NASA Blue Marble Earth Mosaic

 

Listed here are my collected works, most of which writings are currently (2018) available both as gratis Open Access pdf files, and as printed books, qv. Collected Works In Print. The majority of these writings were written between 2012 and 2018, the exceptions being my Greek translations and the poetry. Most of the pdf files are US Letter, Portrait (216 × 279 mm) in size. [1]

Many of the writings are issued under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License and therefore can be freely copied and distributed, according to the terms of that license.

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[1] As I mentioned several years ago, I reject and disown all my pre-2011 writings and effusions, with the exception of my Greek translations, the poetry included in the published collection One Exquisite Silence (also published under the title Relict), some private letters written between 2002 and 2011, and those few items about my since much revised ‘numinous way’ which are included in post-2012 publications such as my The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos.

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Gratis Open Access (pdf) Files

1. Corpus Hermeticum: Eight Tractates

190 pages. 2017. A Translation of and Commentary on eight tractates of the Corpus Hermeticum.

Contents:

Tractate I. Ποιμάνδρης. Poemandres

Tractate III. Ιερός Λόγος. An Esoteric Mythos

Tractate IV. Ἑρμοῦ πρὸς Τάτ ὁ κρατῆρ ἡ μονάς. From Hermes To Thoth: Chaldron Or Monas

Tractate VI. ̔́Οτι ἐν μόνῳ θεῷ τὸ ἀγαθόν ἐστιν ἀλλαχόθι δὲ οὐδαμοῦ. That In The Theos Alone Is Nobility And Not Anywhere Else

Tractate VIII. Ὅτι οὐδὲν τῶν ὄντων ἀπόλλυται ἀλλὰ τὰς μεταβολὰς ἀπωλείας καὶ θανάτους πλανώμενοι λέγουσιν. That no beings are lost, despite mortals mistakenly claiming that such transformations are death and a loss.

Tractate XI. Νοῦς πρὸς Ἑρμῆν. From Perceiverance To Hermes

Tractate XII. Περὶ νοῦ κοινοῦ πρὸς Τάτ. To Thoth, Concerning Mutual Perceiveration.

Tractate XIII. Ερμού του τρισμεγίστου προς τον υιόν Τάτ εν όρει λόγος απόκρυφος περί παλιγγενεσίας και σιγής επαγγελίας. On A Mountain: Hermes Trismegistus To His Son Thoth, An Esoteric Discourse Concerning Palingenesis And The Requirement of Silence

2. The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos

93 pages. Fifth Edition, 2018.

Contents:

Prefatory Note.
1 Conspectus.
2 The Way of Pathei-Mathos – A Philosophical Compendium.
3 Some Personal Musings On Empathy.
4 Enantiodromia and The Reformation of The Individual.
5 Society, Politics, Social Reform, and Pathei-Mathos.
6 The Change of Enantiodromia.
7 The Abstraction of Change as Opposites and Dialectic.
Appendix I – The Principle of Dika.
Appendix II – From Mythoi To Empathy: A New Appreciation Of The Numinous.
Appendix III – Towards Understanding Ancestral Culture.
Appendix IV – The Concept of Physis.
Appendix V – Notes on Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book 5, 1015α.
Appendix VI – Notes on Heraclitus Fragment 1.
Appendix VII – Glossary of Terms and Greek Words.
Footnotes.

3. Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos

55 pages. 2013

Letters and essays – some autobiographical in nature – concerning religion, redemption, expiation, and humility, and relating to the numinous way – the philosophy – of pathei-mathos.

Contents:

I Numinous Expiation.
II Questions of Good, Evil, Honour, and God.
III Blue Reflected Starlight.
IV Fifty Years of Diverse Peregrinations.

4. Myngath

97 pages. 2013. Autobiography.

Some Recollections of a Wyrdful and Extremist Life [Revised May 2013 edition]

5. The Agamemnon of Aeschylus

94 pages. 1993

A Translation

6. Sophocles – Oedipus Tyrannus

112 pages. 1990.

A Translation

7. Sophocles – Antigone

83 pages. 1990

A Translation

8. One Exquisite Silence

24 pages. 1972-2012

Seventeen autobiographical poems

9. Understanding and Rejecting Extremism

58 pages. 2013

Personal reflexions on forty years as an extremist

10. Homer – The Odyssey: Books 1, 2 & 3

60 pages. 1991

A Translation of Books 1, 2, & 3

11. One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods 

46 pages. 2014

Some Personal and Metaphysical Musings

Contents:

° The Way Of Pathei-Mathos – A Précis
° Education And The Culture Of Pathei-Mathos
° A Vagabond In Exile From The Gods
° The Consolation Of A Viator
° Some Questions For DWM
° Toward Understanding The Acausal

12. Sarigthersa: Some Recent Essays

30 pages. 2015

13. The Gospel According To John: A Translation And Commentary

Volume I: Chapters 1-5
51 pages. 2017

14. Classical Paganism And The Christian Ethos

42 pages. 2017

A study in the difference between Christianity and the paganism of Ancient Greece and Rome, evident as that paganism is in the writings of Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Cicero and many other classical authors. A study which includes developing that paganism in a metaphysical way, beyond the deities of classical mythos, thus making such paganism relevant to the modern Western world. A modern development which involves an analysis of the texts of the Corpus Hermeticum.

15. Tu Es Diaboli Ianua

46 pages. 2017

Since the religion termed Christianity has, for over six centuries, been influential in respect of the ethos and spirituality of the culture of the West – often to the extent of having been described as manifesting that ethos and that spirituality – one of the metaphysical questions I have saught to answer over the past forty years is whether that religion is, given our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos, a suitable presencing of the numinous. If it is not, then could that religion be reformed, by developing a Johannine Weltanschauung given that the Gospel According to John – τὸ κατὰ Ἰωάννην εὐαγγέλιον – arguably presents a somewhat different perspective on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth than the three other synoptic Gospels. Would such a reformation be a suitable presencing of the numinous, and if not, then what non-Christian alternatives – such as a paganus metaphysics – exist, and what is the foundation of such an alternative?

This essay presents my answers to such questions and thus compliments my book Classical Paganism And The Christian Ethos.

