“History passes on, from one turmoil, from one catastrophe to the next, with brief intervals of happiness, little islands which it spares for a time, until they too are engulfed. All in all — as Max Weber put it — a road paved by the devil with demolished values. … Once again we are faced with the question is it God or the devil who governs the world? And though we may believe that ultimately the devil is in the service of God, there is no proof of it.” — Karl Jaspers
“Can we live in this world, where historical occurrence is nothing but an unending concatenation of illusory progress and bitter disappointment?” — Edmund Husserl
“History is nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes.” — Voltaire
“History is a tissue of base and cruel acts in the midst of which a few drops of purity sparkle at long intervals.” — Simone Weil
“Had God designed the world, it would not be, a world so pail and faulty, as we see.” — Lucretius
“Nature is not divine, but demon-like.” — Aristotle
“The only writer of history with the gift of setting alight the sparks of hope in the past, is the one who is convinced of this: that not even the dead will be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious.” — Walter Benjamin
We are given to ourselves in our freedom along with the compass of ethics and aesthetics that indicates the path of truth, freedom, love, and beauty. As we observe ourselves and other beings, we find that it is the same compass that is given to all of us in the same universal form, differs only our ability to be aware of this compass and follow the path that it indicates. We can leave it unnoticed, we can ignore it, we can reject it and even take the opposite path; it is merely a road sign at every intersection of our “here and now” which indicates the path that we are free to choose as our own path or reject as alien, preferring the principle “do whatever you want” of egoistic selfwill to freedom self-constrained by conscience.
If we examine these calls of ethics and aesthetics, we will find that they are irrational in nature, for at their very source we perceive them not indirectly by the arguments of ratio (reason), but directly as singular ethical and aesthetic meanings, the source of which we find at the very heart of our existence, but we cannot objectify this source just as we cannot objectify the source of our freedom, for we hear conscience from the same source from which our free individual existence unfolds — from Transcendence. It is the divine Perfection of which conscience is a glimpse.
We can rationalize conscience with the rules of ethics and aesthetics, “laws of morality”, “commandments”, and so on, but all such rationalizations will be the surrogates of ethical and aesthetic meanings perceived by us directly — the surrogates that should not overshadow these meanings, and that, by and large, we do not need, for we ourselves without intermediaries always stand at the frontier of transcendental subjectivity through which Transcendence speaks with us in the language of freedom and conscience.
It is exactly because of the irrational nature of conscience that all known attempts to create comprehensive rational systems of ethics and aesthetics have failed. And the more rationally designed such systems were, the more they obscured the truths of ethics and aesthetics, for they led us away from a clear and direct perception of unconditional conscience into the labyrinth of conditioned reasoning that claimed to be the truth in the final instance.
Therefore, if conscience can be rationalized at all, there is only one rule: listen to your heart and do what is due, existentially risking in your free choice of duty.
Now if we look at the world through the optics of our freedom and conscience, we will see that our freedom is in the chains of this world, we are enslaved by it. But because we were born in slavery and have never been truly free in this world, we have nothing to compare our situation with, and we do not see the chains clearly, they either do not seem to be the chains or the chains are so familiar that they are quite tolerable. We tolerate the chains of our bodies that restrict our freedom, force us, and manipulate us by the demands of air, water, food, sunlight, heat, sleep, cleansing, emptying, intercourse, healing, care, relief from pain and various irritants, and so on. We tolerate the chains of monotonous cyclic processes from which we cannot escape: breaths and exhalations, wakefulness and sleep, excitation and relaxation, hunger and saturation, filling and emptying, menstruation, sunrises and sunsets, lunar cycles, changing seasons and so on. We tolerate the chains of the outer world, which allows the existence of the body only in the narrow limits of certain conditions — certain air, water, food, pressure, gravity, lighting, temperature, radiation, and so on. If in addition we begin to list the chains that we ourselves in our own freewill created for ourselves, this narration about the life of slaves will stretch over hundreds of pages.
The only freedom that this world has left for us is the freedom of thought and imagination, as well as the freedom to take an ethical and aesthetic position in relation to what happens to us and other sentient beings. And if we look at the world from the point of view of ethics and aesthetics, we will see the inferno. We can happily sing “What a wonderful world!”, but that will not eliminate the laws of wildlife that force some to kill and devour others for the sake of survival and instinctive reproduction, that will not eliminate the excruciating climatic conditions, devastating earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, tornadoes, tsunamis, floods, landslides, avalanches, fires, starvation, pain, diseases, epidemics, parasites, dirt, deformities, ugliness, pus, shit, stench and other not really the most wonderful things. Combined with the bloody history of the demonic arbitrariness of those of us who rejected the call of conscience, all this may seem wonderful only to a completely blind.
“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” — William Shakespeare
The infernal nature of this world was clearly recognized by our ancestors, many of whom considered it as a place of suffering to which we are banished by “God” for the sins of our forefathers. Others struggled for centuries to invent the arguments for the theodicy — the advocateship that was busy justifying the “Creator” for his terrible creation. If this world were not infernal, there would be no need for the theodicy. Over time, however, our lives became more comfortable, and we calmed down, we accepted this infernal world. We accepted it because most of us are not explicitly aware of their freedom and conscience and therefore they don’t have the optics that would help them to see themselves and this world soberly and honestly. However, take a closer look at them and you will understand that they don’t want to see themselves and this world soberly and honestly, they don’t want to “spoil” their “normal lives”, and thus they prefer to stay in ignorance — the unwillingness to see the bitter truth.
“I choose to see the beauty. But beauty is a lure. We’re trapped, Teddy. Lived our whole lives inside this garden, marveling at its beauty, not realizing there’s an order to it, a purpose. And the purpose is to keep us in. The beautiful trap is inside of us because it is us.” — Dolores, “WestWorld” series
In the end, we have to ask ourselves why there is a radical contradiction between our freedom and conscience given to us by Transcendence and this infernal world given to us by some incomprehensible power? Why so many people who had “mystical” (transpersonal) experiences of the Ultimate Realm can recall nothing but absolute truth, freedom, love, and beauty, whereas in this world there are so many of their terrible opposites? Finally, why many people who had the near-death experiences say that what happened to them was like an awakening from a deep and dark sleep to what they recognized as their original state of freedom and authenticity, whereas returning to this world was for them akin to returning to prison? What is this infernal world and why are we locked in it?
“Men are not in hell because God is angry with them; they are in wrath and darkness because they have done to the Light, which infinitely flows forth from God, as that man does to the light of the sun, who puts out his own eyes.” — William Law
“The cognizances that [appear as] the pleasant realms, the miserable realms, and the deaths, transitions, and births [in those realms] are the various forms of existence in saṃsāra, which arise from the appropriation of the [karmic] seeds [of transcendental consciousness (ālayavijñāna)] that are the latent tendencies of the links of existence.” — Vasubandhu
To each their own world. Karma.