March 2022

The Edgar Allan Poe Way
Poe's Method To Knowledge

I think Edgar Allan Poe’s Eureka is one of the most underrated works of speculative philosophy:

Books in Brief — Edgar Allan Poe: Eureka | by Adesh Acharya | Medium

Published in 1848, this short work is where Poe searches for the sweetest-spot of wisdom to look into scientific and philosophical questions.

In his own words, he wanted it to be considered as a work of poetry:

To the few who love me and whom I love, to those who feel rather than think, to the dreamers and those who put their faith in dreams as in the only realities, I offer this book of truths, not in its character of truth-teller, but for the beauty that abounds in its truth, constituting it true. (Preface)

Apart from physical, cosmological, and spiritual implications, Poe in this work provides us with his epistemology. By that I mean — he provides us the method/way he believes in and has used to observe what he has observed and conclude what he has concluded. In doing so he has also provided us with his own brief interpretation of the history of philosophy.

I have summarized in this manner:

It was the metaphysicians who first came up with singular fancy that there exist but two practicable roads to Truth. Aristotle was the founder and popularizer of the deductive or the apriori method. He started with axioms, or self-evident truths and from axioms he proceeded logically, to results. His most illustrious disciples were one Euclid and Kant. Aristotle and his method reigned supreme until James Hogg preached an entirely different system, which he called the à posteriori or inductive method.

His plan referred altogether to sensation. He proceeded by observing, analyzing, and classifying facts — instantiæ Naturæ, as they were somewhat affectedly called — and arranging them into general laws.

While the mode of Aristotle rested on noumena, that of Hogg depend on phenomena; and so great was the admiration excited by this latter system that, at its first introduction, Aristotle fell into general disrepute.

But he recovered ground, and was permitted to divide the empire of Philosophy:

…the Aristotelian and Baconian roads are, and of right ought to be, the solo possible avenues to knowledge: — ‘Baconian,’ you must know, my dear friend,” adds the letter-writer at this point, “was an adjective invented as equivalent to Hog-ian, and at the same time more dignified and euphonious.

But these method retarded the progress of true Science, which makes its most important advances by seemingly intuitive leaps.

This way, investigation was similar to crawling and for many centuries,

…so great was the infatuation, about Hog especially, that a virtual stop was put to all thinking, properly so called. No man dared utter a truth for which he felt himself indebted to his soul alone.

For many years, it didn’t matter whether the truth was even demonstrably such, for the dogmatizing philosophers of that epoch regarded only the road by which it professed to have been attained. It all ended with the scrutiny of the means, where it was found that the mean fit neither under Hog, nor under Aristotle.

If the crawling system was exclusively adopted, men wouldn’t have arrived at the maximum amount of truth because the repression of imagination was an evil not to be counterbalanced even by absolute certainty in the snail processes. Nor was that certainty absolute. Their method was like holding something close to the eyes to see it better. Which in turn blinded the seers.

The major taint in Baconianism lay in its tendency to throw power and consideration into the hands of merely perceptive men who mostly dug for minute facts, especially in physical science. All they did was depended on facts and closed their eyes to everything else. They gave hard time to those who wanted to evolve from facts through generalization. They called them ‘theoretical,’ ‘theory,’ ‘theorist’ in a degrading manner.

On the other hand, the Aristotleians were blind as they had:

erected their castles upon a basis far less reliable than air; for no such things as axioms ever existed or can possibly exist at all.

The focus was a lot on Logic. A certain Mill said that the ability or inability to conceive is in no case to be received as a criterion of axiomatic truth.

But their logic was baseless, worthless and fantastic altogether. The two narrow and crooked paths then — the one of creeping and the other of crawling —is where they confined the Soul:

the Soul which loves nothing so well as to soar in those regions of illimitable intuition which are utterly incognizant of ‘path.’

This way, none of them came — even by accident — to the broadest, the straightest and most available of all mere roads — the majestic highway of the Consistent. They failed to deduce from the works of God the vitally momentous consideration that a perfect consistency can be nothing but an absolute truth?

After that proposition, the process of truth investigation was taken out of the hands of the ground-moles and given to the only true thinkers — to the generally-educated men of ardent imagination:

The speculators and the theorizers. The Keplers, The Laplaces, whose theories are corrected/reduced/sifted/cleared of their chaff of inconsistency —

until at length there stands apparent an unencumbered Consistency — a consistency which the most stolid admit — because it is a consistency — to be an absolute and an unquestionable Truth.

This new method is powerful and it is proved by the fact that Newton’ s gravitation was deduced from Kepler and Kepler being a speculator/theorizer had merely guessed it.