16. Some Selected Essays And Effusions

63 pages. Second Edition. 2019

Contents:

° From Mythoi To Empathy
° On Minutiae And The Art Of Revision
° An Indebtedness To Ancient Greek And Greco-Roman Culture
° The Way Of Jesus of Nazareth
° Physis And Being: Introduction To The Philosophy Of Pathei-Mathos
° A Note Concerning θειότης
° Time And The Separation Of Otherness
° That Heavy Dust
° Telesmata In The Picatrix
° Towards Understanding Ancestral Culture
° A Pre-Socratic Fragment: Empedocles
° The Beatitudes: A Translation
° A Note On The Term Jews In The Gospel of John
° The Joy Of Words
° Two Metaphysical Contradictions Of The Modern West
° In Defence Of The Roman Catholic Church: Part One
° In Defence Of The Roman Catholic Church: Part Two

17. Extremism And Reformation

79 pages. Third Edition. 2019

Contents:

° Preface
° A Premature Grieving
° A Perplexing Failure To Understand
° Concerning The Abstractions of Extremism and Race
° Some Notes on The Politics and Ideology of Hate
Part One: According to the Philosophy of The Numinous Way
Part Two: A Personal Perspective – My Uncertitude of Knowing
° Some Philosophical and Moral Problems of National-Socialism
° Suffering And The Human Culture Of Pathei-Mathos
° Persecution And War
° The Matter With Death
° Appendix I: Physis And Being
° Appendix II: Pathei-Mathos: Genesis of My Unknowing
° Appendix III: A Matter Of Honour

18. Sappho: Poetic Fragments

6 pages. 1986

Translations of fragments 1, 16, 22, 31, 34, 23, 41, 47, 94, 96, 58, 126, 130, 138/147

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Also available: Works About DWM And Edited Anthologies.

° The Mystic Philosophy Of David Myatt

56 pages. 2016

A collection of essays providing an introduction to my philosophy of pathei-mathos.

Contents:

I. A Modern Mystic: David Myatt And The Way of Pathei-Mathos.
II. A Modern Pagan Philosophy.
III. Honour In The Philosophy Of Pathei-Mathos.
IV. An Overview of The Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos
Part One: Anti-Racism, Extremism, Honour, and Culture.
Part Two: Humility, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos.
Appendix. A Note On Greek Terms In The Philosophy Of Pathei-Mathos.

° Such Respectful Wordful Offerings: Selected Essays Of David Myatt.

72 pages. 2017.

Contents

° Editorial Preface
° Bright Berries, One Winter
° The Leaves Are Showering Down
° Perhaps Words Are The Problem
° A Non-Terrestrial View
° Musings On Suffering, Human Nature, And The Culture of Pathei-Mathos
° Blue Reflected Starlight
° A Slowful Learning, Perhaps
° Toward Humility – A Brief Personal View
° A Catholic Still, In Spirit?
° Some Personal Perceiverations
° Twenty Years Ago, Today
° Some Questions For DWM, 2017
° Cantio Arcana
Appendix I – A Note On Greek Terms In The Philosophy Of Pathei-Mathos
Appendix II – On Translating Ancient Greek
Appendix III – Concerning ἀγαθός and νοῦς in the Corpus Hermeticum
Appendix IV – Cicero On Summum Bonum
Appendix V – Swan Song Of A Mystic
Appendix VI – Self-Dramatization, Sentimentalist, Or Chronicler Of Pathei Mathos?


Image credit: NASA, Blue Marble Earth Mosaic


David Myatt
A revised (fifth) edition of my 2013 book The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos is now available. Since I consider the abstractions denoted by the terms “intellectual property” and “copyright” to be anachronistic, the book is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-ND 4.0) License – and thus can be copied, distributed, and commercially published, royalty-free, according to the terms of that license – and is available as a (91 page) gratis Open Access pdf file here:

The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos
(pdf)

The revised edition includes five new appendices, which elucidate terms such as ‘numinous’ and ‘physis’, and an expanded Glossary.

A printed edition is also available: ISBN 978-1484096642.

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Contents

° Prefatory Note
° Conspectus
° The Way of Pathei-Mathos – A Philosophical Compendium
° Some Personal Musings On Empathy
° Enantiodromia and The Reformation of The Individual
° Society, Politics, Social Reform, and Pathei-Mathos
° The Change of Enantiodromia
° The Abstraction of Change
° Appendix I – The Principle of Δίκα
° Appendix II – From Mythoi To Empathy: A New Appreciation Of The Numinous
° Appendix III – Towards Understanding Ancestral Culture
° Appendix IV – The Concept of Physis
° Appendix V – Notes on Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book 5, 1015α
° Appendix VI – Notes on Heraclitus Fragment 1
° Appendix VII – Glossary of Terms and Greek Words
° Footnotes


As manifest in my weltanschauung, based as that weltanschauung is on pathei-mathos and an appreciation of Greco-Roman culture, the term Ancestral Culture is synonymous with Ancestral Custom, with Ancestral Custom represented in Ancient Greek mythoi by Δίκη, the goddess Fairness as described by Hesiod:

σὺ δ ̓ ἄκουε δίκης, μηδ ̓ ὕβριν ὄφελλε:
ὕβρις γάρ τε κακὴ δειλῷ βροτῷ: οὐδὲ μὲν ἐσθλὸς
215 ῥηιδίως φερέμεν δύναται, βαρύθει δέ θ ̓ ὑπ ̓ αὐτῆς
ἐγκύρσας ἄτῃσιν: ὁδὸς δ ̓ ἑτέρηφι παρελθεῖν
κρείσσων ἐς τὰ δίκαια: Δίκη δ ̓ ὑπὲρ Ὕβριος ἴσχει
ἐς τέλος ἐξελθοῦσα: παθὼν δέ τε νήπιος ἔγνω

You should listen to Fairness and not oblige Hubris
Since Hubris harms unfortunate mortals while even the more fortunate
Are not equal to carrying that heavy a burden, meeting as they do with Mischief.
The best path to take is the opposite one: that of honour
For, in the end, Fairness is above Hubris
Which is something the young come to learn from adversity.

Hesiod, Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι [Works and Days], vv 213-218 [1]

That Δίκη is generally described as the goddess of ‘justice’ – as ‘Judgement’ personified – is unfortunate given that the terms ‘justice’ and ‘judgement’ have modern, abstract, and legalistic, connotations which are inappropriate and which detract from understanding and appreciating the mythoi of Ancient Greece and Rome.

