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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



Attic Red Figure Vase c. 480 BCE, depicting Athena, in Antikensammlungen, Munich, Germany

(pdf 101 kB)

earth_moon-voyager3

Four Emanations
Rescriptions of Love, Sadness, Joy, and Hope, from David Myatt
   
1. This Only This

In the garden, heard through the large open window, the birds having sensed the onset of Spring sing as they sing at this most glorious time of year. And I, I overwhelmed again by the sadness emanating even here from my knowing of the suffering-causing personal deeds of my past. So many, so many I had not thought to count so many – until now. So many how could I while buoyed by hubris have hurt that many? So much deception, so many lies, while they – the friends, family, wives, lovers – trusted with that goodness born of heavenly-human hope.

No prayers, no supplication, to wash away, remove, the manifold stains. If only, if only I (as once, those several times) believed, so that penance, absolution – embraced – might bring the chance to dream, to-be, to see, to love again. But no apologies possible nor by they desired, for they are gone – deceased, or lost those many years ago; no words sufficient, of meaning, to redeem a memory of such a scarring pain.

No mechanism, manufactured, to return before the time of such hurtful hurting with such knowing as so bends me now, down, down and kneeling sans any means of prayer. Only emotion falling, fallen, keeping such memories as some music makes numinously plaintive the joy the pain, century folding folded to century while they the multitudinous I’s made the good the trusting suffer. No past of expiations. No Spring of goodness to burgeon forth to herald they through pathei-mathos changed.

Which is why, perhaps, so many still need desire – to trust in – God. For there is this only this: to write to rest to sleep to dream to cease to feel. And the world will still be there when I am gone.

March 2012

°°°°°

2. This Flow of Feelings

The truth is that I am not able to contain, restrain, the sorrow, the sadness felt through this knowing of my multitudinous mistakes. Unable: and so I am become, am now, only a flowing of moments remembered with such a ferocity of engagement that I am there, reborn, again:

There… to smell, to feel, the sultry freshness of warm Spring morning when off I cycled to work some twelve miles distant and she, first wife, was left to cry in loneliness, alone: no ending to that argument the dark night before as I in selfish concentration enjoyed the greening grass of vergeful country lanes, the birdful treeful songs, passing as they passed while the clouds above that brought the heavy warming rain depart. So glad then to be alone again among and cycling such peaceful Shropshire lanes…

Only now – only now – knowing feeling how I should have returned to clasp her in my arms and be the love she then so needed. To late this seeing far beyond such selfish self as kept me then so blind.

The truth of there, again:

There… where the warmth of English Summer took to us seat ourselves in picnic beside the river Avon flowing as it flowed through rural counties. You – new wife, for our family living; while I – for ideations that I carried in the silly headpiece of my head, so that I with misplaced stupid passion could only talk of strife, somewhere. You, breathing hope as the very breeze breathed such warmth as kept us slim of clothes…

And only now – only now – knowing feeling how I should have embraced you there to return in sameness the gentle love so freely given for years until my selfish self so self-absorbed rightly broke your patience down. Far too late now my seeing far beyond such selfish self as kept me then so subsumed with ideations.

The truth I am reborn there, again:

There… where Fran stood beside her whiteful door as morning broke that late Spring day when I with firm resolve turned to take myself away: no doubt, no love, to still such hurt as walked me then. No empathy from sadful eyes to turn me back to try to try to try in love again. Instead – only such selfish hope as moved me far to meadow fields of farm where warm Sun kept me still, and smiling, while she remained bereft abandoned to lay herself down until her breath of life left her: no hand, no love, of mine to save her there where she died silent, slow, in loneliness alone…

Only now – only now – knowing feeling so intensely how I should have stayed: love before all excuses.

Thus, such a flow of such demeaning memories as make my present no presentiment of so many pasts: so much unforgivable, unliveable now – that I become my tears of failing to hope to sleep to dream to still this flow of feelings.

But there is no present – only moments with which to mesmerise myself, as when the Blackbird beyond this window sings and I am there, there again on meadow-fields of farm where work and living kept me safe, secluded, for five full years and more. Such peace, such hope, until death of Fran came to claim me for the failure that made me who and what I was and am.

For the truth is of failure; my failure of so many years and decades past. To fail to simply love to dream to hope as they my loves so loved in dreamful hope as kept them made them far better beings than I in insolent pride ever was or even now could ever hope or dream to be. No faith, no deity, no sacrament of absolution now to charm away, explain, redeem such a feckless selfish failure. Only more remorseful days – and darkful nights – alone that bear some winsome hope of words as this in weaksome recompense for wreakful storm I was upon those lives when I, dark tempest, tore their fragile human hopes asunder.

To die, here now, is easy: one example from far too many, with nothing here for needful Pride to gorge myself upon, again. Only such a flow of such demeaning memories as make my present no excuse for the stupid arrogance of such a prideful past. Only a hope for this example to void for one – some others – such ideation as kept and made me slave; one unreligious allegory for perchance not so many. Since

If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same

I am no exception. So, perhaps, five thousand years remain before our species – whimpering after such bouleversements as still befits us now – fails, to fall, to perish, to be replaced: unless we change. But how?

The truth is, I have no answers. I only live other than I have lived, in empyrean hope of abatement of suffering, somewhere, somehow: and knowing a shared, loyal, love for the beautiful, the numinous, truth it is.

March 2011

°°°°°
3. A Time To Reflect

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 2007

°°°°°
4. Bright Berries, One Winter

Botticelli - Madonna del Magnificat

Bright Berries, One Winter

Winter, three days before that celebration that marks a certain birth.

Et hoc vobis signum: Inveniétis infántem pannis involútum, et pósitum in præsépio.

Et súbito facta est cum Angelo multitúdo milítiæ cæléstis, laudántium Deum, et dicéntium:

Glória in altíssimis Deo, et in terra pax homíinibus bonæ voluntátis.

Outside, snow, and a cold wind below a clouded sky – and, there, that partly snow-covered bush of bright berries which hungry Thrushes eat to perhaps keep themselves alive. So many Thrushes, in one place: nine, eleven, gathering on the bare if snowy branches of a nearby taller tree, to descend down to feed, three, five, four, at a time.

Inside, musick – reproduced by some modern means. Musick over five centuries old, bringing such a strange melding of feeling, dreams, memory, and thought. Musick, by Dunstable – Preco preheminencie, perhaps one of the most beautiful pieces ever written, bringing thus deep personal feelings.

Now, I cannot seem to help the tears that seep slowly forth (again) from closing eyes, as – far beyond such bounds as causal Time keeps us moving – I am replete, overflowed by memories from such lifeful strange lives as have lived me, here:

… there, as she my Sue lay so softly breathing in her bed, my hand to her hand, to watch her sleep to seep hour-long-slowly there past the ending of her life…

There, as another love from another life that lived me ran, freshly seeping forth from train, along that crowded platform to leap to welcoming arms while people stared, some smiling, and the warmth of bodies touching announced the ending of our exile, of that month of her travelling…

There, one monk – with such profusion of faith as so infused me then – who knelt, kneels, after Compline in that lovely Chapel before carved centuries-old statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, feeling such peace as led me back in such respectful reposeful silence to that my cell to sleep dreamless, content…

Before other lives came to so sadly betake that boyish man away, back to his addiction to such suffering-causing abstractions as would, decades, later, almost break him as she – my Frances of eighteen months together – so then suffused with such tragic fullsome sadness-regret-despair that her slim delicate fingers, no longer to tenderly warmly touch her lover’s face, became transformed: a means to betake her, alone lonely, past the ending of her life after I had so selfishly left her that one MayMorn…

So many tears, each some memory seeping sadly joyfully poignantly forth even as so many wait, waiting, ready to heave forth; dormant, seeds needing to bring hence new life as each new Spring becomes some youthful ageing deedful wordful presencing of this one life which is my life until such Time as this emanation also passes beyond that fated Ending who lies in wait to take us all.

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 – 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.

No need, no Time – before this one weakful emanation ends, in ending – to berate, condemn, such love, need and faith as may betake so many in just three days to celebrate such birth as touched, touches, them, and others still. So much good, gentleness, there, and from; and so much suffering, caused, while the centuries past, leeching, meshed one suffering to another.

Does the numinous, presencing, there, now outweigh such suffering, caused – as I, my past, might must outweigh what wordful presents Fate begifts me, now?

I do not know: only see the emanations, nexing, melding: a bush of berries to keep life alive through Winter. Our choice, our need – here, now; as the Thrushes there have no choice, now, as mid-Winter came to bleaken with snowy cold that world that is their world.

For it is for us, surely, to treasure such gifts, given – to feel then be the gift, given.

22 December 2010


cc David Myatt 2007-2012
  This text is issued under the Creative Commons
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and can be freely copied and distributed, according to the terms of that license.

Image Credits:
NASA – Earth and Moon as seen from the departing Voyager interplanetary spacecraft
Botticelli – Madonna del Magnificat


madina5

Toward A Balanced View Of Islam and The West

The ‘save our civilization from Islamification’ – and ‘no surrender to Shariah’ – brigade often proudly speak and write about the societies of the West in glowing terms, and contrast their own ‘advanced’, ‘civilized’, societies and way of life with Islam, and which religion of the Muslims they describe as “one of the great evils of the world” [1], as ‘barbaric, bloodthirsty, primitive, murderous’, and which they claim ‘subjugates women’.

This attitude reveals several things. That those who so pontificate are – instinctively or willfully – extremely biased against Islam, Muslims, and the Muslim way of life [2]; and/or that they have an extremely romanticized view of the societies of the West (and especially of their own society); and/or that they are hatefully speaking/writing propaganda, and inciting prejudice and hate and demonizing Islam and Muslims, in order to promote their views/cause/organization/ideology. And demonizing Islam and Muslims in much the same way as those minority of Muslims who adhere to or believe in a harsh interpretation of Islam demonize the societies of the West and some (or all) of the kuffar.

For such an attitude is unbalanced, irrational, ignorant; ignoring as it does the reality – the truth – of the societies of the West and the reality – the truth – about the varied societies, past and present, of Muslims. [3]

A Balanced View

The balanced view is that both types of societies – the Western and the Muslim – have, and have had, problems and divisions, and governments and individuals who have sanctioned and done barbaric deeds. And people of good, honourable, intentions and people of bad, dishonourable, intentions. And people aware of the misdeeds of the past and the problems of the present – of what is morally necessary in order to offset or solve such problems – and who are trying in their own ways to make their societies better, more moral, in accord with the principles they believe in, whether those principles be described as political, religious, or social.

The anti-Muslim brigade, for instance, claim that ‘Islam subjugates women’ and treats them unfairly, while ignoring – or being in ignorance about – the misogyny that is rife in the West, with nearly 100,000 women per year seeking treatment in the British city of London alone for violent injuries received in their own homes, with, on average, in Britain, two women per week being killed by a male partner or former partner – that is over 100 women a year. Also, in England and Wales alone, in one year, there are around 600,000 recorded incidents of domestic violence, and every minute of every day the British Police are called by a woman who has been subject to violent domestic abuse. [4]

The anti-Muslim brigade, for instance, claim that ‘Islam is barbaric, bloodthirsty, murderous’, while ignoring the fact in the past hundred years Western countries have, through conflict and war, caused or contributed to far more deaths than Muslim societies: well over one hundred million human beings. Over sixty million people in the Second World War – the most brutal and bloody war in human history. Over sixteen million in the First World War. Over twenty million in the Soviet Union. Many millions killed in colonial wars; and in just two days, nearly a quarter of a million people in Japan killed by the dropping of atomic bombs. In the past three years alone, the drone strikes authorized by the Obama administration have killed between 282 and 535 civilians, of which 60 were children [5]. Such attacks have been described, by Western commentators with a legal background, as “violations of international law” [6], as “terrorizing men, women, and children” [7] and as “extra-judicial assassination – accompanied by the wanton killing of whatever civilians happen to be near the target, often including children” [8].

The anti-Muslim brigade, for instance, make claims about the ‘violence and inhumanity of Jihad’ while (i) ignoring the fact that no Muslim society, in the last hundred years, has invaded and occupied another land, Muslim or kuffar; and (ii) ignoring the recent colonialism of the West, and wars such as those fought in Vietnam, and recent invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, many civilian.

Also ignored by those who pontificate about “the great evil that is Islam” are the many the social problems in Western societies which make the lives of millions of people despairing, and grim; a life which many escape from by turning to drugs or alcohol [9].

But do all the above things – and other things such the torture of Muslims in Abu Ghraib and Bagram, the rendition and torture of Muslims suspected of being terrorists, the death of 290 people on Flight 655 shot down by US missiles – make Western societies barbaric, bloodthirsty, murderous, terrorist, violent, uncaring, full of hate? Do they show that the principles underlying Western society are wrong, evil, immoral, barbaric, oppressive of women?

Or do they show that the peoples and governments of the West have done some bad things, made mistakes, but have admitted (or are beginning to admit) their errors, have learnt from them – and are still learning – and thus are not prefect and should not be idealized? Do they also show that claims of perfection, that such idealizations of the West as the anti-Muslim brigade make, are themselves wrong, mistakes worthy of reproval just as the demonization of the West by those Muslims who adhere to or believe in a harsh interpretation of Islam is wrong?

A Force For Good

My personal view now of Western societies – based on experience, a life of extremisms and subversions, and deriving from much reflexion, an acknowledgement of my own mistakes, and much pathei-mathos – is that they are a force for good, and that, for all their problems and flaws,

“…there is, within them, a certain tolerance; a certain respect for the individual; a certain duty of care; and certainly still a freedom of life, of expression, as well as a standard of living which, for perhaps the majority, is better than elsewhere in the world and most certainly better than existed there and elsewhere in the past.

In addition, there are within their structures – such as their police forces, their governments, their social and governmental institutions – people of good will, of humanity, of fairness, who strive to do what is good, right. Indeed, far more good people in such places than bad people, so that a certain balance, the balance of goodness, is maintained even though occasionally (but not for long) that balance may seem to waver somewhat.

Furthermore, many or most of the flaws, the problems, within such societies are recognized and openly discussed, with a multitude of people of good will, of humanity, of fairness, dedicating themselves to helping those affected by such flaws, such problems. In addition, there are many others trying to improve those societies, and to trying find or implement solutions to such problems, in tolerant ways which do not cause conflict or involve the harshness, the violence, the hatred, of extremism.” [10]

Furthermore, also based on experience and much reflexion, my personal view of diverse Muslim societies (Sunni and Shia, and from North Africa, to Egypt, the Sudan, the Middle East, to Asia), is that – on balance – they are also a force for good, full of people of good will, of humanity, of fairness, who strive to do what is good and avoid what is dishonourable – Amr bil Maroof wa Nahi anil Munkar.

Thus both ways of living, that of West and that of the Muslims, can profitably learn from the other, because reasoned dialogue, an acceptance, celebration, and tolerance, of diversity, is the moral, the virtuous, thing to do. From Islam we in the societies of the West might, for instance, re-learn the virtue of a personal humility, dignity, and respect for the sacred over and above the material and the profane, things which the way of Jesus of Nazareth, and the prophets before him, taught us – or saught to teach us – but which many of us somehow and for some reason seem to have forgotten (I know I forget them for decades).

Furthermore, claims of perfection about, and idealizations of, one’s own society/nation/country/religion – and the demonization of others – are not only irresponsible, unwise, but also hubris, perpetuating as such hubris does the reprehensible suffering that has so blighted and which still blights this one small planet orbiting one ordinary star in one galaxy among a cosmos of billions of such star-filled galaxies.

The solution to such suffering, such mistakes, is simple, for it begins with each one of us, internally. With a rejection of extremism, and a discovery and an appreciation of (or a rediscovery of) the numinous and of our shared humanity; an appreciation that predisposes us feel and know our limitations and faults, as fallible mortals, and which feeling and knowing forms the essence of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and of the humanism that has motivated and inspired so many in the West for two centuries or more.

David Myatt
2012

Acknowledgements: This article is based on – and expands upon/summarizes and/or quotes from – several replies sent to various correspondents between February and November of 2012, many of whom enquired about or asked specific questions concerning my views in relation to Islam, the societies of the West, and anti-Muslim groups.  It presents only my personal, fallible, opinion, and which opinion reflects the weltanschauung and the morality of my philosophy of pathei-mathos, as outlined in Recuyle of The Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos and texts such as Pathei-Mathos – A Path To Humility.

It thus compliments recent articles of mine such as Prejudice, Extremism, Islamophobia, and Culture, and Concerning Islamophobia.


Notes

[1] Richard Dawkins, speaking in Stornoway, as reported in The Scotsman newspaper, dated November 2, 2012.

[2] In Concerning Islamophobia, I wrote:

“The ‘indiscriminate negative attitudes or emotions’ that Islamophobics have for Islam and Muslims is the result, in my fallible view and in my experience, of a lack of knowledge – an ignorance – about both Islam and the Muslim way of life, and of the propensity we humans seem to have to express opinions about, or pass judgement on something we have little or no personal experience of, and/ or on someone or some many we do not personally know. This personal ignorance concerning something, or someone or some many, we express an opinion or views about is also something we seldom admit to others, and often do not admit even to ourselves.”

One propaganda ploy used by the ‘save our civilization from Islamification’ brigade – redolent of their ignorance, of their lack of knowledge about Islam and their lack of practical in-depth experience of the Muslim way of life – is to quote English interpretations of a particular hadith and English interpretations of ayat from the Quran, thus ignoring (i) that a particular hadith or ayat (and Ahadith and Ayah in general) should be studied in Arabic and must be considered in the context of the whole Quran and the Sunnah and Ijmah combined; and (ii) the truth that to know, fully understand, and appreciate, the religion of Islam – the Muslim way of life – one must have extensive practical experience of how those texts, the Quran, the Sunnah, and Ijmah, are manifested by and in the daily and the social lives of those who use them as guides to living and as guides to the sacred, the divine. And a practical experience that is diverse: not of only one locale, but of many. In the case of Islam, this means understanding Adab, and appreciating, from experience, the diversity within Islam – for example, the Sufism of North Africa; the way of life of the fellaheen of Egypt, Turkey, Morocco; the way of life of Punjabi Muslims in places like Leicester, and of Muslims in Somali and Dar-es-Salaam. And it is such diverse practical experience that will enable a person to appreciate just what Shariah is, what it means, and what it does not mean nor imply. Anything other than this is, in my view, ignorance of Islam.

[3] Among the ignoble propaganda ploys used by the ‘save our civilization from Islamification’ brigade is to report some crime or ignoble deed if and only if the religion (or the presumed religion) of the perpetrator is Muslim, or if the perceived ethnicity of the perpetrator is Asian/Arab/African, to thus ‘prove/show’ how horrid, bad, brutal, barbaric, those ‘muzzies’/Arabs/Asians/foreigners are. These propagandists thus ignore similar deeds done by Europeans/Whites/Christians.

Another ignoble propaganda ploy they use is to report some crime or ignoble deed done by, or words spoken by, some Muslim or Muslims who adhere to or believe in a harsh interpretation of Islam and then claim that that deed or those words ‘prove how horrid, bad, brutal, barbaric, terroristic, Islam is’. These propagandists thus ignore similar extremist deeds done, or similar harsh words spoken, by Europeans/Whites/Christians, past and present.

[4] Sources: (a) Punching Judy, BBC TV Documentary; (b) Crime in England and Wales (Home Office annual publication); (c) Women’s Aid Federation of England.

[5] Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Covert Strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, 2012

[6] Living Under Drones, Report by New York University School of Law and Stanford University Law School, 2012

[7] Glenn Greenwald. The Guardian, September 25, 2012

[8] Glenn Greenwald. The Guardian, November 15, 2012.

[9] For instance, cocaine use in England and Wales is the highest in Europe, indulged in by over four million people – and Scotland’s rate of cocaine use is among the highest in the whole world. [Source:  European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction]

For instance, America has the highest number of people in prison, per capita, in the whole world – over 1.7 million people, with well over half of all prisoners in America there for drug related offences [Source: (a) Drug Policy Information Clearinghouse (White House Office of National Drug Control Policy); (b) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (The Department of Health and Human Services).]. In addition nearly 22 million Americans aged 12 or older are illicit drug users [Source: (a) Foundation for Social Improvement; (b) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Department of Health and Human Services ].

In respect of alcohol, an estimated 15 to 20 million Americans are addicted to alcohol or regularly abuse alcohol for personal or social reasons. Furthermore, in America, alcohol use is involved in: (a) one-half of all murders, accidental deaths, and suicides; (b) one-third of all drowning, boating and aviation deaths; (c) one-half of all crimes; and (d) almost half of all fatal automobile accidents. [Source:  (a) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; (b) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Department of Health and Human Services]

[10] David Myatt, Notes on The Politics and Ideology of Hate, April 2012


numinous-religion
Prejudice, Extremism, Islamophobia, and Culture

Prefatory Note: This article developed from – and in a few places summarizes and/or quotes from – several replies I sent to various correspondents between May and November of 2012 and which correspondence concerned topics such as prejudice, the use of the terms culture and civilization, and whether or not those opposed to immigration and/or ‘Islamification’ are prejudiced and, if so, whether they should be reproved.

