Orestes and the Ἐρινύες

°°°

A Premature Grieving

A recent occurrence, although expected for some years, saddened me expressing as it seemed to do something about our human physis; about how for so many people our physis does not seem to have evolved that much, if at all, despite our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos.

The occurrence was the publication of a report – by a well-financed, now Establishment, advocacy group – in two parts of which report I was repeatedly mentioned, with the author of those parts making various allegations about me for which he provided no evidence; who misattributed certain quotations to me; who made fundamental and multiple factual errors; who committed various logical fallacies; who was generally biased and dishonourable and who thus rather than promoting hope and fairness promoted old-world hostility toward and a stereotyping of particular individuals.

My resigned sadness was because for that author it was as if propaganda on behalf of some cause came before, was more important than, truth and empathy; as if there was for that author no personal belief in redemption, in the possibility of individuals changing for the better, except insofar – perchance – as such change was toward the cause he believed in; and thus as if the author was selective, judgemental, about those given the benefit of the doubt using the ideology of some cause, or their own prejudice, rather than humanity, as the criteria of judgement.

As I wrote in 2012:

“could my career as an extremist have been brought to an earlier end had one or some of my opponents taken the trouble to get to know me personally and rationally revealed to me the error of my suffering-causing, unethical, extremist ways? Perhaps; perhaps not – I admit I do not know. I do know, however, how my personal interaction with, and the ethical behaviour of, the Police I interacted with from the time of my arrest by officers from SO12 in 1998, permanently changed (for the better) my attitude toward the Police.” [1]

Instead of an empathic, a human, an honourable approach the author preferred propaganda, repeating the stereotyping he used almost two decades ago.

Thus in the stereotyping of me by that author my extensive writings in the past eight years about rejecting all forms of extremism, my extensive and intensely personal writings regarding my struggle to reform myself as a result of pathei-mathos, were ignored. [2]

“Thus am I humbled, once more, by such knowing feeling of the burden made from my so heavy past; so many errors, mistakes. So many to humble me here, now, by such profusion as becomes prehension of centuries past and passing, bringing as such a passing does such gifts of they now long beyond life’s ending who crafted from faith, feeling, experience, living, love, those so rich presents replete with meaning; presenting thus to us if only for a moment – fleeting as Thrush there feeding – that knowing of ourselves as beings who by empathy, life, gifts, and love, can cease to be some cause of suffering.

For no longer is there such a need – never was there such a need – to cause such suffering as we, especially I, have caused. For are not we thinking thoughtful beings – possessed of the numinous will to love?

But my words, my words – so unlike such musick [Dunstable: Preco preheminencie] – fail: such finite insubstantial things; such a weak conduit for that flowing of wordless feeling that, as such musick, betakes us far out beyond our causal selves to where we are, can be, should be, must be, the non-interfering beauty of a moment; a sublime life seeking only to so gently express that so gentle love that so much faith has sometimes so vainly so tried to capture, express, and manifest; as when that boyish man as monk past Compline knelt in gentleness to feel to become such peace, such a human happiness, as so many others have felt centuries past and present, one moment flowing so numinously to another.” [3]

Yet, as I wrote some years ago,

“I harbour no resentment against individuals, or organizations, or groups, who over the past forty or so years have publicly and/or privately made negative or derogatory comments about me or published items making claims about me.

Indeed, I now find myself in the rather curious situation of not only agreeing with some of my former political opponents on many matters, but also (perhaps) of understanding (and empathizing with) their motivation; a situation which led and which leads me to appreciate even more just how lamentable my extremism was and just how arrogant, selfish, wrong, and reprehensible, I as a person was, and how in many ways many of those former opponents were and are (ex concesso) better people than I ever was or am.

Which is one reason why I have written what I have recently written about extremism and my extremist past: so that perchance someone or some many may understand extremism, and its causes, better and thus be able to avoid the mistakes I made, avoid causing the suffering I caused; or be able to in some way more effectively counter or prevent such extremism in the future. And one reason – only one – why I henceforward must live in reclusion and in silencio.” [4]

That I have now broken such self-imposed silence is the result of my resigned sadness regarding how far we mortals still have to travel to be able to live, en masse, empathic and compassionate lives, and of how so many individuals still – from whatever personal motive or because of some cause or ideology – promote old-world hostility toward and a stereotyping of particular individuals.

Perhaps the goddess Δίκη will touch some of those so many hostile individuals, for as Aeschylus wrote,

Δίκα δὲ τοῖς μὲν παθοῦσιν μαθεῖν ἐπιρρέπει:
τὸ μέλλον δ᾽, ἐπεὶ γένοιτ᾽, ἂν κλύοις: πρὸ χαιρέτω:
ἴσον δὲ τῷ προστένειν.

“Δίκη favours someone learning from adversity:
But I shall hear of what will be, after it comes into being:
Before then, I leave it,
Otherwise, it is the same as a premature grieving.” [5]

Which is yet one more reason why I am still learning and still have far to travel, for that recent occurrence brought a premature grieving.

David Myatt
Ash Wednesday 2019

[1] A Matter of Honour (pdf).

[2] These writings include (i) Just My Fallible Views, Again, (ii) Understanding and Rejecting Extremism (pdf), (iii) Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos (pdf), and the letters and essays included in (iv) Such Respectful Wordful Offerings (pdf).

[3] Bright Berries, One Winter, written 22 December 2010.

[4] Pathei-Mathos – Genesis of My Unknowing, written in 2012.

[5] Agamemnon, 250-253.


Image credit:
Orestes and the Ἐρινύες. Red figure vase, c. 380 BCE


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Numinous Religion

In Defence Of The Catholic Church, Part Two
Expiation And Penance

Two of the guiding practical principles of living as a Roman Catholic seem to me, on the basis of personal experience and fallible understanding, to be expiation and penance, related as they are to what was termed the Sacrament of Confession – now re-named the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation – and thence related to one of the founding principles of the Roman Catholic Church: that an ordained Priest has the religious authority [1] to give absolution for the “sins” [2] a person has committed, and the authority to specify what penance is required for expiation, but which absolution is dependant on the person making a full and truthful confession and being repentant.

Such personal confession, penance, and expiation, are evidential of how a practising Catholic interacts with the Divine and is thus personally reminded of what is spiritual, eternal, numinous, and beyond the causal everyday world. As I wrote in my essay Numinous Expiation,

“One of the many problems regarding both The Numinous Way and my own past which troubles me – and has troubled me for a while – is how can a person make reparation for suffering caused, inflicted, and/or dishonourable deeds done […]

One of the many benefits of an organized theistic religion, such as Christianity or Islam or Judaism, is that mechanisms of personal expiation exist whereby such feelings can be placed in context and expiated by appeals to the supreme deity. In Judaism, there is Teshuvah culminating in Yom Kippur, the day of expiation/reconciliation. In Catholicism, there is the sacrament of confession and penance. In Islam, there is personal dua to, and reliance on, Allah Ar-Rahman, Ar-Raheem, As-Salaam.

Even pagan religions and ways had mechanisms of personal expiation for wrong deeds done, often in the form of propitiation; the offering of a sacrifice, perhaps, or compensation by the giving or the leaving of a valuable gift or votive offering at some numinous – some sacred and venerated – place or site.” [3]

This personal – and via the Confessional, this priestly – connexion to the Divine, with the attendant penitence, penance, personal expiation, seems to me to have been somewhat neglected when non-Catholics, and even some Catholics criticize the Roman Catholic Church for their past response to those accused of placing their personal (often sexual) desires before compassion, empathy, and humility.

