October 1, 2016

1. The Problem of Evil

One of the oldest problems in philosophy is the Problem of Evil. How can a God who is infinitely wise, good, and powerful allow evil and suffering in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people?

In my view, the Problem of Evil no longer exists. Once we abandon the idea of an infinitely wise, good, and powerful God, then the Problem of Evil disappears. If we abandon the idea of a Divine Architect, we can replace it with the idea of a world arising gradually, growing slowly like a plant, affected by random events like the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs. If we see the world in this way, if we have a Plant Worldview instead of an Architect Worldview, then we won’t expect the world to be moral and pleasant, we won’t have any preconceived idea of what the world should be, we’ll accept it as it is. The world is what it is. Among animals, there’s frequent death and suffering, so should it surprise us to find a similar situation among people?

Many of the questions that engaged earlier philosophers no longer exist, no longer interest today’s philosophers. In an earlier issue, I discussed Plato’s two questions, “Why did God create the world? Why are there so many species?” I responded to Plato thus:

Lovejoy points out that these questions imply that there is a reason for the world, and for the diversity of life; in other words, these questions imply that the world is rational.... Since I don’t regard the world as rational, I regard the Two Big Questions as the wrong questions. Since I don’t believe that God created the world, there’s no point asking “Why did God create the world? Why did God create so many species?” The world grew and developed and evolved by itself, according to its own tendency, its own order, its own energy. If you want to call this tendency/order/energy “God,” I have no objection.

So today’s philosophers aren’t interested in many of the questions that engaged earlier philosophers. Today’s philosophers try to understand the world as it is, rather than looking for reasons — a reason for evil, a reason for God to create the world, a reason for the multitude of species. When you break with monotheism and rationalism, you see the world differently.

That doesn’t mean, however, that today’s philosophers break with the past in general. Indeed, one might ask, Was there ever a time when philosophers had such broad sympathies, broad interests? Today’s philosophers respect primitive wisdom, from all corners of the world, and they respect Eastern wisdom (India, China, Japan, etc.), and they respect the Hermetic Tradition (the non-rational tradition) in Western civilization. Lastly, today’s philosophers respect the religious tradition — Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc. — believing that these ancient religions contain much wisdom, as well as much that’s false and restricting. Today’s philosophers deal with many of the same things that these ancient religions deal with — visions and voices, prophetic dreams, the unseen world, life after death, synchronicity, etc.

In their heyday, these ancient religions were great tools for spiritual growth. Now, however, they restrict spiritual growth. The young Muslim who memorizes the Koran shows how an ancient religion can restrict spiritual growth — he focuses on words rather than realities, his education is narrow and backward-looking. Likewise, when Einstein saw orthodox Jews at the Wailing Wall, he said, “these are people with a past but no future.” The ancient religions try to freeze spiritual life, try to preserve ancestral traditions, instead of embracing change and growth. We need to break with the old monotheisms, we need new approaches to spiritual life.

2. Three Leaps

According to the Philosophy of Today, the world is fundamentally mysterious, not fundamentally rational. The unconscious can leap over space and time, and this is baffling to reason. Space, time, and causality aren’t absolute, as common sense says; rather, they’re illusory. As Kant said, space, time, and causality aren’t part of the thing-in-itself, they’re merely categories of the human mind. According to reason, space, time, and causality are linear; reason can’t understand how it’s possible to break through this linear form, and sense the faraway, anticipate the future, and connect events acausally.

A. The Leap Over Space

Telepathy is a leap over space. If I’m killed in a car accident, my mother, who is more than a hundred miles away, will feel that something is wrong, perhaps will feel that I’ve died. When Heinrich Mann’s sister committed suicide, he heard her call him, though she was in Germany and he was in Italy. “I was strolling,” said Heinrich Mann, “all was still; then I was called; from the house, I thought. So little prepared was I, that in the first moment it did not occur to me: no one here calls me by my given name.”1

Telepathy is so common that even people who are skeptical of the occult have difficulty denying telepathy. When Freud began studying the occult, telepathy was the first branch of the occult that he believed in. Contemporary researchers like Dean Radin can easily demonstrate the reality of telepathy in a laboratory setting.

