Esoterismo

Nella vita umana la fortuna conta parecchio, ma se lo dite esplicitamente la gente s’impigrisce.

Tra uomo e donna ci sono differenze biologiche importanti, ma se lo dite esplicitamente fomentate il sessismo.

Domanda: cosa privilegiare, la verità di quel che si dice o le sue conseguenze?

Leo Strauss è uno studioso che dà grande valore all’esoterismo: è naturale che  la verità debba restare esoterica (conosciuta a pochi) cosicché siano preservate le conseguenze positive.

Ma tra i moderni Strauss è in minoranza, dopo l’illuminismo la verità doveva essere messa al centro.

In minoranza a parole, ma nei fatti l’esoterismo e Strauss sono ancora tra noi (vedi il politically correct). L’esempio del sessismo non è fatto a caso: certe verità meritano lo stigma.

Sia come sia la scelta di privilegiare (a parole) la verità è recente, nel corso della storia l’esoterismo è stata la regola.

Lo dimostra con dovizia di particolari Arthur M. Melzer nel libro Philosophy Between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing.

***

Il linguaggio comune ci svia circa il termine “esoterico”…

… In common parlance, “esoteric” is often used synonymously with “recondite” or “abstruse,”…

Ma c’è una definizione che chiarisce molte cose…

… But in a stricter sense—and the one intended here—it is something difficult to understand because hidden or secret…

L’esoterismo è legato alla presenza di un’ élite e ad un’esigenza di nascondere la verità alle masse…

… An esoteric writer or writing would involve the following characteristics: first, the effort to convey certain truths—the “esoteric” teaching—to a select group of individuals… the effort to propagate for the sake of the latter group a fictional doctrine…

Le scuole esoteriche sono molte…

… forms of mysticism: Theosophy, Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Rosicrucianism, Kabbalah, Neoplatonism, Neo-Pythagoreanism…

Ma non confondiamo misticismo ed esoterismo

… “the phenomenon in question [esotericism] . . . is discussed under the title ‘mysticism’”1—a statement that, despite the efforts of Strauss and others, still remains largely true today…. But the mystical version of esotericism is a very small part of a larger phenomenon…

L’esoterismo vero e proprio è una retorica più che un insieme di verità segrete…

… Here “esoteric” denotes not a particular body of secret or occult knowledge but simply a secretive mode of communication… It is not a philosophical doctrine but a form of rhetoric…

L’esoterismo postula una concezione tragica della vita, dove teoria e prassi sono in conflitto…

… philosophical problem of theory and praxis—especially the question of the relation between philosophic rationalism and political community, or between “the two lives”: the vita contemplativa and the vita activa. Are the two fundamentally harmonious (essentially the Enlightenment view) or antagonistic (the dominant classical view)?…

Per classici e medievali la professione di esoterismo era scontata…

… Classical and medieval thinkers, by contrast, tended to practice a more concealed, more thoroughgoing esotericism—esotericism in the fullest sense—because they were motivated… by the fear that, to the contrary, rationalism, if openly communicated, would inevitably harm that world by subverting its essential myths and traditions…

Perché scrivere un libro? Un tempo la pedagogia era al centro di tutto…

… Their purpose for publishing books of philosophy was rooted not primarily in political schemes, as with the Enlightenment thinkers, but in educational aims… Socratic method—it forces readers to think and discover for themselves…

Tassonomia dell’esoterismo…

… a philosophical writer will purposely endeavor to obscure his or her true meaning either to avoid some evil or to attain some good. The evils to be avoided are essentially two: either some harm that society might do the writer (persecution) or some harm that the writer might do society (“dangerous truths”), or both. The effort to avoid these two dangers gives rise to what I will call defensive and protective esotericism, respectively…

L’oralità si coniugava al meglio con le esigenze esoteriche…

… A philosopher might write nothing at all, for example, and confine himself entirely to oral teaching…

I pochi scritti avevano livelli multipli di lettura…

… Or his writings may contain multiple levels, with an exoteric teaching on the surface…

L’esoterismo varia anche di grado

… Esotericism also varies widely in degree. In some cases, the exoteric doctrine may merely be a popularized or sanitized version of the esoteric doctrine. In others, it will be radically different… not tell “the whole truth,” but they will tell “nothing but the truth.”… conceal the truth and present falsehoods or “noble lies”…

Anche oggi si va dalle fake news al media bias.

