Building The Future

Article By Carlos Adelantado

posted by Kurush Dordi, June 8, 2024

Building the FutureThe path of philosophy is long but not hard. It is a path of searching, of always learning. We like to define a philosopher as a seeker, a lover of wisdom. A philosopher is the one who asks questions about life and tries to find answers; answers that can be valid and useful to find some meaning in life.

Today, a question brings us together: How can we build our future? This question carries within itself an affirmation: the future can be built.

Building The Future

Speaking of building the future seems a blunt statement at first sight… but yes, the future can be built, although we have to consider some elements from a philosophical point of view. As a School of Philosophy in the classical tradition, we think that theory and practice should form an inseparable unit, and that if we put into practice the valid things we are able to learn, we can become actors in our own lives, and not merely spectators dragged along by circumstances. We are going to develop this short talk based on elements, teachings and comparative philosophical concepts from East and West, such as Life, Time and Mind, which I believe are closely related.

We could talk about Life for hours, days, months, years and possibly not come to an ultimate conclusion, since LIFE is the great mystery – no one knows its source. We can interact with life, but we do not know what the origin of life really is. The only things we know are some of its characteristics; the main and most obvious one? That life is in motion, life moves.

Everything that participates in what we call life is in movement; there is nothing that is stationary, fixed, still in space and time, and therefore we could say that the main characteristic of life is movement. We call the movement of life evolution and, therefore, we say that within life the whole range of living beings that exist are evolving beings.

Nor can we separate what is life from the concepts of energy or matter. Today we know, thanks to scientific advances, that every form of life is a form of energy and is also, in some way, a material form. It is quite possible that all energy is a form of life and that everything, absolutely everything, is in continuous motion.

Then we have the concept of Time. Within life there is something as intangible, as elusive, as time. We could also talk a lot about time, but let’s mention just one of its characteristics: time is a limiter, the moment it appears it is already a limitation. Because time brings us all things, but it also takes them away. It brings us youth and youth disappears one fine day. It brings us “luck”, and we have moments of good luck, but time also takes it away, and there are moments of bad “luck”. Time brings us joy, it brings us good company, but time, sooner or later, takes it all away. Everything wears out, everything is being pushed away.

Time is a limiter because we can do many things in life but there is a time to do them: time limits us. If we want to pursue a career or practice a sport, there is a time! I know you will say to me: “But at the age of 90 also you can do sport or pursue a career!” Also, but there is a time to do things, and we all know that from our own experience. Even in nature there is time to sow, to wait, to harvest. Time is a limiter, it brings us many opportunities and it also takes them away. The doors that time opens for us are not forever and there is a time for everything. In a manner of speaking, time is measured.

And then we have to talk about the Mind. The human mind is a developing thing, and it is a mind that is enveloped with the characteristics of time; it is a mind that can trace the past; it is a mind that projects the future. The mind has pleasant memories and it tries to make those pleasant moments appear in the future and to prolong them in time.

Our mind can plan or dream that future and it does so according to its desires, and according to those forces that keep our mind in constant combat: what we like, what we don’t like; what brought us pain, what brought us pleasure. But it is clear, that the mind modifies time because when we are at ease, time passes very quickly; when our mind is doing what it likes, and is entertained, time flees, as the Romans used to say. However, when we are bored, when we have to put up with something we don’t like and we have no other choice, time never passes, it is slow, slow, slow, slow…

All this appearance of slowness or speed relative to the passing of time is a product of the mind. And what we are saying is that we can build our future if we are able to combine in Life, in an effective way, the force of the Mind and the power of Time.

Let us explain this by turning to our cultural fathers: the Greeks. You know that our school of philosophy is based on a comparative study of the thought of both East and West and, in this case, to illustrate these three concepts, we are going to turn to Greek culture.

Within the Greek world of ancient times, we have to talk about Hesiod and Homer. We all know that Greece was the cradle of our western civilization, that goes without saying. If we study or travel at all, we will find the influence of Greek culture in practically all aspects of life. Well, the great educator par excellence of the Greeks was Homer, who is now known to have written eight books about the Trojan War. The Iliad – which almost all of us will have read – is the second of his books, the first having disappeared; and the Odyssey, which narrates the adventures of Odysseus, is the seventh, although in reality it seems that there were eight books in all, as I said.

Homer is the father of Greek culture. It is generally believed that the Greek mentality was born in the shadow of Homer’s poetic texts; but in addition to Homer there was Hesiod, about whom we know hardly anything. Some say he came later, others say he was a contemporary, and there is even evidence that he was older than Homer. One of the testimonies is very interesting, because it is said that at one point the two of them competed before a specialised jury to see who the better poet was. Homer was very much Homer… but it is said that Hesiod won. Hesiod was superior because – according to the texts – Homer sang of war and incited people to go to war; but Hesiod sang of peace and peace, as we all know, is superior to war.