That is, such criticism is secular; based on what is temporal, causal, such as some secular law or some personal emotive reaction, with the spiritual – the eternal – dimension to mortal life unconsidered. Which spiritual dimension is for Catholics based on allowing for personal expiation by spiritual means such as confession, penitence, and penance.

This allowance for such personal expiation by such spiritual means is what, according to my fallible understanding, informed the treatment by the Catholic hierarchy of many of those accused of placing their personal desires before obedience to their God.

For judgement according to such a spiritual dimension was, rightly or wrongly, often considered more important than secular recompense and secular punishment. Understood thus, there were no – to use a vernacular term – “cover-ups”, just the application of certain spiritual considerations, considerations which are the foundations of the Catholic faith based as such considerations are on the belief in the Eternal Life – in Heaven or in Hell – which awaits all mortals, one portal to such an Eternal Life in Heaven being, according to Catholic faith, the sacrament of confession.

Another aspect of this Catholic priority of the spiritual over the secular is the sanctity (the seal) of the confessional and which sanctity is adjudged to be more important than secular laws relating, for example, to disclosure of or information regarding actions deemed to be criminal.

            As for my personal opinions on the matter, I have none, for who am I – with my decades of hubris, my knowledge of my plenitude of mistakes – to judge others, to judge anyone? I have tried to rationally understand both the secular and the spiritual dimensions involved, having personal experience of both, and as so often these days remain somewhat perplexed by our human nature and by the need so many humans, myself included, still have for a belief in a spiritual dimension whereby we can connect ourselves to the numinous, to the Divine – however the Divine is presenced to and in us – enabling us to perhaps find some peace, some happiness, some solace, some answers, among the turmoil, the suffering, the changement, of the secular world.

My portal to the spiritual remains ‘the way of pathei-mathos’, the way of striving to cultivate, striving to live by, the virtues of humility, empathy, compassion, honour, non-interference, and self-restraint. A very individual way devoid of mythoi and anthropomorphic deities.

Perhaps it would be easier to believe in God, to accept again the Catholic expiation of the sacraments of Confession and the Mass. It would perhaps be even easier to accept some tangible votive wordless means in the form of offering some paganus propitiation, some libation, some talismata left, at some numinous paganus site.

But as Aeschylus so well-expressed it,

ἔστι δ᾽ ὅπη νῦν
ἔστι: τελεῖται δ᾽ ἐς τὸ πεπρωμένον:
οὔθ᾽ ὑποκαίων οὔθ᾽ ὑπολείβων
οὔτε δακρύων ἀπύρων ἱερῶν
ὀργὰς ἀτενεῖς παραθέλξει [4]

What is now, came to be
As it came to be. And its ending has been ordained.
No concealed laments, no concealed libations,
No unburnt offering
Can charm away that firm resolve.

Which type of sentiment I feel philosophers such as Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius also saught to express.

David Myatt
4.x.18

In Defence Of The Roman Catholic Church, Part One

°°°

[1] Qv. John 20:22-23,

λάβετε πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἄν τινων ἀφῆτε τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἀφέωνται αὐτοῖς ἄν τινων κρατῆτε κεκράτηνται

Receive Halig Spiritus: if you release anyone from their errors, they are released; if you hold onto them, they are held onto.

In regard to the term Spiritus, in my commentary on John 1:31 I wrote:

τὸ πνεῦμα. Almost without exception, since Wycliffe’s Bible the Greek here has been translated as “the spirit”, although the ASV [the Anglo-Saxon Version] has gast (gast of heofenum), whence the later English word ‘ghost’. However, given what the terms ‘spirit’ and ‘ghost’ – both in common usage, and as a result of over a thousand years of Christian exegesis – now impute, it is apposite to offer an alternative and one which is germane to the milieu of the Gospels or which at least suggests something of the numinosity presenced, in this instance, via the Gospel of John. Given that the transliteration pnuema – with its modern association with terms such as pneumatic – does not unequivocally suggest the numinous, I have chosen spiritus, as referenced in respect of gast in Wright’s Anglo-Saxon And Old English Vocabularies.

In regard to the translation Halig Spiritus, in my commentary on John 5:33 I wrote:

I have here used the Old English word Halig – as for example found in the version of John 17.11 in the Lindisfarne Gospel, ‘Du halig fæder’ – to translate ἅγιος rather than the later word ‘holy’ derived as that is from halig and used as it was by Wycliffe in his 1389 translation of this phrase, “in the Hooly Gost”, which itself echoes the ASV, “on Halgum Gaste.”

The unique phrase in Halig Spiritus – in place of the conventional ‘with the Holy Spirit’ – may thus express something of the numinosity, and the newness, of the original Gospel, especially as the word ‘holy’ has been much overused, imputes particular meanings from over a thousand years of exegesis, and, latterly in common parlance, has become somewhat trivialized.

[2] As I have noted in several essays, and in my translation of the Gospel of John, I prefer to translate the Greek term ἁμαρτία not by the conventional ‘sin’ but rather by ‘error’ or ‘mistake’. As I wrote in the essay Exegesis and Translation,

One of the prevalent English words used in translations of the New Testament, and one of the words now commonly associated with revealed religions such as Christianity and Islam, is sin. A word which now imputes and for centuries has imputed a particular and at times somewhat strident if not harsh moral attitude, with sinners starkly contrasted with the righteous, the saved, and with sin, what is evil, what is perverse, to be shunned and shudderingly avoided.

One of the oldest usages of the word sin – so far discovered – is in the c. 880 CE translation of the c. 525 CE text Consolatio Philosophiae, a translation attributed to King Ælfred. Here, the Old English spelling of syn is used:

Þæt is swiðe dyslic & swiðe micel syn þæt mon þæs wenan scyle be Gode

The context of the original Latin of Boethius is cogitare, in relation to a dialogue about goodness and God, so that the sense of the Latin is that it is incorrect – an error, wrong – to postulate/claim/believe certain things about God. There is thus here, in Boethius, as in early English texts such as Beowulf, the sense of doing what was wrong, of committing an error, of making a mistake, of being at fault; at most of overstepping the bounds, of transgressing limits imposed by others, and thus being ‘guilty’ of such an infraction, a sense which the suggested etymology of the word syn implies: from the Latin sons, sontis.

Thus, this early usage of the English word syn seems to impart a sense somewhat different from what we now associate with the word sin, which is why in my translation of John, 8.7 I eschewed that much overused and pejorative word in order to try and convey something of the numinous original:

So, as they continued to ask [for an answer] he straightened himself, saying to them: “Let he who has never made a mistake [ Αναμαρτητος ] throw the first stone at her.”

ὡς δὲ ἐπέμενον ἐρωτῶντες αὐτόν, ἀνέκυψεν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· ὁ ἀναμάρτητος ὑμῶν πρῶτος ἐπ’ αὐτὴν βαλέτω λίθον.

Jesus here is not, in my view, sermonizing about sin, as a puritan preacher might, and as if he is morally superior to and has judged the sinners. Instead, he is rather gently and as a human pointing out an obvious truth about our human nature; explaining, in v.11, that he has not judged her conduct:

ἡ δὲ εἶπεν· οὐδείς, κύριε. εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· οὐδὲ ἐγώ σε κατακρίνω· πορεύου, ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε

[And] she answered, No one, my Lord. Whereupon Jesus replied “Neither do I judge [κατακρίνω] you, therefore go, and avoid errors such as those.”