Imaginative writers are fascinated by telepathy, and write about it often. One of Ibsen’s characters says, “If I happen to look at her when her back is turned, I can tell that she feels it.... She believed I had said to her what I had only wished and willed — silently — inwardly — to myself.”2 Dostoyevsky was also fascinated by telepathy, by the power of the mind; one of his characters says,

I did not speak of it directly.... I spoke almost without words. And I am an old hand at speaking without words. I have spent all my life speaking without words. I have lived through whole tragedies without uttering a word.3

Telepathy shows not only that the unconscious is connected, not only that man is connected, but that the whole universe is connected. The connectedness that we experience in telepathy is part of the larger connectedness of the universe. In the Paired Particles experiment, quantum physics shows telepathy operating between particles. The transference of thoughts and feelings by telepathic means is how man experiences the larger connectedness of the universe, it’s how man gets a peek at the essence of the universe; it reveals more about the universe than the largest particle collider.

B. The Leap Over Time

Just as telepathy is a common experience, so too it’s common for people to anticipate the future, to have a hunch about the future. Often these hunches concern death. When I discussed the Civil War, I mentioned soldiers who anticipated when they would die. I quoted a Confederate private:

Presentiment is always a mystery. The soldier may at one moment be in good spirits, laughing and talking. The wing of the death angel touches him. He knows that his time has come. It is but a question of time with him then. He knows that his days are numbered. I cannot explain it.

When I discussed World War II, I found the same anticipations of the future. I also discussed anticipation in connection with sports.

Jung had a waking dream (a hallucination) of World War I before it started. Jung spoke of, “the relativization of time and space in the unconscious.”4 Goethe once anticipated an event that happened eight years later: after leaving a woman named Friederike, he

saw his double riding towards him, “not with the eyes of the body but of the spirit”... Eight years later Goethe rode back along the same way to visit Friederike, wearing, to his own amazement, the same attire, “smoky grey with some gold,” that had struck him on encountering his double.

Just as imaginative writers deal frequently with telepathy, so too they deal frequently with anticipation/prophecy. Macbeth and Julius Caesar begin with prophecies, as does Moby Dick. We saw how one of the greatest imaginative writers, Goethe, experienced prophecy, and was astonished by it. We write about that which astonishes us, and what could be more astonishing than the fact that the future already exists?

C. The Leap Over Causality

Reason says that every event must have a cause, and every cause must itself have a cause, and so on. Reason sees causality as a long chain, sees causality as linear. Aristotle, a rational thinker, said that the chain must start somewhere, there must a First Cause (Prima Causa), and he argued that God is the First Cause. Another rational thinker, Leibniz, said that everything must have a reason or cause; Leibniz called this “the principle of sufficient reason.”

But non-rational philosophers, such as those in India and China, view the world as a net rather than a chain; they see events arising together (Mutual Arising), rather than causing each other. They try to discover what tends to arise with what, what things have a kinship with each other. “The classical Chinese texts did not ask what causes what, but rather what ‘likes’ to occur with what.”5 The Chinese saw events in clusters rather than chains.

If a rational thinker ponders an event like World War I, he asks, “What was the cause of World War I? Everything must have a cause, World War I must have a cause.” The historian Arnaldo Momigliano said that the search for causes is futile because there’s such a profusion of causes. Thus, a profound historian sees causality as a net rather than a chain. If we apply this reasoning to the universe as a whole, we can say that Aristotle was wrong, there is no First Cause, no Creator God, everything arises together — matter and spirit and life and Earth and DNA and everything else.

For thousands of years, the Greeks and Romans (and other early peoples) observed the flight of birds in order to understand their own fate. They believed that events cluster together, and the flight of birds is connected to human affairs. This isn’t a causal connection, it isn’t a rational connection, it isn’t a connection that Aristotle or Leibniz would understand. It’s an acausal connection, it’s what Jung called synchronicity.