L’esoterismo oggi…

… scholars today are willing to admit that, here and there, a philosopher or two can be found who engaged in esoteric writing…

Riassumendo: a parole l’esoterismo è un’eccezione, nei fatti la regola. Un tempo era la regola punto e basta. Si potrebbe dire che oggi si è particolarmente esoterici sull’esoterismo.

***

Perché a pelle l’esoterismo non ci piace?…

… modern culture harbors a powerful resistance to esotericism…

La questione stessa dell’esoterismo non è trattata nel dibattito culturale. Perché?

Tra i moderni, pochi hanno mostrato interesse. Con una grande eccezione

… Leo Strauss and others attempt to revive the understanding of esotericism…

Ma forse non è proprio l’unica…

… these efforts are met with a resistance that seems to go beyond the usual sorts of scholarly disagreement and skepticism. To be fair, there were important exceptions: Alexandre Kojève, Arnaldo Momigliano, Gershom Scholem, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and a few others…

Gli attacchi all’interpretazione esoterica dei classici non sono mancati…

… Gregory Vlastos sadly laments Strauss’s “delusion that the classics of political philosophy were meant to be read as palimpsests… George Sabine fears that esotericism simply amounts to “an invitation to perverse ingenuity.”…

La ripugnanza per l’esoterismo è un fenomeno globale…

… Virtually all societies outside the modern West embrace a “high context” communicative style that emphasizes indirection and speaking between the lines…

Questo anche se il suo abbandono è recente…

… rejection of the reality of esotericism is a thesis unique to late Western modernity… in the two millennia of Western philosophy prior to 1800, not only is the denial of esotericism extremely rare…

***

L’esempio delle parabole di Gesù è spesso portato…

… parables can be used to make things either more clear and concrete or more obscure…

Gesù invitava a non offrire perle ai porci

… Jesus sternly declared: “Give not that which is holy to dogs; neither cast ye your pearls before swine”…

I discepoli si meravigliavano del linguaggio per parabole

… Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to [the people] in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given…

E Gesù invitava a mantenere il segreto della sua missione

… In a similar spirit, Jesus “strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ [i.e., the messiah]”…

Spesso Gesù parlava per indovinelli, e  Tommaso lo giustificava…

… Thomas Aquinas, in an article of the Summa Theologica entitled “Whether Christ Should Have Taught All Things Openly?”…

Calvino parlò a lungo dell’ oscurità di Gesù…

… Calvin, in his Commentaries, remarks: Christ declares that he intentionally spoke obscurely, in order that his discourse might be a riddle to many, and might only strike their ears with a confused and doubtful sound…

Anche Grozio…

… Grotius explains: He spoke to the people through the indirectness of parables, that those who heard Him might not understand…

Agostino…

… Augustine maintains: the Lord’s meaning was therefore purposely clothed in the obscurities of parables…

Locke…

… John Locke, emphasizing the political element, argued that Jesus “perplex[ed]” his meaning to avoid being arrested before he could complete his mission…

Sull’esoterismo di Gesù il dibattito è stato aspro, un tempo. Oggi no…

… Now, for the first time in history, one finds the widespread denial of Jesus’ esotericism—notwithstanding…

Le ambiguità vengono risolte imputandole ai testi manomessi

… Our experts float one loosely grounded philological speculation after another—primarily conjectures concerning the adulteration of the texts…

Frank Kermode:

… For the last century or so there has been something of a consensus among experts that parables of the kind found in the New Testament were always essentially simple, and always had the same kind of point, which would have been instantly taken by all listeners, outsiders included. Appearances to the contrary are explained as consequences of a process of meddling with the originals…

