The audio here is selected from a larger collection of open reel tapes made in Blücher's classrooms at The New School and Bard College in the 1950s and 1960s. The collection includes lectures titled "Ethical Confusion and Moral Corruption," as well as those below, titled "Sources of Creative Power." Open reel tapes were transferred to 60-minute cassettes by Dr. George Rose ('63) at the Hershey Medical Center at the University of Pennsylvania. These MP3 audio files were digitized by Jeremy Hall ('98). Summaries and keyword/descriptors were contributed by Elliot Dutcher ('08).
Thanks, as always and in many ways, to Alex ('71) and Wendy Bazelow for their generous support.
A recording of Heinrich Blücher from May 10, 1967. Transcribed and partially edited by Alexander Bazelow and Fran M. Hassan. You can read the transcript here.
Blücher discussed the origin of humanity’s first recognition of a purpose—a Meaning—behind Being with the examples of Lao Tse in China and Buddha in India. This Meaning to Being is discussed in contrast with the Christian idea of the soul and the nihilistic idea of nothingness to further demonstrate the uniqueness of Lao Tse’s and Buddha's beliefs.
Keywords: Being, Buddha, Christianity, Doing, Individual, Lao Tse, Meaning, Nihilism, Self, Soul, Tao
Blücher's continuing discussion on Meaning to Being, in which he attempts to explain away concerns of the Buddha's purported atheism. Using the ancient gods of India as a starting point, Blücher claims the Buddha had a task unlike any other great thinker in that he had to philosophize through a complex "jungle of mythological systems" that was Indian mythology.
Keywords: Being, Buddha, Greek Gods, Indian mythology, Indra, infinity Lao Tse, Meaning, Nihilism
Blücher transitions to the existentialist thinkers to examine how they handled the subject of God. Drawing from Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Kant, Blücher sees links between Socratic/Platonic thought and metaphysical thought while demonstrating how these nineteenth-century thinkers handled the concept of Meaning to Being.
Keywords: Being, Buddha, Existentialism, Fire and Lust, Meaning, Metaphysics, Nietzsche, Nirvana, Person, Plato, Self, Socrates
Starting with Socrates' trial and execution, Blücher examines the influence of the great thinker's denial of absolutes and his belief that "man is the measure of all things." Blücher condemns Plato for giving in to the enemies of Socrates and shows the uniqueness of Socrates' position in a time of absolute laws and absolute thought. Focusing primarily on Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger, Blücher also analyzes how these three philosophers came to lean on nihilistic thought due to their failure to come to terms with Socrates' logic.
Keywords: Absolutes, Heidegger, Humanism, Metaphysics, Nietzsche, Nihilism, Plato, Socrates, Sophists
Two separate speeches. In the first, Blücher attempts to study the manner in which the artist handles the Meaning of Being in a world dominated by mythology. In the second lecture, Blücher asks students why they are participating in the Common Course, what they hope to get out of it, and how their pursuit reflects a larger condition of humanity. Arguing against optimism and pessimism alike, Blücher attempts to discover the fundamental core of humanity's greatest weaknesses and to show that humanity's sense of suffering is not isolated in either the past or the present.
Keywords: Abstract, The Artist, Being, Buddha, Meaning, Mythology, Optimism, Pessimism
In a world of naturalism and supernaturalism, of what must be done and what should be done, Blücher introduces the Socratic notion of what can be done in an attempt to discover a possible order and purpose behind existence.
Keywords: Beginning, Conditions, Can Do, Freedom, Must Do, Naturalism, Should Do, Socrates, Supernaturalism
Blücher first continues to analyze the origin of post-mythical, pre-metaphysical thought that set the pace for the entire Common Course, further delving into the schism between what men should do, must do, and can do. Also included here is a relatively disconnected audio fragment from a different lecture that connects the plight of Judaism with ideas established by the great thinkers. Finally, Blücher attempts to discuss the nature of man’s mind in relation to a possible cosmic, pre-determined mind, where he ultimately arrives at the importance of communication in determining human identity.
Keywords: Can Do, Creativity, History, Metaphysics, Mind, Must Do, Mystical, Should Do
Pointing out patterns and their inconsistencies in history, Blücher attempts to trace the development and unity of the human mind in the earlier part of human existence. Dissatisfied with the current stasis of mental enlightenment that has prevented modern thinkers from further developing the mind, he turns to a series of mental renaissances and reformations that occurred between 1000 B.C.E. and 1 A.D. to focus on how the human mind adjusted, grew, and stabilized in the post-mythical world.
Keywords: Being, Development, History, Knowledge, Mind, Nothingness, Reformation, Renaissance
This recording completes Blücher’s "Development and Unity of the Mind" lecture, then goes to a speech on the gift of Prometheus to humanity that leads to what Blücher refers to as the Second Promethean Age—the Age of Paper. Blücher details how the rise of paper and politics have been culpable of regurgitating information and categorization that stifles humanity’s creative prowess and further growth of the mind.
