Zhigalkin S. “The Last Doctrine” By Mamleev

“The Last Doctrine” By Mamleev

I would like to discuss in my report the philosophical works of Yury Mamleev, mainly his articles and essays compiled in the book “The Destiny Of Being”. Evidently, it is impossible to engage in a comprehensive analysis of Mamleev’s philosophy in a short report. Therefore, we shall only try to delineate the main frameworks and approaches of his philosophy, and discuss how to approach it in general.

Those who have never got in touch with the metaphysical orbits of Yury Mamleev or read his books should certainly not start with “The Destiny of Being”. It would be better to start with his earlier short stories and novels, which immerse the reader in the appropriate atmosphere and the right context.

         It is well-known that there are different ways to read books, particularly philosophical books.  If we follow the author only intellectually and stick to our own point of view, we shall not grasp the meaning of what is said. It is not the text that matters, but the inspiration behind it. For instance, if a story or a poem conveys a certain state or feeling, you cannot understand it without following that feeling. If the text is not mere verbiage and rational fabrication, then there must be inspiration behind it: this ranges from purely human experience to the deepest metaphysical insight. For example, when reading a novel, one always follows the sentiments: otherwise, the process of reading loses all meaning. This is not done, however, when reading philosophical or any profound texts. The reader most often does not see and understand the inspiration behind the texts, and therefore is not able to follow it. 

There is a certain rather complicated inspiration behind “The Destiny of Being”, – it is metaphysical, paradoxical, and relates to the meaning and essence of Вeing. This inspiration is exposed well in Mamleev’s fiction, while his philosophical works are intended to explain and follow it, and to gaze at its unapproachable horizon. In other words, Mamleev’s philosophical works are certainly based on his inspiration as a given, i.e. they explicaterather than expose it. I must say that I am not certain that this explanation allows one to understand the inspiration, without which it makes no sense to read “The Destiny of Being”. Therefore, those who have never dealt with Mamleev’s metaphysical insights would do better to start with his fiction.     

Now a few words about the genuineness of Mamleev’s inspiration, i.e. the extent to which it comports with traditional ways, given that he has obtained it outside of tradition. Here is a general question: is true inspiration (or, rather, initiation) possible outside of tradition? The answer is evident, because for some mysterious reason, the world exists, and even more mystifyingly, we exist too. Focusing on this fact alone provides sufficient grounds for genuine inspiration. This, of course, is not enough: it is not the end, but the beginning of the path.

It is notable that almost all the religions allow for the possibility of true inspiration outside of tradition. In Christianity, for example, not only the faithful can experience a revelation, but pagans and others as well. Saul of Tarsus experienced a revelation on the road to Damascus, as did many others. Imam Ibn Tufail(Abu Jaafar Ebn Tophail) was a XII-century Moslem philosopher and theologian; he was also a vizier in the court of the Almohad rulers of Al-Andalus and the physician of Caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf al-Mansur.In his philosophical novelHayy ibn Yaqdhan” (also known as “Philosophus Autodidactus”), which was based on Avicenna’s treatise of the same name, Ibn Tufail describes the spiritual path of a man named Hayy. As a baby, Hayy ended up on a desert island, where throughout his youth and maturity he had not met a living soul. Endlessly, he sought for the meaning and essence of life, inspired by the death of the gazelle who nursed him. Eventually, Hayy achieved a high Sufi station (maqâmât),and arrived at the One God. When he finally met other people, he was the wisest among them. At first, Hayy decided to teach the people wisdom, but when he failed, he understood that most were like dumb animals and that what is best for them has already been decreed by the messengers of God. What had been decreed could neither be changed nor supplemented. Thus, Hayy advised the people to observe religious prescriptions: he realized, that by doing so, they would at least “ensure their future well-being and commune with those who stand on the side of the right”. “And what of those who are in front?” – asks Hayy. And he responds: “Those in front are close to God”. After that, Hayy left the people and retreated to his island. One’s own effort, free thought, aimed at the essence of things, is sometimes deemed necessary: for instance, in Hinduism, one is advised to follow religious tenets all while being told that “the eternal cannot be achieved by following rituals, visiting sanctuaries, or accumulated riches. It can be achieved only through direct awareness and turning to the Truth. This is why everyone – gods, demons, demigods and humans – should constantly aspire to true wisdom.”