Prendiamo il significato del termine “parabola”…

… When God says he will speak to Moses openly and not in “dark speeches,” the Greek for “dark speeches” means “parables.”… with a vast “expense of learning,” modern experts strive to overturn the obvious…

***

L’esoterismo germina assumendo un conflitto tra teoria e prassi

… The most profound (but least obvious) reason concerns, not the visible characteristics or consequences of esotericism, but its source, its essential premise—the antagonistic view of theory and praxis…

Oggi ci manca questo senso del tragico

… Consider, for a starting point, the oft-repeated observation that modern man lacks a sense of tragedy…

L’ Edipo è un simbolo potente dell’antichità…

… Sophocles’s Oedipus tyrannus, arguably the most powerful and representative of ancient Greek tragedies, was precisely a tragedy of theory and praxis, of the incurable conflict of truth and political life…

Oggi abbiamo ridotto l’edipo a sociologia e psicologia facendo svanire la tragedia…

… for us, “Oedipus” names a classic psychological disorder, present at our imperfect beginnings but more or less curable through the science of psychotherapy, through the life-healing power of truth. This reversal of the tragic tale is typically modern: the very idea that life could have an incurable problem at its core—that the two essential elements of our nature, rationality and sociality, could be permanently at war…

Un neo-idealismo razionalista ha preso il posto del tragico…

… The source of our resistance to tragedy would thus seem to be something new and more complex: a novel kind of idealism that emerges precisely on the basis of modern realism—secular humanism…

Le contraddizioni saranno risolte e il progresso trionferà…

… triumph, sooner or later, over the grave imperfections of his received condition. It is the faith in progress…

Niente tragico, niente Dio…

… if the world is originally well ordered, then God is needed to explain that order. And if it is incurably disordered, then God is needed to save us from that disorder. Only if life is originally bad but fixable through human effort is it the case that God is neither a necessary hypothesis nor a fundamental need… humanist credo that life has no fundamental problems that we cannot cure…

Ce la facciamo da soli, basta parlar chiaro.

Predomina l’ottimismo

… In the realm of natural philosophy, for example, when thinkers like Bacon, Hobbes, and Descartes proclaimed their intention to redirect contemplative philosophy to the practical end of the “relief of man’s estate” (Bacon) by making man “the master and owner of nature” (Descartes), they did so long before the progress of science proved that such far-reaching technological mastery was actually possible…

Razionalizzare la politica è diventato il nuovo imperativo…

… the early Enlightenment thinkers eagerly embarked on their unprecedented effort to enlighten and rationalize the political world…

Ma l’illuminismo ha dei limiti, lo abbiamo visto parlando di sessismo…

… as this enlightening effort proceeded, it soon became clear that, notwithstanding its partial successes, it was indeed dangerous in a variety of ways to social health, as the thinkers of the counter-Enlightenment thunderously proclaimed…

L’esoterismo ha cambiato nome ma esiste ancora: oggi si chiama pragmatismo

… these latter thinkers, obsessed as they were with the dangers of Enlightenment harmonism, were nevertheless not tempted to return to the conflictual view and to classical esotericism. Still driven by the spirit of humanist harmonism, they chose instead to continue the pursuit of unity—only in the reverse manner by subordinating theory to practice…

***

Anche la libertà d’espressione è nemica giurata dell’esoterismo…

… So the second most important source of the forgetting of esotericism, especially in the last two centuries, has been the gradual success of the modern movement, which finally rendered this activist and defensive esotericism unnecessary…

Così come l’egalitarismo è in conflitto con l’élitismo.