Yes! — these vital laws Kepler guessed — that is to say, he imagined them. Had he been asked to point out either the deductive or inductive route by which he attained them, his reply might have been — ‘I know nothing about routes — but I do know the machinery of the Universe. Here it is. I grasped it with my soul — I reached it through mere dint of intuition.’ Alas, poor ignorant old man! Could not any metaphysician have told him that what he called ‘intuition’ was but the conviction resulting from deductions or inductions of which the processes were so shadowy as to have escaped his consciousness, eluded his reason, or bidden defiance to his capacity of expression?

A conviction resulting from shadowy deductions or inductions.

Elsewhere, he describes an artist as someone with an exquisite sense of beauty which affords him not only a rapturous enjoyment but also a sense of deformity of disproportion (FIFTY SUGGESTIONS XXII).

Poets (who are artists) have the ability to sense the wrong and they can see injustice where the unpoetical see none. They have a clear-sightedness in respect to wrong which is nothing more than a corollary from the vivid sensation of right. Poets have an irritability towards the wrong.

What Is Social Studies?
Its purpose is to tell you whose side you are on

As I think back on the subjects I was taught at school, I find no subject more general and peculiar than Social Studies.

Other subjects were pretty much straightforward and drew a clear line and scope: Science was about hard sciences; Mathematics about numbers, angles and their relations; English and Nepali tried to infuse command over the language through grammar and literature (although I would prefer literature to be a separate subject, but of that some other day); computer about getting used to computers. But social studies? Was it just supposed to be about understanding social stuff or was it about having a command over society?Was it supposed to be what we call ‘social sciences’? What was it?

A quick glance tells us that history, geography, economics, civics, and sociology are what that subject tried to cover. Not so straightforward as the subjects above, is it?

I mean, history you can understand. But geography? I vividly remember being taught to look at maps! And at the same time, I also remember studying about the monsoon, weather, climate and all those kinds of things. What were they doing in social studies? If the argument is that they have importance in our social life, then, well each of the sciences and languages do too! Likewise, civics and sociology is understandable. I got my first exposure to the political system of my country through this subject.

As with almost everything, the curriculum I was a part of came from Western Countries. In this regard, it was futile to argue about the subject matters of social studies in Nepali context. There was no point blaming the ‘incapable’, ‘incompetent’ thinkers of this country. I had to blame either the US or UK. And since I am from a ‘developing’ nation, that was futile as well– Anything they did had to be genius!

Apparently, after the American Revolution, as the US began its experiment with self-government, the seeds for what we call “social studies” were planted to ensure the survival of the nation.

But it had its foundations in 1820s Britain with the purpose of promoting social welfare within its territories. Developed properly in the US, it started off by focusing on geography, history and civics. As social sciences gained popularity and relevance towards the turn of the 19th century — the social sciences were increasingly viewed as a vehicle for studying and proposing solutions to the problems resulting from a dynamic and evolving American landscape. This value got embedded into social studies and the subject went ahead with the purpose to ‘educate’ democratic citizens on how to live in the modern world. After this economics found its place and its development is all about modifications on history, geography and civics.

The National Council of Social Studies (American) was founded in 1921 and it engages and supports educators in strengthening and advocating social studies. Its website defines:

Social studies is the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence. Within the school program, social studies provides coordinated, systematic study drawing upon such disciplines as anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities, mathematics, and natural sciences. The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.

Its vision: A world in which all students are educated and inspired for lifelong inquiry and informed civic action.

Which basically means, it is more a National Studies where each subject matter is looked upon relative to one’s nation. Even International stuff. Otherwise, anthropology, archaeology, geography, philosophy (of all subjects) would want to be somewhere else.

This clears it up for me: social studies isn’t social sciences. The major difference being, social science would want to be more objective in its nature, whereas the purpose of social studies is solely to inject some ‘national sense’ inside the learners head. In the former you could talk about the geopolitical weaknesses of your country, in the latter you had to be proud of it! Therefore, geography fits well inside social studies.

In this way, what I see in social studies is a tool which holds the essence of modern education. While science and mathematics get all the attention and accolades and surely provide the best things in life if done well, social studies quietly lets you know who you are and whom you should dedicate yourself to with all your talents! Telling you whose side you are on.

Proving once again that the things that have the deepest impact are usually ones that are the quietest.

I just hope there won’t be ‘Big Tech Studies’ anytime soon though!

When The Greedy Shall Solely Inherit The World
What about you — if you are not greedy? 

An Euro-American lover-of-money — moneyphile — named Peter Thiel wants to live forever!