It thus presents my personal, fallible, opinion about such matters, and which opinion reflects the weltanschauung and the morality of my philosophy of pathei-mathos (formerly ‘the numinous way’), as outlined in Recuyle of The Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos and texts such as Pathei-Mathos – A Path To Humility.

◊◊◊

Over the past decade or so there has been a significant increase, in Britain and in Europe in general, in the number of people who claim, believe, or feel, that immigration in general and Islam in particular pose a threat. There is and has been rhetoric, from politicians and agitators, opposing ‘multiculturalism’ and about ‘the threat immigration/Islam pose to French/British/Dutch/German/European/(whatever)’ values, civilization, and identity, as there are regular protests about the building of new mosques, and laws in some European nations prohibiting the building of minarets and the wearing in public of hijab and/or the burkha. Organizations opposed to Shariah and what they term ‘Islamification’ regularly hold demonstrations and protests, many of which are violent or which end in violence, and which organizations directly or indirectly lead to and have led to, or who have members and supporters who commit, Islamophobic [1] incidents such as the harassment of women wearing hijab [2], the desecration of the Quran, the desecration of Muslim graves, and attacks on Mosques and the homes of Muslim families, and many of which incidents are similar to or reminiscent of some anti-Semitic ones.

The question thus arises as to whether such claims, beliefs, or feelings about Islam, Muslims, the Muslim way life, and Islam, are prejudiced and/or extremist, and, if they are prejudiced, whether such prejudice should be reproved.

A Modern Yet Old Concern

An increasing number of people in Western countries seem to feel or are concerned that Islam, and the Muslims who have migrated to or were born in Western countries, are in some way undermining or destroying the indigenous culture/civilization or way of life that such concerned ones – the concernées – identify with. The following comments, although made in respect of Britain, are somewhat typical of this European-wide attitude and concern:

“Here I was, in the heart of a city in the middle of my own country, a complete outcast and pariah.” [3]

“Far from merging with local communities, many seem to have decided as an act of defiance to live and dress as if still in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Somalia or the Middle East,” and that Islam should be ‘re-branded’ for modern Britain. [4]

Islam is “one of the great evils of the world” [5]

“The problems posed by the large-scale immigration of people who do not enter into our European way of life [and] the right of indigenous communities to refuse admission to people who cannot or will not assimilate.” [6]

“When we were growing up, Islam wasn’t even a word in everyday usage. Now it is an visible part of daily life in most cities. The character of Britain has changed tremendously. Personally, I like that but I think people have a perfect right not to like it and it doesn’t make them bad people.” [7]

As these and many similar comments indicate, there are common themes to such concerns and attitudes, some of which themes are often unspoken but nevertheless implied. Among these themes are the following: (i) that there is a particular British identity/character, with ‘native Britons’ regarding Britain as ‘their country’ and by extension not really the country, the land, of these new ‘foreigners’; (ii) that immigrants and those of other cultures and faiths should or must adopt this assumed British identity/character – ‘fully integrate’, be assimilated – in order to be considered British, with the underlying assumption or prejudice that such a posited British/European identity/character is better than or superior to or more advanced than those other cultures and faiths; (iii) that ‘native Britons’ are more entitled to the advantages and the opportunities that British society offers than recent (post Second World War) arrivals, especially if these ‘new arrivals’ belong to a different faith or culture and do not wish to abandon that ‘alien’ faith or culture or manner of dress, and even if such people of an ‘alien’ faith or culture are second or third generations citizens, and work and have paid taxes; and (iv) that the indigenous “people have a perfect right not to like [these changes] and it doesn’t make them bad people” or extremists.

Among the interesting questions that such concerns and attitudes raise are: why do such people not like such changes, and what is ‘bad’. It seems to me that such dislike is often or mostly the result of several factors; for example, a certain instinctive wariness of change and of those who are different; a certain lack of knowledge and lack of understanding of the way of life, the culture, of the newcomers; a certain sense of belonging to their own area or community; and a particular feeling of what it means ‘to be British’ or English or Scots or Welsh. There is thus, or there develops, an instinctive prejudice, that is a bias – in favour of this posited ‘British/Scottish/Welsh way of life’ (usually an idealized/romanticised version of it) and not in favour of the newcomers and their ways.

Is this bias bad? I venture to say yes, for two reasons. First (and philosophically) because life itself is and always has been both a flow of change and, beyond the artificial divisions/categories we project upon it, a unity [8]. To try and prevent this natural change by holding onto and dividing human beings into temporal ideated categories based on median assumptions – such as some ‘race’ or some idealized static national community or static culture said to have arisen during some historical period – is hubris [9]. Second, because I consider the good to be “what is fair; what alleviates or does not cause suffering; what is compassionate; what empathy by its revealing inclines us to do, what inclines us to appreciate the numinous”. Thus the bad is what is unfair, what causes suffering, and what is biased, prejudiced, since prejudice [10] in many ways is the opposite of the muliebral virtue of empathy, causing as such prejudice does the impersonal judgemental assessment of a person or persons who are personally unknown, and thence often predisposing an individual or a group to treat those so impersonally judged in a harsh manner. And such prejudice is bad – unfair, morally wrong, deserving of reproval – even if the prejudice that is felt does not lead a particular individual to commit harsh practical violent and/or hateful (and thus by definition extremist) deeds [11].

In my view we should be gently and personally moving away from – and gently and personally encouraging, in others, a moving away from – prejudice (whatever its genesis) toward empathy and the personal, individual, non-judgemental knowing that empathy engenders; away from the artificial (abstract) divisions and categories we have manufactured (and often judge people by) toward an appreciation of the numinous and thus toward a feeling and a knowing of ‘that of the numinous in every person’ (to again paraphrase George Fox).

Culture, Civilization, and Identity

In the increasing rhetoric about, and the fears concerning, ‘the threat Islam poses to European/Western civilization’ and ‘to French/British/Dutch/German/European/(whatever) values and identity’, there are both assumptions and prejudice.

The very usage of the term civilization, for instance, implies a bias; a qualitative often pejorative, prejudiced, assessment and thence a division between something judged ‘better than’ – or ‘superior to’ or ‘more advanced than’ – something else, so that ‘to civilize’ denotes “the action or process of being made civilized” by something or someone believed or considered to be more distinguished, or better than, or superior to, or more advanced.

Thus – and in common with some other writers [12] – my view is that a clear distinction should be made between the terms culture, society, and civilization, for the terms culture and society – when, for example, applied to describe and distinguish between the customs and way of life of a group or people, and the codes of behaviour and the administrative organization and governance of those residing in a particular geographical area – are quantitative and descriptive rather than qualitative and judgemental. It is therefore in my view inappropriate to write and talk about a European or a Western ‘civilization’.

Given that culture is often understood as the way of life characteristic of a community of people, as their distinctive beliefs, customs, language, and social behaviour, is there a European or a Western culture of which, and for example, a ‘British culture’ might be a part? Or a unique ‘British culture’ (and thus identity) which might or might not have some affinity with some European culture? And, if it exists, who or what defines this British culture, and whence did it arise or is assumed to have arisen? For are cultures static, unchangeable entities, or are they, as peoples and languages are and have been, in flux – absorbing, assimilating, developing, and making obsolete. And if cultures are as I incline to believe – and like languages – in flux, is it reasonable to try and make them static, a fixed ideation, by zealously striving to limit them to what they were perceived to be, once, or to what they are understood to be or assumed to be now, and demanding that everyone must adopt this limited and fixed ideation with little or no variation, and certainly no (or only a strictly defined) diversity of change, allowed? [13]

However, insofar as I am concerned, such postulations and theories in respect of cultural identity are the chimæras of our times, and derive from a fundamental misunderstanding of culture. For the essence, the nature, of all cultures is the same: to refine, and develope, the individual; to provide a moral guidance; to cultivate such skills as that of reasoning and learning and civility; to be a repository of the recorded/aural pathei-mathos, experiences, and empathic understanding of others (such as our ancestors) over decades, centuries, millennia, as manifest for example in literature, music, memoirs, poetry, history, Art, and often in the past in myths and legends and religious allegories. A recorded/aural pathei-mathos and empathic understanding – a human learning – which teach the same lessons, whatever the culture, whatever the people, whatever the time and whatever the place. The lesson of the importance of a loyal love between two people; the lesson of the importance of virtues such as εὐταξία [14] and honour; the lesson of the need to avoid committing the error of hubris [15]. The lesson of hope, redemption, and change. And the lesson concerning our own nature:

” From Aeschylus to Sophocles to Siddhārtha Gautama, from the mythos of the Μοῖραι to the postulate of samsara, from the notion of Fate to the Sermon on the Mount, and beyond, we have had available to us an understanding [of] how we human beings are often balanced between honour and dishonour; balanced between ὕβρις and ἀρετή; between our animalistic desires, our passions, and our human ability to be noble, to achieve excellence; a balance manifest in our known ability to be able to control, to restrain, ourselves, and thus find and follow a middle way, of ἁρμονίη.In Pursuit of Wisdom (2011)

Ultimately, the assumed or the perceived, the outer, differences do not matter, since what matters for us as human beings capable of reason and civility is our shared humanity and the wisdom that all cultures guide us toward: which wisdom is that it is what is moral – it is what keeps us as mortals balanced, aware of and respective of the numinous – that should guide us, determine our choices and be the basis of our deeds, for our interaction with other human beings, with society, and with the life with which we share this planet.

As outlined in my philosophy of pathei-mathos, my personal view is that the criteria of assessment and judgement are the individual ones of empathy, reason, and the presumption of innocence; which means that abstractions, ideations, theories, and categories, of whatever kind – and whether deemed to be political, religious, or social – are considered an unimportant. That what matters, what is moral, is a very personal knowing in the immediacy-of-the-moment so that what is beyond the purveu of our empathy, of our personal knowing, knowledge, and experience, is something we rationally accept we do not know and so cannot judge or form a reasonable, a fair, a balanced, opinion about. Hence, and for example, individuals and people we do not know, of whatever faith, of whatever perceived ethnicity, sexual orientation, or perceived or assumed or proclaimed culture – whom we have no personal experience of and have had no interaction with over a period of causal time – are unjudged by us and thus given the benefit of the doubt; that is, regarded as innocent, assumed to be good, unless or until direct personal experience, and individual and empathic knowing of them, as individuals, proves otherwise.

“This acceptance of the empathic – of the human, the personal – scale of things and of our limitations as human beings is part of wu-wei. Of not-striving, and of not-interfering, beyond the purveu of our empathy and our pathei-mathos. Of personally and for ourselves discovering the nature, the physis, of beings; of personally working with and not against that physis, and of personally accepting that certain matters or many matters, because of our lack of personal knowledge and lack of personal experience of them, are unknown to us and therefore it is unwise, unbalanced, for us to have and express views or opinions concerning them, and hubris for us to adhere to and strive to implement some ideology which harshly deals with and manifests harsh views and harsh opinions concerning such personally unknown matters.

Thus what and who are beyond the purveu of empathy and beyond pathei-mathos is or should be of no urgent concern, of no passionate relevance, to the individual seeking balance, harmony, and wisdom, and in truth can be detrimental to finding wisdom and living in accord with the knowledge and understanding so discovered.” Some Personal Musings On Empathy – In relation to the philosophy of πάθει μάθος

Considered thus, what matters are our own moral character, our interior life, our appreciation of the numinous, and the individual human beings we interact with on the personal level; so that our horizon is to refine ourselves into cultured beings who are civil, reasoned, empathic, non-judgemental, unbiased, and who will, in the words of one guide to what is moral, Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ [16].

David Myatt
2012

Notes

[1] Islamophobia has been defined, by Professor Erik Bleich, as “indiscriminate negative attitudes or emotions directed at Islam or Muslims,” and thus, “as with parallel concepts like homophobia or xenophobia, Islamophobia connotes a broader set of negative attitudes or emotions directed at individuals or groups because of their perceived membership in a category.”

See my 2012 article Concerning Islamophobia.

[2] In respect of Hijab and some of the myths surrounding it, see, for example, Leila Ahmed: A Quiet Revolution – The Veil’s Resurgence, from the Middle East to America. Yale University Press, 2012. Leila Ahmed is Professor of Divinity at Harvard.

[3] The quotation is from a book by Clarissa Dickson Wright, published in 2012, the author having been a presenter of several mainstream television cookery programmes.

[4] Trevor Kavanagh, a journalist writing in the British newspaper, The Sun, dated November 20, 2012.

[5] Richard Dawkins, speaking in Stornoway, as reported in The Scotsman newspaper, dated November 2, 2012.

[6] Roger Scruton, speech at Antwerp, June 23, 2006.

[7] Private communication from an e-mail correspondent, November 2012.

[8] qv. The Nature of Being and of Beings section of my The Way of Pathei-Mathos – A Philosophical Compendiary.

[9] qv. (i) The Abstraction of Change as Opposites and Dialectic; (ii) Concerning Some Abstractions – Extremism and Race; (iii) Recuyle of the Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos.

It is personal empathy and pathei-mathos which enable us to appreciate the unity beyond the appearance of posited, manufactured, categories and opposites, and which thus inclines us toward knowing and trying to do what is right. As explained in Recuyle of the Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos:

“Empathy – and the knowing that derives from it – thus transcends ‘race’, politics, religion, gender, sexual orientation, occupation, wealth (or lack of it), ‘status’, and all the other things and concepts often used to describe, to denote, to prejudge, to classify, a person; so that to judge someone – for example – by and because of their political views (real or assumed) or by their religion or by their sexual orientation is an act of hubris.”

As I mentioned to one correspondent:

“My admittedly fallible view of empathy is that it is natural human faculty which most humans could possibly develope and use. A faculty that can provide a type of knowing of another living being sans words, ideas, abstractions/constructs; and which results in sympatheia – benignity – with and for that living being.

I have described it a ‘translocation of ourselves’ where we experience a loss of that ‘separation-of-otherness’ which usually defines us as an individual human being, resulting in an intuition or intuitions concerning the feelings of another. Thus and for instance we can sense someone’s sadness, or grief, or pain, or joy. Which, in practical terms, naturally predisposes us toward treating that person as we ourselves would wish to be treated: with compassion, understanding, honour, and dignity.

In a sense, we make an ‘acausal connexion’ to and with another living being, and which connexion is entirely independent of those forms, categories, and classifications we normally use to describe, and to try to ‘understand’, and/or which we use to judge (consciously or otherwise), another person. A process I have described as a wordless intuition concerning the physis – the being or character – of a person.

Sometimes this ‘translocation of ourselves’ and sympatheia with another is of a sufficiency to cause us to actually physically feel the pain of another. Which sufficiency of empathy can quite naturally make the everyday life of such an ’empath’ somewhat challenging if not difficult.

As to how this faculty might be developed, I only have tentative suggestions, based on my (limited) understanding and the pathei-mathos of my rather outré life. Which suggestions concern such matters as developing an appreciation of the numinous, cultivating wu-wei, and fostering an attitude of personal humility part of which is understanding ‘the cosmic perspective’, of the reality of ourselves as one microcosmic fallible fragile mortal rather insignificant living being on one planet orbiting one star in one galaxy in a cosmos of billions of galaxies, and which short-lived mortal also happens to be a connexion to all life, human and otherwise, on this planet we mortals call Earth.”

[10] Prejudice is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “preconceived opinion not based on reason or actual experience; bias”.

[11] I outline my particular usage of – and sometimes particular definition of – certain terms, such as ‘the good’, extremism, society, innocence, and so on, in Appendix I (A Glossary of Terms) of my Recuyle of the Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos.

[12] A useful overview of the usage of the terms culture and civilization is given in Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society by Raymond Williams, Oxford University Press, 1976.

[13] One correspondent of mine went so far as to jest that the ‘save British culture from Islamification’ brigade are kindred in spirit to those who would have us remove all ‘foreign’ words from the English language, with in-fighting occurring and new grouplets formed because they cannot agree what constitutes a foreign word and how far, historically, they should go back in their crusade to remove such ‘non-British’ things and so keep ‘their language pure’.

[14] As I mentioned in The Way of Pathei-Mathos – A Philosophical Compendiary:

εὐταξία [is] that quality of self-restraint, of a balanced, well-mannered conduct especially under adversity or duress, of which Cicero wrote:

Haec autem scientia continentur ea, quam Graeci εὐταξίαν nominant, non hanc, quam interpretamur modestiam, quo in verbo modus inest, sed illa est εὐταξία, in qua intellegitur ordinis conservatio

Those two qualities are evident in that way described by the Greeks as εὐταξίαν although what is meant by εὐταξία is not what we mean by the moderation of the moderate, but rather what we consider is restrained behaviour… De Officiis, Liber Primus, 142

[15] In respect of avoidance of hubris, refer to myRecuyle Of The Philosophy Of Pathei-Mathos.

[16] Matthew 22:21. Reddite ergo, quae sunt Caesaris, Caesari et, quae sunt Dei, Deo. Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s.


NASA/JPL/CalTech - Messier 104

Just My Fallible Views, Again
Replies to Some Enquiries

Prefatory Note

The text of this article is taken from parts of six e-mail replies, in 2011 and 2012, to three correspondents, with four of these replies being to one correspondent. The first correspondent listed here initially enquired about my Numinous Way and then about my extremist past and my current views in relation to politics. The second correspondent enquired about my current attitude to Islam, my experiences of the Muslim way of life, and about sundry other matters. The third correspondent enquired about my opinion regarding various ‘right-wing’ organizations and their opposition to Islam.

For publication here, I have corrected a few typos with […] indicating some text has been omitted, and omitted mainly because it is of a personal nature or strayed rather off-topic. These extracts are published because they deal with topics I have been regularly asked about for the past three years.

David Myatt
2012


Correspondent #1
(2012)

Politics, Pathei-Mathos, and My Extremist Past

Yesterday was one of those glorious English Summer days of warm Sun, blue sky, when I – after a long walk – had sat down in the tufted grass on that slope of a hill to view the vista below. The river curving as it curved through the hedged-in fields of crops and pasture; the far distant greenful hills unclear in heat-made haze; the country lane that, now devoid of vehicles, would give access again to scattered houses and those well-separated working farms. It felt – perhaps was – paradise on Earth, for I fortunate to have water, food enough to feed me for a day; clothes and boots – though worn – sufficient for their purpose; even a place – dry, undamp, with bed – to sleep such sleep as might by night be gifted. It felt – and was – good to be alive, touched a little and for a while by some type of inner peace. So little, so very little, really needed…

The problem in the past had been me, my lack of understanding of myself and my egoism. It was my fault: not the place, not the time, not the people, for I so desired with that arrogance of youth to exchange this paradise, here, for those ideas, the idealism, the abstractions, I carried around in my prideful hubriatic head. Seldom content, for long, since happiness came with – was – the pursuit, or the gratification of my personal desires. So destructive, so very destructive. So hurtful, inconsiderate, selfish, profane.

The defining moment, for me – in terms of understanding myself, in terms of understanding politics and the error of my decades of extremism – was the tragic personal loss of a loved one in May 2006. In the hours following that event I just knew – tearfully knew without words – my own pathetic failure; what I had lost, what was important. Thus there came upon me that day a sense of overwhelming grief, compounded by a remembrance of another personal loss of a loved one thirteen years earlier. For it was as if in those intervening years I had learned nothing; as if I had made the life and the dying and death of Sue, in 1993 – and of what we shared in the years before – unimportant.

I have no words to describe how insignificant, how worthless, I felt that day in May 2006; no words to describe, recall, retell, the remorse, the pain. Suffice now to recount that my life was never, could never be, the same again. Gone – the arrogance that had sustained me for so many experiential decades. Gone – the beliefs, the abstractions, the extremisms, I had so cherished and so believed in. That it took me another three years, from that day, to finally, irretrievably, break the bonds of my Shahadah sworn six years earlier – and the oath of personal loyalty that I believed still bound me to one person still alive then in a far distant land – most certainly says something more about me, about my character, about my interior struggles.

Thus it was that I came to know, to feel, how irrelevant politics and political organizations were for me, personally. So that ever since I have had no desire whatsoever to involve myself in politics – or even in trying to somehow change the world be it by politics, or by religion, or by whatever. Instead, my concern has been to try to [fully] understand and thence reform myself; to reflect upon my four decades of diverse involvements, discovering as I did those involvements for the extremisms they were; and to try to, and finally sans all abstractions, answer important questions such as Quid Est Veritas.

As I wrote in my May 2012 essay Pathei-Mathos, Genesis of My Unknowing:

” What I painfully, slowly, came to understand, via pathei-mathos, was the importance – the human necessity, the virtue – of love, and how love expresses or can express the numinous in the most sublime, the most human, way. Of how extremism (of whatever political or religious or ideological kind) places some abstraction, some ideation, some notion of duty to some ideation, before a personal love, before a knowing and an appreciation of the numinous. Thus does extremism – usurping such humanizing personal love – replace human love with an extreme, an unbalanced, an intemperate, passion for something abstract: some ideation, some ideal, some dogma, some ‘victory’, some-thing always supra-personal and always destructive of personal happiness, personal dreams, personal hopes; and always manifesting an impersonal harshness: the harshness of hatred, intolerance, certitude-of-knowing, unfairness, violence, prejudice.