In 1952, when Queen Elizabeth was visiting Africa, a gigantic eagle flew directly over her lodgings at about the same time that her father, George VI, died. The eagle, a symbol of sovereignty, appeared when Elizabeth became sovereign.6 Nature is a poet, and has a penchant for symbol and metaphor.

The Chinese have long believed that a ruler’s death is accompanied by a disturbance in nature, such as an earthquake. In the year of Mao’s death (1976), there was an enormous earthquake in the Chinese city of Tangshan. In the Gospels, the death of Jesus is immediately followed by an earthquake. Coincidences or acausal connections?

On the front page of my website, I mention a woman who encountered an egg-laying turtle when she was starting a home-building project.7 Could this be a case of synchronicity, an acausal connection?

Imaginative writers often depict acausal connections, synchronicities. In Macbeth, for example, the king’s death is accompanied by various disturbances in nature:

The night has been unruly: where we lay,
Our chimneys were blown down...
    the obscure bird
Clamored the live-long night: some say the earth
Was feverous, and did shake.

Poe depicts acausal connections in “The Fall of the House of Usher”: a storm rages, the protagonist dies, the house collapses.


Western civilization was much influenced by the rationalism of philosophers like Aristotle and Leibniz, and much influenced by the mechanical worldview of Newton. In our time, however, there’s a revolt against Aristotle and Newton, and a new worldview is developing, a worldview that respects intuition and the unconscious more than reason and logic, a worldview that sees the universe as mysterious rather than rational, a worldview that’s holistic and organic rather than linear and mechanical.

For more on this topic:
In Sync: A Dialogue
The Double-Slit Experiment

3. Update on Causality

October 14, 2016

Physicists, like historians, are abandoning the search for causes. Bertrand Russell wrote,

In advanced sciences such as gravitational astronomy, the word ‘cause’ never occurs.... The reason why physics has ceased to look for causes is that, in fact, there are no such things. The law of causality, I believe, like much that passes muster among philosophers, is a relic of a bygone age.

This quotation comes from a book called Time Travel: A History, by the prominent science writer James Gleick. “We do well to remember,” Gleick writes, “that nothing, when we look closely, has a single unambiguous incontrovertible cause.”

We mentioned above that Goethe had a vision of himself eight years in the future. Is this a case of time travel? In an earlier issue, I wrote

In 1901, two English schoolteachers visiting Versailles had a hallucination of Versailles at the time of the French Revolution; “they observed details of the layout of the garden... which could subsequently be verified from the old plans and charts.”

If Goethe’s vision is TimeTravel into the future, this vision of Versailles may be TimeTravel into the past.

If the future already exists, does it shape the present, does effect precede cause? Bertrand Russell noticed that,

when physicists write down their laws in mathematical language, time has no inherent directionality. “The law makes no difference between past and future,” he wrote. “The future ‘determines’ the past in exactly the same sense in which the past ‘determines’ the future.”

4. Miscellaneous

A. How can we measure the size of an idea? Perhaps we could count the number of PhD theses written about an idea. We could say that the ideas of Darwin, Freud, and Copernicus have been the subject of 100,000 PhD theses; we could call such ideas “Six-Figure Ideas.” The two ideas that I’ve discussed in this e-zine, which I call Connections and Cycles, are Six-Figure Ideas.

B. Elias Howe, one of the inventors of the sewing-machine, is an interesting example of the power of the unconscious. Howe struggled to get his sewing-machine working. Then he dreamed that “a savage king in a strange country” had ordered him to construct a sewing-machine. The king’s warriors “carried spears that were pierced near the head.” Eureka! The eye of the needle should be at the point! “It was 4 o’clock in the morning. He jumped out of bed, ran to his workshop, and by 9, a needle with an eye at the point had been rudely modeled.”8

C. One of the most talked-about writers in the world today is the Italian novelist who uses the pen name Elena Ferrante. Her identity is a secret; she’s as mysterious and elusive as the American novelist Thomas Pynchon. Her first novel was published in 1992, so she’s probably over 50. She’s best known for her “Neapolitan Novels,” a series of novels that begins with My Brilliant Friend. She has broad appeal, she’s managed to bridge the gap between popular fiction and highbrow, literary fiction.