While his greed for money and his desire to live forever are his personal choices — what amazes me is his greed for wanting to be a philosopher as well. (Some people need everything, don’t they?) He says something like this:

I think there are probably three main modes of approach to death…You can accept it, deny it or you can fight it.

Now, Mr. Thiel is a businessman, a merchant, a capitalist. He loves money more than anything. And he is proud of it.

This makes me want to quote Ibn-Khaldun (again):

…merchant must concern himself with buying and selling, earning money and making a profit. This requires cunning, willingness to enter into disputes, cleverness, constant quarreling, and great persistence. These are things that belong to commerce. They are qualities detrimental to and destructive of virtuousness and manliness, because it is unavoidable that actions influence the soul. Good actions influence it toward goodness and virtue. Evil and deceitful actions influence it in the opposite sense…

…These influences differ according to the different types of merchants. Those who are of a very low type and associated closely with bad traders who cheat and defraud and perjure themselves, asserting and denying statements concerning transactions and prices, are much more strongly affected by these bad character qualities. Deceitfulness becomes their main characteristic. Manliness is completelyalien to them, beyond their power to acquire. At any rate, it is unavoidable that their cunning and their willingness to enter into disputes affects their manliness (adversely). The complete absence of (any adverse effect) is very rare among them.

The character qualities of merchants are inferior to those of noblemen and rulers. This is because merchants are mostly occupied with buying and selling. This necessarily requires cunning. If a merchant always practices cunning, it becomes his dominant character quality. The quality of cunning is remote from that of manliness which is the characteristic quality of rulers and noblemen. If the character of (the merchant) then adopts the bad qualities that follow from (cunning) in low-class merchants, such as quarrelsomeness, cheating, defrauding, as well as (the inclination to) commit perjury in rejecting and accepting statements concerning prices, his character can be expected to be one of the lowest sort, for well-known reasons. It is because of the character that one acquires through the practice of commerce that political leaders avoid engaging in it. There are some merchants who are not affected by those character qualities and who are able to avoid them, because they have noble souls and are magnanimous, but they are very rare in this world.

With this, I want to define Mr. Thiel as having the following characteristics:

  1. Greedy
  2. Cunning
  3. Cleverness 
  4. Quarrelsome
  5. Persistent
  6. Cheating
  7. Defrauding

(No wonder he wants to live forever!)

Greed Mr. Thiel…greed! Wish someone had taught you some virtue in your childhood

As these people have both the will and the resource to make life extension happen — once such technologies will actually happen — these people will be the ones who will live the longest or in the craziest scenario: they will be the one who will live forever. With people who are not greedy, cunning, clever, quarrelsome, etc. perishing.

It implies the world will be inherited by people with values such as the ones given above. (greed, cunningness, etc.)

So what about those who are not of those characteristics? I mean what about those of us who are not greedy, cunning, fraud, etc.?

But I have a more serious consideration:

  1. Why do I care if Mr. Thiel and the likes live forever?
  2. Why should I care?
  3. Should I care?
  4. If yes, how can I stop them? OR how can I help establish certain equity first?

The Realm of Gods & Kings
There are two realms: On one dwell the Gods & Kings, and on the other You and I!

gods and kings

You, born in a normal family with normal requirements in life and a normal worldview properly begin your social life with your school.

There you are immediately introduced to rules and regulations. If you break them, you are punished. Your punishments are so impactful to your psyche that — after a certain while — even a thought about breaking them makes you scared. Anxious. If you are thick-skinned enough to not get scared, you will end up a hooligan, a thug.

Likewise, if you follow those rules and regulations, you are rewarded. You are rewarded with claps and medals and praises. This makes you proud of yourself. Your pride is such that — after a while — the thought of gaining more of those claps and medals and praises gets you drooling. You are lured. You want more. You want to achieve more. Hear more. Claps, praises.

And so the same formula of rules and regulations drive you through college and university where — if you perceive you haven’t been up to the rule, you get anxious and at the moments when you think you will achieve or actually achieve some kind of success, you get excited…

And this way, you get into the job market, and you go through your life.

The formula (once again) is simple for you: follow the rules and be happy or break them and be miserable.

Now, if you are lucky (yes lucky!) or crazy you will question who the fk created that system of rules in the first place. Only if you are lucky or crazy! And you will start questioning a lot of things. The foundation of the system, the motive, the people invovled, etc. etc.

There you will be stunned at your first hypothesis of the division. Yes, there is a division!

And then you will realize something that will feel like a slap: a slap vicious and lethal, embarrassing and humiliating than any teacher had ever given you:

What you did or did not was always ordained, controlled, fabricated!

