Monthly Archives: November 2020

All That I Can See is Just another Lemon Sea: Fourier, Utopia and Time-Travel

“The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless place… But it is also a heterotopia in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy” ―Michelle Foucault

The French philosopher and early socialist thinker Charles Fourier (1772-1837) is considered one of the founding fathers of utopian socialism. He despised the ideas of the industrial revolution and wrote against the exploitation of workers. The industrialization is compared by him with madness because it makes the work unpleasant, obligatory, and monotonous. The main idea behind Fourier’s utopia is making the working time as attractive as leisure time. Fourier was one of the first thinkers who suggested that sharing the burden of work is the lever to make the work attractive and enriching for workers in the manufacturing process.

The Chariot card symbolizes the ability to dare and defeat the existing social order. It describes the world of action which requires the proper ambition and the arrogance of the prince. While Fourier wants to create a new harmonious world order and destroy the existing industrial order, the prince wants to conquer the world by establishing his known power and status. However, it is unclear if the prince-rider controls the horses or the horses pull him towards his left and past. The rider has no reins and it seems that his soul is wallowing in her past. In this context, the assumption that market forces will do their work stems from the reliance on the past; material things will not change their fundamental nature as a commodity market. However, as indicated in the card, this reliance may cover a weak personality and an unclear emotional basis. In Fourier terms we can say that the capitalist mechanism causes humans to feel alienated to the work they perform and it becomes ineffective.

 Fourier believed that both industrial and agricultural work can be combined together in a game. This is a role-playing game where labor is harmonically done by different people at different times. For example, if I like to drive my car in the mornings then I will serve as the community driver during those hours and if my friend likes to exercise then he can use his bike do deliver the morning papers. This is a dynamic method and we must change our roles frequently during the day. One can argue against the method that it is not effective because frequent job changes reduce the production efficiency and decrease the overall communal wealth. Fourier answers that quite the contrary; his strange arithmetic calculations showed that the overall wealth will be tripled. Fourier was neither a mystic nor a revolutionist. He does not even consider his ideas as utopian although defined so by Karl Marx (1818-1883). The harmony he offers does not involve self-sacrifice, but it is the natural and inevitable result of human behavior according to the laws of his new science. Fourier thought that he was the Newton of social theory. The purpose of his new science is to link human desire to cosmic passion. Therefore, Fourier’s socialism does not tell us, unlike Marxism, what should happen when the revolution will come, but what will rationally happen without a social revolution.

The Chariot card, with its colorful image of the prince, suggests that  one has the material means to go further in his life but he or she lacks the knowledge where and how to move forward. While the Chariot card symbolizes our material victory in the world through the understanding of existing social forces, the Star card symbolizes the spiritual victory thorough understanding the harmony and the laws of nature. If the prince will adopt the harmony of the Star card, he could get rid of the doubts surrounding him. The character in the star card is part of the cosmic harmony in nature. Fourier derives his principles from the laws of the cosmos as well. The universal love of the Star card and Fourier’s utopia is manifested in the reflection of the cosmos in the earthly world.

Fourier was a great admirer of order and harmony. Therefore, he believed that people will freely join a harmonious and collective community called the phalanx. The phalanx members will establish a joint property with equal rights for men and women. In fact, Fourier was the first thinker who coined the term “feminism” and in the phalanx women are working outside the family circle and take part in public life. Fourier’s vision emphasizes the unlimited possibilities available to each individual to change society: every person is a star and the phalanx is in this analogy the harmony of all its stars. The cosmic order must be symmetric in order to support the founding principle of society. Maintaining the harmonic order in the phalanx includes the appointment of a female minister of love to the phalanx. The minister of love is responsible in peacetime and especially in times of war for the acts of free love. Those acts are intended to raise the morale and the raise is calculated by Fourier in his love games theory. The love games are open to all members and are scientifically calculated. The ideal society, according to Fourier, requires that desires will be organized. Passions are God’s gift to mankind and therefore the phalanx members should engage in many sexual acts.

