Philosophizing with Hammer

The topic came up during a midsummer night conversation with a sweet and sensitive spirit, the idea that a purely contemplative philosophy is only the dark half of philosophy, and that a philosophy in its most developed and concrete form must be committed to responsible action in the world. This should be, above all, the final form of any mature spiritual philosophy. A religion or spiritual tradition immersed and lost in contemplative attitude, limited only to monastic or purely meditative form, in other words an armchair philosophy and a cave-bound spirituality, is a halfhearted dogmatic philosophy. Contemplation, however indispensable to the evolution of the Spirit, should be but a stage for concrete action in the world.

Philosophy changes the world by changing the man or woman who philosophizes. But philosophy, the greatest of all goods, is capable of being the greatest of all evils, for it can imprison as much as it can liberate. It can submerge the philosopher by sedating him, by removing him from the sphere of change and action with the false promise of truth and immortality. No one has been so acutely aware of and cautioned us against the perils of such philosophies and spiritual practices more than Friedrich Nietzsche, the demented soul who adored the “Yes-sayers” and despised the “nay-sayers.”

Philosophy must proceed and make way with a hammer, with the rushing forth of the spirit into, and not out of, the world, and with an unstoppable vitality and all-inclusiveness rooted in Ataraxia.

It is essential in the archetype of the hero to return from his retreat to its fortress of solitude, from the mountain like Zoroaster did; he must return with a divine love and tranquility to lift up the shattered spirit of the last man, to lead him out of the cave, or to become a bridge for the becoming of the new type of man. Only in his return the hero becomes full and concrete prior to which he is nothing but an inactive and unrealized ideal.

Before the moment of spiritual realization man is an abstraction, a sleepwalker and a blind drunkard at best: It is by this very realization, in Ataraxia, that he/she becomes real and concrete; and it is again by this realization that he/she is bound to return; and He returns, knowing that Samsara is Nirvana.

7 thoughts on “Philosophizing with Hammer

  1. Yes, action is important. But without true spiritual practice, contemplation, reflection, discipline, and awakening , the action does not bring change, it’s just a band-aid. Above all, it is important to have the seed of attaining enlightenment, wisdom, spiritual knowledge for the sake of relieving the suffering of all sentient beings. And that is a philosophy grounded in compassion.


    1. Thanks sky for your comment. I would disagree with you by way of a counter-example to your argument: consider a mother who is feeding, changing, and protecting a newborn. It’s all about action but there’s no meditation or contemplation behind it. It’s in the nature of the mother. Right action, an action that changes, doesn’t necessarily require meditation. What’s required is presence in action. If an action is done with presence that by itself is a spiritual practice. The majority of the world, now and throughout history, haven’t been involved in meditation and contemplation but a good portion of them has been involved in right action or else we wouldn’t see progress. And in fact most of the people who have effected lasting change throughout history were not monks or spiritual leaders. Enlightenment in the sense pursued among some, particularly presented in the West, can be turned into more of an egotistical pursuit in which the individual puts his/her own so-called spiritual practice before right action in the world.

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      1. Toomajj – I don’t disagree with you about the importance of action and you failed to see my emphasis was on the importance of the intention and practice of compassion as the seed for any action. A mother who feeds her baby is acting from love and compassion. As we know there are some mothers who do not do that. Also, on the deepest level of the meaning of spiritual, that which transcends our material and physical presence in this world, wisdom and strength to effect real and lasting change is based in some type of consistent and deep spiritual practice. All of the leaders, prophets, or spiritual teachers from Buddha, to Jesus, to Muhammad, and all the great Indian masters spent some time in contemplation or meditation. And the fact remains, despite all of their great work and the spiritual traditions and religions following their teachings, human beings continue to suffer from delusions and poisons of greed, desire, hatred, anger, and ignorance. And spiritual teachers continue to manifest in human form to take the actions of guiding humans out of compassion. Compassion is the essential seed and power to make any action effective. And you know, this physical life is meant as a cauldron for every person to free themselves of their poisons and limitations and realize the boundless freedom of spiritual reality which is totally based in compassion for all.

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      2. I see your point and agree with it. I would say we are both emphasizing a balance between action and contemplation. I have seen attempts at contemplative life gone wrong as in our solitude there is as much good as there is evil; there is God fully present along with our ego, so solitude and an apparent contemplative life can be hijacked by the ego without the person knowing it. On the other hand, impulsive action without compassion too can be a vehicle of the ego. So a balance is good but I am mostly inclined toward compassion rather than contemplation. A mother moved with her compassion in protecting a child has not acquired that compassion in solitude or contemplation but it is intrinsic to her consciousness. I have found many good deeds springing from people without them being meditators or people of contemplative sort but rather being compassionate by their nature. My point is that spontaneous, compassionate action does not necessarily require contemplation, meditation, or any sort of spiritual practice tied to a tradition. An atheist is equally capable of being self-less and compassionate as a frequent meditator is capable of being egotistic and self-absorbed or prideful.

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  2. In total agreement. Though I do know that highly realized spiritual practitioners are able to act in spiritual ways to help people that we are not aware of. And sometimes their ways are not understood by us.

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