Keywords: Atoms, Categorization, Energy, Information, Metaphysical, Mind, Mythical, Paper, Politics, Prometheus, Unity
Blücher argues that science was the major factor in the different cultural and philosophical developments between the East and the West. The age of scientific reason and scientific fanaticism shattered both the presumption of an orderly universe and a religiously and mythologically prescribed Meaning to Being. Blücher explains how humans, caught in a world where cause and effect were now meaningless, were forced to reassess their relationship with time and space, questioning just how much of an identity they have with either.
Keywords: Animals, Being, Chains of Occurrence, Eternity, Meaning, Nature, Science, Space, Time
Starting with the abstract, Blücher focuses on the ability of humans to create their own distinct presence in time and space, emphasizing that though we live in both time and space, we do not live by them. This supposed independence of humanity has led to conditions that stymie the growth of relationships. Blücher uses the argument of a dehumanization of man—or anti-man—to point out that philosophical and religious thought still has space to explore the condition of the mind. He concludes with a discussion on how both the classic scholars of the Common Course and the members of his lecture can begin such a pursuit.
Keywords: Anti-man, Beginning, Conditions, Eternity, Here and Now, Nazi Germany, Relations, Space, Time, Totalitarian Power
First Blücher studies what type of person is capable of asking questions and what—at their fundamental core—those questions might mean. Later, Blücher goes against the wisdom of Spinoza by trying to find a proof of conscious existence, while trying to determine the function, origin, and importance of self-experience within this proof of existence.
Keywords: Animals, Distinction, Experience, Freedom, Motion, Necessity, Questions, Self, Spinoza, Thought
Establishing motion as the cornerstone of consciousness, Blücher sets out to determine how assumptions and illusions mold human life. Asserting that freedom, the creator of assumptions, can be both dangerous and foolish, he establishes necessity—the necessity of thought and of existence—as the guide to determine how we interact with the world. Blücher takes issue with Descartes, arguing that doing rather than thinking is the source of proof for the self, ultimately wondering if Descartes’ famous phrase might be better rendered: "I do, therefore I am."
Keywords: Assumption, Consciousness, Descartes, Freedom, Illusion, Knowledge, Motion, Nature, Necessity
In the first section, Blücher establishes the relationship between thinking and language, positing that we can no longer have original thought since through the ages, language has come to instill thought into us before we have a chance to foster it in ourselves. He argues that society is based around the same principles as economics: consumption and reproduction. The second lecture traces the development and distinction of consciousness and self-consciousness.
Keywords: Consciousness, Distinction, Language, Logos, Operative Mind, Reproduction, Science, Self-consciousness, Systemization, Thinking
Still trying to establish an order and purpose to existence, Blücher delves into the hierarchy of logos between man, nature, and God (or a purposeful, infinite entity), setting a precise chain of command between the three. He also mentions the role of Christianity in providing false yet comforting assumptions of logos. Finally, Blücher discusses how humanity’s pursuit of absolute logos has led to a reversal in the hierarchy, thus sowing the seeds of nihilistic thought.
Keywords: Absolute or Infinite Logos, Christianity, Consciousness, Heraclitus, Inferior Logos, Logos, Nature, Nihilism, Nomos or Laws, Rules, Socrates
In the first segment, Blücher continues his discussion of logos and metaphysical thinking by focusing on humanity’s freedom to use illusion to change their way of thinking. He goes on to explain how awareness of cause and effect led humanity to a profound and unique position within the universal system. The second segment focuses on Buddha and Lao Tse, aiming to show how they both are and are not negative liberators of philosophy. The importance of dialogue—or, more accurately, the lack thereof in both philosophers—is determined to be a distinguishing factor of the Asian thinkers before the time of Zarathustra.
Keywords: Buddha, Cause and Effect, Change, Consciousness, Freedom, Imagination, Lao Tse, Metaphysics, Zarathustra
In the first segment, Blücher describes two fables of Indian mythology that illustrate the importance of truth. He also speaks of Zarathustra in Persia, whose reaction to truth telling is described as based more on positivism and responsibility than his Asian ancestors. In the second segment, Blücher elaborates on the Biblical figures of Abraham and Job in order to determine which of the two was more faithful and how their devotion led to the development of God as an absolute rather than an abstract entity.
Keywords: Abraham, Absolute, Action, Buddha, Changes, Indian Mythology, Job, Lao Tse, Responsibility, Thought, Truth, Zarathustra
Starting with the assertion that religious faith and mythological ideology stymie freedom and reason, Blücher looks into the one notable exception: the principles of Abraham. Focusing on Abraham’s pure belief in an absolute God outside of creed, the professor posits whether or not Abraham and his principles of trust and creativity should be considered more philosophical than religious, emphasizing throughout the uniqueness of Abraham’s religious ideology.
