Of the many metaphysical things I have pondered upon in the last five or so years, one is the enigma of words. More specifically, of how nomen – a name, a term, a designation – can not only apparently bring-into-being abstractions (and their categories) but also prescribe both our thinking and our actions, with such abstractions and such prescription so often being used by us, we mortals, to persuade, to entreat, to manipulate, to control, not only ourselves but through us others of our human kind. Whence how denotatum can and so often does distance, distract, us from the essence – the physis – that empathy and its wordless (acausal) knowing can reveal and has for certain mortals so often in past millennia revealed.
For we seem somehow addicted to talk, to chatter – spoken and written – just as we assume, we believe, so often on the basis of nomina that we expand our pretension of knowing beyond the local horizon of a very personal wordless empathy breeding thus, encouraging thus, such hubris as has so marked our species for perhaps five thousand years. With such hubris – such certitude of knowing – being the genesis of such suffering as we have so often inflicted on others and, sometimes, even upon ourselves.
Would that we could, as a sentient species, dispense with nomen, nomina, and thus communicate with others – and with ourselves – empathically and thus acquire the habit of acausal wordless knowing. There would then be no need for the politics of propaganda and the rhetoric of persuasion; no need – no ability – to lie or pretend to others. For we would be known – wordlessly revealed – for who and what we really are. And what a different world that would be where no lie, no deception, would work and where guilt could never be concealed.
For some, a few mortals, such a wordless knowing is already, and has been for centuries, the numinous reality, born as such a personal reality is either via their pathei-mathos or via their innate physis. Which is perhaps why such others often secrete, or desire to secrete, themselves away: an isolated or secluded family – rural, or island – living, perhaps, and perhaps why Cistercians, some mystics, some artists, and others of a similar numinous kind, have saught to dwell, to live, in reclusive or communal silence.
There is – or so there seems to me to be according to my admittedly, fallible, uncertitude of knowing – a presencing of the essence of almost all religions here in such a knowing of the value, the mysterium, of silence. Of that which we so often in our hubris forget, have forgotten, or never known: that wordless, that empathic, that so very personal acausal knowing, that personal grief and personal suffering – that the personal awareness of the numinous – so often engenders, so often breeds, as has been so recounted for millennia in our human culture of pathei-mathos.
Given this culture – so accessible now through institutions of learning, through printed books, through art, memoirs, and music, and via this medium of this our digital age – shall we, can we, learn and apply the learning of that culture to significantly change our lives, thus somehow avoiding that periodicity of suffering which for millennia our hubris, our certainty of knowing born of nomen and nomina and the resultant abstractions, has inflicted and continues to inflict upon us?
I do so wish I had an answer. But for now, all I can do is dwell in hope of us en masse so evolving that such empathy, such wordless knowing, has become the norm.
My weltanschauung – otherwise known as ‘the philosophy of pathei-mathos’ – is currently (2014-2015) outlined in the following four works, available both in printed format and as pdf files:
° David Myatt: The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos. 2013. 82 pages. ISBN 978-1484096642
° David Myatt: Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos. 2013. 60 pages. ISBN 978-1484097984
° David Myatt: One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods: Some Personal and Metaphysical Musings. 2014. 46 pages. ISBN 978-1502396105.
° David Myatt: Sarigthersa: Some Recent Essays. 50 pages. ISBN 978-1512137149
Also of interest may be:
° David Myatt: Understanding And Rejecting Extremism. 58 pages. ISBN 978-1484854266
° J.R. Wright & R. Parker: The Mystic Philosophy of David Myatt. 56 pages. ISBN 978-1523930135
A collection of four essays which, a few caveats notwithstanding, provide an introduction to the philosophy of pathei-mathos.
Image credit: NGC 206, Hubble Space Telescope
What I have previously described as the ‘philosophy of pathei-mathos’ and the ‘way of pathei-mathos’ is simply my own weltanschauung, a weltanschauung developed over some years as a result of my own pathei-mathos. Thus, and despite whatever veracity it may or may not possess, it is only the personal insight of one very fallible individual, a fallibility proven by my decades of selfishness and by my decades of reprehensible extremism both political and religious.
Furthermore, and according to my admittedly limited understanding and limited knowledge, this philosophy does not – in essence – express anything new. For I feel (and I use the word ‘feel’ intentionally) that I have only re-expressed what so many others, over millennia, have expressed as result of (i) their own pathei-mathos and/or (ii) their experiences/insights and/or (iii) their particular philosophical musings.
Indeed, the more I reflect upon my (perhaps pretentiously entitled) ‘philosophy of pathei-mathos’ the more I reminded of so many things, such as (i) what I intuitively (and possibly incorrectly) understood nearly half a century ago about Taoism when I lived in the Far East and was taught that ancient philosophy by someone who was also trying to instruct me in a particular Martial Art, and (ii) what I as a Catholic monk felt “singing Gregorian chant in choir and which singing often connected me to what JS Bach so often so well expressed by his music; that is, connected me to what – in essence – Christianity (the allegory of the life and crucifixion of Christ) and especially monasticism manifested: an intimation of some-thing sacred causing us to know beyond words what ‘the good’ really means, and which knowing touches us if only for an instant with a very personal humility and compassion”, and (iii) what I learnt from “my first few years as a Muslim, before I adhered to a harsh interpretation of Islam; a learning from being invited into the homes of Muslim families; sharing meals with them; praying with them; learning Muslim Adab; attending Namaz at my local Mosque, and feeling – understanding – what their faith meant to them and what Islam really meant, and manifested, as a practical way of living”, and (iv) of what I discovered from several years, as a teenager, at first in the Far East and then in England, of practising Hatha Yoga according to the Pradipika and Patanjali, and (v) of what I intuited regarding Buddhism from over a year of zazen (some in a zendo) and from months of discussions with Dom Aelred Graham who had lived in a Zen monastery in Japan, and (vi) what I so painfully, so personally, discovered via my own pathei-mathos.