The essay is available at https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/exegesis-and-translation/ and was included as an Appendix to my Mercvrii Trismegisti Pymander (ISBN 978-1495470684)

[3] The essay is available at https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/numinous-expiation/

[4] Agamemnon, 67-71

°°°

A pdf version of parts one and two of this article is available at
https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/12/in-defence-rc.pdf

°°°°°°°

All translations by DWM


Related:
Two Metaphysical Contradictions Of The Modern West


Numinous Religion

In Defence Of The Roman Catholic Church
Part One

Listening to Messe De La Nativité: Gaudeamus Hodie; Puer Natus Est Nobis – performed by Ensemble Gilles Binchois – I am so reminded how the Roman Catholic Church inspired such numinosity, such beauty, century following century. For it is as if such music presenced the Divine to thus remind us, we fallible error-prone mortals, of another realm beyond the material and beyond our own mortal desires.

Such presencing of the Divine – such a numinous reminder of our fallibility, century following century, as for example in Kyrie Orbis Factor as performed by Ensemble Organum – seems to have become somewhat lost in all the recent Media propaganda about how some Catholic priests and monks have allowed their personal desires to overwhelm such a presencing of the numinous and which presencing of the divine is and was manifest in compassion, empathy, and a personal humility.

Lost, in all the Media propaganda, because I from personal experience know that such incidents are perpetrated by a minority of individuals and that the vast majority of Catholic priests and monks are good individuals who strive, who often struggle, each in their own way and according to their physis, to manifest the virtues of compassion, empathy, and humility. That so many writers and readers of such Media propaganda in this our modern world seem to commit the fallacy of a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter no longer, unfortunately, surprises me.

In respect of personal experience I have to admit that I was somewhat dismayed by a recent report issued by a government sponsored Inquiry Panel. For I personally had known two of the individuals mentioned in that report, knowing from personal experience in a certain monastery that they, and the few others like them over the years, were the exception out of dozens and dozens of other monks and priests there. I was also somewhat dismayed by what I felt was the personal opinion of the authors of that report – stated in their “Conclusions” – that those involved in placing their personal desires before compassion, empathy, and humility, are “likely to be considerably greater than numbers cited in the convictions” since no evidence was presented to substantiate such an opinion. Another example of individuals committing the fallacy of a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter? Probably.

            But why does someone who has developed a somewhat paganus weltanschauung – the mystical individualistic numinous way of pathei-mathos – now defend a supra-personal organization such as the Roman Catholic Church? Because I from personal experience appreciate that for all its many faults – recent and otherwise – and despite my disagreement regarding some of its teachings it still on balance does, at least in my fallible opinion, presence – as it has for centuries presenced – aspects of the numinous and which presencing has over centuries, again in my fallible opinion, had a beneficial affect on many human beings.

As I wrote some years ago in respect of visiting my father’s grave in Africa:

“Once I happened to be travelling to an area which colonial and imperialist Europeans formerly described as part of ‘darkest Africa’. Part of this travel involved a really long journey on unpaved roads by bus from an urban area. You know the type of thing – an unreliable weekly or sporadic service in some old vehicle used by villagers to take themselves (and often their produce and sometimes their livestock) to and from an urban market and urban-dwelling relatives. On this service, to a remote area, it [seemed to be] the custom – before the journey could begin – for someone to stand at the front and say a Christian prayer with every passenger willingly joining in.

It was quite touching. As was the fact that, at the village where I stayed (with a local family) near that grave, everyone went to Church on a Sunday, wearing the best clothes they could, and there was a real sense (at least to me) of how their faith helped them and gave them some guidance for the better, for it was as if they, poor as they were, were in some way living, or were perhaps partly an embodiment of, the ethos expressed by the Sermon of the Mount, and although I no longer shared their Christian faith, I admired them and respected their belief and understood what that faith seemed to have given them.

Who was – who am – I to try and preach to them, to judge them and that faith? I was – I am – just one fallible human being who believes he may have some personal and fallible answers to certain questions; just one person among billions aware of his past arrogance and his suffering-causing mistakes.” [1]

Is to not judge others without a personal knowing of them, to not commit fallacies such as a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter, and to allow for personal expiation, perhaps to presence the numinous in at least one small and quite individual way? Personally, I am inclined to believe it is.

Pietatis fons immense, ἐλέησον
Noxas omnes nostras pelle, ἐλέησον [2]

David Myatt
2.x.18

°°°

[1] https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/just-my-fallible-views-again/

[2] “Immeasurable origin of piety, have mercy. Banish all our faults, have mercy.” Kyrie Orbis Factor.

Although the Greek phrase Κύριε ἐλέησον is considered to be a Christian doxology, deriving from the Old Testament, it is possible that it was a common phrase in Greco-Roman culture, with origins dating back to the classical period, for it occurs in the Discourses of Epictetus – Book II, vii, 13 – in relation to a discussion about divination,

καὶ τὸν θεὸν ἐπικαλούμενοι δεόμεθα αὐτοῦ κύριε ἐλέησον

and in our invocations to the theos our bidding is: Master, have mercy.

°°°°°

Part Two
Expiation And Penance

Two of the guiding practical principles of living as a Roman Catholic seem to me, on the basis of personal experience and fallible understanding, to be expiation and penance, related as they are to what was termed the Sacrament of Confession – now re-named the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation – and thence related to one of the founding principles of the Roman Catholic Church: that an ordained Priest has the religious authority [1] to give absolution for the “sins” [2] a person has committed, and the authority to specify what penance is required for expiation, but which absolution is dependant on the person making a full and truthful confession and being repentant.

Such personal confession, penance, and expiation, are evidential of how a practising Catholic interacts with the Divine and is thus personally reminded of what is spiritual, eternal, numinous, and beyond the causal everyday world. As I wrote in my essay Numinous Expiation,

“One of the many problems regarding both The Numinous Way and my own past which troubles me – and has troubled me for a while – is how can a person make reparation for suffering caused, inflicted, and/or dishonourable deeds done […]

One of the many benefits of an organized theistic religion, such as Christianity or Islam or Judaism, is that mechanisms of personal expiation exist whereby such feelings can be placed in context and expiated by appeals to the supreme deity. In Judaism, there is Teshuvah culminating in Yom Kippur, the day of expiation/reconciliation. In Catholicism, there is the sacrament of confession and penance. In Islam, there is personal dua to, and reliance on, Allah Ar-Rahman, Ar-Raheem, As-Salaam.

Even pagan religions and ways had mechanisms of personal expiation for wrong deeds done, often in the form of propitiation; the offering of a sacrifice, perhaps, or compensation by the giving or the leaving of a valuable gift or votive offering at some numinous – some sacred and venerated – place or site.” [3]

This personal – and via the Confessional, this priestly – connexion to the Divine, with the attendant penitence, penance, personal expiation, seems to me to have been somewhat neglected when non-Catholics, and even some Catholics criticize the Roman Catholic Church for their past response to those accused of placing their personal (often sexual) desires before compassion, empathy, and humility.

That is, such criticism is secular; based on what is temporal, causal, such as some secular law or some personal emotive reaction, with the spiritual – the eternal – dimension to mortal life unconsidered. Which spiritual dimension is for Catholics based on allowing for personal expiation by spiritual means such as confession, penitence, and penance.

