Hard Going and Simply Rational discuss verse 2 of the verses ‘The Five Natures’ (blog entry 71) which goes in translation: I’m the reasonable, who must be gentle; / the world demands we don’t yield to the beast – / keep to the rules and you’ll be happy and wealthy.
Argyll Lichen
(Photo: Scott Murray)

The rational aspect
SR: You were going to tell me what you mean by the ‘reasonable’ mode or aspect.
HG: Yes, for me, it’s a very interesting category because I believe it’s very much part of today’s Zeitgeist and has been for hundreds of years. It came into prominence in the 18th century at the time of the Enlightenment with the great stress on reason. But at a personal level what it means is that there is a predominance of the thinking faculty at the expense of aspects like intuition, feeling, sensation and what I’ll call for now the mystical apprehension. Of course, it doesn’t mean that these other aspects are completely missing, it just means that the intellectual or rational is more pronounced.
SR: And what harm does that do? As your verse implies, being reasonable means being kind to others, not yielding to wrong desires and being happy and well off. I think that probably sums up the type of person I am!
HG: I wouldn’t argue with that. You know I think a great deal of you … there is only one problem, if I can put it like that …

Reason and the Enlightenment
SR: And what’s that?
HG: You’re completely self-sufficient. You think this world is all there is. You’re an immanence person. There is no extramundane dimension to your world. You’re part of the majority Zeitgeist.
SR: You’re right, I believe in common sense. Common sense and reason tell us that this life is all there is. You kick the bucket and like all other animals we die and perish. End of story. I know you don’t believe that, but then you’re a romantic!
HG: You sound very much like an Enlightenment person, with your stress on reason and sound common sense.
SR: You’re right, I’ve a great respect for the Enlightenment and for science. Can’t you all around you see the great benefits that have accrued, better transport, electricity, medicine, communications, comfortable homes and a thousand other modern conveniences.
In amongst the heather
(Photo: Scott Murray)

Realist or prophet of doom
HG: I agree, the achievements of science have been wonderful , but how do you respond if I say that the attitude of mind you represent, the purely humanist attitude will inevitably lead to disaster for humanity and the individual person.
SR: (laughs) You are a prophet of doom, aren’t you? We have come out of the middle ages, with all their disastrous supernaturalism, and you want to drag us back there.
HG: No, if you open your eyes, the disaster is happening now.

The symptoms of disease
SR: O come on! You’ve never had it so good.
HG: Even if the world, temporal reality, was even as you naively think it is, that is, that there is no extramundane dimension, you would still be very much mistaken if you think everything is going fine. For the sake of the argument, let’s even take it on your own terms as a humanist. If I were a humanist, I’d be very worried about a number of things that are happening in the world right now. Do you want me to continue?
SR: Carry on, you’re bursting to tell me the bad news.
HG: I’ll only tell you the symptoms of what is at root a spiritual disease. The symptoms, because they’re easily seen. Later, if you want, we can discuss the spiritual disease itself. The first symptom is the dreadful disparity between the haves and the have nots. The system is designed to make the rich people richer and to keep the poor poor.
SR: It’s called capitalism.
HG: Whatever we call it, it’s a diabolical system: companies and corporations whose chief end is making profit for shareholders. The slave workers get a pittance, the earth’s resources are raped and destroyed, the oceans are polluted with plastic waste and animal species are greatly reduced or wiped out. And perhaps the greatest threat of all – the pollution from nuclear power stations.
Seaweed under water
(Photo: Scott Murray)

An imbalance in the psyche
SR: I agree there are problems but man is inventive, he will find a solution to the problems. And, anyway, what has Verse 2, the ‘reasonable’ to do with all this?
HG: Everything, my friend, everything. The imbalance is in the psyche; the link with ideality, with the extramundane, with God , has been brushed aside. The world isn’t seen as sacred any more but to be used as a resource for profit. The imbalance means that neither the intuitive nor mystical vision nor even the moral are given their place. As I said, this started in the West with the Enlightenment, and putting the intellect, or reason, before everything.
SR: So you think, O great prophet of doom! that we have reached the tipping point; that the end is nigh!

The nuclear issue
HG: You might laugh, but think of Fukushima, among the 25 biggest nuclear plants in the world and severely damaged by the 2011 earthquake and the subsequent tsunami. It will take 30 to 40 years to clean it up. What if there were another major earthquake or tsunami in the area in the next decade. I shudder to think what would happen.
SR: Look, despite all you say, and I agree with some of it, homes have to be heated and lit, factories have to produce goods. What do you propose? What system should we put in its place? That we should live in caves.
HG: I don’t know, perhaps it’s past the tipping point. But for the individual it’s clear enough.
SR: What do mean?
HG: A person can believe or not believe that there’s a lot more to life than reason.
SR: You’re talking about faith, aren’t you? Can we leave that for another time.
HG: Okay, whenever you want.

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