FROM DEMONSTRATION TO ASSERTION:
IMMANUEL KANT AND "THE GREAT INSTAURATION"
The Sciences of the Movements of Eons and Stellar Correspondence in the Philosophy of Kant
by Christopher Fulkerson
From “Syringa,” by John Ashbery
The philosophy of Immanuel Kant constitutes what is probably the most public "secret teaching" of all time.
Without resorting to religion, and despite the great danger of being misunderstood as putting forward mere superstition, he codified a system of essential facts about stellar influence on the human mind, and on matter and intelligence as they are perceived by the human mind.
The complexity of his project of indicating, rather than explaining, his ideas, is the real reason for the renowned complexity of Kant’s prose, it is what makes it so apparently difficult to read. But Kant hoped that a certain experience while reading would cut down on his audience’s difficulties. He hoped that with a certain “leap of imagination,” his ideal reader would bridge the distance between the “indications” Kant could safely make, and the topic he was trying to discuss. That “leap of imagination” is exactly what Kant is referring to when he talks about the “Transcendental Deduction.” The reader deduces that the real topic “transcends” what is apparently under discussion. Since this transcendental realization is about the relationship between the mind, and matter, and the stars in the sky, the sense of the term “Transcendental” is doubly redolent of “height,” of that which is “above and beyond.”
Immanuel Kant never gave up his early interest in influences on the world that he once called "zodiacal," and about which as a young scholar he wrote a serious, well-regarded, and fairly explicit book. But, because various political and religious authorities discouraged, and sometimes prohibited him from writing about anything that might be thought to challenge orthodox religion, at mid-career Kant had to change his tactic, and permanently cast the details of his eventually fully-developed system of stellar world-influences behind a veil of metaphor that permeates all his works. The hostile policies of the Prussian government remain in place to this day, in the form of the assumptions that pretty much all intelligent people make about the relationship, or rather the lack of it, between ourselves, our minds, our world, and the heavenly bodies, including our own sun.
It is well-known that at a certain point Kant simply had to promise the king of Prussia that he would not write about religion any more. But there were aspects to this situation that meant he would be best off if he simply didn't get close to anything that might be thought to deviate from orthodoxy, even if it were not quite about religion.
Immanuel Kant created a philosophical system based on the idea of the all-pervasive and variegated but quantifiable influence of the cosmos on intelligent life, and on the actual creation of matter – not only in the universe at large, but, not least, in the everyday world around us. Though he often discusses God in his writings, by the time he arrived at his mature philosophy, the cosmological influences are described, and seem to operate, without direct reference to God, nor even do they assume God’s necessity.
That was the reason the religious authorities tried to suppress Kant’s work in his own day, and why he veiled any references to influences that might be thought “controversial,” such as his “Zodiacal” system of stellification, which is the general topic of his three great critiques.
But a more important fact results from the suppression of Kant’s deliberately occluded influences: the astronomical influences that prevailed in Kant’s day have changed; there is a new eon due to the shifting of the stars, and the practical ramifications of Kant’s system must be brought up to date. Putting this problem in the terms Kant used in his first Critique, we have moved from an era of “Demonstration” to one of “Assertion.” We will also have to consider the possibility that Kant himself wished for this upgrade not to occur, and that he may have had his own reasons for making his stellar system pellucid rather than clear. Many Kant scholars have asked why Kant wrote in such a difficult style. The answer may have been that he did not want his system to be so well known that it would become a flexible system that would change with the times. He may have wished it to remain, as it were, parked in his own time. I am not sure he wanted that, but we ought to ask whether he did.
Let's first find the precedent within Kant’s work for the system of stellar influences that I am saying he secretly championed.
In 1755, still only 31 years of age, Kant published a book entitled "Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens". In this book Kant showed his familiarity with the idea of a plurality of worlds and speculated about the existence of other universes. This in itself was not too unusual for his place and time. It was more remarkable that the young scholar made himself famous by discussing all fundamentals of sidereal astronomy, as well as "a version of the nebular hypothesis of planetary formation." This quote comes from a discussion of this early Kantian essay by scholar Michael J. Crowe, who says that Kant "urges that God's designing action is not primarily to be sought in such particulars of nature as an insect's wing, but rather in the laws that God providentially imposed on matter at its creation." Kant says the Milky Way is circular, even calls it a "zodiac" of stars, and he says that nebulae are "other Milky Ways," that is, other universes. (By the 1920s, his idea was shown to be basically correct.) Kant is very interested in the idea of the formation of planets and stars, which he sees as part of the cosmological process; paraphrasing Descartes he says "Give me matter, I will build a world out of it." "Basically," says Crowe, "His theory is that... matter condenses as a result of gravitational forces around certain especially dense masses."
For our purposes an important aspect of Kant's thinking is given in his remark that "The excellence of thinking natures, the promptness in their reflections, the clarity and vivacity of the notions that come to them through external impression, together with the ability to put them together... in short the whole range of their perfection, stands under a certain rule, according to which these become more excellent and perfect in proportion to the distance of their inhabitants from the sun."