Yes, your entire thoughts, desires and your bloody life was designed to make you exactly the way you ended up. You were never free, you were engineered! And it was never for you, you were just a tool…

And this is where you reach that realm: The Realm of Gods & Kings!

And then you will see them for the first time in a way you had never seen them. Yes, you had always heard of them, known them: but you had never understood them. Now, you understand them. Feel them.

They are the ones who drove you around like cattle. There you will see them and tremble at the sight. Tremble at your ignorance: they are the same kings, priests, philosophers, scholars and merchants that you were taught about. That you were preached about. Who were praised and venerated. Revered. Followed by thousands of you on Twitter!

Yes, you, you do think and talk to your buddies (same as you) about your big ideas — Where did this all come from, where might it be headed; what if life and what is existence; does god exist ; do aliens exist; democracy rules! — wear pendants and tikas, sit on your yogic postures chanting om, close your eyes and pray, sing, etc. but you do that with a vicious unconsciousness. Yes, you may talk and write about Plato, but you do it without a clue, without a sense. You are just a babbler, an unconscious machine. Going bla bla bla. Talking much but realizing nothing!

But guess what: they aren’t! They are your Gods and Kings!

You had once questioned god with your friends while smoking ganja on top of that hill, hadn’t you? Now, here you have it: Plato is your god, so is Buddha, Ashoka, Alexander and Napoleon! And so is Hawking. So are Jobs and Gates: Your gods and kings. For they set the rules. They watch you move. They decide your fate. They are in the realm of gods & kings, and you — you poor normal guy: aren’t! You are just normal. A normal tool. Nothing. You are dispensable. Manageable. Organizable. You, you normal person!

And then you think you are a democratic citizen of whatever your country. You talk of your vote, and your rights, and your activities.

Here’s to democracy:

Only when each and every human individual reaches the realm of gods & kings, will democracy even begin to be practical.

Until then:

Dream on, Run from bombs and surveillance!

Follow on, Praise on!

As to education:

Well, they removed this secret from the curriculum a long-long time ago!

The Real Philosophy

real philosophy

Philosophy’s task is to Understand and Guide Life and the World. That is what Real Philosophy is and should be.

Philosophy in general tends to get a bad rap in our times. Almost to the extent of getting bullied by the scientific community. In fact, philosophy has been getting it for a long-long time. Paraphrasing Kant, ‘she used to be the queen once, but not since long’, Understandably so!

After the advent of the scientific method and its apparent successes in the form of Copernicus’ model, Galileo’s observations and most importantly Newton’s calculations, philosophy in Europe quietly hung its head low and retreated to the back side of the scholarly ‘classroom’. Literally too, the success of science and its use to the states at around the 17th century along with the growing irrelevance of church and theological speculations meant philosophy had no place in what used to be the highest level of learning — which it used to share for a lot of years with theology. Understandably so!

Philosophy had no business meddling in things that were empirical in nature. Things of matter. It never had. The scientific method was destined for that. And once it arrived, philosophy had to retreat.

Yes, there have been philosophical roars and explosions now and then after the advent of the scientific age but they haven’t been intense enough, they haven’t been loud enough, they haven’t been impactful enough. Apart from: in the social, cultural and ‘life’ domains.

An example is Nietzsche. He was good and impactful because he didn’t speculate much on the nature of atoms, or the color of stars. Or even if he did, he wasn’t promoting it as loud as superman. He was a good thinker of human thoughts, nature, culture and understanding — the domains not accessible to science. That’s why he was good. He was doing real philosophy.

Real Philosophy for me then is philosophy in its truest sense: love of wisdom.

And wisdom is the ability and the state of mind where everything (notice the word everything) is taken as a whole and reasonable (notice the term reasonable) observations and conclusions are drawn from it. This is where philosophy is good. This is where philosophy is relevant and this is where philosophy is beautiful. The end goal of philosophy is life. That is: The Everything. Human Life. Animal Life. Machine Life. Whatever life. But Life. Not life in an organic sense but life in a subjective sense. And whenever philosophy focuses on life, it wins. It becomes relevant and it makes bloody sense.

Let’s take Plato. His works have multiple dimensions. He has talked about all sorts of things from Government to God to Education to Arts. I find Republic to be an extremely valuable and life changing piece of work, but Timaeus feels tedious, vague and nonsense. Whenever he talks about how people work or how society should operate; about the types of people present and about the use of art or war in human affairs: he is solid. He is there. Making sense. Changing thoughts and lives. Breaking shackles. Un-ignorable. Same is with the Allegory of the cave. We take something to be true, but what if it isn’t: this is the domain of skepticism, about our tendency to mistake things false as real — it’s about illusions and deceptions. It’s bloody good! False perceptions can have dire consequences in life. One human doesn’t need to experiment by jumping off a cliff to know that one cannot fly. It is common sense. It is pre-science. It is Real Philosophy. It is Plato. But when he starts talking about how the earth — which is our nurse, clinging around the pole which is extended through the universe — he comes un-believable and ignorable.

