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Philosophy and Theology

Philosophy and Theology

There have been countless great philosophers and theologians; here are a few notable examples:

  • Plato: Greek philosopher and student of Socrates is known for his works on metaphysics, ethics, politics, and epistemology.

  • Aristotle: Greek philosopher and student of Plato is known for his contributions to logic, metaphysics, ethics, politics, and biology.

  • George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866–1949) was an Armenian philosopher, mystic, spiritual teacher, and composer. He was of Armenian and Greek descent and was born in Alexandropoulos, Russia.

  • His instruction is called "The Work." In principle, it is training in the development of consciousness. Gurdjieff used several methods, music, movements, writings, lectures, and innovative group and individual instruction.

  • Thomas Aquinas: Italian theologians and philosophers are known for synthesizing Christian theology and Aristotelian philosophy.

  • Immanuel Kant: German philosopher known for his works on metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, and aesthetics.

  • Friedrich Nietzsche: German philosopher is known for his critiques of traditional morality, religion, and philosophy and his ideas on the will to power and the Ubermensch.

  • Jean-Paul Sartre: French philosopher is known for his contributions to existentialism and his works on freedom, choice, and human responsibility.

  • Augustine of Hippo: North African theologians and philosophers are known for their works on theology, ethics, and the nature of God.

  • Baruch Spinoza: Dutch philosopher known for his works on metaphysics, ethics, and politics and his rejection of Cartesian dualism.

  • René Descartes: French philosopher is known for his works on metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of mind, and his famous phrase "Cogito, ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am").

Plato

Plato was a Greek philosopher who lived in the 4th century BCE and is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the history of Western philosophy. His philosophy is characterized by a belief in objective reality, abstract forms or ideas, and the pursuit of knowledge through reason and dialectic. Plato believed that the material world is constantly changing and imperfect and that actual reality can only be accessed through the mind. He thought that abstract forms or ideas, such as justice, beauty, and truth, exist independently of physical objects and can only be grasped through the intellect.​

Plato's most famous work is The Republic, in which he describes his ideal society based on justice, wisdom, and virtue. He argued that the best society would be one in which the rulers were philosopher-kings trained in philosophy and deeply understood the abstract forms that underlie reality. Plato's philosophy has profoundly influenced the development of Western thought, particularly in metaphysics, ethics, and political theory.​

Plato on Contemplation

Plato's views on religion and spirituality were rooted in his belief that a more profound, spiritual reality existed beyond the physical world. He believed that the physical world was constantly changing and imperfect, whereas the spiritual reality was unchanging and perfect. This spiritual reality was accessible through reason and contemplation, providing a basis for morality and virtue. Plato believed that the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge was a form of spiritual practice that could lead individuals to a deeper understanding of the nature of reality. He thought knowledge of the Forms, which represented objective reality in a way accessible to human reason, was the only true knowledge. This knowledge could only be gained through the process of dialectic, in which individuals engage in a process of questioning and reasoning to arrive at true beliefs about the world.

 

In Plato's philosophy, a supreme being or divine intelligence was the ultimate source of all knowledge and goodness. This divine intelligence was the source of the Forms and represented the objective reality that underlies the physical world. Through reason and contemplation, individuals could gain knowledge of the Forms, and this knowledge could guide them in their pursuit of morality and virtue.​​

Overall, Plato's views on religion and spirituality were characterized by a belief in a deeper spiritual reality that transcended the physical world and a belief in the importance of reason and contemplation in accessing this reality. He saw the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge as a form of spiritual practice that could lead individuals to a deeper understanding of the nature of reality and was critical of traditional religious beliefs and practices that were not grounded in reason or empirical evidence.

Aristotle

Aristotle (384-322 BCE) was a Greek philosopher, scientist, and polymath who significantly contributed to various fields, including logic, metaphysics, ethics, politics, biology, and physics. He was born in Stagira, a small town in northern Greece, and was the son of the court physician to the Macedonian royal family. At the age of 17, Aristotle moved to Athens to study under the famous philosopher Plato at the Academy. After spending 20 years at the Academy, he left and traveled to Asia Minor and eventually became the tutor to Alexander the Great, who later became the king of Macedonia. 

 

Following Alexander's death, Aristotle returned to Athens and founded his school, the Lyceum, where he continued to teach and conduct research until his death. His teachings and writings profoundly influenced Western philosophy and science, and his work was widely studied and debated for centuries after his death. Aristotle's legacy includes his vast body of written works covering various topics and remaining influential today. Some of his most famous works include "Nicomachean Ethics," "Politics," "Metaphysics," and "Organon." He is also known for his system of logic, which has been called the first formal logic system, and for his scientific observations and classifications of the natural world, which were highly influential in the development of Western science.​​

Aristotle's Religious Theories

 

Aristotle's religious theories are complex and challenging to fully understand due to the lack of complete and precise records of his writings on the subject. However, here are some of his critical ideas regarding religion. Aristotle believed in the existence of a supreme being, which he referred to as the "unmoved mover." He thought that this divine being was responsible for the motion and order in the universe.​ Aristotle also believed in teleology, which is the idea that everything in the universe has a purpose or goal. He argued that the ultimate goal of all things was to achieve a state of perfection, which he referred to as eudaimonia.​