As a weltanschauung derived from a personal pathei-mathos, my ‘philosophy/way of pathei-mathos’ is therefore subject to revision. Thus this essay summarising my weltanschauung includes a few (2013-2014) slight revisions – mentioned, or briefly described, in some of my more recent effusions – of what was expressed in previous works of mine such as The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos (ISBN 9781484096642) and Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos: Essays and Letters Regarding Spirituality, Humility, and A Learning From Grief (ISBN 9781484097984).
The ontology is of causal and acausal being, with (i) causal being as revealed by phainómenon, by the five Aristotelian essentials and thus by science with its observations and theories and principle of ‘verifiability’, and (ii) acausal being as revealed by συμπάθεια – by the acausal knowing (of living beings) derived from faculty of empathy  – and thus of the distinction between the ‘time’ (the change) of living-beings and the ‘time’ described via the measurement of the observed or the assumed/posited/predicted movement of ‘things’ .
a. The primacy of pathei-mathos: of a personal pathei-mathos being one of the primary means whereby we can come to know the true φύσις (physis) of Being, of beings, and of our own being; a knowing beyond ‘abstractions’, beyond the concealment implicit in manufactured opposites, by ipseity (the separation-of-otherness), and by denotatum.
b. Adding the ‘acausal knowing’ revealed by the (muliebral) faculty of empathy to the conventional, and causal (and somewhat masculous), knowing of science and logical philosophical speculation, with the proviso that what such ‘acausal knowing’ reveals is (i) of φύσις, the relation between beings, and between beings and Being, and thus of ‘the separation-of-otherness’, and (ii) the personal and numinous nature of such knowing in the immediacy-of-the-moment, and which empathic knowing thus cannot be abstracted out from that ‘living moment’ via denotatum: by (words written or spoken), or be named or described or expressed (become fixed or ‘known’) by any dogma or any -ism or any -ology, be such -isms or -ologies conventionally understood as political, religious, ideological, or social.
c. Describing a human, and world-wide and ancestral, ‘culture of pathei-mathos’ , and which culture of pathei-mathos could form part of Studia Humanitatis and thus of that education that enables we human beings to better understand our own φύσις .
a. Of personal honour – which presences the virtues of fairness, tolerance, compassion, humility, and εὐταξία – as (i) a natural intuitive (wordless) expression of the numinous (‘the good’, δίκη, συμπάθεια) and (ii) of both what the culture of pathei-mathos and the acausal-knowing of empathy reveal we should do (or incline us toward doing) in the immediacy of the personal moment when personally confronted by what is unfair, unjust, and extreme .
b. Of how such honour – by its and our φύσις – is and can only ever be personal, and thus cannot be extracted out from the ‘living moment’ and our participation in the moment; for it only through such things as a personal study of the culture of pathei-mathos and the development of the faculty of empathy that a person who does not naturally possess the instinct for δίκη can develope what is essentially ‘the human faculty of honour’, and which faculty is often appreciated and/or discovered via our own personal pathei-mathos.
4. One fallible, personal, answer regarding the question of human existence
Of understanding ourselves in that supra-personal, and cosmic, perspective that empathy, honour, and pathei-mathos – and thus an awareness of the numinous and of the acausal – incline us toward, and which understanding is: (i) of ourselves as a finite, fragile, causal, viatorial, microcosmic, affective effluvium  of Life (ψυχή) and thus connected to all other living beings, human, terran, and non-terran, and (ii) of there being no supra-personal goal to strive toward because all supra-personal goals are and have been just posited – assumed, abstracted – goals derived from the illusion of ipseity, and/or from some illusive abstraction, and/or from that misapprehension of our φύσις that arises from a lack of empathy, honour, and pathei-mathos.
For a living in the moment, in a balanced – an empathic, honourable – way, presences our φύσις as conscious beings capable of discovering and understanding and living in accord with our connexion to other life; which understanding inclines us to avoid the hubris that causes or contributes to the suffering of other life, with such avoidance a personal choice not because it is conceived as a path toward some posited thing or goal – such as nirvana or Jannah or Heaven or after-life – and not because we might be rewarded by God, by the gods, or by some supra-personal divinity, but rather because it manifests the reality, the truth – the meaning – of our being. The truth that (i) we are (or we are capable of being) one affective consciously-aware connexion to other life possessed of the capacity to cause suffering/harm or not to cause suffering/harm, and (ii) we as an individual are but one viator manifesting the change – the being, the φύσις – of the Cosmos/mundus toward (a) a conscious awareness (an aiding of ψυχή), or (b) stasis, or (c) as a contributor toward a decline, toward a loss of ψυχή.