Hesiod was a mysterious character. He wrote, inspired by the muses, since he was a shepherd who lived on Mount Helicon where they dwelt. In his writings, he always invoked memory, Mnemosine and her daughters, the nine muses. Hesiod explains that in the beginning of everything, there was a triad; that was the only thing that existed, and gave rise to everything else. The triad could not be separated; the deeply and closely united triad was Chaos, Gaia and Eros. Here begin the keys for us to try to understand why the future can be changed and why it does depend, largely, on us.

Chaos was not disorder, since Hesiod speaks of chaos as something homogeneous. The etymology of the word comes from something like “opening”, which in Greek means the void that opens up. From there arises matter: Gaea.

Some speak of Gaea as our Earth, but in reality, what Gaea represents is matter; the primordial matter that begins  to create different forms and to move. All the different forms that we can see in existence would be forms of Gaea, of that primordial matter.

Then we have Eros, the primordial love. Eros is the builder of the universe, according to Hesiod. Eros is the great architect, the Demiurge. He is the one who differentiates and organises matter and there begins another form of movement because differentiated matter begins to attract or repel each other. From the moment Eros appears in the Universe, all things begin to move either by attraction or by repulsion.

Gaea herself procreates Uranus, the starry sky, and with him she begins to have children. One of these Titans is Cronus, Time; because time comes after life, which is matter in motion. Cronus is a limiter. Cronus is the god who castrates his father Uranus and, from then on assumes supremacy. He has to castrate Uranus, he is forced to do so: he cuts off his genital organs so that matter can no longer produce. Now, we already have time as a limiter, as someone who stops a process, someone who cuts it off.

Cronus assumes supremacy. Uranus, the starry sky, is compensated and is given the gift of prophecy, and from there, perhaps, comes the saying that the future is written in the stars. Uranus displays his power and prophesizes to Cronus that he will be dethroned by one of his sons.

We go through this whole process. Zeus appears, who is one of the sons of Cronus.  Cronus, in the face of this prophecy that he was going to be dethroned, is going to devour all his sons. Time devours everything, it creates and devours at the same time. Cronus devours all his children, except Zeus, who represents the mental factor. When the mind appears, then, the mind has power over time. Finally, Zeus ends up reigning, the Olympic dynasty is established in Greece and Zeus assumes supremacy.

But the mind, as we said at the beginning, is something to be developed. Zeus has to fight against old forms, against the former sons of Cronus, against ancient forces of the Cosmos, against a series of elements and impediments that appear. Zeus is in the process of formation but he is very powerful and can modify time. In fact, as we all know, Zeus defeats Cronus: the mind can defeat time. That is why we say that the future can be constructed, because the mind can influence time, which is part of life.

Life in movement has a direction, it has a meaning, which we usually call “the meaning of life”. So, we can influence the meaning and direction of life for each one of us. How? Through the mind, and over time. But let us bear in mind the following: the mind is something to be developed. It is not yet fully developed, otherwise we would not need philosophy. Remember what we said at the beginning – the philosopher asks himself questions because there are many things he does not know. He wants to know because he does not know; he is aware that mystery surrounds him and he wants to reach what he does not have; to understand what he ignores and does not know. That the mind is not fully developed is evident. If we look around us, at our world, in this moment – where we have developed so many things, so much potential, where we have advanced in so many aspects of life – it is where many millions of human beings are starving and where many millions of human beings have no shelter, no food, no help. It is clear that our minds are developing because, if we lived in a world run by the best of human beings, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in now. And it is a generalised situation, I am talking about the world in general.

We know that we are all in the current of life; instead of being logs thrown into that current and being dragged along by it, bumping into each other, drifting together wherever life takes us without us being able to do anything, Natural Philosophy teaches that we can make this log into a boat or a canoe; that this log can be carved, it can be polished, it can be given the right shape so that it can sail.

This can be done by our mind! This can be done by each one of us so that we can control our life. Because a canoe can go even against the current, it can sail the river of life; it can go where it wants to go, not where everybody goes; not where circumstances take us. We can go where we want to go, we can control the weather. Although, yes, we have to sail. We can’t get out of the current of life, we have to sail.

And here comes the other question, which is the one that has brought us together today: How can we build the future? I have listed five elements. I don’t think they are the only ones; they may not be the most important, but they are elements that those of us who follow this way of understanding philosophy – through our courses, our exercises, the time we devote to our reflections- have been able to verify throughout our philosophical journey.