When a modern man, even one with remarkably profound understanding, but not belonging to any tradition, contemplates traditional mythologemes, especially ancient ones, he is actually dealing with his own conceptions of these mythologemes. It is quite clear: each tradition entails a series of consecutive initiations. Each new realization is accompanied by the inevitable transformation of the adherent. It is difficult to speak of the true meaning of metaphors and the symbols of mythologemes from aside, i.e. without having followed that path. Even ostensibly clear doctrines, contemplations, and explanations from the scriptures reveal themselves in an absolutely different light to the initiated. It is especially difficult, if not impossible, to talk about the metaphysical heights of different traditions, or about “the goals of the path”, so-to-speak. Brahman, Nirvana, God, Сhaos – the meaning of these words escapes any interpretation outside their respective traditions.

Almost the same thing happens today with those who preach one religion or another: when they discuss other traditions, their conclusions are too biased to be taken seriously.

Do all the traditions lead to the same point, like spokes in a wheel, or, conversely, does each lead to its own horizon of the endless Oceanos?

Modern traditionalists disagree even on this point.

Some of them claim that all traditions ultimately emanate from the same doctrine and that the issue is solely how it manifests itself, depending on the circumstances.

Others insist on essential differences among traditions. For instance, the followers of monotheistic traditions often emphasize that their traditions are oriented toward the transcendental, whereas the so-called heathen traditions aim toward the immanent, and belong to pantheism. The followers of heathen, or rather, ancient mythical traditions reproach monotheism for affixing metaphysical status to the linear historical time, which is essentially illusory. To them, this signifies retreat from the truly primordial and timeless and leads to all kinds of odd notions, like “the absolute end of times and all temporal worlds”.

A third group supposes that within each tradition there is an esoteric sphere which only a few can access. This sphere is universal to all traditions and comprises their very essence.

Finally, a fourth group points to tradition as a radical and inaccessible alternative to everything. This group restricts itself to revealing the profane essence underpinning all the modern concepts and mythologemes.

The variety of opinions confirms that the horizons of any tradition are revealed only to those who are within it.

In that case, does it make sense to contemplate different traditions?

It certainly does, if the purpose of the contemplations is correctly understood.

When such contemplations claim to discover the central doctrine of a tradition, evaluate it, and render a final verdict, they only lead to stupidity and profanation. 

However, keeping in mind that the issue is not the traditions themselves and how they are revealed from within, but rather, the issue is certain conceptions, which have been formed from without, these contemplations acquire greater freedom and meaning. Contemplating the conceptions, symbols, metaphors and allegories of different mythologemes, one can use them as a tool to follow one’s own reference points, delve into new depths, or discover a once unknown horizon. 

What are these reference points? The thing is, without an internal reference point – be it inspiration, insight, intuition of other worlds or an open metaphysical  question – it is useless, impossible, and not worth trying to understand other traditions or any more or less significant texts.

The inspiration of a thinker, artist, or poet is not as deep as that of an adherent of a tradition who has reached the ultimate philosophical heights.  And yet this is the same true inspiration which leads far beyond the limits of the familiar world. Of course, such inspiration can lead to deeper fallacy, worship of false gods, and a foray into the illusory and unreal. Navigating outside the tradition is hard and dangerous, but often, especially nowadays, there is no alternative.

So, a person searching for the essence of Being follows the text differently than one who simply wants to understand it. A rational mind is one thing, but metaphysical intuition, awakened by initiation, is quite another. What is convincing and even irrefutable from the point of view of logic and common sense may be entirely unfounded from the point of view of such intuition. And vice versa: what is illogical, fantastical, and paradoxical can also be quite exhaustive, convincing, and final.

In other words, if we follow the essence, then the form, appearance, and even an erroneous or biased narrative of facts become unimportant. Nietzsche, for instance, was often chastised for the inaccuracy of his historical passages, arbitrary interpretation of philosophical conceptions, and poor knowledge of Greek mythology. But if we read his texts through the prism of intellectual erudition, we shall never understand anything. That which the text was written for, that which is immeasurably more important, would remain the dark side of the moon. Only following intuition and accepting the context without evaluation, as it is given, one can see the essence hidden among the lines.