Thus, there is a perceiveration of our φύσις; of us as – and not separate from – the Cosmos: a knowledge of ourselves as the Cosmos presenced (embodied, incarnated) in a particular time and place and in a particular way. Of how we affect or can affect other effluvia, other livings beings, in either a harmful or a non-harming manner. An apprehension, that is, of the genesis of suffering and of how we, as human beings possessed of the faculties of reason, of honour, and of empathy, have the ability to cease to harm other living beings. Furthermore, and in respect of the genesis of suffering, this particular perceiveration provides an important insight about ourselves, as conscious beings; which insight is of the division we mistakenly but understandably make, and have made, consciously or unconsciously, between our own being – our ipseity – and that of other living beings, whereas such a distinction is only an illusion – appearance, hubris, a manufactured abstraction – and the genesis of such suffering as we have inflicted for millennia, and continue to inflict, on other life, human and otherwise.
 Refer to: (i) The Way of Pathei-Mathos – A Philosophical Compendiary (pdf, Third Edition, 2012), and (ii) Towards Understanding The Acausal, 2011.
 Refer to Time And The Separation Of Otherness – Part One, 2012.
 The culture of pathei-mathos is the accumulated pathei-mathos of individuals, world-wide, over thousands of years, as (i) described in memoirs, aural stories, and historical accounts; as (ii) have inspired particular works of literature or poetry or drama; as (iii) expressed via non-verbal mediums such as music and Art, and as (iv) manifest in more recent times by ‘art-forms’ such as films and documentaries.
 Refer to Education and The Culture of Pathei-Mathos, 2014.
 By ‘extreme’ is meant ‘to be harsh’, unbalanced, intolerant, prejudiced, hubriatic.
 As mentioned elsewhere, I now prefer the term effluvium, in preference to emanation, in order to try and avoid any potential misunderstanding. For although I have previously used the term ’emanation’ in my philosophy of pathei-mathos as a synonym of effluvium, ’emanation’ is often understood in the sense of some-thing proceeding from, or having, a source; as for example in theological use where the source is considered to be God or some aspect of a divinity. Effluvium, however, has (so far as I am aware) no theological connotations and accurately describes the perceiveration: a flowing of what-is, sans the assumption of a primal cause, and sans a division or a distinction between ‘us’ – we mortals – and some-thing else, be this some-thing else God, a divinity, or some assumed, ideated, cause, essence, origin, or form.
One of the many subjects that I have pondered upon in the last few years is the role of education and whether a learning of our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos – understood and appreciated as a distinct culture , and thence as an academic subject – could possibly aid us, as a species, to change; aid us to become more honourable, more compassionate, less egoistical, less violent, as individuals, and thus aid us to possibly avoid in our own lives those hubriatic errors, and causing the suffering, that the culture of pathei-mathos reveals are not only unethical but also which we humans make and cause and have made and caused again and again and again. That is, can a knowledge and appreciation of this culture, perhaps learnt individually and/or in institutions such as schools and colleges, provide with us with that empathic, supra-personal, perspective which I personally – as a result of my own learning and experiences – am inclined to feel could change, evolve, us not only as individuals but as a species?
For thousands of years – from the classical world to the Renaissance to fairly recent times – Studia Humanitatis (an appreciation and understanding of our φύσις as human beings) was considered to be the basis of a good, a sound, education.
Thus, for Cicero, Studia Humanitatis implied forming and shaping the manners, the character, and the knowledge, of young people through them acquiring an understanding of subjects such as philosophy, geometry, rhetoric, music, and litterarum cognitio (literary culture). This was because the classical weltanschauung was a paganus one: an apprehension of the complete unity (a cosmic order, κόσμος, mundus) beyond the apparent parts of that unity, together with the perceiveration that we mortals – albeit a mere and fallible part of the unity – have been gifted with our existence so that we may perceive and understand this unity, and, having so perceived, may ourselves seek to be whole, and thus become as balanced (perfectus) , as harmonious, as the unity itself:
Neque enim est quicquam aliud praeter mundum quoi nihil absit quodque undique aptum atque perfectum expletumque sit omnibus suis numeris et partibus […] ipse autem homo ortus est ad mundum contemplandum et imitandum – nullo modo perfectus, sed est quaedam particula perfecti. 
Furthermore, this paganus natural balance implied an acceptance by the individual of certain communal responsibilities and duties; of such responsibilities and duties, and their cultivation, as a natural and necessary part of our existence as mortals.
In the Christian societies of Renaissance Europe, Studia Humanitatis became more limited, to subjects such as history, moral philosophy, poetry, certain classical authors, and Christian writes such as Augustine and Jerome, with the general intent being a self improvement with the important proviso that this concentration on the advancement of the individual to ‘noble living’ by means of ‘noble examples’ (classical and Christian) should not conflict with the Christian weltanschauung  and its perceiveration of obedience to whatever interpretation of Christian faith and eschatology the individual favoured or believed in. In more recent times, Studia Humanitatis has become the academic study of ‘the liberal arts’, the ‘humanities’, often as a means to equip an individual with certain personal skills – such as the ability to communicate effectively and to rationally analyse problems – which might be professionally useful in later life.
However, the culture of pathei-mathos provides an addition to the aforementioned Studia Humanitatis, and an addition where the focus is not on a particular weltanschauung (paganus, Christian, liberal, or humanist) but rather on our shared pathei-mathos: on what we and others have learnt, and can learn, about our human φύσις from experience of grief, suffering, trauma, injustice. For it is such personal learning from experience, or the records of or the influence of the experiences of others, which is not only the essence of much of what we, and others for thousands of years, have appreciated and learned from some of the individual subjects or fields of learning that formed the basis for the aforementioned Studia Humanitatis – history, litterarum cognitio, and music, for example – but also what, at least in my view, provides us with perhaps the deepest, but most certainly with the most poignant, insight into our φύσις as human beings.