This allowance for such personal expiation by such spiritual means is what, according to my fallible understanding, informed the treatment by the Catholic hierarchy of many of those accused of placing their personal desires before obedience to their God.

For judgement according to such a spiritual dimension was, rightly or wrongly, often considered more important than secular recompense and secular punishment. Understood thus, there were no – to use a vernacular term – “cover-ups”, just the application of certain spiritual considerations, considerations which are the foundations of the Catholic faith based as such considerations are on the belief in the Eternal Life – in Heaven or in Hell – which awaits all mortals, one portal to such an Eternal Life in Heaven being, according to Catholic faith, the sacrament of confession.

Another aspect of this Catholic priority of the spiritual over the secular is the sanctity (the seal) of the confessional and which sanctity is adjudged to be more important than secular laws relating, for example, to disclosure of or information regarding actions deemed to be criminal.

            As for my personal opinions on the matter, I have none, for who am I – with my decades of hubris, my knowledge of my plenitude of mistakes – to judge others, to judge anyone? I have tried to rationally understand both the secular and the spiritual dimensions involved, having personal experience of both, and as so often these days remain somewhat perplexed by our human nature and by the need so many humans, myself included, still have for a belief in a spiritual dimension whereby we can connect ourselves to the numinous, to the Divine – however the Divine is presenced to and in us – enabling us to perhaps find some peace, some happiness, some solace, some answers, among the turmoil, the suffering, the changement, of the secular world.

My portal to the spiritual remains ‘the way of pathei-mathos’, the way of striving to cultivate, striving to live by, the virtues of humility, empathy, compassion, honour, non-interference, and self-restraint. A very individual way devoid of mythoi and anthropomorphic deities.

Perhaps it would be easier to believe in God, to accept again the Catholic expiation of the sacraments of Confession and the Mass. It would perhaps be even easier to accept some tangible votive wordless means in the form of offering some paganus propitiation, some libation, some talismata left, at some numinous paganus site.

But as Aeschylus so well-expressed it,

ἔστι δ᾽ ὅπη νῦν
ἔστι: τελεῖται δ᾽ ἐς τὸ πεπρωμένον:
οὔθ᾽ ὑποκαίων οὔθ᾽ ὑπολείβων
οὔτε δακρύων ἀπύρων ἱερῶν
ὀργὰς ἀτενεῖς παραθέλξει [4]

What is now, came to be
As it came to be. And its ending has been ordained.
No concealed laments, no concealed libations,
No unburnt offering
Can charm away that firm resolve.

Which type of sentiment I feel philosophers such as Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius also saught to express.

David Myatt
4.x.18

°°°

[1] Qv. John 20:22-23,

λάβετε πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἄν τινων ἀφῆτε τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἀφέωνται αὐτοῖς ἄν τινων κρατῆτε κεκράτηνται

Receive Halig Spiritus: if you release anyone from their errors, they are released; if you hold onto them, they are held onto.

In regard to the term Spiritus, in my commentary on John 1:31 I wrote:

τὸ πνεῦμα. Almost without exception, since Wycliffe’s Bible the Greek here has been translated as “the spirit”, although the ASV [the Anglo-Saxon Version] has gast (gast of heofenum), whence the later English word ‘ghost’. However, given what the terms ‘spirit’ and ‘ghost’ – both in common usage, and as a result of over a thousand years of Christian exegesis – now impute, it is apposite to offer an alternative and one which is germane to the milieu of the Gospels or which at least suggests something of the numinosity presenced, in this instance, via the Gospel of John. Given that the transliteration pnuema – with its modern association with terms such as pneumatic – does not unequivocally suggest the numinous, I have chosen spiritus, as referenced in respect of gast in Wright’s Anglo-Saxon And Old English Vocabularies.

In regard to the translation Halig Spiritus, in my commentary on John 5:33 I wrote:

I have here used the Old English word Halig – as for example found in the version of John 17.11 in the Lindisfarne Gospel, ‘Du halig fæder’ – to translate ἅγιος rather than the later word ‘holy’ derived as that is from halig and used as it was by Wycliffe in his 1389 translation of this phrase, “in the Hooly Gost”, which itself echoes the ASV, “on Halgum Gaste.”

The unique phrase in Halig Spiritus – in place of the conventional ‘with the Holy Spirit’ – may thus express something of the numinosity, and the newness, of the original Gospel, especially as the word ‘holy’ has been much overused, imputes particular meanings from over a thousand years of exegesis, and, latterly in common parlance, has become somewhat trivialized.

[2] As I have noted in several essays, and in my translation of the Gospel of John, I prefer to translate the Greek term ἁμαρτία not by the conventional ‘sin’ but rather by ‘error’ or ‘mistake’. As I wrote in the essay Exegesis and Translation,

One of the prevalent English words used in translations of the New Testament, and one of the words now commonly associated with revealed religions such as Christianity and Islam, is sin. A word which now imputes and for centuries has imputed a particular and at times somewhat strident if not harsh moral attitude, with sinners starkly contrasted with the righteous, the saved, and with sin, what is evil, what is perverse, to be shunned and shudderingly avoided.

One of the oldest usages of the word sin – so far discovered – is in the c. 880 CE translation of the c. 525 CE text Consolatio Philosophiae, a translation attributed to King Ælfred. Here, the Old English spelling of syn is used:

Þæt is swiðe dyslic & swiðe micel syn þæt mon þæs wenan scyle be Gode

The context of the original Latin of Boethius is cogitare, in relation to a dialogue about goodness and God, so that the sense of the Latin is that it is incorrect – an error, wrong – to postulate/claim/believe certain things about God. There is thus here, in Boethius, as in early English texts such as Beowulf, the sense of doing what was wrong, of committing an error, of making a mistake, of being at fault; at most of overstepping the bounds, of transgressing limits imposed by others, and thus being ‘guilty’ of such an infraction, a sense which the suggested etymology of the word syn implies: from the Latin sons, sontis.

Thus, this early usage of the English word syn seems to impart a sense somewhat different from what we now associate with the word sin, which is why in my translation of John, 8.7 I eschewed that much overused and pejorative word in order to try and convey something of the numinous original:

So, as they continued to ask [for an answer] he straightened himself, saying to them: “Let he who has never made a mistake [ Αναμαρτητος ] throw the first stone at her.”

ὡς δὲ ἐπέμενον ἐρωτῶντες αὐτόν, ἀνέκυψεν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· ὁ ἀναμάρτητος ὑμῶν πρῶτος ἐπ’ αὐτὴν βαλέτω λίθον.

Jesus here is not, in my view, sermonizing about sin, as a puritan preacher might, and as if he is morally superior to and has judged the sinners. Instead, he is rather gently and as a human pointing out an obvious truth about our human nature; explaining, in v.11, that he has not judged her conduct:

ἡ δὲ εἶπεν· οὐδείς, κύριε. εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· οὐδὲ ἐγώ σε κατακρίνω· πορεύου, ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε

[And] she answered, No one, my Lord. Whereupon Jesus replied “Neither do I judge [κατακρίνω] you, therefore go, and avoid errors such as those.”