We can compare the image of the minister of love to the kneeling figure in of the star card. The figure is naked in nature and embodies the perfect union of consciousness with the magical nature. She reveals herself spiritually and physically in all her flaws, and thus presenting her exemplary individual harmony with the cosmos. She wants to disclose the natural principle of sex when it is not imposed on us from a position of the ego, but sex is with the feeling of adequacy and relevance to the environment. The return to nature involves the removal of all boundaries and barriers: the card’s intermingling of colors shows us, poetically, how to coincide with our neighbors so that the boundaries between the environment and man will be vanished. The minister of love is responsible that we can allow ourselves to understand the harmony of the cosmos by letting our bodies and mind flow. More critically, the small black bird in the card may symbolize Fourier’s critic stands outside of his the system: if we adopt the seemingly strange position about the minister of love, others may look at us with suspicion for having given too much trust in the other’s ability to change.

 The Star card is not just showing the possibility for a harmonious future but also, and perhaps primarily, is showing the possible consequences of the Fourieristic perception of social reality. The card shows us that something might get wasted when we try to achieve the complete harmony with nature. This excess can be manifested in the over-detailed descriptive texts by Fourier. In fact, any description of a harmonious utopia invites a loquacious text. Another criticism about Fourier’s utopia is in the card when we notice that the figure spills her spiritual energy on things from the past. Similarly, Fourier’s position about the attractive work offers a nostalgic look to the past when people would engage in various agriculture and domestic works.  We also notice in the card that the figure is excessively influenced by the astrological aspect of her personality. This effect makes her lose grip of reality around her. One of the clearest signs of losing the grip is that we assume, as Fourier assumes, that human beings are endowed with altruism which will make them “spill” all their abilities for the community’s future profitability.

Fourier wrote vigorously almost every hour and added elements to his utopia. He refers in the same seriousness to the calculation of the amount of sugar and the calculation of weapons in the phalanx. This stems from his obsession with details as the numeric data in his utopia are calculated to the last grains of dust. However, the gap between this obsessive descriptive list of compounds and the refusal to suggest any practical way of how to get it is very prominent in Fourier’s writings. Fourier was a fantastic dreamer but also an obsessed madman. He offers some of the oddest ideas in the history of philosophy: Fourier predicted that his harmony will rule the entire cosmos in six years from now and that it will survive for 70,000 years. In this harmony there will be 37 million poets in the stature of Homer and the same number of mathematicians in the stature of Newton. All intercourses will be fantastic and agreeable, especially for women, the ferocious animals like lions will be like pets, the new Earth will have 5 moons, the wine and food will be tasty and delicious and the amount of food will be tripled from that of the current productive society. Even when the Earth will be destroyed, we will travel to another civilization and continue our perfect harmony there. Fourier did not write about time-travel but his alternate universe is compatible with current theories about alternate history. Nowadays, we can only imagine how his future society could liberate people from the shackles of work.

The possible existence of an alternative reality to the actual reality in which we live has many logical paradoxes. These paradoxes can be of an inconsistent reality, different from the reality which preceded it, and resulting in an inconsistency. For example, we take an imaginary journey in time to our past and change the events so they will affect the future. We can imagine different types of paradoxes of a consistent reality in which human actions may violate the principle of causality. For example, many science fiction books describe endless consistent causal loops moving back and forth between cause and effect.

The most important philosophical objection to the logical possibility of an alternative reality is the grandmother’s paradox. The paradox describes a time-traveler returning to the time period before the birth of her parents, and killing his maternal grandmother. Since his grandmother was killed before she could give birth to his mother, he himself was never born, so he could not go back in time to kill his grandmother. Therefore killing the grandmother creates an endless loop of two alternative realities, each of which eventually contradicts its own possibility of existence. In fact, at that moment there is no necessary condition for the actuality of the journey.  We must determine that the journey did not happen at all and the grandmother’s killing did not take place.  If the grandmother remains somehow alive, we must explain why our time-traveler has failed. In this scenario, her grandmother gives birth to her mother, and so is she is born, and in time she returns to kill her grandmother, but it is a useless loop.