Thus considered as an individual subject or field of learning, academic or otherwise, the culture of pathei-mathos would most certainly help to form and shape the manners, the character, the knowledge, of young people, for it has the potential to provide us with a perception and an understanding of the supra-personal unity – the mundus – of which we are a mortal part, and thus perhaps can aid us to become as inwardly balanced, as harmonious, as the unity beyond and encompassing us, bringing as such a perception, understanding, and balance, does that appreciation and empathic intuition of others which is compassion and aiding as such compassion does the cessation of the suffering that an unbalanced – a hubriatic, egoistical – human φύσις causes and has caused for so many millennia.
Can we therefore, as described in the Pœmandres tractate,
hasten through the harmonious structure, offering up, in the first realm, that vigour which grows and which fades, and – in the second one – those dishonourable machinations, no longer functioning. In the third, that eagerness which deceives, no longer functioning; in the fourth, the arrogance of command, no longer insatiable; in the fifth, profane insolence and reckless haste; in the sixth, the bad inclinations occasioned by riches, no longer functioning; and in the seventh realm, the lies that lie in wait. 
For is not to so journey toward the unity “the noble goal of those who seek to acquire knowledge?”
But if we cannot make that or a similar personal journey; if we do not or cannot learn from our human culture of pathei-mathos, from the many thousands of years of such suffering as that culture documents and presents and remembers; if we no longer concern ourselves with de studiis humanitatis ac litterarum, then do we as a sentient species deserve to survive? For if we cannot so learn, cannot so change, cannot so educate ourselves, or are not so educated in such subjects, then it seems to me we may never be able to escape to the freedom and the natural evolution, the diversity, that await among the star-systems of our Galaxy. For what awaits us if we, the unlearned, stay unchanged, are only repetitions of the periodicity of human-caused suffering until such time as we exhaust, lay waste, make extinct, our cultures, our planet, and finally ourselves. And no other sentient life, elsewhere in the Cosmos, would mourn our demise.
From a letter sent to a personal correspondent. Some footnotes have been added, post scriptum, in an effort to elucidate some parts of the text and provide appropriate references.
 I define the culture of pathei-mathos as the accumulated pathei-mathos of individuals, world-wide, over thousands of years, as (i) described in memoirs, aural stories, and historical accounts; as (ii) have inspired particular works of literature or poetry or drama; as (iii) expressed via non-verbal mediums such as music and Art, and as (iv) manifest in more recent times by ‘art-forms’ such as films and documentaries.
The culture of pathei-mathos thus includes not only traditional accounts of, or accounts inspired by, personal pathei-mathos, old and modern – such as the With The Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene Sledge, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and the poetry of people as diverse as Sappho and Sylvia Plath – but also works or art-forms inspired by such pathei-mathos, whether personal or otherwise, and whether factually presented or fictionalized. Hence films such as Monsieur Lazhar and Etz Limon may poignantly express something about our φύσις as human beings and thus form part of the culture of pathei-mathos.
 A pedantic aside: it is my considered opinion that the English term ‘balanced’ (a natural completeness, a natural equilibrium) is often a better translation of the classical Latin perfectus than the commonly accepted translation of ‘perfect’, given what the English word ‘perfect’ now imputes (as in, for example, ‘cannot be improved upon’), and given the association of the word ‘perfect’ with Christian theology and exegesis (as, for example, in suggesting a moral perfection).
 M. Tullius Cicero, De Natura Deorum, Liber Secundus, xiii, xiv, 37
 q.v. Bruni d’Arezzo, De Studiis et Litteris. Leipzig, 1496.
 My translation of the Greek text. From Mercvrii Trismegisti Pymander de potestate et sapientia dei – A Translation and Commentary. 2013. A pdf version is available here – pymander-hermetica-pdf
Image credit: Glasgow University library: MS Hunter 374 fol.4r
Boethius Consolation of Philosophy
Unde non iniuria tragicus exclamat:
῏Ω δόξα, δόξα, μυρίοισι δὴ βροτῶν
οὐδὲν γεγῶσι βίοτον ὤγκωσας μέγαν
For most of my life – and to paraphrase what someone once wrote – I have been a selfish being, prideful and conceited, and would still be so were it not for the suicide of a woman I loved. For not only did I often use words to deceive, to manipulate, to charm, but I also deluded myself, since I really, arrogantly, believed that I was not a bad person and could always find some excuse (for myself and for others) to explain away what in objective terms amounted to selfish behaviour, just as – by adhering to the idea of patriotism, or to some political ideology or to some harsh interpretation of some religion – I had a sense of identity, found a purpose, to vivify, excite, entice, and provide me with excuses to be deceitful, manipulative, prideful, conceited, and violent; that is, with a raison d’être for being who and what I was by instinct, by nature: a reprehensible arrogant opinionated person who generally placed his own needs, or the apparent demands of some ideology or some dogma, before the feelings – before the happiness – of others.
