M31-SW-Subaru-HST-S1024
A Non-Terrestrial View

Several times, in the last decade or so, I have – when considering certain current events, and social change, and the activities, policies, and speeches, of certain politicians – often asked myself a particular question: What impression or what conclusions would a non-terran (a hypothetical visiting alien from another star-system) have of or draw from those events, such social change, and those politicians? And what, therefore, would be the conclusions that such a non-terran would make regarding our nature, our human character, as a species?

Which answers seemed to me to depend on what criteria – ethical, experiential, ontological, and otherwise – such a non-terran might employ. Would, for instance, the home-world of such a non-terran be a place of relative peace and prosperity which, having endured millennia of conflict and war, had evolved beyond conflict and war and had also ended poverty? Would, for instance, such a non-terran view matters dispassionately, having evolved such that they are always able to control – or have developed beyond – such strong personal emotions as now, as for all of our human history, so often still seem to overwhelm we humans leading us and having led us to be selfish, to lie, to cheat, to manipulate, to use violence – and sometimes kill – in order to fulfil a personal desire?

The criteria I now (post-2011) apply to this hypothetical scenario are those derived from my own experience, and from reflecting over several years upon that experience, which criteria are of course subjective, personal, and it is thus no coincidence that they now are reflected in my philosophy of pathei-mathos. Thus the ethics I assume such an interstellar space-faring sentient non-terran might adhere to are based on honour and the apprehension of suffering and hubris that empathy provides; just as the ontology derives from a numinous awareness of how causal and fallible and transient every sentient life is in respect of the vastness of the cosmos (spatially and in terms of aeons of causal time), with such ethics and ontology a natural consequence of such a culture whose genesis is that pathei-mathos – ancestral, individual, societal – that derives from millennia of suffering, conflict, war, poverty, corruption, and oppression.

Furthermore, my reflexion on the past fifty years of human space exploration leads me to further conclude that we as a species – and perhaps every sentient species – can only venture forth, en masse, to explore and colonize new worlds when certain social and political conditions exist: when we, when perhaps every sentient species, have matured sufficiently to be able to, as individuals, control ourselves (without any internal or external coercion deriving from laws or from some belief be such belief ideological, political, or religious) and thus when we use reason and empathy as our raison d’etre and not our emotions, our desires, our egoism or some -ism or some -ology or some faith that we accept or believe in or need. For despite the technology making such space exploration and colonization now feasible for us (if only currently within our solar system) we lack the political will, the social desire, the trans-national cooperation, the vision, to realize it even given that our own habitable planet is slowly undergoing a transformation for the worse wrought by ourselves. All we have – decades after the landings on the Moon – are a few individuals inhabiting and only for a while just one Earth-orbiting space station and a few small-scale, theorized, human landings on Mars a decade or more in the future. For instead of such a vision of a new frontier which frontier a multitude of families can settle and which can be the genesis of new cultures and new human societies, all we have had in the past fifty years is more of the same: regional wars and armed conflicts; invasions, violent coups and revolutions; violent protests, the killing and imprisonment and torture of protestors and dissenters; political propaganda for this political cause or that; exploitation of resources and of other humans; terrorism, murder, rape, theft, and greed.

How then would my hypothetical space-faring alien judge us as a species, and how would such a non-terran view such squabbles – political, social, ideological, religious, and be they violent or non-violent – and such poverty, inequality, and oppression, as still seem to so bedevil almost all societies currently existing on planet Earth?

In addition, how would we as individuals – and how would our governments – interact with, and treat, such an alien were such an alien, visiting Earth incognito, to be discovered? Would we treat such an alien with respect, with honour: as a non-threatening ambassador from another world? Would any current government on Earth willingly and openly and world-wide acknowledge the existence of such extra-terrestrial life and allow Earth ambassadors from any country, and scientists, and the media, full and open access to such an alien sentient being? I have my own personal intuition regarding answers to such questions.

But, remaining undiscovered, what would our visiting alien observer report regarding Earth and ourselves on their return to their own planet? Again, I have my own personal intuition regarding answers to such questions. Which answers could well be that we are an aggressive, still rather primitive and very violent, species best avoided until such time as we might outwardly demonstrate – through perhaps having numerous peaceful, cooperating, colonies on other worlds – that we have culturally and personally, in moral terms, advanced.

Which rather – to me at least – places certain current events, social change by -isms, by -ologies, through disruption and violence and via revolution, and the activities, policies, and speeches, of certain politicians, and armed conflicts, into what I intuit is a necessary cosmic, non-terran, perspective. Which perspective is of us as a species still evolving; as having the potential and now the means to further and to consciously, and as individuals, to so evolve.

Will we do this? And how? Again, my answer – fallible as it is, repeated by me as it hereby is, and born as it is from my own pathei-mathos – is that it could well begin with us as individuals consciously deciding to change through cultivating empathy and viewing ourselves and our world in the perspective of the cosmos. Which perspective is of our smallness, our fallibility, our mortality, and of our appreciation of the numinous and thus of the need to avoid the error of hubris; an error which we mortals, millennia following millennia, have always made and which even now – even with our ancestral world-wide culture of pathei-mathos – we still commit day after day, year after year, and century after century, enshrined as such hubris seems to be in so many politicians; in -isms and -ologies; in disruptive and violent social change and revolutions; in armed conflicts, and in our very physis as human individuals: an apparently unchanged physis which so motivates so many of us to still be egoistic, to lie, to cheat, to steal, to murder, to manipulate, to be violent, and to often be motived by avarice, pride, jealousy, and a selfish sexual desire.

As someone, over one and half-thousand years ago, wrote regarding human beings:

τοῖς δὲ ἀνοήτοις καὶ κακοῖς καὶ πονηροῖς καὶ φθονεροῖς καὶ πλεονέκταις καὶ φονεῦσι καὶ ἀσεβέσι πόρρωθέν εἰμι͵ τῷ τιμωρῷ ἐκχωρήσας δαίμονι͵ ὅστις τὴν ὀξύτητα τοῦ πυρὸς προσβάλλων θρώσκει αὐτὸν αἰσθητικῶς καὶ μᾶλλον ἐπὶ τὰς ἀνομίας αὐτὸν ὁπλίζει͵ ἵνα τύχῃ πλείονος τιμωρίας͵ καὶ οὐ παύεται ἐπ΄ ὀρέξεις ἀπλέ τους τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν ἔχων͵ ἀκορέστως σκοτομαχῶν͵ καὶ τοῦ τον βασανίζει͵ καὶ ἐπ΄ αὐτὸν πῦρ ἐπὶ τὸ πλεῖον αὐξάνει

“I keep myself distant from the unreasonable, the rotten, the malicious, the jealous, the greedy, the bloodthirsty, the hubriatic, instead, giving them up to the avenging daemon, who assigns to them the sharpness of fire, who visibly assails them, and who equips them for more lawlessness so that they happen upon even more vengeance. For they cannot control their excessive yearnings, are always in the darkness – which tests them – and thus increase that fire even more.” [1]

Which is basically the same understanding that Aeschylus revealed in his Oresteia trilogy many centuries before: the wisdom of pathei-mathos and the numinous pagan allegory of Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες [2], and which wisdom was also described by Milton over a millennia later by means of another allegory:

The infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile,
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind.

David Myatt
2015

Extract from a letter to a personal correspondent

°°°

[1] Poemandres, 23. Corpus Hermeticum. Translated by DWM in Poemandres, A Translation and Commentary. 2014. ISBN 978-1495470684.

[2] Aeschylus (attributed), Prometheus Bound, 515-6

τίς οὖν ἀνάγκης ἐστὶν οἰακοστρόφος.
Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες

Who then compels to steer us?
Trimorphed Moirai with their ever-heedful Furies!