D. His social life could be summarized thus: He never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

5. Ibsen and Hitler: A Connection Discovered

On February 8, 1942, Fritz Todt, Hitler’s Master Builder (Baumeister), died in a suspicious plane crash. Hitler’s personal pilot, Hans Baur, concocted a wild theory, suggesting that Todt himself had accidentally triggered an explosion on the plane. Todt’s son discussed the crash with Hitler himself, and questioned Baur’s wild theory. Hitler’s response: “I wish no more discussion about this matter.”

Shortly before Todt’s plane took off, an unexpected passenger, Karl Bäuerle, boarded the plane, carrying a wooden box. After the crash, Todt’s adjutant, a man named Haasemann, conducted an investigation, and asked whether Bäuerle’s box belonged to Bäuerle, or had been given to him by someone else. The Gestapo told Haasemann to stop asking questions.

About fifty years after Todt’s death, an American scholar named Steven F. Sage researched Todt’s career. Sage found parallels between Todt and Halvard Solness, the protagonist of Ibsen’s play, The Master Builder:

The parallels between Solness and Todt prompted Sage to embark on a close study of Ibsen’s works, and a close study of Hitler’s writings and conversations. Sage discovered something that no one had previously suspected: Hitler followed Ibsen scripts for many years. The parallels between Solness and Todt aren’t exact copies; falling from a church isn’t exactly the same as a plane crash. But the sum total of correspondences between Ibsen’s plays and Hitler’s life can’t be dismissed as coincidence. Sage has found numerous correspondences, in numerous Ibsen plays — too many correspondences to be mentioned here. Some of these correspondences involve major decisions, like the decision to avoid Moscow when invading Russia.

One correspondence that Sage found involves Hitler’s half-niece, Geli Raubal. Hitler apparently associated Geli Raubal with Hilde Wangel. At the start of Master Builder, Hilde visits Solness, and she notes that it’s September 19, ten years to the day after Solness promised, I’ll build you a castle in ten years. After waiting ten years, Hilde has come to have this promise redeemed. Hilde is 23.

Geli died of a gunshot wound on September 19, 1931 (or at least, her body was found on September 19). At the time of her death, Geli was 23. She had been living in Hitler’s Munich apartment for about two years; her mother had been working for Hitler for about six years. Geli’s death was ruled a suicide, but some people suspected that Hitler had arranged Geli’s death. Even if Geli shot herself, she did so with Hitler’s pistol, and as a result of Hitler’s treatment of her, so it’s difficult to argue that Hitler had no role in Geli’s death. Likewise, it’s difficult to argue that the correspondences between Hilde and Geli (September 19 and age 23) are just coincidences.

If we ask the old police question Cui bono? (Who benefits?), we find that Hitler benefited from Geli’s death. About a week after Geli’s death, Hitler said, “Now I am altogether free, inwardly and outwardly. Perhaps it was meant to be this way. Now I belong only to the German Volk and to my mission. But poor Geli! She had to sacrifice herself for this.” As Wilde said, we kill the thing we love.

Hitler never openly acknowledged that he followed Ibsen. Hitler was secretive, and once said, “You’ll never know what I really think.” Ibsen’s influence on Hitler was known only to Hitler and to Steven Sage. If Sage hadn’t discovered the Ibsen-Hitler connection, one wonders if it would ever have come to light. In 2006, Sage published his findings in a book called Ibsen and Hitler: The Playwright, the Plagiarist, and the Plot for the Third Reich.

Sage realized that he had discovered a “stupendous fact,” and he was disappointed when his book was largely ignored by specialists. To quote David Hume, who had the same experience, Sage’s book “fell deadborn from the press.” If a young scholar thinks that a big discovery will lead to a big reputation, he should remember the examples of Hume and Sage, and not be surprised if his book falls deadborn from the press.