Correctly understood, Δίκη – and δίκη in general – represents the natural and the necessary balance manifest in ἁρμονίη (harmony) and thus not only in τὸ καλόν (the beautiful) but also in the Cosmic Order, κόσμος, with ourselves as human beings (at least when unaffected by hubris) a microcosmic re-presentation of such balance, κόσμον δὲ θείου σώματος κατέπεμψε τὸν ἄνθρωπον [2]. A sentiment re-expressed centuries later by Marsilii Ficini:

Quomodo per inferiora superioribus exposita deducantur superiora, et per mundanas materias mundana potissimum dona.

How, when what is lower is touched by what is higher, the higher is cosmically presenced therein and thus gifted because cosmically aligned. [3]

This understanding and appreciation of ἁρμονίη and of κόσμος and of ourselves as a microcosm is perhaps most evident in the Greek phrase καλὸς κἀγαθός, describing as it does those who are balanced within themselves, who – manifesting τὸ καλόν and τὸ ἀγαθὸν – comport themselves in a gentlemanly or lady-like manner, part of which comportment is living and if necessary dying in a honourable, a noble, manner. For personal honour presences τὸ καλόν and τὸ ἀγαθὸν, and thus the numinous.

For in practice honour manifests the customary, the ancestral way, of those who are noble, those who presence fairness; those who restore balance; those who (even at some cost to themselves) are fair due to their innate physis or because they have been nurtured to be so. For this ancestral way – such ancestral custom – is what is expected in terms of personal behaviour based on past personal examples and thus often manifests the accumulated wisdom of previous generations.

Thus, an important – perhaps even ethos-defining – Ancestral Custom of Greco-Roman culture, and of Western culture born as Western culture was from both medieval mythoi involving Knights and courtly romance and from the re-discovery of Greco-Roman culture that began the Renaissance, is chivalry and which personal virtue – presencing the numinous as it does and did – is not and cannot be subject to any qualifications or exceptions and cannot be confined to or manifest by anything so supra-personal as a particular religion or anything so supra-personal as a political dogma or ideology.

Hence, the modern paganus weltanschauung that I mentioned in my Classical Paganism And The Christian Ethos as a means “to reconnect those in the lands of the West, and those in Western émigré lands and former colonies of the West, with their ancestral ethos,” is one founded on καλὸς κἀγαθός. That is, on chivalry; on manners; on gentrice romance; and on the muliebral virtues, the gender equality, inherent in both chivalry and personal manners, consciously and rationally understood as chivalry and manners now are as a consequence of both our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos and of our empathic (wordless) and personal apprehension of the numinous.

David Myatt
January 2018
(Revised March 2018)

[1] My translation. Some notes on the translation:

a. δίκη. The goddess of Fairness. In this work, as in Θεογονία (Theogony), Hesiod is recounting and explaining part of the ancestral tradition of ancient Greece, one important aspect of which tradition is understanding the relation between the gods and mortals.

Given both the antiquity of the text and the context, ‘Fairness’ – as the name of the goddess – is, in my view, more appropriate than the now common appellation ‘Justice’, considering the modern (oft times impersonal) connotations of the word ‘justice’.

b. Mischief. The sense of ἄτῃσιν here is not of ‘delusion’ nor of ‘calamities’, per se, but rather of encountering that which or those whom (such as the goddess of mischief, Ἄτη) can bring mischief or misfortune into the ‘fortunate life’ of a ‘fortunate mortal’, and which encounters are, according to classical tradition, considered as having been instigated by the gods. Hence, of course, why Sophocles [Antigone, 1337-8] wrote ὡς πεπρωμένης οὐκ ἔστι θνητοῖς συμφορᾶς ἀπαλλαγή (mortals cannot be delivered from the misfortunes of their fate).

c. δίκαιος. Honour expresses the sense that is meant: of being fair; capable of doing the decent thing; of dutifully observing ancestral customs. A reasonable alternative for ‘honour’ would thus be ‘decency’, both preferable to words such as ‘just’ and ‘justice’ which are not only too impersonal but have too many inappropriate modern connotations.

d. νήπιος. Literal – ‘young’, ‘uncultured’ (i.e. un-schooled, un-educated in the ways of ancestral custom) – rather than metaphorical (‘foolish’, ignorant).

[2] “a cosmos of the divine body sent down as human beings.” Tractate IV:2. Corpus Hermeticum. Ἑρμοῦ πρὸς Τάτ ὁ κρατῆρ ἡ μονάς.

[3] De Vita Coelitus Comparanda. XXVI. This is also a philosophical restatement of the phrase “quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius” (what is above is as what is below) from the Latin version, published in 1541, of the medieval Hermetic text known as Tabula Smaragdina.

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Related:

Corpus Hermeticum

The Culture of Pathei-Mathos

From Mythoi To Empathy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Appreciation Of The Numinous

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

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

David Myatt
January 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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


°°°

Tu Es Diaboli Ianua
(pdf)

Contents

° Exordium
° Part I. The Johannine Weltanschauung And The Numinous
° Part II. A Paganus Apprehension
° Part III. Numinous Metaphysics
° Appendix I. Logos Δ. The Esoteric Song
° Appendix II. A Note On The Term Jews In The Gospel of John
° Appendix III. The Human Culture Of Pathei-Mathos

Exordium

Given that the religion termed Christianity has, for over six centuries, been influential in respect of the ethos and spirituality of the culture of the West – often to the extent of having been described as manifesting that ethos and that spirituality – one of the metaphysical questions I have saught to answer over the past forty years is whether that religion is, given our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos, a suitable presencing of the numinous. If it is not, then could that religion be reformed, by developing a Johannine Weltanschauung given that the Gospel According to John – τὸ κατὰ Ἰωάννην εὐαγγέλιον – arguably presents a somewhat different perspective on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth than the three other synoptic Gospels. Would such a reformation be a suitable presencing of the numinous, and if not, then what non-Christian alternatives – such as a paganus metaphysics – exist, and what is the foundation of such an alternative?

This essay thus compliments my book Classical Paganism And The Christian Ethos. As in that book, I have made extensive use of my translations of certain classical authors and of various hermetic texts as well as the Gospel of John, and given that those translations are currently quite accessible I have not except on a few occasions explained my interpretations of certain Greek or Latin terms since those interpretations are explained in the associated commentaries.

As noted elsewhere, I prefer the term paganus – a transliteration of the classical Latin, denoting as it does connection to Nature, to the natural, more rural, world – in preference to ‘pagan’ since paganus is, in my view and in respect of the Greco-Roman ethos, more accurate given what the term ‘pagan’ now often denotes.