Keywords: Abraham, Absolute, Being, Christianity, Faith, Freedom, God, Meaning, Philosophy, Politics, Reason, Religion, Trust
Blücher develops the figure of Homer as unique to the great thinkers of the Common Course due one particular reason: rather than fighting against religion and myth or trying to undermine them, Homer used both to his advantage. Blücher argues that Homer warped and transcended myth to a point where his own influence became more profound than the myths of old. Homer liberated myth, integrating it into a world of art, politics, science, and culture, and ultimately influenced not just the growth of Grecian society, but also the fabric of thought in the entire Western world.
Keywords: Art, Culture, Fate, Freedom, God, Greek, Hades, Homer, Imagination, Inspiration, Leviathan, Metaphor, Myth, Poetics, Reason
Religion, as Blücher argues, offered a comfortable pseudo-philosophy to ease one from the burden of self-discovery, effectively stifling the furthering of independent thought. It was only with the breakdown of religious hegemony in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries that philosophy began to reassert itself as a predominant force in discovering a Meaning to Being. Considering Socrates as the glue of all knowledge, Blücher asserts that without him there would have been no discovery of metaphysics.
Keywords: Art, Citizen, Creativity, Freedom, Jesus, Metaphysics, Oracle at Delphi, Philosophy, Piety, Plato, Politics, Religion, Socrates, Solon, Virtue
Blücher argues that as the human mind changed from its mythical frame to a logical frame, it entered the age of Logos—the word or the idea. This revolution in human development started with Hebrew religious speculation and Greek philosophical speculation in an attempt to uncover the silent, metaphysical assumptions that lie behind our actions. Since the nineteenth century these predominantly ethical and moral principles have been called into doubt, and there has been a desire to do without them. The great "isms" of our time such as communism and capitalism are a product of this desire and combine materialist and idealist logic in an originally well meaning but catastrophic manner. Blücher argues that therefore a revolution in our thinking is now required that no longer denies the true metaphysical condition of man, and which once again will establish metaphysical and ethical principles.
Keywords: Logos, Logic, Materialism, Idealism, Nationalism, Communism, Capitalism, Metaphysics
Blücher argues that science should not enter the sphere of human relations. This is the mistake of totalitarian politics: men like Hitler and Stalin thought they had the final scientific solution for all problems of mankind, by acting on assumptions that were no more than mere beliefs and extending these to their utmost logical consequence. Logos is one of the hidden principles that we can find in the form of all totalitarian ideologies. Now Blücher sets out to prove a second principle—a principle of content: nihilism.
Keywords: Being, Ethics, Nietzsche, Logos, Nihilism
Here Blücher argues why nihilism is simply the "mirror" neo-Kantian being. Further, he contends that since the introduction of nihilism to the human mind in the nineteenth century, it has often become an existential trap. Rather than creating a "will to power," Blücher argues that nihilism creates a "will to nothingness." This, Blücher claims, is why Nietzsche called nihilism "the most terrible of all the guests."
Keywords: Being, Ethics, Idealism, Logos, Materialism, Nothingness
Blücher explores some of the subtle, pseudo-Christian origins of western anti-Semitism. He also claims that non-scientific practicing of psychoanalysis is dangerous and the mindset held by many psychologists may lead to intolerance. Blücher maintains that the constructs of psychology are far too ignorant and narrow, but he praises Freud for his use of formal psychoanalysis.
Keywords: Anti-Semitism, Christianity, Freud, Mythical, Psychology
Here, Blücher continues to examine the origins of racial slander. He claims that the positivistic sciences of philosophy are false sciences, because philosophy is often hypocritical in defining its goals. He also faults religion for not being pragmatic enough in its processes. Instead, it is unreasonable to expect an enlightened man to commit to any one religion. Blücher begins to build his argument for reason as the greatest tool that humans have to both create and deconstruct. However, to move towards the elusive state of Zen, an application of the "mythical mind" combined with reason is necessary.
Keywords: Mythical Mind, Positivist, Commitment, Reason, Religion, Symbolism
In this lecture, Blücher examines the "mythical mind" and the tradition of Western mythology. Counter to Nietzsche, he calls for a union of the logical mind with the mythical mind to reach a point of reason. He goes on to discuss how the "devaluing" of natural law has only led to adoption of new, more "adequate" myths, and how Nietzsche’s understanding of religious myths and symbols was superfluous in practice, and actually not what true nihilism called for. Myths are constantly changing and re-accommodating, and the values that become attached to them are part of a perpetual devaluation process.
Keywords: Hegel, Logic, Logos, Mind, Myth, Nietzsche, Symbols, Value