Thus, instead of a natural and a human concern with what is local, personal and personally known, extremism breeds a desire to harshly interfere in the lives of others – personally unknown and personally distant – on the basis of such a hubriatic certitude-of-knowing that strife and suffering are inevitable. For there is in all extremists that stark lack of personal humility, that unbalance, that occurs when – as in all extremisms – what is masculous is emphasized and idealized and glorified to the detriment (internal, and external) of what is muliebral, and thus when some ideology or some dogma or some faith or some cause is given precedence over love and when loyalty to some manufactured abstraction is given precedence over loyalty to family, loved ones, friends.

For I have sensed that there are only changeable individual ways and individual fallible answers, born again and again via pathei-mathos and whose subtle scent – the wisdom – words can neither capture nor describe, even though we try and perhaps need to try, and try perhaps (as for me) as one hopeful needful act of a non-religious redemption.”

Therefore I have no political views now; I do not and cannot support any political organization, as I do not adhere to nor believe in nor support any particular religion or even any conventional Way of Life. All I have are some personal and fallible answers to certain philosophical, personal, ethical, and theological, questions. No certainty about anything except about my own uncertainty of knowing and about the mistakes, the errors, of my past.

Having written so much – far too much – for so many decades and having made so many suffering-causing mistakes, I also have no desire now to write anymore about anything, except perchance for a few missives such as this, as part perhaps of my needed expiation, and in explanatory reply when asked of certain things. Such as in exposition of my mistakes, my remorse, and particularly in explanation of the personal love, the gentleness, the compassion, the humility, the peace, that I feel – feel, not know – might possibly enable us to find, to feel, our paradise on Earth, and so not cause suffering, not add to the suffering that so blights this world and has so blighted it for so long, mostly because of people such as me. The ideologues, the extremists, the fanatics, the terrorists, the bigots, the egoists. The unhumble ones unappreciative of the numinous: those whose certainty of knowing – and those whose sense of a personal ‘destiny’ – makes them uncompassionate, unempathic, hateful, prejudiced, intolerant, and devoted to either ‘their cause’ or to themselves. Those whose happiness comes with – and is – the pursuit, and/or the gratification of their so selfish desires.

Just how many more seasons – years, decades, centuries, millennia – will we humans as a species need to find and to live our mortal lives in compassionate, empathic, paradisal peace?

[…]


Correspondent #2
(2012)

Reply 1

You seem very much preoccupied with lessons you have learned from grief and regret, pain and suffering […]


[My] recent propensity to be somewhat subsumed with a certain sadness [arose] from not only pondering on such questions as pathei-mathos, the causes/alleviation of suffering, and the nature of religion, expiation, and extremism, but also from understanding, from feeling, just how much suffering I personally have caused during my extremist decades and knowing that had it not been for the tragic death of a loved one some six years ago I would most probably have continued my career as a suffering-causing extremist.

Also, having spent decades trying to idealistically inspire people or manipulate them, and being manipulative either for allegedly idealistic reasons (some political or religious cause) or for purely selfish reasons, I finally came to know just how easy it is to make excuses for one’s mistakes and unethical behaviour, especially in relation to some ideology or some political or religious cause. Having good intentions, I discovered, is not a valid reason to cause suffering, although believing one acted from good intentions does and can salve one’s conscience. For I came to the conclusion that idealism itself was one of the fundamental causes of suffering, and that ultimately it is matter of us taking individual responsibility for ourselves and all our actions; for the suffering we cause, have caused, or can cause. To shift that responsibility onto others (as in some chain-of-command) – or onto some political cause or some faith – is just, in my fallible view at least, unethical. As is positing or believing in some supreme deity who will decide matters for us (and judge us and others) and/or who has, apparently, laid down what is right and what is wrong.

There are somewhat complex and difficult questions here (or at least they seem complex and difficult questions to me). Questions such as if there is no God/supreme-deity – and no mechanism such as karma and thus no rebirth – then how to understand suffering and what do reformation of ourselves and expiation mean, and do they even have, or should they have, any meaning sans religion? How do we – sans religion and ideology – decide, know, what is ethical and what can motivate us to act ethically? What is innocence? Horrid things happen every day to people who do not deserve them. Every minute of every day somewhere some human being suffers because of some deed done to them by some other human being. Should that concern us? If so, why, and what could/might we do about it, and will what we do cause more suffering?

What I have termed ‘the philosophy, the way, of pathei-mathos’ – that is, my now much revised ‘numinous way’ – is just my attempt to answer such questions. And an attempt born from me accepting the truth about myself and my suffering-causing past. To do otherwise, I feel and felt, would have been to somehow in some way demean – to not learn from – that tragic recent death of a loved one. To, instead, continue with the arrogance, the hubris, of my past.

Perhaps it would have been easier for me to just accept the answers of some existing Way or of some religion. Certainly, a religious expiation could have eased the burden, relieved and relieve some or most of the grief, felt. A burden, a grief, which certainly has fuelled and infused my writings these past few years and some of which writings are my rather feeble attempts at a non-religious but hopefully still numinous expiation.

[…]

Reply 2

Perhaps all we can do is try and communicate, in some way (but gently) that wordless (empathic) knowing of another human being to others. A wordless humanizing knowing that I have come to appreciate many men seem to so often lack or believe or feel is far less important than their macho posturing and their love of and seeming need for conflict, control, competition, and war. Perhaps if women were more assertive, empowered, accepting of themselves, and perhaps if men appreciated women more – and men (heaven forfend) developed within themselves certain muliebral qualities – there might be less suffering in the world.

[…]

In my personal experience at least there is and was a positive aspect to Catholicism, as there is (again in my view and my experience) a positive aspect to most if not all conventional religions from Islam to Judaism to Buddhism to Christianity.

This is, they have the propensity to remind us of the need for humility by setting certain limits regarding our behaviour, and by in some way and in their own manner making us aware of the numinous, the sacred. Which is why, over the decades, I have learned to respect them and their adherents while accepting that their answers, their way, are not my answers, my way.

In respect of the sacred, for instance, I still find that one of the most beautiful expressions of the numinous is Catholic chant: Gregorian, Cistercien, and Vieux-Roman. Indeed, one of my favourite pieces of music is now, as it has been for decades, Répons de Matines pour la fête de Saint Bernard. One of my treasured memories is, as a monk, singing the office of Compline and then, in the sublime silence of the church, going to the Lady Chapel to kneel in contemplative wordless prayer on the stone floor in front of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Such peace, such purity, in those moments. Another treasured memory is, decades later and when a Muslim, travelling in the Western Desert and with my Egyptian guide stopping to face Makkah and pray Zuhr Namaz while the hot Sun beat down and a hot breeze blew sand to cover part of my prayer mat. Again, a purity of silence – no one else around for perhaps a hundred miles – and a wordless warm feeling of connexion with something pure and far beyond and balancing our human hubris: to place us into the necessary supra-personal perspective.

Perhaps on balance the positive, humanizing, virtues of such religions now outweigh their negative qualities? Certainly, it seems to me, that most of the worst excesses of – for example – Christianity are now and hopefully historical (and one thinks here of excesses such as the Inquisition).

Another simple personal story; one from among so many in relation to other religions and their positive attributes. 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 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.

You just seem so sad… and it’s such a pity to waste time being sad when there are a million and one reasons not to be.

In a strange way a certain sadness seems to keep me focussed, balanced, and human, preventing – sans religion – the return of that arrogant, hubriatic, violent individual who incited and preached hatred, intolerance, violence, killing, and who was responsible for causing much suffering.

[…]

Not that long ago I was reminded of a veteran of the First World War I had briefly known during my first year as a nurse as I cared for him as he recovered from surgery and then, later on, lay dying. He came back from that war a changed and quiet man who abhorred war, with a desire to just live a simple, normal, life. So he married, became a father; a grandfather; his world his family. But he never forgot those years; their tragedy; the loss of so many of his comrades; the horror and – in his words – the futility of it all. He had a real dignity, partly because of that inner sadness that so seemed to suffuse him. He had also, many times, felt himself to be an interloper among people. This knowing of him, and his dying, moved me; causing me to consider and reconsider certain questions. But of course this feeling and such insights did not last, and within six months – having ceased to be a nurse – my hubriatic, warmongering, self had reasserted itself, yet again.

Thus consciously recalling my own pathei-mathos, and that of others, and feeling the sadness that is part of such a learning, is I feel somewhat necessary, at least for me and for now.


Reply 3

As I type this I am listening to the orchestral version of Ravel’s Pavane pour une Infante Defunte, and the beautiful music, your message, remind me yet again of our strange human condition; of our ability, our potential, to do what is fair, to be kind and to love, and also of our propensity to hate, to resort to violence, to be barbaric, as if the suffering of so many for so many millennia meant nothing, with nothing learned, except by a few.

A while ago, when I chanced to be travelling in England the train stopped at a station to allow new passengers to embark, I noticed a group of some four young men, in their early twenties. Yet even had not two of them been wearing (what I am informed are called) ‘hoodies’ embroidered with the name and symbol of their organization I would have recognized them. For forty years ago that would have been me, there, at such a place on such a day as that. A young man enthusiastically on his way to some political demonstration, or some meeting; proudly, defiantly, displaying his allegiance to his extremist cause, and standing, walking – holding himself – in such a way that you know he is ready for, even eager for, a fight.

This distant, momentary, and regardable encounter caused this ageing man – a wheen beyond three score – a certain sadness. What value, then – what purpose – my writings these past few years? For it was as if the pathei-mathos of that aged man, as that of so many others – our knowing of the human cost and consequences of hatred – had little or no effect. The same prejudice; the same propensity and need for violence; the same disruption of so many non-harming innocent lives; the same lack of empathy, understanding, love; the same intolerance and the same spewing forth and distribution of ignorant propaganda. Only the names, the people, the symbols and the flags, change; year following year, decade after decade.

I well knew the perceived enemies of these latter-day types: the people hated, reviled; the subject of the speeches, the propaganda, of their leaders. I well knew how they hated, and why. I well knew the slyness of their leaders, of how they desired to describe, to positively portray, themselves – and the excuses made regarding violence. Above all, perhaps, I know so well the ignorance, the intolerance, the inhumanity, on which their beliefs, their cause, was founded, and which ignorance, which intolerance, which inhumanity, was indeed their cause, whatever the words, whatever the name, whatever the flag, whatever the year.

Not long after that impersonal encounter I did personally try to rationally engage with a few supporters of that organization, in an effort to correct – from personal experience – at least some of their prejudices about Islam and Muslims. To no avail, of course, so deep, irrational, was that prejudice, so strong the hatred of their perceived enemies; so alien to them was any vestige of humility. And would I, some forty years ago, have listened to some old man pontificating about his experiences, his life, his learning? I doubt it. For I then, as they now, had that certainty-of-knowing, that arrogance, that is one of the foundations of extremism, of whatever kind.

Perhaps my political opponents of decades past were right and that the only effective way to deal with such people of intolerance, hatred, violence, and prejudice is to oppose them ‘on the streets’ and take every opportunity to reveal them for the bigots they are… But I no longer have any definitive answers, having only a certain certitude about my own unknowing.

I was wondering what your impressions were of living in communities like this

Such [Muslim] communities gave me some of the most memorable moments of my life. Some of the most wonderful – some of the most human – people I have ever met. Being with – living with – Muslims (both Sunni and Shia) taught me humility, the ignorance of my past political beliefs, and how the Muslim way of life can be and certainly has been (on balance) an influence for good, just as Christianity (on balance) is and has been, and just as Judaism is and has been. But of course all religions, by their nature, have problems in respect of fallible human interpretations…

I felt really at home with, among, devout Muslims – those trying to follow the guidelines of Quran and Sunnah (or in the case of the Shia, being Taqlid of a Mujtahid). There was, and is, so much to admire about the Muslim way of life, from the modesty of women, the reverence for the Prophet, the cultivation of humility, the necessity of Wudhu, praying five times a day, the reliance on only Allah, fasting in Ramadan, the real feeling of belonging to the Ummah, the avoidance of intoxicating substances…

Of all the religions I have personal experience of, I found Islam to be perhaps the most human. In the Quran and Sunnah our weaknesses are laid bare, and in Shariah there is a guide to living in a balanced, a human, and a numinous, way.

One of the most difficult decisions of my life was leaving Islam […]


living with them forces one to ask a lot of questions about freedom and personal choice versus duty to a community.

Such questions, in my fallible view, are important for an understanding of Islam, and thus important vis-a-vis resolving the conflict, both real and perceived, between Islam and the West, although were I to go into pedantic mode – as is a bad habit of mine – I should really write ‘the conflict between the Muslim way of life and the ways of the West’.

It seems to me that the ways of the West value and give precedence to personal choice and to ideations such as ‘freedom’ (personal and otherwise), whereas the Muslim way is to value and give precedence to, to try and humbly submit to, the will of Allah as revealed by the Prophet in the Quran, and as manifest in Sunnah and Shariah. The only real personal choice a Muslim has – by virtue of being Muslim (of accepting the Shahadah) – is to submit to Allah, or not to submit to Allah, and thus freedom for a Muslim means living in a community under the guidance of Shariah, since Shariah is the path to Jannah, and Jannah is the Allah-given goal of this life and Shariah means that often (or mostly) the community, the Ummah, comes before one’s own desires and before some posited, ideated, abstract, personal ‘freedom’.

Problems arise, and have arisen, at least in my fallible view and in my experience, because of two things. First, for despite all the rhetoric in Western lands about freedom and tolerance and diversity there is the belief, both conscious and unconscious and held by an awful lot of people, that the ways of the West really are superior to the Muslim way of obedience to the will of Allah and the pursuit of Jannah. Second, certain Western governments keep interfering in the lives of Muslims, both in the lands of the Muslims and in the lands of the West, disliking or intolerant of or fearing as they do Shariah as the only law in Muslim lands, and – in the West – certain Muslim customs (such as hijab, the Adhan, and minarets) and the growing numbers of Muslims (resulting in the need for more Mosques).


Reply 4

[…]

To have such [youthful] certainty might make life easier and perhaps – in my case – as enjoyable as I remember those now long gone decades of youth and early manhood. I, as I am sure many others do and have done, have occasionally day-dreamed about returning to some such time in the past with the understanding and the knowledge gained in the intervening years and so perhaps act differently and (at least in my case) thus avoid causing the suffering so caused then.

But I do believe that my lack of certainty now is – even at the cost of a certain sadness – a good thing for me, as it prevents that arrogance of my youthful self from returning and seems to somehow better enable me to appreciate, to feel, the numinous and thus the distinction between what is good and what is bad.

Hence I find myself in the curious position of now possibly understanding and appreciating the wordless raison d’etat of Catholic monasticism, manifest as this is in a personal humility; a humility that during my time as a monk my then still hubriatic self could not endure for long. Which recent understanding and appreciation led me for a short while at least, and only a few years ago, to wistfully if unrealistically yearn to return to that particular secluded way of life. And unrealistic because for all that understanding, appreciation, and yearning, I no longer had the type of faith that was required, the type of Christian faith I did have when I had lived that monastic way of life. A lack of faith I really discovered and felt when I went, during that not-too-long-ago period of yearning, to stay once again and for a while in a monastery…

You really do seem to have been born with an overwhelming urge to fix the world, don’t you? Is that why you’re so sad? Because you can’t fix it?

Unfortunately, I do seem to have been cursed, for some forty years, with idealism and with a hubriatic, fanatical, belief in what I deludedly believed was ‘a good cause’. Which idealism and which belief caused me, as an extremist, to inflict and contribute to suffering; to incite violence, hatred, prejudice, intolerance.

But my sadness now is because of that extremist past; because of my arrogance; because I did cause such suffering; because I for so long incited violence, hatred, prejudice, intolerance. Because I did what was wrong, and cannot undo the harm done.

This sadness – this knowing of my own mistakes, this knowing of my own arrogance, this knowing of the harm I have done – means that I have no desire whatsoever to try and ‘fix the world’. Rather, it means a deep personal remorse, a desire – however silly it might seem to others – for expiation. It means I do not like myself – as a person – knowing what I did, what I was capable of, and maybe still am capable of. It means I have to remember – every day – my mistakes, my uncertitude of knowing, and what is good, numinous, beautiful, innocent. It means living a quiet and quite reclusive life.

Which sadness and which remembering were part of the genesis of my philosophy of pathei-mathos. Of my feeling that perhaps we – as compassionate individuals aware of our fallibility and past mistakes – should not concern ourselves with what is beyond the purveu of our empathy. Which in practice means the living of a private, a very personal, life where we do not concern ourselves with things we admit we do not really understand and have no personal knowledge of; that we do not meddle in the affairs of people we do not know and do not interact with on a personal basis; and that we only ever get involved in valourous defence of someone unfairly treated or unfairly attacked if we personally encounter such a situation or such an event.

[…]

It seems to me that a fair way to tentatively evaluate a religion, a way of life, is by a personal knowing of many of those who believe in that religion and who also try to follow its tenets, as opposed to just dryly studying its ‘sacred books’ or its theological doctrines. But of course I could be wrong, for my forty years of extremism certainly reveals my judgement to be often – or mostly – flawed.

I did read the Quran […] but something about it seemed harsh and unforgiving.

Did you read the Quran in Arabic, or one of the English interpretations? Most interpretations do not really capture the often poetic expressions of the original, although some try to, as for example:

“This present life is only like water which We send down from the clouds so that the luxuriant herbage sustaining man and beast may grow; until when the Earth puts on its lovely garment and becomes adorned, and its people believe that they are its masters – down then comes Our scourge upon it by night or in broad day, laying it waste as though it had not blossomed yesterday. Thus We make plain our Signs to thoughtful men.” 10: 24-25 (Interpretation of Meaning)

“Allah (alone) has power over, and is the (sole) master of, all things. The creations in Heaven and Earth, the very change of Night to Day, are Signs for those gifted with intelligence, those who whether sitting, standing or reclining on their sides, give praise to Allah and who frequently recall these creations in Heaven and Earth, (saying): ‘You who are our Rabb – You created all these things for a purpose; the achievement is Yours alone.’ ” 3:189-191 (Interpretation of Meaning)

Personally, and in my experience, I think the Quran needs to be understood, studied, and appreciated, in relation to Ahadith, to the Sunnah. In the context of the lives of ordinary Muslims and of the history of Islam, and thus in the context of Adab – of the manners, the morals, the culture – of those Muslims who do undertake the obligatory daily prayers, who do fast in Ramadan, who do believe in Jannah, and who do try to avoid what is haram.

[Therefore] in this context – of the affects and consequences of the Quran and the Sunnah – I do not agree that the Quran seems harsh and unforgiving.

[…]


Correspondent #3
(2011)

Views Regarding Islam

Although I no longer consider myself a Muslim, I retain a great respect for that particular Way of Life, as I do for several other Ways I have personal experience of, such as Christianity, Buddhism, and Taoism. And a respect for two basic reasons. First, because I feel that those and many other Ways – for example Judaism and Hinduism – have been and are a means to remind us of the numinous, of the error of hubris, of the need for a certain personal humility. For they all, diverse as they appear to be, can enable us to glimpse or feel or know that supra-personal perspective which inclines us or can incline us toward living a more moral life, expressed as such a life often is in personal virtues such as compassion, self-restraint, honesty, modesty. Second, because I am acutely aware of how fallible I am, that I could be wrong, that I have been wrong in the past, and that my answers to certain philosophical, theological, and moral questions (as evident for example in my philosophy of pathei-mathos) are only my own often tentative and certainly fallible answers.

As for my reasons for leaving Islam, they were intellectual, theological, and personal.

Personally, I was greatly affected by the suicide of my fiancée in 2006; a tragic event which changed me fundamentally, forcing me as it did to honestly confront myself, my failings, and my selfish life-long passion for abstractions and ideologies over and above empathy, a personal love, and a personal loyalty.

Intellectually, I had concluded – as later tentatively expressed in writings such as Religion and The Numinous Way: Three Essays Concerning The Nature of Religion – that many or most Ways eventually became religions [1] and thus, irrespective of how they might enable us to feel and appreciate the numinous, they were or they became beset with problems of dogma, doctrine, and exegesis, especially if as many of them did they relied on or were based on certain texts regarded as sacred or divinely inspired or authoritative. Which problems led to, in my view, the positing of new categories, abstractions, and which abstractions human beings were expected to strive for, or conform to, and which striving or expected conformity often resulted in a particular personal attitude antithetical to pathei-mathos and empathy, because what was or came to be valued over and above pathei-mathos and empathy was the wisdom said to be contained in scripture or in some text or in some interpretation or in some dogma or doctrine propounded by some theological authority. There was or there developed a clash of interpretations, categories, dogma, and doctrine, which resulted in schism, reforms, and often gave rise to practical conflict and thence to human suffering.

Theologically – that is, in respect of matters divine – I had come to consider that it was a personal empathy that should be the basis for ethics as well as being a primary means – sans abstractions – of knowing and appreciating the numinous, rerum divinarum et humanarum. And that pathei-mathos possessed, as Aeschylus suggested, a numinous authority which replaced the authority of texts, faith, and belief.