Similar is Schopenhauer. In his seminal work, The World as Will and Idea, look how bloody genius he is when he is talking about Arts and their use for us in life. And then compare that with his preoccupation with wanting to find the material and ideal source of it all — he goes astray and never becomes the genius thinker again. He seems like a mere copywriter of Upanishads and Buddhism.

Staying with those latter two, my experiences with them too have been similar. They are relevant and working as long as they are addressing life in general. About the misery. About the absurdity of desires, etc. But as soon as they venture into expressing how the universe may be working, how the earth may have come about — they look stupid.

Real Philosophy then is a subject that deals from the most general POV. With Wisdom. About life. Let science rant about The Big Bang Theory, the duty of philosophy is to check its relevance to our lives. Point out the theory’s absurdity for the mind, life and society. Laugh at science’s over-ambitions and faults. Be sarcastic if needed. Bring everything that is overrated back to size.

Real philosophy’s duty is not to compete with science. It’s is to guide and nurture science. An aging grandfather may not be able to outrun his granddaughter who is breaking records in local running competitions — and he shouldn’t try — because it’s not his job! His job is to tell her what she is doing right and what of hers is wrong and guide her appropriately. Tell her what over ambition will do to her life. Share experiences. Tell her what in life is of value at the end of it all. Show her the meaning of race in the context of her life. That’s the role of real philosophy and its presence for humans is eternal. Unlike the analogical human grandfather however, philosophy will only die with humanity and will only get wiser the as humanity ages.

For instance, let Neuroscience or psychology — the scientific embodiments of age old philosophical question of mind-body — do their work. See where they lead. Patiently. If they stumble upon a problem that is not empirical in nature but is epistemological, tell what may have been wrong in the approach. Guide those sciences. Don’t go around forming new speculations about what mind may be. Don’t go around promoting simulation theories. Those will lead nowhere. Science is philosophy’s child, there is no need to be competitive. Without philosophy, science wouldn’t have been born, without philosophy humans might not be around for long! That’s enough of pride for real philosophy!

As humans sit on their rockets and fly above, pump their data into their computers and a new being create, take more and more control of earth and its surrounding: many-many challenges await. Numerous problems will this race and other creatures face. If you leave it all to science, the chances are: either everything will be mechanical or dead. This is where real philosophy shall step in. To keep the real human engine running, to keep things alive. To think about and better life. It should show the significance of various things to people and all beings capable of seeing. It should teach to be critical, skeptic. It should explain the value of everything. It should be able to talk about the impact of learning and knowledge. Importance of virtue. Context of greed, lust and everything of the likes. About the good and the bad.

It is something no university can/should teach. Because it’s no business of organizations driven by various motives to be teaching life to people! Whenever they have tried, they have failed. Let them create their workforce for states and corporations. Real philosophy should be kept away from all these temporary structures. Its work is to contextualize and guide all thoughts and actions.

It is real and it has always come out of real thinkers. Call it Real Philosophy, Philosophy OR Thinking: the choice is yours.

Cheers to Lichtenberg — One Real Philosopher!

How Essential is Learning?
The People of Learning

learning is essential

A quick glance of known/believed human history will reveal to us one constant: Learning is essential. Vital. Crucial!

Learning in the sense of:

the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, attitudes, and preferences.

But another quick glance will reveal to us one more constant: learning has never been much popular among the masses. Yes, the populace has gathered a fact here, a fact there, and have been informed, but that cannot be said to be learning. Similarly, learning has had to face obstacles from many sources.

Yet, humans have been — time and again — able to learn and generate new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, attitudes, and preferences with the load of all those people carried by a selected few in all time and place. Those carriers are the people of learning. Therefore, the value of learning and people of learning is constant.

We might never know the individual(s) who first came up with the understanding of the process of bipedal walking, fire production, stone tools manufacturing; language, art— yet looking at trends of how men have learned in recorded history, we can safely assume that there was someone somewhere who first converted an event of natural occurrence into a method. Who first converted phenomenon to knowledge. Crisis into solution. Despair into fascination. Those who did all these were people of learning.