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A pdf of this essay is available here – dwm-some-metaphysical-questions.pdf

gold funerary tablet (c. 200 BCE) found at Eleutherna, Crete

  Personal Reflexions On Some Metaphysical Questions

The cosmogony described in the Ιερός Λόγος tractate of the Corpus Hermeticum answers certain interesting and important metaphysical questions in a particular and ancient way:

Δόξα πάντων ὁ θεὸς καὶ θεῖον καὶ φύσις θεία. ἀρχὴ
τῶν ὄντων ὁ θεός καὶ νοῦς καὶ φύσις καὶ ὕλη, σοφία εἰς
δεῖξιν ἁπάντων ὤν· ἀρχὴ τὸ θεῖον καὶ φύσις καὶ ἐνέργεια
καὶ ἀνάγκη καὶ τέλος καὶ ἀνανέωσις […]

τὸ γὰρ θεῖον ἡ πᾶσα κοσμικὴ σύγκρασις φύσει ἀνανεου-
μένη· ἐν γὰρ τῷ θείῳ καὶ ἡ φύσις καθέστηκεν

The numen of all beings is theos: numinal, and of numinal physis.
The origin of what exists is theos, who is Perceiveration and Physis and Substance:
The sapientia which is a revealing of all beings.
For the numinal is the origin: physis, vigour, incumbency, accomplishment, renewance […]

The divine is all of that mixion: renewance of the cosmic order through Physis
For Physis is presenced in the divine
. (1)


All such ‘theological’ answers – from classical Greco-Roman paganism and mysticism to Gnosticism to Christianity and Islam – lead us to enquire (i) if Being – whether denoted by terms such as acausal, born-less, θεός The One, The Divine, God, The Eternal, Mονάς – can be apprehended (or defined) by some-things which are causal (denoted by terms such as spatial, temporal, renewance), and (ii) whether this ‘acausal Being’ is the origin or the genesis or ‘the artisan’ (2) or the creator of both causal being (including ‘time’, and ‘change’) and of causal living beings such as ourselves.

That is, (i) has causal spatially-existing being ’emerged from’ – or been created by – acausal Being, and (ii) are causal beings – such as ourselves – an aspect or emanation of acausal Being?

My admittedly fallible understanding now, after some years of reflexion and based as it is on my limited knowledge, is that formulating such a question in such terms – causal/acausal; whole/parts; eternal/temporal; ipseity/unity; emergent from/genesis of – is a mis-apprehension of what-is because such denoting is ‘us as observer’ (i) positing, as Plato did, such things as a theory regarding ‘the ideal’ (3), and/or (ii) constructing a form or abstraction (ἰδέᾳ) which we then presume to project onto what is assumed to be ‘external’ to us, both of which present us with only an illusion of understanding and meaning because implicit in such theories and in all such constructed forms are (i) an opposite (an ‘other’) and (ii) the potentiality for discord (dialectical or otherwise) between such opposites and/or because of a pursuit of what is regarded as ‘the ideal’ of some-thing. Hence, perhaps, why Heraclitus is reported to have written:

εἰδέναι δὲ χρὴ τὸν πόλεμον ἐόντα ξυνόν, καὶ δίκην ἔριν, καὶ γινόμενα πάντα κατ΄ ἔριν καὶ χρεώμενα

One should be aware that Polemos pervades, with discord δίκη, and that beings are naturally born by discord. [Fragment 80]

πάντα δὲ γίνεσθαι καθ᾽ εἱμαρμένην καὶ διὰ τῆς ἐναντιοδρομίας ἡρμόσθαι τὰ ὄντα

All by genesis is appropriately apportioned [separated into portions] with beings bound together again by enantiodromia. [Diogenes Laërtius, ix. 7]

In effect, our innate assumption of our existence as sentient individuals – separate from ‘the other’, be that other Being itself or other beings – leads us and has led us to formulate and to strive to answer certain metaphysical questions in a particular way. That is, from the position of an ‘observer’ whose answers are dependant on postulated concepts described or denoted by words such as ‘time’, ‘change’, God, theos/theoi, and ‘the ideal’.

Is it therefore possible for us to discover our being, our physis – in effect, know Reality and discover the meaning of our existence – without such postulations, be they metaphysical or theological or otherwise? My fallible answer, based as it is on my limited knowledge and my own experience, is that it is possible; and possible by means of empathy and pathei-mathos. However, by necessity – given the personal (local) horizon of both empathy and pathei-mathos (4) – the knowing so revealed is (i) only our personal fallible answer, and also is (ii) always sans denotatum (5), a wordless empathic knowing that cannot be expressed (by words, terms) without in some way distorting it or denuding it of such numinosity as has been personally discovered (revealed) by empathy and pathei-mathos.

For empathy and pathei-mathos incline us to suggest that ipseity is an illusion of perspective: that there is, fundamentally, no division between ‘us’ – as some individual sentient, mortal being – and what has hitherto been understood and named as the Unity, The One, God, The Eternal. That ‘we’ are not ‘observers’ but rather Being existing as Being exists and is presenced in the Cosmos. That thus all our striving, individually and collectively when based on some ideal or on some form – some abstraction and what is derived therefrom, such as ideology and dogma – always is or becomes sad/tragic, and which recurrence of sadness/tragedy, generation following generation, is perhaps even inevitable unless and until we live according to the wordless knowing that empathy and pathei-mathos reveal. In this matter, Heraclitus perhaps had something interesting to say, again:

τοῦ δὲ λόγου τοῦδ᾽ ἐόντος ἀεὶ ἀξύνετοι γίνονται ἄνθρωποι καὶ πρόσθεν ἢ ἀκοῦσαι καὶ ἀκούσαντες τὸ πρῶτον· γινομένων γὰρ πάντων κατὰ τὸν λόγον τόνδε ἀπείροισιν ἐοίκασι, πειρώμενοι καὶ ἐπέων καὶ ἔργων τοιούτων, ὁκοίων ἐγὼ διηγεῦμαι κατὰ φύσιν διαιρέων ἕκαστον καὶ φράζων ὅκως ἔχει· τοὺς δὲ ἄλλους ἀνθρώπους λανθάνει ὁκόσα ἐγερθέντες ποιοῦσιν, ὅκωσπερ ὁκόσα εὕδοντες ἐπιλανθάνονται

Although this naming and expression [which I explain] exists, human beings tend to ignore it, both before and after they have become aware of it. Yet even though, regarding such naming and expression, I have revealed details of how Physis has been cleaved asunder, some human beings are inexperienced concerning it, fumbling about with words and deeds, just as other human beings, be they interested or just forgetful, are unaware of what they have done. [Fragment 1]

What, therefore, is the wordless knowing that empathy and pathei-mathos reveal? It is the knowing manifest in our human culture of pathei-mathos. The knowing communicated to us, for example, by art, music, literature, and manifest in the lives of those who presenced, in their living, compassion, love, and honour. Germane to this knowing is that – unlike a form or an abstraction – it is always personal (limited in its applicability) and can only be embodied in and presenced by some-thing or by some-one which or who lives. That is, it cannot be abstracted out of the living, the personal, moment of its presencing by someone or abstracted out from its living apprehension by others in the immediacy-of-the-moment, and thus cannot become ‘an ideal’ or form the foundation for some dogma or ideology or supra-personal faith.

Plato, Art, and The Ideal

Since art can wordlessly communicate to us the wisdom, and the knowing of Reality, revealed individually by both empathy and the culture of pathei-mathos, it seems apposite to briefly consider Plato’s rather influential notions of τὸ καλόν (of beauty) and of ‘the ideal’.

As Isocrates wrote of Helen of Troy:

κάλλους γὰρ πλεῖστον μέρος μετέσχεν, ὃ σεμνότατον καὶ τιμιώτατον καὶ θειότατον τῶν ὄντων ἐστίν.

Of all things valued, numinous, and divine, she had the greatest share: beauty. [Encomium, 54]

However, with Plato, τὸ καλόν becomes impersonal, even when the subject he is writing about is human ‘nobility’. That is, it becomes something unrelated to what is personally known and proven (revealed) by what is real (as for example in the deeds of a real-life individual).  For Plato, it is related to or manifests ἀρετή (‘virtue’), which in his philosophy becomes a hypothesized abstraction which a person may or may not possess and which, it is claimed, can be ‘brought into being’ by other abstractions, such as a Republic.

Thus, in Phaedo (78b), Plato writes about αὐτὸ τὸ καλόν and about αὐτὸ ἕκαστον ὃ ἔστιν: that is, of ‘abstract’ (true, ideal) beauty and of ‘abstract’ (true, ideal) being.  In Kratylus 389d he has Socrates talk about ‘true, ideal’ naming (denotatum) – βλέποντα πρὸς αὐτὸ ἐκεῖνο ὃ ἔστιν ὄνομα.