However, this process of personal change, of intellectual and theological reflexion, occurred over a period of many years, only ending in 2009. It was, as I mentioned in Myngath, a profound inner struggle which “revealed to me the most important truth concerning human life. Which is that a shared, a loyal, love between two people is the most beautiful, the most numinous, the most valuable thing of all.”

Anti-Muslim Organizations

Reluctant as I am and have been for some time to give my personal opinion about such political organizations – given my own lamentable history of extremism and my many errors of experience spanning some four decades – I cannot quite escape the feeling that perhaps by not criticizing such groups, when directly asked and on the basis of my personal experience and knowledge of extremism, I am somehow not doing something I morally should do. For I have – on the basis of my pathei-mathos – concluded that such groups, and the views and the actions they encourage and incite, are most certainly morally reprehensible and therefore can and should be criticized and opposed for otherwise the bigotry, the extremism, they represent and express will assuredly continue and cause suffering […]

So, for what it is worth, here is my personal and fallible opinion in respect of the anti-Islamic organizations you mention. Apropos of such groups, I do wonder what their leaders, their organizers, and their members know about Islam – how long they have studied Islam (including Shariah) and if that study was of a scholarly nature – and what practical and personal experience, if any, they have of Muslim communities, Muslim families, and the Muslim way of life in general.

For it seems to me – judging by their rhetoric, their propaganda, their literature, and their behaviour at meetings and demonstrations and toward Muslims – that they have little knowledge of Islam and no personal and practical experience of the Muslim way of life, and that therefore despite what they say or write (or may even believe about themselves) their views about Islam and Muslims are based on, and express, prejudice, intolerance, fear, arrogance, harshness, and hatred. That is, such organizations are themselves of an extremist nature, incite extremism and bigotry, and recruit and encourage extremists and bigots, where by an extremist I mean

“a person who tends toward harshness, or who is harsh, or who supports/incites harshness, in pursuit of some objective, usually of a political or a religious nature. Here, harsh is: rough, severe, a tendency to be unfeeling, unempathic. Hence extremism is considered to be: (a) the result of such harshness, and (b) the principles, the causes, the characteristics, that promote, incite, or describe the harsh action of extremists.”

The intolerance and the prejudice of bigotry is based on, and thrives on and encourages, ignorance and fear. In the case of such organizations an ignorance of and a fear of Islam, of the Muslim way of life, and of Shariah.

For instance, have the leaders and the organizers and those who bankroll such organizations read the Quran in Arabic? Have they studied the Sunnah – at the very least the collections of Bukhari and Muslim? Have they studied Al-Adab Al-Mufrad? Have they studied Islamic jurisprudence and discussed Shariah with a Qadi? How many conversations about Islam have they had with learned Imaams? Have they lived in a land where the majority of people are Muslim? How many times have they been guests of Muslim families and so shared meals and personal conversations and thus empathised with Muslims? How many Muslim women have they interviewed or asked about Hijab – about why they wear it and how it makes them feel?

If they have not done all those things then they are, in my view, fundamentally ignorant concerning Islam and the Muslim way of life, and thus they speak and write and demonstrate in public about what they personally are uneducated about and about those whom they have not personally interacted with in a courteous way. Thus their opinions, their views, are those of bigots, and their behaviour is uncivilized – that is, the behaviour of people who are unlearned, ill-informed, uncultured, uncourteous, hubriatic. They are also hypocritical, for these leaders and organizers – and those who bankroll them – are virulent in their praise of ‘Western civilization and Western values’ without, it seems to me, realizing that they themselves with their ignorance, their hubris, their intolerance, their prejudice – their bigotry – are excellent examples of the new barbarians assailing Western culture.

For what does Western culture mean to such home-grown extremists? The culture of Homer, Sappho, Aristotle, Cicero, Livy, Mary Magdelene, Hillel the Elder, Abelard,Thomas Aquinas, Joan of Arc, Dante Alighieri, Isaac Newton, JS Bach, Jane Austen, TS Eliot, Mother Teresa, Niels Bohr, Martin Luther King, and many many others? The culture of a classical education and of scholarship, of a Christian humility and compassion, of chivalry and manners, of humanism, of fairness, of tolerance, of freedom of religion, and of equal and impartial justice under the law? Certainly not – judging by the views, the behaviour, and the extremism of those unlearned, ill-informed, uncultured, uncourteous, hubriatic extremists.

Note, Post Scriptum:

[1] I have endeavoured to make a distinction between a Way and a religion.

” By the term Way – or Way of Life – is meant a weltanschauung shared among or accepted by a number of people where there is distinction made between the realm of the sacred/the-revered/the-numinous and the realm of the ordinary or the human, but which: (i) is not codified in writings or books but which is often or mostly transmitted aurally; (ii) has no organization beyond – and does not require any organization beyond – the communal/local level; and (iii) whose ethos and rites and customs are inclined toward maintaining the natural balance – the natural healthy harmonious relation between humans, life, and ‘the sacred’ – and not toward avoiding the punishment of some powerful deity/gods or some supra-personal power(s).One essential difference thus between a religion and a Way is that a religion requires faith and belief (and thus words, concepts, and dogma and organization and conformity), whereas a Way tends to be empathic/intuitive and more a customary, unspoken, way of doing things and which way of doing things – not being organized and by its ethos neither requiring organization nor conformity – varies or can vary from place to place.

Thus, religions tend to be or tend to manifest what is masculous whereas Ways in the past tended to be or tended to manifest what is muliebral.

Some religions began as spiritual Ways, but evolved over long durations of causal Time to become religions.” FAQ Numinous Way (Last Modified: 30/May/2012)


Image credit: NASA/JPL/CalTech – Messier 104


Botticelli - Madonna del Magnificat

Prefatory Note

The following essay is taken from the pdf compilation Pathei-Mathos: A Path to Humility (c. 405 kB). The compilation contains four essays of mine about or which substantially refer to humility [1]. Two of the essays were written in 2012, one in 2010, and the other in 2011. Since humility and hubris form an important part of the philosophy of pathei-mathos – what I previously (pre-Spring-2012) called the numinous way – this compilation may therefore be useful and of some interest to those interested in or studying that philosophy, a philosophy I endeavoured to outline in my text Recuyle Of The Philosophy Of Pathei-Mathos.


   

Toward Humility – A Brief Personal View

The more I reflect on religion – and on my experience of various religions and those who believe in them – the more I incline toward the view that most if not all of what have sometimes been referred to as ‘the major religions’ – Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism – manifest (each in their own particular way) and enhance (or can enhance) our humanity, and thus enshrine a means for us to be compassionate and tolerant and receptive to humility. For it seems to me there is, to paraphrase an expression of George Fox used by The Religious Society of Friends, ‘that of the numinous’ in every person, and that answering to ‘that of the numinous’ can and has taken various manifestations over millennia with all such manifestations deserving of respect since there is an underlying unity, a similar spiritual essence – a similar discovery and knowing and appreciation of the numinous, a similar understanding of the error of hubris – beyond those different outer manifestations and the different terms and expressions and allegories used to elucidate ‘that of the numinous’.

Thus it would be improper and erroneous of me to conclude that a particular religion has influenced more people in a good way – is ‘better’ – than another religion or all other religions. Especially as – and again in my admittedly fallible view – the bad done, the suffering caused, by those ‘in the name of’ some religion or by adherents of some religion, most probably are caused by or are a consequence of our errors, our faults, our propensity as human beings to be hubriatic, to sometimes or often do or sanction what is dishonourable, inhuman, or just plain selfish.

As for Buddhism, I tend to view it – like Taoism – as a Way of Life rather than as a religion [2] and even if considered a religion then most probably it is a noble exception considering how, unlike many religions, it has seldom if ever been associated with people and tyrants who followed it doing dishonourable, inhuman, extremist, deeds in its name. Certainly Buddhism – and Taoism and many others Ways – have not (so far as I know) been used by fallible hubriatic humans to try to justify wars, invasions, persecution, killing, intolerance, and the mistreatment of those deemed to be heretics and apostates.

The discovery and knowing and thus the appreciation of the numinous by individuals, in a life-changing and thus often reformatory way, is frequently the result of pathei-mathos, and which pathei-mathos can incline individuals toward their own uncertitude of knowing and thus toward a certain personal humility. A personal humility which I personally believe manifests – which is – the essence of the numinous and thus the essence of our humanity, of our nature as human beings capable of reason, compassion, love, honour, and gentleness; human beings who have the ability to choose not to commit the error of hubris; the ability not to do what is harsh, dishonourable, hateful, violent; the ability to refrain from inflicting suffering on other humans and other living beings; the ability to be empathic and thus appreciate the connexion we are to all Life, to ψυχή.

In my own case, as I mentioned in Just My Fallible Views, Again:

“Being with – living with – Muslims (both Sunni and Shia) taught me humility [3], the ignorance of my past political beliefs, and how the Muslim way of life can be and certainly has been (on balance) an influence for good, just as Christianity (on balance) is and has been, and just as Judaism is and has been […]

Hence I find myself in the curious position of now possibly understanding and appreciating the wordless raison d’etat of Catholic monasticism, manifest as this is in a personal humility; a humility that during my time as a monk my then still hubriatic self could not endure for long. Which recent understanding and appreciation led me for a short while at least, and only a few years ago, to wistfully if unrealistically yearn to return to that particular secluded way of life. And unrealistic because for all that understanding, appreciation, and yearning, I no longer had the type of faith that was required, the type of Christian faith I did have when I had lived that monastic way of life. A lack of faith I really discovered and felt when I went, during that not-too-long-ago period of yearning, to stay once again and for a while in a monastery […]

Also, although I no longer consider myself a Muslim, I retain a great respect for that particular Way of Life, as I do for several other Ways I have personal experience of, such as Christianity, Buddhism, and Taoism. And a respect for two basic reasons. First, because I feel that those (and many other Ways and religions, for example Judaism and Hinduism) have been and are a means to remind us of the numinous, of the error of hubris, of the need for a certain personal humility. For they all, diverse as they appear to be, can enable us to glimpse or feel or know that supra-personal perspective which inclines us or can incline us toward living a more moral life, expressed as such a life often is in personal virtues such as compassion, self-restraint, honesty, modesty. Second, because I am acutely aware of how fallible I am, that I could be wrong, that I have been wrong in the past, and that my answers to certain philosophical, theological, and moral questions (as evident for example in my philosophy of pathei-mathos) are only my own often tentative and certainly fallible answers.”

For me personally, humility is also an acknowledgement of a particular and important intuition regarding the self, regarding our perception of ourselves. Of how – when as individuals via pathei-mathos or otherwise we experience and then appreciate the numinous – we are not (as we often like to believe) in control of our lives, but instead are subject to supra-personal forces that have often, in the past as now, been variously termed or described as God, the gods, Fate, karma, Allah, wyrd, the cosmic perspective, the acausal, destiny, Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες, and so on. Of how such a belief of personally being in control, or of being capable of so being in control, of our lives, is mere egoism at best and, at worst, hubris; an egoism and a hubris that, whether we know or not – and mostly we with our egoism and our hubris do not know – are both the genesis of suffering and the raison d’etat behind our perpetuation of suffering.

David Myatt
September 2012

Notes

[1] Humility is used here, in a spiritual context, to refer to that gentleness, that modest demeanour, that understanding, which derives from an appreciation of the numinous and also from one’s own admitted uncertainty of knowing and one’s acknowledgement of past mistakes. An uncertainty of knowing, an acknowledgement of mistakes, that often derive from πάθει μάθος.

Humility is thus the natural human balance that offsets the unbalance of hubris (ὕβρις) – the balance that offsets the unbalance of pride and arrogance, and the balance that offsets the unbalance of that certainty of knowing which is one basis for extremism, for extremist beliefs, for fanaticism and intolerance. That is, humility is a manifestation of the natural balance of Life; a restoration of ἁρμονίη, of δίκη, of σωφρονεῖν – of those qualities and virtues – that hubris and extremism, that ἔρις and πόλεμος, undermine, distance us from, and replace.

[2] My experience of various religions – and of other elucidations of ‘that of the numinous’ – has led me to conclude that it is possible to make a distinction between a religion and a Way of Life. 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.

[3] In terms of my own pathei-mathos, the culture of Islam – manifest in Adab, in Namaz, and in a reliance on only Allah, and a culture lived, experienced, by me over a period of some nine years – was not only a new revelation of the numinous but also a grounding in practical humility. The very performance of Namaz requires and cultivates an attitude of personal humility, most obvious in Sajdah, the prostration to and in the presence of Allah, Ar-Rahman, Ar-Raheem; a personal humility encouraged by Adab, and shared in Jummah Namaz in a Masjid and during Ramadan.


Image credit: Botticelli – Madonna del Magnificat

NASA - Earth and Moon from Voyager

Enantiodromia and The Reformation of The Individual


The Muliebral and the Masculous

The third axiom of The Way of Pathei-Mathos is:

That because of or following πάθει μάθος there is or there can be a change in, a development of, the nature, the character – the φύσις – of the person because of that revealing and that appreciation (or re-appreciation) of the numinous whose genesis is this πάθει μάθος, and which appreciation of the numinous includes an awareness of why ὕβρις is an error (often the error) of unbalance, of disrespect or ignorance (of the numinous), of a going beyond the due limits, and which ὕβρις itself is the genesis both of the τύραννος and of the modern error of extremism. For the tyrannos and the modern extremist (and their extremisms) embody and give rise to and perpetuate ἔρις and thus are a cause of, or contribute to and aid, suffering.

This change, this development of the individual, is or can be the result of a process termed enantiodromia, which is the process of perceiving, feeling, knowing, beyond causal appearance and the separation-of-otherness and thus when what has become separated – or has been incorrectly perceived as separated – returns to the wholeness, the unity, from whence it came forth. When beings are understood in their correct relation to Being, beyond the causal abstraction of different/conflicting ideated opposites, a relation manifest in the cosmic perspective and thus a knowing of ourselves as but one fallible, microcosmic, fragile, mortal, biological nexion connected to and not separate from all other Life.

An important and a necessary part of enantiodromia involves a discovery, a knowing, an acceptance, and – as prelude – an interior balancing within themselves, of what has hitherto been perceived and designated as the apparent opposites described by terms such as ‘muliebral’ and ‘masculous’ [1]. A perception of opposites manifested in ideations such as those concerning assumed traits of character, and assumed or ‘ideal’ rôles, behaviour, and occupations, assigned to each person, and especially historically in the prejudice of how the rôle – the duty – of men is or should be to lead, to control, to govern, to possess authority, to dominate, to be master.

The discovery of enantiodromia is of how such a designated and perceived dichotomy is but illusive, unnecessary, unhealthy, appearance, and does not therefore express either the natural, the real, nature (φύσις) of our personal character, our being, or the real nature, the Φύσις, of Being itself. In essence, this is the discovery, mentioned by Heraclitus [2], concerning Πόλεμος and γινόμενα πάντα κατ΄ ἔριν καὶ χρεώμενα; that all beings are naturally born – become perceived as separate beings – because of ἔρις, and their genesis (their ‘father’) is Πόλεμος.

Thus the strife, the discord, often engendered by an external and by the internal (within the individual) clash between such apparent opposites as the ‘muliebral’ and ‘masculous’ is one that has naturally arisen due to misperception, due to the separation-of-otherness, as a result of a purely causal, egoist, apprehension of ourselves and of others; an error of perception that, as previously mentioned, empathy and πάθει μάθος can correct, and which correction reveals the truth of ψυχή and a knowing of the cosmic perspective.

One practical consequence of this misapprehension, this error of ὕβρις, concerning ‘muliebral’ and ‘masculous’ has been the distaste – even the hatred – of certain ideologies and religions and individuals for those whose personal love is for someone of the same gender. Another practical consequence is and has been the error of extremism, where what is masculous is emphasized to the detriment (internal, and external) of what is muliebral, and where, for example, as in many harsh ideologies, men and women are expected, encouraged – often forced, as for example in fascism – to assume some rôle based on or deriving from some manufactured abstraction, some ideation, concerning what is assumed to be or has been posited as ‘the ideal man’ or the ‘ideal woman’ in some idealized society or in some idealized ‘nation’.

Furthermore, given that these attributes of personal character that have been termed ‘muliebral’ and ‘masculous’ are founded on an illusive apprehension of beings and Being – and on ideations (such as rôles, occupations, and so on) posited as a result of this misapprehension – they not symbolic, or mythological, or unconscious, or even archetypal in the sense of anima and animus.

A Natural Reformation

The balance attained by – which is – enantiodromia is that of simply feeling, accepting, discovering, the empathic, the human, the personal, scale of things and thus understanding our own fallibility-of-knowing, our limitations as a human being; that, in essence, αἰὼν παῖς ἐστι παίζων πεσσεύων· παιδὸς ἡ βασιληίη [3], that τὰ δὲ πάντα οἰακίζει Κεραυνός [4] and that Φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ [5].

Which in practical terms simply amounts to understanding, knowing, Being and the genesis, the φύσις, of beings. Or, expressed in terms of the philosophy of pathei-mathos, it amounts to wu-wei, and to the understanding that ‘what and who’ are out of range of our empathy and what and who we have no personal knowledge of, is and are of no concern, of no passionate relevance, for us, because ‘beyond the control, the influence’ of our own fallible, error-prone, nature, and should thus be regarded ‘without prejudice’, as ‘innocent’, and the subject of no opinion, no ideations, by us. That is, we accept empathy and pathei-mathos as our guide, and (i) we do not speculate about, do not manufacture our own ideations about, those whom and that which are beyond the purveu of our empathy; and (ii) we do not accept the ideations/abstractions of others concerning those whom and that which are beyond the purveu of our empathy, and who and which we have no direct personal experience of.

Thus the process, the discovery, the reformation, is a natural one that does not involve any theory, or dogma, or praxis, or require any faith or belief of any kind. There is the personal cultivation of empathy and wu-wei, and that is all. How then – for those not having endured a personal πάθει μάθος – might empathy and wu-wei be cultivated, and thus how might the natural balance be found/restored, thus allowing ψυχή to flourish, bringing ἁρμονίη and σωφρονεῖν?

We might let go of ideations, of causal abstractions, many or most of which only serve to try and distinguish us from them, from other living-beings, human or otherwise, and thus increase our illusion of separation. We might consider, ponder on, the cosmic perspective and learn to value tolerance and humility. We might muse on innocence and the nature of the good, for the good is simply what is fair; what is compassionate, what inclines us to appreciate the numinous and understand why ὕβρις is an error of unbalance. We might consider why, for example, the bad is just bad φύσις. Or a natural consequence of undeveloped, unformed, not-mature, unreformed φύσις. Of a lack of empathy, of a lack of εὐταξία, of little or no appreciation of, of no personal experience of, the numinous, leading thus to individuals doing what is unfair; what is harsh and unfeeling; what intentionally causes or contributes to suffering.

We could, for example, and perhaps importantly, learn from the culture of our society and that of others, for correctly appreciated such culture – as manifest, for example, in literature, music, memoirs, poetry, history, Art, and sometimes in myths and legends and religious allegories – is but the recorded/aural pathei-mathos and empathic understanding of others over decades, centuries, millennia.

David Myatt
April 2012 ce

This essay forms Part Three of the text Recuyle Of The Philosophy Of Pathei-Mathos

Notes:

[1] The term muliebral derives from the classical Latin word muliebris, and in the context The Numinous Way/The Way of Pathei-Mathos refers to those positive traits, abilities, and qualities that are conventionally and historically associated with women, such as empathy, sensitivity, gentleness, compassion, and a desire to love and be loved over and above a desire for conflict/adventure/war.

The counterpart to muliebral is masculous, which is used to refer to certain traits, abilities, and qualities that are conventionally and historically associated with men, such as competitiveness, aggression, a certain harshness, the desire to organize/control, and a desire for adventure and/or for conflict/war/violence/competition over and above personal love and culture.

Extremist ideologies manifest an unbalanced, an excessive, masculous nature.

Masculous is from the Latin masculus and occurs, for example, in some seventeenth century works such as one by William Struther: ” This is not only the language of Canaan, but also the masculous Schiboleth.” True Happines, or, King Davids Choice: Begunne In Sermons, And Now Digested Into A Treatise. Edinbvrgh, 1633

[2] Fragments 53 and 80

53: Πόλεμος πάντων μὲν πατήρ ἐστι, πάντων δὲ βασιλεύς, καὶ τοὺς μὲν θεοὺς ἔδειξε τοὺς δὲ ἀνθρώπους, τοὺς μὲν δούλους ἐποίησε τοὺς δὲ ἐλευθέρους.

Polemos our genesis, governing us all to bring forth some gods, some mortal beings with some unfettered yet others kept bound.

80: εἰδέναι δὲ χρὴ τὸν πόλεμον ἐόντα ξυνόν, καὶ δίκην ἔριν, καὶ γινόμενα πάντα κατ΄ ἔριν καὶ χρεώμενα [χρεών]

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

[3] Fragment 52: For Aeon, we are a game, pieces moved on some board: since, in this world of ours, we are but children.