But am I, as one correspondent once wrote to me almost two years ago, being too hard on myself? I do not feel I am, for when she asked why I cannot “show the same compassion and forgiveness to your younger self that you could show to someone else who had made mistakes earlier in life,” I (somewhat pompously) replied: “Because that would not – probably could never – be a neutral point of view, for there are memories, a remembering, of deeds done and a knowing of their suﬀering-causing eﬀects on others. It is not for me to seek – to try – to forget; not for me to oﬀer myself expiation. For I sense that to do so would be hubris and thus continue the periodicity of suﬀering.”
For unfortunately I – with such a prideful, conceited, selfish nature – am no exception; just as the type I represented has been no exception throughout our history as sentient beings. Indeed, my particular type is perhaps more reprehensible than the brutish barbarian archetype that many will associate with those humans who survive by natural, selfish, instinct alone. For not only did I live in the prosperous West (or in colonial outposts of the West) but I had the veneer of culture – the benefits of a classical education, a happy childhood – and so could converse (although often only in my then opinionated manner) about such things as music, art, literature, poetry, and history. In many ways, therefore, I was the archetypal paradoxical National-Socialist: a throwback, perhaps, to those educated, cultured, Germans who could and who did support and then fight for the demagogue Hitler and who, in his name, could and did commit, or ignore or make excuses for, nazi atrocities.
Most important of all, it was not something I did, not something I read or studied or thought, and not some sudden ‘revelation’ or epiphany related to some religion or to some belief, that fundamentally changed me. Instead, it was something entirely independent of me; something unexpected, traumatic, outside of my control and my experience, involving someone I personally knew, and indeed whom I loved, or as much as I – the selfish survivor – was capable of love.
For would I, without personally suffering that personal trauma, have changed? Would I, without such a personal trauma, have been even capable of discovering and then accepting the truth about myself and the truth about the harsh interpretation of a Way of Life I then adhered to and the truth about an ideology I had previously adhered to and believed in for some three decades? No, I would not. For I was too arrogant; too enamoured with my certitude-of-knowing; far too selfish, and far too vitalized by some ideology or by the dogmatism of a particularly harsh interpretation of some faith. It is little wonder, therefore, that since that personal trauma I have pondered, over and over again, on certain philosophical, ethical, metaphysical, questions; seeking to find at least some answers, however fallible.
Perhaps most of all – and especially in the past year – I have thought about the nature of suffering; its causes, genesis, and its possible alleviation through or because of such things as education, pathei-mathos, and a knowing of or assumptions concerning whether our sentient life has a meaning, and if so what this meaning might be.
In respect of causes, there is, for example, the question of good individual character and bad individual character, and how we can distinguish – or even if we can distinguish and know – the good from the bad. There is, in respect of possibly in some way alleviating or not causing suffering, the question of culture; and the question of whether culture can fundamentally change us in character – as a species gifted with the faculties of speech and reason – in sufficient numbers world-wide so that we cease the cause the suffering we inflict and have for millennia inflicted on our own kind and on the other life with which we share this planet. Which leads to questions regarding our future if we cannot so change ourselves; and to questions concerning laws and education and authority. And thence, of course, to the raison d’être of “the body politic as organized for supreme civil rule and government.”
In respect of suffering, one of the questions we might ask is how much suffering have we humans, in the past year and around the world, inflicted on our own kind? How many murdered, how many injured and maimed? How many humiliated, subjected to violence? How many women raped, beaten, injured? How many human beings have been tortured or suffered injustice? How many human beings have been manipulated, deceived, exploited, lied to, or had possessions stolen? How many have died of preventable hunger or curable disease? How many have endured or been forced to endure poverty? How many homeless, how many made refugees? How much more of Nature have we destroyed or exploited in the past year in our apparent insatiable need for, or in greedful desire to exploit, Earth’s resources, biological, physical, or otherwise?
Furthermore, how much of the suffering inflicted on our own kind is personal, the consequence of some uncontrolled or uncontrollable personal emotion, desire, or instinct? And how much inflicted is due to some excuse – some idea or abstraction – we as individuals use, have used, or might use: excuses such as some war, some armed conflict, some ideology, some political extremism, some interpretation of some religion? How much inflicted because of ‘obeying some higher authority’ or some chain of command? How much because ‘we’ had a certainty-of-knowing that we (or our cause, or our State, or our nation, or our faith, or our ideology, or our organization, or our government) were right and that ‘they’ (the others) were wrong and/or they ‘deserved’ it and/or it needed to or had to be done in the interest of some idea or some abstraction, such as ‘our’ security, ‘our’ (or even ‘their’) freedom or happiness, or because our laws made it acceptable?
We might go on to ask whether the personal suffering caused is greater this year than last. Whether the suffering caused by or on behalf of some excuse – some idea or abstraction – is greater this year than last. Greater than a decade ago? Less than that caused a century ago? A millennia ago? And would such a crude measure of suffering – were it even possible to ascertain the figures – really be an indicator of whether or not we as a species have changed? And have modern States and nations – with their armies, their governments, their schools, their universities, their culture, their forces and institutions and traditions of law and order – really made a difference or just caused more suffering?
But do – or should – these questions matter? Asking such questions returns me to the question of whether our sentient life has a meaning, and if so what this might be, and thence to questions concerning good and bad personal character, and thus to what it is or might be for us, as individuals, wise to seek and wise to avoid.