Let us take, for instance, a phrase by Mamleev: “There is nothing more dreadful than a person’s perception of himself”. 

We may ponder over it rationally and agree that it is true. Meantime, the word “dreadful” will be akin to “false” or “absurd”, – in other words, with some great error. From a rational point of view, the phrase means: “There is nothing more wrong, than a person’s perception of himself”. This is a good aphorism, and nothing more. The meaning of the phrase is completely lost.

Now let us read this phrase turning to intuition and feeling, not the mind. The key word here is “dreadful” (literally “nightmarish”). The phrase goes like this: “Our perception of ourselves is a real nightmare”. A nightmare is a grave hallucination, an awful dream which we cannot get rid of. Even perceiving the dream as a dream does not bring deliverance. But what is this nightmare? The nightmare is that we see ourselves. We see a doppelganger – ourselves, reflected in the mirror of our self-perception. And the nightmare is not the monster in the mirror, but the lack of another image of ourselves. We may try to beautify ourselves, to apply make-up, but a painted monster will only intensify the nightmare. What I see cannot be me! Then who am I? It is like looking at one’s own corpse. Therein lies the nightmare.

Thus, following a philosopher’s, writer’s or poet’s text, we may agree or disagree with what is said about other traditions, yet, since the heart of the matter has nothing to do with them, we would do better to read the text without reference to any tradition. In other words, we should read the text accepting all the interpretations, even the most fantastic ones, as irrelative concepts intended to reveal another, unexpressed depth.

But there is danger hidden here. A philosopher engrossed in contemplation, does not always stop upon reaching the boundary of his inspiration. In other words, he does not always stop at the right moment in order to look for new insights, in solitude or in action, and advances further, but in the dark. This is understandable: after all, it is hard to stop trying to reach the horizon.   

This navigation into the unknown usually leads to one of two things. The philosopher either delves deeper into baseless, abstract, speculations full of false paradoxes and obscurity, or he tries to project his own inspiration onto the unknown, and as a result moves toward a painted, not genuine horizon.

Heidegger, for instance, prefers to stop. When he reaches the ultimate depths of his inspiration, unfolding the question “Why are there beings (Seiendes) instead of Nothing?», he announces a new reference point in philosophy, its new origin. He does not step over this boundary, but simply writes: “We do not know the horizon from which we can comprehend and affix the meaning of ‘to be’”. Kant does the same thing, and he has asserted that the thing-in-itself is an unknowable. Leibniz seeks an answer and develops a logically impeccable yet utterly rational theory of predetermined harmony while contemplating the relationship between the body and soul, the independence of the monad from all that is phenomenal and its simultaneous immersion into the phenomenal. He does not stop at revealing this metaphysical question, but crosses the boundary of his inspiration. By contrast, Nicholas of Cusa, in his mathematical speculations on eternity and infinity, quickly abandons the oecumene of free thinkers, who commence reflection from a so-called “tabula rasa”, and supports his arguments with dogmas of faith. In other words, he relies not only on a thinker’s inspiration, but also on truths revealed to Catholics. By the way, this is why followers of other faiths or of none at all have difficulty immersing themselves into the writings of Nicholas of Cusa. Yet, it should be noted that all his speculations, even mathematical ones, are marked with “learned ignorance”, in other words, he admits that the metaphysical is inscrutable to the mind alone. This gives his speculations a hypothetical, rather than absolute, character. In any case, his Christian inspiration is projected onto the unknown.

Which of these approaches to the genuinely metaphysical is truer? What is better: to stop before the unknown, immerse oneself into abstract speculations, or project one’s existential experience, one’s inspiration onto the unknown? It seems that any approach is valid, but only if we take into account what we are doing and howwe are reflecting.

Within this tentative classification of approaches to metaphysics Mamleev’s philosophical works, especially “The Last Doctrine”, belong to the projection of inspiration onto the unknown. However, this is not without a certain amount of abstract reasoning or moments of realizing the impossibility of going further without acquiring another, as – yet – unknown, inspiration.

