the Tyrants’ regime, the first volume of this work is not surprisingly pessimistic about mankind. Slerakh detected two trends of thought, both incorrect, which had become dominant over the previous decades, and had led Atlantean society to its present dreadful impasse. Firstly he condemned the claims of science, of much determinist philosophy, and of Manralianism, that the only reality that existed, or at any rate, that mattered, was material reality. The supporters of this view thought that everything can be reduced to materialism, and that there was no such thing as the subjective view, or, hence, as the soul or even the self. This view was not necessarily wholly materialistic, as it was held in a similar way by the Manralianists, who admitted a transcendental world of the Absolute, and at the same time denied the reality of individual human souls. Although their view did not deny a subjective realm, nevertheless the combined influence of science and materialistic philosophy had led during the late 700s to a basic feeling amongst the population at large, that there was no such thing as the soul; nor could the individual, deprived of any belief in a personal afterlife or even the reality of his or her own intrinsic worth, be anything other than a material object, moved by material and physical reactions and influences, and incapable of any meaningful personal freedom or action. Certainly the subjective world was of no importance compared with the "real" world of material things. Hence the readiness of the tyrants and their followers to treat the population of the Empire as mere objects, whose torture or death was of no ultimate significance.
But at the same time Slerakh shows that we are all trapped in our selves, and as such seem to have no responsibility for or participation in the lives of other people (separate selves), or in the world of reality (non-humans). Hence, at worst, we again treat them all like the Tyrants. Slerakh also looked at philosophers’ beliefs throughout history concerning the Self (the subjective) and other selves and the world of reality (the objective). He concludes that in fact, because we view everything from our selves, the whole universe is based on and dependent on the subjective viewpoint, and thus we our selves can make of it what we wish. Again this had led recently to the moral relativism of the Tyrants and many of the population at large, who would recognise no absolute norms of behaviour. However, unlike the Romantic philosophers of the 500s, and indeed the school to which he had briefly belonged in the 770s, Slerakh did not of course consider this meant that the objective world does not really exist. In this work, he showed little interest or knowledge of the beliefs of Slels Fusten and of the possibility of recreating an objective base for our beliefs. He tried to underline the validity of the self and its world, insisting that it should be seen as equally important as the external world – not more, leading to solipsism or over-assertion of the self; nor less, leading to humans being treated as mere objects.
The second volume of this work, written after 832, and in the freer air of the Fifth Empire, is markedly more hopeful. It placed human existence on the earth in a universal and transcendental context, returning to the speculations laid out in his pre-800 works. He now confirmed that he truly believed what he insisted were mere speculations then, and approved now of the religion of New Theism, but wanted to add to it some of the insights of Naturism, which he had spent the last few years studying in great depth. In particular he homed in on its creed concerning the after-life and multiple reincarnation. Our life in this world must be seen in the perspective of many re-embodiments in the future, in worlds, which we cannot even imagine now. However, he could not agree that our behaviour now will affect our lives in these future worlds, as many naturists felt. He wrote also that while we are all each obviously trapped in our own selves, and this subjective viewpoint on the world is the one which will be repeated in future reincarnations, we will not remember any of these earlier lives, and the "soul" which survives is independent of our present senses, feelings, emotions, or memories. He believed the Self to be like a container, no more.
But if this is so, how can our deeds in each life influence what happens in future lives, and indeed why should we treat other people and the world at large in a moral and ethical way at all? This can only be because each Self is at a very basic level linked to other Selves. There is a greater, underlying Whole, or Realm, which we go back to when we die, and then are separated from at each reincarnation. This Whole doubtless causes the creation of the objective world, which appears the same to all of us. In itself, the objective world has no intrinsic value, except in so far as we need to behave towards it (i.e. the animal kingdom and the physical world) in a responsible way, because the quality of the lives of every Self depends upon this natural world. In our future lives, there will certainly be objective worlds, for the Self, until it is fully developed, can only exist properly by means of its interactions with the non-subjective realm (communication, actions, emotions, senses). Slerakh considered it pointless and impossible to try to conceive what these future worlds would be like, but this did not stop the religious philosophers of New Theism from trying, particularly during the 840s and 850s.
Slerakh returned again and again in this book to the nature of the self, and the value of its inner life, which are what really interest him. Although many of his views seem remarkably close to those of Buddhism, he did believe in an actual Self, rather than a construct of many separate emotions, feelings and thoughts. He also laid stress on the reality and significance of the rounded whole of each individual soul’s inner life. He did not in the end feel that we have to try to overcome the self, and so eventually merge into the Whole, where there are no separate selves. He wanted to avoid the views of extreme Naturism and of Manralianism, which denied the eternal existence of souls, and adopted a belief in an Absolute realm, which may well be wholly indifferent to human aspirations. He admitted that selves might become part of a greater Whole in the end, after an unknown number of future lives, but in our present life at least, we should concentrate on improving our own self, by becoming "better" persons, inwardly, and in our actions in the external world, rather than trying to transcend it by some form of meditation or inward withdrawal. He did not advocate withdrawal from the world, like the believers in Genandourso, against whom he had earlier objected, but he felt he had to repeat his opinions, this time against the beliefs of the more extreme followers of Nacusse, who advocated complete withdrawal from the physical world, the better to concentrate on the world to come.
The volume was finished in 836, and Part One was published in 838. At first it attracted little notice, partly because philosophy had moved on since Slerakh’s first books forty years earlier, and because Slerakh seemed like a figure from the past – many thought he had died long since. Part Two came out in 840. Slels Fusten immediately welcomed the book, and declared it provided a true philosophical basis for the importance of Natural Morality. But it was also quickly seen that much of it chimed in with other current preoccupations, most particularly the sections relating to reincarnation, and the conflict between Theists and Manralians over the existence of a real Self. More religious thinkers tried to make Slerakh’s concept of the Absolute, or Whole, more overtly theist, and insisted that the Absolute was God. Slerakh’s work also gave an impetus to religious philosophers and writers of all sorts to begin trying to envisage the worlds to come, despite Slerakh’s warnings in the book. Finally, then, just before Slerakh’s death in 845, the significance of the old philosopher’s investigations into the Self, the subjective and objective realms, and the idea of reincarnation were fully taken up by philosophers and theologians.
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