[4] Fragment 64: All beings are guided by Lightning

[5] Fragment 123: Concealment accompanies Physis

 


Image credit:
NASA – Earth and Moon as seen from the departing Voyager interplanetary spacecraft


Some Personal Musings On Empathy
In relation to the philosophy of πάθει μάθος


Empathy and The Individual

The first axiom of the philosophy of pathei-mathos is:

That human beings possess a mostly latent perceptive faculty, the faculty of empathy – ἐμπάθεια – which when used, or when developed and used, can provide us with a particular type of knowing, a particular type of knowledge, and especially a certain knowledge concerning the φύσις (the physis, the nature or character) of human beings and other living beings. [1]

Being a natural faculty – like sight and hearing – empathy is personal, individual, and thus depends on and relates to what-is, and/or who-is, nearby: in range of our empathy. Thus the knowing we acquire or can acquire by empathy is a personal knowing just as seeing and listening to a person speaking is a personal knowing acquired directly in the immediacy-of-the-moment. If, however, a person be out of range of our empathy, and we have no previous empathic or personal encounters with them, they are empathically and personally unknown to us and therefore, since we have no knowledge or intimation of their physis, their character, we cannot fairly assess them and should accord them ‘the benefit of the doubt’ since this presumption of the innocence of others – until direct personal experience, and individual and empathic knowing of them, prove otherwise – is the fair, the reasoned, the moral, the empathic, thing to do.

For empathy, according to the philosophy of pathei-mathos, is considered the primary means whereby we can fairly asses [2] – that is, fairly judge – a person and thus know them (their physis) as they are, with this knowing, by the nature of our as yet undeveloped and underused faculty of empathy, of necessity requiring a personal and a direct experience of them extending over a period of time. In effect, our initial intuitions are either confirmed or modified by such direct contact, rather as most humans may require several periods of reading or of the hearing of some lengthy text in order to commit it to memory and be able to reproduce it, aurally or in writing.

There is thus what may be described as the empathic scale: that which or those who are reachable, knowable, by means of, in range of, our empathy; and it is this scale which, in essence, may be said to be a measure, a function and expression, of our humanity; which reveals, discovers, physis and thus what is important about ourselves, about other human beings, and about the other life with which we share this planet. Beyond the reach of empathy is the physis of beings we do not (as yet) personally know and we have to admit we do not know, and so cannot and should not be sure about or make claims about or formulate some theory or opinion about.

Everything others associate with an individual, or ascribe to an individual, or use to describe or to denote an individual, or even how an individual denotes or describes themselves, are not relevant, and have no bearing on our understanding, our knowledge, of that individual and thus – morally – should be ignored, for it is our personal knowing of them which is necessary, important, valid, fair.  For assessment of another – by the nature of assessment and the nature of empathy – can only be personal, direct, individual. Anything else is biased prejudgement or prejudice or unproven assumption.

This means that we approach them – we view them –  without any prejudice, without any expectations, and without having made any assumptions concerning them, and as a unique, still unknown, still undiscovered, individual person: as ‘innocent’ until proven, until revealed by their actions and behaviour to be, otherwise. Furthermore, empathy – the acausal perception/knowing and revealing of physis – knows nothing of temporal things and human manufactured abstractions/categories such as assumed or assigned ethnicity; nothing of gender; nothing of what is now often termed ‘sexual preference/orientation’. Nothing of politics, or religion. Nothing of some disability someone may suffer from; nothing of social status or wealth; nothing regarding occupation (or lack of one). Nothing regarding the views, the opinions, of others concerning someone.  For empathy is just empathy, a perception different from our other senses such as sight and hearing, and a perception which provides us, or which can provide us, with a unique perspective, a unique type of knowing, a unique (acausal) connexion to the external world and especially to other human beings.

Empathy – and the knowing that derives from it – thus transcends ‘race’, politics, religion, gender, sexual orientation, occupation, wealth (or lack of it), ‘status’, and all the other things and concepts often used to describe, to denote, to prejudge, to classify, a person; so that to judge someone – for example – by and because of their political views (real or assumed) or by their religion or by their sexual orientation is an act of hubris [ ὕβρις ].

In practice, therefore, in the revealing of the physis of a person, the political views, the religion, the gender, the perceived ethnicity, of someone are irrelevant. It is a personal knowing of them, the perception of their physis by empathy, and an acceptance of them as – and getting to know them as – a unique individual which are important and considered moral; for they are one emanation of the Life of which we ourselves are but one other finite and fallible part.

Concerning The Error of Extremism

Extremism – as defined and understood by the philosophy of pathei-mathos – is a modern example of the error of hubris. An outward expression – codified in an ideology – of a bad individual physis (of a bad or faulty or misguided or underdeveloped/unmatured individual nature); of a lack of inner balance in individuals; of a lack of empathy and of pathei-mathos.

There is thus, in extremists, an ignorance of the true nature of Being and beings, and a lack of appreciation of or a wilful rejection of the numinous, as well as a distinct lack of or an aversion to personal humility, for it is the nature of the extremist that they are convinced and believe that ‘they know’ that the ideology/party/movement/group/faith that they accept or adhere to – or the leader that they follow – have/has the right answers, the correct solutions, to certain problems which they faithfully assert exist in society and often in human beings.

This conviction, this arrogance of belief, or this reliance on the assessment of someone else (some leader), combined with a lack of empathy and a lack of the insight and the self-knowing wrought by pathei-mathos, causes or greatly enhances an existing inner/interior dissatisfaction (an unbalance, a lack of harmony) within them in regard to what-is, so that some vision, some ideal, of the future – of society – becomes more important to them, more real, more meaningful, than people, than life, as people and life are now. Thus, they with their ideology, their faith, with and because of their dissatisfaction, possess or develope an urge to harshly interfere, continually finding fault with people, with society, with life itself, and so strive – mostly violently, hatefully, unethically, and with prejudice and often with anger – to undermine, to violently change, to ‘revolutionize’, or to destroy, what-is.

In simple terms, extremists fail to understand, to appreciate, to know, to apprehend, what is important about human beings and human living; what the simple reality, the simple nature, the real physis, of the majority of human beings and of society is and are, and thus what innocence means and implies. That is, there is a failure to know, to appreciate, what is good, and natural and numinous and innocent, in respect of human beings and of society. A failure to know, a failure to appreciate, a failure to feel what it is that empathy and pathei-mathos provide: the wisdom of our personal nature and personal needs; of our physis as rational – as balanced – human beings possessed of certain qualities, certain virtues, or capable of developing balance, capable of developing certain qualities, certain virtues, and thus having or of developing the ability to live in a certain manner: with fairness, with love, and without hatred and prejudice.

What is good, and natural – what should thus be appreciated, and respected, and not profaned by the arrogance (the hubris) of the extremist, and what empathy and pathei-mathos reveal – are the desire for personal love and the need to be loyally loved; the need for a family and the bonds of love within a family that lead to the desire to protect, care for, work for, and if necessary defend one’s loved ones. The desire for a certain security and stability and peace, manifest in a home, in sufficiency of food, in playfulness, in friends, in tolerance, in a lack of danger. The need for the dignity, the self-respect, that work, that giving love and being loved, provide.

Our societies have evolved, painfully slowly, to try and provide such simple, such human, such natural, such ineluctably personal, things; to allow opportunities for such things; and have so evolved often because of individuals naturally gifted with empathy or who were inspired by their own pathei-mathos or that of others, and often and thus also so evolved because of the culture that such societies encouraged and sometimes developed, being as such culture was – via, for example, literature, music, memoirs, poetry, Art – the recorded/aural pathei-mathos and empathic understanding of others often combined with the recorded/aural pathei-mathos and the empathic understanding of others in other societies. A pathei-mathos and an understanding that may form or in some manner express the ethos of a society, and thence become an inspiration for certain laws intended to express, in a society, what is considered to be moral and thus provide and maintain or at least aid valued human and personal qualities such as the desire for stability, peace, a loving home, sufficiency of food, and the need for the dignity of work.

But as I mentioned in some other musings regarding my own lamentable extremist past:

” Instead of love we, our selfish, our obsessed, our extremist kind, engendered hate. Instead of peace, we engendered struggle, conflict, killing. Instead of tolerance we engendered intolerance. Instead fairness and equality we engendered dishonour and discrimination. Instead of security we produced, we encouraged, revolution, violence, change.

The problem, the problems, lay inside us, in our kind, not in ‘the world’, not in others. We, our kind – we the pursuers of, the inventors of, abstractions, of ideals, of ideologies; we the selfish, the arrogant, the hubriatic, the fanatics, the obsessed – were and are the main causes of hate, of conflict, of suffering, of inhumanity, of violence. Century after century, millennia after millennia.” Letter To My Undiscovered Self

For perhaps one of the worst consequences of the extremism of extremists – of modern hubris in general – is, or seems to me to be, the loss of what is personal, and thus what is human; the loss of the empathic, the human, scale of things; with what is personal, human, empathic, being or becoming displaced, scorned, forgotten, obscured, or a target for destruction and (often violent) replacement by something supra-personal such as some abstract political/religious notion or concept, or some ideal, or by some prejudice and some often violent intolerance regarding human beings we do not personally know because beyond the range of our empathy.

That is, the human, the personal, the empathic, the natural, the immediate, scale of things – a tolerant and a fair acceptance of what-is – is lost and replaced by an artificial scale posited by some ideology or manufactured by some τύραννος (tyrannos); a scale in which the suffering of individuals, and strife, are regarded as inevitable, even necessary, in order for ‘victory to be achieved’ or for some ideal or plan or agenda or manifesto to be implemented. Thus the good, the stability, that exists within society is ignored, with the problems of society – real, imagined, or manufactured by propaganda – trumpeted. There is then incitement to disaffection, with harshness and violent change of and within society regarded as desirable or necessary in order to achieve preset, predetermined, and always ‘urgent’ goals and aims, since slow personal reform and change in society – that which appreciates and accepts the good in an existing society and in people over and above the problems and the bad – is anathema to extremists, anathema to their harsh intolerant empathy-lacking nature and to their hubriatic striving:

” [The truth] in respect of the societies of the West, and especially of societies such as those currently existing in America and Britain – is that for all their problems and all their flaws they seem to be much better than those elsewhere, and certainly better than what existed in the past. That is, that there is, within them, a certain tolerance; a certain respect for the individual; a certain duty of care; and certainly still a freedom of life, of expression, as well as a standard of living which, for perhaps the majority, is better than elsewhere in the world and most certainly better than existed there and elsewhere in the past.

In addition, there are within their structures – such as their police forces, their governments, their social and governmental institutions – people of good will, of humanity, of fairness, who strive to do what is good, right. Indeed, far more good people in such places than bad people, so that a certain balance, the balance of goodness, is maintained even though occasionally (but not for long) that balance may seem to waver somewhat.

Furthermore, many or most of the flaws, the problems, within such societies are recognized and openly discussed, with a multitude of people of good will, of humanity, of fairness, dedicating themselves to helping those affected by such flaws, such problems. In addition, there are many others trying to improve those societies, and to trying find or implement solutions to such problems, in tolerant ways which do not cause conflict or involve the harshness, the violence, the hatred, of extremism.” Notes on The Politics and Ideology of Hate (Part Two) 

Yet it is just such societies, societies painfully and slowly crafted by the sacrifice and the goodness of multitudes of people of good will, of humanity, of fairness, that extremists – with their harsh intolerant empathy-lacking nature, their hubriatic striving, their arrogant certainty of belief, their anger and their need to harshly interfere – seek to undermine, overthrow, and destroy.

No Hubriatic Striving, No Impersonal Interference

Since the range of empathy is limited to the immediacy-of-the-moment and to personal interactions, and, together with pathei-mathos, is a primary means to reveal the nature of Being and beings –  and since the learning wrought by pathei-mathos and pathei-mathos itself is and are direct and personal – then part of the knowledge, the understanding, that empathy and pathei-mathos reveal and provide is the wisdom of physis and of humility. That is, of the empathic scale of things and of acceptance of our limitations of personal knowing and personal understanding. Of (i) the unwisdom, the hubris, of arrogantly making assumptions about who and what are beyond the range of our empathy and outside of our personal experience, and (ii) of the unwisdom, the hubris, of adhering to some ideology or some belief or to some tyrannos and allowing that ideology or that belief or that tyrannos to usurp the personal judgement, the personal assessment, that empathy and pathei-mathos reveal and provide.

This acceptance of the empathic – of the human, the personal – scale of things and of our limitations as human beings is part of wu-wei. Of not-striving, and of not-interfering, beyond the purveu of our empathy and our pathei-mathos. Of personally and for ourselves discovering the nature, the physis, of beings; of personally working with and not against that physis, and of personally accepting that certain matters or many matters, because of our lack of personal knowledge and lack of personal experience of them, are unknown to us and therefore it is unwise, unbalanced, for us to have and express views or opinions concerning them, and hubris for us to adhere to and strive to implement some ideology which harshly deals with and manifests harsh views and harsh opinions concerning such personally unknown matters.

Thus what and who are beyond the purveu of empathy and beyond pathei-mathos is or should be of no urgent concern, of no passionate relevance, to the individual seeking balance, harmony, and wisdom, and in truth can be detrimental to finding wisdom and living in accord with the knowledge and understanding so discovered.

For wisdom, it seems to me, is simply a personal appreciation of the numinous, of innocence, of balance, of εὐταξία [3], of enantiodromia, and the personal knowing, the understanding, that empathy and pathei-mathos provide. An appreciation, a knowing, that is the genesis of a balanced personal judgement – of discernment – and evident in our perception of Being and beings: of how all living beings are emanations of ψυχή and of how the way of non-suffering causing moral change and reform both personal and social is the way of wu-wei. The way of personal, interior, change; of aiding, helping, assisting other individuals in a direct, a personal manner, and in practical ways, because our seeing is that of the human, the empathic, the muliebral, scale of things and not the scale of hubris, which is the scale either (i) of the isolated, egoist, striveful, unharmonious human being in thrall to their selfish masculous desires or (ii) of the human being unbalanced because in thrall to some tyrannos or to some harsh, extremist, ideology, and which harsh ideologies always manifest an unbalanced masculous, unempathic, nature redolent of that hubriatic certainty-of-knowing and that intolerant desire to interfere which mark and which have marked, and are and were the genesis of, the tyrannos.

David Myatt
April 2012


Notes

[1] The Way of Pathei-Mathos – A Philosophical Compendiary (Second edition, 2012)

[2]  To assess is to reasonably consider and thus arrive at a balanced, a reasonable, a fair, judgement/assessment.

[3] qv. ‘An Appreciation of The Numinous’ in The Way of Pathei-Mathos – A Philosophical Compendiary (Second edition, 2012)


Usage of Terms and Explanations

In order to avoid confusion, I outline here how I understand and use certain terms. My usage may thus sometimes differ from how such terms are commonly used or how they have been previously defined and/or used in some academic and other works relating to society, politics, extremism, philosophy, and so on.


Enantiodromia


A term used to refer to, to name, to describe, the process – the natural moral change, the reformation – that occurs or which can occur in a human being because of or following πάθει μάθος. Part of this process is a knowing, an acceptance, and an interior balancing within the individual, of the muliebral and of the masculous.


Extremist/Extremism

By extreme I mean to be harsh, so that my understanding of an extremist is a person who tends toward harshness, or who is harsh, or who supports/incites harshness, in pursuit of some objective, usually of a political or a religious nature. Here, harsh is: rough, severe, a tendency to be unfeeling, unempathic.

Hence extremism is considered to be: (1) the result of such harshness, and (2) the principles, the causes, the characteristics, that promote, incite, or describe the harsh action of extremists. In addition, a fanatic is considered to be someone with a surfeit of zeal or whose enthusiasm for some objective, or for some cause, is intemperate.

In the philosophical terms of my weltanschauung, an extremist is someone who commits the error of hubris; and error which enantiodromia can sometimes correct or forestall.

Ideology

By the term ideology is meant a coherent, organized, and distinctive set of beliefs and/or ideas or ideals, and which beliefs and/or ideas and/or ideals pertain to governance, and/or to society, and/or to matters of a philosophical or a spiritual nature.


Innocence

Innocence is regarded 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 moral 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.


Muliebral/Masculous

The term muliebral derives from the classical Latin word muliebris, and in the context The Numinous Way/The Way of Pathei-Mathos refers to those positive traits, abilities, and qualities that are conventionally and historically associated with women, such as empathy, sensitivity, gentleness, compassion, and a desire to love and be loved over and above a desire for conflict/adventure/war.

The counterpart to muliebral is masculous, and is used to refer to certain traits, abilities, and qualities that are conventionally and historically associated with men, such as competitiveness, aggression, a certain harshness, the desire to organize/control, and a desire for adventure and/or for conflict/war/violence/competition over and above personal love and culture.

Extremist ideologies manifest an unbalanced, an excessive, masculous nature.

Masculous is from the Latin masculus, and, for example, occurs in some seventeenth century works such as one by William Struther: “This is not only the language of Canaan, but also the masculous Schiboleth.” True Happines, or, King Davids Choice: Begunne In Sermons, And Now Digested Into A Treatise. Edinbvrgh, 1633

Physis

By physis – φύσις – is usually meant either the nature, or character, of individuals, or the natural nature of all beings, beyond their outer appearance, and which natural nature we, as human beings, have a natural [an unconscious] inclination to conceal; either because of ὕβρις or through an ignorance, an unknowing, of ourselves as an emanation of ψυχή.


Politics

By the term politics is meant both of the following, according to context. (i) The theory and practice of governance, with governance itself founded on two fundamental assumptions; that of some minority – a government (elected or unelected), some military authority, some oligarchy, some ruling elite, some tyrannos, or some leader – having or assuming authority (and thus power and influence) over others, and with that authority being exercised over a specific geographic area or territory. (ii) The activities of those individuals or groups whose aim or whose intent is to obtain and exercise some authority or some control over – or to influence – a society or sections of a society by means which are organized and directed toward changing/reforming that society or sections of a society in accordance with a particular ideology.

Religion

By religion is meant organized worship, devotion, and faith, where there is: (i) a belief in some deity/deities, or in some supreme Being or in some supra-personal power who/which can reward or punish the individual, and (ii) a distinction made between the realm of the sacred/the-gods/God/the-revered and the realm of the ordinary or the human.

The term organized here implies an established institution, body or group – or a plurality of these – who or which has at least to some degree codified the faith and/or the acts of worship and devotion, and which is accepted as having some authority or has established some authority among the adherents. This codification can relate to accepting as authoritative certain writings and/or a certain book or books.

Society

By the term society is meant a collection of people who live in a specific geographic area or areas and whose association or interaction is mostly determined by a shared set of guidelines or principles or beliefs, irrespective of whether these are written or unwritten, and irrespective of whether such guidelines/principles/beliefs are willingly accepted or accepted on the basis of acquiescence. These shared guidelines or principles or beliefs often tend to form an ethos and a culture and become the basis for what is considered moral (and good) and thence become the inspiration for laws and/or constitutions.

As used here, the term refers to ‘modern societies’ (especially those of the modern West).

State

By the term The State is meant:

The concept of both (1) organizing and controlling – over a particular and large geographical area – land (and resources); and (2) organizing and controlling individuals over that same geographical particular and large geographical area by: (a) the use of physical force or the threat of force and/or by influencing or persuading or manipulating a sufficient number of people to accept some leader/clique/minority/representatives as the legitimate authority; (b) by means of the central administration and centralization of resources (especially fiscal and military); and (c) by the mandatory taxation of personal income.

My personal (fallible) view is that by their nature States often tend to be masculous (hence the desire for wars, invasions, conquest, competition, and the posturing often associated with ‘patriotism’), although in my view they can become balanced, within, by acceptance of certain muliebral qualities, qualities most obviously manifest in certain aspects of culture, in caring professions, in pursuing personal love and the virtue of wu-wei, and in and by the empowerment and equality of, and respect for, women and those whose personal love is for someone of the same gender.


The Good

The good is considered to be what is fair; what alleviates or does not cause suffering; what is compassionate; what empathy by its revealing inclines us to do.

Thus the bad – what is wrong, immoral – is what is unfair; what is harsh and unfeeling; what intentionally causes or contributes to suffering.

Way

By the term Way – or Way of Life – is meant a weltanschauung shared among or accepted by a number of people where there is distinction made between the realm of the sacred/the-revered/the-numinous and the realm of the ordinary or the human, but which: (i) is not codified in writings or books but which is often or mostly transmitted aurally; (ii) has no organization beyond – and does not require any organization beyond – the communal/local level; and (iii) whose ethos and rites and customs are inclined toward maintaining the natural balance – the natural healthy harmonious relation between humans, life, and ‘the sacred’ – and not toward avoiding the punishment of some powerful deity/gods or some supra-personal power(s).

One essential difference thus between a religion and a Way is that a religion requires faith and belief (and thus words, concepts, and dogma and organization and conformity), whereas a Way tends to be empathic/intuitive and more a customary, unspoken, way of doing things and which way of doing things – not being organized and by its ethos neither requiring organization nor conformity – varies or can vary from place to place.

Thus, religions tend to be or tend to manifest what is masculous whereas Ways in the past tended to be or tended to manifest what is muliebral.


Image credit:
Apulian red-figure vase c. 450 BCE – Λυκοῦργος and the Ἐρινύες (Antikensammlungen, Munich)


This text is available as a pdf document – c.157kB – here.

