The Legacy of the Past
By Dr. Mohammad Reza Sargolzaei ( Sargolzaee ) ,an Iranian Psychiatrist
«They planted so we ate
We plant so they would eat»
Regarding knowing our “mission” in the world, we must take a glance through the “traveled path”. Throughout history, elevated and courageous people have benefited from their ingenuity, courage, and hope until the “train of human epistemology” reached the station where we boarded. In this article, I would like to consider the achievements of several geniuses:
The Legacy of Epicurus (Epicureanism)
Epicurus is known as the “philosopher of pleasure” and besides, he is the “teacher of simple living”!
Epicurus had lived a few hundred years B.C. in Greece. He believed that the function of philosophy is to help humans “enjoy” more of their life. He had been living around the city of Athens, though the people of Athens thought he was having fun in a big palace with varied food, wine, and nymphs.
When some Athenians decided to visit his residence, they were surprised to see his simple house. Epicurus was spending time with a few sympathetic friends in simple conditions, eating bread and vegetables and drinking limpid water. The Athenians were astonished therefore, they accused the philosopher of not following his doctrine.
Epicurus’s answer was; Your understanding of my doctrine is wrong. I advocate pleasure, but a pleasure that does not increment my pain. The most important joy in my life is that I own my “time”. I can freely decide my time for working, talking with sympathetic friends, enjoying nature, and reflecting on existence. If I were to be the
owner of a palace, a harem, and a restaurant, I would spend my whole life acquiring, accumulating, multiplying, and maintaining wealth.
Therefore, Epicurus taught that there are pleasures beyond colorful food, drink, numerous clothes, horses, and decorated palaces.
Epicurus considered these pleasures to be free work (without pressure, haste, and self-dealing) such as conversation with specific friends, communication and reflection on nature. You may agree with some of these pleasures or add or subtract something to this list, but accept the basis of Epicurean thinking.
However, the Athenians did not understand the foundations of Epicurean thought. Throughout history, many nations, tribes, and people have remained unaware of the importance of Epicurus’ heritage.
Nowadays, one of the destructive problems for humankind is “Consumerism”.
- We buy products we no longer need, but you just want them!
- We buy more than we consume!
- While our own products are still usable, we Will exchange with newer ones!
What are the consequences of consumerism?
Universally: Environmental pollution
Extinction of plant and animal species
Demolition of forests, lakes
Ecosystem imbalance which results increasing natural disasters
On the social level: competition for wealth, power and reputation
Bloody forests to preserve sources of wealth
Constantly hostile and pervasive anxiety and fear
At the individual level: Revolving life
(We produce to consume, we consume to produce)
Perhaps in ancient Greece, centuries ago, Athenian citizens had the right not to understand the importance of Epicurus’s doctrine though, nowadays, we can obviously see the terrible effects of “consumption”, furthermore, it is time to bring this valuable heritage back to our daily lives.
The Legacy of Socrates
The people of Athens called Socrates “gadfly” because he prevented them from “constant napping”. Socrates did not let them have a carefree moment because he believed that human beings should live consciously and “self deception” and “deceiving others” prevents living deliberately.
In the Socrates era, a group called “sophists” or “wisdom owners” pushed people toward the desires of authorities with “sophistry”. Nowadays, our mainstream media, especially television channels and advertising managers, have taken the same role as the “sophists”:
“Skill in playing with people’s thoughts”
Socrates used to challenge the media, he did not let inspirations to transfer from generation to generation. Socrates was being called a “critical philosopher”.
If one of the senators with a vindicate face and impressive voice shouted in the Senate of Athens, then:
“National honor dictates to stand with our ground!”, Socrates was being disputed with him:
- How has “our national honor” spoken to you?
- Who is the “spokesperson” of our national honor?
- Isn’t “honor” a human and moral issue? So how do you add the “nationality” basis to the human problem? Is “Greek” honor different from “Egyptian” or “Iranian” honor?
- What are the criteria of honor?
- Who do you consider either honorable or dishonorable?
- Do all honorable people agree with your opinion?
- What does holding the ground or not holding the ground mean?
When the senator hesitates in answering Socrates’ questions, the audience and listeners realize that his speech (although it is powerful and expressive) is weak and baseless thus, he intends to provoke and abuse their emotions.
Even today, the “senators” are deceiving the people with their righteous faces and expressive and impressive voice.
Werewolves in “shepherd clothing” take flock to the altar. Media with excitements and misusing of feelings provoke people to live in a way that will be beneficial for rich and powerful people. Consequently, our mind is always full of purpose. Nowadays we need Socrates’ legacy more than ever.
What has been going on with Socrates?