Also in Kratylus (386d-386e), Plato has Socrates say:

μήτε ἑκάστῳ ἰδίᾳ ἕκαστον τῶν ὄντων ἐστίν δῆλον δὴ ὅτι αὐτὰ αὑτῶν οὐσίαν ἔχοντά τινα βέβαιόν ἐστι τὰ πράγματα

 Each being has their own mode [of being] which is constant, and which is neither caused by nor related to us.

Furthermore, he writes that:

πρῶτον μὲν ἀεὶ ὂν καὶ οὔτε γιγνόμενον οὔτε ἀπολλύμενον, οὔτε αὐξανόμενον οὔτε φθίνον (Symposium 210e – 211a)

Firstly, it always exists, and has no genesis. It does not die, does not grow, does not decay.

ἀρχόμενον ἀπὸ τῶνδε τῶν καλῶν ἐκείνου ἕνεκα τοῦ καλοῦ ἀεὶ ἐπανιέναι, ὥσπερ ἐπαναβασμοῖς χρώμενον (Symposium 211c)

Starting from that beauty, that person must – because of such beauty – always as by a ladder move on, upwards.


While many other examples could be adduced, it does seem evident that Plato posits some abstraction – whether described by him in terms such as ἰδέᾳ, εἶδος, or involving αὐτὸ (i.e. form, ideal, ‘true’/of itself) – and which abstraction, because it has no genesis, does not die, does not grow, and yet which invokes change – a moving-on by or discord resulting from the pursuit of such an ideal by individuals – is independent of and often damaging to our living (and thus numinous) reality as individual diverse human beings possessed of the faculty of empathy and able to learn from the culture of pathei-mathos.

In contrast, when Aristotle, in an oblique reference to Plato, writes τοῦ δὲ καλοῦ μέγιστα εἴδη τάξις καὶ συμμετρία καὶ τὸ ὡρισμένον (6) he is referring to what is real, what actually exists – ὥστε διὰ τοῦτο ὀρθῶς οἱ γεωμέτραι λέγουσι καὶ περὶ ὄντων διαλέγονται καὶ ὄντα ἐστίν: διττὸν γὰρ τὸ ὄν. That is, to the beauty of geometry as manifest, for example, by geometricians when – as in Euclid’s Elements – they make logical deductions from schemata and harmony and consonancy. Aristotle goes on to write that τὸ καλόν is especially revealed (δείκνυμι) in mathematics: ἃ μάλιστα δεικνύουσιν αἱ μαθηματικαὶ ἐπιστῆμαι.

Also, when Aristotle deals with ἀρετή he considers it a μέσον (meson, median, a balance between ‘being’ (actually existing) and ‘not-being’ (a potentiality), qv. Metaphysics 9.1051a) and thus discards Plato’s εἶδος of an abstractive ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Which discarding was an excellent philosophical beginning given how Plato’s abstractive ‘ideal’ of some-thing with its implication that a person “must – because of that ideal – always as by a ladder be moving on, upwards,” is and has been the genesis of discord and suffering.

Empathy and pathei-mathos, however, emphasize the importance of living in the “immediacy of the personal, living, moment”, sans the pursuit of some ideal or of some assumed perfection; with what is ‘good’ being not some abstraction denoted by some faith, dogma, ideal, ideology, or by some collocation of words, but rather is a function of, a wordless revealing by, our personal, our individual, empathic horizon, by our pathei-mathos, and by the collected human pathei-mathos of millennia manifest as that is in the culture of pathei-mathos. Which revealing is that what-lives is more important that any ideal, than any abstraction or form, with ‘the good’ simply being that which does not cause suffering to, or which can alleviate the suffering of, what-lives, human and otherwise.

Thus the ‘meaning’ of our physis, of our living, so revealed, is just that of a certain way of living; a non-defined, non-definable, very personal way of living, only relevant to us as an individual where we – appreciating our human culture of pathei-mathos, and thus appreciative of art, music, literature, and other emanations of the numinous – incline toward not causing suffering and incline (by means of empathy, compassion, and honour) toward alleviating such suffering as we may personally encounter in the “immediacy of the personal, living, moment”.

David Myatt
March 2015
(Revised JD2457094.73)

The genesis of this essay was some correspondence, in February and March 2015, with an academic, and which correspondence concerned certain metaphysical questions. I have paraphrased parts of, or utilized quotations from, or rewritten certain passages from, several of my replies. All translations (and errors) are mine.


Notes

(1)  Myatt, David, Ιερός Λόγος: An Esoteric Mythos. 2015. ISBN 978-1507660126.

(2) In respect of theos as artisan (δημιουργόν) qv. the Corpus Hermeticum; for example Poemandres 11.

(3) qv. Plato, Art, and The Ideal, below.

(4) The ‘local horizon of empathy’ is a natural consequence of my understanding of empathy as a human faculty, albeit a faculty that is still quite underdeveloped. For what empathy provides – or can provide – is a very personal wordless knowing in the immediacy-of-the-living-moment. Thus empathy inclines us as individuals to appreciate that what is beyond the purveu of our empathy – beyond our personal empathic knowing of others, beyond our knowledge and our experience, 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.

(5) Denotatum – from the Latin, denotare – is used here in accord with its general meaning, which is “to denote or to describe by an expression or a word; to name some-thing; to refer that which is so named or so denoted.”

(6) Metaphysics, Book 13, 1078a. “The most noticeable expressions of kalos are schemata and harmony and consonancy.”

 


Further reading:

Aristotle, Metaphysics, 987b

Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1015α


Image credit:
Gold funerary tablet (c. 200 BCE) found at Eleutherna, Crete,
of the kind presumed to be associated
with an aural ἱερός λόγος (esoteric mythos),
all of which funerary items have inscriptions similar to the following:
Γῆς παῖς εἰμι καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος
(I am a child of Gaia and the starry heavens)


A pdf version of parts 1 and 2 is available here – suffering-culture-pathei-mathos.pdf

NASA/JPL/CalTech - Messier 104

Musings On Suffering, Human Nature,
and The Culture of Pathei-Mathos
(Part Two)

Were I to daydream about some future time when such a galactic ‘prime directive’ exists, directing we spacefaring humans not to interfere in the internal affairs of non-terrans who are different, in whatever way, from ourselves, then I would be inclined to speculate that unless we by then have fundamentally and irretrievably changed ourselves for the better then it would not be long before some human or some human authority, somewhere, manufactured some sly excuse to order to try and justify ignoring it. For that is what we have done, among ourselves, for thousands of years; making then breaking some treaty or other; making some excuse to plunder resources; having some legal institution change some existing law or make some new law to give us the ‘right’ to do what it is we want to do; or manufacture some new legislative or governing body in order to ‘legalize’ what we do or have already done. Always using a plethora of words – and, latterly, legalese – to persuade others, and often ourselves, that what we do or are about to do or have already done is justified, justifiable, necessary, or right.

Perhaps the future excuse to so interfere contrary to a prime directive would be the familiar one of ‘our security’; perhaps it would be an economic one of needing to exploit ‘their’ resources; perhaps it would be one regarding the threat of ‘terrorism’; perhaps it would be the ancient human one, hallowed by so much blood, of ‘our’ assumed superiority, of ‘their system’ being ‘repressive’ or ‘undemocratic’ or of they – those ‘others’ – being ‘backward’ or ‘uncivilized’ and in need of being enlightened and ‘re-educated’ by our ‘progressive’ ideas. Or, more probable, it would be some new standard or some new fashionable political or social or even religious dogma by which we commend ourselves on our progress and which we use, consciously or otherwise, to judge others by.