David Myatt

The Way of Pathei-Mathos


The Way of Pathei-Mathos
A Philosophical Compendiary


Contents

  • Preface
  • I – Pathei-Mathos as Authority and Way
  • II – The Nature and Knowledge of Empathy
  • III – The Nature of Being and of Beings
  • IV – An Appreciation of The Numinous
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix I – Some Explanations, Terms, and Definitions
  • Appendix II – The Change of Enantiodromia
  • Appendix III – The Principle of Δίκα


Preface

This work is a brief introduction to the philosophy, the Way, of πάθει μάθος (pathei-mathos). A substantial portion of the text here is new, although some has been taken from or summarizes or is a rewrite of various parts of some other writings of mine from the past two years, with the text being so arranged as to be – I hope – conducive to a reasoned understanding of this philosophy and its ethos. Thus this work may serve as a guide to distinguish my now completed philosophy of πάθει μάθος from those early (and sometimes even later) parts of The Numinous Way which I have since had occasion to either reject or substantially revise.

The philosophy of pathei-mathos as presented here therefore represents both the essence and the substance of what I have retained after seven or so years of developing The Numinous Way. Given how substantially I have developed and refined The Numinous Way, and given how much has upon reflexion been discarded, perhaps the use of this new term philosophy of πάθει μάθος – in preference to The Numinous Way – is warranted or would be useful in order to avoid confusion with all the rejected, discarded and unrevised material of that ‘numinous way’.

This new philosophy of πάθει μάθος, however, is not a conventional, an academic, one where a person intellectually posits or constructs a coherent theory – involving ontology, epistemology, ethics, and so on – often as a result of an extensive dispassionate study, review, or a criticism of the philosophies or views, past and present, advanced by other individuals involved in the pursuit of philosophy as an academic discipline or otherwise. Instead, the philosophy of pathei-mathos is the result of of my own pathei-mathos, my own learning from diverse – sometimes outré, sometimes radical and often practical – ways of life and experiences over some four decades; of my subsequent reasoned analysis, over a period of several years, of those ways and those experiences; of certain personal intuitions, spread over several decades, regarding the numinous; of an interior process of personal and moral reflexion, lasting several years and deriving from a personal tragedy; and of my life-long study and appreciation of Hellenic culture, an appreciation that led me to translate works by Sappho, Sophocles, Aeschylus and Homer, and involved me in a detailed consideration of the weltanschauung of individuals such as Heraclitus (insofar as such weltanschauungen are known from recorded sayings and surviving books).

Given this appreciation, and as the name suggests, the philosophy of πάθει μάθος has certain connexions to Hellenic culture and I tend therefore to use certain Greek words in order to try and elucidate my meaning and/or to express certain philosophical principles regarded as important in – and for an understanding of – this philosophy; a usage of words which I have endeavoured to explain as and where necessary, sometimes by quoting passages from Hellenic literature or other works and by providing translations of such passages. For it would be correct to assume that the ethos of this philosophy is somewhat indebted to and yet – and importantly – is also a development of the ethos of Hellenic culture; an indebtedness obvious in notions such as δίκη, πάθει μάθος, avoidance of ὕβρις, and references to Heraclitus, Aeschylus, and others, and a development manifest in notions such as empathy and the importance attached to the virtue of compassion.

In addition, and possibly somewhat unconventionally since in accord with the Hellenic etymology of the word and the Homeric sense of φίλος [a] I view a philosopher as someone who is a friend of – whose companion is, who seeks to find, to acquire, to follow, to befriend – σοφόν. Thus in this sense, a philosopher is someone seeking to acquire a certain skill (such as the learning/reasoning that is λόγος) and discover a particular knowledge, such as a knowledge regarding Being and beings, rerum divinarum et humanarum; a knowledge acquired or found by means of both using λόγος and from life itself via practical experience, practical learning; a dual sense evident from the meaning and usage of σοφός.

Thus my personal understanding of philosophy is that it is the result of the activity and the life of a philosopher; more correctly perhaps, it is both the written or the recorded or transmitted results of the lucubrations that such way of life (that such a following, such a seeking, of knowledge and wisdom) engenders, and of what the living of such a life (that such befriending of σοφόν) brings-into-being and/or reveals. And it is in this sense that I consider my way of πάθει μάθος a philosophy.

As for my prior ways of life, study, and experiences – the genesis of this particular philosophy – they are mostly now in the public domain, and if anyone is interested in them (for whatever reason) then they might profitably peruse some of my own writings concerning them. Writings such as: (i) Myngath, and (ii) The Ethos of Extremism; and compilations such as: (i) De Novo Caelo et Nova Terra; (ii) The Culture of Arête; (iii) Meditations on Extremism, and (iv) Remembering Wyrd.

All translations from Ancient Greek in this work are mine, and I have, at the suggestion of a friend, added an appendix giving some brief explanations and definitions of some of the Greek and English terms used, some of which explanations and definitions are taken either from the body of the text or from footnotes and/or which may expand upon the body of the text or footnotes.

David Myatt
24th April 2012 ce

[a] For example, Odyssey, Book I, v.301-302

καὶ σύ, φίλος, μάλα γάρ σ᾽ ὁρόω καλόν τε μέγαν τε,
ἄλκιμος ἔσσ᾽, ἵνα τίς σε καὶ ὀψιγόνων ἐὺ εἴπῃ.

Thus should you, my friend – who I see are strong and fully-grown –
Be as brave, so that those born after you will speak well of you.



I
Pathei-Mathos as Authority and Way

The Greek term πάθει μάθος derives from The Agamemnon of Aeschylus (written c. 458 BCE), and can be interpreted, or translated, as meaning learning from adversary, or wisdom arises from (personal) suffering; or personal experience is the genesis of true learning.

However, this expression should be understood in context [1], for what Aeschylus writes is that the Immortal, Zeus, guiding mortals to reason, has provided we mortals with a new law, which law replaces previous ones, and which new law – this new guidance laid down for mortals – is pathei-mathos.

Thus, for we human beings, pathei-mathos possesses a numinous, a living, authority [2] – that is, the wisdom, the understanding, that arises from one’s own personal experience, from formative experiences that involve some hardship, some grief, some personal suffering, is often or could be more valuable to us (more alive, more meaningful) than any doctrine, than any religious faith, than any words one might hear from someone else or read in some book.

In many ways, this Aeschylean view is an enlightened – a very human – one, and is somewhat in contrast to the faith and revelation-centred view of religions such as Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. In the former, it is the personal experience of learning from, and dealing with, personal suffering and adversity, that is paramount and which possesses authority and ‘meaning’. In the latter, it is faith that some written or transmitted work or works is or are a sacred revelation from the supreme deity one believes in which is paramount, which possess meaning and authority, often combined with a belief that this supreme deity has appointed or authorized some mortal being or beings, or some Institution, as their earthly representative(s), and which Institution and/or representative(s) therefore are believed to possess or are accepted as possessing authority or are regarded as authoritative.

Thus, the Aeschylean view is that learning, and hence wisdom, often or perhaps mostly arises from within us, by virtue of that which afflicts us (and which afflictions could well be understood as from the gods/Nature or from some supra-personal source) and from our own, direct, personal, practical, experience. In contrast, the conventional religious view is that wisdom can be found in some book (especially in some religious text), or be learnt from someone considered to be an authority, or who has been appointed as some authority by some Institution, religious or otherwise.

The essential difference between these two ways is therefore that pathei-mathos is the way of direct learning from personal experience, while the religious way is often or mostly the way of secondary or tertiary learning, from others; of accepting or believing what is written by or taught by someone else or laid down in some dogma, some creed, some book, or by some external authority, such as an Institution.
For The Way of Pathei-Mathos, it is the personal learning that pathei-mathos provides or can provide, combined with – balanced by – the insight, the knowing, that empathy provides, which are considered as possessing authority, and which can aid us to discover wisdom.

The Way of Pathei-Mathos

The fundamental axioms of The Way of Pathei-Mathos are:

1) That human beings possess a mostly latent perceptive faculty, the faculty of empathy – ἐμπάθεια – which when used, or when developed and used, can provide us with a particular type of knowing, a particular type of knowledge, and especially a certain knowledge concerning the φύσις (the physis, the nature or character) of human beings and other living beings.

2) This type of knowing, this perception, is different from and supplementary to that acquired by means of the Aristotelian essentials of conventional philosophy and experimental science [3], and thus enables us to better understand Phainómenon, ourselves, and other living beings.

3) That because of or following πάθει μάθος there is or there can be a change in, a development of, the nature, the character – the φύσις – of the person because of that revealing and that appreciation (or re-appreciation) of the numinous whose genesis is this πάθει μάθος, and which appreciation of the numinous includes an awareness of why ὕβρις is an error (often the error) of unbalance, of disrespect or ignorance (of the numinous), of a going beyond the due limits, and which ὕβρις itself is the genesis both of the τύραννος [4] and of the modern error of extremism. For the tyrannos and the modern extremist (and their extremisms) embody and give rise to and perpetuate ἔρις [5] and thus are a cause of, or contribute to and aid, suffering.

4) This change, this development of the individual, is or can be the result of enantiodromia [6] and reveals the nature of, and restores in individuals, the natural balance necessary for ψυχή [7] to flourish – which natural balance is δίκη as Δίκα [8] and which restoration of balance within the individual results in ἁρμονίη [9], manifest as ἁρμονίη (harmony) is in the cultivation, in the individual, of wu-wei [10] and σωφρονεῖν (a fair and balanced personal, individual, judgement) [11].

5) The development and use of empathy, the cultivation of wu-wei and σωφρονεῖν, are thus a means, a way, whereby individuals can cease to cause suffering or cease to contribute to, or cease to aid, suffering.

6) The reason as to why an individual might so seek to avoid causing suffering is the reason, the knowledge – the appreciation of the numinous – that empathy and πάθει μάθος provide.

7) This appreciation of the numinous inclines or can incline an individual to living in a certain way and which way of life naturally inclines the individual toward developing, in a natural way – sans any methodology, praxis, theory, dogma, or faith – certain attributes of character, and which attributes of character include compassion, self-restraint, fairness, and a reasoned, a personal, judgement.



II
The Nature and Knowledge of Empathy

Empathy is, as an intuitive understanding, what was, can be, and often is, learned or developed by πάθει μάθος. That is, from and by a direct, personal, learning from experience and suffering. An understanding manifest in our awareness of the numinous and thus in the distinction we have made, we make, or we are capable of making, between the sacred and the profane; the distinction made, for example in the past, between θεοί and δαιμόνων and mortals, and thus manifest in that understanding of ὕβρις and δίκη which can be obtained from the works of Sophocles, and Aeschylus [12], and from an understanding of Φύσις evident in some of the sayings attributed to Heraclitus [13].

Understood by reference to such classical illustrations, empathy is thus what naturally predisposed us to appreciate δίκη and be aware, respectful of, the goddess, Δίκην [14], and thus avoid retribution for committing the error of ὕβρις, for disrupting the natural balance necessary for individual and communal well-being.

That is, a certain empathy is, and has been, the natural basis for a tradition which informs us, and reminds us – through Art, literature, myths, legends, the accumulated πάθει μάθος of individuals, and often through a religious-type awareness – of the need for a balance, for ἁρμονίη, achieved by not going beyond the numinous limits.

As a used and a developed faculty, the perception that empathy provides is of undivided ψυχή and of the emanations of ψυχή, of our place in the Cosmic Perspective: of how we are a connexion to other life; of how we are but one mortal fallible emanation of Life; of how we affect or can affect the well-being – the very being, ψυχή – of other mortals and other life; and how other mortals and other living beings interact with us and can affect us, in a good or a harmful way.

Empathy thus involves a translocation of ourselves and thus a knowing-of another living-being as that living-being is, without presumptions and sans all ideations, all projections. In a simple way, empathy involves a numinous sympathy with another living-being; a becoming – for a causal moment or moments – of that other-being, so that we know, can feel, can understand, the suffering or the joy of that living-being. In such moments, there is no distinction made between them and us – there is only the flow of life; only the presencing and the ultimate unity of Life itself.

This knowing-of another living-being and this knowledge of the Cosmic Perspective – this empathic awareness of Life – inclines us toward compassion; toward the human virtue of having συμπάθεια (sympatheia, benignity) with and toward other living beings. For such an awareness involves being sensitive to, respectful of, other Life, and not arrogantly, in a hubriatic manner, imposing ourselves or trying to impose ourselves on Life and its emanations. That is, there is the cultivation of the natural balance that is wu-wei because of our awareness of how other Life, other living-beings, can suffer, and how some-things, some actions, are unwise because they do or can cause suffering or have caused suffering.

In effect, empathy uncovers or can uncover the nature of our being and the nature of Being itself.



III
The Nature of Being and of Beings

Empathy uncovers the a-causal nature of Being; of how, as Heraclitus expressed it in fragment 53, beings have their genesis,

Πόλεμος πάντων μὲν πατήρ ἐστι, πάντων δὲ βασιλεύς, καὶ τοὺς μὲν θεοὺς ἔδειξε τοὺς δὲ ἀνθρώπους, τοὺς μὲν δούλους ἐποίησε τοὺς δὲ ἐλευθέρους.

Polemos our genesis, governing us all to bring forth some gods, some mortal beings with some unfettered yet others kept bound. [15]

and how

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 [16]

and why σωφρονεῖν is important:

σωφρονεῖν ἀρετὴ μεγίστη, καὶ σοφίη ἀληθέα λέγειν καὶ ποιεῖν κατὰ φύσιν ἐπαίοντας

Most excellent is balanced reasoning, for that skill can tell inner character from outer. [17]

Empathy also reveals why the assumption that abstracted, ideated, opposites apply to or should apply to living beings – and that they thus can supply us with knowledge and understanding of living being – disrupts the natural balance, resulting in a loss of ἁρμονίη and συμπάθεια and is therefore a manifestation of the error of ὕβρις.


The Acausal Nature of Being

The empathic perception of an undivided ψυχή and of living beings as emanations of ψυχή, and the knowledge of ourselves and one affective and effecting fallible mortal connexion to other life that such a perception provides, leads to an understanding of Being, of ψυχή, as a-causal: as beyond the linearity of a simple and direct cause-and-effect and beyond the supposition that we are separated beings. This perception – and this knowing of the acausal nature of Being deriving from it – is numinous; that is, of how beings are part of Being and of how they come-into-being, are affected and affecting, and so Change and are Change: of how Life flows and ebbs and continues undivided, unseparated, a-temporal, and is only temporarily manifest in particular beings only erroneously perceived by us as discrete entities, as separated beings.

As Heraclitus mentioned as recorded in fragment 52:

αἰὼν παῖς ἐστι παίζων πεσσεύων· παιδὸς ἡ βασιληίη

For Aeon, we are a game, pieces moved on some board: since, in this world of ours, we are but children.

For the perception and the knowing of causality in respect of living beings is that of the-separation-of-otherness; a notion of causal and linear separation, of past-present-future, of independent beings that gives rise to two things. (1) Of how we human consider we are different from or similar to other individual human beings. A difference or a similarity deriving from posited, manufactured, ideated, categories to which we assign others and ourselves and from which we often or mostly derive our identity, our self-assurance, and our belief about their and our φύσις, or at least what we assume is a knowledge of such things. (2) Of how such separately existing human beings are not subject to – or can and should make themselves not subject to or can overcome or ignore – any external supra-personal non-physical (non-temporal) force or forces, and thus of how these separated human beings have or can acquire the ability, the skill, to ‘determine their own destiny/fate/life’ by some means if the right method, or some methodology, or some tool – such as some idea or theory – can be found or developed, or if they develope their physical prowess/intelligence/cunning or acquire sufficient wealth/power/influence/followers.

Such a purely causal perception and causal understanding of living beings – lacking as it does an awareness of, an appreciation and a feeling for the numinous, or wilfully ignoring the numinous – is the genesis of ὕβρις and can thus bring-into-being the τύραννος [4].
An example of this reliance on causal perception and causal understanding is Oedipus, as described by Sophocles in Oedipus Tyrannus. In his singular desire to find the killer of Laius, Oedipus oversteps the due limits, and upsets the natural balance both within, and external to, himself. He is blinded by mere causality (a linear thinking) and subsumed by personal feelings – by his overwhelming desire for a simple cause-and-effect solution to the plague and his prideful belief that he, a mortal, a strong man, and master of the riddle of the Sphinx, can find or derive a solution. What results is tragedy, suffering, for himself and for others.

ὦ πάτρας Θήβης ἔνοικοι, λεύσσετ᾽, Οἰδίπους ὅδε,
ὃς τὰ κλείν᾽ αἰνίγματ᾽ ᾔδει καὶ κράτιστος ἦν ἀνήρ,
οὗ τίς οὐ ζήλῳ πολιτῶν ἦν τύχαις ἐπιβλέπων,
εἰς ὅσον κλύδωνα δεινῆς συμφορᾶς ἐλήλυθεν.
ὥστε θνητὸν ὄντα κείνην τὴν τελευταίαν ἰδεῖν
ἡμέραν ἐπισκοποῦντα μηδέν᾽ ὀλβίζειν, πρὶν ἂν
τέρμα τοῦ βίου περάσῃ μηδὲν ἀλγεινὸν παθών.

You natives of Thebes: Observe – here is Oedipus,
He who understood that famous enigma and was a strong man:
What clansman did not behold that fortune without envy?
But what a tide of problems have come over him!
Therefore, look toward that ending which is for us mortals,
To observe that particular day – calling no one lucky until,
Without the pain of injury, they are conveyed beyond life’s ending.

(Oedipus Tyrannus, vv. 1524-1530)

Another example is Creon, as described by Sophocles in his Antigone. Creon’s pride and stubbornness, and his rigid adherence to his own, causal (temporal), mortal, edict – which overturns an ancestral custom established and maintained to ‘please the gods’ and implement a natural edict of the gods designed to give and maintain balance, harmony, among the community – leads to tragedy, to suffering.

The same thing occurred to Odysseus, who for all his prowess and mortal cunning could not contrive to return to his homeland as he wished nor save his friends, and

kπολλὰ δ᾽ ὅ γ᾽ ἐν πόντῳ πάθεν ἄλγεα ὃν κατὰ θυμόν,
ἀρνύμενος ἥν τε ψυχὴν καὶ νόστον ἑταίρων.
ἀλλ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ὣς ἑτάρους ἐρρύσατο, ἱέμενός περ:
αὐτῶν γὰρ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο,
νήπιοι, οἳ κατὰ βοῦς Ὑπερίονος Ἠελίοιο
ἤσθιον: αὐτὰρ ὁ τοῖσιν ἀφείλετο νόστιμον ἦμαρ.

…whose vigour, at sea, was weakened by many afflictions
As he strove to win life for himself and return his comrades to their homes.
But not even he, for all this yearning, could save those comrades
For they were destroyed by their own immature foolishness
Having devoured the cattle of Helios, that son of Hyperion,
Who plucked from them the day of their returning.

(Homer, Odyssey, vv.3-9)

Such emphasis by mortals on causality, arising from a lack of the acausal, the numinous, perspective that empathy and πάθει μάθος provide, is in effect an ignoring of, a wilful defiance of, or a forgetfulness of, the natural balance, of our own nature, and of the gods. Expressed un-theistically, it is a lack of, or a covering-up of, or an ignorance of, the the nature of Being and of beings, of who and why we are, and why wu-wei is a wise way to live.

Our nature – which empathy and πάθει μάθος can reveal – is that of a mortal being veering between σωφρονεῖν (thoughtful reasoning, and thus fairness) and ὕβρις.

As Sophocles expressed it:

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

Antigone, v.334, vv.365-366

Yet as empathy and πάθει μάθος also reveal, our nature is such that we also have hope and a choice. We can choose to be fair, rational, beings who appreciate and cultivate σωφρονεῖν; who appreciate the numinous and ἁρμονίη and who understand ὕβρις for the error, the misfortune, the unbalance, it is. Or we can, like Oedipus, Creon, Aegisthus, and the comrades of Odysseus, foolishly, recklessly, veer toward and embrace ἔρις and ὕβρις.

We can appreciate the numinous – be wary of Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες. We can kindle and rekindle the ‘fire of reason’, and appreciate that when ‘more is obtained than is necessary it is not kept’. Or we can take short-cuts, foolishly overladen ourselves, and in our recklessness believe we are immune to injury:

τὸν δ᾽ ἄνευ λύρας ὅμως ὑμνῳδεῖ
θρῆνον Ἐρινύος αὐτοδίδακτος ἔσωθεν
θυμός, οὐ τὸ πᾶν ἔχων
ἐλπίδος φίλον θράσος.
σπλάγχνα δ᾽ οὔτοι ματᾴ-
ζει πρὸς ἐνδίκοις φρεσὶν
τελεσφόροις δίναις κυκώμενον κέαρ.
εὔχομαι δ᾽ ἐξ ἐμᾶς
ἐλπίδος ψύθη πεσεῖν
ἐς τὸ μὴ τελεσφόρον.