A few scholars were impressed with Sage’s book. For example, an Oslo professor named Hans Fredrik Dahl wrote, “That there was an actual line of influence between Ibsen and the young Hitler is to me beyond doubt.” For the most part, however, Sage’s discovery was dismissed by specialists, partly because it went against the grain of modern historiography, which downplays the importance of single individuals, and focuses on large bureaucracies and broad trends.

What convinced Sage that he’d made an important discovery was not only the parallels he found, but also the Ibsen cult that Hitler was part of. Ibsen was viewed as a prophet in Germany. One member of the Ibsen cult was Dietrich Eckart, Hitler’s guru; Eckart was so devoted to Ibsen that he felt he was a reincarnation of Peer Gynt, one of Ibsen’s characters.

Another member of the Ibsen cult, Paul Schulze-Berghof, published several works about Ibsen, and in one of these works, published in 1924, Schulze-Berghof suggested that Hitler would fulfill Ibsen’s prophecies. One of Ibsen’s prophecies, found at the end of Emperor and Galilean, was “The Third Reich will come!” I don’t believe this is a case of Ibsen foreseeing Hitler; rather, Hitler followed Ibsen’s works, Hitler made the “prophecies” come true.

It’s not surprising that Ibsen was viewed as a prophet in Hitler’s time. Spiritualism was popular; many people were receptive to the occult, and receptive to the idea that the future could be foreseen. Traditional religion was in retreat, and art was becoming a substitute religion. In earlier times, the artist had often been viewed as a craftsman or a clown; as recently as the 1700s, Haydn and Mozart ate at the servants’ table. But in the late 1800s, the artist was viewed as a priest or prophet. Novelists like Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy addressed philosophical questions in their fiction. When Dostoyevsky gave a speech in Moscow in 1880, the enthusiastic audience cried “Prophet!” Tolstoy developed his own religion, mixing Christianity and anarchism, and expressed his views in works such as “What I Believe.”

In England, Oscar Wilde was a leader of The Aesthetic Movement, which made artistic beauty into a kind of religion. “Life imitates art,” Wilde proclaimed, “far more than Art imitates life.... Young men have died by their own hand because by his own hand Werther died.” The Ibsen-Hitler connection is a case of life imitating art. Todt died by a sudden fall because by a sudden fall Solness died.

There have been other cases of life imitating art:

Sage helps us to understand Hitler’s psychology. Like Stalin, Hitler was beaten by his father as a child. Hitler coped with this by dissociating from reality, by becoming an observer of his own experience. Hitler probably had Dissociative Identity Disorder, which is often caused by parental abuse. This disorder makes one easy to hypnotize; Hitler seems to have been hypnotized by plays, operas, etc. It appears that Hitler was partly insane, he lived in the borderland that lies between sanity and insanity.

It has long been known that Hitler was very susceptible to art. In his early years, when he was out of school and out of work, Hitler spent his time watching plays and operas. He watched the same works over and over. He didn’t just watch them, he lived them, he identified with the characters. One play that Hitler attended was The King, by Hanns Johst. Hitler later met Johst, and told him that he had seen The King seventeen times, and that he himself would die in the same manner as the king in Johst’s play. And in fact, he did.

Hitler was so fond of Wagner’s operas that, when he was a rising politician, he arranged his speaking schedule to dovetail with performances of his favorite Wagner operas. Hitler was also enamored of the Cowboy novels of the German writer Karl May. Hitler seemed to view Eastern Europe and Russia as “Indian territory”; it was Germany’s destiny to conquer this territory, as whites had conquered the American West. Hitler had thousands of copies of May’s novels sent to his troops on the Eastern Front. Hitler viewed war through the lens of fiction.