The High Priest card explicates the grandfather’s paradox in its own unique way. We notice that the figure of the High Priest makes a pointing gun gesture using his right hand (left side of the card denotes the past) while his gaze towards the future (right side of the card denotes the future). We can almost hear the High Priest telling us that we cannot kill him in the past because it cannot be changed. Our critical gaze must be directed towards the future, flowing in the arrow of time. Furthermore, it seems that the High Priest asks the two kneeling students if they could have killed him in the past. The student on the left side of the card (the past) does not comprehend his teacher’s metaphor and therefore does not attempt to stop his teacher’s “pointing gun” from firing. His fellow on the right (the future) understands his teacher’s gesture; he raises his open hand upwards as if he tells his teacher that killing himself in the past is impossible. Therefore, we can notice that the High Priest favors the right-side student and the card’s theme suggests that it is pointless to change the past. A student who is interested in real knowledge must concentrate on the implications of our present actions on the future. The priest’s authoritative figure tells us that the arrow of time is a necessary condition for acquiring true knowledge.

Back to Fourier’s “alternate history”, we can summarize that the Chariot card deals with the gap between the real world and the imagined one. We can see that the figure of the rider is isolated in his cell from the outside world; his stand is firm and certain but he is not fully aware of what happens outside the carriage. He is daring and imaginative, but his voyage may turn out to be a farce. In our imagination, we want to conquer the world, but our absolute reliance on the material world is liable to sabotage our journey. The “horses” of the outside world could derail our conscious “chariot” and sometimes pull it in opposite directions. The card tells us that dreaming and daring is pleasing, but at the same time we must recognize the material limitations of the cosmos. We can say that Fourier’s “chariot of thought” is beautiful but the alternate reality it describes is not achievable according to the existing market forces (horses). 

In this way, Fourier rejects the normal on the basis of presenting the abnormal as the new normal. The most cited prediction in Fourier’s writings is that the oceans would lose their salinity and turn to lemonade. In the Star card this prediction is manifested when the figure casts the yellow liquid from the jug back to nature. The yellow liquid symbolizes the spiritual and the blue one symbolizes sexuality. Therefore the figure is sharing her spirituality with nature and changes it: we can see the change when the colors of the stars overhead her are alternating between those colors. Fourier wrote that he will wait every day at a certain time for a wealthy savior who will come to invest his capital in Fourier’s phalanges. Of course he never appeared in Fourier’s modest apartment. It is interesting to note in this context that the star card is called in French “L’ Étoile” which means in dissolution of syllables: “your island”. Fourier waited on his island for his special star to appear in the utopian horizon. He never drew back from his ideas till the end of his life and he never admitted to be a madman or at least to have some sort of mental illness. His profound seriousness concerning his ideas suggests the existence of an elaborate defensive mechanism as part of his psych. It can be said that almost all utopian visions require a chatty description of all their social elements. The utopian must be an arrogant “all knowing” narrator of his unusual world.

In this chapter we have met a utopian definition of political thought: we have briefly presented a Tarot-philosophical reading about the creation and distribution of goods and services within the Fourier’s utopia. Our focus in the next chapter will be a Tarot-philosophical reading concerning a more practical theme in political thought: the concepts of truth, justice and power in the political thought of Noam Chomsky and Michelle Foucault. We shall see that while Fourier’s society is alienated to civilization, Chomsky and Foucault are both concerned about the same imminent dangers to it. They disagree about whether the masses should pursue reform or revolution as a means to this end. 

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The Power Above: Zhang Zai, Spinoza, Sartre and Frankie goes to Hollywood

“The power of love
A force from above
Cleaning my soul
Flame on burn desire
Love with tongues of fire
Purge the soul
Make love your goal” ― Frankie goes to Hollywood

The integration between the heavenly and earthly elements of human existence has fascinated philosophers and artists throughout the ages. For example, in our current culture the song “The Power of Love” by the British band “Frankie goes to Hollywood” is one of the most beautiful love songs ever written in pop music. The lyrics describe the connection between celestial and terrestrial powers of love. According to Frankie, human desire is the expression of this power; it is the manifested flames of divine love. Our earthly desire purifies the mind; therefore, we should make love our primary goal in life. It seems that the original performance by Holly Johnson, the vocalist of Frankie, will forever be an engaging fusion of voice, charisma and lyrics embodied in distilled forms of love

