torstai 21. huhtikuuta 2016

Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin: Natural image of connections uniting God, human and universe (1782)

I have already presented an overview of one of Saint-Martin's works, so I need not be overtly thorough with describing his philosophical theories – to put it shortly, his philosophy is a form of religious mysticism, in which human beings reside in a fallen state, in which their original unity with divinity has been broken.

What is new in Tableau naturel des rapports qui unissent Dieu, l'Homme et l'Univers is the idea of mythologies in general as an expression of important metaphysical truths. This is in itself not that much of a novelty, since the idea has been part of philosopher's tool kit at least since the time of Neo-Platonists and first Christian thinkers.

Yet, what one might find interesting is the range of mythologies Saint-Martin considers – he mentions details at least from Greek, Egyptian, Native American and Chinese mythologies. In his thoroughness, Sain-Martin precedes similar considerations in German idealism. What Saint-Martin is mostly after is commonalities. These range from such description of physical events as the flood to such central ingredients of Saint-Martin's own philosophy as the fall of human beings.

But Saint-Martin shows himself to lie in the great tradition of Western thinkers by emphasising one mythology over the others – that is, the Jewish mythology embodies in the old testament. With painstaking thoroughness, he goes through almost all of the Old Testament, and this study forms then the major part of his book. He even follows the quaint tradition that Hebrew was the oldest language in the world and tries to e.g. interpret names from Chinese mythology through similar sounding words in Hebrew. Of course, here Saint-Martin is again quite close to German idealists, who often thought that Christianity was still the highest religion of them all.

So much for Saint-Martin's turn towards mythologies. Next time, we shall be introduced to work of another Frenchman.