μάλα γέ τοι τὸ μεγάλας ὑγιείας
ἀκόρεστον τέρμα: νόσος γάρ
γείτων ὁμότοιχος ἐρείδει.
καὶ πότμος εὐθυπορῶν
ἀνδρὸς ἔπαισεν ἄφαντον ἕρμα.
καὶ πρὸ μέν τι χρημάτων
κτησίων ὄκνος βαλὼν
σφενδόνας ἀπ᾽ εὐμέτρου,
οὐκ ἔδυ πρόπας δόμος
πημονᾶς γέμων ἄγαν,
οὐδ᾽ ἐπόντισε σκάφος.
πολλά τοι δόσις ἐκ Διὸς ἀμφιλα-
φής τε καὶ ἐξ ἀλόκων ἐπετειᾶν
νῆστιν ὤλεσεν νόσον.

τὸ δ᾽ ἐπὶ γᾶν πεσὸν ἅπαξ θανάσιμον
πρόπαρ ἀνδρὸς μέλαν αἷμα τίς ἂν
πάλιν ἀγκαλέσαιτ᾽ ἐπαείδων;
οὐδὲ τὸν ὀρθοδαῆ
τῶν φθιμένων ἀνάγειν
Ζεὺς ἀπέπαυσεν ἐπ᾽ εὐλαβείᾳ;
εἰ δὲ μὴ τεταγμένα
μοῖρα μοῖραν ἐκ θεῶν
εἶργε μὴ πλέον φέρειν,
προφθάσασα καρδία
γλῶσσαν ἂν τάδ᾽ ἐξέχει.
νῦν δ᾽ ὑπὸ σκότῳ βρέμει
θυμαλγής τε καὶ οὐδὲν ἐπελπομέν-
α ποτὲ καίριον ἐκτολυπεύσειν
ζωπυρουμένας φρενός.


And so, although I have no lyre, I sing:
For there is a desire, within me – a self-taught hymn
For one of those Furies,
With nothing at all to bring me
That cherished confidence – hope.
And my stomach is by no means idle –
In fairness, it is from achieving a judgement
That the beat of my heart continues to change.
And so there is this supplication of mine:
For this defeat of my hope to be false
So that, that thing cannot be achieved.
In truth, that frequently unsatisfied goddess, Health,
Has a limit – for Sickness, her neighbour,
Leans against their shared fence;
And it is the fate of the mortal who takes the short-cut
To strike the unseen reef.
And yet if – of those possessions previously acquired
A fitting amount is, through caution, cast forth by a sling,
Then the whole construction will not go under –
Injuriously over-loaded as it was –
Nor will its hull be filled, by the sea.
Often, the gifts from Zeus are abundant
And there is, then, from the yearly ploughing,
A death for famine’s sickness.

But if once upon the earth there falls from
A mortal that death-making black blood –
What incantation can return it to his arms?
Not even he who was correctly-taught
How to bring back those who had died
Was allowed by Zeus to be without injury.
Were it not that Fate was ordained
By the gods to make it fated
That when more is obtained it is not kept,
My heart would have been first
To let my tongue pour forth these things.

But now, in darkness, it murmurs,
Painfully-desiring, and having no hope of when
There will be an opportunity to bring this to an end,
Rekindling the fire of reason.

Aeschylus, Agamemnon, vv.990-1033

The Error of The-Separation-of-Otherness

The essence of the faculty of empathy is συμπάθεια with other living beings and which συμπάθεια involves a translocation of ourselves for a duration or durations of causal moments. There is thus a perception of the acausal, the numinous, reality underlying the causal division of beings, existents, into separate, causal-separated, objects and the subject-object relationship which is or has been assumed by means of the process of causal ideation to exist between such causally-separate beings. That is, and for instance, the implied or assumed causal separateness of living beings – the-separation-of-otherness – is causal appearance and not an expression of the true nature of Being and beings.

The-separation-of-otherness obscures and disrupts our relation to ψυχή and thus obscures the nature of our being and the nature of Being itself, and amounts to ὕβρις. For, in place of an understanding, a knowing, and thus an appreciation and acceptance of what is numinous – and thus of the natural balance and of what/whom we should respect – the-separation-of-otherness results in the positing of abstract categories/idealised forms to which we, as living beings, are assigned and which categories and forms are regarded as what we should aspire to and/or compare ourselves to and what we are judged by or judge ourselves by.

In classical terms, the natural balance and those whom we should respect – manifest in ψυχή and θεοί and Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες and δαιμόνων and in those sacred places guarded or watched over by δαιμόνων – are arrogantly replaced by human manufactured, and fallible, ideations and which ideations do not in any way re-present the nature, the φύσις, of our being, the φύσις of other living beings, and φύσις of Being, and which φύσις is one of the living connexions, the numinosity, of ψυχή and thus of the Cosmic Perspective, a nature manifest, for we mortals, in an appreciation of the numinous and thus in living in a certain way because we understand the nature, the importance, of δίκη, of fairness, of not being excessive.

The result of such ὕβρις of the-separation-of-otherness and of the arrogance assigning living beings to and judging them by lifeless abstractions, ideations; of neglecting θεοί and Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες and δαιμόνων – is ἔρις: strife, discord, disruption, conflict, suffering, misfortune, and a loss of ψυχή and ἁρμονίη.

As Aeschylus mentioned, over two thousand years ago:

ἔστω δ᾽ ἀπή-
μαντον, ὥστ᾽ ἀπαρκεῖν
εὖ πραπίδων λαχόντα.
οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν ἔπαλξις
πλούτου πρὸς κόρον ἀνδρὶ
λακτίσαντι μέγαν Δίκας
βωμὸν εἰς ἀφάνειαν.

βιᾶται δ᾽ ἁ τάλαινα πειθώ,
προβούλου παῖς ἄφερτος ἄτας.
ἄκος δὲ πᾶν μάταιον. οὐκ ἐκρύφθη,
πρέπει δέ, φῶς αἰνολαμπές, σίνος…

λιτᾶν δ᾽ ἀκούει μὲν οὔτις θεῶν:
τὸν δ᾽ ἐπίστροφον τῶν
φῶτ᾽ ἄδικον καθαιρεῖ

For unharmed is the one
Who rightly reasons that what is sufficient
Is what is allotted to him.
For there is no protection
In riches for the man of excess
Who stamps down the great altar of the goddess, Judgement,
In order to hide it from view.

But vigorously endures Temptation –
That already-decided daughter of unbearable Misfortune.
And all remedies are in vain.
Not concealed, but conspicuous –
A harsh shining light –
Is the injury…

But not one of the gods hears the supplications:
Instead, they take down those persons
Who, lacking fairness, turn their attentions to such things.


Aeschylus, Agamemnon. vv.379-389, vv. 396-402



IV
An Appreciation of The Numinous

Empathy by its very nature – by its relocation, translocation, of ourselves into, and συμπάθεια with, the living other – naturally inclines us toward compassion, for to intentionally harm the living other is to feel, to know, that harm. Such harming might also upset, unbalance, hinder, or harm, the ψυχή we share with that and with other living beings and so in some way cause, or contribute to, or result in harm, suffering, or misfortune to us and/or to others now or on some future occasion or occasions.

In effect, compassion is a means to maintain ἁρμονίη and the natural balance of Life and thus to aid or contribute to our own ἁρμονίη and well-being as well as that of others.

Empathy – like πάθει μάθος – also inclines us toward treating other human beings as we ourselves would wish to be treated; that is it inclines us toward fairness, toward self-restraint, toward being well-mannered, and toward an appreciation and understanding of innocence, with innocence being regarded 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 thing to do.

Thus morality is, for The Way of Pathei-Mathos, a result of individuals using the faculty of empathy; a consequence of the insight and the understanding (the acausal knowing) that empathy provides for individuals in the immediacy-of-the-moment. Or, expressed another way, morality resides not in some abstract theory or some moralistic schemata presented in some written text which individuals have to accept and try and conform or aspire to, but rather in personal virtues that arise or which can arise naturally through empathy, πάθει μάθος, and thus from an awareness and appreciation of the numinous. Personal virtues such as compassion and fairness, and εὐταξία, that quality of self-restraint, of a balanced, well-mannered conduct especially under adversity or duress, of which Cicero wrote:

Haec autem scientia continentur ea, quam Graeci εὐταξίαν nominant, non hanc, quam interpretamur modestiam, quo in verbo modus inest, sed illa est εὐταξία, in qua intellegitur ordinis conservatio

Those two qualities are evident in that way described by the Greeks as εὐταξίαν although what is meant by εὐταξία is not what we mean by the moderation of the moderate, but rather what we consider is restrained behaviour…

De Officiis, Liber Primus, 142

In practice, therefore, justice is not some abstract concept, some ideation, which it is believed can and should be administered by others and requiring the individual to accept, passively or willingly, some external authority. Rather, justice, like εὐταξία, like goodness, is numinous, living in the individual who – because of empathy, πάθει μάθος, awareness and appreciation of the numinous – is inclined to be fair, who is capable of restraint especially under adversity or duress; the individual of σωφρονεῖν who thus “can tell inner character from outer” and who thus has those personal qualities which can be expressed by one word: honour.

The Numinous Balance of Honour

In many ways, 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 [15] 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.


Wu-Wei and The Cultivation of Humility

The knowledge, the understanding, the intuition, the insight that is wu-wei is a knowledge, an understanding, that can be acquired from empathy, πάθει μάθος, and by a knowing of and an appreciation of the numinous.

This knowledge and understanding, being of the wholeness, is that of the healthy, the interior, inward, and personal balance beyond the separation of beings – beyond πόλεμος and ὕβρις and thus beyond ἔρις; beyond the separation and thence the strife, the discord, which abstractions, ideations, encourage and indeed which they manufacture, bring-into-being. Among these ideations – and one which can often distance us from an appreciation of the numinous and thus from ἁρμονίη – is that of a measured Time of fixed durations; and one which thus has a tendency to both artificially apportion out our lives, urge us to hastily strive for some ideation, and cause us to live and/or work at an artificial, un-harmonious, pace.

Empathy, wu-wei, πάθει μάθος, and a knowing of and an appreciation of the numinous, also incline us toward the cultivation of humility as a prerequisite for us not to repeat our errors of ὕβρις, or the ὕβρις of others, and which mistakes of ὕβρις – ours and/or of others – we either are personally aware of or can become aware of through the recorded πάθει μάθος of our human cultures, manifest as this transmitted knowledge and personal learning often is in literature, Art, poetry, myths, legends, and music.

For our personal πάθει μάθος makes us aware of, makes us feel, know, remember, in a very personal sense, our fallibility, our mortality, our mistakes, our errors, our wrong deeds, the suffering we have caused, the harm we have done and inflicted; how much we personally have contributed to discord, strife, sorrow. Similarly, our appreciation of the numinous, together with empathy and the cultivation of wu-wei, makes us aware of, and feel, and understand, ὕβρις and the errors of ὕβρις in others past and present.

There is then, or there develops or there can develope, a personal inclination toward σωφρονεῖν; toward being fair, toward rational deliberation, toward a lack of haste, toward a living numinously. Toward a balanced judgement, and honour, and a knowing and appreciation of the wisdom that the only effective, long-lasting, change and reform that does not cause suffering – that is not redolent of ὕβρις – is the one that changes human beings in an individual way by personal example and/or because of πάθει μάθος, and thus interiorly changes what, in them, predisposes them, or inclines them toward, doing or what urges them to do, what is dishonourable, undignified, unfair, and uncompassionate. That is what, individually, changes or rebalances bad φύσις and thus brings-into-being, or restores, good φύσις.


Conclusion – The Way of Pathei-Mathos

It is the cultivation by individuals of empathy, of wu-wei, of a reasoned judgement, combined with (i) an appreciation of the numinous and of our accumulated pathei-mathos – evident, for example, in Hellenic culture, in other cultures, and often manifest in Art, literature, music, myths, legends, poetry – and (ii) the living of a compassionate life balanced by honour, which are the whole of The Way of Pathei-Mathos.

The Way of Pathei-Mathos is thus an ethical, an interior, a personal, a non-political, a non-religious, a non-interfering, way of individual reflexion and individual change.

There is nothing else. No given, no required, praxis. No ‘secret wisdom’ or ‘secret teachings’, no enlightenment to be taught. No methodology, no theology, and no need for faith or belief. There are no theories, no goals, no dogma, no texts and no one to be revered.


Notes

[1]

Ζῆνα δέ τις προφρόνως ἐπινίκια κλάζων
τεύξεται φρενῶν τὸ πᾶν:
ὸν φρονεῖν βροτοὺς ὁδώ-
σαντα, τὸν πάθει μάθος
θέντα κυρίως ἔχειν.

If anyone, from reasoning, exclaims loudly that victory of Zeus,
Then they have acquired an understanding of all these things;
Of he who guided mortals to reason,
Who laid down that this possesses authority:
Learning from adversity.

Aeschylus: Agamemnon,174-183
[2] An awareness of the numinous is what predisposes us not to commit the error, the folly, of ὕβρις. As Sophocles wrote in Oedipus Tyrannus:

ὕβρις φυτεύει τύραννον:
ὕβρις, εἰ πολλῶν ὑπερπλησθῇ μάταν,
ἃ μὴ ‘πίκαιρα μηδὲ συμφέροντα,
ἀκρότατον εἰσαναβᾶσ᾽
αἶπος ἀπότομον ὤρουσεν εἰς ἀνάγκαν,
ἔνθ᾽ οὐ ποδὶ χρησίμῳ
χρῆται

Insolence plants the tyrant. There is insolence if by a great foolishness there is a useless over-filling which goes beyond the proper limits. It is an ascending to the steepest and utmost heights and then that hurtling toward that Destiny where the useful foot has no use… (vv.872ff)

In respect of the numinous, basically it is what manifests or can manifest or remind us of (what can reveal) 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. In a practical way, it is what we regard or come to appreciate as ‘sacred’ and dignified; what expresses our humanity and thus places us, as individuals, in our correct relation to ψυχή, and which relation is that we are but one mortal emanation of ψυχή.

We are reminded of this natural balance, of what is numinous – we can come to know, to experience, the numinous and thus can understand the nature of our being – by πάθει μάθος and empathy. That is, by the process of learning from personal adversity/personal suffering/personal grief and by using and developing our faculty of empathy.

An aspect of this learning is an appreciation, an awareness, of the Cosmic Perspective: of ourselves as one fallible, mortal, fragile biological, microcosmic, nexion on one planet in one Galaxy in a Cosmos of billions of galaxies; one connexion to, one emanation of, all other Life. In essence, πάθει μάθος and empathy teach us or can teach us humility, compassion, and the importance of personal love.

[3] The essentials which Aristotle enumerated are: (i) Reality (existence) exists independently of us and our consciousness, and thus independent of our senses; (ii) our limited understanding of this independent ‘external world’ depends for the most part upon our senses – that is, on what we can see, hear or touch; that is, on what we can observe or come to know via our senses; (iii) logical argument, or reason, is perhaps the most important means to knowledge and understanding of and about this ‘external world’; (iv) the cosmos (existence) is, of itself, a reasoned order subject to rational laws.

Experimental science seeks to explain the natural world – the phenomenal world – by means of direct, personal observation of it, and by making deductions, and formulating hypothesis, based on such direct observation, with the important and necessary proviso, expressed by Isaac Newton in his Principia, that

“We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearance… for Nature is pleased with simplicity, and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”

[4] The sense of τύραννος is not exactly what our fairly modern term tyrant is commonly regarded as imputing. Rather, it refers to the intemperate person of excess who is so subsumed with some passion or some aim or a lust for power that they go far beyond the due, the accepted, bounds of behaviour and thus exceed the limits of or misuse whatever authority they have been entrusted with. Thus do they, by their excess, by their disrespect for the customs of their ancestors, by their lack of reasoned, well-balanced, judgement [σωφρονεῖν] offend the gods, and thus, to restore the balance, do the Ἐρινύες take revenge. For it is in the nature of the τύραννος that they forget, or they scorn, the truth, the ancient wisdom, that their lives are subject to, guided by, Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες –

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

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

Aeschylus (attributed), Prometheus Bound, 515-6

[5] Heraclitus, fragment 80:

 

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

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

See my Some Notes on Πόλεμος and Δίκη in Heraclitus B80 and also The Balance of Physis – Notes on λόγος and ἀληθέα in Heraclitus.

In respect of the modern error of ὕβρις that is extremism, an error manifest in extremists, my understanding of an extremist is a person who tends toward harshness, or who is harsh, or who supports/incites harshness, in pursuit of some objective, usually of a political or a religious. See Appendix I – Some Explanations and Definitions.

[6] See Appendix II – The Change of Enantiodromia.

[7] The meaning here of ψυχή is derived from the usage of Homer, Aeschylus, Aristotle, etcetera, and implies Life qua being. Or, expressed another way, living beings are emanations of, and thus manifest, ψυχή. This sense of ψυχή is beautifully expressed in a, in my view, rather mis-understood fragment attributed to Heraclitus:

ψυχῆισιν θάνατος ὕδωρ γενέσθαι, ὕδατι δὲ θάνατος γῆν γενέσθαι, ἐκ γῆς δὲ ὕδωρ γίνεται, ἐξ ὕδατος δὲ ψυχή. Fragment 36

Where the water begins our living ends and where earth begins water ends, and yet earth nurtures water and from that water, Life.

[8] In respect of the numinous principle of Δίκα, refer to Appendix II – The Principle of Δίκα.

[9] Although φύσις has a natural tendency to become covered up (Φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖconcealment accompanies Physis) it can be uncovered through λόγος and πάθει μάθος.

[10] Wu-wei is a Taoist term used in The Way of Pathei-Mathos to refer to a personal ‘letting-be’ deriving from a feeling, a knowing, that an essential part of wisdom is cultivation of an interior personal balance and which cultivation requires acceptance that one must work with, or employ, things according to their nature, their φύσις, for to do otherwise is incorrect, and inclines us toward, or is, being excessive – that is, toward the error, the unbalance, that is hubris, an error often manifest in personal arrogance, excessive personal pride, and insolence – that is, a disrespect for the numinous.

In practice, the knowledge, the understanding, the intuition, the insight that is wu-wei is a knowledge, an understanding, that can be acquired from empathy, πάθει μάθος, and by a knowing of and an appreciation of the numinous. This knowledge and understanding is of wholeness and that life, things/beings, change, flow, exist, in certain natural ways which we human beings cannot change however hard we might try; that such a hardness of human trying, a belief in such hardness, is unwise, un-natural, upsets the natural balance and can cause misfortune/suffering for us and/or for others, now or in the future. Thus success lies in discovering the inner nature (the physis) of things/beings/ourselves and gently, naturally, slowly, working with this inner nature, not striving against it.

[11] Heraclitus, fragment 112:

σωφρονεῖν ἀρετὴ μεγίστη, καὶ σοφίη ἀληθέα λέγειν καὶ ποιεῖν κατὰ φύσιν ἐπαίοντας

Most excellent is balanced reasoning, for that skill can tell inner character from outer.

[12] In particular, The Agamemnon of Aeschylus; and the Oedipus Tyrannus, and Antigone, of Sophocles. In respect of Oedipus Tyrannus, refer, for example, to vv.863ff and vv.1329-1338

In much mis-understood verses in The Agamemnon (1654-1656) Clytaemnestra makes it known that she still is aware of the power, and importance, of δίκη. Of not killing to excess:

μηδαμῶς, ὦ φίλτατ᾽ ἀνδρῶν, ἄλλα δράσωμεν κακά.
ἀλλὰ καὶ τάδ᾽ ἐξαμῆσαι πολλά, δύστηνον θέρος.
πημονῆς δ᾽ ἅλις γ᾽ ὑπάρχει: μηδὲν αἱματώμεθα.

The aforementioned verses are often mis-translated to give some nonsense such as: ‘No more violence. Here is a monstrous harvest and a bitter reaping time. There is pain enough already. Let us not be bloody now’.

However, what Aeschylus actually has Clytaemnestra say is:

“Let us not do any more harm for to reap these many would make it an unlucky harvest: injure them just enough, but do not stain us with their blood.”

She is being practical (and quite Hellenic) and does not want to bring misfortune (from the gods) upon herself, or Aegisthus, by killing to excess. The killings she has done are, however, quite acceptable to her – she has vigorously defended them claiming it was her natural duty to avenge her daughter and the insult done to her by Agamemnon bringing his mistress, Cassandra, into her home. Clytaemnestra shows no pity for the Elders whom Aegisthus wishes to kill: “if you must”, she says, “you can injure them. But do not kill them – that would be unlucky for us.” That would be going just too far, and overstep what she still perceives as the natural, the proper, limits of mortal behaviour.

[13] Two fragments attributed to Heraclitus are of interest in this respect – 112, and 123. For 112 refer to my The Balance of Physis – Notes on λόγος and ἀληθέα in Heraclitus. For 123, refer to my Physis, Nature, Concealment, and Natural Change.