L’esoterismo è considerata oggi una forma paternalista e superata di esprimersi…

… to charge philosophers, of all people, with esotericism—with behavior that we find so childish, cowardly, deceitful, elitist, inauthentic, and so forth—strikes us intellectuals as both demeaning and implausible in the extreme…

C’è addirittura una fobia di Strauss…

… exactly what are Strauss and his followers trying to do? Speculation has proliferated, most of it political, some of it rather extravagant and conspiratorial—what Peter Minowitz ventures to call Straussophobia…

Al contempo, per paradosso, la spiegazione della esoterica si fa un certo abuso…

… But esotericism will be abused not only by writers, but by readers and interpreters…

Con la libertà d’espressione fioriscono le tesi complottiste

… The whole theory is, to repeat Sabine’s remark, an open invitation to “perverse ingenuity.”…

Anche la dietrologia vede esoterismi ovunque.

***

Tuttavia, l’esoterismo è una realtà innegabile. Uno non deve essere straussiano per affermarlo, oppure condividere l’ossessione dello studioso per segreti e bugie.

Il progetto di Strauss era ambizioso…

… There is a single, unified purpose—a project—that he pursued throughout his career and in all his farflung researches, from Plato, Thucydides, and Aristophanes, to Alfarabi, Maimonides, and Marsilius, to Spinoza, Burke, and Heidegger…

Fin troppo. Per lui la filosofia stessa aveva uno scopo diverso da quello che noi assumiamo comunemente…

… the highest subject of “political philosophy” is not, as we today would assume, the political life. On the contrary: The highest subject of political philosophy is the philosophic life: philosophy—not as a teaching or as a body of knowledge, but as a way of life—offers, as it were, the solution to the problem that keeps political life in motion…

Politica e filosofia in Strauss…

… my point: the radical subordination of politics to philosophy is one of the most distinctive and defining themes of Strauss’s thought…

Lo scopo di Strauss…

… in his view, the truest purpose of esotericism, which is found in its highest form in Plato, is precisely to separate philosophy and politics, theory and praxis—to insulate each from the other…

L’elogio a Platone…

… Plato composed his writings in such a way as to prevent for all time their use as authoritative texts. . . . His teaching can never become the subject of indoctrination. In the last analysis, his writings cannot be used for any purpose other than for philosophizing…

Opinioni politiche di Strauss…

… Of course, even philosophers have to live in political communities, and thus, as a citizen, Strauss had serious political concerns and opinions—primarily conservative—which he expressed sparingly, but forcefully. But they were not the subject of his guiding intellectual project…

Scrisse 15 libri e nessuno sulla politica o sulla filosofia contemporanea.

Il suo progetto politico

… The starting point of Strauss’s path of thought was the observation that in our time the whole legitimacy of western science, philosophy, and rationalism was being radically challenged—and at the hands of two opposite but mutually reinforcing movements: the “postmodern” force of historicism or cultural relativism and the ancient force of religious orthodoxy, now newly emboldened by reason’s self-destruction…

Esoterismo contro storicismo

… esotericism (in its classical form) argues for the inherent and inescapable tension between reason and society. As such, it constitutes a critique of the historicist assumption of their underlying unity, of the inherent subordination of reason to society and its fundamental commitments…

La difesa della ragione era il primo punto per Strauss: le contraddizioni apparenti dei testi non sono mai reali, questo il suo assunto…

… Strauss is so “obsessed” with esotericism, in sum, because he is engaged in the philosophical project of defending rationalism…

***

Come leggere un testo esoterico? La testimonianza conta più della letteralità…

… by continuing our reliance, where possible, upon the explicit testimony of past writers and readers…

Rischio…

… By freeing readers from the literal meaning of the text, it exposes them to various inevitable temptations and corruptions. It will open the door to Sabine’s “perverse ingenuity.”…

Ma nel precetto della non-letteralità l’esoterismo è in buona compagnia…

… proliferation of nonliteral interpretive approaches: Hegelian, Marxist, Freudian, Jungian, structuralist, poststructuralist, feminist, deconstructive, new historicist, and so forth…

Perché allora preferire l’esoterismo?…

… There is also another important way in which, from the standpoint of these criteria of certainty and scholarly sobriety, the theory of esotericism is superior to its rivals: it is not simply rooted in theory. It—and it alone—is susceptible of empirical proof…

