Tag Archives: Philosophy

‘you can enter, there are no ghosts here’

higgsheraclitusHeraclitus said this to some young men who came to see him in his remote hermitage. He had acquired a reputation for being irascible and distant, really because nobody understood his ideas which were far ahead of their time.   A theory of constant change: A form of monism based on energy, and he often used as an example the energy of fire.  Of necessity he spoke in elliptic fashion using allegory, for example “You cannot step into the same river twice, for all is constant change!”  In a sense it was not until Spinoza that there was another philosopher expressing these ideas!

He only ever wrote his ideas down once, on a scroll deposited in the library in Ephesus which is now lost.  So we know of his doctrines from quotations and references in the writings of others.

These young men were charmed by him however as he patiently explained his philosophy the long day through; and they remembered that day for the rest of their lives.  What they experienced was far from the ideas they had of him when they approached his abode.   The only way people could rationalize Heraclitus’ independent thinking was that he had some kind of miraculous contact with the gods that were the basis of the Greek religion of the time.  His greeting was aimed at putting these fears to rest and welcoming them as fellow-enquirers and equals.  People rarely  visited him so fearsome was his reputation!   He had a child-like quality about him and had often played with the children in the  town square.  He had  great sympathy with the freshness of spirit of the children and their openness to new ideas.

In a real sense the approach used by Heraclitus is the same as that used by modern physics to explain how our universe works. The link between matter and energy and the development of the concept of spacetime having been postulated by Einstein at the beginning of the last century.  The developments in our understanding continue to the present day.  Most recently with the confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson.  Modern science uses the same openness and patient enquiry based oh the evidence to hand that Heraclitus used.


fin du siecle: gustav klimt -philosophy, medicine, jurisprudence




Gustav Klimt loved women and spent most of his life drawing and painting them. Living through and contributing to fin du siecle Vienna his pictures have become icons of the twentieth century. ThoUgh initially his subject matter was traditional and accepted, latterly he shocked by his frank nudes and portrayals of female sexuality. The above three paintings were commissioned for the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna in 1893. Klimt’s novel approach to allegory and symbolism was transformative but shocking to some. In March 1900 Philosophy was exhibited in Vienna with an explanatory text:

‘ Left hand group of figures: birth, fertility and decline. On the right the globe, the cosmic riddle; emerging from below an enlightening figure: Knowledge.’

This was not found acceptable, he was accused of distorting figures to make them seem ugly and the visibility of female pubic hair shocked many and Klimt was accused of obscenity.

The second and third paintings, Medicine and Jurisprudence were less original in concept and produced less of a shock. In Medicine there is the human chain seen in Philosophy but here representing the various stages of human development. Hygieia ascends from below with healing powers. Medicine went on display in 1900 in Paris at the Exposition Universelle and gained the gold medal for foreign exhibitors. When exhibited in 1901 in Vienna there was violent criticism with questions being asked in Parliament. The standing naked female figure at the upper left of Medicine was perceived as overtly sexual and unacceptable in a female nude.

Jurisprudence was exhibited in Vienna in 1903. At the top against a panel of human figures are figurative representations of the Law , below are an old man and woman waiting their punishment.

It was decided that the paintings would not be placed as planned in the University. Klimt resigned from the commission and bought the paintings back from the University. An industrialist August Lederer bought Philosophy while Medicine and Jurisprudence were bought by Kolo Moser. The last time all three were together was a celebration of the 80th anniversary of his Klimt’s birth 1943. All were destroyed by the SS when they retreated in 1945.

spiritual emergency-stanislav grof


Now in his eighties this pioneering psychiatrist makes the point that there are non-ordinary states of consciousness that are a part of the human heritage, for example that of this traditional shaman pictured above. Rather than regarding them as pathological, perhaps some of these states are potentially protective or transformatory. They offer a potential way out of the spiritual crisis mankind is currently trapped in. Perhaps they provide a springboard for evolutionary change.