Historical Studies Concerning Orientation

This essay series investigates the history of the concept of ‘orientation’ as well as the phenomenon of orientation avant la lettre, i.e., before the term was coined. We welcome your questions and feedback and are open to publishing your contributions. Please contact: reinhard.mueller@hfpo.com


The Philosophical Concept of Orientation Compared with the History of Religious Orientation in the First Four Centuries of Christianity: An Interdisciplinary Study

by Jiří Hoblík

This paper compares the concept of religious orientation, especially as developed by Christianity in the first four centuries of its history, with the concepts of Immanuel Kant, Karl Jaspers and Ingolf U. Dalferth. Despite the uncertain connection between the history of religion and the history of philosophy, some analogies between the religious and philosophical concepts can be demonstrated. The idea of “orientation” in its everyday sense (“to be oriented in something/somewhere”) turns out to be historically secondary to religious orientation as conceived in terms of aiming towards a symbolic reference point, which is represented in Christianity by the sun phenomenon as a symbol of Christ/God. Thus far under-researched in the religious context, Kant’s idea of “orientation in thinking” can be applied in terms of the search for orientation in religious thinking.


This paper was first published in Communio Viattorum 3 (2020), pp. 281-303; we thank the journal for allowing us to re-publish it on our website.


In the Luminous Abysses: Shamanism, Trance, and Ecstasy in Ancient Greece

by Angelo Tonelli

“In our age – marked by the triumph of technology and science, increasingly welded in a pairing that exalts the dimension of functional rationality – a splitting of interiority is already taking place, and this splitting is destined to grow exponentially with the cybernetic revolution that is being intensified in our everyday experience. This revolution forces – and will increasingly force – humans to empower “mechanical thinking,” that is, a reductive and segmented lógos (reason), deprived of its cosmic breath, to the entire disadvantage of what Jung called Soul, and what the Greeks called Noûs (intellect). In other words, in the West and in the rest of the world subjected to the Western model, there has been, throughout history and in the collective mind, a gradual “organ-theft”: that is, an anthropological castration of humanity, or an amputation of the deepest center of individuals that connects them to the secret harmony of the cosmos. This has occurred through the silencing, or caricaturing, or ghettoization of all mystical, initiatory, sapiential experiences that are well rooted in our Greek and Magno-Graecian West, itself originally connected with the Eurasian shamanic and sapiential substratum.”


This essay is an excerpt from the book by Angelo Tonelli In the Luminous Abysses: Shamanism, Trance and Ecstasy in Ancient Greece (Feltrinelli 2021, by kind permission of the publisher, Feltrinelli).


Parmenides, priest of Apollo Oúlios, and the mystic-shamanic roots of Western philosophy

by Angelo Tonelli

“Why should we turn to Parmenides, priest of Apollo Oúlios? Why should we retrace the path that led him to the threshold of the visible world, until he crossed the Door of Night and Day, to clasp the hand of the nameless Goddess in the Great Beyond, and to hear the winged words of Wisdom that can be heard only by the ears of those who are initiated to the rites? At least a couple of major philosophers of the last century have returned to Parmenides, to engage in hand-to-hand combat with his revelations and to translate them into refined, and often misleading, paths of thought. In addition, Parmenides has been anointed as the father of philosophy both by Plato and by his disciple Gorgias, who unforgivably reversed the title of his work, On What Is, into the opposite (On What Is Not), thereby expunging the notion of “Absolute” from the sphere of consciousness and paving the way for a desacralization of Wisdom that continues to bear its poisoned fruit still (and especially) today, in the age of transhumanist decadence. Thus, I turn to Parmenides precisely in order to do him justice and to restore, through him, a mystical and luminous gaze on life and on its source, a gaze unencumbered by intellectual hypertrophies and capable of grasping the “flower of intuition” that Parmenides, through the millennia, passed down to us: an enlightened and illuminating state of consciousness, unified, as befits a “superhuman philosopher,” following Giorgio Colli’s definition (in his 1975 volume, La nascita della filosofia, The Birth of Philosophy).”


This essay is an excerpt from the book by Angelo Tonellie Parmenides: On the Origin (Feltrinelli 2023, by kind permission of the publisher, Feltrinelli).