In alcuni casi l’interpretazione esoterica è richiesta dagli autori stessi

… the interpretation of this work of Rousseau’s, the esoteric method is absolutely proper and necessary. This conclusion is not based on abstract literary theory; it is Rousseau’s own explicit assertion…

Se l’interpretazione esoterica sia possibile in fondo è un questione secondaria…

… the question before us is not whether we like the practice of esotericism (still less whether we like Leo Strauss or his students) but simply whether, in fact, it is real…

Analogia

… We abhor slavery but do not deny that it ever existed…

Perché mai l’esoterismo dovrebbe essere sparito solo da noi e solo ora? La cura contro i dubbi richiede una presa di coscienza…

… The cure, then, to the problem of blindness and ethnocentrism is again a greater knowledge of ourselves in our uniqueness…

L’esoterismo ci appare arrogante ma questo di per sé non puo’ deporre contro la sua esistenza, nel mondo le aristocrazie hanno sempre governato…

… We naturally incline to dismiss the whole theory of esotericism as impossibly arrogant and elitist. But of course, only a few short centuries ago, all the world was ruled by monarchs and aristocrats. Most of the philosophers, too, held that the best form of government was some sort of aristocracy…

Le società veramente egalitarie sottostimano quanto siano eccezionali nella storia…

… egalitarian societies incline to misunderstand themselves: they systematically underestimate their own egalitarianism. Thus, they underestimate, in particular, how utterly different all their perceptions and sensibilities have become from those of earlier, nonegalitarian ages…

Il saggio si è sempre staccato dalla massa

… Pierre Charron does not hesitate to assert that a wise man “is as far above the common sort of men as a common man is above the beasts.”…

Guicciardini e la massa…

… “To speak of the people,” remarks Guicciardini, “is really to speak of a mad animal, gorged with a thousand and one errors and confusions, devoid of taste, of pleasure, of stability…

Spinoza e la massa…

… Spinoza speaks of “the masses whose intellect is not capable of perceiving things clearly…

Cicerone e la massa…

… Cicero goes so far as to claim that the very faculty of reason is “disastrous to the many and wholesome to but few.”…

Montaigne e la massa…

… According to Montaigne, “Aristo of Chios had reason to say long ago that philosophers harmed their listeners, inasmuch as most souls are not fit to profit by such instruction…

Galeno e la massa…

… Galen, the Greek physician and philosopher, wrote: “My discourse in this book is not for all people…

Maimonide e la massa…

… Maimonides declares in the introduction to the Guide of the Perplexed that he “could find no other device by which to teach a demonstrated truth other than by giving satisfaction to a single virtuous man…

Orazio e la massa…

… Horace: “I loathe the mob impure and forbid it place. Let tongues be silent!”…

Seneca, Epicuro e la massa…

… Seneca quotes Epicurus as having said: “I have never wished to cater to the people; for what I know they do not approve, and what they approve I do not know.”…

La Mettrie e la massa…

… La Mettrie expresses a similar attitude: Whatever may be my speculation in the quiet of my study, my practice in society is quite different…

Nietzsche e la massa…

… Nietzsche translates these observations into a crucial—but counterintuitive—generalization about writing: On the question of being understandable—One does not only wish to be understood when one writes; one wishes just as surely not to be understood…

Ora, sarà anche arrogante ma che la massa sia considerata alla stregua di un folle ottuso è un fatto. Naturalmente a un folle si parla in un certo modo.

Anche l’egalitarismo, oltretutto, offre motivi di giustificazione dell’esoterismo…

… it should also be pointed out that three of the four motives for esotericism—the desire to escape persecution, promote political change, and teach in a Socratic way—can all be defended in essentially egalitarian terms…

***

Il segreto negli affari pubblici è cosa normale e ubiqua nella storia.