The essay is available at https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/exegesis-and-translation/ and was included as an Appendix to my Mercvrii Trismegisti Pymander (ISBN 978-1495470684)

[3] The essay is available at https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/numinous-expiation/

[4] Agamemnon, 67-71

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A pdf version of this article is available at
https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2019/02/in-defence-rc-1.pdf

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All translations by DWM


Related:
Two Metaphysical Contradictions Of The Modern West


Orestes and the Ἐρινύες

 

Persecution And War

A Remembering

Reared as a Roman Catholic, educated for a while at a Catholic preparatory school and then – again for a while – at a Catholic boarding school, I remember the history taught by our teachers and Priests of the centuries-long persecution of English and Irish Catholics that began in the 16th century. There were stories of martyrs; of recusants; of secret Masses; of anti-Catholic polemics and propaganda; and of the monks who – after the suppression of the monasteries, the theft of monastic lands and wealth, begun by a tyrannos named Henry – escaped to France and founded monasteries such as the one at Dieulouard in Lorraine.

There thus was engendered in we Catholic children a feeling of difference, aided by the fact that our Mass was in Latin, by our sacrament of confession, by the practice of Gregorian chant, and by the singing of hymns such as Faith Of Our Fathers with its memorable verses

Faith of our Fathers living still
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword […]
We will be true to thee till death […]

Our Fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free […]
Faith of our Fathers, Mary’s prayers
Shall win our country back to thee

This feeling of difference was forcefully remembered when I in the early 1970’s – during The Troubles – ventured to visit Northern Ireland; when I in the mid-1970’s and as a Catholic monk spent several weeks staying at a Presbytery in Dublin; and when I in the mid-1990’s – before the Good Friday Agreement – visited Derry.

Forcefully remembered because I listened to accounts of the burning of Catholic homes by Protestant mobs in 1969 and the subsequent flight of hundreds of Catholic families to the Irish Republic where they were housed in refugee camps; listened to witness accounts of the killing of eleven Catholics, including a Priest, by the British Army in Ballymurphy in 1971; listened to witness accounts of the killing of fourteen Catholics, again by the British Army, in Derry in 1972; and listened to stories of the persecution of Irish Catholics under British rule.

Such a remembering, such a childhood feeling of difference, formed part of the years-long personal and philosophical reflexion that occupied me for several years as I, between 2006 and 2009, developed my ‘numinous way’ and then between 2011 and 2012 gradually refined it into the ‘way of pathei-mathos’, with the core of that reflexion concerning matters such as extremism, my own extremist past, war, prejudice, intolerance, and persecution.

War And Combat

Familiar as I was with ancient works by Thucydides, Herodotus, Livy, and others; with many works concerning more recent European history by modern historians, as well as with personal accounts of those who had fought for both the Allies and the Axis during World War Two, I recalled some words of Cicero:

“Aliis ego te virtutibus, continentiae, gravitatis, iustitiae, fidei, ceteris omnibus.”

“because of your other virtues of self-restraint, of dignity, of fairness, of honesty, and all other such qualities…” [1]

Which led me to consider making a distinction between war and a more personal combat, between a modern krieg and the Old Germanic werra, given that war, from my reading of and admittedly fallible understanding of history, seemed to me to involve – by its very nature of necessitating killing and causing injury – intolerance, hatred, a divisive sense of difference often involving “us” believing we were “better” (or more civilized) than them, our enemies, thus leading to a dehumanization of “the enemy”. A divisive sense of difference and a dehumanization often aided (particularly in modern times) by polemics, rumour, and propaganda; and a divisive sense of difference, a dehumanization, together with polemics, rumour, and propaganda, which I knew from my own decades of political and religious activism formed a core part of all types of extremism.

The distinction I considered was that personal combat unlike war did not involve large armies fighting against each other because of some diktat or personal agenda by some tyrannos or because of some ideology or religion or policy of some State or government. Instead, combat involved small groups – such as clans or tribes or neighbours – fighting because of some personal quarrel or some wrong or some perceived grievance.

But the more I considered this supposed distinction between combat and war the more I realized that in practice there was no such distinction since both involved principles similar to those of the Ancient Roman Leges Regiae – qv. the Jus Papirianum attributed to Sextus Papirius – where someone or some many possess or have acquired (through for example force of arms) or have assumed authority over others, and who by the use of violence and/or by the threat of punishment and/or by oratory or propaganda, are able to force or persuade others to accept such authority and obey the commands of such authority.

This acceptance by individuals of a supra-personal authority – or, more often, the demand by some supra-personal authority that individuals accept such a supra-personal authority – was manifest in the Christian writings of Augustine (b.354 CE, d.430 CE), such as his De Civitate Dei contra Paganos where in Book XIX, chapter xiii, he wrote of the necessity of a hierarchy in which God is the supreme authority, with peace between human beings and God requiring obedience to that authority; with peace between human beings, and civil peace, also of necessity requiring obedience to an order in which each person has their allotted place, “Ordo est parium dispariumque rerum sua cuique loca tribuens dispositio.”

Which hierarchy and acceptance of authority led Augustine to describe – in book XXII of Contra Faustum Manichaeum – the concept that war requires the authority of a person (such as a monarch) who has such “necessary” authority over others. This concept regarding war has remained a guiding principle of modern Western nations where the authority to inaugurate and prosecute a war against perceived enemies resides in the State, and thus in modern potentates who have seized power or in elected governments and their representatives such as Presidents and Prime Ministers.

Authority And Society

In the nations of the West, such a hierarchy of authority applies not only to war and its prosecution but also to changes, to reform, in society [2] for there is, as I mentioned in The Numinous Way Of Pathei-Mathos,

“a hierarchy of judgement involved, whatever political ‘flavour’ the government is assigned to, is assumed to represent, or claims it represents; with this hierarchy of necessity requiring the individual in society to either (i) relinquish their own judgement, being accepting of or acquiescing in (from whatever reason or motive such as desire to avoid punishment) the judgement of these others, or (ii) to oppose this ‘judgement of others’ either actively through some group, association, or movement (political, social, religious) or individually, with their being the possibility that some so opposing this ‘judgement of others’ may resort to using violent means against the established order.” [3]

In the way of pathei-mathos authority is personal, based on individual empathy and a personal pathei-mathos; both of which have a local horizon so that what is

“beyond our personal empathic knowing of others, beyond our knowledge and our experience [our pathei-mathos], beyond the limited (local) range of our empathy and that personal (local) knowledge of ourselves which pathei-mathos reveals – is something we rationally, we humbly, accept we do not know and so cannot judge or form a reasonable, a fair, a balanced, opinion about. For empathy, like pathei-mathos, lives within us; manifesting, as both empathy and pathei-mathos do, the always limited nature, the horizon, of our own knowledge and understanding.” [4]

In practical terms this means trying to cultivate within ourselves the virtues mentioned by Cicero – self-restraint, dignity, fairness, honesty – and implies we have no concern for or we seek to cultivate no concern for supra-personal hierarchies and supra-personal authority – whether political, religious, or otherwise – and thus move away from, try to distance ourselves from, the consequences of such supra-personal hierarchies and supra-personal authority manifest as the consequences are and have been, throughout our history, in war, prejudice, intolerance, unfairness, extremism, and persecution in the name of some ideology, some religion, or because someone has commanded us to persecute those that they and others have declared are “our” enemies, and which war and persecutions are often, especially in modern times, accompanied by propaganda and lies.

Thus in the case of my Catholic remembering, those soldiers in Ballymurphy and in Derry shot and killed civilians, women included, because those soldiers believed them to be “enemies”, because propaganda had dehumanized those enemies; because those soldiers were part of and obeyed a hierarchical, supra-personal, chain-of-command by being there armed and prepared to use deadly force and violence against individuals they did not personally know; and because in the aftermath of those killings, and for years afterwards, they were not honest and hence did not contradict the propaganda stories, the lies, about those events which some of their superiors and others circulated in an attempt to justify such acts of inhumanity.