The title of the essay, Tu Es Diaboli Ianua – “You Are The Nexion Of The Deofel”, literally, “You are nexion Diabolos ” – is taken from Tertullian’s De Monogamia, written at the beginning of the second century AD.

David Myatt
Winter Solstice 2017


Image credit: Attic red-figure vase, c. 500-450 BCE, depicting The Horae. Antikenmuseen, Berlin


Towards Understanding Physis
(pdf)

Since the concept of physis – φύσις – is central to my philosophy of pathei-mathos, it seems apposite to offer a more detailed explanation of the concept, and my usage of it, than I have hitherto given, deriving as the term does from Ancient Greece and used as it is by Heraclitus, Aristotle, and others, and occurring as it does in texts such as the Pœmandres and Ιερός Λόγος tractates of the Corpus Hermeticum.


earth_moon-voyager3

Sarigthersa
(pdf)

Contents


° Preface
° I. Toward Understanding Physis
° II. Some Conjectures Concerning Our Nexible Physis
° III. Just Passing By
° IV. Personal Reflexions On Some Metaphysical Questions
° V. Some Notes on Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1015α
° VI. Some Notes on Aristotle, Metaphysics, 987β
° VII. Concerning Tractate IV, Corpus Hermeticum
° VIII. Extremism, Terrorism, Culture, And Physis: A Question Of Being
° IX. The Manner of My Dying
° X. Memories of Manual Labour
° XI. A Perplexing Failure To Understand
° XII. Finis: In Loving Memory of Susan and Frances

This work consists of some recent (2014-2015) philosophical and – as the title indicates – autobiographical essays and extracts from private letters, some of which have been previously published via the medium of the internet. Musings now compiled together and published in this format since (to paraphrase what I wrote in one essay) I do so still chunter on – partly in hope, partly in expiation – about empathy and various aspects of the culture of pathei-mathos, especially ancient Greece. For such musings are all I now seem to have, as an artist or musician or a poet have their artisements. The essay Towards Understanding Physis, and the two notes on the Metaphysics of Aristotle – 987β and 1015α, and dealing as they do with physis – are intended to compliment not only my essay Personal Reflexions On Some Metaphysical Questions (included here), my translations of the Poemandres and Ιερός Λόγος tractates of the Corpus Hermeticum, but also my philosophy of pathei-mathos in which physis plays a central philosophical role.

DWM
2015


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


Tyndale-Gospel_of_John

Some Conjectures Concerning Our Nexible Physis

Given that we human beings are a sentient species, an interesting question is whether we have, over the past three thousand years, fundamentally changed. Changed in physis sufficient to enable us to avoid what our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos informs us is unwise. For example, around 700 BCE Hesiod wrote:

σὺ δ᾽ ἄκουε δίκης, μηδ᾽ ὕβριν ὄφελλε:
ὕβρις γάρ τε κακὴ δειλῷ βροτῷ: οὐδὲ μὲν ἐσθλὸς
215 ῥηιδίως φερέμεν δύναται, βαρύθει δέ θ᾽ ὑπ᾽ αὐτῆς
ἐγκύρσας ἄτῃσιν: ὁδὸς δ᾽ ἑτέρηφι παρελθεῖν
κρείσσων ἐς τὰ δίκαια: Δίκη δ᾽ ὑπὲρ Ὕβριος ἴσχει
ἐς τέλος ἐξελθοῦσα: παθὼν δέ τε νήπιος ἔγνω

You should listen to [the goddess] Fairness and not oblige Hubris
Since Hubris harms unfortunate mortals while even the more fortunate
Are not equal to carrying that heavy a burden, meeting as they do with Mischief.
The best path to take is the opposite one: that of honour
For, in the end, Fairness is above Hubris
Which is something the young come to learn from adversity. [1]

Certainly, in the many intervening centuries, some individuals – from adversity, or otherwise – have learned to avoid hubris and be fair, as is evident in our ever-growing human culture of pathei-mathos. But have we as a species, en masse, learned anything physis-changing – and learned by ourselves or by virtue of being instructed or educated – from the likes of Hesiod, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Herodotus, Thucydides, Aristotle, Pliny, and Cicero; from the Rig-Veda; from the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama and Lao Tzu; from the gospel narratives of the life and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth; from the music of JS Bach; from the art of Botticelli, Hokusai, and van Gogh; from the literature of the likes of Jane Austen, Solzhenitsyn, and Mariama Bâ; from the thousands and thousands and thousands of armed conflicts, wars, and invasions, of the past three thousand years; from the individual stories of suffering – of rape, torture, murder, starvation, theft, humiliation – traumatically recounted year after year, decade following decade, and century after century?

If we human beings – we mortals – have in sufficient numbers so learned and so changed, is that change qualifiable? My own, admittedly fallible, view is that it is qualifiable; with my tentative suggestion – the conclusion of some years considering the matter – being that it is by how we as individuals perceive, how we understand, and how we humans as a result of such a new perceiveration externally manifest (in terms of, for example, our societies, our attitudes, and our laws) the muliebral virtues and thus the position of women and gender roles in general. Qualifiable in this way because – at least according to my own learning, and my understanding of the culture of pathei-mathos – of our nexible physis.

For our physis – our being, as mortals, and thus our character as individuals – is not only subject to enantiodromia:

“[to] the revealing, 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, that is, beings are understood in their correct relation to Being, beyond the causal abstraction of different/conflicting ideated opposites, and when as a result, a reformation of the individual, occurs. A relation, an appreciation of the numinous, that empathy and pathei-mathos provide, and which relation and which appreciation the accumulated pathei-mathos of individuals over millennia have made us aware of or tried to inform us or teach us about,” {2}

but also, as I have mentioned elsewhere, because my thesis is that

“it is the muliebral virtues which evolve us as conscious beings, which presence sustainable millennial change. Virtues such as empathy, compassion, humility, and that loyal shared personal love which humanizes those masculous talking-mammals of the Anthropocene, and which masculous talking-mammals have – thousand year following thousand year – caused so much suffering to, and killed, so many other living beings, human and otherwise.” {3}

Considered in such qualifiable terms, there do appear to be some promising signs: for it does seem that several modern societies are – via more and more individuals acquiring a new perceiveration and thence a new understanding – slowly moving toward that equality between men and women, that rejection of stereotypical gender roles, that recognition of the importance – of the necessity – of the muliebral virtues; which, combined, manifest an enantiodromiacal change in our human physis and which change, which balancing of the masculous with the muliebral, consequently could evolve us beyond the patriarchal ethos, and the masculous societies, which have been such a feature of human life on this planet for the past three thousand years, genesis as that ethos and those societies have been of so much grieving.

