“State”. The Tao Te Ching says that it is a very spiritual apparatus. Very delicate. Is that “apparatus” made with the same material with which, according to Shakespeare, dreams are made? I think so. The world is a network of dreams and dreamers.
But the historic pandemic caused by the coronavirus could transform such dreams into political nightmares. I mean a hypertrophy of the states because the human beings, out of fear, might eventually sacrifice the last cells of his sacred freedom. It could happen that human beings let (and beg) the states enter, and build, and rule, in the most sublime valleys and forests of his soul. That would be a great mistake, a huge sin indeed, since the state, by itself, lacks life, soul, magic, sacredness. It is nothing at all without the prodigy of the individual human being: you and me. The state can be a real threat to the ecology of the soul. But it can also be (before its necessary auto-erase) a guarantor: a kind of macro-priest of that sacred ecology. Our civilization should move in that direction.
“State”. What is that? Has anyone seen it? Has anyone been able to touch it, to smell it… to really love it?
Is the state a human creation or the human being a creation of the state?
The disturbing (but also somehow beautiful) image that lives in the sky of this text corresponds to an astonishing living being called Dictyostelium discoideum. It is also known as “slime mold”. I knew about its very existence reading this book: Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, by Steven Johnson. That mold seems to me a perfect image of a state. I will explain later.
Before expressing my ideas about what might be behind the word “state”, I think it can be very useful, as propaedeutic, to walk and listen through the following not exhaustive landscapes:
1.- Tao Te Ching. “The empire is a very spiritual apparatus. You cannot manipulate it. To manipulate it is to spoil it. To take it is to lose it”. I believe that “manipulating” it is simply corrupting it. Not setting it up at the service of the sacralization of -all- human beings.
2.- The sophists of ancient Greece. The state would be equivalent to a mixture of what they called “Polis” and “Nomos”. Is the state –polis/nomos– the enemy of human beings? Is it simply an instrument in the hands of the powerfull ones? Protagoras of Abdera: the state is a collective agreement derived from necessity (of inborn human weakness). Thrasymachus: the one who governs calls fair what satisfies his selfish interest. Gorgias: the state is at the service of the strongest (and the strongest is the one -human being- who dominates the word). We return to our goddess Vak, the word-goddess, who speaks and boasts of her own power in the Rig Veda [See]. As Gorgias seems to have thought, the (powerful/selfish) human being would consider himself as the owner of that goddess. Michel Foucault or Claude Levi-Strauss, among many others, believed, or at least said, the opposite. Is the human word the one that governs the states, or do these govern human beings by virtue of a statistized word? Regarding the treasures of ideas available in ancient Greece, be sure to read these classic work: W. K. C. Guthrie: A History of Greek Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 1969).
3.- Plato. Republic. The perfect state is the one ruled by philosophers (men and women).
4.- Augustine of Hippo and The City of God: the state should be a congregation of human beings who have common beliefs, and who share an object of their love. Augustine of Hippo distinguishes between a spiritual celestial city (civitas coelestis spiritualis), a spiritual earthly city (civitas terrena spiritualis) and a carnal earthly city (civitas terrena carnalis). There is a page in the Internet that I find extremely useful for anyone who wants to study this Christian thinker: http://www.augustinus.it/. And a work of great interest on the possible survival and transformation of the concept of “City of God” throughout history is the following: Étienne Gilson: Les métamorphoses de la cité de Dieu (Vrin, Paris 1952).
5.- Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan. The state as necessary and violent monster. That monster might be the only way to stop the “war of all against all”. Sad. Shameful. Don´t you think so?
6.- Baruch Spinoza (A Theologico-Political Treatise, Chapter XX): In a free state everyone is at liberty to think as he pleases, and to say what he thinks. Okay. It sounds beautiful. But an abyssal, wild metaphysical question arises: Are human beings free and powerful enough to master their own thinking-process? Schopenhauer would answer no. No as simple/pure human beings. But we are much more as only that…
7.- Nietzsche: Thus spoke Zarathustra. In the chapter entitled “Of the new idol”, the philosopher of the hammer says this: “There, where the state ends, take a good look my brothers! Don’t you see the rainbow and the bridges of the Super-human being?” Based on these phrases by Nietzsche, it could be said that every state needs human beings who are able to overstep its frontiers in order to revive itself, from outside, with new ideas, new things to be loved collectively: new dreams to be dreamt in our network of dreamers. And such departure from the state would not necessarily involve a physical, spatial activity. It would be enough a certain mental capacity of auto-deprogramming: lucid and revivifying distance. Nietzsche actually considered himself a kind of therapist, a vitalizer of the human civilization. He believed in creating a radical-healthy logos that might raise up, and eventually transform, the state of consciousness of human beings. It could be said that a political state is the image, the outcome, of a state of consciousness shared by human beings.