Crowe says that "The book reveals that the philosopher, later so famous for his critiques of speculative systems, wrote not without having experienced their siren call... The 'Starry heavens' that so filled Kant with awe were not the heavens of traditional astronomy... This was an extraordinarily imaginative conception of the cosmos, but as Kant must eventually have realized, it was at most only partially grounded in science." Crowe is speaking here about Kant's enthusiasm for the idea of extraterrestrial life, which he maintained and which appears in all three critiques and other major and lesser works. Kant discussed in detail the existence, nature, and celestial location of beings on the infinite alternate worlds that he envisioned. Kant maintained this “extraordinarily imaginative conception of the cosmos,” and in fact developed it into a very powerful system which posited stellar influence on life, intelligence, and phenomena.
The idea of alternate worlds was quite well known, since Leibnitz had written extensively about it, and since Leibnitz’s ideas were accepted by the Prussian state as fully plausible, it was therefore part of the orthodox academic view of the Prussian state. The "Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens" did not even attract much attention, let alone censure. However, in other contexts, Kant ran afoul with the official censors, especially over matters of religious orthodoxy.
(Kant amply demonstrated his acquaintance with the chief mystic of the age, Emanuel Swedenborg, the Swedish scientist and polymath who, at an advanced age and after writing many works on science and engineering, began producing a highly idiosyncratic but sophisticated and well-written literature testifying to the reality of angels and spirit influences in the world, and his personal experiences with these. Kant's book "Dreams of a Spirit Seer" lampoons Swedenborg. However, I think the jury is still out as to whether this book really functions to divert credibility from its subject. Certainly the question remains as to why Kant apparently felt he ought to write it. His purpose may have been as simple as a drawing of the bounds of discussion.)
For our purposes what is important is that from early on Kant believed that there were laws regarding the forms matter took at its creation; that he was interested in how celestial bodies are formed and that he thought matter condenses in the cosmological creative process; that he believed this creation of matter was part of celestial process; that there are multiple universes or "zodiacs" of stars; that he went so far in his enthusiasm as to say he would build a world if he could; that he thought intelligent life was created through the external impression of the sun; that the notions intelligent beings have are actually generated by the heavenly bodies; that intelligent life has some responsibility for putting the stellar influences together on its own; that the location of an intelligent being affected the nature and quality of its intelligence; and last but not least, Kant did not care that his ideas were - apparently - only partly grounded in science. This was because he had figured out what is actually going on.
Kant put all these strands together, purged of any appearance of unorthodox religious belief, in the Critique of Pure Reason, and in veiled terms continued to develop their interactivity for the rest of his life. I believe that his famous Twelve Categories are in fact meant to be understood to be the signs of the Zodiac. Kant was not interested in "traditional" ideas about these, but, as I will try to show, he wanted the traditional Zodiacal signs to be discovered as corresponding to his system of philosophy. He left clear footprints on the path between them.
Kant’s Transcendental Idealism is Idealist because he does not, ultimately, believe in matter, and, as explained earlier, it is Transcendental both because of its cosmological, indeed astronomical orientation, and because of the fact that the real meaning of his words is “above” the literal meaning of the words.
Discussion of Categories
There is also the question of the translation of Kant's German terminology. Several of the most important terms in his later mature philosophy are invariably mistranslated to suggest that he was writing about "judgment." In fact, as I will describe, the particular terms he chose for "judgment" can in all cases be translated into English with words suggesting the human sense of sight. I am not saying Kant is "just talking about seeing," I am saying that Kant is talking about "just seeing:" literally, seeing that is "just," one might perhaps say, seeing that I “righteous,” that is based on a system of interpretation that can have right and wrong "views," in which there is a moral component. In the dedication of the first Critique, Kant expressed the fear of being “misjudged by vulgar eyes. The “just” view is one that is derived from, and in concert with, a stellar, a heavenly source.
This makes perfect sense, since he is, I believe, not speaking quite as abstractly as most readers have believed of him. There is a dual-meaning nature to Kant's writing in the three famous critiques that are generally considered his principal masterworks: the surface meaning, which is the philosophy as it is usually understood; and there is the meaning that is basically about how, believe it or not, the stars in the sky cause manifestations of phenomena in the world. And this is the real meaning of Kant's philosophy. It is as though Kant thought the world is a huge theater, and the stars in the sky are the lighting system; or more even, a system of projection.
The “views” that Kant believe were proper and possible were not merely metaphoric “views,” they were physical views. Kant’s philosophy is a philosophy which attempts to give the basis of a physics of seeing and of manifestation. The titles of Kant’s critiques have a meaning in German which indicates this visual aspect to the manifestation of phenomena and of the relationship between these phenomena and the act of seeing, and of the relationship between the act of seeing and the phenomenon of thought – or of apparent thought.