“Senators” condemned Socrates to death for the crime of “confounding public opinion and diverting youth”! The death sentence was executed by eating poison (hemlock cup).
The Legacy of de Montaigne (Realist Philosopher)
“Michel de Montaigne” lived in France nearly four hundred years ago. He was a farmer, but he had a substantial library in his edifice, and in the middle of the farm, he had spent many hours studying and thinking. De Montaigne noticed one of the harmful processes in human thinking: “heroism and idolatry”.
De Montaigne observed that during history, humans have changed the concept of successful and victorious people by “dehumanizing ” and “idolizing” them. In such a way that people have turned them into “metahuman” and “worshippable” creatures and removed their human weaknesses from the minds of others. Then, after people’s thoughts, they have also tried to become the same as “God-like” beings, but because they could not become “superhuman”, they have never been satisfied with themselves and always feel guilty and powerless.
Permit me to give an example:
Does anyone imagine a religious leader in a state of defecation? All his fans certainly will feel disgusted about my words, but that religious leader is also human, and defecation instead of moral weakness is a human characteristic. Accordingly, why does someone feel guilty and hate himself if such an image comes to his mind?
I have met many clients facing this problem in my clinic who visualized one of the religious leaders in such a situation. Afterward, they feel very guilty and while blaming and punishing themselves, they promise not to have such thoughts again. However, when we try to stop our thoughts, our thoughts become “persistent” and will not leave you alone. In this condition, these people start fighting with themselves and, as days pass, they lose more in this war. They feel more worthless, scoundrel, guilty and incapable. In addition, This “cycle” continues until they go to the psychiatrist’s office feeling desperate and tired. Why is this actually happening?
This is because the “idol makers” portray the religious leaders in such a superhuman way that doubting this image creates a strong sense of guilt for religious people.
De Montaigne understood this major mistake well and decided to “affirm human characteristics” and “realism”. For this purpose, he wrote treatises in which he spoke in detail about his physical weaknesses: from morning constipation or even uncontrollable flatulence!
De Montaigne volunteered to sacrifice his “social status” in order to teach humans not to have an unrealistic view about human beings: Transforming elites into heroes and transforming heroes into legends!
Many dictators of the world have used this model of myth to maintain their unlimited power. Large banners, giant statues, and exaggerated biographies which describe that “tyrannous” is perfect and faultless are examples of creating myths.
“Nicolai Ceaușescu“, was the totalitarian dictator of Romania, which had specific attention to television. Television directors used the utmost care so that others have never seen “tyrannous” yawning, sneezing, wiping his nose, hanging his lips, or making an ugly gesture in the movies. The films were reviewed many times before broadcasting to assure that his natural face remained hidden!
Centuries before Ceausescu, De Montaigne tried to teach the victors to be careful not to become a myth. Being a myth is neither good for the nation nor for the myth.
Ceausescu fell and was shot as a result of the civil uprising. With this diversity, the “execution of Socrates” became the document of his honor and the “shooting of Ceausescu” became the document of his crime!
The Legacy of Spinoza (Heretic Philosopher)
Just as “De Montaigne” realized a huge fault named “apotheosis of god”, afterward another philosopher named “Benedictus de Spinoza“, a Dutch Jewish philosopher, recognized another massive fault called “anthropomorphism of god”.
“Spinoza” was occupied in philosophical studies and endeavors, as well as engaged in the production of glasses.He realized that most religions and religious leaders talk about “God” as if he were a human-like being: Satisfied or dissatisfied, likes or hates, furious or happy… Spinoza noticed that humans tend to see all phenomena as similar to themselves. An example of that is the hundreds of stories that have been told about Lady Sun, the emperor of the sea, the king of the jungle, the sly fox, the conscious rabbit, the informant crow, and the trees that reached the sky. It is as if the entire existence is similar to humans and has human-like needs, interactions, joys and sorrows.
This phenomenon, which is called “metaphor creation”, makes the world comprehensible to humans. In this way, human beings “tame the world” to reduce its magnificence, complexity, and the mystery of pollution and to feel that he is riding on it!
“Spinoza” did not accept such an idea of God and rejected the God of the ancient era (Jehovah Torah) and called it the manufactory of humans. As “Jean-Paul Sartre“, a French philosopher and writer, said: “Instead of saying, in the style of the Bible which says God created man.” We must say: that humans have created God!
A God that does not conform to the limited mind of man is no longer a God.
God is incomprehensible to man and the world.
How should the gnat know of what date this garden is?
for “twas born in spring, and its death is in the (following) winter.
Human knows “the small world of his life” rather than being aware of the world, and instead of knowing God, he worships “the God made by his weak mind”:
Like a worm that is hidden in an apple and considers the world to be limited to the apple
Some people believe that the universe is finite
If humans can understand God’s attributes and can predict His satisfactions and dissatisfactions, then how is God the creator of mind, intelligence, comprehension, and prediction?!