Yet for me the real tragedy is that events similar to those of my very personal remembering have occurred on a vaster scale millennia after millennia and are still occurring, again on a vaster scale and world-wide, despite us having access to the wisdom of the past, manifest as such wisdom is, for those reared in the West, in the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, in the Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles, in the mythos of Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες [5], in many of the writings of Cicero, in Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν by Marcus Aurelius, in the numinous beauty of Gregorian chant, in the music of JS Bach, and in so many, many, other writers and artists ancient and modern.

Ða sceolde se hearpere weorðan swa sarig
þæt he ne meahte ongemong oðrum mannum bion
(XXXV, 6)

David Myatt
9.ix.18

°°°

[1] M. Tullius Cicero, Pro Murena Oratio, 23. My translation.

[2] By ‘society’ in the context of this essay and the way of pathei-mathos is meant a collection of individuals who dwell, who live, in a particular area and who are subject to the same laws and the same institutions of authority. Modern society is thus a manifestation of some State, and States are predicated on individuals actively or passively accepting some supra-personal authority, be it governmental (national) or regional (county), or more usually both.

[3] “Society, Politics, Social Reform, and Pathei-Mathos”. The Numinous Way Of Pathei-Mathos. 2013. Fifth edition. Link: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/numinous-way-v5c-print.pdf

[4] “Personal Reflexions On Some Metaphysical Questions.” 2015. Link: https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/personal-reflexions-on-some-metaphysical-questions/

[5] “Trimorphed Moirai with their ever-heedful Furies.” Aeschylus (attributed), Prometheus Bound, 516

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Related:

° Agamemnon: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/agamemnon.pdf

° Oedipus Tyrannus: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/oedipus-tyrannus-v1.pdf


Image credit: Orestes and the Ἐρινύες. Red figure vase, c. 380 BCE


Herma of Aeschylus

That Heavy Dust
Extract From A Letter To A Friend

Since you mentioned an old, all but forgotten, scribbling of mine [1] in which I quoted the post-classical Latin phrase memento homo quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris [2] I recall similar expressions of the impermanence of mortal life in classical literature from Homer on. For although that Latin phrase is often regarded as deriving from the Book of Genesis in the Septuagint, dating as that book does – according to papyri texts so far discovered – to around 250 BCE, [3] the sentiment it expresses is centuries older and part of the weltanschauung of Ancient Greece.

Thus in the Iliad – Book XVI, 775–776 – there is an ancient expression similar in sentiment to the reminder that prowess and life are transient given to a Roman General centuries later during their Triumphus [4], their victory parade in Rome.

Ὃ δ’ ἐν στροφάλιγγι κονίης κεῖτο μέγας μεγαλωστί, λελασμένος ἱπποσυνάων

He of great strength lay in the swirling dust, his skill with horses taken away.

In Book VI, 146–149, there is the beautiful, poetic,

οἵη περ φύλλων γενεὴ τοίη δὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν.
φύλλα τὰ μέν τ᾽ ἄνεμος χαμάδις χέει, ἄλλα δέ θ᾽ ὕλη
τηλεθόωσα φύει, ἔαρος δ᾽ ἐπιγίγνεται ὥρη:
ὣς ἀνδρῶν γενεὴ ἣ μὲν φύει ἣ δ᾽ ἀπολήγει

Just as the genesis of leaves is, so it is with mortals:
Leaves scattered upon earth and yet the trees
Burst again when the growing season returns
With one generation of mortals leaving and another brought forth.

In the Agamemnon of Aeschylus – vv. 438-442 – we have the poignant

ὁ χρυσαμοιβὸς δ᾽ Ἄρης σωμάτων
καὶ ταλαντοῦχος ἐν μάχῃ δορὸς
πυρωθὲν ἐξ Ἰλίου
φίλοισι πέμπει βαρὺ
ψῆγμα δυσδάκρυτον ἀν-
τήνορος σποδοῦ γεμί-
ζων λέβητας εὐθέτους.

And Ares – exchanging bodies for gold
And holding his scales among the combat of spears –
Has, from Ilion by his fire,
Conveyed to their loved ones a painful lament – that heavy dust
He had exchanged for their men: ashes, stuffed into easily-stowable urns.

Personally, I find the sentiments expressed in Homer, in Aeschylus, and in so many other Greek and Roman writers, far surpass those of the Old Testament, and recall many times in the choir stalls of a monastery while chanting Matins – replete as that night Office was with verses from the Old Testament – desiring instead to recite something from Homer, in Ancient Greek of course.

David Myatt
28th August, 2018

Nota Bene: For publication here I have added two footnotes – [1] and [4] – to the two appended to the letter. All translations are mine.

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[1] https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/telesmata-in-the-picatrix/

[2] “Recall, mortal, you are dust and you will revert to being dust.”

[3] As I wrote in a footnote in my Tu Es Diaboli Ianua,

“The archaeological – the physical – evidence seems to indicate that the Greek text of the Old Testament is older than the Hebrew text, with the earliest manuscript fragment being Greek Papyrus 458 currently housed in the Rylands Papyri collection – qv. Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 20 (1936), pp. 219-45 – and which fragment was discovered in Egypt and has been dated as being from the second century BCE.

In contrast, the earliest fragments of the Old Testament in Hebrew date from c.150 BCE to c. 70 CE, and are part of what has come to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. In addition, the earliest known Greek – and almost complete – text of the Old Testament, Codex Vaticanus, dates from c.320 CE with the earliest complete Hebrew text of the Tanakh, the Allepo Codex, dating from centuries later, around 920 CE.

While it is and has been a common presumption that the Hebrew version of the Old Testament is older than the Greek version, my inclination is to favour the extant physical evidence over and above presumption. Were physical evidence of Hebrew texts earlier than Greek Papyrus 458 discovered, and of there existing a complete Hebrew text dating from before Codex Vaticanus, my inclination would be to revise my opinion based on a study of the new evidence.”

[4] qv. M. Beard, The Roman Triumph, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007. p. 272f.


Image credit: Herma of Aeschylus. Capitoline Museum, Rome.


The Day's Consecration: A painting by Richard Moult

The Ethics Of Killing Vermin
A Personal Opinion From Experience

The definitive record of the English language – the 20 volume Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, 1989 – defines vermin as (i) “animals of a noxious or objectionable kind [and which are] almost entirely restricted to those animals or birds which prey upon preserved game, crops, etcetera” and also as (ii) referring to “creeping or wingless insects (and other minute animals) of a loathsome or offensive appearance or character, especially those which infest or are parasitic on living beings and plants.”

Although the killing of vermin – especially those that prey upon preserved game and crops and those which infest or are parasitic on living beings and plants – is common practice in the majority of modern societies especially among farmers, gardeners, and horticulturalists, what aroused my curiosity about the ethics involved was a problem a long-standing friend of mine, who with his family were ethical vegans and trying to live in a self-sufficient way, was having with rats devouring their crops.

Before my retirement – as an old man – from manual work I had spent many, many, years working on farms, working as a gardener, and working in commercial horticulture. On the last farm on which I lived I had no problem hunting down and shooting the fox that had decimated the chickens we kept; had no problem in having Jack Russell’s hunt down and kill rats infesting the barns; had no ethical problem in previous employments in using pesticides and herbicides via knapsacks and tractor driven boom-sprayers. For the health of the livestock, and the health and yield of crops and plants, were part of my responsibility, a responsibility I willingly accepted.