The German title of Kant's third and last Critique, Kritik des Urteilschaft, is better translated "Critique of Discernment" than the very awkard "Critique of the Power of Judgment." In the Preface to the second Critique, Kant admits that the subject matter of the first two critiques is so close in nature that the second critique might at first glance be thought to cover "Pure Practical Reason," whereas the first critique had been of merely "Pure Reason." I would like to suggest that the essential imagery of the critiques is that of "viewing," simply seeing, and not "judging." Therefore the three critiques should I think have these titles:
Critique of Reflection
Critique of Visualization
Critique of Discernment
To complete the vocabulary that is usually translated to suggest "judgment," into one suggestive of the sense of vision, I suggest that "Urteil" be translated as "View" rather than "Judgment;" that the verb "zum urteilen" be translated as "to distinguish" rather than "to judge" (and perhaps sometimes simply as "to view"); and, again, that the word "Urteilskraft" be translated as "discernment," rather than the clearly awkward term "power of judgment."
Very many commentators have remarked on Kant's famous line in the last paragraph of the second critique, "Two things fill the mind with ever increasing admiration and reverence, the more often and steadily one reflects on them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me." Kant meant the first bit, about the starry heavens, much more literally than is usually suspected. There are however hints here and there that other thinkers along the way have understood him.
There are two very broad clues at the beginning of the first critique that suggest its stellar and visual theme.
The first of these is the motto that was added to the second edition, one might think, after it was safe to mention, having been left out of the first edition. Once the book had passed the censors and the public scrutiny, as his motto Kant quotes Francis Bacon under the title as Baron Verulam, from a writing of his called "The Great Instauration." This is an interesting word, which seems to have been coined by Bacon, many famous usages of which the Oxford English Dictionary gives from down through the centuries. The literal meanings given suggest only restoration or erection of buildings, but the actual examples mention only the establishment of states, churches, and universities. So the buildings or states in question have very, shall we say, high-flown significance. The term sounds redolent of the word "star," and none of the examples quoted in the OED speak to refute that idea. I suggest that when he discusses "instauration," Bacon is discussing the establishment of a physical, not merely fanciful, correspondence between stellar constellations and the earth, what is better called "stellification." The science of doing this is known to have existed for millenia; there are many examples from ancient Egypt which everybody knows about; and there is now the rising science of archeoastronomy to discuss these things. If the evidence in the field is not enough, one may consult the serious recent scholars in the field, now a century old in its modern revivification, and popular or student discussions in book form have begun to appear. The scholarly consensus is accruing, and the idea of coordination between the stars and structures on earth is not considered "over the top."
Kant's Baconian motto says "Of our own person we will say nothing. But as to the subject matter with which we are concerned," which Kant cautiously does not quote, nor even hint at, "We ask that men think of it not as an opinion but as a work... Each individual equally, then, may reflect on it himself... Each may well hope from our instauration that it claims nothing infinite, and nothing beyond what is mortal; for in truth it prescribes only an end to infinite errors, and this is a legitimate end."
Bacon is discussing a "stellification," that is, a "rendering of correspondence with the stars," that each individual "may reflect on himself." There is something going on between the stars and man, and it involves some kind of "reflection" going, perhaps, both directions, from and to the people on Earth. Again, this does not involve judgment so much as it involves the act of seeing, and the act of visualization.
However, concerning Kant's philosophy, the Prussian governement of his time did not wish there to be any teaching that suggested a deviation from its ideas of orthodox religion. Zodiacal writings were, then as now, only too easily confused with unscientific speculations and downright wooly thinking. So Kant disguised his message, but left it clear enough for interested parties to discover.
But before we go one to that, there is that second broad clue I mentioned.
After reading about "instauration" as the book's motto, we then read that Kant has dedicated the Critique of Pure Reason (What I am suggesting might better be called the Critique of Reflection) to a particular state minister, one who was known for defending science, which no doubt meant bailing Kant out when the religious censor tried to stop him from publishing. Which did happen. In fact, Kant probably would not have been able to publish any of his mature philosophy if the censor had had his way; only Kant's status as a professor under State sponsorship forced the censor out of involvement with his publishing process. Grateful to the Baron von Zedlitz, Kant made sure to use a metaphor for vision in his dedication to him: "For someone who enjoys the life of speculation the approval of an enlightened and competent judge is, given his modest wishes, a powerful encouragement to toils whose utility is great, but distant, and hence is wholly misjudged by vulgar eyes." Kant then says "I commend all the remaining business of my literary vocation" to Baron von Zedlitz.
“Teleological power of discernment” is goal-oriented discernment. This is perhaps the summit of the idea that perception affects reality. It has been remarked that two centuries before modern relativity physics, Kant (Some writers say, together with Schopenhauer) discovered the principals of modern nuclear physics, in which the observer “affects” the situation under observation. But Kant is going far beyond this claim. He is not only saying the observer affects the situation, he says that the decision of the observer to observe one thing rather than another affects the manifestation of what it is that is observed. You don’t only have a chance to affect the world in some trifling or random way. You can actually affect the world as you want to affect it.
Begun 10/18/2010. Last updated 3/14/2010.