When “Spinoza” rejected the Torah God, he got rejected by the Jewish community on charges of atheism. Just as Athenian society forced Socrates to drink a cup of hemlock and the church sentenced Marco Polo and Galileo to life imprisonment, besides the jurists sentenced Sheikh Shihab Al-Din Suhrawardi and Hossein ibn Mansur Al-Hallaj to death.
However, he still believed that:
“The God is not a being, God is being”
What is “being” itself is an intricate issue that great philosophers such as “Hegel“, “Heidegger“, and “Sartre” have written books to explain, despite ultimately they reached the point that “understanding existence” is impossible for humans because the human brain can perceive everything with its opposite, but the opposite of existence, which “Sartre”, called “Nothingness”, is unimaginable to man. Humans can only “drown” in existence. To understand everything, we have to distance ourselves from it, but individuals are not able to “take a distance” from their life (existence).
In the words of «Sohrab Sepehri»:
It is not our job to identify the secret of the red rose
Maybe our job is to dive into the magic of the red rose
“Spinoza’s legacy” for today’s people is to respect life, nature, and existence instead of discussing the unknown and always look humbly and gratefully at the fact that they are “immersed” in it. An example of such a person was shown by the genius of Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa in the film “Dersu Uzala”. (I recommend watching this interesting and informative video).
The Jewish community rejected Spinoza, but Spinoza’s thought could not be rejected.
A few centuries after him, “Carl Gustav Jung” – a prominent Swiss psychiatrist – in his book “Answer to Job”, again analyzed the propositions of the Torah and concluded that the God of Torah, from a “psychoanalysis” perspective, is a “neurotic” person, which and needs treatment. From Carl Gustav Jung’s point of view, the God of the Torah is a jealous, pessimistic (paranoid), narcissistic and unconscious person, he is like a child
who blames his bad behavior on others, blames his mistakes on a creature called “Satan”!
The Legacy of Nietzsche (The Creator of Superior Man)
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, a German philosopher of the 20th century, had an efficient impact on European culture and civilization. Before Nietzsche, many thinkers, inspired by the German “Immanuel Kant“, believed that “morality” is “prior” and “absolute” this means that moral doctrines existed before the existence of human beings, in fact, human is only the “discoverer” of morality and not the “inventor”. Therefore, human behavior has an “inherent goodness and ugliness”, and people cannot oppose moral principles, they can only obey or disobey.
Although, “Nietzsche” broke this conceptual framework. In the book “On the Genealogy of Morality” he tried to find the roots of the accepted moral doctrines, and showed that the conditions, facilities, and concerns of human beings in each geographic region and historical era determined the moral principles and values established in that era:
- When food was scarce, asceticism and austerity were offered as moral models.
- As the threat of enemy attack increased, combat and veteranism were seen as desirable behaviors.
- Due to the fear of generational extinction, more births than virtue have been raised.
However, as I explained in the third chapter of this book, the continuity of these intellectual principles (paradigms) over the decades made them a “tradition” and then “eternal, permanent and divine principles”.
In the book “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” and “Beyond Good and Evil”, Nietzsche describes a “superhuman“: a person who, instead of being subjugated and submissive to the idea of ”eternal, permanent and divine universal moral doctrines” realizes that himself is not only obliged to follow moral doctrines, but he must be the “creator” (and not the discoverer) of moral principles.
Although, it seems that such ideas have bred disinhibition, improvident, and egotist people. Elders like “Erich Fromm“, “Jean-Paul Sartre” and “Carl Gustav Jung” believed that such thoughts could cultivate a responsible, intelligent, and knowledgeable person because that individual cannot bear the burden of his responsibility on others, institutions, or school, as a result, of taking full responsibility of your choices you will recognize the importance of every small and big choice.
Nietzsche’s legacy for us is what I stated in the third chapter of this book:
«demythologizing of ancient conventions»
The title of the other Nietzsche’s book is “Twilight of the Idols” which shows; In order to grow, the modern human must pass through the cave of old habits, emotions, and traditions, “become historically aware”, learn the roots of his cultural beliefs and, instead of being inside their framework, criticize and revise them.
Before him, “Dostoyevsky” in his books “The Idiot”, “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov” refers to the same obligation of modern humans.
The famous French philosopher Michel Foucault in one of his books “Madness and Civilization” and another French philosopher Jacques Derrida in “Plato’s Pharmacy” followed Nietzsche’s framework about “intellect” and challenged “logic”.
They planted so we ate
What should we do to benefit others?
Melika saniani <[email protected]>
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