gold funerary tablet (c. 200 BCE) found at Eleutherna, Crete
A Translation Of And A Commentary On The Third Tractate
Of The Corpus Hermeticum

Ιερός Λόγος: An Esoteric Mythos
(pdf)


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


Advertisements
EquinoxEarth

°°°

The following essay was included in the printed compilation One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods: Some Personal and Metaphysical Musings published in 2014. ISBN-13: 978-1502396105

°°°

A Vagabond In Exile From The Gods

In the garden, the tall, old, Cherry tree is once again in bloom: from bursting buds to a dome of white within three days. Such a reminder, each Spring, of how so very numinous so many aspects of Nature can be when we, relucting, rise above such selfish self-absorption as keeps us beasts within. Such beauty, harming none.

Such beauty to pause my life at least for a moment: one moment of innarrable sadness brought forth by so many aspects of my past. The hubris; the selfishness; the fanaticism; the deeds done; the words written and spoken. So many, so very many such deeds and words – so much pain caused – that there is again that poignant dream of going back to some moment before such a suffering-causing deed was done; before emotive words were written or said; before some piece of propaganda was manufactured and distributed; before some person was hurt, injured, maimed, traumatised, or killed. A travelling back – somehow – to there be the different person I am now burdened by what I never knew, I could not know, I refused to know, then. An impossible journey, of course.

Thus I am obliged, yet again, to contemplate how our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos – and why  stupendously numinous music such as opening of JS Bach’s St. John Passion, and the allegory of Jesus of Nazareth, and the perceiverations of Siddhartha Gautama, of Hillel The Elder, of Mohandas K. Gandhi, of so many others, and the honourable lives of people such as Edith Cavell – have not prevented, from each new generation of humans, a bringing-forth of those many who, like the extremist I was, incite hatred and intolerance; and those many who – subsumed by a hubriatic righteousness, an arrant certitude-of-knowing, and thus lacking in humility – spew forth rhetoric and propaganda in their crusade for some new war or some new conflict or for some new or old ideology; and those many who – subsumed with some dark personal desire or by a brutal egoism – rape, torture, deceive, manipulate, betray, steal, destroy, despoil.

It would be so easy, so very easy, so comforting, to take refuge, again – from the sadness that such an aeonic contemplation brings – in the promise of some-thing divine or suprapersonal beyond my – beyond our mortal – death. For that would at least make some sense of the continuing suffering that we mortals are subject to, often from others of our species but sometimes resulting from natural occurrences far beyond mere mortal control. A promise of, a belief in, some-thing divine or suprapersonal such as an after-life, or some sort of nirvana, or even something akin to the voyage described by Empedocles:

ἔστιν Ἀνάγκης χρῆμα, θεῶν ψήφισμα παλαιόν,
ἀίδιον, πλατέεσσι κατεσφρηγισμένον ὅρκοις·
εὖτέ τις ἀμπλακίηισι φόνωι φίλα γυῖα μιήνηι,
νείκεΐ θ’ ὅς κε ἐπίορκον ἁμαρτήσας ἐπομόσσηι,
δαίμονες οἵτε μακραίωνος λελάχασι βίοιο,
τρίς μιν μυρίας ὧρας ἀπὸ μακάρων ἀλάλησθαι,
φυομένους παντοῖα διὰ χρόνου εἴδεα θνητῶν
ἀργαλέας βιότοιο μεταλλάσσοντα κελεύθους.
αἰθέριον μὲν γάρ σφε μένος πόντονδε διώκει,
πόντος δ’ ἐς χθονὸς οὖδας ἀπέπτυσε, γαῖα δ’ ἐς αὐγὰς
ἠελίου φαέθοντος, ὁ δ’ αἰθέρος ἔμβαλε δίναις·
ἄλλος δ’ ἐξ ἄλλου δέχεται, στυγέουσι δὲ πάντες.
τῶν καὶ ἐγὼ νῦν εἰμι, φυγάς θεόθεν καὶ ἀλήτης,
Νείκεϊ μαινομένωι πίσυνος. [1]

For me, there is a knowing of how limited and fallible my knowledge and understanding are, combined with an intangible intimation of some-thing possibly existing which is so abstruse that any and all attempts – at least by me – to meld it into words, and thus form and confine it into some idea or ideas, would miss or distort its essence. An intimation of what terms such as ‘acausal’ and ‘numinous’ (and even θεός/θεοί) do little to describe, hinting as such terms do of externalities – of an ‘out there’ – whereas this some-thing is an intrinsic part of us, connecting us to all life, human, terran, and otherwise, and thus reveals our φύσις – our relation to beings and Being – behind the appearance that is our conception of our separate self. An intimation thus of our brief causality of mortal life being only one momentary microcosmic presencing of that-which we it seems have a faculty to apprehend, and a that-which which lives-on both before and after our brief moment of apprehended causal life.