The Neo-Confucian philosopher Zhang Zai is one of the most important philosophers of the Song Dynasty (宋). Zhang lived in a period of time (1022-1077) when Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism philosophies were erratically competing or seeking for mutual integration between them. Many thinkers in China attacked the fundamental concepts of the Buddhist position; paradoxically, those attacks could not avoid the synthesis, although partial one, between Buddhism and the old schools of thought in China

In relation to his predecessors, Zhang’s philosophical innovation is the priority he gives to the concept of Chi (qi 氣.( Zhang argues that all phenomena in nature can be understood in terms of one material force called Chi. Chi is associated with the world (the totality of things existing in our world) as one thing. The changes in the world are due to constant flux and change of Chi. Chi is invisible when it’s fully dispersed and solid when fully-condensed; it has two aspects: dispersion (Yang) and condensation (Yin) changing forever by the laws of nature. 

Contrary to his predecessors, Yin and Yang are mere aspects of Chi in Zhang philosophy and therefore are essentially one. Yin and yang movements are jointly linked by virtue of being made ​​of the same material. Concerning the nature of human beings Zhang distinguishes between two expressions of Chi: spiritual nature and material nature. Yang Chi movement is called the spiritual soul of the world. Yin Chi movement is called the material soul of the world. The spiritual nature is eternal, does not change and is associated with the good; the material nature is earthly, temporary, changes frequently and impedes humans to achieve their heavenly spiritual nature. Zhang attributes the cosmos the duality of movement of the same basic element: heaven and earth are carrying the same nature and the same basic fundamental concept

The philosopher Baruch Spinoza defines Nature or God as the only substance that exists in the world. What we humans can know about the world as God/Nature is called an attribute by him. God or nature has infinite attributes but humans, due to their limited minds know only two them: the attribute of extension (body) and the attribute of thought (mind). Thus the attributes don’t have an existence for themselves and can be defined as different perspectives of the same phenomenon, i.e. god or nature. The attributes are governed by the law of cause and effect. For example, the attribute of thought can be described as a casual chain of thoughts. Each one of us has his/her unique place in that casual matrix of extended/thought. Spinoza’s theory of attributes can be compared to Zhang’s Yin and Yang Chi doctrine. Like the attributes relation to god, yin and yang chi have no real existence of their own but are presumed to describe certain angle about the same phenomenon – the one Chi. The exact place in the structure of the attributes or the particular movements of yin and yang is the individual’s genuine aspect of the same unity they represent

Understanding of the one principle behind the whole universe is shared by Spinoza and Zhang. They also share the method for the right and moral way of living: we should know our unique place in the whole universe, in the one unity. Similarly, Frankie tells us in their song that we should understand the power of love through the recognition that earthly and heavenly power is one. Love is the interplay of the divine and the earthly elements. We should “make love our goal”, that is, to understand that our goal is to make love with the universe. Spinoza is famously “making love” with God as well: the highest level of human knowledge, the intellectual love of God is the only way to achieve the moral salvation of the soul

The Temperance card reveals similar ideas to Zhang, Spinoza and Frankie. The card’s peaceful character is really an angel whose wings almost touching the sky and feet touch the snake on the ground. The peacefulness of temperance is explained by his/her balance between the terrestrial and the celestial circulation of elements. The balance is harmonious because the card represents the unity of nature: the fluid which infinitely moves upwards and downwards between the two jugs is suggesting that we can understand the one fundamental nature of the nature. Our soul must find the balance between heaven and earth which will achieve the desired peace of mind. Being moderate is not a weakness but an expression of the wisdom of the mind and understanding of the processes of the cosmos.

The ​​magic liquid in the card flows in all directions and sometimes against the power of gravity. Consequently we are implied that temperance is a rare human skill or gift. The understanding that the material soul and spiritual soul are one material is rare as well. Zhang says that the wise man has the rarest gift to combine the spiritual and material one earthly matter. 