The current reality is that even if we had or soon established a terran ‘prime directive’ directing we humans not to interfere in the internal affairs of other humans here on Earth who are different, in whatever way, from ourselves, it is fairly certain it “would not be long before some human or some human authority, somewhere, manufactured some sly excuse to order to try and justify ignoring it…”

Which mention of a terran ‘prime directive’ leads to two of the other questions which cause me to vacillate between optimism and pessimism in regard to our future as a species. The question of increasing population, and the question of the finite resources of this Earth. Which suggests to me, as some others, that – especially as the majority of people now live in urban areas – a noble option is for us, as a species, to cooperate and betake ourselves to colonize our Moon, then Mars, and seek to develope such technology as would take us beyond our Solar System. For if we do not do this then the result would most probably be, at some future time, increasing conflict over land and resources, mass migrations (probably resulting in more conflict) and such governments or authorities as then exist forced by economic circumstance to adopt policies to reduce or limit their own population. Global problems probably exasperated still further by the detrimental changes that available evidence indicates could possibly result from what has been termed ‘climate change’ [1].

But is the beginning of this noble option of space colonization viable in the near future? Possibly not, given that a country such as America, for instance, while having the resources and the space expertise and the technology necessary – and the means to develope existing space technology – currently (2013) allocates only 0.5% of its federal budget to NASA while allocating over 20% to military expenditure [2].

Which leads we human beings, with our jumelle character, confined to this small planet we call Earth, possibly continuing as we have, for millennia, continued: a quarrelsome species, often engaged (like primates) in minor territorial disputes; in our majority unempathic; often inconsiderate, often prejudiced (even though we like to believe otherwise); often inclined to place our self-interest and our pleasure first; often prone to being manipulated or to manipulating others; often addicted to the slyness of words spoken and written and heard and read; often believing ‘we’ are better than ‘them’; and fighting, raping, hating, killing, invading here, interfering there. And beset by the problems wrought by increasing population, by dwindling resources, by mass migrations, by continuing armed conflicts (regional, local, supranational, over some-thing) and possibly also affected by the effects of climate change.

Yet also, sometimes despite ourselves, we are beings capable of – and have shown over millennia – compassion, kindness, gentleness, tolerance, love, fairness, reason, and a valourous self-sacrifice that is and has been inspirational. But perhaps above all we have, in our majority, exuded and kept and replenished the virtue of hope; hoping, dreaming, of better times, a better future, sometime, somewhere – and not, as it happens, for ourselves but for our children and their children and the future generations yet to be born. And it is this hope that changes us, and has changed us, for the better, as our human culture of pathei-mathos so eloquently, so numinously, and so tragically, reveals.

Thus the question seems to be whether we still have hope enough, dreams enough, nobility enough, and can find some way to change ourselves, to thus bring a better – a more fairer, more just, more compassionate – future into-being without causing or contributing to the suffering which so blights, and which has so blighted, our existence on Earth.

Personally, I am inclined to wonder if the way we need – the hope, the dream, we need – is that of setting forth to colonize our Moon, then Mars, and then the worlds beyond our Solar System, guided by a prime directive.

David Myatt
2013

This is an extract from a written reply, in September 2013, to a personal correspondent. It has been slightly revised for publication, with some footnotes added, post scriptum, in an effort to elucidate some parts of the text.

Notes

[1] Many people have a view about ‘climate change’ – for or against – for a variety of reasons. My own view is that the scientific evidence available at the moment seems to indicate that there is a change resulting from human activity and that this change could possibility be detrimental, in certain ways, to us and to the other life with which we share this planet. The expressions ‘seems to indicate’ and ‘could possibly be’ are necessary given that this view of mine might need to be, and should be, reassessed if and when new evidence or facts become available.

Also, there remains the possibility that some or even most of this climate change may be caused, or has in the past been caused, by extra-terrestrial factors we currently do not fully understand, such as the natural movement, the journey, of our solar system through the spiral arms of our galaxy [qv, for instance, Filipović, Horner, Crawford, Tothill. Mass Extinction And The Structure Of The Milky Way, Serbian Astronomical Journal. September 2013].

[2] The maximum ever allocated to NASA was 4%, during the Apollo programme. For recent figures, qv. ‘Fiscal Year 2014 Budget of the U.S. Government’ available at whitehouse dot gov


Part One is this text available to read here – https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/musings-on-suffering-human-nature-and-the-culture-of-pathei-mathos


Image credit: NASA/JPL/CalTech – Messier 104


Earth - Apollo 17 (NASA)
Musings On Suffering, Human Nature,
and The Culture of Pathei-Mathos
(Part One)

In respect of the question whether I am optimistic about our future as a species, I vacillate between optimism and pessimism, knowing as I – as so many – do from experience that the world contains people who do good things [1], people who do bad things, and people who when influenced or led or swayed by some-thing or someone can veer either way; and given that it seems as if in each generation there are those – many – who have not learned or who cannot learn from the pathei-mathos of previous generations, from the collective human πάθει μάθος – a culture of pathei-mathos thousands of years old – which reveals to us the beauty, the numinosity, of personal love, humility, and compassion, and the tragic lamentable unnecessary suffering caused by hubris, dishonour, selfishness, inconsiderance, intolerance, prejudice, hatred, war, extremism, and ideologies [2]. A world-wide suffering so evident, today, for example in the treatment of and the violence (by men) toward women; in the continuing armed conflicts – regional and local, over some-thing – that displace tens of thousands of people and cause destruction, injury, and hundreds of thousands of deaths; and in the killing of innocent people [3] by those who adhere to a harsh interpretation of some religion or some political ideology.

Do good people, world-wide, outweigh bad ones? My experiences and travels incline me to believe they do, although it seems as if the damage the bad ones do, the suffering they cause, sometimes and for a while outweighs the good that others do. But does the good done, in societies world-wide, now outweigh the bad done, especially such large-scale suffering as is caused by despots, corruption, armed conflict, and repressive regimes? Probably, at least in some societies. And yet even in such societies where, for example, education is widespread, there always seem to be selfish, dishonourable, inconsiderate, people; and also people such as the extremist I was with my hubriatic certitude-of-knowing inciting or causing hatred and violence and intolerance and glorifying war and kampf and trying to justify killing in the name of some abstraction or some belief or some cause or some ideology. People mostly, it seems, immune to and/or intolerant of the learning of the culture of pathei-mathos; a learning available to us in literature, music, Art, memoirs, in the aural and written recollections of those who endured or who witnessed hatred, violence, intolerance, conflict, war, and killing, and a learning also available in the spiritual message of those who taught humility, goodness, love, and tolerance. Immune or intolerant people who apparently can only change – or who could only possibly change for the better – only when they themselves are afflicted by such vicissitudes, such personal misfortune and suffering, as is the genesis of their own pathei-mathos.

Thus, and for example, in Europe there is a specific pathei-mathos that the years before the Second World War, and especially that war, wrought. A collective learning regarding intolerance, persecution, repression, hatred, injustice; a collective learning regarding the mass and the deliberate slaughter of people on account of their perceived or believed difference; and a learning, by a new generation, of the destruction, the suffering, the brutality, the horror, of a war where wrakeful machines and mass manufactured weapons played a significant role. Yet this specific pathei-mathos, containing the traumatic experiences of millions of people and forming as it now does an important part of the culture of pathei-mathos, has not prevented a resurgence in Europe of intolerance, prejudice, and a hatred based on perceived or believed difference; as witness my own doleful and suffering-causing decades of supporting and propagating the intolerance, the prejudice, the hatred, the violence, implicit in National-Socialism, and as witness the tens of thousands of others – perhaps the hundreds of thousands – in Europe who now support political organizations and movements which, while they are not overtly or even covertly National-Socialist, nevertheless seem to me to represent and propagate and encourage intolerance, and prejudice, and often the same type of hatred based on a perceived or a believed difference, be this difference a perceived ethnicity or a ‘foreign religion’ or a ‘foreign culture’ or a love for someone of the same gender. For it really seems as if the founders, the members, and the supporters, of such organizations and movements are, as I was for decades, immune to and/or intolerant of the learning that the culture of pathei-mathos makes accessible.

All this, while sad, is perhaps the result of our basic human nature; for we are jumelle, and not only because we are “deathful of body yet deathless the inner mortal” [4] but also because it seems to me that what is good and bad resides in us all [5], nascent or alive or as part of our personal past, and that it is just so easy, so tempting, so enjoyable, sometimes, to indulge in, to do, what is bad, and often harder for us to do what is right. Furthermore, we do seem to have a tendency – or perhaps a need – to ascribe what is bad to being ‘out there’, in something abstract or in others while neglecting or not perceiving our own faults and mistakes and while asserting or believing that we, and those similar to us or who we are in agreement with, are right and thus have the ‘correct’, the righteous, answers. Thus it is often easier to find what is bad ‘out there’ rather than within ourselves; easier to hate than to love, especially as a hatred of impersonal others sometimes affords us a reassuring sense of identity and a sense of being ‘better’ than those others.

