The Sophists

The Sophists were among the first teachers and theorists of rhetoric in Ancient Greece.

They made their living traveling from city to city, teaching the citizens the art of argumentation.

Having experienced a wide variety of local habits and customs during their travels, they saw truth as being relative in nature. They rejected any idea of objective truth or eternal values, favoring instead the position that “truth” was negotiated through language and determined by culture.

As a result, they were looked down upon by their now more famous contemporaries, Plato and Aristotle. This meant they would be regarded with similar contempt by students of philosophy during the many centuries to come.

However, recent decades have seen a renewed interest in the Sophistic movement. As Susan Jarratt, a respected researcher on this subject, notes, the Sophists anticipated the contemporary rhetorical theorists’ recognition of the gap between the sign and the signified, or the word and what it is supposed to mean.

Gorgias especially was ahead of his time in his understanding of language and reality.

I personally am a big fan of Gorgias, especially this famous quote of his: 

“Nothing exists; even if something exists, nothing can be known about it; and even if something can be known about it, knowledge about it can’t be communicated to others.” 


So what’s the point, then? Why even bother talking anymore? Should you just stop reading this now?


Well, I can’t say I actually know what Gorgias meant. 

But I’m not sure it’s meant to be taken 100% at face value.

And I think that’s the entire point. It is meant to inspire humility around our use of language. 

I don’t believe it’s wise to be a fanatic believer in any truth or dogma. Unlike Plato, I believe the world is too complex, too infinite to be limited to what we can say in words.

We can’t let ourselves get hooked on the belief that we are in possession of the only Truth, of the one Right way to think or be. It’s dangerous. This arrogance of thought is at the root of all zealotry and much of the world’s violence.

The point is not to reject all attempts at understanding, but to recognize them as just that: attempts, not absolutes.

Total Solar Eclipse in Sagittarius

Today there was a Total Solar Eclipse earlier around 8am this morning.

Eclipses usually signal a powerful and even disruptive beginning or end. It’s effects can often be felt for the next 6 months, until the beginning of the next cycle.

This eclipse is conjunct the South Node in Sagittarius. The South Node signifies what we need to move away from, what has been mastered and must be transcended. To continue to engage in a way typified by the South Node is ultimately draining for us, and disempowering.

It is much better for us to move toward the North Node, also called the Node of Destiny.

Sagittarius typically represents the themes of philosophy, religion, and foreign languages or travel. Ruled by Jupiter, it can also mean idealism and expansion.

Gemini, on the other hand, is more about communication, logic, the mind, and our thought processes. It can also be the spoken and written word, as well as our local community, siblings and neighborhood.

🌞

This eclipse perfectly encapsulates the themes that have been on my mind in recent weeks.

With the South Node in Sagittarius, I am looking to move away from my decade-long focus on higher learning, philosophy and spiritual ideals.

However, I won’t be abandoning it or leaving it behind completely.

Instead, I will turn my attention toward the North Node in Gemini, and my focus will shift to how I can communicate what I have learned to my community.

I view this eclipse as my opportunity to shift into greater connection with those around me through my writing.

What would you like to shift during this eclipse season and beyond?

The Caduceus, or “Staff of Hermes”

The Caduceus is one of the most well-known symbols in the world today. However, the true story and significance of this symbol remains obscured to the vast majority.

Most of us will recognize the Caduceus as a symbol belonging to the medical community. If asked, most would likely say that this symbol was adopted by doctors and other medical professionals as their symbol representing the power of healing, and that its origins can be traced to Asclepius, the ancient Greek physician.

Others, however, dispute this theory, arguing that in reality, what we know as the Caduceus is of much greater antiquity, having been traced back even further to the Greek legend Hermes Trismegistus.

There is a Greek legend which tells the story of how he came to possess what has also been called “the Staff of Hermes.”

It begins with a Greek seer named Tiresias, who discovered two mating snakes in the middle of the road on Mount Kyllene. When Tiresias went to separate the snakes with his staff, he was turned into a woman. He remained a woman for seven more years, until again he encountered and separated another pair of snakes.

The powerful staff, together with the snakes, was then hidden in a cave on the mountain; it is said that it is here where Hermes would eventually be born, and would make his home.

It is often thought that the snakes represent the life force, or inner creative power within man (and woman). Some even speculate that, since the caduceus looks quite similar to the double-helix structure of DNA, this could be clue hinting at the possibility that Thoth/Hermes may have somehow manipulated the structure of the human genome to advance our progress and hurry us toward the future evolution of humanity.

These are all interesting ideas, but the possibilities are not limited to these two options. I believe there are many ways of reading this myth, especially in light of certain alchemical principles.

I have my own inclinations when it comes to interpreting the symbolism of this mythic origins story, but I’d love to hear what you think.

Do the snakes and staff (and wings, in some versions) have any personal significance for you? What does it mean to heal or be healed, and how does the symbolism of the Caduceus represent that?

What is Rhetoric?

According to Aristotle, rhetoric “is the art of discovering in any particular case all of the available means of persuasion.”

Most modern and contemporary definitions tend to take this classical definition of rhetoric as their starting point.

For example, Kenneth Burke, one of the 20th century’s greatest rhetorical theorists, gave this explanation of rhetoric: “it is rooted in an essential function of language itself… as a symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols.”

Here, we can see three of the core elements which comprise the field of rhetoric today. In contemporary theory, the study of rhetoric is not contained to persuasion or argumentation, but also encompasses ideas regarding the nature of language itself.


THE 3 KEYS OF RHETORIC

What is Rhetoric?

  1. SYMBOLIC

It is representational. It uses symbols such as letters, images, gestures, etc. that stand for something else. There is not always a direct, 1-to-1 relationship between the symbol and the meaning behind it, with different people perceiving different connotations and meanings for a given symbol.

2. COMMUNICATIVE

It expresses thought or opinion. It may be used in an attempt to express truth or to persuade and convince others.

3.SOCIAL

It occurs in the interaction between people. It involves a rhetor, or speaker, and an audience who will receive and evaluate their message.


So why study rhetoric and magic?

Many of you, I’m sure, have heard the phrase “thoughts become things.”

It is a well-known concept that you attract what you think about [known as the Law of Attraction].

“For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”


If you believe in magic and manifestation, it is wise to also examine your thoughts and the words used to express them.

Human beings are something like a projection machine, and the words and images inside of us are the film. The outer environment is simply the screen that holds the pictures we have chosen to display in front of us.

This means that the study of language and rhetoric can help us become more conscious and intentional about our words and what we will create with them.