Which leads to interesting questions, to which I admit I have no answers. Questions such as whether we can, en masse, so change, and whether – if we can so change or are so slowly changing – it will take us another three thousand years, or more, or less, to live, world-wide, in societies where fairness, peace, and compassion, are the norm because the males of our species – perhaps by heeding Fairness and not obliging Hubris, perhaps by learning from our shared human culture of pathei-mathos – have personally, individually, balanced within themselves the masculous with the muliebral and thus, because of sympatheia, follow the path of honour. Which balancing would naturally seem to require a certain conscious intent.

What, therefore, is our intent, as individual human beings, and can our human culture of pathei-mathos offer us some answers, or perchance some guidance? As an old epigram so well-expressed it:

θνητοῖσιν ἀνωΐστων πολέων περ οὐδὲν ἀφραστότερον πέλεται νόου ἀνθρώποισι

“Of all the things that mortals fail to understand, the most incomprehensible is human intent.” {4}

Personally, I do believe that our human culture of pathei-mathos – rooted as it is in our ancient past, enriched as it has been over thousands of years by each new generation, and informing us as it does of what is wise and what is unwise – can offer both some guidance and some answers.

David Myatt
September 2014


Notes

1. Hesiod, Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι [Works and Days], vv 213-218. My translation. Some notes on the translation:

a. δίκη. The goddess of Fairness/Justice/Judgement, and – importantly – of Tradition (Ancestral Custom). In this work, as in Θεογονία (Theogony), Hesiod is recounting and explaining part of that tradition, one important aspect of which tradition is understanding the relation between the gods and mortals. Given both the antiquity of the text and the context, ‘Fairness’ – as the name of the goddess – is, in my view, more appropriate than the now common appellation ‘Justice’, considering the modern (oft times impersonal) connotations of the word ‘justice’.
b. Mischief. The sense of ἄτῃσιν here is not of ‘delusion’ nor of ‘calamities’, per se, but rather of encountering that which or those whom (such as the goddess of mischief, Ἄτη) can bring mischief or misfortune into the ‘fortunate life’ of a ‘fortunate mortal’, and which encounters are, according to classical tradition, considered as having been instigated by the gods. Hence, of course, why Sophocles [Antigone, 1337-8] wrote ὡς πεπρωμένης οὐκ ἔστι θνητοῖς συμφορᾶς ἀπαλλαγή (mortals cannot be delivered from the misfortunes of their fate).
c. δίκαιος. Honour expresses the sense that is meant: of being fair; capable of doing the decent thing; of dutifully observing ancestral customs. A reasonable alternative for ‘honour’ would thus be ‘decency’, both preferable to words such
as ‘just’ and ‘justice’ which are not only too impersonal but have too many inappropriate modern connotations.
d. νήπιος. Literal – ‘young’, ‘uncultured’ (i.e. un-schooled, un-educated in the ways of ancestral custom) – rather than metaphorical (‘foolish’, ignorant).

2. The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos, 2013.

3. Some Questions For DWM, 2014.

4.  Vitae Homeri, Epigrammata V.  My (poetic, non-literal) translation.

°°°

Further Reading

Education And The Culture of Pathei-Mathos

The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos
(pdf)

One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods
(pdf)


Image credit:
The British Library. First page of the Gospel of John,
from the 1526 Peter Schoeffer printing of William Tyndale’s English translation.


M31-SW-Subaru-HST-S1024

My weltanschauung – otherwise known as ‘the philosophy of pathei-mathos’ – is currently (2014-2015) outlined in the following four works, available both in printed format and as pdf files:

° David Myatt: The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos. 2013. 82 pages. ISBN 978-1484096642

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/numinous-way-v5c-print.pdf

° David Myatt: Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos. 2013. 60 pages. ISBN 978-1484097984

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/myatt-religion-and-pathei-mathos.pdf

° David Myatt: One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods: Some Personal and Metaphysical Musings. 2014. 46 pages. ISBN 978-1502396105.

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/one-vagabond-pathei-mathos.pdf

° David Myatt: Sarigthersa: Some Recent Essays. 50 pages. ISBN 978-1512137149

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/dwmyatt-sarigthersa-v7.pdf

°°°

Also of interest may be:

° David Myatt: Understanding And Rejecting Extremism. 58 pages. ISBN 978-1484854266

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/dwm-rejecting-extremism-v3.pdf

° J.R. Wright & R. Parker: The Mystic Philosophy of David Myatt. 56 pages. ISBN 978-1523930135

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/myatt-mystic-philosophy-second-edition.pdf

The four essays provide an introduction to the philosophy of pathei-mathos.


Image credit: NGC 206, Hubble Space Telescope


Glasgow University library: MS Hunter 374 fol.4r
Education And The Culture Of Pathei-Mathos

 

One of the many subjects that I have pondered upon in the last few years is the role of education and whether a learning of our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos – understood and appreciated as a distinct culture [1], and thence as an academic subject – could possibly aid us, as a species, to change; aid us to become more honourable, more compassionate, less egoistical, less violent, as individuals, and thus aid us to possibly avoid in our own lives those hubriatic errors, and causing the suffering, that the culture of pathei-mathos reveals are not only unethical but also which we humans make and cause and have made and caused again and again and again. That is, can a knowledge and appreciation of this culture, perhaps learnt individually and/or in institutions such as schools and colleges, provide with us with that empathic, supra-personal, perspective which I personally – as a result of my own learning and experiences – am inclined to feel could change, evolve, us not only as individuals but as a species?

Studia Humanitatis

For thousands of years – from the classical world to the Renaissance to fairly recent times – Studia Humanitatis (an appreciation and understanding of our φύσις as human beings) was considered to be the basis of a good, a sound, education.