Mamleev’s inspiration unites within itself two perfectly different inspirations. In other words, his inspiration presumes two seemingly opposite reference points: moving toward “I” and moving toward the transcendental. Speaking metaphorically, we can call these inspirations the inspirations of the Great Noon and the Great Midnight.

“I” addresses the “primary inner reality within oneself”, one’s genuine essence, or the search for one’s genuine “I”.

The transcendental or absolutely alien is, by contrast, an appeal to an unknown abyss outside all boundaries even of oneself or one’s true “I”.

The motivation to address the “I” is evident. First of all, in the phenomenal world, it is the only immutable reality which is independent of time, at least, from birth to death, indivisible and unchanging. It is more real than anything we know. Secondly, the destiny of this “I” after death is obviously very important to us.

Starting with the common, personal “I”, Mamleev moves toward the metaphysical “I”. First lies the comprehension of the nonidentity of “I” with the body, then with feelings, the mind, the entire person with its earthly and posthumous fate. The comprehension of “I” is not speculative. The genuine “I” cannot be thought up or imagined – one can only be“I”. That is why the path toward comprehending the “I” is crucially different. It is a matter of realizing or  rather discovering one’s being and being in general. In other words, Mamleev speaks of sheer presence, existence as such.

It is relatively easy to understand the nonidentity of “I” with one's person. For instance, when we dream, we often do not remember who we are, that the Earth is round, that there are oceans, seas, cities – Paris and New York. We find ourselves in an absolutely different situation and feel like a completely different person, or a totally different being, yet we know for sure that we are we. Not a body, not a person, but “I”. Or, for example, suppose we remember a moment from yesterday. Yesterday’s feelings and thoughts do not seem ours, and even our perceived image of ourselves is no longer “I”. I exist only here and now. We do not care about the death or continued existence of our past selves, or our past fate. We do not care whether they disappear altogether or linger somewhere in eternity. It is all the same to us. “I”, however, is a different matter. It does not matter whether, after death, “I” becomes another creature, an angel, demon, cosmic conscience, omniscience or unity; what matters is that in any case it will be “I”.

It is possible to understand the nonidentity of “I” with a person, sheer presence, and conscience of being.

But the complete absence of individuality in the very essence of this “I” already lies beyond the inspiration related to the discovery of the impersonal “I’. In other words, it is quite a different matter to grasp that the genuine metaphysical “I” is critically different than I myself.

Exactly at this point on the path toward comprehending the “I”, the inspiration of Mamleev, Leibniz and many others, or maybe all others who are still human, reaches its limit.

It is intuitively obvious that individual attributes exist in the imaginary metaphysical “I”. Even if the whole universe and everything is open to this “I”, something individual still remains – the contemplator himself, whose identity remains separate from that of the contemplated reality, the entire Being in its unity with nothingness. 

It is possible that this inspiration is limited because of the etymology of the word “I”, the hidden power of which we probably cannot fully ascertain. Maybe it is impossible to arrive at the real sublation of duality without rejecting the word “I”, which, in one way or another, implies a subject-object relationship.

Approaching this boundary, Heidegger emphasizes that he means something«thatis before and above any difference between ‘I’ and ‘you’, between ‘I’ or ‘you’ and ‘we’, or between an individual and society”. “The man himself, – explains Heidegger, – his own self (das Selbst) is not ‘I’, but a here-being (Da-sein), wherein lies the foundation for the relationship of ‘I’ to ‘you’, ‘I’ to ‘we’, and ‘we’ to ‘they’. This is where these relationships, if they are to have power, can and must be overcome”. 

In order to avoid the subjective-objective structure of the word “I”, i.e. to eliminate the implied division of whatever-is into “I” and “non-I”, into “I” and “the world”, Heidegger deliberately refuses to use the word “I” in his philosophy.

For instance, in Sanskrit, there is no universal “I”, as in European languages. On the path toward comprehending one’s essence, different words are used instead of the universal “I”, which corresponds to the newly reached height. In Tibetan, Korean, Japanese and other Eastern languages there is no equivalent of the European word “I” in its common meaning, since all sentences are mainly constructed in an impersonal form.

         However, without inspiration leading beyond the limits of the individual,  simply replacing the word “I” is certainly not enough.