In certe civiltà è un segreto persino il “ti amo”…

… It is almost beyond our capacity to comprehend that in many earlier societies, indeed in much of contemporary India and Japan, husbands and wives, parents and children can pass their whole lives without ever once openly saying: I love you…

Conoscenza e divinità sono legate…

… In a traditional society, after all, the highest knowledge both concerns and derives from the divine, and such sacred knowledge is not to be profaned by being disclosed to the unworthy…

Presso gli indiani Pueblo

…. “one reason often adduced for secrecy by Pueblo leaders is that religious ceremonies lose their power if they are known by the wrong people… “it is in accordance with the dictates of nature that this should be so.” For secrecy “induces reverence for the divine…

Il potere delle informazioni è tale che deve essere in qualche modo tutelato…

… if knowledge is power, then secrecy is the husbanding and maintenance of power….

Socrate non dava mai risposte dirette…

… Socrates. In the Platonic dialogues, he is depicted as renowned throughout Athens for never giving anyone a straight answer…

L’osservatore contemporaneo soffre di un anacronismo quando giudica in questa materia…

… With the issue of secrecy, just as with that of elitism, we have clearly been misled by the anachronistic…

I due massimi pensatori della storia umana…

… Think about it: the two greatest teachers of the Western tradition were Jesus and Socrates. And both were famous for their secrecy and indirect speech…

Chiunque ha ben presente il concetto di “nobile bugia”. E’ davvero tanto insensato?

I grandi pensatori – che lo davano per scontato – sarebbero forse disonesti o vogliosi di seminare dubbi nel prossimo?…

… Is it really believable that the greatest truth seekers of the past were in actuality all bald-faced liars?…

W. E. H Lecky…

… In his classic History of European Morals, W. E. H Lecky argues that “veracity is usually the special virtue of an industrial nation,”…

Hannah Arendt: difficilmente mentire è un peccato di per sé…

… Hannah Arendt, who points out that “except for Zoroastrianism, none of the major religions included lying as such, as distinguished from ‘bearing false witness,’ in their catalogues of grave sins.”…

Solo l’intellettuale moderno demonizza la menzogna…

… This changed only in modern times, she continues, owing largely to the rise of intellectual specialization, that is, “the rise of organized science, whose progress had to be assured on the firm ground of the absolute veracity and reliability of every scientist.”…

La nobile bugia è un concetto invece strenuamente difeso da molti intellettuali del passato…

… It is fairly easy to show that a very large and wide-ranging group of earlier thinkers regarded the use of salutary lies or at least of concealment of some portion of the truth as just or allowable under the right circumstances…

Platone e Socrate…

… the position of Plato and (his) Socrates on the propriety of noble lies is well known…

Plutarco…

… Plutarch quotes Chrysippus as saying: “Often indeed do the wise employ lies against the vulgar.”…

Grozio…

… Grotius writes: “If we may trust Plutarch and Quintillion the Stoics include among the endowments of the wise man the ability to lie in the proper place and manner.”…

Maimonide…

… Maimonides declaring: These matters [of theology] are only for a few solitary individuals of a very special sort, not for the multitude…

Averroé…

… Averroes, in his commentary on Plato’s Republic, writes: The chiefs’ lying to the multitude will be appropriate…

Erasmo…

… Erasmus states: While it can never be lawful to go against the truth, it may sometimes be expedient to conceal it in the circumstances…

Burnet…

… Thomas Burnet writes on the subject at some length: What just or pious man ever scrupled to deceive children or lunaticks, when thereby they contributed to their safety and welfare?…

Diderot…

… in the Encyclopedia itself, there is an article by Diderot entitled “Mensonge officieux”—unofficial or salutary lie—which promotes the “wise maxim that the lie that procures good is worth more than the truth that causes harm.”…

Hume…

… David Hume, pulling no punches, writes: “It is putting too great a Respect on the Vulgar, and on their Superstitions, to pique oneself on Sincerity with regard to them…

Cartesio…

… Descartes’s statement: I would not want to criticize those who allow that through the mouths of the prophets God can produce verbal untruths which, like the lies of doctors who deceive their patients in order to cure them, are free of any malicious intent to deceive…

Agostino…

… Augustine is the one who takes the strongest position against lying.62 Yet since his position does not preclude concealment…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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