Plato says that, just before incarnating in her body, the soul must choose her destiny, her future way of life. At this crucial moment the soul is completely free. It is her sole responsibility to decide which kind of daimon she will use as her guardian during her brief earthly stay.
This idea goes totally against the « modern way ». For the most part, “modern thinkers”, for example Calvin, Hobbes, Voltaire, Marx, Einstein, Freud, have been advocating determinism or materialism for many centuries.
« Modern thinkers » are far removed from the Platonic world. And much more so from the intellectual and spiritual world in which the Egyptians of the pre-dynastic period, the Chaldean Magi or the Zoroaster supporters lived.
On these disappeared worlds, there are written sources, archaeological traces. It is not impossible to try to understand them better. Scrupulous scientists use their lives for this.
But how can « modernity » receive what Egyptologists or Assyriologists can extract from this long memory?
The noisy « modernity » remains silent, mute, speechless, on the oldest issues, the life and death of the spirit, the growth and degeneration of the soul.
How do « modern thinkers », for example, imagine the formation of the mind in the brain of the newborn child?
Epigenesis, they say, gradually shapes the human mind by connecting, strengthening or weakening neurons together during billions of continuous interactions with the world. It is a materialistic, epigenetic process. In this representation, there is no need for a primordial substance, an original soul, hidden under neurons, or descended from « heavens ». There is only a succession of half-programmed, half-contingent connections, a mixture of chance and neurobiological determinism, which end up constituting your mind or mine, the mind of a Mozart or of a Socrates.
In all cases, without exception, there is a totally unique, absolutely singular creation of a « person », a consciousness.
This “modern” view is widespread. But it is only a theory; it lacks clear evidence. There is no neurobiological evidence that the soul exists, and there is no neurobiological evidence that it does not exist.
The « modern » view, whether materialist or animist, determinist or spiritualist, wander and grope, blind-born, in baroque, devastated and irreconcilable intellectual landscapes.
We need to step back, a few centuries earlier, to reconsider the problem.
« What prevents an angelic thought from creeping into the powers of reason, even though we do not see how it creeps into them? »i
This sentence by a famous Renaissance thinker now has a « surrealist » flavor in the modern sense of the word. It effectively anticipates the Angel of the Odd (or the Uncanny) for more than three centuries.
This Angel had no wings, it was not a feathered « chicken ». Edgar Allan Poe explains that the only function of the « te Angel ov te Odd » was to bring about these bizarre accidents that continually amaze skeptics.
At first, the writer did not believe a word of what the Angel was telling him. Well, he took it the wrong way. Shortly afterwards, he had a real hard encounter with the Angelic power.
“Meeting my betrothed in an avenue thronged with the elite of the city, I was hastening to greet her with one of my best considered bows, when a small particle of some foreign matter lodging in the corner of my eye, rendered me, for the moment, completely blind. Before I could recover my sight, the lady of my love had disappeared—irreparably affronted at what she chose to consider my premeditated rudeness in passing her by ungreeted. While I stood bewildered at the suddenness of this accident (which might have happened, nevertheless, to any one under the sun), and while I still continued incapable of sight, I was accosted by the Angel of the Odd, who proffered me his aid with a civility which I had no reason to expect. He examined my disordered eye with much gentleness and skill, informed me that I had a drop in it, and (whatever a « drop » was) took it out, and afforded me relief.”ii
The Angel had taken revenge.
Skeptics abound. Fewer, those who detect subtle interferences, tiny signals from worlds too parallel.
What are these worlds? To make it in, we could call them « branes ». But it is still a metaphor that is too material, too physical.
There are conditions to perceive these phenomena, these interferences. You have to be free, and your mind must be on « vacation ».
There are many kinds of such ‘mind vacations’: sleep, fainting, melancholy, loneliness.
The modern disease par excellence, unemployment, could be considered as yet another kind of ‘vacation’. Most of us will have to live with it. It will soon be necessary to ensure political and social peace through a guaranteed universal income. We will have to go through this, necessarily, when the rapid progress of artificial intelligence will deprive societies of most of the usual jobs.
Then, in such a world, liberated from stress, « on vacation », interesting encounters with the bizarre will undoubtedly take place. Especially, in spite of themselves, the skeptics will have to learn to live by the new, odd, uncanny, norm.
i Marsilio Ficino Platonic Theology
iiEdgar Allan Poe. The Angel of the Odd