The Light That Penetrates (Enlightenment Book 6)

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The French Revolution was a political outcome of the Enlightenment. So, its violent extremes particularly during the Reign of Terror fueled a major reaction against the Enlightenment, which many writers blamed for undermining traditional beliefs that sustained the ancien regime, thereby fomenting revolution. Counter-revolutionary conservatives such as Irish politician Edmund Burke , French Jesuit Augustin Barruel , and French writer Joseph de Maistre all asserted a close link between the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, as did many of the revolutionary leaders themselves, so that the Enlightenment became increasingly discredited as the French Revolution became increasingly bloody.

Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France was heavily spiced with hostile references to the revolutionaries as merely politicized philosophes.

By Saint Augustine

Barruel argued, in his best-selling Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism , one of the most widely read books of its period, that the French Revolution was the consequence of a conspiracy of philosophes and freemasons. De Maistre saw the crimes of the Reign of Terror as the apotheosis and the logical consequence of the destructive spirit of the eighteenth century, as well as the divinely decreed punishment for it. This reaction to the French Revolution did not necessarily extend to its American counterpart.

Burke, for one, was entirely supportive of the American Revolution , whose values he saw as compatible with traditions in their best sense. The political Counter-revolution had its counterpart in a religious reaction to its Enlightenment values, especially in France. Joseph de Maistre, mentioned above as a political counter-revolutionary, was also a staunch defender of the Papacy; in he wrote Du Pape On the Pope in which he argued for the infallible authority of the Pope to bring political stability in Europe.

With the long tradition of Lutheranism and Pietism in Germany, a fideist reaction against the Enlightenment emerged there.

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Johann Georg Hamann maintained that reason is limited when people try to understand themselves and all existence, and that this limitation of reason leads them to feel that they are ignorant. Consciousness of ignorance leads to genuine faith. Another German fideist was Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi , who believed that super sensible realities such as God can be perceived by an intuitive feeling or faith, as distinguished from scientific reason.

Rousseau 's romantic sentimental longing for nature was an influence for the emergence of a new movement called Romanticism around the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century, as an another reaction against the Enlightenment. It was especially in Germany that this movement, with its emphasis upon imagination, spontaneity, and passion, flourished in the fields such as literature and art.

Graeme Garrard identifies Rousseau as the father of the Counter-Enlightenment, [4] and even broadens the meaning of the term "Counter-Enlightenment," by saying that there have been many Counter-Enlightenments from the middle of the eighteenth century to the twentieth century amongst various critics, both conservative and liberal alike, including postmodernists and feminists.

After the end of the Second World War the Enlightenment tradition reemerged as a key organizing concept in social and political thought and the history of ideas.


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But with the rise of postmodernism, which is one of the Counter-Enlightenments according to Garrard, the features of the Enlightenment started to be regarded as liabilities—excessive specialization, failure to heed traditional wisdom or provide for unintended consequences, and the excessive admiration of Enlightenment figures such as the Founding Fathers of the United States.

They prompted a backlash against both science- and Enlightenment-based dogma in general. Postmodern philosophers such as Michel Foucault are often understood as arguing that the Age of Reason unfairly constructed a vision of unreason as being demonic and subhuman, and therefore, evil and befouling. He saw truth as more subjective and all disciplines as created by elites who control the academy, who determine, often based on self-interests, the standards of normality.

Once one method has been selected over others, alternatives become deviant. What does not conform is heresy. History, for example, is written by winners not losers, usually by men not women, by the elite not the workers. Foucault actually draws some of his ideas from the Freudo-Marxist book written by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno of the Frankfurt School, Dialectic of Enlightenment, which was a penetrating critique of what they perceived as the contradiction of Enlightenment thought: Enlightenment is at once liberatory and, through the domination of instrumental rationality, tending towards totalitarianism, such as fascism, in the twentieth century.

Nasr expresses Muslim criticism of the Enlightenment as separating knowledge from value. The Buddha's final admonition to his disciples on his death bed is this: "Transient are all component things. Work out your deliverance with heedfulness!