Based on my limited knowledge, and according to my certainly fallible understanding, it seems to me that interpretations of our mortal life are often predicated on a specific cause or origin. For a religious interpretation, this is often God, or Allah, or the gods, or an inscrutable mechanism such as karma, with – it is claimed – such a ‘first cause’ revealing to us the truth concerning our existence. In the case of God, or Allah, it is that we were created and placed on this Earth as a way to attain immortality (Heaven, Jannah), and, in the case of karma, it is nirvana [the wordless nibbana], attainable for example by the Noble Eightfold Way as explained by Siddhartha Gautama.
For many non-religious, but material, interpretations the specific cause is our own perception, or consciousness, or feelings; with the truth concerning our existence then being, for example, (i) that it is only we ourselves who create or can create or who should create a meaning or give a value to our existence; or (ii) that what is most valuable is our personal happiness and/or our freedom, a freedom from such things as suffering, fear, and oppression.
For many non-religious, but spiritual, interpretations the specific cause is our ‘loss of balance or our loss of harmony’ with Nature and/or with existence itself; with the truth concerning our existence then being to regain that natural balance, that harmony (which it is assumed most of us are born with); and regain by, for example, a virtuous living respectful of others, or by acquiring – and living according to – reason, or by moderation in all things, or by trying to avoid causing suffering in other living beings, human and otherwise by, for example, embracing ‘love’ and ‘peace’ and thus being loving and non-violent.
Personally, and as a result of my pathei-mathos and several years reflecting on various philosophical questions, I favour a non-religious, but still rather spiritual, interpretation where there is no assumed loss of some-thing but rather where there is only that type of apprehension – that individual perceiveration – which provides us as individuals with an often wordless but always numinous awareness of our own, individual, life in a cosmic (supra-personal) context. There is then no yearning or necessity to attain or regain some-thing because there is no-thing to attain or regain, and thus no techniques, no practices, no special manner of living, no journey, no ἄνοδος, from ‘here’ to ‘there’. For such a yearning or assumed necessity – however expressed, such as in terms of Heaven, Jannah, nirvana, harmony, immortality, peace, and so on – implies or manifests or can manifest a separation of ‘us’ from ‘them’, manifest for example in ‘those who know’ (or who believe or who assert they know) and those ‘others’ who as yet do not know, giving rise to a certain hierarchy; of those who believe or who assert they can teach or reveal this knowing – and the means to acquire or attain the assumed goal or regain what has been lost – and of those who are, or who can be, or who should be, taught or ‘enlightened’.
Interestingly, this perceiveration of ourselves in a cosmic context is acausal: there are no hierarchies, no posited primal cause, no-thing lost or to be acquired (or reacquired), and no-thing that needs to be (or which can be) described to others in any emotive manner or by means of some abstraction or some idea/form. There is only a particular and a personal and quite gentle awareness: of ourselves as a microcosmic, viatorial, fleeting, effluvium  of the Cosmos, but an effluvium which is not only alive but which has a faculty enabling us (the effluvia presenced as a human being) to be perceptful of this, perceptful of how were are connected to other effluvia and thus perceptful of how what we do or do not do can and does affect other effluvia and thus the Cosmos itself. For the perceiveration is of our φύσις, of us as – and not separate from – the Cosmos; of living beings as the Cosmos presenced (embodied, incarnated) in a particular time and place and in a particular way; of how we affect or can affect other effluvia, other livings beings, in either a harmful or non-harming way. An apprehension, that is, of the genesis of suffering and of how we, as human beings possessed of the faculties of reason and of empathy, have the ability to cease to harm other human beings.
In respect of the genesis of suffering, this particular perceiveration provides an important insight about ourselves, as conscious beings; which insight is of the division we make, and have made, consciously or unconsciously, between our own being – our selfhood, ipseity – and that of other living beings, and of that personal ipseity having or possibly having some significance beyond our own finite mortal life either in terms of some-thing (such as a soul) having an opportunity to live on elsewhere (Heaven, Jannah, for example) or as our mortal individual deeds having had a long-lasting causal effect on others.
While it can be argued, and has been argued, that this division exists – is a re-presentation of the current (and past) reality of our existence as conscious, thinking, beings – what is important is not whether it does exist or whether it may be an illusion, but rather (i) that the perceiveration of ‘the acausal’ is an intimation of what is beyond the current (and the past) personal ipseity (real or assumed), and (ii) that it is such personal ipseity (real or assumed) which is the genesis of suffering, and (iii) that this understanding of the genesis of suffering affords us an opportunity to consciously change ourselves, from our current (and the past) real/assumed personal ipseity, and thus, so being changed, no longer cause or contribute to suffering.
How then can we so consciously change? By cultivating and manifesting in our own lives the personal virtues of empathy, compassion, and humility. For it is these virtues which, by removing us from our ipseity – by making us aware of our affective connexion to other life – make us aware of suffering and its causes and prevent us, personally, from causing suffering to other living beings, human and otherwise.
Thus, my personal answer to the question of good and bad personal character is that a person of good personal character is someone who is or who seeks to be compassionate, who has a numinous sympatheia for other living beings, and who is modest and self-effacing. And it is wise to avoid causing or contributing to suffering not because such avoidance is a path toward nirvana (or some other posited thing), and not because we might be rewarded by God, by the gods, or by some divinity, but rather because it manifests the reality, the truth – the meaning – of our being, and which truth is some consolation for this particular viator.
In Loving Memory of Frances, who died May 29th 2006
The title of this essay was inspired by a passage in the 1517 translation by William Atkynson of a work by Thomas à Kempis, a translation published as A Full Deuout and Gostely Treatyse of the Imytacyon and Folowynge the Blessed Lyfe of Our Moste Mercyfull Sauyour Cryste.