Thus, for Cicero, Studia Humanitatis implied forming and shaping the manners, the character, and the knowledge, of young people through them acquiring an understanding of subjects such as philosophy, geometry, rhetoric, music, and litterarum cognitio (literary culture). This was because the classical weltanschauung was a paganus one: an apprehension of the complete unity (a cosmic order, κόσμος, mundus) beyond the apparent parts of that unity, together with the perceiveration that we mortals – albeit a mere and fallible part of the unity – have been gifted with our existence so that we may perceive and understand this unity, and, having so perceived, may ourselves seek to be whole, and thus become as balanced (perfectus) [2], as harmonious, as the unity itself:

Neque enim est quicquam aliud praeter mundum quoi nihil absit quodque undique aptum atque perfectum expletumque sit omnibus suis numeris et partibus […] ipse autem homo ortus est ad mundum contemplandum et imitandum – nullo modo perfectus, sed est quaedam particula perfecti. [3]

Furthermore, this paganus natural balance implied an acceptance by the individual of certain communal responsibilities and duties; of such responsibilities and duties, and their cultivation, as a natural and necessary part of our existence as mortals.

In the Christian societies of Renaissance Europe, Studia Humanitatis became more limited, to subjects such as history, moral philosophy, poetry, certain classical authors, and Christian writers such as Augustine and Jerome, with the general intent being a self improvement with the important proviso that this concentration on the advancement of the individual to ‘noble living’ by means of ‘noble examples’ (classical and Christian) should not conflict with the Christian weltanschauung [4] and its perceiveration of obedience to whatever interpretation of Christian faith and eschatology the individual favoured or believed in. In more recent times, Studia Humanitatis has become the academic study of ‘the liberal arts’, the ‘humanities’, often as a means to equip an individual with certain personal skills – such as the ability to communicate effectively and to rationally analyse problems – which might be professionally useful in later life.

However, the culture of pathei-mathos provides an addition to the aforementioned Studia Humanitatis, and an addition where the focus is not on a particular weltanschauung (paganus, Christian, liberal, or humanist) but rather on our shared pathei-mathos: on what we and others have learnt, and can learn, about our human φύσις from experience of grief, suffering, trauma, injustice. For it is such personal learning from experience, or the records of or the influence of the experiences of others, which is not only the essence of much of what we, and others for thousands of years, have appreciated and learned from some of the individual subjects or fields of learning that formed the basis for the aforementioned Studia Humanitatis – history, litterarum cognitio, and music, for example – but also what, at least in my view, provides us with perhaps the deepest, but most certainly with the most poignant, insight into our φύσις as human beings.

Thus considered as an individual subject or field of learning, academic or otherwise, the culture of pathei-mathos would most certainly help to form and shape the manners, the character, the knowledge, of young people, for it has the potential to provide us with a perception and an understanding of the supra-personal unity – the mundus – of which we are a mortal part, and thus perhaps can aid us to become as inwardly balanced, as harmonious, as the unity beyond and encompassing us, bringing as such a perception, understanding, and balance, does that appreciation and empathic intuition of others which is compassion and aiding as such compassion does the cessation of the suffering that an unbalanced – a hubriatic, egoistical – human φύσις causes and has caused for so many millennia.

Can we therefore, as described in the Pœmandres tractate,

hasten through the harmonious structure, offering up, in the first realm, that vigour which grows and which fades, and – in the second one – those dishonourable machinations, no longer functioning. In the third, that eagerness which deceives, no longer functioning; in the fourth, the arrogance of command, no longer insatiable; in the fifth, profane insolence and reckless haste; in the sixth, the bad inclinations occasioned by riches, no longer functioning; and in the seventh realm, the lies that lie in wait. [5]

For is not to so journey toward the unity “the noble goal of those who seek to acquire knowledge?”

But if we cannot make that or a similar personal journey; if we do not or cannot learn from our human culture of pathei-mathos, from the many thousands of years of such suffering as that culture documents and presents and remembers; if we no longer concern ourselves with de studiis humanitatis ac litterarum, then do we as a sentient species deserve to survive? For if we cannot so learn, cannot so change, cannot so educate ourselves, or are not so educated in such subjects, then it seems to me we may never be able to escape to the freedom and the natural evolution, the diversity, that await among the star-systems of our Galaxy. For what awaits us if we, the unlearned, stay unchanged, are only repetitions of the periodicity of human-caused suffering until such time as we exhaust, lay waste, make extinct, our cultures, our planet, and finally ourselves. And no other sentient life, elsewhere in the Cosmos, would mourn our demise.

David Myatt
May 2014

From a letter sent to a personal correspondent. Some footnotes have been added, post scriptum, in an effort to elucidate some parts of the text and provide appropriate references.

Notes

[1] I define the culture of pathei-mathos as the accumulated pathei-mathos of individuals, world-wide, over thousands of years, as (i) described in memoirs, aural stories, and historical accounts; as (ii) have inspired particular works of literature or poetry or drama; as (iii) expressed via non-verbal mediums such as music and Art, and as (iv) manifest in more recent times by ‘art-forms’ such as films and documentaries.

The culture of pathei-mathos thus includes not only traditional accounts of, or accounts inspired by, personal pathei-mathos, old and modern – such as the With The Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene Sledge, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and the poetry of people as diverse as Sappho and Sylvia Plath – but also works or art-forms inspired by such pathei-mathos, whether personal or otherwise, and whether factually presented or fictionalized. Hence films such as Monsieur Lazhar and Etz Limon may poignantly express something about our φύσις as human beings and thus form part of the culture of pathei-mathos.

[2] A pedantic aside: it is my considered opinion that the English term ‘balanced’ (a natural completeness, a natural equilibrium) is often a better translation of the classical Latin perfectus than the commonly accepted translation of ‘perfect’, given what the English word ‘perfect’ now imputes (as in, for example, ‘cannot be improved upon’), and given the association of the word ‘perfect’ with Christian theology and exegesis (as, for example, in suggesting a moral perfection).

[3] M. Tullius Cicero, De Natura Deorum, Liber Secundus, xiii, xiv, 37

[4] q.v. Bruni d’Arezzo, De Studiis et Litteris. Leipzig, 1496.

