Life is a cheese pie; all your favourite things, just never quite the right way. Scratch that. Life is like a tennis ball, soft and smooth and always on the rebound. Wait, that was my ex. Okay, we’ve got it here: Life is like a box of 1969 chocolates: stale, mouldy, and best when consumed with THC? (Speaking anecdotally, of course.)
What is a heuristic anyhow? I use it colloquially to mean a set of rules for solving problems, akin to a computer algorithm but with those extra splashes of human emotion and ingenuity. What I mean by a ‘Life Heuristic’ is a loose set of guidelines which can be almost universally applied in the human situation. The most straightforward example would probably be religion, or whatever individuals find to guide their internal compasses. My most recent stumbling, and what may yet prove to help build the most encompassing of systems, is American philosopher Eric Voegelin’s Science, Politics & Gnosticism (1959). Though I’m still very early on in the reading I see the tails of ideas I’ve been unthreading for quite some time (in the introduction Vogelin directly references Heidegger and Hegel, and the first chapter is a reconstitution of Grecian politike episteme). Consider this from Voegelin’s own opening words (*ahem*, Fitzpatrick translation):
“If man is to be delivered from this world, the possibility of deliverance must first be established in the order of being. In the ontology of ancient Gnosticism this is accomplished through faith in the “alien”, “hidden” God who comes to man’s aid, sends him his messengers, and shows him the way out of the prison of the evil God of this world (be he Zeus or Yahweh or one of the other ancient father gods). In modern Gnosticism it is accomplished through the assumption of an absolute spirit which in dialectical unfolding of consciousness from alienation to consciousness of itself; or through the assumption of a dialectical-material process of nature which in its course leads from the alienation resulting from private property and belief in God to the freedom of a fully human existence; or through the assumption of a will of nature which transforms man into superman.” (p.9)
At this point in the game I’m going to take it in fides that the reader is in accord with the easily discernable ideologies of Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche (respectively) in the three deliverances of the modern gnostic. Though Voegelin references Heidegger directly (p. 7) a much more eloquent allusion (perhaps to The Question Concerning Technology) comes after the exposition of gnosis (knowledge) as opposed to agnoia (ignorance):
“This will have to suffice by way of clarification, save for one word of caution. Self-salvation through knowledge has its own magic, and this magic is not harmless. The structure if the order of being will not change because one finds it defective and runs away from it.” (emphasis added, p. 10)
With that eerie warning this contemporary of Strauss and the big H. himself signs off (on the intro that is) and leaves us to ponder how far we’ll go with that saving power – whilst the danger also grows.