To begin with: time spent. To launch ourselves forward, to build the future, to be in some way masters of ourselves, we have to take into account our own past. What are we going to do with our past? Can we ignore it? Can we forget it? Can we deny it because it is not too pleasant? What are we going to do with the past to be able to launch ourselves forward?

Our past has to be solid. The past has to be assimilated; we cannot ignore it or turn it around because a part of our life has been fixed there, trapped in time, and cannot be changed. We have to accept that it is practically the only thing that cannot be changed. Although we can ask for forgiveness for something we have said or done, what we said or what we did is said and done. So we have to assimilate it, incorporate it into our life; this is an intelligent mentality. Because it seems that there is a law in Nature that says that all the stages we have gone through remain in us in some way. We will always have something of a child, something of a youth, something of an adult.

From a philosophical point of view, past can be a pedestal on which we can stand to launch ourselves into the future, it can be an engine, something that can give us impetus, that can help us learn… On a collective level, history also shows us that all the processes that humanity has gone through remain within us. Something remains in us of the rebelliousness of all the revolutions that humanity has undergone. Something remains in us- even if we were not present in that time, nor at that moment, nor in that place-of all the effort that was made to eradicate slavery in the world. Something remains in us as nomads; we like to move from one place to another with our eyes fixed on the horizon. Something remains in us of sedentary people too, and we like to have a place where we can always turn to, where we can rest from the toils of life.

Everything leaves its mark on us. That is why our past has to be incorporated in a natural way, consciously and without trauma, because we have to feel secure in our past. It doesn’t matter what that past has been like; if we want to project ourselves forward, it has to be a solid stone in our existence because otherwise we run the risk of building our future on a weak foundation; and the only thing we have left is the future: “Today is the first day of the rest of our life”. And that is why we have to start building on solid blocks, for example, the past. We have to have memory, historical memory to start building our future steps.

This is important, but the present time is also very important, because it is the home of reality; it is where reality lives now. We must be very clear that the most difficult, but the most necessary thing for the present to be solid, is objectivity. It is very difficult to be objective; to look at oneself and see oneself as one really is, to calibrate oneself as one really is. It is very difficult not to lie to ourselves.

When we start to put on a bit of weight, maybe we look in the mirror, we put ourselves in profile and we lie to ourselves trying to hide the fact that our silhouette is not what it used to be. When our hair falls out, we gentlemen think that it is not very noticeable, that it depends on where you look at it, that it is not so bad. And we always find other human beings with less hair than us, really bald, and many people console themselves by comparison. It’s very difficult for us to be objective about our own lives.

We think we have such a refined sense of quality that we are the ones who will not admit certain company, rather than recognise that no one can stand us. We don’t recognise that we have left someone in the lurch, instead pretend that we have run off to get help; how could we leave them in the lurch? We will never admit that we were a little bit afraid and when we said yes, then said no. We broke our commitments because the instinct was that we would have to go back. We broke our commitments because survival instinct is superior to a lot of reasoning.

If we refer history books, we will see that it is very difficult to be objective because the same fact will be told in a different way. If we read today’s newspapers, it is very difficult to be objective because, depending on the newspaper and its social tendency, we will see that, something that happened today or yesterday, one tells it one way and another tells it another way. It is very difficult to be objective; we should learn to put distance between things, distance within ourselves and distance from ourselves.

This is fundamental to be able to launch ourselves forward, to be able to launch ourselves into the future, because if we have a distorted vision of ourselves, it is very difficult to achieve our dreams, our goals. We are starting from a weak, mistaken, shaky starting point, and the only thing we are going to achieve is to fall sooner or later. But if we manage to get both feet on the ground: on the one hand the past and on the other hand the present, we can start to walk forward with relative security.

We must also begin to reckon with symbols, and the language of symbols. There are many kinds of language. Animals have their own: the language of birds, of dolphins. There is the language of the weather, which meteorologists know how to decipher and then translate and tell us what is going to happen tomorrow or next week. There is the language of gestures, there is the language of adults, there is the language of children, who have their own language.

What does this mean? That there are many realities around us. There are chronological, historical realities, but there are also psychological, mythological, symbolic realities. There are various ways of looking at reality. For example, let’s look at our historical-chronological reality: we’ve arrived in this room at around seven in the evening, we’ve already spent almost three quarters of an hour listening to a man who is saying strange things; we’ll see in the end, if this has a head and a tail… This is a chronological reality: in half an hour we’ll be having a beer with our friends or having tea with our girlfriends or we’ll have gone for a walk or dinner. It is a chronological, historical reality: we arrived at 19 Pizarro Street; we went up some stairs… and we have gathered around 30, 35 people… That is true, it is a reality.