Yet what was a self-sufficient ethical vegan and his self-sufficient ethical vegan family to do in respect of vermin control when suggested non-harmful methods – such as using raised crop beds and humanely trapping and releasing pests elsewhere – had failed? In addition, in the case of rats, would the released pests go on to prey on the crops of someone else and therefore would the vegans be somehow morally responsible for the damage so caused?

My initial suggestion, based both on my practical experience and my interest in Ancient Greek and Latin literature, was for him to use Jack Russell’s to hunt down and kill the rats. For would he – as Creon hoped by his walling-in of Antigone alive in a rock-hewn tomb {1} and as Fabius Maximus, Pontifex of Rome, hoped when he had a Vestal Virgin buried alive {2} – escape retribution by Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες {3} because he and they had not personally undertaken the deed of killing?

Such pest control certainly seems to be a moral dilemma for an ethical vegan, committed as such a person is to not harming or causing suffering to living beings, human and otherwise. Would, for instance, it be necessary for he and his family to suffer, to go hungry, because of a refusal to kill – directly or otherwise – such vermin as were devouring their crops?

              My fallible conclusion in respect of his dilemma was that it is for my friend, for each ethical vegan, for each ethical vegan family, to resolve such a moral dilemma in their own way and in their own time; for such individual, such familial, resolution seems to me – according to my admittedly fallible understanding of ethical veganism – to be a necessary part of the vegan weltanschauung where there is not and should not be any reliance on ideations, on dogma, on ideology, on the opinions of others, or on any causal – human-invented – abstractions.

For myself and in respect of vermin I would probably do again what I did when working on farms, when working as a gardener, and when working in commercial horticulture. The raison d’être being that to survive, to prosper, as human beings on this planet it seems to me (based on my experience) that we sometimes of necessity must make difficult decisions in regard to other life while respecting – as I personally always tried to do and as so many others before me had ancestrally done – the being, the soul, the presencing of the Cosmos, that was temporarily manifest in the life that we ended, be such life a fox or even a tree we felled. For there was no joy in such an ending, only – again in my experience – a balancing mingled with a wordless respect for all emanations of life. For ultimately we are they – that life – as they, that life, are us, with such an ancient and natural paganus wisdom almost forgotten in this modern majority city-dwelling age. And yet this wisdom survives – if only just – in some of those who for decades have manually toiled in the countryside.

              To end on a personal note, and in regard to abstractions, I have to admit that my long-standing – and now vegan – friend was the one who was responsible, years ago, for drawing my attention to the fact that the “folk” and “the tribe”, which I had eulogized in my pre-2011 ‘numinous way’, were causal – human-invented – abstractions and thus seemed to be contrary to the individual empathic-derived ethics of that numinous way. Which revelation forced me to reconsider that ‘numinous way’ and formed an important part of the process that eventually led me to evolve that ‘numinous way’ into my individualistic philosophy of pathei-mathos.

David Myatt
August 2018

{1} ἄγων ἔρημος ἔνθ᾽ ἂν ᾖ βροτῶν στίβος
κρύψω πετρώδει ζῶσαν ἐν κατώρυχι,
φορβῆς τοσοῦτον ὡς ἄγος μόνον προθείς,
ὅπως μίασμα πᾶσ᾽ ὑπεκφύγῃ πόλις.
κἀκεῖ τὸν Ἅιδην, ὃν μόνον σέβει θεῶν,
αἰτουμένη που τεύξεται τὸ μὴ θανεῖν,
ἢ γνώσεται γοῦν ἀλλὰ τηνικαῦθ᾽ ὅτι
πόνος περισσός ἐστι τἀν Ἅιδου σέβειν.

She will be led to where the paths are desolate of mortals
And be concealed alive in a rock-hewn tomb
With as much food before her as is required for expiation
So that the whole clan escapes pollution.
There she may if she asks have success from dying
By giving reverence to Hades, the only god she reveres –
Or she will learn at last though late by this
That it is useless toil to so revere Hades.

Sophocles, Antigone, vv. 773-780

{2} Stupri compertae et altera sub terra, uti mos est, ad portam Collinam necata fuerat. (Livy, Book XXII, 57)

{3} “Trimorphed Moirai with their ever-heedful Furies.” Aeschylus (attributed), Prometheus Bound, 516


Translations by DWM

Image credit:
The Day’s Consecration – from a painting by Richard Moult


The Day's Consecration: A painting by Richard Moult
From Mythoi To Empathy
Toward A New Appreciation Of The Numinous

Since the concept of the numinous is central to my weltanschauung – otherwise known as the ‘philosophy of pathei-mathos’ – it seems apposite to provide, as I did in respect of my use of the term physis, φύσις [1], a more detailed explanation of the concept, and my usage of it, than I have hitherto given, deriving as the term does from the classical Latin numen which denoted “a reverence for the divine; a divinity; divine power” with the word numen assimilated into English in the 15th century, with the English use of ‘numinous’ dating from the middle of the 17th century and used to signify “of or relating to a numen; revealing or indicating the presence of a divinity; divine, spiritual.”

The term numinous was also used in a somewhat restrictive religious way [2] by Rudolf Otto over a century ago in his book Das Heilige.

In contrast to Otto et al, my understanding of the numinous is that it is primarily a perceiveration, not a personal emotion or feeling, not a mysterium, and not an idea in the sense of Plato’s εἶδος and thus is not similar to Kant’s concept of a priori. As a perceiveration, while it includes an apprehension of what is often referred to as ‘the divine’, ‘the holy’ – and sometimes thus is an apprehension of theos or theoi – it is not limited to such apprehensions, since as in the past it is often an intimation of, an intuition concerning,

“the natural balance of ψυχή; a balance which ὕβρις upsets. This natural balance – our being as human beings – is or can be manifest to us in or by what is harmonious, or what reminds us of what is harmonious and beautiful.” [3]

Where ψυχή is an intimation of, an intuition concerning Life qua being; of ourselves as a living existent considered as an emanation of ψυχή, howsoever ψυχή is described, as for example in mythoi – and thus in terms of theos, theoi, or ‘Nature’ – with ψυχή thus what ‘animates’ us and what gives us our φύσις as human beings. A physis classically perceived to be that of a mortal fallible being veering between σωφρονεῖν (thoughtful reasoning, and thus fairness) and ὕβρις. [4]

The particular apprehension of external reality that is the numinous is that provided by our natural faculty of empathy, ἐμπάθεια. When this particular faculty is developed and used then it is a specific and extended type of συμπάθεια. That is, it is a type of and a means to knowing and understanding another human being and/or other living beings. The type of ‘knowing’ – and thence the understanding – that empathy provides or can provide is different from, but supplementary and complimentary to, that knowing which may be acquired by means of the Aristotelian essentials of conventional philosophy and experimental science.

Furthermore, since empathy is a natural and an individual human faculty, it

“is limited in range and application, just as our faculties of sight and hearing are limited in range and application. These limits extend to only what is direct, immediate, and involve personal interactions with other humans or with other living beings. There is therefore, for the philosophy of pathei-mathos, an ’empathic scale of things’ and an acceptance of our limitations of personal knowing and personal understanding.”  [5]

That is, as I explained in my 2015 essay Personal Reflexions On Some Metaphysical Questions, there is a ‘local horizon of empathy’.