         Leibniz uses the word “monad”, but his monad is still primarily associated with the soul, and then with the metaphysical “I”. After profound meditation, Leibniz inevitably concludes: the monad should not possess any individual characteristics, and therefore monads do not differ among themselves, i.e. there is only one monad. In other words, the metaphysical “I” is one and the same for everyone. But then, how do we explain the existence and essence of so many human beings around us, as well as so many other creatures? The identity of one’s “I” not only with the “I” of every creature, but also with the “I” of the person closest to one, can be neither imagined nor overcome. Understanding that “I” is “I” and “he” is “he” is existentially inevitable. We need another inspiration, a completely different approach. Following the intent to look into the unknown, at least ideationally, Leibniz’s monadology delves into speculating about unity and multiplicity, the very capacity for perception, Universal Monarchy, and Civitas Dei. These speculations are very interesting, but they raise more questions than they answer.

Approaching the same boundary, Mamleev acts differently – specifically, he projects onto metaphysics his intuitive grasp of “I”. As a result, the notion of God comes closer to his grasp of the metaphysical “I”, even one that is indivisible, omnipresent, and revealed in its highest manifestation – but nevertheless with “I” present and contemplating. In other words, God, like the highest “I”, is presented as an immortal being, conscious of its existence and of everything, including nothingness. He is conscious, i.e. non-identical with that which he is conscious of, non-identical with Hell and Heaven, being and nothingness. But this God is limited by his imperishable existence; He cannot not beand therefore, as Heidegger puts it, He “is not the horizon from which one could attain the meaning of the word ‘to be’”.

Meantime, Mamleev follows another inspiration – the inspiration of the Great Midnight, oriented toward the transcendental, interweaving with the theme of “I”, and ultimately merging with it in a peculiar unity.


O Mensch! Gib acht!

Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht? —


Oh man! Hear,

What the deep Midnight says!


These lines by Nietzsche can be understood as an appeal to our genuine essence, to our higher “I”, an appeal to transcend the day to the Great Midnight, and, forgetting everything, including ourselves, to peer into it and it alone.

The motivation to strive for the absolutely different is not so simple.

We can look for the motivation in an inexplicable suggestion (latin suggestio) of the horizon itself. Here is an example. Studying the history of the resettlement of the Pacific islanders, scientists have not yet found an intelligible reason of this resettlement. Here is approximately what happened. Imagine an island where people live like in paradise: it has a remarkable climate, abundant food, a settled way of life – it wants for nothing. Nevertheless, from time to time, this or that person gets into a boat and starts rowing toward the horizon. And no one comes back. Almost all of them perish. Yet, some reach far-off, unknown islands and found settlements there, although, some scholars think that it is absolutely impossible to cover such distances in frail boats. The motivation was not economic difficulty, not an attempt to escape problems, but the horizon itself.

But it is even better to look for motivation to strive for the transcendental by comprehending the unreality of that which surrounds us. This comprehension occurs unexpectedly, without apparent reason, or it results from speculating about the foundations of our conceptions. In any case, the awareness of the unreality of our surroundings is a particular kind of inspiration. Mamleev calls it: “the existence of the nonexistent”.  Advaita Vedanta invites us to understand first of all that the familiar, real world is an illusion, a day-dream which only appears to exist.

Our presence in the hallucination called “Universe” encourages us to seek the truth beyond Universe, beyond any individualized “I”, and even beyond the Creator of the World Brahma, who is also essentially illusory. In other words, the Demiurge himself, being the origin of the illusory and nonexistent Creation, is also illusory, and thus cannot be the ultimate reference point.  

Then how can we understand “the existence of nonexistent?” Where is the horizon “from which we could attain the meaning of the word ‘to be’”, even if this “to be” relates to a hallucination? What is the true reason for the demiurge’s and the world’s existence? Advaita Vedanta, for instance, responds that such a reason simply does not exist. The world is an illusion and does not exist. It therefore makes no sense to talk about the reasons for the beginning, or the end of that which does not exist.

Then what does exist? Where is it and how is it? And how can we strive for it?

That, which “is” beyond illusory Universe, Mamleev calls “An Abyss, trans--darkness”. In Hinduism it is called “Brahman”, in Greek mythology – Chaos, in Gnostic Christianity – “transcendental Light, true God”.