However, there is another reality, there is another way of seeing exactly the same thing. For example, this room is facing east, I am facing west but all the rest of you are facing the east. The east is where the sun rises, so we are oriented, we are actually in a talk with philosophical content to try to orient ourselves: in the present, in the past and hopefully in the future. We want to orient ourselves in some way; to have reference points in our life. This is a psychological reality. Another reality of this nature is that we are gathered in a place where the light comes from above, the lights are on the ceiling. It is a symbol, but it is a psychological reality because the light, the seeing of things clearly, comes from our higher states of consciousness, it comes from our being able to place the mind higher and higher. This is a symbolic reality. Another symbolic reality is that we are sitting – I hope comfortably seated – in red chairs or armchairs. You know that the colour red is used to symbolise the most material things: red passion or red anger, or red shame or red heat. In a way we are all very comfortable because we are trapped in the comfort of matter.

Whoever lets himself be carried away by matter becomes very comfortable, and comfort starts to play a very important role in his life. And when we stand up at the end of this talk to leave, it will also be a symbol. Standing up is a symbol, and it is also a symbolic reality: woe to that human being who is unable to stand up, not so much physically but internally. Because when a human being stands up, he is testifying to his condition as a human being – that he is not a beast; that he is not an animal; that he can walk upright; that he can look upwards, towards the stars;that he does not necessarily always have to go looking for food below or look at the dirty, the inferior. Have you not seen that many times in theatres, in shows, to thank the performer and to pay him a small tribute, people not only applaud but there are also those who stand up?

The reality we were talking about, in order to be a complete reality, must take into account all that hidden symbolic and mythical world that surrounds us. Because although we all have a chronological history: the baby was born on such and such a year, on such and such a day in such and such a place, he was named Pepito, he grew up, got married, had children, lives here, lives there, weighs so much, is so tall…, it is also true that we all have dreams of the soul, because we would all like to be better than we are, to be stronger than we are, to be bigger than we are. That is our psychological reality, that is our mythical, symbolic part, and that part is interpreted through myths, and myths take on meaning through the symbols that they embody. This is part of the language of life, and that is why we should know how to read, interpret, listen to what life is telling us in order to be able to move forward; because in addition to all the other languages we have already talked about, doesn’t life have its own language?

There are things that happen to us, there are people we meet, there are dreams we have… asleep and awake. They are full of symbols and possibly life is talking to us; what happens is that we don’t know how to listen, we don’t know how to interpret what life is telling us. So we have to rely on symbols, because they are the keys that open certain doors of our consciousness, because that is what a symbol is: a key. A key that opens doors necessary for our human fulfilment, for our development and inner growth.

We also have to reckon with cycles, we have to reckon with the fact that life does not move in a rectilinear way. Everything in life moves in a curved, circular or elliptical way… absolutely everything; this is how the planets, the suns, the galaxies, the atoms that form all things move. So is our life; it is not a straight-line path. We have to reckon with cycles, and I am not referring to duality, because cycles are not based on something as simple as duality: good-bad, up-down, near-far, to give a few examples. No. Cycles go through a series of stages; four stages to be precise, and in this the philosophers of the East and the West agree, as do Hesiod, Plato and even Cervantes, our dear Cervantes.

They all speak of four stages in the passing of life through time: a golden stage, a silver stage, a bronze stage and an iron stage, and this occurs in civilisations. Also, in every human being: child, youth, maturity and old age, are four stages; like the four seasons that make up a year. And within those four great stages or cycles, there are micro-cycles, micro-stages. In our golden stage, not everything is going to be brilliant, there will also be moments of pain, of darkness, of sorrow and, on the other hand, in our worst stages there will also be interesting moments, because the micro-cycles are within the cycles.

The most important thing is that you don’t go directly from a golden stage to an iron stage; there are no abrupt changes in nature or in life. Everything is gradual, everything is little by little, everything is almost unnoticed. But we will all have one or more golden stages in our lives… Although we all know that time brings what it brings and takes it away. The golden stages, those brilliant moments will come to an end, we will have silver stages and with the passing of time, bronze stages and we will reach the iron stages, which are the hardest, the most terrible and the blackest in terms of both external and internal stability.

Broadly speaking, when we speak of the iron ages or stages, what we are saying is that injustice is the master of the world. And when we speak of golden stages, they are stages where harmony reigns; where one can express oneself to the full, where one’s inner potentials can develop; where things are natural; where everything has its proper place. In the iron stages it is the other way around – there is a lot of confusion, there is a lot of disorder; and in the golden stages, judges are judges, politicians are politicians, sportsmen are sportsmen, and actors are actors.