This local horizon and the fact that empathy is a human faculty mean that the apprehension is wordless and personal and cannot be extrapolated beyond, or abstracted out from, the individual without losing some or all of its numinosity since the process of denotatum – of abstraction – devolves around the meanings assigned to words, terms, and names, and which meanings can and do vary over causal time and may be (mis)interpreted by others often on the basis of some idea, or theory, or on some comparative exegesis.

It therefore follows that the numinous cannot be codified and that numinosity cannot be adequately, fully, presenced by anything doctrinal or which is organized beyond a small, a localized, and thus personal level; and that all such a supra-local organization can ever hope to do at best is provide a fallible intimation of the numinous, or perhaps some practical means to help others toward individually apprehending the numinous for themselves.

Which intimation, given the nature of empathy – with its συμπάθεια, with its wordless knowing of actually being for a moment or for moments ‘the living other’ – is of muliebral virtues such as compassion, manners, and a certain personal humility, and of how a shared, mutual, personal love can and does presence the numinous. Which intimation, which wisdom, which knowing, is exactly that of our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos, and which culture – with its personal recounting, and artistic renderings, of tragedy, love, loss, suffering, and war – is a far better guide to the numinous than conventional religions. [6]

All of which is why I wrote in my Tu Es Diaboli Ianua that in my view “the numinous is primarily a manifestation of the muliebral,” and that revealed religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism primarily manifest a presencing of the masculous. Such religions – indeed all religions – therefore have not presenced, and do not and cannot presence, the numinous as the numinous can be presenced. Neither did Greco-Roman culture, for all its assimilation of some muliebral mythoi, adequately presence the numinous, and just as no modern organized paganus revival dependant on mythoi and anthropomorphic deities can adequately presence the numinous.

For the cultivation of the faculty of empathy is the transition from mythoi and anthropomorphic deities (theos and theoi) to an appreciation of the numinous sans denotatum and sans religion.

A New Appreciation Of The Numinous

How then can the faculty of empathy be cultivated? My own practical experience of various religions, as well as my own pathei-mathos, inclines me to favour the personal cultivation of muliebral virtues and a return to a more local, a less organized, way or ways of living based initially on a personal and mutual and loyal love between two individuals. A living of necessity balanced by personal honour given how the world is still replete with dishonourable hubriatic individuals who, devoid of empathy, are often motivated by the worst of intentions. For such a personal honour – in the immediacy of the personal moment – is a necessary restoration of the numinous balance that the dishonourable deeds of a hubriatic individual or individuals upsets [7].

For such a personal love, such a preparedness to restore the natural balance through honour, are – in my admittedly fallible view – far more adequate presencings of the numinous than any religious ritual, than any religious worship, or any type of contemplative (wordless) prayer.

David Myatt
January 2018

[1] Toward Understanding Physis. Included in the 2015 compilation Sarigthersa.

[2] I have endeavoured in recent years to make a distinction between a religion and a spiritual ‘way of life’. As noted in my 2013 text The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos, Appendix II – Glossary of The Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos, Religion,

“One of the differences being that a religion requires and manifests a codified ritual and doctrine and a certain expectation of conformity in terms of doctrine and ritual, as well as a certain organization beyond the local community level resulting in particular individuals assuming or being appointed to positions of authority in matters relating to that religion. In contrast, Ways are more diverse and more an expression of a spiritual ethos, of a customary, and often localized, way of doing certain spiritual things, with there generally being little or no organization beyond the community level and no individuals assuming – or being appointed by some organization – to positions of authority in matters relating to that ethos.

Religions thus tend to develope an organized regulatory and supra-local hierarchy which oversees and appoints those, such as priests or religious teachers, regarded as proficient in spiritual matters and in matters of doctrine and ritual, whereas adherents of Ways tend to locally and informally and communally, and out of respect and a personal knowing, accept certain individuals as having a detailed knowledge and an understanding of the ethos and the practices of that Way. Many spiritual Ways have evolved into religions.”

Another difference is that religions tend to presence and be biased toward the masculous, while spiritual ways tend to be either more muliebral or incorporate muliebral virtues.

[3] Myatt, David. The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos, 2103.  Appendix II – Glossary of The Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos, The Numinous.

[4] In my note Concerning σωφρονεῖν – included in my “revised 2455621.531” version of The Balance of Physis – Notes on λόγος and ἀληθέα in Heraclitus. Part One, Fragment 112 – I mentioned that I use σωφρονεῖν (sophronein) in preference to σωφροσύνη (sophrosyne) since sophrosyne has acquired an English interpretation – “soundness of mind, moderation” – which in my view distorts the meaning of the original Greek. As with my use of the term πάθει μάθος (pathei-mathos) I use σωφρονεῖν in an Anglicized manner with there thus being no necessity to employ inflective forms.

[5] Myatt, The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos. Appendix II – Immediacy-of-the-Moment.

[6] One aspect of the apprehension of the numinous that empathy provides – which I have briefly touched upon in various recent personal writings – is that personal love is personal love; personal, mutual, equal, and germane to the moment and to a person. It thus does not adhere to manufactured or assumed abstractive boundaries such as gender, social status, or nationality, with enforced adherence to such presumptive boundaries – such as opposition to same gender love whether from religious or political beliefs – contrary to empathy and a cause of suffering.

[7] As mentioned in my The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos,

“The personal virtue of honour, and the cultivation of wu-wei, are – together – a practical, a living, manifestation of our understanding and appreciation of the numinous; of how to live, to behave, as empathy intimates we can or should in order to avoid committing the folly, the error, of ὕβρις, in order not to cause suffering, and in order to re-present, to acquire, ἁρμονίη.

For personal honour is essentially a presencing, a grounding, of ψυχή – of Life, of our φύσις – occurring when the insight (the knowing) of a developed empathy inclines us toward a compassion that is, of necessity, balanced by σωφρονεῖν and in accord with δίκη.

This balancing of compassion – of the need not to cause suffering – by σωφρονεῖν and δίκη is perhaps most obvious on that particular occasion when it may be judged necessary to cause suffering to another human being. That is, in honourable self-defence. For it is natural – part of our reasoned, fair, just, human nature – to defend ourselves when attacked and (in the immediacy of the personal moment) to valorously, with chivalry, act in defence of someone close-by who is unfairly  attacked or dishonourably threatened or is being bullied by others, and to thus employ, if our personal judgement of the circumstances deem it necessary, lethal force.

This use of force is, importantly, crucially, restricted – by the individual nature of our judgement, and by the individual nature of our authority – to such personal situations of immediate self-defence and of valorous defence of others, and cannot be extended beyond that, for to so extend it, or attempt to extend it beyond the immediacy of the personal moment of an existing physical threat, is an arrogant presumption – an act of ὕβρις – which negates the fair, the human, presumption of innocence of those we do not personally know, we have no empathic knowledge of, and who present no direct, immediate, personal, threat to us or to others nearby us.

Such personal self-defence and such valorous defence of another in a personal situation are in effect a means to restore the natural balance which the unfair, the dishonourable, behaviour of others upsets. That is, such defence fairly, justly, and naturally in the immediacy of the moment corrects their error of ὕβρις resulting from their bad (their rotten) φύσις; a rotten character evident in their lack of the virtue, the skill, of σωφρονεῖν. For had they possessed that virtue, and if their character was not bad, they would not have undertaken such a dishonourable attack.”

 


Image credit: The Day’s Consecration – from a painting by Richard Moult