Before Sage made his discovery about Hitler, some people realized that Hitler identified with fictional characters, that he was an actor playing various roles. The philosopher Emil Fackenheim said, “I don’t think he knew the difference between acting and believing. Of course, it’s a shocking thing to consider that six million Jews were murdered because of an actor.” The Dutch writer Harry Mulisch said, “Perhaps Hitler, the man of the theater... had only played theatrically with toy soldiers, albeit of flesh and blood.” Todt was one of Hitler’s “toy soldiers,” and Hitler killed him because the script called for that, because Todt had been cast in the role of Halvard Solness.

What was the origin of Hitler’s anti-Semitism? Ibsen wasn’t anti-Semitic; Ibsen even called Jews “the nobility of the human race.” Sage argues that the origin of Hitler’s anti-Semitism was one of his teachers, Father Schwarz, whom Hitler believed (incorrectly) to be a converted Jew. Hitler clashed with Father Schwarz, and was expelled from school. Sage says that Father Schwarz was Hitler’s “abiding personal nemesis.”

Since Sage has read much about Hitler, he can teach us about the Hitler literature. He says that the best Hitler biographies are those by Bullock, Fest, and Kershaw. Of the three, Bullock’s seems to be the earliest and the shortest, Kershaw’s the latest and the longest. Sage says that Kershaw’s is the “definitive biography” — an enormous, two-volume work.

But even Kershaw is completely unaware of Ibsen’s influence on Hitler, and of the extent to which Hitler was shaped by art. Sage has indeed broken new ground, and discovered Hitler’s innermost secret. Existing biographies of Hitler must be revised, or a new biography written.

As for memoirs about Hitler, the most well-known is probably Speer’s Inside the Third Reich. August Kubizek wrote about his early friendship with Hitler, Heinrich Hoffman wrote about his years as Hitler’s photographer, and Otto Wagener wrote about his dealings with Hitler. Sage made use of Hitler’s conversations, published under the title Hitler’s Table Talk, 1941-1944.

I highly recommend Sage’s Ibsen and Hitler, which is short, readable, and fascinating. But beware! When you finish it, you may suffer withdrawals.

For more on this subject:

6. The Hobbit and the Jews

Interesting article on The Hobbit in Commentary magazine. It argues that the dwarves represent the Jews:

The dwarves explain to Bilbo that they once lived in a glorious kingdom.... One day... a dragon attacked their mountain, stole their treasure, and left their kingdom in flames. The dwarves had to flee, dispersing throughout the kingdoms of “Middle Earth,” strangers in a strange land. Having left their homeland, they were forced to speak the languages of those among whom they lived, using their native tongue, “Khuzdul,” only among themselves. Yet they never stopped dreaming of their kingdom.

There is one tribe that offers a perfect real-world parallel to Tolkien’s dwarves; there is only one nation that has remained existentially linked to the kingdom its people lost long ago even as it mingled among kings and queens and common folk of other lands throughout history: the Jews. This was confirmed by Tolkien himself in a 1971 interview on the BBC.

At the very time that the Jews were reclaiming their ancestral lands in Palestine, Tolkien was writing about the dwarves reclaiming their ancestral land.

7. Selling Philosophy

After years of procrastination, a Beijing publisher finally published my Conversations With Great Thinkers. The first printing was 5,000 copies, and they seem confident that it will sell. (Click here for a list of reviews/announcements in the Chinese media.) If it sells, the publisher may be receptive to another book, such as my Realms of Gold: A Sketch of Western Literature. Unfortunately, they published an old version of Conversations With Great Thinkers, not the latest version. Conversations With Great Thinkers has already been published by two Chinese publishers and a Taiwan publisher.

© L. James Hammond 2016
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1. See ljhammond.com/phlit/2002-09.htm#3 back
2. The Master Builder, I back
3. See ljhammond.com/cwgt/07.htm#29 back
4. See ljhammond.com/phlit/2002-09.htm#4 back
5. See ljhammond.com/phlit/2002-09.htm#7 back
6. See ljhammond.com/phlit/2002-09.htm#7 back
7. The essay is called “Everything is Connected.” The complete version is here. back
8. Wikipedia back