Advaita Vedanta tells us that Brahman “is neither this nor that, nor anything at all”. “The experience of the Absolute is given to us in its absence”, – claims Geidar Djemal. “The world can point to that which is not the world”, – writes Mamleev.

In any case, this Abyss is an unlimited infinity, which includes within itself all possible orders and disorders, everything at all – and at the same time, it is nothing fixed. It remains beyond the limits of existence and non-existence, it is simultaneously present everywhere or manifests itself as absence, which is ultimately the same thing.

         In “The Last Doctrine”, Mamleev offers the following scheme.

         Having reached the realization of his highest principle, a man attains his true “I” and merges with the absolute, becoming the absolute. But this is far from the apex, because the truly transcendental should lie beyond the absolute. “True initiation, – writes Mamleev, – leads to what is not given, what is not contained within us, what is truly transcendental to us”. The absolute in this scheme turns out to be immanent, whatever-is contained within itself, while the transcendental appears as “true Darkness, the true Ocean ‘surrounding’ Reality”. Mamleev further proposes a way to this Ocean, not through the center, but through the periphery of Universe, where the immanent is more subtle and has less of an opportunity to capture us. Mamleev calls the way through the periphery a “complete positivation of all negations” (‘evil’ and ‘death’) as fissures leading into the Abyss”. Wind from the Abyss transforms the world, changing it from a dream from which we must rouse, into an indication of what is beyond reality and the absolute. 

It is easy to criticize this scheme.

For instance, one may call completely illegitimate an ideational conception of the transcendental or something else with respect to the Absolute. Such a conception springs from the intrinsic capacity of the intellect to negate, yet as Heidegger explains, this very capacity stems from the existential collision with Nothing. We know about negation from this collision, not vice versa. Negation is inapplicable to Nothing. Nor is it applicable to metaphysics, which “includes” Nothing.  Negation is applicable only to a specific being, maybe to whatever-is as a whole, and the Absolute is neither the one nor the other: there is nothing to negate. The Absolute is not only above any possibility to negate, but it is altogether above the intellect. In other words, the other and the transcendental belonging to the Absolute, are the Absolute; or, rather, the Absolute itself is the transcendental and the other.

Actually, the Abyss in Mamleev’s “The Last Doctrine” is beyond the immanent, but not outside the limits of the true Absolute.

But, as we mentioned at the beginning, this kind of criticism leads nowhere, since the key is not the intellectual correctness of notions and reasoning, but the inspiration behind them. 

From this point of view, in “The Last Doctrine” we can see a paradoxical convergence of two seemingly opposing inspirations – aimed at the transcendental and at revealing the true “I”. As it was mentioned above, the latter inspiration is not enough, partly because the very word “I” introduces an individual aspect into metaphysics. This does not mean that from the very beginning we took the wrong track and that the path to the original “I” is a dead end. It just means that on this path, we must take a drastic step, at a certain moment a new inspiration is necessary. This new inspiration presumes new symbols, meanings, and words. Yet, another inspiration enables further progress – an orientation toward the transcendental, where the projection of the individual onto metaphysics is out of the question.

But do these two inspirations lead in the same direction? It seems so…

“When it becomes clear that the division of Universe into “I” and “the world” is meaningless, – says Advaita Vedanta, – then that which once seemed to be the world manifests as Brahman”.

In order to illustrate more clearly the progression toward pure conscience, devoid of any individual “I”, and at the same time toward the transcendental, I shall quote Heidegger’s comment on the moment of Nietzsche’s inspiration:

“What is revealed to the thinker lies beyond the horizon of his ‘personal experience’, it is something different from himself, something previously unknown to him and existing apart from him, but now present; something which does not belong to the thinker, but to which he belongs”.

And, to conclude, here is another illustration, but this time symbolic, from Hinduism.

When a pot comes into being, the space inside the pot does not come into being. While the pot exists, there is a notion of space inside the pot. If the pot is moved from one place to another, the space inside it is not moved from one place to another. If we break the pot, what remains is infinite space, even where the pot was before.


Sergey Zhigalkin

Report at the International Scientific Conference on Traditionalism

«Against the post-modern world» (Section “The Metaphysics of Chaos”)

October 16,2011.