In their brilliant love hymn Frankie also says that love is also a dangerous game, a lurking deadly force: “With my undying death-defying love for you, envy will hurt itself”. We have seen that Spinoza’s perception of love as expressing our active desire to know our place in God-Nature has some links to Neo-Confucian philosophies. They both differ from the conception of love a dangerous death struggle for authenticity. This view is presented by the French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre in his celebrated book “Being and Nothingness”. We shall see that when he writes about love, Sartre borrows some key factors from the “Master-Slave dialectic developed by the 18th century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

We generally think that love is related to the desire for perfection, but Sartre wants to describe it as a struggle for authenticity. Love is being with the other person, being there for her but at the same time a struggle for self-authenticity. Sartre emphasizes that love relationships bare a concealed struggle for power in their definition and the uniqueness of love involves strategic and forceful control of temptation. When we fall in love, we are preoccupied with the way in which we can get the other to think of us as we think of ourselves. The other side in the love-struggle relationship thinks exactly the same as we do, and therefore the birth of temptation always involves a hidden decision of the parties to finish their struggle. For example, the inherent concealment of love forceful agreements finds its expression in our sexual lives: Sartre argues that when we have sex we concentrate on the boy’s most passive and less humanoid parts: buttocks, breasts, hips and body hair. This is the actual result of the concealment of the struggle for authenticity. This does not mean that our partner becomes an object of sex, but rather an awareness of the powerful existence of the other. It is a dialectical struggle for power: we want to please the other so that she will tell us everything we wanted to hear about ourselves, but if we succeed too much, the other will lose credibility and authenticity will be destroyed. Pleasure is the means by which we control the other: we strive to satisfy our sexual appetites and bring the other to think of us in an authentic manner, but pleasure must be forcefully measured otherwise it cannot be used as a manipulative mean.

Thus Love is not an aspiration for divine perfection. As Sartre points out, when love fails, the immediate result is not only the end of the relationship, but also the emergence of a different sentiment than love: when one side showed too much power in order to win the love of the other side, we say that he was sadistic in the manipulative sense of the notion. When one side surrenders in order to win the love of the other side, we say that masochism in its manipulative sense has ended the relationship. “Frankie” says that when love thrives “envy will hurt itself” and they actually describe the powerful rules of love: envy is constantly trying to destroy itself so that the relationship of power will not suffer from over-exposure and remain hidden

The absence of perfection in love is also expressed in the Lovers card of the Tarot. The figure of Cupid shoots its arrows at the figure in the center but we notice that Cupid may miss and the arrow will land at the feet of the right female figure. It is not rare that love will miss its enjoyable goals and we will be left with our earthly socializing.  Thus we may infer that pure love is unattainable, all we do have is a game of power that sometimes climaxes to love peaks and sometimes misses it. The three figures in the card display the complexity of the act of love by showing a mess of touching hands. The central male character seems to be confused between his mind (the old figure on the left side) and his bodily desire (the young figure on the right side). Love’s arrows do not unfold this three polar emotional mess but rather make it manifest 

The three figures in the card can be compared to the characters in Sartre’s play “No Exit”: Joseph Garcin is the middle man who cannot chose between intellect and passion, Inès Serrano who is manipulative, inspired but not voluptuous is the female figure to the left and Estelle Rigault who strives to be passionate as long as her partner will tell the right manly words is the female figure to the right. It seems that the woman to the right wants to please the man and she will tell him everything he wants to hear and the woman to the left has won the man’s attention but not his desire. The card’s deeper meaning is that love’s authenticity is destroyed. Sartre’s figures are trapped in hell in an impossible relationship where intellect on the one hand and desire on the other will never reach their full potential. Sartre and the card state that love is a struggle for harmony but is not harmonious or celestial in itself; although they tend to be more physical and lustful in their nature, the arrows of Cupid will always miss their heavenly target

Frankie says: “Dreams are like angels, they keep bad at bay; love is the light scaring darkness away”: the understanding that earthly human dreams and heavenly angels have a common element is rare just like to keep bad at bay; just like the rarest love of God in Spinoza’s Ethics

We saw Sartre’s philosophy aspired to demonstrate how that we love the other person because she was doing the same thing. Contrary to Spinoza and Sartre’s naturalistic approach, the Bible explains how our conscience needs to be trained, that we love God because he first loved us. The earthly love is always pre-dominated and controlled by the heavenly love

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