THE THIRD EARL RUSSELL by James Lewis IV of the Temple of Set 'The secret of happiness,' s

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THE THIRD EARL RUSSELL by James Lewis IV* of the Temple of Set 'The secret of happiness,' said Bertrand Russell during a celebration of his 92nd birthday, 'is to face the fact that the world is horrible.' Since the essence of one of Russell's teachings is that the universe cares not one iota about our personal aspirations, coming face to face with the reality and then working upward without expecting reward or punishment from above - regardless of whether we might feel it deserved or not - is another way of coming into being. It is hardly a very pleasant way to get started, but there is a certain amount of following in the sink-or-swim school of thought. An occasionally disturbing goldmine of its own is his book entitled UNPOPULAR ESSAYS [1950 ce, Simon and Schuster] and it is one I recommend highly for those with an interest in not only determining reality, but also in verifying the criteria for the determination itself. What is it that actually MAKES a thing present? Further, is the real question one of whether a thing is 'there' or is it rather one of what it is that causes us to judge ourselves in the presence of that we are pleased to call reality. Russell goes on to quote these two limericks illustrative of the metaphysics of the 'amiable Bishop Berkeley': There once was a man who said, 'God Must think it exceedingly odd If he finds that this tree Continues to be When there's no one about in the Quad.' Dear Sir, Your astonishment's odd; *I* am always about in the Quad. And that's why the tree Will continue to be, Since observed by Yours faithfully, God. [It was amusing to note that one of the Peter Davison DOCTOR WHO episodes, 'Time-Flight,' made use of Bishop Berkeley's philosophy of reality as opposed to the apparent evidence of the viewer's eyes and indeed made a direct reference to the second limerick. It is worth your time to watch the show if the episode airs in your area.] While Russell, in UNPOPULAR ESSAYS, does not restrict himself to the debate regarding the presence or absence of wood, he does cover a good range of questions and thought- provoking answers. The amiable Bishop of course bases his argument on the necessary existence and total attention of God, the tree being an idea in the mind of that deity. While I understand that cleric's train of thought which ends in there being no truly real matter, the proposition strikes me as somewhat ridiculous and useful only for confusing people you really can't stand. In the long run Berkeley's argument eventually winds up with the thought that all things are ideas in the mind of God -- ergo, no true originality can exist. The overall flaw in the entire thing is that Berkeley is apparently pro-Cosmic Consciousness and sees its subjective universe as the last word in the All. Russell leaves this to describe philosophers in general as somewhat timid people who 'dislike the unexpectd' and who therefore attempt to make the yet-to-be calculable at least in its main outlines. I'm not too sure our Setian philosophers could be accurately described as timid, but I am in agreement with the statement of that philosophy, through logic [the theory of reasoning], epistemology [the theory of knowledge], metaphysics [the theory of being], ethics [the theory of morality], and aesthetics [the theory of beauty], are drawn upon to make future projections which have a fairly good deal of accuracy about them. After having read Russell's recountings of the theories and confusions therein encountered by dozens of philosophical schools, I am rather well pleased with the Setian method of making use of the highest and best from each. His description of Hegel's 'Absolute Idea' is very much like our own method of approaching problems. UNPOPULAR ESSAYS puts it in these words: 'Logic (for Hegel) consisted of a series of self-correcting attempts to describe the world. If your first attempt is too simple, as it is sure to be, you will find that it contradicts itself; you will then try the opposite, or 'antithesis,' but this will also contradict itself. This leads you to a 'synthesis' containing something of the original idea and something of its opposite, but more complex and less self-contradictory than either. This new idea, however, will also prove inadequate, and you will be driven, through its opposite, to a new synthesis. This process goes on until you reach the 'Absolute Idea,' in which there is no contradiction, and which, therefore, describes the real world.' Mind now, this upward climbing progression is dependent on the available knowledge of the philosopher and the time (Hegel once published proof that there were only seven planets one week before the eighth was discovered). All of us at one time or another have made the error of feeling absolutely certain that only seven planets exist and then find ourselves faced with proof of an eighth, so Hegel, were he alive today, would not need to feel too badly about the entire thing. Russell has a rather enjoyable time relating te occasional faux pas of the philosophical world and I suppose all of us tend to be like him in a way. Academic error or not, Hegel's self-correcting steps are invaluable tools for the Setian Initiate to make use of. Chapter VII, 'An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,' is not simply there for amusement, although it is richly funny in places. The chapter has the quality of being highly thought-provoking. Dealing very much with ethics, it clearly points out the difference between looking through the lens of objective reality and popular nonsense. Paul Edwards, discussing Russell in THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY, points out Russell's contempt for those who shape their principles not by a respect for facts but rather by their wishes. Chapter VII is in places scathing and yet turns about in order to advise on the way out of falling into the same trap. Personal observation is one safeguard against indulging in rubbish -- Aristotle, Russell says, could have avoided the ridiculous idea of women having fewer teeth than men simply by asking Mrs. Aristotle to keep her mouth open while he counted. Droll, but valid. There is a great deal of difference between knowledge and opinion and it is a space vast enough to produce many a workable theory and practice technique. Place UNPOPULAR ESSAYS on your personal list of 'to be read' and then prepare yourself for agreement, surprise, and a lot of comparison and thought. ----------------------------------- 'The Third Earl Russell' originally appeared in Vol III, No 9 of THE TRAIL OF THE SERPENT. ----------------------------------- The author of this article may be reached via this BBS user #4. If you have questions or comments direct them to the author, or post them on the OPEN FORUM. Thanks.


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