It is those people of learning who first had the idea of viewing natural items as gods. Irrespective of civilization, this has been common. We might look upon that as weakness today, but for that time and place, this was learning: understanding, knowing, the world. You can’t call them weak. If that view didn’t happen, then who knows what would have happened! They had a way to turn fear into some kind of control. Those people of learning!

Similarly, it was peoples of learning who first had the idea of organizing pre-civilizations scattered societies into an order — once the number of folks increased. This too has been a constant in multiple civilizations. You might call it natural, I call it the doing of peoples of learning. Remove them from the equation, and we might not have been sitting here writing and reading on Medium.

And likewise, the peoples of learning came up with centralized power, religious rites, aesthetic buildings, laws, etc. And it was the same people who with their learning came up with the idea of things as diverse as citizenship, republic, and reason.

Indeed the rest is history. History made and interpreted by peoples of learning.

Without the people of learning, there might have been no history. You might say, there might have been a better history, but how? show me!

Irrespective of the moods of the temples, states, monarchs, councils, universities…People of learning have stood and shined.

Here today and heading to the future, uncertainties abound. Anxiety, paranoia, and stupidity reign supreme. That’s just the way we perceive natural things. But of course, here we are people of learning. Let’s understand and DECIDE where things shall go. Where we shall go. These kinds of shaping’s have always been the task of peoples of learning. Now it’s the time for current peoples of learning.

Let’s decide the fate of us all — our mind, life, earth, and everything else. If we won’t, then who will? — — Machines of Learning?

Two Contrasting Questions


For me there are two contrasting questions. Never in harmony!


The Crisis of Goethe’s Faust

The opening few pages of The First Part of the Tragedy in Goethe’s Faust is where Faust laments and complains. This I call the Faust crisis as it expresses his state of mind – confused, dissatisfied with a willingness to change into something, anything.

This part is what attracted and still attracts me to Faust so I thought I should take this opportunity to understand what exactly is the issue with him – in the process, trying to understand what exactly is the issue with me such that is attracted me to the text.

So, what is his problem?

The situation is thus:

It is night time and Faust is in his ‘high-vaulted narrow Gothic room.’ He is seated at his desk and is restless. And then he begins.

He says he has studied medicine, law and philosophy and worked his way through every school. He has even studied Theology and sweated like a fool. And then he asks himself:

Why labour at it any more?

This feeling of not wanting anything anymore would imply someone has either accomplished something or has realized the incapability of the self or futility of something.

And then he answers:

You’re no wiser than you were before.

Which makes it clear that all those learnings have been futile for him. He pursued them to get wise, but apparently he doesn’t think he has become that.

This has got me questioning: is it because the subjects are futile or it is because Faust is incapable?

He then goes on to reveal that he is a Master of Arts and a doctor too. But he doesn’t value those accomplishments much, as he believes – for ten long years, all he has been able to do is lead his students a fearful dance through a maze of error and ignorance.

And then comes his conclusion after admitting that he is miserable:

There is nothing we can ever know.

The use of we clearly suggests that he is not someone who suffers from self-doubt. He confidently proclaims the fault is in the learner itself. The human inability, rather than the inability of the texts or Faust.

This confidence is verified as he goes on to admit that he is brighter than all relics, professors and doctors; scribblers and clerics. He isn’t troubled by any doubts or scruples and has defied hell and the devil too. But he no longer enjoys self-delusion and says that his search for truth ends in confusion.

His personal affect aside, he is not too positive on the impact of his teachings on society too. He tells himself not to imagine that his teaching will,

ever raise the minds of men or change their ways.

At this point, the Faustian crisis is defined:

We humans can neither know anything nor can develop our minds and change our ways in anything. Yet he has spent his entire life trying to know and do such things. 

Now, it is understandable why someone would feel this way when he has spent so much of his time and life pursuing something that he realizes is vain and has led him nowhere. It is like a gate suddenly appearing and closing access to the upper sky for Mr. Bezos and the likes. Devastating!

This is grave pessimism. But why? Why reach that conclusion?

The character of Faust is based on a real life magician who was popularized by numerous authors during the sixteenth century. Goethe apparently took that character and created a symbolic figure who in the section that we are talking about:

  1. Doesn’t think man can know.
  2. Doesn’t think man can change.

The first part was published in 1790, around the time of Voltaire, Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and the likes. Within the European Enlightenment and before the advent of Romanticism.

I do not know much about scholarly implications, and I do not want to pretend to be or be one, but I cannot help but notice a simple pattern here: the character is fed up with a certain type of learning and wants to explore through some other means. That some other means is different from books and theories apparently. Transition from Enlightenment to Mysticism? To Romanticism, perhaps!