In the garden, the tall, old, Cherry tree is once again in bloom: from bursting buds to a dome of white within three days. Such a reminder, each Spring, of how so very numinous so many aspects of Nature can be when we, relucting, rise above such selfish self-absorption as keeps us beasts within. Such beauty, harming none.
Such beauty to pause my life at least for a moment: one moment of innarrable sadness brought forth by so many aspects of my past. The hubris; the selfishness; the fanaticism; the deeds done; the words written and spoken. So many, so very many such deeds and words – so much pain caused – that there is again that poignant dream of going back to some moment before such a suffering-causing deed was done; before emotive words were written or said; before some piece of propaganda was manufactured and distributed; before some person was hurt, injured, maimed, traumatised, or killed. A travelling back – somehow – to there be the different person I am now burdened by what I never knew, I could not know, I refused to know, then. An impossible journey, of course.
Thus I am obliged, yet again, to contemplate how our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos – and why stupendously numinous music such as opening of JS Bach’s St. John Passion, and the allegory of Jesus of Nazareth, and the perceiverations of Siddhartha Gautama, of Hillel The Elder, of Mohandas K. Gandhi, of so many others, and the honourable lives of people such as Edith Cavell – have not prevented, from each new generation of humans, a bringing-forth of those many who, like the extremist I was, incite hatred and intolerance; and those many who – subsumed by a hubriatic righteousness, an arrant certitude-of-knowing, and thus lacking in humility – spew forth rhetoric and propaganda in their crusade for some new war or some new conflict or for some new or old ideology; and those many who – subsumed with some dark personal desire or by a brutal egoism – rape, torture, deceive, manipulate, betray, steal, destroy, despoil.
It would be so easy, so very easy, so comforting, to take refuge, again – from the sadness that such an aeonic contemplation brings – in the promise of some-thing divine or suprapersonal beyond my – beyond our mortal – death. For that would at least make some sense of the continuing suffering that we mortals are subject to, often from others of our species but sometimes resulting from natural occurrences far beyond mere mortal control. A promise of, a belief in, some-thing divine or suprapersonal such as an after-life, or some sort of nirvana, or even something akin to the voyage described by Empedocles:
ἔστιν Ἀνάγκης χρῆμα, θεῶν ψήφισμα παλαιόν,
ἀίδιον, πλατέεσσι κατεσφρηγισμένον ὅρκοις·
εὖτέ τις ἀμπλακίηισι φόνωι φίλα γυῖα μιήνηι,
νείκεΐ θ’ ὅς κε ἐπίορκον ἁμαρτήσας ἐπομόσσηι,
δαίμονες οἵτε μακραίωνος λελάχασι βίοιο,
τρίς μιν μυρίας ὧρας ἀπὸ μακάρων ἀλάλησθαι,
φυομένους παντοῖα διὰ χρόνου εἴδεα θνητῶν
ἀργαλέας βιότοιο μεταλλάσσοντα κελεύθους.
αἰθέριον μὲν γάρ σφε μένος πόντονδε διώκει,
πόντος δ’ ἐς χθονὸς οὖδας ἀπέπτυσε, γαῖα δ’ ἐς αὐγὰς
ἠελίου φαέθοντος, ὁ δ’ αἰθέρος ἔμβαλε δίναις·
ἄλλος δ’ ἐξ ἄλλου δέχεται, στυγέουσι δὲ πάντες.
τῶν καὶ ἐγὼ νῦν εἰμι, φυγάς θεόθεν καὶ ἀλήτης,
Νείκεϊ μαινομένωι πίσυνος. 
For me, there is a knowing of how limited and fallible my knowledge and understanding are, combined with an intangible intimation of some-thing possibly existing which is so abstruse that any and all attempts – at least by me – to meld it into words, and thus form and confine it into some idea or ideas, would miss or distort its essence. An intimation of what terms such as ‘acausal’ and ‘numinous’ (and even θεός/θεοί) do little to describe, hinting as such terms do of externalities – of an ‘out there’ – whereas this some-thing is an intrinsic part of us, connecting us to all life, human, terran, and otherwise, and thus reveals our φύσις – our relation to beings and Being – behind the appearance that is our conception of our separate self. An intimation thus of our brief causality of mortal life being only one momentary microcosmic presencing of that-which we it seems have a faculty to apprehend, and a that-which which lives-on both before and after our brief moment of apprehended causal life.
Yet this some-thing that I sense is no mystical divinity of a supra-personal love to be saught individually and which, if found or gifted to us, eremitically removes us from the mortal pains and joys of life. Suffering, and the pain so caused, are real; and if we ourselves are unafflicted, others are not and may never be so unafflicted if we humans do not or cannot fundamentally change.
But, for now and as a new Spring burgeons forth, all I in my unknowing and voyaging can do is hope for a better understanding, agreeing as I do with what the Chorus say at the very end of Oedipus Tyrannus:
ὥστε θνητὸν ὄντα κείνην τὴν τελευταίαν ἰδεῖν
ἡμέραν ἐπισκοποῦντα μηδέν᾽ ὀλβίζειν, πρὶν ἂν
τέρμα τοῦ βίου περάσῃ μηδὲν ἀλγεινὸν παθών
Therefore look toward that ending which is for us mortals
To observe that particular day – calling no one lucky until,
Without the pain of injury, they are conveyed beyond life’s ending.