[5] My translation of the Greek text. From Mercvrii Trismegisti Pymander de potestate et sapientia dei – A Translation and Commentary. 2013. A pdf version is available here – pymander-hermetica-pdf


Image credit: Glasgow University library: MS Hunter 374 fol.4r

Boethius Consolation of Philosophy


 

The Consolation Of A Viator

 

Gloria vero quam fallax saepe, quam turpis est. 
Unde non iniuria tragicus exclamat:
῏Ω δόξα, δόξα, μυρίοισι δὴ βροτῶν
οὐδὲν γεγῶσι βίοτον ὤγκωσας μέγαν

 

For most of my life – and to paraphrase what someone once wrote – I have been a selfish being, prideful and conceited, and would still be so were it not for the suicide of a woman I loved. For not only did I often use words to deceive, to manipulate, to charm, but I also deluded myself, since I really, arrogantly, believed that I was not a bad person and could always find some excuse (for myself and for others) to explain away what in objective terms amounted to selfish behaviour, just as – by adhering to the idea of patriotism, or to some political ideology or to some harsh interpretation of some religion – I had a sense of identity, found a purpose, to vivify, excite, entice, and provide me with excuses to be deceitful, manipulative, prideful, conceited, and violent; that is, with a raison d’être for being who and what I was by instinct, by nature: a reprehensible arrogant opinionated person who generally placed his own needs, or the apparent demands of some ideology or some dogma, before the feelings – before the happiness – of others.

But am I, as one correspondent once wrote to me almost two years ago, being too hard on myself? I do not feel I am, for when she asked why I cannot “show the same compassion and forgiveness to your younger self that you could show to someone else who had made mistakes earlier in life,” I (somewhat pompously) replied: “Because that would not – probably could never – be a neutral point of view, for there are memories, a remembering, of deeds done and a knowing of their suffering-causing effects on others. It is not for me to seek – to try – to forget; not for me to offer myself expiation. For I sense that to do so would be hubris and thus continue the periodicity of suffering.”

For unfortunately I – with such a prideful, conceited, selfish nature – am no exception; just as the type I represented has been no exception throughout our history as sentient beings. Indeed, my particular type is perhaps more reprehensible than the brutish barbarian archetype that many will associate with those humans who survive by natural, selfish, instinct alone. For not only did I live in the prosperous West (or in colonial outposts of the West) but I had the veneer of culture – the benefits of a classical education, a happy childhood – and so could converse (although often only in my then opinionated manner) about such things as music, art, literature, poetry, and history. In many ways, therefore, I was the archetypal paradoxical National-Socialist: a throwback, perhaps, to those educated, cultured, Germans who could and who did support and then fight for the demagogue Hitler and who, in his name, could and did commit, or ignore or make excuses for, nazi atrocities.

Most important of all, it was not something I did, not something I read or studied or thought, and not some sudden ‘revelation’ or epiphany related to some religion or to some belief, that fundamentally changed me. Instead, it was something entirely independent of me; something unexpected, traumatic, outside of my control and my experience, involving someone I personally knew, and indeed whom I loved, or as much as I – the selfish survivor – was capable of love.

For would I, without personally suffering that personal trauma, have changed? Would I, without such a personal trauma, have been even capable of discovering and then accepting the truth about myself and the truth about the harsh interpretation of a Way of Life I then adhered to and the truth about an ideology I had previously adhered to and believed in for some three decades? No, I would not. For I was too arrogant; too enamoured with my certitude-of-knowing; far too selfish, and far too vitalized by some ideology or by the dogmatism of a particularly harsh interpretation of some faith. It is little wonder, therefore, that since that personal trauma I have pondered, over and over again, on certain philosophical, ethical, metaphysical, questions; seeking to find at least some answers, however fallible.

Perhaps most of all – and especially in the past year – I have thought about the nature of suffering; its causes, genesis, and its possible alleviation through or because of such things as education, pathei-mathos, and a knowing of or assumptions concerning whether our sentient life has a meaning, and if so what this meaning might be.

In respect of causes, there is, for example, the question of good individual character and bad individual character, and how we can distinguish – or even if we can distinguish and know – the good from the bad. There is, in respect of possibly in some way alleviating or not causing suffering, the question of culture; and the question of whether culture can fundamentally change us in character – as a species gifted with the faculties of speech and reason – in sufficient numbers world-wide so that we cease the cause the suffering we inflict and have for millennia inflicted on our own kind and on the other life with which we share this planet. Which leads to questions regarding our future if we cannot so change ourselves; and to questions concerning laws and education and authority. And thence, of course, to the raison d’être of “the body politic as organized for supreme civil rule and government.”

In respect of suffering, one of the questions we might ask is how much suffering have we humans, in the past year and around the world, inflicted on our own kind? How many murdered, how many injured and maimed? How many humiliated, subjected to violence? How many women raped, beaten, injured? How many human beings have been tortured or suffered injustice? How many human beings have been manipulated, deceived, exploited, lied to, or had possessions stolen? How many have died of preventable hunger or curable disease? How many have endured  or been forced to endure poverty? How many homeless, how many made refugees? How much more of Nature have we destroyed or exploited in the past year in our apparent insatiable need for, or in greedful desire to exploit, Earth’s resources, biological, physical, or otherwise?

Furthermore, how much of the suffering inflicted on our own kind is personal, the consequence of some uncontrolled or uncontrollable personal emotion, desire, or instinct? And how much inflicted is due to some excuse – some idea or abstraction – we as individuals use, have used, or might use: excuses such as some war, some armed conflict, some ideology, some political extremism, some interpretation of some religion? How much inflicted because of ‘obeying some higher authority’ or some chain of command? How much because ‘we’ had a certainty-of-knowing that we (or our cause, or our State, or our nation, or our faith, or our ideology, or our organization, or our government) were right and that ‘they’ (the others) were wrong and/or they ‘deserved’ it and/or it needed to or had to be done in the interest of some idea or some abstraction, such as ‘our’ security, ‘our’ (or even ‘their’) freedom or happiness, or because our laws made it acceptable?

We might go on to ask whether the personal suffering caused is greater this year than last. Whether the suffering caused by or on behalf of some excuse – some idea or abstraction – is greater this year than last. Greater than a decade ago? Less than that caused a century ago? A millennia ago? And would such a crude measure of suffering – were it even possible to ascertain the figures  – really be an indicator of whether or not we as a species have changed? And have modern States and nations – with their armies, their governments, their schools, their universities, their culture, their forces and institutions and traditions of law and order – really made a difference or just caused more suffering?

But do – or should – these questions matter? Asking such questions returns me to the question of whether our sentient life has a meaning, and if so what this might be, and thence to questions concerning good and bad personal character, and thus to what it is or might be for us, as individuals, wise to seek and wise to avoid.