This assumption is backed up by what Faust says after his declaration that minds of men or their ways cannot change.

He bashes himself on the fact that despite all these efforts, he hasn’t been able to gain any worldly wealth, or honor or glory. After which he thinks of turning to a magic lore which – he hopes – will reveal some secret knowledge to him: of what makes the world revolve. Here he also says:

No more in empty words I’ll deal –

Creation’s wellsprings I’ll reveal!

He then calls his room and its stuff a ‘torture’ and expresses a desire to flee that place and walk the mountain-tops again. He wants to make his way through moonlit meadows and in mountain caves play. And then comes another bashing, calling the study ‘accursed dungeon’ where even the light of heaven can only pass through the painted glass. This here is interesting to read:

Immured behind a pile of books,

Motheaten, dusty, in the reek

Of papers stuffed in all these nooks –

This is the wisdom that you seek.

These jars and cases row and row,

Retorts and tubes and taps and gauges,

The useless junk of bygone ages –

This is the only world you know!

And he realizes, it’s no wonder he is feeling this way as all these things have sapped life’s energies.

When God created us, he founded

His living nature for our home;

But you sit in this gloom, surrounded

by mildewed skull and arid bone.

He then urges himself to escape into a wider sphere and opens a book of magic writings guided by Nostradamus. He believes now in nature, who he thinks can help us seek the paths the stars in heaven go.

After this…he opens the books and sees the Sign of the Macrocosm, an astrological diagram representing forces and influences linking the heavens, earth and man. And immediately after this, he is filled with an ecstatic joy with youthful passion glowing through his veins and nerves. His raging soul is now stilled and his empty heart is filled with joy. It is as if all nature’s forces are revealed to him. He questions if he himself is a god with his mind now so clear. He then grasps the wisdom the Seer:

The spirit world is with us still,

Your mind is closed, your heart is dead.

Up, worldly scholar, drink your fill –

At heaven’s gate the dawn is red!

He sees everything in a wholeness and the powers of heaven. He sees the universe in harmony. After this, he turns the page and sees the Sign of the Earth Spirit which inspires him more. He feels new energies, with mind glowing. He now dares to finally face the world again, and share in all its joys and pain. He wants to set his sail into the eye of the storm, before he summons a great spirit and the spirit arrives.

This transition of Faust’s mood and perception, gets me everytime. But in all this, the idea remains clear that the character has transformed from the agitations of vain scholarly pursuits towards the beauty and magic of romance and mysticism. Transition from reason to intuition. From books to nature. From vain theories to beauty. From intellectual pessimism to exploration. To try something new. Something fresh. Something joyful. Something complete. From boring philosophers to Goethe – as far as I understand him. 

Once again, I am not an academic scholar and I do not mean to be one – but these kinds of things fascinate me. Touch me. Thus my idea!

My initial goal to understand the issue with him is clear. I am sure I will have new perspectives on this as I continue to live on and learn on. As to the case of me trying to understand the cause of my fascination and attraction with this, I think it is similar:

It is me wanting to break the shackles that bind me to things of ‘reason’ (the things that ought to be done) and fly towards things of beauty, to things I love (the things that make me feel alive). 


Business and Peace

While thinking about the ongoing war in Eastern Europe and its consequences, my thought went to the businesses that are being adversely affected – along with lives in both Russia and Ukraine, with both suffering from their respective problems. How many dreams paused, threatened; how many goals destroyed; how many ideas shattered!

I am just trying to focus on business here.

One can understand how much is at stake in the execution of one. Particularly in modern times of uncertainty in everything. The risk, the hope, the plan, etc. Of course, life has more at stake – which once gone cannot be re-attained – yet business is where my thoughts are as of now. Those that are not operational due to the lack of peace. Those that have been affected by war. What would those businesses be wanting ideologically? Would they be concerned about the realpolitik? What would they support?

This took me to Ancient India, through a book called India: An Ancient Past… written by Burjor Avari.

In ancient India, after the rise of Buddhism, there were multiple instances where Buddhism as a religion was patronized, protected or supported by merchants or rulers. Especially the former.

First, it was during the Pre-Mauryan age, when Buddhist along with Jain monasteries were built which were enthusiastically received by kings, merchants and ordinary people. After that, during the time of the Satavahanas of the Deccan, there were numerous cave sites in NW Maharashtra, which housed Buddhists. There too evidence has been found of religious charities and endowments by merchants. People belonging to other professions and crafts were involved as well. And then there were other monasteries over the Satavahana Deccan, which too were established with endowments from the Andra merchants, who the writer says, ‘were some of the greatest donors.’

