Roberto Calasso, pictured in Barcelona in 2019 Susanna Saez
From solitude arises knowledge; of knowledge, art, and of art, the eternal. The cycle is closed. From Prajapati to Paul Klee. Roberto Calasso has died after a life dedicated to thought and literature (which he did not distinguish), to retelling ancient myths, to refabulating the modern orphanhood. In a recent interview he confessed that it is possible to live without the gods, but that the experience of the divine changes everything: "The divine is happening all the time, it is not an extinct animal, but you have to know how to recognize it, that is the essential thing." Calasso's late work was guided by two motives, as old as the world: the universe as a perpetual sacrifice and the harmony of the human with the invisible. Both are central to Vedic literature, which he studied in depth and of which he left us an extraordinary book:
, dedicated to the ancient upaniṣad and
The Hundred Paths
Roberto Calasso, great editorial authority, dies
"Today there is undoubtedly good literature, but very little really great"
“Man from birth has only grown old. The thing is hopeless, but perhaps it is not so sad. " Ortega, like Calasso, was one of the few to recognize the drawbacks that immortality would have. That life is short and corruptible, that we are beings for sacrifice, beings that burn slowly in the fire of breath, is an incentive. "That death intervenes in the very substance of our life, collaborates with it, compresses and densifies it, makes it be a hurry, imminence and the need to do the best at every moment" should be cause for celebration. Calasso regretted, with Ortega, that one of the great shame of our culture (which already sells longevity to the potentates) "is that it has not taught man to be well what he is constitutively, namely: mortal."
Calasso has been able to read the world as a sacred text in which we are interwoven. He looked suspiciously at the successes of our technological civilization: "Technology creates the illusion of knowledge." He knew how to detect the erotic and blindness of the data. "We have gone from Dadaism to
. We are close to knowing almost everything that we are not interested in knowing, ”he said. He was very critical of the orientation of the neurosciences (a fashionable discipline in the 21st century), obfuscated with the idea that consciousness is a property of matter. In an interview with the Mexican Alejandro Martínez Gallardo, he commented: “Consciousness is one of the main themes of Vedic thought and today it is once again the star theme of science. Hundreds and even thousands of books have been published in recent years with the word consciousness in the title, but science does not seem to have even taken a step in the right direction. Descriptions of the brain are produced, of course, but not of consciousness. None of these scientists ever thought of opening the upaniṣad and discovering that they were talking about the same thing. "The ancient search for the divine has today been transformed into the inquiry into the nature of consciousness. Calasso was aware that our civilization has not been able to distinguish mind from consciousness. Not even Husserl, who was the first to make consciousness the central theme of contemporary philosophy.
The mind is refractory to the surgeon's methods, it cannot be dissected, nor localized. Calasso understood, like phenomenology, that the mind is not in the brain, but that it is the brain that is within the mind. The identification between the two is one of the great setbacks of modern thought. Seeing the mind within the brain would be the natural or scientific attitude (in the sense of objectivist science), which states that the mind is an activity of the brain and consciousness a property of matter. Whereas for Calasso, as for ancient thought, it is the brain that is inside the mind. The explanation is simple. If we ask ourselves how we have come to find out that the brain exists and know how it works, we will immediately see that it is thanks to the mind.We have needed the mind to discover the brain.
In fact, the brain is an object-phenomenon that appears in many different ways to the neuroscientist. In the Vedic worldview, which Calasso shared, consciousness is not a property of matter, but the origin and root of all phenomena. Consciousness is the realm where things originally occur. Do we fall back into subjectivism? Absolutely. We have already said that the passage from the natural attitude to the phenomenological attitude does not imply denying the existence of things, but only a change of perspective. For something to be real it must first be a phenomenon (in the realm of consciousness). Anything that we create in the world can be true or false, but what is indisputable, what is beyond doubt, what cannot not be, is consciousness. That does not mean, of course, that the world is a mental creation.When we open our eyes we cannot choose what we see.
Calasso left an accurate diagnosis of our time. In secular society everything is idolatry. All good literature is sacred. The truth of art flies over the truth of positive science. The mind has become embroiled in its own projection. The world, as an old Hindu text says, is like the impression left by the telling of a story. He was well aware that "intelligence has been absorbed by algorithms" and that real problems have no solution. He agreed with Borges that the solution to the mystery is always inferior to the mystery. The Italian writer and editor would end up assuming the phenomenological insurgency of Simone Weil, a woman who knew how not to be intimidated by history. “In the name of science we white men travel the globe as owners.Science is for Westerners like the Catholic Church for Cortés and Pizarro, with the difference that they had some idea of what the sacraments were ”. The divine is for both the attention, the contemplated emotion, the burning of the mind, the light, the love and the game. He knew perfectly well of the improbable success of his vision, but he preferred, until the end, the truth of literature to that other truth, puritan and cold, of positive science.of positive science.of positive science.
Juan Arnau is a philosopher.