Early Spring, 2014
In memory of Sue, died April 4th 1993
 Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Diels-Kranz, B115. My translation is:
“There exists an insight by Ananke, an ancient resolution
Of the gods, immutable and sealed by vows,
Regarding when one of the daimons – those whose allotted portion of life is long –
Has their own hands stained from murder
Or who, once having sworn an oath, because of some feud breaks that oath.
For they shall for ten thousand tripled seasons wander away from the beautified,
Begotten during that period in all manner of mortal form
And exchanging during that voyage one vexation for another:
The fierce Ætherials chase them to the Sea,
The Sea spits them out onto dusty ground,
Gaia hurls them to the burning light of the Sun
Who flings them back to those swirling Ætherials.
Moved from one to the other, all detest them.
I am one of those, a vagabond in exile from the gods
Who has to rely on strongful Disagreement.”
Ananke (Ἀνάγκης) is the primordial goddess of incumbency; that is, of wyrd – of that which is beyond, and the origin of, what we often describe as our Fate as a mortal being.
Disagreement (νεῖκος) is – according to what we can adduce of the philosophy of Empedocles from the fragments of his writings that we possess – a fundamental principle, and one understood in relation to another fundamental principle, Φιλότης, expressive as they both are of the logos (λόγος) by which we can possibly apprehend the workings of the cosmic order (κόσμος). However, the common translations – of ‘strife’ and ‘love’ respectively – do not in my view express what Empedocles seems to be trying to convey, which is ‘disagreement’ and ‘fellowship’ (a communal or kindred working-together in pursuit of a common interest or goal). For while disagreement sometimes disrupts fellowship, it is often necessary as the genesis of productive change.
Thus, just as Odysseus had to rely on the support of the goddess Athena, who disagreed with how Poseidon treated Odysseus, so does the ‘vagabond in exile from the gods’ – so expressively portrayed by Empedocles – rely on disagreements to end their own exile.
The link below is to a pdf file of the second edition of my complete translation of, and commentary on, the Pœmandres/Pymander tractate of the Corpus Hermeticum.
The work is also available as a printed book: ISBN 978-1495470684
Page from the 1577 CE book Iamblichvs De mysteriis Ægyptiorvm, Chaldæorum, Assyriorum: Proclvs in Platonicum Alcibiadem de anima, atque dæmone, Idem De sacrificio & magia: Porphyrivs De diuinis atq, dæmonib: Psellvs De dæmonibus: Mercvrii Trismegisti Pimander, Eiusdem Asclepius. The book contains the Latin text of the Corpus Hermeticum.
Cicero On Summum Bonum
In De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum Marcus Tullius Cicero, in criticizing Epicurus and others, presents his view of Summum Bonum, a term normally translated as ‘the supreme good’. According to Cicero, honestum (honourable conduct) is the foundation of Summum Bonum which itself can be discerned by careful consideration (ratio) in conjunction with that knowing (scientia) of what is divine and what is mortal that has been described as wisdom (sapientia).
aequam igitur pronuntiabit sententiam ratio adhibita primum divinarum humanarumque rerum scientia, quae potest appellari rite sapientia, deinde adiunctis virtutibus, quas ratio rerum omnium dominas, tu voluptatum satellites et ministras esse voluisti. (II, 37)
He then writes that honestum does not depend on any personal benefit (omni utilitate) that may result or be expected but instead can be discerned by means of consensus among the whole community in combination with the example afforded by the honourable actions and motives of the finest of individuals.
Honestum igitur id intellegimus, quod tale est, ut detracta omni utilitate sine ullis praemiis fructibusve per se ipsum possit iure laudari. quod quale sit, non tam definitione, qua sum usus, intellegi potest, quamquam aliquantum potest, quam communi omnium iudicio et optimi cuiusque studiis atque factis, qui permulta ob eam unam causam faciunt, quia decet, quia rectum, quia honestum est, etsi nullum consecuturum emolumentum vident. (II, 45f)
In effect, Summum Bonum – what the Greeks termed τὸ ἀγαθὸν – depends on certain personal qualities such as a careful consideration of a matter; on a personal knowing of what is divine and what is mortal; on the example of personal noble deeds and motives, and on a communal consensus.
There is therefore nothing morally abstract or dogmatic about Cicero’s understanding of Summum Bonum which so well expresses, as does Seneca , the Greco-Roman view, with a perhaps more apt translation of the term Summum Bonum thus being “the highest nobility”.
An extract from the Introduction to my forthcoming translation of and commentary on the sixth tractate of the Corpus Hermeticum, entitled as that tractate is ῞Οτι ἐν μόνῳ θεῷ τὸ ἀγαθόν ἐστιν ἀλλαχόθι δὲ οὐδαμοῦ: That In The Theos Alone Is Nobility And Not Anywhere Else.
 “summum bonum est quod honestum est; et quod magis admireris: unum bonum est, quod honestum est, cetera falsa et adulterina bona sunt”. Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales, LXXI, 4
The beginning of Tractate VI from the book Mercvrii Trismegisti Pœmandres, published in Paris in 1554
The link below is to a pdf version of my now completed translation of and commentary on tractate XI of the Corpus Hermeticum, which tractate is entitled Νοῦς πρὸς Ἑρμῆν: From Perceiverance To Hermes.
The beginning of Tractate XI
from the book Mercvrii Trismegisti Pœmandres, published in Paris in 1554.