Reflection on Ethos and its explanation about the world

By Santiago Beltran, B.A. M.A.

Ethos is a common reference, which generates ways of feeling and thinking, it has been configured in facets throughout history, that is, it is constituted as a transformation that has precisely been modifying the direction of thinking. So, it is fully changing and variable, with different vicissitudes. Ethos is the common belief of humanity, it is the notion of the world, thus, the spiritual beyond the routine and normalized in history, is positioned as the transcendent.

By Santiago Beltran, B.A, M.A.

The question about Ethos is not far from the reflections typical of Theosophy, in fact, in its studies the manifestations of religions are collected in their explanation of the world. Questions about beliefs must necessarily be consistent with what H. P Blavatsky calls the synonym of Eternal Truth[1].

We can affirm from Heidegger in his text The epoch of the image of the world[2], the existence of a foundation that supports each stage, epoch of humanity, in other words, a philosophical or metaphysical foundation. In the classics it was knowledge of the world, wondering about it, about being, the unfolding of truth and attitude with reference to being. In the Middle Ages, the philosophical support was divine creation, the Bible and God, who although everything was explained by him, it was possible to think about Christian doctrine (explanation of the world by Christian means). Finally, when we speak of a modern metaphysical foundation, we must speak of Descartes with his Cartesian philosophy, which gives rise to modern science, which denies its foundations and engages in factual calculation.

To this extent, Ethos is made up of general characters with incidents that concern human management. It is a collective determination, a mode and some signs referring to the being that generate ways of feeling and thinking. In short, it is the quest that the Masters speak of, as Blavatsky asserts.

The forgetting of "being" in Modern times.

Following this line, Heidegger speaks of a “forgetting of being”, he considers that it is necessary to make a call to “thinking” not limited from modern technique, but from a development of truth. For him, the anthropocentric foundation cannot be a total referent of Ethos, that is, it cannot be considered as the only character, consequently, there is a loss of objectification, a loss of referents, thanks to the humanistic egoism reflected in nihilism .


In this sense and within the framework of these assumptions, it is necessary to refer to the question that Umberto Eco asks Carlo Maria Martín, the bishop of Milan, in the text What those who do not believe believe[3]. The question that Umberto Eco asks himself in the context of an Ethos, (which apparently has collapsed) is related to hope and consequently to the future of humanity, what is the ultimate goal of man?

In this sense, a dialogue is proposed between Eco and the bishop of Milan that consists of a reflection on the end of humanity, a concern in Theosophy, which is centered not on an apathy for the future, but an examination of the past that It has led us to what we are today, in verbatim words: “What critical function can a reflection on the end adopt that does not imply disinterest in the future, but rather constant judgment of past mistakes?”[4] . Foucault raises something similar when he mentions the characterization of an Ethos positively, in the critique that must exist on the limits of knowledge.[5]

Thus, the problematization of various aspects makes it possible to bring to light issues that have not been resolved, a work that draws attention to Blavatsky when he talks about the abstract and the concrete[6]. What we want to emphasize is not a formulation of a new Ethos, but the reflection on matters and experiences that precisely in the modern decadence of being, do not allow us to be collectively interested in the truth. Modern Ethos has lost the character of search, and this is manifested in the art of the 20th century

In the first instance what Hobsbwam wants to denote is that the crisis of avant-garde art of the 20th century comes hand in hand with the failure of modernity, he refers to the work of art as an “expression of the times”[7], that is, as the manifestation of Ethos. In this sense, for Hobsbawm avant-garde art manifests itself for a minority, it does not attract the attention of the public and this is the greatest failure. It is configured as a “technological obsolescence”[8], it is totally incapable of not being absorbed by it, of linking itself to its media and of becoming an influence for capitalist advertising, and not for spiritual transcendence.

This inability to give an answer to technology is due to the importance and freedom given to the author as a creator in the context of modernity, he is seen as the inventor of a work whose originality allows it to be irreproducible , since Hobsbawm this is in a way the nightmare for the avant-garde art of the twentieth century, even from the economic plane since its specificity and originality is contradictory with the required and growing mass market in modernity itself, this makes art something more particular or minority.

It is then necessary to consider art, to remove it from a low profile. In Adorno there is the positivist denial of art, this means that the aesthetics is determined according to the essence of the work, rather than its form, in this sense, the true artistic function should not move, but by the otherwise it demands to shock the viewer. The cultural industry produces a number of images lacking in essence and content, which for Adorno constitute a degradation of aesthetics, insofar as it proceeds from a commercial logic, “The participation of the empirical subject in the artistic experience, telle quelle is only limited and modified, and could decrease as the range of works grew. Whoever enjoys them in a too concrete way is a trivial man “[9].

But how to make it possible for the transcendence reflected in spirituality through art to be transmitted to all people? In other words, how can the spirituality of the whole mass be shocked? How to make art precisely reproducible, so that we all have access to it so that it is precisely configured and perhaps a new perspective is constituted?

In a matter of art, there must be a recognition of others, that is, it must be admired not as something particularistic, but rather as something spiritually transcendent collective. Returning to Umberto Eco in his dialogue with the bishop of Milan, it is necessary to consider the conception of the space of the other, since the foundations for an Ethos center on the moment in which others enter to play an important role in history “The ethical dimension begins when others enter”[10]

To conclude, it is necessary for art to focus on the position accessible to what Theosophy teaches us, in relation to the search for Truth outside of egoism, it is necessary to eliminate its reproducibility and originality that confers it as something very indecipherable, in In this sense, it is necessary to contemplate in this case different perspectives, which may be behind everything that modern Ethos himself has not seen. In this way, the search for other artistic alternatives different from the known ones may help us to configure a way of being, a new character and a new way of feeling and thinking in a high moral ideal.


  • Blavatsky H. P. Key to Theosophy. Editorial KIER 1982
  • Eco Umberto, Martini Maria Carlo. Belief or nonbelief? Ediciones temas de hoy, S.A.
  • Hobsbawn Eric. Behind the Times: Decline and Fall of the Twentieth-Century Avant-Gardes, Editorial critica Barcelona 1999.
  • Foucault Michel. What is enlightenment? Universidad Nacional.
  • Heidegger, Martín. A path through the darkened forest, Madrid: alianza editorial, 1998.
  • Adorno Theodor W. Aesthetic Theory Orbis; Hyspamerica,  Buenos Aires 1983

[1] H..P. Blavatsky. La clave de la Teosofía. Editorial KIER 1982.

[2] Heidegger, Martín. Los senderos del bosque, Madrid: alianza editorial, 1998. La época de la imagen del mundo

[3] ECO Umberto, Martini Maria Carlo. ¿Que creen los que no creen? Ediciones temas de hoy, S.A.

[4] IBID

[5] Reflexión que hace Foucault en el texto ¿Que es la ilustración?  

[6] IBID

[7] Hobsbawn Eric. a la zaga, decadencia y fracaso de las vanguardias del siglo XX . Editorial critica Barcelona 1999

[8] Hobsbawn Eric. a la zaga, decadencia y fracaso de las vanguardias del siglo XX . Editorial critica Barcelona 1999

[9] Arte sociedad, estética Adorno Tiedeman

[10] Eco Umberto, Martini Maria Carlo. ¿Que creen los que no creen? Ediciones temas de hoy, S.A. Pág. 89