The Confessions of Saint Augustine, by Saint Augustine

This is my advice to you! In both these injunctions the most significant and pregnant word is appamada, which literally means incessant heedfulness. Man cannot be heedful unless he is aware of his actions — whether they are mental, verbal, or physical — at every moment of his waking life. Only when a man is fully awake to and mindful of his activities can he distinguish good from bad and right from wrong. It is in the light of mindfulness that he will see the beauty or the ugliness of his deeds. The word appamada, throughout the Tipitaka, is used to denote sati, mindfulness; pamada is defined as absence of mindfulness.

Says the Buddha in the Anguttara Nikaya:. Monks, I know not of any other single thing of such power to cause the arising of good thoughts if not yet arisen, or to cause the waning of evil thoughts if already arisen, as heedfulness. In him who is heedful, good thoughts not yet arisen, do arise, and evil thoughts, if arisen, do wane. Constant mindfulness and vigilance are necessary to avoid ill and perform good.

The man with presence of mind, who surrounds himself with watchfulness of mind satima , the man of courage and earnestness, gets ahead of the lethargic, the heedless pamatto , as a racehorse outstrips a decrepit hack. The importance of sati, mindfulness, in all our dealings is clearly indicated by the following striking words of the Buddha:. Mindfulness, O disciples, I declare is essential in all things everywhere. It is as salt is to the curry. The Buddha's life is one integral picture of mindfulness.

He is the sada sato , the ever-mindful, the ever-vigilant. He is the very embodiment of mindfulness. There was never an occasion when the Buddha manifested signs of sluggish inactivity or thoughtlessness.

Right mindfulness or complete awareness, in a way, is superior to knowledge, because in the absence of mindfulness it is just impossible for a man to make the best of his learning. Intelligence devoid of mindfulness tends to lead man astray and entice him from the path of rectitude and duty. Even people who are well informed and intelligent fail to see a thing in its proper perspective when they lack this all-important quality of mindfulness.

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Men of good standing, owing to deeds done and words spoken thoughtlessly and without due consideration to their consequences, are often subjected to severe and justified criticism. Mindfulness is the chief characteristic of all wholesome actions tending to one's own and others' profit. Appamado mahato atthaya sanvattati: [8] "Mindfulness is conducive to great profit" — that is, highest mental development — and it is through such attainment that deliverance from the sufferings of samsara is possible.

The man who delights in mindfulness and regards heedlessness with dread, is not liable to fall away. He is in the vicinity of Nibbana. The second enlightenment factor is dhammavicaya , keen investigation of the Dhamma. It is the sharp analytical knowledge of understanding the true nature of all constituent things animate or inanimate, human or divine. It is seeing things as they really are; seeing things in their proper perspective.

It is the analysis of all component things into their fundamental elements, right down to their ultimates. Through keen investigation one understands that all compounded things pass through the inconceivably rapid moments of uppada , thiti, and bhanga , or of arising, reaching a peak, and ceasing, just as a river in flood sweeps to a climax and fades away. The whole universe is constantly changing, not remaining the same for two consecutive moments. All things in fact are subjected to causes, conditions, and effects hetu , paccaya, and phala.

Systematic reflection yoniso manasikara comes naturally through right mindfulness, and it urges one to discriminate, to reason and investigate. Shallow thinking, unsystematic investigation ayoniso manasikara makes men muddle-headed; and then they fail to investigate the nature of things. Such people cannot see cause and effect, seed and fruit, the rise and fall of compounded things. Says the Buddha: "This doctrine is for the wise and not for the unwise. Buddhism is free from compulsion and coercion and does not demand of the follower blind faith.

At the very outset the skeptic will be pleased to hear of its call for investigation. Buddhism from beginning to end is open to all those who have eyes to see and minds to understand. The Buddha never endeavored to wring out of his followers blind and submissive faith in him and his teaching. He tutors his disciples in the ways of discrimination and intelligent inquiry. To the inquiring Kalamas the Buddha answered: "Right is it to doubt, right is it to question what is doubtful and what is not clear. In a doubtful matter wavering does arise.

And in conformity with this thoroughly correct attitude of true inquiry the philosophers of later times observed: "As the wise test the purity of gold by burning, cutting and examining it by means of a piece of touchstone, so should you accept my words after examining them and not merely out of regard and reverence for me.


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The truth of the dhamma can be grasped only through calm concentrative thought and insight samatha and vipassana and never through blind faith. One who goes in quest of truth is never satisfied with surface knowledge. He wants to delve deep and see what is beneath. That is the sort of search encouraged in Buddhism.