During the period in the history of India when the Kushans were dominant, there seemed to have been some kind of alliance between Indian merchants and Buddhist missionaries. At various places, merchants establishing their colonies and missionaries their monasteries went in parallel. The site of Ajanta caves is said to have stood in a strategic point at the merchants’ routes. Here too Buddhist monks and monasteries were richly supported by that merchant class.

Despite some mundane differences, the things in common between those ancient Indian merchants and the modern entrepreneurs are that they both work for profit, are involved in commerce and sell their goods/services. In this way, they both can be put under the umbrella term ‘business class.’

Buddhism as a philosophy – at its root – is one that talks about detachment and salvation from desires. The whole concept then builds towards disinvolvement, simplicity, knowledge, awakening – eventually culminating in nibbana. While at a first glance, this seems to be absolutely opposite to the motives of the business class, and one might ask why on earth would they be protecting and promoting such idea, anyone who knows anything about this philosophy knows that Buddhism isn’t the type of thought that reasons towards fight, ambition and war. Making it a socially passive philosophy too. An example of this is King Ashoka who, disgusted with his actions at Kalinga, adopted peaceful doctrines of Buddhism and went around building pillars and promoting the religion. He even deemed his further conquests religious.

It is quite apparent why certain groups of people in society who wouldn’t want war would want to promote and protect this philosophy of peace. Irrespective of their faith and ideology. And among them would surely be merchants and entrepreneurs – unless dealing with weapons, unless involved in a business untouched by war, or extremely opportunist. Which is a vast majority!


Life in Nepal

I had this idea to open my laptop and write in short about life in Nepal – the country of my birth and citizenship. Things to write have weird sources and this one is no different.

In regards to the people to whom I may be writing to : I had Non-Nepalese people in mind, especially the open minded and intellectual type – to provide them a glimpse of things from a relatively insignificant nation in the world. 

Well, some nations are significant. Extremely significant. While some are utterly not! While their existence and citizens in themselves are criteria for significance, I tend to look at two basic factors to decide for myself on what makes a nation/state significant or even successful: 

  1. Surviving
  2. Thriving

Surviving implies survival of the society/nation’s basis and essence: identity and peculiarity. Thriving on the other hand implies strong political, economic, cultural presence along with the ability to generate new knowledge and invent whole bunch of things. 

Surviving alone makes a society significant to itself while thriving makes it significant to others as well. Just as in the case of individual creatures. 

In this regard, Nepal is a surviving nation but a terribly non-thriving one! (It’s political, economic and cultural destiny is usually guided and at times even driven by agents that are not Nepalese.) 

That’s the first thing about Nepal: It’s an insignificant nation. (Ask every single Nepali person that you happen to meet in your country and they will validate this for you!)

Life of mere survival – on the inside – is not too amazing. It is the case of existence without meaning. You are just there existing. Surviving for the sake of survival. Nothing else. While some cases of survival are fierce: where you have to battle against adversity day in and day out; some are ordinary: you are just there because you are so insignificant that no one wants to even hurt you. Nepal is in the latter category. That is why it is the case of existence for its own sake. 

And this rubs on to you. You too are just surviving. You feel there is no larger motive and purpose. The evening sun hits you in your face, you feel warm and get drowsy. The sun goes away and you feel cold and lost. This is what happens if you get influenced by your nation. 

It is not that life out here is tough. It is dull. That’s the issue, if it was tough, you would have a purpose. If it’s dull, you just want to sleep smelling your own fart. That’s what this nation is doing and I guess that’s what most of its citizens are. 

Disposable waste generated each day from households lie shamelessly in the streets just because the bloody government can’t manage a proper landfill site, while sounds of construction equipment bombard your ears all the time from all directions. (They are apparently building houses to house KFCs and Pizza Huts). Look at the irony!  

People are obsessed with doing what they have seen Americans and Indians successfuly do in YouTube, Facebook and TikTok. Most young lads who have remained inside the country still find riding bikes at high speed is ‘cool’ and meaningful. You go talk to elderly blokes, and you will notice that their brains have stopped noticing anything in life apart from money. That’s the way it is. 

You respect the nation and decide you will live here. You go through your pains and eventually decide to make a living as a writer. No one cares. And then you write in English. You see a platform such as Medium. And when you are eligible, you realize that even Medium doesn’t care! (about your nation)

These are not talks of frustration. This is reflection. A part of reality.

See, I have things to motivate me and give my life direction and purpose. I am okay. I won’t quit and go. But at times, looking at the nation am a part of, I wonder if some nations (insignificant ones) should be allowed to quit and go!???  

Unless they can give themselves their own direction to go.