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Coomaraswamy: Spectator

sábado 17 de março de 2018


Conceive that the right lines of vision by which the Spectator is linked to each separated performer, and along which each performer might look upward (inward) to the Spectator if only his powers of vision sufficed, are lines of force, or the strings by which the puppet-master moves the puppets for himself (who is the whole audience). Each of the performing puppets is convinced of its own independent existence and of itself as one amongst others, which it sees in its own immediate environment and which it distinguishes by name, appearance, and behavior. The Spectator does not, and cannot, see the performers as they see themselves, imperfectly, but he knows the being of each one of them as it really is—that is to say, not merely as effective in a given local position, but simultaneously at every point along the line of visual force by which the puppet is connected with himself, and primarily at that point at which all lines converge and where the being of all things coincides with being in itself. There the being of the puppet subsists as an eternal reason in the eternal intellect—otherwise called the Supernal Sun, the Light   of lights, Spirit   and Truth.

Suppose now that the Spectator goes   to sleep: when he closes his eyes the universe disappears, to reappear only when he opens them again. The opening of eyes (“Let there be light”) is called in religion the act of creation, but in metaphysics   it is called manifestation, utterance, or spiration (to shine, to utter, and to blow being one and the same thing in divinis)·, the closing of eyes is called in religion the “end of the world,” but in metaphysics it is called concealment, silence, or despiration. For us, then, there is an alternation or evolution and involution. But for the central Spectator there is no succession of events. He is always awake and always asleep; unlike the sailor who sometimes sits and thinks and sometimes does not think, our Spectator sits and thinks, and does not think, nowever.

A picture has been drawn of the cosmos and its overseeing “Eye.” I have only omitted to say that the Held is divided by concentric fences which may conveniently, although not necessarily, be thought of as twenty-one in number. The Spectator is thus at the twenty-first remove from the outermost fence bv which our present environment is defined. Each player’s or groundling’s performance is confined to the possibilities that are represented by the space between two fences. There he is born and there he dies  . Let us consider this born being, So-and-so, as he is in himself and as he believes himself to be—“an animal  , reasoning and mortal  ; that I know, and that I confess myself to be,” as Boethius   expresses it. So-and-so does not conceive that he can move to and fro in time as he will, but knows that he is getting older every day, whether he likes it or not. On the other hand, he does conceive that in some other respects he can do what he likes, so far as this is not prevented by his environment—for example, by a stone wall, or a policeman, or contemporary mores  . He does not realize that this environment of which he is a part, and from which he cannot except himself, is a causally determined environment; that it does what it does because of what has been done. He does not realize that he is what he is and does what he does because others before him have been what they were and have done what they did, and all this without any conceivable beginning. He is quite literally a creature of circumstances, an automaton  , whose behavior could have been foreseen and wholly explained by an adequate knowledge of past causes, now represented by the nature of things—his own nature included. This is the well  -known doctrine of karma  , a doctrine of inherent fatality, which is stated as follows by the Bhagavad Gītā, xviii.20, “Bound by the working (karma) of a nature that is born in thee and is thine own, even that which thou desirest not to do thou doest willy-nilly.” So-and-so is nothing but one link in a causal chain of which we cannot imagine a beginning or an end. There is nothing here that the most pronounced determinist can disagree with. The metaphysician—who is not, like the determinist, a “nothing-morist” (nãstiha) —merely points out at this stage that only the working of life, the manner of its perpetuation, can thus be causally explained; that the existence of a chain of causes presumes the logically prior possibility of this existence— in other words, presumes a first cause which cannot be thought of as one amongst other mediate causes, whether in place or time.

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