When everything is confused, it turns out that there is a mixture of everything and you don’t really know what is what. Above all what there is, is a lot of injustice; the powerful have no limits, they have no brakes; they run wild in these iron stages. This is at the historical level. If we translate it to the individual level, we will see that each one of us will also go through these stages, possibly several times during our lives. However clear we are about where we are going, about the future, about the projection we want our existence to follow, we have to take into account the cycles: there will be bad days, there will be terrible moments, we will have to fight a lot. Even those things we have achieved have certainly not been easy. Because nothing is easy, and maintaining it also costs a lot; those who relax with what they already have may end up losing it. Those things that life brings us – surely because we deserve them – if we neglect them and do not know how to maintain them, it is very possible that life itself, through time, which is one of its servants, will take them away from us.

And finally, we believe that it is essential to know how to use freedom. Not only to use the small freedom that, sometimes, for many people, is that of doing what one wants, which is the smallest part of freedom. We are talking about knowing how to use freedom; not just using it, but knowing how to use it. From a philosophical point of view, to know how to use freedom is to know how to decide, to know how to walk alongside the meaning of life, to live with the current of life. The problem with this is that we have to know where life is going.

Where does life go, can we know? Where should human beings go?

Let’s go back to the beginning. Eros is the demiurge, the builder of the universe, primordial love. Eros is the architect; he builds the universe. The first thing the architect does are the plans, the models. Primordial love as the architect builds the archetypes. Those archetypes are models and sources, they are at the beginning and at the end, they are inspiring and they are driving. They drive us, they attract us, they inspire us. And these authors all agree that we humans, whether we want to or not, love these archetypes because they are built by Eros, the primordial love.

The four great archetypes that govern human evolution, according to Plato, are: the Good, the Beautiful, the Just and the True. The Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophers told us that humans love these archetypes, these models, because they are constructed by Eros, primordial love. We then, whether we are aware of it or not, move throughout our lives towards these models: the model of beauty, goodness, truth and justice. By voluntarily and consciously moving towards these archetypes, we become freer ourselves. It is what allows us to remove certain ties, it is what allows us to move away from what people will say, from mass and unconscious opinion, from what we are now told is politically correct. To approach these archetypes, to try to reach them, to use our freedom to consciously enter into the stream of life, is what gives us real status as human beings. This is what dignifies our life.

That is the good use of our freedom: to know how to adjust our small life to the rhythm of the great Life. If we are capable of marching towards these archetypes, we will be able to understand that the age of reason for reason’s sake is dead and dying. “Reasonableness” is what has built the world that we now have and that we all suffer from. Maybe it is time we started to listen to our hearts and forget about reason. We should not give so much importance to statistics, numbers, censuses, forecasts, balance sheets,…

Is it not time for us to listen to our hearts? Does not the heart tell us that there is nothing greater than truth? Does it not tell us that the hand of justice should reach everyone and that it should be priceless, that no one can buy it, that it should not be wielded by the powerful to the detriment of the weakest or those who are least able? Doesn’t our heart tell us that what is beautiful and good does not depend on public opinion or on the art critics who write here or there, more or less, better or worse, paid by the powerful of the moment? The Good and the Beautiful do not depend on that. The Good and the Beautiful strike our heart and uplift us, and do not depend on fashions or public opinion.

Isn’t it about time we started to move of our own free will, to sail on this ocean of the current of life in our own boat, like that mythical Ulysses, that pilgrim of the sea, that Odysseus who travels the endless routes to try to reach his home and recover what belongs to him? Isn’t it about time we all understood that we are like Ulysses, that we are sailing towards Ithaca? Just as Ulysses tied himself to the mast of his ship, shouldn’t we tie ourselves to the strength and power that emanates from these archetypes? Shouldn’t our lives be governed by what is just, what is good, what is beautiful, what is true? It is possible that in this way we can survive the siren songs and avoid the dangers and temptations that lead us astray.

One day, dear friends, we will all have to reach Ithaca. That is what awaits us at the end of our journey, at the end of our whole existence. To reach our land, our home, our true homeland, which is none other than the reunion with our immortal soul. And further still, shrouded in the mist of Mystery, awaits us the contact with That which gives rise to everything and which is the end of everything, which governs the atoms and the galaxies, which is the great Unknown, but which all peoples, through all times and with different languages, have called God.


First published in May 2019, based on a lecture given in Espacio Victoria, Madrid, in collaboration with New Acropolis. This English version is a translation of the original Spanish.


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