Will it therefore require another thousand, or two thousand, or three thousand years – or more or less millennia – before we human beings en masse, world-wide, are empathic, tolerant, kind, and honourable? Is such a basic change in our nature even possible? Certainly there are some – and not only ideologues of one kind or another – who would argue and who have argued that such a change is not desirable. And is such a change in our nature contingent, as I incline to believe, upon the fair allocation of world resources and solving problems such as hunger and poverty and preventing preventable diseases? Furthermore, how can or could or should such a basic change be brought about – through an organized religion or religions, or through individual governments and their laws and their social and political and economic and educational policies, or through a collocation of governments, world-wide; or through individuals reforming themselves and personally educating others by means of, for example, the common culture of pathei-mathos which all humans share and which all human societies have contributed to for thousands of years? Which leads us on to questions regarding dogma, faith, and dissent; and to questions regarding government and compulsion and ‘crime and punishment’ and whether or not ‘the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’; and also to questions regarding the efficacy of the reforming, spiritual, personal way given that spiritual ways teaching love, tolerance, humility, and compassion – and virtuous as they are, and alleviating and preventing suffering as they surely have – have not after several thousand years effected such a change in humans en masse.

I have to admit that I have no definitive or satisfactory answers to all these, and similar, questions; although my own pathei-mathos – and my lamentable four-decade long experience as an extremist, an ideologue, and as a selfish opinionated inconsiderate person – incline me to prefer the reforming, spiritual, personal way since I feel that such an approach, involving as it does a personal study of, a personal transmission of, the culture of pathei-mathos – and a personal knowing and a living of the humility that the culture of pathei-mathos teaches – is a way that does not cause nor contribute to the suffering that still so blights this world. A personal preference for such a numinous way even though I am aware of three things: of my past propensity to be wrong and thus of the necessary fallible nature of my answers; of the limited nature and thus the long time-scale (of many millennia) that such a way implies; and that it is possible, albeit improbable except in Science Fiction, that good people of honourable intentions may some day find a non-suffering-causing way by which governments or society or perhaps some new form of governance may in some manner bring about that change, en masse, in our human nature required to evolve us into individuals of empathy, compassion, and honour, who thus have something akin to a ‘prime directive’ to guide them in their dealings with those who are different, in whatever way, from ourselves.

David Myatt
2013

This is an extract from a written reply, in September 2013, to a personal correspondent. It has been slightly revised for publication, with some footnotes added, post scriptum, in an effort to elucidate, for a wider audience, some parts of the text.

Notes

[1] I understand ‘the good’ as what alleviates or does not cause suffering; what is compassionate; what is honourable; what is reasoned and balanced. Honour being here, and elsewhere in my recent writings, understood as the instinct for and an adherence to what is fair, dignified, and valourous.

[2] I have expanded, a little, on what I mean by ‘the culture of pathei-mathos’ in my tract Questions of Good, Evil, Honour, and God.

[3] As defined by my ‘philosophy of pathei-mathos’, I understand innocence as “an attribute of those who, being personally unknown to us, are therefore unjudged us by and who thus are given the benefit of the doubt. For this presumption of innocence of others – until direct personal experience, and individual and empathic knowing of them, prove otherwise – is the fair, the reasoned, the numinous, the human, thing to do. Empathy and πάθει μάθος incline us toward treating other human beings as we ourselves would wish to be treated; that is they incline us toward fairness, toward self-restraint, toward being well-mannered, and toward an appreciation and understanding of innocence.”

[4] Pœmandres (Corpus Hermeticum), 15 – διὰ τοῦτο παρὰ πάντα τὰ ἐπὶ γῆς ζῷα διπλοῦς ἐστιν ὁ ἄνθρωπος

As I noted in my translation of and commentary on the Pœmandres tract, “Jumelle. For διπλοῦς. The much underused and descriptive English word jumelle – from the Latin gemellus – describes some-thing made in, or composed of, two parts, and is therefore most suitable here, more so than common words such as ‘double’ or twofold.”

[5] qv. Sophocles, Antigone, v.334, vv.365-366

πολλὰ τὰ δεινὰ κοὐδὲν ἀνθρώπου δεινότερον πέλει…
σοφόν τι τὸ μηχανόεν τέχνας ὑπὲρ ἐλπίδ᾽ ἔχων
τοτὲ μὲν κακόν, ἄλλοτ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἐσθλὸν ἕρπει

There exists much that is strange, yet nothing
Has more strangeness than a human being…
Beyond his own hopes, his cunning
In inventive arts – he who arrives
Now with dishonour, then with chivalry


Part Two is this text available to read here – https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/suffering-human-nature-and-the-culture-of-pathei-mathos-part-two/


Image credit: NASA, Earth from Apollo 17


A pdf version (c.327 kB) of this text is available here – dwm-fifty-years-peregrinations.pdf

Botticelli - Madonna del Magnificat
Fifty Years Of Diverse Peregrinations

In fifty years of diverse peregrinations – which included forty years of practical involvement with various religions and spiritual ways, practical involvement with extremisms both political and religious, and some seven years of intense interior reflexion occasioned by a personal tragedy – I have come to appreciate and to admire what the various religions and the diverse spiritual ways have given to us over some three thousand years.

Thus have I sensed that our world is, and has been, a better place because of them and that we, as a sentient species, are en masse better because of them. Thus it is that I personally – even though I have developed my own non-religious weltanschauung – have a great respect for religions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism; for spiritual ways such as Buddhism, Taoism; for older paganisms such as (i) θεοί and Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες, and (ii) άγνωστος θεός [1], and for the slowly evolving more recent paganisms evident for instance in a spiritual concern for the welfare of our planet and for the suffering we have for so long inflicted on other humans and on the other life with which we share this planet.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, I disagree with those who, often intemperate in words or deeds – or both – disrespectfully fail to appreciate such religions and spiritual ways and the treasure, the culture, the pathei-mathos, that they offer, concentrating as such intemperate people so often do on what they perceive to be or feel to be are the flaws, the mistakes, of such religions and such spiritual ways while so often ignoring (as such people tend to do) their own personal flaws, their own mistakes, as well as the reality that it is we humans beings – with our ὕβρις, with our lack of humility, our lack of appreciation for the numinous, and with our intolerance and our often arrogant and harsh interpretations of such religions – who have been the cause and who continue to be the cause of such suffering as has blighted and as still blights this world.

As Heraclitus mentioned over two thousand years ago:

ὕβριν χρὴ σβεννύναι μᾶλλον ἢ πυρκαϊὴν[2]

Better to deal with your hubris before you confront that fire

As recounted of Jesus of Nazareth over two thousand years ago:

ὡς  δὲ  ἐπέμενον  ἐρωτῶντες  αὐτόν,  ἀνέκυψεν  καὶ  εἶπεν  αὐτοῖς·  ὁ  ἀναμάρτητος  ὑμῶν  πρῶτος  ἐπ’  αὐτὴν  βαλέτω  λίθον. [3]

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.

One of the greatest gifts such religions and spiritual ways offer seems to me to be the gift of humility: the insight that we human beings are fallible and transient, and that there is some-thing ‘out there’ which is numinous, sacred, more vast and more powerful than us whether we call this some-thing God, or Allah, or θεοί or Nature, or δίκη or Wyrd, or Karma or ψυχή or simply the acausal. The insight that to disregard this some-thing, to disrespect what-is numinous, is unwise – ὕβρις – and perpetuates suffering or is the genesis of new suffering and which new suffering may well continue long after we, who brought it into being and who gave it life, are dead.