Interpreting Life

Based on my limited knowledge, and according to my certainly fallible understanding, it seems to me that interpretations of our mortal life are often predicated on a specific cause or origin. For a religious interpretation, this is often God, or Allah, or the gods, or an inscrutable mechanism such as karma, with – it is claimed – such a ‘first cause’ revealing to us the truth concerning our existence. In the case of God, or Allah, it is that we were created and placed on this Earth as a way to attain immortality (Heaven, Jannah), and, in the case of karma, it is nirvana [the wordless nibbana], attainable for example by the Noble Eightfold Way as explained by Siddhartha Gautama.

For many non-religious, but material, interpretations the specific cause is our own perception, or consciousness, or feelings; with the truth concerning our existence then being, for example, (i) that it is only we ourselves who create or can create or who should create a meaning or give a value to our existence; or (ii) that what is most valuable is our personal happiness and/or our freedom, a freedom from such things as suffering, fear, and oppression.

For many non-religious, but spiritual, interpretations the specific cause is our ‘loss of balance or our loss of harmony’ with Nature and/or with existence itself; with the truth concerning our existence then being to regain that natural balance, that harmony (which it is assumed most of us are born with); and regain by, for example, a virtuous living respectful of others, or by acquiring – and living according to – reason, or by moderation in all things, or by trying to avoid causing suffering in other living beings, human and otherwise by, for example, embracing ‘love’ and ‘peace’ and thus being loving and non-violent.

Personally, and as a result of my pathei-mathos and several years reflecting on various philosophical questions, I favour a non-religious, but still rather spiritual, interpretation where there is no assumed loss of some-thing but rather where there is only that type of apprehension – that individual perceiveration – which provides us as individuals with an often wordless but always numinous awareness of our own, individual, life in a cosmic (supra-personal) context. There is then no yearning or necessity to attain or regain some-thing because there is no-thing to attain or regain, and thus no techniques, no practices, no special manner of living, no journey, no ἄνοδος, from ‘here’ to ‘there’. For such a yearning or assumed necessity – however expressed, such as in terms of Heaven, Jannah, nirvana, harmony, immortality, peace, and so on – implies or manifests or can manifest a separation of ‘us’ from ‘them’, manifest for example in ‘those who know’ (or who believe or who assert they know) and those ‘others’ who as yet do not know, giving rise to a certain hierarchy; of those who believe or who assert they can teach or reveal this knowing – and the means to acquire or attain the assumed goal or regain what has been lost – and of those who are, or who can be, or who should be, taught or ‘enlightened’.

Interestingly, this perceiveration of ourselves in a cosmic context is acausal: there are no hierarchies, no posited primal cause, no-thing lost or to be acquired (or reacquired), and no-thing that needs to be (or which can be) described to others in any emotive manner or by means of some abstraction or some idea/form. There is only a particular and a personal and quite gentle awareness: of ourselves as a microcosmic, viatorial, fleeting, effluvium [1] of the Cosmos, but an effluvium which is not only alive but which has a faculty enabling us (the effluvia presenced as a human being) to be perceptful of this, perceptful of how were are connected to other effluvia and thus perceptful of how what we do or do not do can and does affect other effluvia and thus the Cosmos itself. For the perceiveration is of our φύσις, of us as – and not separate from – the Cosmos; of living beings as the Cosmos presenced (embodied, incarnated) in a particular time and place and in a particular way; of how we affect or can affect other effluvia, other livings beings, in either a harmful or non-harming way. An apprehension, that is, of the genesis of suffering and of how we, as human beings possessed of the faculties of reason and of empathy, have the ability to cease to harm other human beings.

In respect of the genesis of suffering, this particular perceiveration provides an important insight about ourselves, as conscious beings; which insight is of the division we make, and have made, consciously or unconsciously, between our own being – our selfhood, ipseity – and that of other living beings, and of that personal ipseity having or possibly having some significance beyond our own finite mortal life either in terms of some-thing (such as a soul) having an opportunity to live on elsewhere (Heaven, Jannah, for example) or as our mortal individual deeds having had a long-lasting causal effect on others.

While it can be argued, and has been argued, that this division exists – is a re-presentation of the current (and past) reality of our existence as conscious, thinking, beings – what is important is not whether it does exist or whether it may be an illusion, but rather (i) that the perceiveration of ‘the acausal’ is an intimation of what is beyond the current (and the past) personal ipseity (real or assumed), and (ii) that it is such personal ipseity (real or assumed) which is the genesis of suffering, and (iii) that this understanding of the genesis of suffering affords us an opportunity to consciously change ourselves, from our current (and the past) real/assumed personal ipseity, and thus, so being changed, no longer cause or contribute to suffering.

How then can we so consciously change? By cultivating and manifesting in our own lives the personal virtues of empathy, compassion, and humility. For it is these virtues which, by removing us from our ipseity – by making us aware of our affective connexion to other life – make us aware of suffering and its causes and prevent us, personally, from causing suffering to other living beings, human and otherwise.

Thus, my personal answer to the question of good and bad personal character is that a person of good personal character is someone who is or who seeks to be compassionate, who has a numinous sympatheia for other living beings, and who is modest and self-effacing. And it is wise to avoid causing or contributing to suffering not because such avoidance is a path toward nirvana (or some other posited thing), and not because we might be rewarded by God, by the gods, or by some divinity, but rather because it manifests the reality, the truth – the meaning – of our being, and which truth is some consolation for this particular viator.

David Myatt
May 2014
In Loving Memory of Frances, who died May 29th 2006

 

Note

[1] I have chosen to use the term effluvium here, in preference to emanation, in order to avoid any potential misunderstanding. For although I have often used the term emanation in my philosophy of pathei-mathos as a synonym of effluvium, ’emanation’ is often understood in the sense of some-thing proceeding from, or having, a source; as for example in theological use where the source is considered to be God or some aspect of a divinity. Effluvium, however,  has (so far as I am aware) no theological connotations and accurately describes the perceiveration: a flowing of what-is, sans the assumption of a primal cause, and sans a division or a distinction between ‘us’ – we mortals – and some-thing else, be this some-thing else God, a divinity, or some assumed, ideated, cause, essence, origin, or form.
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The title of this essay was inspired by a passage in the 1517 translation by William Atkynson of a work by Thomas à Kempis, a translation published as A Full Deuout and Gostely Treatyse of the Imytacyon and Folowynge the Blessed Lyfe of Our Moste Mercyfull Sauyour Cryste.