[14] Hesiod, Theogony v. 901 – Εὐνουμίην τε Δίκην τε καὶ Εἰρήνην τεθαλυῖαν

In effect, a personified Judgement is the goddess of the natural balance – evident in the ancestral customs, the ways, the way of life, the ethos, of a community – whose judgement, δίκη, is “in accord with”, has the nature or the character of, what tends to restore such balance after some deed or deeds by an individual or individuals have upset or disrupted that balance. This sense of δίκη as one’s ancestral customs is evident, for example, in Homer’s Odyssey:

νῦν δ᾽ ἐθέλω ἔπος ἄλλο μεταλλῆσαι καὶ ἐρέσθαι
Νέστορ᾽, ἐπεὶ περὶ οἶδε δίκας ἠδὲ φρόνιν ἄλλων
τρὶς γὰρ δή μίν φασιν ἀνάξασθαι γένε᾽ ἀνδρῶν
ὥς τέ μοι ἀθάνατος ἰνδάλλεται εἰσοράασθαι

Book III, 243-246

I now wish to ask Nestor some questions to find out about some other things,
For he understands others and knows more about our customs than them,
Having been – so it is said – a Chieftain for three generations of mortals,
And, to look at, he seems to me to be one of those immortals

[15] Πόλεμος is not some abstract ‘war’ or strife or kampf, but rather that which is or becomes the genesis of beings from Being (the separation of beings from Being), and thus not only that which manifests as δίκη but also accompanies ἔρις because it is the nature of Πόλεμος that beings, born because of and by ἔρις, can be returned to Being, become bound together – be whole – again by enantiodromia.

Thus πόλεμος – like ψυχή and πάθει μάθος and ἐναντιοδρομίας and ὕβρις and δίκη as δίκη/Δίκην/Δίκα – is a philosophical principle and should therefore in my view not be blandly translated by a single word or term, but rather should be left untranslated or be transliterated, thus requiring for its understanding a certain thoughtful reasoning and thence interpretation according to context.

In respect of such interpretation, it is for example interesting that in the recounted tales of Greek mythology attributed to Aesop, and in circulation at the time of Heraclitus, a personified πόλεμος (as the δαίμων of kindred strife) married a personified ὕβρις (as the δαίμων of arrogant pride) and that it was a common folk belief that πόλεμος accompanied ὕβρις – that is, that Polemos followed Hubris around rather than vice versa, causing or bringing ἔρις.

[16] See Appendix II. The saying – attributed to Heraclitus – is from Diogenes Laërtius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers (ix. 7)

[17] Fragment 112.

[18] For an explanation is what is meant here by innocence, see the entry in Appendix I, which entry is based on the brief mention of innocence in the first part of section IV – An Appreciation of The Numinous.



Appendix I
Some Explanations, Terms, and Definitions

Acausal

The acausal is not a generalization – a concept – deriving from a collocation of assumed, imagined, or causally observed Phainómenon, but instead is that wordless, conceptless, a-temporal, knowing which empathy reveals and which a personal πάθει μάθοςand an appreciation of the numinous often inclines us toward. That is, the acausal is a direct and personal (individual) revealing of beings and Being which does not depend on denoting or naming.

What is so revealed is the a-causal nature of some beings, the connexion which exists between living beings, and how living beings are emanations of ψυχή.

Thus speculations and postulations regarding the acausal only serve to obscure the nature of the acausal or distance us from that revealing of the acausal that empathy and πάθει μάθος and an appreciation of the numinous provide.

ἀρετή

The prized Hellenic virtue which can roughly be translated by the English word ‘excellence’ but which also implies what is naturally distinguishable – what is pre-eminent – because it reveals or shows certain valued qualities such as beauty, honour, valour, harmony.

Compassion

The English word compassion dates from around 1340 CE and the word in its original sense (and as used in this work) means benignity, which word derives from the Latin benignitatem, the sense imputed being of a kind, compassionate, well-mannered character, disposition, or deed. Benignity came into English usage around the same time as compassion; for example, the word occurs in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde [ ii. 483 ] written around 1374 CE.

Hence, compassion is understood as meaning being kindly disposed toward and/or feeling a sympathy with someone (or some living being) affected by pain/suffering/grief or who is enduring vicissitudes.

The word compassion itself is derived from com, meaning together-with, combined with pati, meaning to-suffer/to-endure and derived from the classical Latin passiō. Thus useful synonyms for compassion, in this original sense, are compassivity and benignity.

Cosmic Perspective
The Cosmic Perspective refers to our place in the Cosmos, to the fact that we human beings are simply one fragile fallible mortal biological life-form on one planet orbiting one star in one galaxy in a Cosmos of billions of galaxies. Thus in terms of this perspective all our theories, our ideas, our beliefs, our abstractions are merely the opinionated product of our limited fallible Earth-bound so-called ‘intelligence’, an ‘intelligence’, an understanding, we foolishly, arrogantly, pridefully have a tendency to believe in and exalt as if we are somehow ‘the centre of the Universe’ and cosmically important.

The Cosmic Perspective inclines us – or can incline us – toward wu-wei, toward avoiding the error of hubris, toward humility, and thus toward an appreciation of the numinous.


δαίμων

A δαίμων is not one of the pantheon of major Greek gods – θεοί – but rather a lesser type of divinity who might be assigned by those gods to bring good fortune or misfortune to human beings and/or watch over certain human beings and especially particular numinous (sacred) places.

δίκη

Depending on context, δίκη could be the judgement of an individual (or Judgement personified), or the natural and the necessary balance, or the correct/customary/ancestral way, or what is expected due to custom, or what is considered correct and natural, and so on.

A personified Judgement – the Δίκην of Hesiod – is the goddess of the natural balance, evident in the ancestral customs, the ways, the way of life, the ethos, of a community, whose judgement, δίκη, is “in accord with”, has the nature or the character of, what tends to restore such balance after some deed or deeds by an individual or individuals have upset or disrupted that balance. This sense of δίκη as one’s ancestral customs is evident, for example, in Homer (Odyssey, III, 244).

The modern numinous principle of Δίκα – qv. Appendix III – suggests what lies beyond and what may have been the genesis of δίκη personified as the goddess, Judgement.

Empathy

Etymologically, this fairly recent English word, used to translate the German Einfühlung, derives, via the late Latin sympathia, from the Greek συμπάθεια – συμπαθής – and is thus formed from the prefix σύν (sym) together with παθ- [root of πάθος] meaning enduring/suffering, feeling: πάσχειν, to endure/suffer.

As used and defined by the philosophy of pathei-mathos, empathy – ἐμπάθεια – is a natural human faculty: that is, a noble intuition about another human being or another living being. When empathy is developed and used, as envisaged by that way of life, 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 – and thus differs in nature from compassion.


Enantiodromia

The unusual compound Greek word ἐναντιοδρομίας occurs in a summary of the philosophy of Heraclitus by Diogenes Laërtius.

It is used here to refer to, to name, to describe, the process – the natural change, the reformation – that occurs or which can occur in a human being because of or following πάθει μάθος.

For further details regarding enantiodromia refer to Appendix II – The Change of Enantiodromia.

ἔρις

Strife; discord; disruption; a quarrel between friends or kin. As in the Odyssey:

ἥ τ᾽ ἔριν Ἀτρεΐδῃσι μετ᾽ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἔθηκε.

Who placed strife between those two sons of Atreus

Odyssey, 3, 136

According to the recounted tales of Greek mythology attributed to Aesop, ἔρις was caused by, or was a consequence of, the marriage between a personified πόλεμος (as the δαίμων of kindred strife) and a personified ὕβρις (as the δαίμων of arrogant pride) with Polemos rather forlornly following Hubris around rather than vice versa. Eris is thus the child of Polemos and Hubris.

Extremism

By extreme I mean to be harsh, so that my understanding of an extremist is a person who tends toward harshness, or who is harsh, or who supports/incites harshness, in pursuit of some objective, usually of a political or a religious nature. Here, harsh is: rough, severe, a tendency to be unfeeling, unempathic.

Hence extremism is considered to be: (a) the result of such harshness, and (b) the principles, the causes, the characteristics, that promote, incite, or describe the harsh action of extremists. In addition, a fanatic is considered to be someone with a surfeit of zeal or whose enthusiasm for some objective, or for some cause, is intemperate.

In the philosophical terms of the way of pathei-mathos, an extremist is someone who commits the error of hubris; and error which enantiodromia – following from πάθει μάθος – can sometimes correct or forestall.

Honour

The English word honour dates from around 1200 CE, deriving from the Latin honorem (meaning refined, grace, beauty) via the Old French (and thence Anglo-Norman) onor/onur. As used by The Way of Pathei-Mathos, honour means an instinct for and an adherence to what is fair, dignified, and valourous. An honourable person is thus someone of manners, fairness, natural dignity, and valour.

In respect of early usage of the term, two quotes may be of interest. The first, from c. 1393 CE, is taken from a poem, in Middle English, by John Gower:

And riht in such a maner wise
Sche bad thei scholde hire don servise,
So that Achilles underfongeth
As to a yong ladi belongeth
Honour, servise and reverence.

John Gower, Confessio Amantis. Liber Quintus vv. 2997-3001 [Macaulay, G.C., ed. The Works of John Gower. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1901]

The second is from several centuries later:

” Honour – as something distinct from mere probity, and which supposes in gentlemen a stronger abhorrence of perfidy, falsehood, or cowardice, and a more elevated and delicate sense of the dignity of virtue, than are usually found in vulgar minds.”

George Lyttelton. History of the Life of Henry the Second. London, Printed for J. Dodsley. M DCC LXXV II [1777] (A new ed., cor.) vol 3, p.178

Innocence

Innocence is regarded 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.

Numinous

The numinous is what manifests or can manifest or remind us of (what can reveal) 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. In a practical way, it is what we regard or come to appreciate as ‘sacred’ and dignified; what expresses our humanity and thus places us, as individuals, in our correct relation to ψυχή, and which relation is that we are but one mortal emanation of ψυχή.

Πόλεμος

Heraclitus fragment 80

Πόλεμος is not some abstract ‘war’ or strife or kampf, but rather that which is or becomes the genesis of beings from Being (the separation of beings from Being), and thus not only that which manifests as δίκη but also accompanies ἔρις because it is the nature of Πόλεμος that beings, born because of and by ἔρις, can be returned to Being, become bound together – be whole – again by enantiodromia.

According to the recounted tales of Greek mythology attributed to Aesop, ἔρις was caused by, or was a consequence of, the marriage between a personified πόλεμος (as the δαίμων of kindred strife) and a personified ὕβρις (as the δαίμων of arrogant pride) with Polemos rather forlornly following Hubris around rather than vice versa. Thus Eris is the child of Polemos and Hubris.

Furthermore, Polemos was originally the δαίμων (not the god) of kindred strife, whether familial, of friends, or of one’s πόλις (one’s clan and their places of dwelling). Thus, to describe Polemos, as is sometimes done, as the god of war, is doubly incorrect.

Physis (φύσις)

φύσις suggests either the Homeric – Odyssey, Book 10, vv. 302-3 – usage of nature, or character, as in Herodotus (2.5.2):

Αἰγύπτου γὰρ φύσις ἐστὶ τῆς χώρης τοιήδε


or Φύσις (Physis) as in Heraclitus fragment 123 – that is, the natural nature of all beings, beyond their outer appearance, and which natural nature we, as human beings, have a natural [an unconscious] inclination to conceal; either because of ὕβρις or through an ignorance, an unknowing, of ourselves as an emanation of ψυχή.

In terms of the nature or the character of an individual:

σωφρονεῖν ἀρετὴ μεγίστη, καὶ σοφίη ἀληθέα λέγειν καὶ ποιεῖν κατὰ φύσιν ἐπαίοντας

Most excellent is balanced reasoning, for that skill can tell inner character from outer.

Heraclitus fragment 112


ὕβρις

ὕβρις (hubris) is the error of personal insolence, of going beyond the proper limits set by: (a) reasoned (balanced) judgement – σωφρονεῖν – and by (b) an awareness, a personal knowing, of the numinous, and which knowing of the numinous can arise from empathy and πάθει μάθος.

Hubris upsets the natural balance – is contrary to ἁρμονίη – and often results from a person or persons striving for or clinging to some causal abstraction.

According to The Way of Pathei-Mathos, ὕβρις disrupts – and conceals – our appreciation of what is numinous and thus of what/whom we should respect, classically understood as ψυχή and θεοί and Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες and δαιμόνων and those sacred places guarded or watched over by δαιμόνων.

Wu-wei

Wu-wei is a Taoist term used in The Way of Pathei-Mathos to refer to a personal ‘letting-be’ deriving from a feeling, a knowing, that an essential part of wisdom is cultivation of an interior personal balance and which cultivation requires acceptance that one must work with, or employ, things according to their nature, their φύσις, for to do otherwise is incorrect, and inclines us toward, or is, being excessive – that is, toward the error, the unbalance, that is hubris, an error often manifest in personal arrogance, excessive personal pride, and insolence – that is, a disrespect for the numinous.

In practice, the knowledge, the understanding, the intuition, the insight that is wu-wei is a knowledge, an understanding, that can be acquired from empathy, πάθει μάθος, and by a knowing of and an appreciation of the numinous. This knowledge and understanding is of wholeness, and that life, things/beings, change, flow, exist, in certain natural ways which we human beings cannot change however hard we might try; that such a hardness of human trying, a belief in such hardness, is unwise, un-natural, upsets the natural balance and can cause misfortune/suffering for us and/or for others, now or in the future. Thus success lies in discovering the inner nature (the physis) of things/beings/ourselves and gently, naturally, slowly, working with this inner nature, not striving against it.
ψυχή

Life qua being. Our being as a living existent is considered an emanation of ψυχή. Thus ψυχή is what ‘animates’ us and what gives us our nature, φύσις, as human beings. Our nature is that of a mortal fallible being veering between σωφρονεῖν (thoughtful reasoning, and thus fairness) and ὕβρις.


Appendix II
The Change of Enantiodromia

The Meaning of Enantiodromia

The unusual compound Greek word ἐναντιοδρομίας occurs in a summary of the philosophy of Heraclitus by Diogenes Laërtius:

πάντα δὲ γίνεσθαι καθ᾽ εἱμαρμένην καὶ διὰ τῆς ἐναντιοδρομίας ἡρμόσθαι τὰ ὄντα (ix. 7)

This unusual word is usually translated as something like ‘conflict of opposites’ or ‘opposing forces’ which I consider are incorrect for several reasons.

Firstly, in my view, a transliteration should be used instead of some translation, for the Greek expression suggests something unique, something which exists in its own right as a principle or ‘thing’ and which uniqueness of meaning has a context, with both context and uniqueness lost if a bland translation is attempted. Lost, as the uniqueness, and context, of for example, δαιμόνων becomes lost if simply translated as ‘spirits’ (or worse, as ‘gods’), or as the meaning of κακός in Hellenic culture is lost if mistranslated as ‘evil’.

Second, the context seems to me to hint at something far more important than ‘conflict of opposites’, the context being the interesting description of the philosophy of Heraclitus before and after the word occurs, as given by Diogenes Laërtius:

1) ἐκ πυρὸς τὰ πάντα συνεστάναι

2) εἰς τοῦτο ἀναλύεσθαι

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

4) καὶ πάντα ψυχῶν εἶναι καὶ δαιμόνων πλήρη

The foundation/base/essence of all beings [ ‘things’ ] is pyros to which they return, with all [of them] by genesis appropriately apportioned [separated into portions] to be bound together again by enantiodromia, and all filled/suffused/vivified with/by ψυχή and Dæmons.

This raises several interesting questions, not least concerning ψυχή and δαιμόνων, but also regarding the sense of πυρὸς. Is pyros here a philosophical principle – such as ψυχή – or used as in fragment 43, the source of which is also Diogenes Laërtius:

ὕβριν χρὴ σβεννύναι μᾶλλον ἢ πυρκαϊὴν (ix 2)

Better to deal with your hubris before you confront that fire

Personally, I incline toward the former, of some principle being meant, given the context, and the generalization – ἐκ πυρὸς τὰ πάντα. In respect of ψυχῶν καὶ δαιμόνων I would suggest that what is implied is the numinous, our apprehension of The Numen, and which numen is the source of ψυχή and the origin of Dæmons. For a δαίμων is not one of the pantheon of major Greek gods – θεοί – but another type of divinity (that is, another emanation of the numen; another manifestation of the numinous) who might be assigned by those numinous gods to bring good fortune or misfortune to human beings and/or who watch over certain human beings and especially over particular numinous (sacred) places.

Thus the above summary of the philosophy of Heraclitus might be paraphrased as:

The foundation of all beings is Pyros to which they return, with all by genesis appropriately apportioned to be bound together again by enantiodromia, with all beings suffused with [are emanations of] the numen.

Furthermore, hubris disrupts – and conceals – our appreciation of the numen, our appreciation of ψυχή and of Dæmons: of what is numinous and what/whom we should respect. A disruption that makes us unbalanced, makes us disrespect the numinous and that of the numinous (such as δαιμόνων and θεοί and sacred places), and which unbalance enantiodromia can correct, with enantiodromia suggesting a confrontation – that expected dealing with our hubris necessary in order to return to Pyros, the source of beings. Here, Pyros is understood not as we understand ‘fire’ – and not even as some sort of basic physical element among other elements such as water – but rather as akin to both the constant ‘warmth and the light of the Sun’ (that brings life) and the sudden lightning that, as from Zeus, can serve as warning (omen) and retribution, and which can destroy and be a cause of devastating fire and thus also of the regeneration/rebuilding that often follows from such fires and from the learning, the respect, that arises from appreciating warnings (omens) from the gods. All of which perhaps explains fragment 64:

τὰ δὲ πάντα οἰακίζει Κεραυνός

All beings are guided by Lightning

Enantiodromia in the Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos

In the philosophy of pathei-mathos, enantiodromia is understood as the process – the natural change – that occurs or which can occur in a human being because of or following πάθει μάθος. For part of πάθει μάθος is a ‘confrontational contest’ – an interior battle – and an acceptance of the need to take part in this battle and ‘face the consequences’, one of which is learning the (often uncomfortable) truth about one’s own unbalanced, strife-causing, nature.

If successful in this confrontation, there is or there can be a positive, moral, development of the nature, the character – the φύσις (physis) – of the person because of that revealing and that appreciation (or re-appreciation) of the numinous whose genesis is this pathei-mathos, and which appreciation includes an awareness of why ὕβρις is an error (often the error) of unbalance, of disrespect, of a going beyond the due limits, and which ὕβρις is the genesis of the τύραννος and of the modern error of extremism. For the tyrannos and the extremist (and their extremisms) embody and give rise to and perpetuate ἔρις [1].

Thus enantiodromia reveals the nature of, and restores in individuals, the natural balance necessary for ψυχή to flourish – which natural balance is δίκη as Δίκα [2] and which restoration of balance within the individual results in ἁρμονίη [3], manifest as ἁρμονίη is in the cultivation, in the individual, of wu-wei and σωφρονεῖν (a fair and balanced personal, individual, judgement).

Notes

[1] Heraclitus, fragment 80: εἰδέναι δὲ χρὴ τὸν πόλεμον ἐόντα ξυνόν, καὶ δίκην ἔριν, καὶ γινόμενα πάντα κατ΄ ἔριν καὶ χρεώμενα [χρεών]

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

See my Some Notes on Πόλεμος and Δίκη in Heraclitus B80 and also The Balance of Physis – Notes on λόγος and ἀληθέα in Heraclitus.

[2] In respect of the numinous principle of Δίκα, refer to Appendix III.

[3] Although φύσις has a natural tendency to become covered up (Φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖconcealment accompanies Physis) it can be uncovered through λόγος and πάθει μάθος.



Appendix III
The Principle of Δίκα

Δίκα is that noble, respectful, balance understood, for example, by Sophocles (among many others) – for instance, Antigone respects the natural balance, the customs and traditions of her own culture, given by the gods, whereas Creon verges towards and finally commits, like Oedipus in Oedipus Tyrannus, the error of ὕβρις and is thus “taught a lesson” (just like Oedipus) by the gods because, as Aeschylus wrote –

Δίκα δὲ τοῖς μὲν παθοῦσ-
ιν μαθεῖν ἐπιρρέπει

The goddess, Judgement, favours someone learning from adversity.

Agamemnon, 250-251

In respect of Δίκα, I write – spell – it thus in this modern way with a capital Δ to intimate a new, a particular and numinous, philosophical principle, and differentiate it from the more general δίκη. As a numinous principle, or axiom, Δίκα thus suggests what lies beyond and what may have been the genesis of δίκη personified as the goddess, Judgement – the goddess of natural balance, of the ancestral way and ancestral customs.

Thus, Δίκα does not mean nor imply something theological, but rather implies the natural balance, the reasoned judgement, the thoughtful reasoning – σωφρονεῖν – that πάθει μάθος brings and restores, and which accumulated πάθει μάθος of a particular folk or πόλις forms the basis for their ancestral customs. δίκη is therefore, as the numinous principle Δίκα, what may be said to be a particular and a necessary balance between ἀρετή and ὕβρις – between the ὕβρις that often results when the personal, the natural, quest for ἀρετή becomes unbalanced and excessive.

That is, when ἔρις (discord) is or becomes δίκη – as suggested by Heraclitus in Fragment 80 –

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

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



cc David Myatt 2012 CE
(Second edition)
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This text has been superseded by the pdf compilation Understanding and Rejecting Extremism