This insight of humility is evident, for instance and for me, in the sacred music of the Christian church; from the simplicity – the numinous purity – of plainchant to the polyphony of Byrd, Palestrina, and Vittoria to the counterpoint of JS Bach. For I find in this music an expression both of κάλος and of the numinous mysterium that is at the heart of Christianity, manifest as this mysterium is, for Christianity, in the allegory of the life, the betrayal, the crucifixion, of Jesus of Nazareth and by a belief in redemption through both love and suffering. And this is essentially the same, albeit unallegorical and often wordless, numinous mysterium which we personally feel or we know or our touched by through that sadness born of our own pathei-mathos; by our acknowledgement of our mistakes, by our personal experience of suffering and grief, and by our heartfelt longing for, our hope for, the beautiful, for the redemption of innocence, for peace and love, manifest for example not only in the Christian allegory of Heaven, in the Muslim Jannah, in the Jewish Shamayim, but also in a very personal often private longing and hope for a better world and which longing and hope we so tearfully know is so often broken or forgotten or thrust aside by both our egoistical self and by other human beings: because of their, because of our, weakness, our failure to be the person we feel or we know we might be or perhaps could have been, born as such knowing and such feelings so often are in the inner intimacy that follows a personal grief or being a witness to or an accomplice in some act or acts of harshness and suffering.

This inner intimacy with the stark reality of our own being and with the world of suffering is what has caused so many people over thousands of years to try and not only reform themselves but also to try, in whatever way, to alleviate or try to alleviate some of the suffering of others, an effort and a reform so often aided by religion [4] and thus a tribute to those positive qualities, those personal virtues, which religions have so often revealed or reminded us of. Which is why – as I mentioned recently to another correspondent [5] – I incline toward the view that on balance the good that religions such as Christianity have done over millennia outweighs the suffering that has been caused by those who adhered to or who believed in some harsh interpretation of that religion.

There has thus developed within me these past seven years an understanding of my past hubris, my past multitudinous mistakes, and of how a lack of humility on my part – my extremism, my certainty of knowing about myself, my certainty of knowing about some cause or ideology or harsh interpretation of some religion I accepted and adhered to – was probably one of the most significant factors in that hubris and those suffering-causing mistakes. Which personal understanding, together with a decades-long experience of others such as I, led me to hypothesize that one of the fundamental causes of extremism is a masculous certainty of knowing and that, therefore, religions and spiritual ways are and can be – when not interpreted in a harsh, hubriatic, way but rather via that personal humility and that appreciation of the numinous I believe are intrinsic to them – affective and effective answers to such extremism and to the harm that extremists cause.

In essence, therefore, my philosophy of pathei-mathos – my much revised ‘numinous way’ – is my own spiritual answer, born of fifty years of diverse peregrinations; my personal answer and response to the certitude of knowing, the harshness, that all extremisms (political, religious, and social) manifest, as well as also – perhaps, hopefully – being (as a spiritual way) in some small manner, and now sans a personal belief in judicium divinum, some expiation for all the suffering that I over decades caused or contributed to.

The numinous, the beautiful – the divine – remain, to remind us. As someone so beautifully expressed it:

Wer, wenn ich schrie, hörte mich denn aus der Engel
Ordnungen? und gesetzt selbst, es nähme
einer mich plötzlich ans Herz: ich verginge von seinem
stärkeren Dasein. Denn das Schöne ist nichts
als des Schrecklichen Anfang, den wir noch grade ertragen,
und wir bewundern es so, weil es gelassen verschmäht,
uns zu zerstören. Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich. [6]

 

David Myatt
2012

 

Notes

[1] qv. Pausanius. Ἑλλάδος περιήγησις 1.1.4 –

ἐνταῦθα καὶ Σκιράδος Ἀθηνᾶς ναός ἐστι καὶ Διὸς ἀπωτέρω, βωμοὶ δὲ θεῶν τε ὀνομαζομένων Ἀγνώστων καὶ ἡρώων καὶ παίδων τῶν Θησέως καὶ Φαληροῦ

Also here is a shrine [ ναός ] to Athena Skirados and, further afield, one to Zeus, and others to [the] un-named unknown gods, to the heroes, as well as to those children of Theseus and Phalerus

[2] Fragment 43

[3] John, 8.7

[4] For example, I well remember, decades ago, in the first month or so of my training to be a nurse doing some research into the history of nursing as preparation for my turn in giving a talk and presentation to our class as part of our nursing course; and finding just how entwined religion and the origins of organized nursing were, from the fourth century (CE) Roman lady Fabiola to the monastic infirmaries of medieval Europe to the al-Nuri al-Kabir bimaristan in Damascus [qv. Ahmad Isa: Tarikh al-Bimaristanat fi al-Islam [History of Hospitals in Islam]. Damascus, 1939] to the Hospitallers of St John to Florence Nightingale and beyond.

I also remember the hundreds of people met over some forty years whose faith inspired or aided them to endeavour, in social or political or legal or personal ways, to alleviate some of the suffering of others, and who each, in their own way – and whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, or Buddhist – helped make a positive difference.

[5] qv. Just My Fallible Views, Again – Replies to Some Enquiries. 2012

[6] Rilke, Die erste Duineser Elegie

Who, were I to sigh aloud, of those angelic beings might hear me?
And even if one of them deigned to take me to his heart I would dissolve
Into his very existence.
For beauty is nothing if not the genesis of that numen
Which we can only just survive
And which we so admire because it can so calmly disdain to betake us.
Every angel is numinous

A note on my interpretation

wenn ich schrie. ‘Were I to sigh aloud’ is far more poetically expressive, and more in tune with the metaphysical tone of the poem and the stress on schrie, than the simple, bland, ‘if I cried out’. A sighing aloud – not a shout or a scream – of the sometimes involuntary kind sometimes experienced by those engaged in contemplative prayer or in deep, personal, metaphysical musings.

der Engel Ordnungen. The poetic emphasis is on Engel, and the usual translation here of ‘orders’ – or something equally abstract and harsh (such as hierarchies) – does not in my view express the poetic beauty (and the almost supernatural sense of strangeness) of the original; hence my suggestion ‘angelic beings’ – of such a species of beings, so different from we mortals, who by virtue of their numinosity have the ability to both awe us and overpower us.

°°°

The above text is an extract from a letter, sent in 2012, to a personal correspondent (the translations, and the poetic interpretation of a poetic text, are mine)


Image credit: Botticelli – Madonna del Magnificat


STS107-columbia-2003-atlantic-earth-moon

One Slow and Painful Learning

Note: The following extracts are from letters, dated 2003-2007, and 2012, addressed to a friend then living in Oxford.

°°°


1. 

So many brown butterflies: I have not seen so many in such a small area before. Twenty, thirty – I gave up counting as they fed on the newly opened and newly opening purple flowers of the patch of thistles at this fields’ edge, a meadow field of tall grasses, five or more in variety, whose two often wet small depressions are dry after the heat of this June, distinguished as those wet areas now are only by the different, courser, greener, grass flourishing there.

As I walked to this drying pond – trying to follow the Fox and Deer paths of trodden grass – with each step insects, disturbed, flew away. It is too hot to sit other than in the shade, so I squat down on the warm grass underneath the old leaning Willow tree as small well-spaced Cumulus clouds drift, quite slowly, below sky-blue, never seeming to break the flow of hot sunlight. Spiders, green, brown, black but mostly small, pass often itchingly over my arms, hands, while I wait amid the breezeless silence of this field whose old hedges are replete with spreading, tall, trees of Ash and Oak. There, down amid the forest of grass stalks, green, alien, insects – antennae twitching – climb, up, down, to no purpose I, their giant, know. Even the birds seem strangely quiet in this heat.

I wait, covered in seeds from grass, and there is sadness – a memory of a recent love, now lost; a memory of nights alone: of that last argument, with so many things still needing to be said so that I might redeem my mistakes of the past. But she – having weeks ago severed our connexion – will listen no more. And yet, here, I sense and know my smallness, aware as I am of things beyond my own limited life – beyond my personal feelings, dreams, hope of finding someone, of living happy in harmony, of dwelling together as our lives flow in closeness toward their natural end. For there is a horizon beyond the desire, the need, for the shared warmth of personal love – a horizon beginning here where, under Sun, small field meets vast sky to form but one beginning of one presencing, and where life flows, century upon century, upon, below, above the gift of this now increasingly wounded land.

