About the Cosmos

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A review of the significance and meaning of the Elements without a consideration of the Cosmological matrix within which they are presented, is like surveying building materials without blueprints for the temple they are meant to construct.
– The Cosmos of Antiquity
“What is that which is existent always and has no becoming? And what is that which is becoming always and never is existent?” With this passage in Timaeus, Plato begins his discourse on the creation of the universe. The divine intelligence, the Source of the universe follows a blueprint for his creation, a paradigm that includes both the meta-physical (eternal) and the physical (becoming) dimensions of the cosmos.
Cosmos (κόσμος) is a Greek word meaning order, an apt or harmonious arrangement and also adornment, ornament. The verb kosmein means generally ‘to dispose, prepare’, but especially ‘to order and arrange (troops for battle), to set (an army) in array;’ also ‘to establish (a government or regime)’ and ‘to deck, adorn, equip, dress’ (especially of women). As we can see, cosmos had a secondary sense of ‘ornaments of a woman’s dress, decoration. We still retain this second meaning in our word ‘cosmetics’.
The opposite of Cosmos is Chaos. The Ancient Greek word χάος, kháos means “vast chasm, void” and it denotes a state of disorder, as well as any confused or amorphous mixture or conglomeration and states of existence. The unifying, ordered, relational, harmonious quality of the cosmic order is absent when chaos reigns.
Pythagoras, the eminent Greek Philosopher and Mathematician of the 6th century B.C. is one of the earliest sources of antiquity to present the Cosmos as a harmoniously ordered systemic whole, imbued with meaning and an evolutionary purpose. For Pythagoras, the cosmos is governed by natural laws and on the level of manifestation it is composed of four essential principles, the Elements, expressed through the aspects of matter, form and universal life energy (body, soul and spirit).
– Hermeticism
Hermeticism is a body of philosophical and religious ideas and writings that links back to antiquity, to the teachings of the Pythagorean and Platonian schools, attributed to the legendary figure of the Egyptian teacher, magician and healer, Hermes Trismegistus (the ‘Thrice Great’). As a philosophy, Hermeticism draws on a syncretistic school of Graeco-Egyptian thought, blending Hellenistic philosophy and Egyptian occultism.
“The resulting composite proved to be endurable and persuasive – it was based on the tenet that the universe operated based on orderly principles…Hermeticism was instrumental not only to the development of western philosophy, but also to the emergence of the modern science. This connection can be seen most clearly in the hermetical and alchemical treatises written by some of the most influential thinkers of their respective eras, including Giordano Bruno, John Dee, Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton.”
The writings of the Neoplatonist such as Plotinus or after him Iamblichus and Porphyry of Tyre have cast a long ray of illumination down to the Renaissance and into our times. Hermetic Philosophy presented an integration of the metaphysical and physical paradigms. Meta-physical inquiry and research were as intrinsic to Hermetic thought as physical science.
In particular, Hermetic Philosophy highlights inductive, analogical reasoning through the use of correspondences as a way to gain insight and arrive at truth and “expand knowledge in the face of uncertainty” One of the most famous Hermetic texts ‘The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus’ accordingly states …’that which is above is as that which is below…” and “as within so without”, providing landmarks of hermetic thought . Seven axiomatic principles that govern the hermetic world view are summarized in the text “Kybalion”, a 1908 synopsis of hermetic wisdom: the principles of Mentalism, Correspondence, Vibration, Polarity, Rhythm, Cause and Effect and Gender.
In the Dark and Middle Ages, the wholeness of the hellenistic Cosmos was broken apart under the dogma of Catholic religion and the inquisition. The meta-physical Paradigm was replaced by church dogma. Research within the physical paradigm was forbidden in many fields. Research in most areas was limited to bolstering religious beliefs. Scientists who inquired outside of these confines such as Galileo Galilei or Giordano Bruno were burnt or like Kopernicus severely hampered in their freedom of expression. With the Christian view of the body as sinful, Middle age medicine in Europe was “purged” from heathen thought and finally consisted of little more than a jumble of superstitions, taboos, and barely was able to hold on to the remnants of Hellenistic medical arts. The system of elemental composition was lost in a largely simplistic identification of the four humours and the four temperaments, which proved to be of minimal value to the art of healing. Herb lore and folk medicine as practiced by wise women and peasant healers was eradicated by witch hunts and accusations of sorcery, in either case punishable with death by torture. Yet a clear stream of Hermeticism re-surfaced during the Renaissance. The teachings of Pythagoras and Socrates were re-discovered and newly translated, the writings of Plato, Dioscorides, Aristotle and the Neoplatonists appeared, often via Arabic copies of their works. By the end of the fifteenth century a renaissance of classical Hellenistic, Egyptian and roman philosophy swept like a liberating wildfire through Europe.