Aristotle believed that religion played an important role in society as a means of promoting morality and social cohesion. He argued that religion could provide a framework for understanding human life's purpose and encourage people to pursue virtuous behavior. Despite his belief in the importance of religion, Aristotle was critical of some traditional religious beliefs. For example, he rejected the idea of an afterlife, arguing that the soul was not immortal and that death was the end of human existence. Aristotle's religious theories were closely tied to his ideas about metaphysics and ethics. While he believed in the existence of a divine being and the importance of religion in promoting moral behavior, he also challenged some traditional religious beliefs. He sought to develop a more rational and logical understanding of the nature of the universe.​​

Aristotle's Metaphysics Theories

 

Aristotle's metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that explores the nature of reality beyond the physical world. Aristotle believed that all things have a "substance," which is their essential nature or identity. He also thought that four causes explain the existence and nature of things: material cause, formal cause, efficient cause, and final cause. Aristotle argued that everything in the physical world comprises matter and form. Matter is the material from which something is made, while the form is the structure or organization of that matter. According to Aristotle, the form of something gives it its identity or essence.​

Aristotle also proposed the idea of potentiality and actuality. He believed that all things have the potential to become something else, but only through actualization can that potential be realized. For example, an acorn has the potential to become an oak tree, but it must go through a process of growth and development to actualize that potential. In addition, Aristotle proposed the idea of the "unmoved mover," which he believed was the ultimate cause of all motion and change in the universe. He argued that this unmoved mover was pure actuality, without any potentiality, and that it was the cause of all other causes.

 

Overall, Aristotle's metaphysics is a complex and comprehensive system that explores the fundamental nature of reality and the principles that govern it. His ideas have profoundly influenced Western philosophy and continue to be studied and debated today.​

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff

 

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866–1949) was an Armenian philosopher, mystic, spiritual teacher, and composer. He was of Armenian and Greek descent and was born in Alexandropoulos, Russia.

 

His instruction is called "The Work." In principle, it is training in the development of consciousness. Gurdjieff used several methods, music, movements, writings, lectures, and innovative group and individual instruction. Part of the function of these various methods was to undermine and undo the ingrained conditioning and habit patterns of the mind and bring about moments of insight. Since each individual has different requirements, Gurdjieff adapted and innovated as a student's circumstance required. He kept his teaching confined to a small circle in Russia but gave numerous public presentations in Paris and North America.

 

Gurdjieff taught that most humans do not possess a unified consciousness and thus live their lives in a state of hypnotic "waking sleep." But he believed it is possible to awaken to a higher state of consciousness and achieve full human potential. Gurdjieff taught people how to increase and focus their attention and energy in various ways and minimize daydreaming and absentmindedness. According to his teaching, this inner development of oneself is the beginning of a process of change, which aims to transform people into what they ought to be.

 

According to Gurdjieff, only one dimension of the three dimensions, namely, the emotions, physical body, or mind, is the focus of traditional spirituality. This standard practice is at the expense of the other faculties or centers, as Gurdjieff called them. As a result, these practices fail to produce a properly balanced human being. He taught that higher levels of consciousness, inner growth, and development are real possibilities.

 

Instead of developing body, mind, or emotions separately, Gurdjieff's methods worked on all three to promote comprehensive and balanced inner development. However, Gurdjieff taught that a person must expend considerable effort to effect the transformation that leads to awakening. Gurdjieff also argued that many existing religious and spiritual traditions had lost their connection with their original spiritual knowledge. As a result, humans failed to understand the truths of ancient teachings and are more and more in a state of "waking sleep." At best, the various surviving sects and schools could provide only a one-sided development, which did not result in a fully integrated human being.

Key Terms in "The Fourth Way"

 

Present here and now: Conscious Labor (effort) is an action where the person performing the act is present to what he is doing, not absentminded.

Intentional suffering: Intentional suffering is the act of struggling against conditioned behavior such as daydreaming, pleasure, eating for reasons other than real hunger, etc. To Gurdjieff, conscious labor (effort) and intentional suffering are the basis of the evolution of man.

Self-observation: Self-observation is the observation of one's behavior and habits. To observe thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judging or analyzing.

The need for effort: Awakening results from a consistent, prolonged effort.

Centers

 

Gurdjieff classified plants as having one center, animals as two, and humans as three.

Centers refer to systems within a being that dictates specific organic functions. 

There are three main centers: intellectual, emotional, and physical.

There are two higher centers: higher emotional and higher intellectual.

 

Body, Essence, and Personality

Gurdjieff divided people's being into Essence and Personality.

Essence – is a natural part of a person; this is the part of a being that can evolve.

Personality – is everything artificial that he has "learned" and "seen."

The Law of Seven – 1st Cosmic Law

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The essential use of the Law of Seven explains why nothing in nature and life constantly occurs in a straight line. All show parabolic periods that keep rising and falling. If introduced at the right time, keeping a process in a straight line is possible if the necessary "shocks" occur.

 

The Law of Threes – 2nd Cosmic Law

 

This Law applies to everything in the universe, humanity, and structures and processes. This Law states that every phenomenon comprises three separate sources: Active, Passive, Reconciling, or Neutral.  There are Three Centers in a human, Intellectual Centre Emotional Centre, and Moving Centre. The transformation process requires three actions affirmation, denial, and reconciliation. Gurdjieff taught his students to think of the Law of Three forces as essential to transforming the energy of the human being. 

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