I was wrong; not restrained enough. Too emotive in my love. I have no excuses, having unintentionally hurt through my persistence of love, my naive hope, a person whom I loved. Thus do I know I am not as enlightened as I wanted and want to believe. My love was a gift, created from the years of sadness, and yet its rejection can be, should be, the strange genesis of growth. Thus does the slow, painful, learning of this man – dwarfed by tree, sky, centuries, Sun – flow on. To where? Yet I am fortunate, to be here, in such a beautiful land, under a hot Sun which pleases and begins, even if so slowly, to heal one wound.

Nearby, in its forest of stalks, the small brown spider, web-waiting, brings to one end one life.

June 2003

2.

There is a lovely, simple, pleasure here in this field. Spring is most certainly here – in the meadow fields, seedlings of the late Spring flowers push up through the tufts of grass whose frost-bitten ends are joined by shoots of new growth. Already some  flowers bloom in the grass: there, a Dandelion; there: almost two circles of Daisies. And, to compliment the calls and songs of other birds, the loud repeating call of the Parus major.

It is good to be here, with an unobstructed view of the sky, and I watch the clouds, borne as they are on a still cool breeze that begins to chill my hands, a little. But there is Sun, warm, when the altocumulus breaks. On the horizon in the North, beyond the tall old Oak, small Cumulus clouds drift toward the hills, ten miles distant. Thus am I again – for these moments – at peace with myself, this world, listening as I do to a large flock of Starlings who chatter among themselves in the trees across from the drainage ditch, there by the copse of Ash, Oak, and a few young Beech.

It has been a long journey, to reach here – sitting peaceful in a field, aware of the life that lives around me and of which I am but one small, causal, mortal part. A journey through many lands, cultures and faiths; through deserts, over hills and mountains; across seas and lakes; along rivers and many, many paths. A long journey which I do not even now know if it has ended, or even if all of me desires it to end. For yes there is peace, stillness, here, and I am briefly one, sitting, standing, leaning, and balanced between land, clouds and sky, knowing the sadness that kept me plodding on often against what seemed my own will. A sadness born of mistakes; of seeing, experiencing, causing, suffering, breaking down as that suffering did my own arrogance until the half-remembered often suppressed empathic truths came forcibly back, unable to be forgotten or covered-up again. No lies to save me.

Work, yes there must be work: toil enough to keep that balance. And work with these my hands, outdoors where lives the silence that I love as I feel the weather, changing, bringing thus an empathic living for me, in me, and for this life that lives around, emanating as it does in this grass, those trees, the clouds, the soil, the water, those flowers, the very sky itself.

But I fear for this world I have found – for fields such as this with their sights and sounds brought by their smallness bounded only by hedge and tree. For there is noise, around, encroaching; human-made, machine, noise; there is development, around, encroaching, destroying the life that is this life, this being, this living and this peace. And there is thus even more sadness, within me, because of such things.

So far – to find so little so great in its living. So far – to find so much being destroyed.

March 2004

3.

A time to reflect as I – tired from long days of manual work – sit in the garden watching the clouds clear to bring some warm Sun on this windy day of a coldish wind. On the horizon to the South: Cumulus clouds billowing up to herald more showers, and I, for a moment as a child again, watch a few cloud-faces change to disperse; as if the clouds are for that moment, just that one moment, a memory of a person who lived, once, on this Earth: reaching out to be remembered as they the cloud move as they are moved in their so-brief and new existence. The hedgerows are greening; the branches of trees coming into leaf, and life is renewed while I wait for the Swallows to return, here, to this Farm.

This is Life: in its purest truth devoid of the empathy-destroying, suffering-causing, abstractions that we humans have manufactured to blight this planet and so grievously injure our fecund still beautiful but now suffering Mother Earth who gives us, and who gave us, life. The brief warm Sun renews as it almost always does for me, and so – for this moment, this one moment – I am happy, again; feeling the measure of Meaning, of happiness, of joy itself; which is in a simple just-being, sans abstractions, sans thought, and beyond the dependency of, the addiction to, anger….. Here – the child, again; free to watch the bee bumble from flower to flower; free to feel a certain playful awe. Here, the concern with only what is seen, touched, known, smelt, in the immediacy of dwelling. There should be nothing more; nothing to wreck such simple being; nothing to bring the-suffering. But I, we, are stupid, weak, vain, addicted – and so in our failing repeat and repeat and repeat the same mistakes, and so cause and maintain the pain of our, of their, of other, suffering. Mea Culpa; Mea Culpa; Mea Maxima Culpa…

April 11th 2007

4.

A wonderfully warm and sunny day with no clouds to cover the joy-bringing sky-blue. The Sun was warm even as it ascended, early, while I cycled rural lanes almost totally devoid of traffic because of being Sunday, and early. So pleasing, this simple joy of an English morning in late late Summer when I – tired from hours of work yesterday – leant against a fence to just-be in each slowly passing moment. Such peace, as if the measure of life was at last not only known but felt, lived, loved, when no human-made noise intrudes and one feels the strength, the giving, of the Sun; feels the growing that is in the fields, trees, bush, hedge, as if they are all – as they are – connected, parts of one living, growing, presence; one living-being, breathing… So much, so much so simply known and felt as warmth and the natural silence brings a sleepy calm and there is the brief-sleep of lying in warming welcoming grass before one awakes to feel all living-life knowing thus human-caused suffering for the blight, the stupidity, that it is.

To be, to let-be, to leave-alone is it seems an answer – and so I am slowly, so slowly, returned to my dwelling where now, three hours later, I sit on the grass in the garden feeling knowing my weakness of months years decades past. So I am haunted, here and again, where again the Swallows gather as they gather at this time of year: chirping to each other and preparing in some weeks to leave. Thus do they skim the fields, catching, eating, their food as the cycle of natural life upwardly repeats and a cooling breeze dims a little of the humid heat of the day, here in a greening part of a still-living England. Haunted, here and again – amid such joyful growing warmth – with, by, because of, her death; with by, because of, the multiplicity of my multitudes of suffering-causing and so stupid mistakes…

3rd of August 2006

5.

 

Yesterday I sat by the narrow shallow stream five fields to the north of this farmhouse and saw there – for the first time – a newt, among the small fish, the Waterboatmen, the diving beetles, and the other stream life. This was where, some years earlier, I had sat for nearly an hour – pleased then with myself and my world of abstractions – until startled by a Stoat who seemed to effortlessly egress from the opposite hedge to so quickly swim or somehow cross the stream to so swiftly regain the cover of one more living growing nearby hedge.

No breeze, yesterday – only the warm warm air of late Spring as the Sun became filtered through high Cirrus cloud. No one – no humans – anywhere I could hear, see, smell; no sounds from machines.

So, life seemed, there, then, as it should be – as flies made the noise flies make as they fly free in warmth; as the birds in bush, hedge, tree, sang as they sing in the days of a late English Spring. This is how life is – how it should be, as it can be, for us; but we have lost the slow silence of rurally dwelling slowly peaceful connected by empathy; as I lost this connexion by the so many stupid years of my immoral striving for abstractions… There, yesterday, there lived again for me that connexion by such sitting amid such silence in such a warming Sun: brought perhaps, at the cost of Fran’s, and other people’s, life.

April 2007

6.

Why am I here? Why am I – I who over decades has caused so much suffering – still alive while they, as she my beloved Sue, who having harmed no one, are dead having been taken from us years, decades, too early; far too early. This, surely, is not fair…

But if there is some answer, some answers, I have been unable to find one, or any. So it is that I am still perplexed, fumbling about; prone to tears, in remembrance. Prone to music as if I may find some solace there. Prone to standing on windswept hills while stars brighten that dark sky above and crying, crying with that unvoiced almost desperate cry to those, any, out-there – above – who might in some way so deign to reply. Only and again to be alone – left alone, bereft – because it seems so unable to believe in that which He or She or they presume to provide me and us with some revelatory answers. Too arrogant still, perhaps, to accept what so many others so seem to have accepted century following century in answer to their, our, plaintive cries of sadness, pain, and grief.

Thus it is that there exists the slow walk back down to where this other world begins. And I, I a stranger, there. Too replete with memories, with feeling, guilt, remorse, to still laugh as they laugh; an alien treading the boards in some theatre where plays some play about the denizens of a planet its mortal inhabitants called Earth.