8.- Simone Weil: “A collective life that, while warmly encouraging each human being, leaves space and silence around it”. If you haven´t read these works, please do it: La pesanteur et la grâce (Plon, Paris 1988) and The Need for Roots: prelude towards a declaration of duties towards mankind.
9.- The slime mold (Dictyostelium discoideum). Steven Johnson´s Emergence. The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software (Scribner, New York 2001). The fundamental thesis of this work is that systems (such as cities for example) are organized “from the bottom up”, without a superior guide. Everything would work perfectly without anyone -any individual intelligence- knowing how it works. The slime mold would be a prodigious biological system: a spontaneous congregation of individual living beings that temporarily cease to be several individuals and become one single individual: they start to yearn, to love, to be, the same. It seems to be a biological but also mystical process… That might be the core idea of a state: collective illusion, and also dangerous fusion. Collective, multilateral bewitchment (but also fragile and mutant, even deliquescent, bewitchment).
And now some personal reflections about the state:
1.- The issue of the state seems to me of capital importance. The human being -the individual- is radically social, and society, that multi-human body, is decisive for his development possibilities. And vice versa.
2.- The state as objectification and, at the same time, guarantor, of collective dreams. A bureaucratic god created by human beings (and creator of human beings) who uses violence and love, at the same time, to unite wills and fears and dreams. Let us think of that Escher’s painting in which two hands paint each other.
3.- The state is a very powerful being. It controls, to a large extent, education: the basic program of all human-dreamers. The state installs an entire cosmos in the consciousness of its citizens. It can be said that the so called “universe” is stateized, because it is an educational, paradigmatic product. We don’t really know what the universe itself is like beyond our stateized models.
4.- The state discursively creates (theorizes) itself, as a god with a certain aseity. But, at the same time, the state ontologically depends on the stateized brains of its citizens to exist at all. The state is something thought, theorized, loved and feared by stateized souls. But once believed, thought, assumed, it deploys a huge physical power.
5.- A good state must create permanent illusions. Possible illusions. Its greatest threat is not, as Hobbes said, civil, permanent war, but boredom: the lack of illusion: the absence of spells capable of mobilizing us biochemically (to use a word accepted today by the educational system of this state of states we vaguely call “international community”).
6.- A disconcerting, metaphysically fabulous phenomenon: the state is a powerful source of emission of Logos (the educational system, the Law, the media, etc.), but that emission, at the same time, is nourished by the logical emission of its citizens. Where is the power? It seems to be ubiquitous. Maybe God (understood as an infinite power) is whole everywhere. Even in every single word that is said.
7.- What might be the “state in itself”? I mean: How might it look observed from outside of our stateized eyes?
8.- The state is a myth that makes itself, and also an invisible force that modifies matter at the service of that myth (weapons, for example, are radically material). It is pure pragmatic magic at the service of an idea.
9.- Which are the physical or even spiritual limits of the state? What are the boundaries between the state and “Nature” (as idea, as concept, as model)? None. [See “Nature”]. But it could also be said that the infinite magic burns (with conscious fire) in all the logical, physical and bureaucratic corners of all states. These artificial beings -the states- cannot escape the storm of wonders that shakes every corner of reality. Nothing can do it.
10.- From the Apara-Vidya [See], I would say that every state must have an inescapable objective: to open and free the eyes and the hearths of all human beings. And above all, it must be able to update human beings (to develop them fully). This actualization, as Aristotle would say, occurs when the human being fully activates himself as philosopher.
11.- Not only should Philosophy be fostered and loved by the state, but also the creativity of its individuals. Precisely from there (from the individuals) it obtains its nutrients, its life, its dreamlike texture, its illusionary power.
12.- The so attractive totalitarian, hyper-collectivist states, do first dry up the spiritual springs of their citizens and then they mummify themselves.
13.- In the spiritual state of meditation, the political state fully disappears. Every state must be able to give its citizens space and time so that they can meditate: be radically free. Thanks to those open spaces, to those unlimited silences, the infinite energy of what can´t be said will be able to enter and illuminate (and erase) the state.
14.- A state that fosters, with love and respect, Philosophy and Art and Mystics will have to endure -it and its citizens- very difficult and disquieting mental sets, but that tolerance will eventually facilitate human beings access to the sacred smell of fertility and beauty. Only this way will be the state sublimated before its final and necessary extinction.
One day states (even the international community of states) will no longer be needed. Hobbes´ Leviathan will be part of our past. I hope so.
Human beings deserve that. And much more.
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