Thus it is that there is only the Time – the hope – of so living in some small way so as to not, ever again, cause such suffering however slight. To be that balance felt, within, when by Spring-warmed-Sun, the body freely breathed there where cityscape gave way to sea and one saw as if for the first time, again, those white billowing clouds that seemed to stretch to that horizon, beyond; filled as one was – came to be – with that sense of being only one wave only one wave on that ocean, below; travelling travelling from whence to where to be, become, only something – only some-thing – breaking once only – once only – upon some far distant shore, no one around to hear the sound as that wave there sighed, in ending.

No knots of presumption, no Thought; no barrier of pride. Only that living of moment to moment, when all that is is only all-that-is, and the eyes, seeing, the ears, hearing, are not the barrier that once they were when we too young, inexperienced, to know – or too set in our far more maturing ways – could not, dare not, un-entangle the knots that kept us bound to our feelings or our presumptions about ourselves and this, those others and our Earth. For the I, the we so different, so had to preen, to display, to-be, to keep ourselves strong, happy, replete, alive: some sense of I, of life, of purpose, to so guide us forth to that our next longed for or so dreaded and then hopefully unremembered tomorrow. Until: until that love came to so doubt yet free us, as when one early Winter’s morn we ventured forth within the coldsome dark to fastly cycle on icy snow-covered roads impelled far beyond any notion of safety of self to hand-deliver that letter, that one letter, that declared our then so seemingly hopeless hope of love…

Now – now and only because – there are memories; memories warming; and yes that slight, so personal, wordless answer: that this is all that there is or ever shall be: we, they, those moments, and such love as binds us, bound us, inspired us to break this our presumed Earth-bound finitude of life.

David Myatt
2012
In loving memory of Sue, died 4th April 1993

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Image credit: NASA-STS107 (Columbia) – Moon over the Atlantic Ocean


Earth: NASA & JPL (Voyager 1)

Earth, a Cosmic speck among the indefinity

Blue Reflected Starlight

As it departed toward the vastness of interstellar space, the Voyager 1 interplanetary spacecraft in 1990(ce) transmitted an image of Earth from a distance of over four billion miles; the most distant image of Earth we human beings have ever seen. The Earth, our home, was a bluish dot; a mere Cosmic speck among the indefinity, visible only because of reflected starlight and – in the solar panorama imaged by Voyager on that February day – of no observed importance. One speck in one galaxy in a vast Cosmos of billions upon billions of galaxies, and one speck that would most probably appear, to a non-terran, less interesting than the rings of Saturn, just visible from such a distance.

Yet we human beings, en masse, continue to live in a manner which not only belies our Cosmic insignificance but which militates against the empathy, the humility, that such a Cosmic perspective can and does engender. Thus do we individually, as well as collectively, have pride in our lives, our deeds, our ‘accomplishments’, just as we continue to exploit not only other human beings but the Earth itself: and exploit for pleasure, or profit, or from some desire or because of some cause or some faith or some ideology or some ideation we believe in or support. Either believing or asserting, in our hubris, that we ‘know’ – that we ‘understand’ – what we are doing, or reckless of consequences because unable or unwilling to control our desires; unable or unwilling to control ourselves or our addiction to some cause or some faith or some ideology or some ideation.

Thus does the suffering we here inflict on other life – human and otherwise – continue. Thus does our human-wrought destruction continue, as if we are in thrall consciously or otherwise to the ideation that our planet, and its life including other humans, are some kind of ‘resource’, a means to supply our needs or a way to satiate our desires. So easy, so very easy, to injure, hate, and kill. So easy, so very easy, to satiate the desire to be in control. So very easy to place ourselves first; even easier to have our feelings, our desires, subsume, overcome, whatever consideration we might give, or previously had given, to others and to other life. So easy, so very easy, to make excuses – consciously or otherwise – to ourselves, and to others, for what we have done or what we are about to do; for always there is the excuse of self-interest or self-preservation, or the excuse of desires or some cause or some faith or some ideology or some ideation. So easy, so very easy, to spew forth words.

It is as if we terrans, en masse, have forgotten, keep forgetting, or have never discovered the wisdom that what involves too many words – and especially what involves or requires speeches, rhetoric, propaganda, dogma – is what obscures empathy and thus the numinosity that empathy reveals; the numinosity presented to us by the pathei-mathos of our human past; manifest to us – and living now – in the way of living of those whose personal pathei-mathos – whose personal experience of suffering, death, destruction, hate, violence, of too many killings – has forever changed them. The numinous revelation of kindness, of humility, of gentleness, of love, of compassion; of being able to restrain, control, ourselves; of being able to comprehend our small, insignificant, place in the indefinity of the Cosmos, bringing as this comprehension does an understanding of the importance, the numinosity, that is a shared and loyal love between two people: and revealing as this does the Cosmic unimportance of such wars and conflicts and such brutality as have blighted our terran history.

As I know from my outré experience of life – especially my forty years of extremism, hubris, and selfishness; my terms of imprisonment, my experience with gangs, with people of bad intentions and with those of good intentions – it really is as if we terran men have, en masse, learnt nothing from the past four or five thousand years. For the uncomfortable truth is that we, we men, are and have been the ones causing, needing, participating in, those wars and conflicts. We – not women – are the cause of most of the suffering, death, destruction, hate, violence, brutality, and killing, that has occurred and which is still occurring, thousand year upon thousand year; just as we are the ones who seek to be – or who often need to be – prideful and ‘in control’; and the ones who through greed or alleged need or because of some ideation have saught to exploit not only other human beings but the Earth itself. We are also masters of deception; of the lie. Cunning with our excuses, cunning in persuasion, and skilled at inciting hatred and violence. And yet we men have also shown ourselves to be, over thousands of years, valourous; capable of noble, selfless, deeds. Capable of doing what is fair and restraining ourselves from doing what is unethical. Capable of a great and a gentle love.

This paradoxy continues to perplex me. And I have no answers as to how we might change, reform, this paradoxical φύσις of ours, and so – perhaps – balance the suffering-causing masculous with the empathic muliebral and yet somehow in some way retain that which is the genesis of the valourous. And if we cannot do this, if we cannot somehow reform ourselves, can we terrans as a species survive, and do we deserve to?

Are we, we men here on this planet, capable of restraining and reforming ourselves, en masse, such that we allow ourselves, and are given, no excuses of whatever kind from whatever source for our thousand year upon thousand year of violence against women? Are we capable of such a reformation of our kind that such reprehensible violence against women by cowardly men becomes only historical fact?

Are we, here on this planet, capable of restraining and reforming ourselves, en masse, such that we allow ourselves no excuses of whatever kind from whatever source for wars, armed conflicts, brutality against perceived or stated ‘enemies’, and murderous intervention? Such a reformation of ourselves that wars, armed conflicts, such brutality, and such interventions, become only historical fact?

Or are we fated, under Sun, to squabble and bicker and hate and kill and destroy and exploit this planet and its life until we, a failed species, leave only dead detritic traces of our hubris?

Or will we, or some of us, betake ourselves away to colonize faraway non-terran places, taking with us our unreformed paradoxical φύσις to perchance again despoil, destroy, as some of our kind once betook themselves away to forever change parts of this speck of blue reflected starlight which gave us this fortunity of Life?

Yet again I admit I have no answers.

David Myatt
2012


The above text is part of a letter, sent in November 2012, to a personal correspondent in response to her reply to an earlier letter of mine, part of which earlier letter has been published under the title A Slowful Learning, Perhaps.

‘Blue Reflected Starlight’ is also included in the book Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos: Essays and Letters Regarding Spirituality, Humility, and A Learning From Grief (ISBN 978-1484097984).

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Addendum: Snippets of Etymological Joy

indefinity: var. indifinity. Unmeasurable; immeasurable; endlessness; of no known limit. [Derived from indefinite c.1600]

fortunity: a propitious occurrence or opportunity; happenstance. [Derived from French fortunité c.1450] Contrasted with infortunity.

masculous: certain traits, abilities, and qualities conventionally and historically associated with men. [Derived from Latin masculus c.1600]

muliebral: certain traits, abilities, and qualities conventionally and historically associated with women. [Derived from Latin muliebris c. 1650]

numinous: spiritual; sacred; divine; beautiful. [Derived from Latin numen c. 1650]

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Image credit: NASA & JPL (Voyager 1)