Yet this some-thing that I sense is no mystical divinity of a supra-personal love to be saught individually and which, if found or gifted to us, eremitically removes us from the mortal pains and joys of life. Suffering, and the pain so caused, are real; and if we ourselves are unafflicted, others are not and may never be so unafflicted if we humans do not or cannot fundamentally change.

But, for now and as a new Spring burgeons forth, all I in my unknowing and voyaging can do is hope for a better understanding, agreeing as I do with what the Chorus say at the very end of Oedipus Tyrannus:

ὥστε θνητὸν ὄντα κείνην τὴν τελευταίαν ἰδεῖν
ἡμέραν ἐπισκοποῦντα μηδέν᾽ ὀλβίζειν, πρὶν ἂν
τέρμα τοῦ βίου περάσῃ μηδὲν ἀλγεινὸν παθών

Therefore look toward that ending which is for us mortals
To observe that particular day – calling no one lucky until,
Without the pain of injury, they are conveyed beyond life’s ending.


David Myatt
Early Spring, 2014

In memory of Sue, died April 4th 1993

Notes

[1] Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Diels-Kranz, B115. My translation is:

“There exists an insight by Ananke, an ancient resolution
Of the gods, immutable and sealed by vows,
Regarding when one of the daimons – those whose allotted portion of life is long –
Has their own hands stained from murder
Or who, once having sworn an oath, because of some feud breaks that oath.
For they shall for ten thousand tripled seasons wander away from the beautified,
Begotten during that period in all manner of mortal form
And exchanging during that voyage one vexation for another:

The fierce Ætherials chase them to the Sea,
The Sea spits them out onto dusty ground,
Gaia hurls them to the burning light of the Sun
Who flings them back to those swirling Ætherials.
Moved from one to the other, all detest them.

I am one of those, a vagabond in exile from the gods
Who has to rely on strongful Disagreement.”

 

Ananke (Ἀνάγκης) is the primordial goddess of incumbency; that is, of wyrd – of that which is beyond, and the origin of, what we often describe as our Fate as a mortal being.

Disagreement (νεῖκος) is – according to what we can adduce of the philosophy of Empedocles from the fragments of his writings that we possess – a fundamental principle, and one understood in relation to another fundamental principle, Φιλότης, expressive as they both are of the logos (λόγος) by which we can possibly apprehend the workings of the cosmic order (κόσμος). However, the common translations – of ‘strife’ and ‘love’ respectively – do not in my view express what Empedocles seems to be trying to convey, which is ‘disagreement’ and ‘fellowship’ (a communal or kindred working-together in pursuit of a common interest or goal). For while disagreement sometimes disrupts fellowship, it is often necessary as the genesis of productive change.

Thus, just as Odysseus had to rely on the support of the goddess Athena, who disagreed with how Poseidon treated Odysseus, so does the ‘vagabond in exile from the gods’ – so expressively portrayed by Empedocles – rely on disagreements to end their own exile.


Image Credit: Roscosmos / NTSOMZ

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.

David Myatt
22 December 2010


Image credit: Botticelli – Madonna del Magnificat
Source:  http://www.davidmyatt.info/dwm-bright-berries.html

book-corpus-hermeticum

The link below is to a pdf file of the second edition of my complete translation of, and commentary on, the Pœmandres/Pymander tractate of the Corpus Hermeticum.

Pymander – Corpus Hermeticum
(pdf)

The work is also available as a printed book: ISBN 978-1495470684


N.B. This has now been superseded by the compilation Corpus Hermeticum: Eight Tractates which contains translations of and commentaries on tractates I, III, IV, VI, VIII, XI, XII, XIII.

Gratis Open Access: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/eight-tractates-v2-print.pdf

Printed book: ISBN-13: 978-1976452369. 190 pages. 2017.


Image credit:

Page from the 1577 CE book Iamblichvs De mysteriis Ægyptiorvm, Chaldæorum, Assyriorum: Proclvs in Platonicum Alcibiadem de anima, atque dæmone, Idem De sacrificio & magia: Porphyrivs De diuinis atq, dæmonib: Psellvs De dæmonibus: Mercvrii Trismegisti Pimander, Eiusdem Asclepius.

The book contains the Latin text of the Corpus Hermeticum.


attic-vase3-boston

Following numerous requests over the past fifteen years or so, printed copies of three of my Greek translations are now available. I have slightly revised the introductions to the translations.

The Agamemnon of Aeschylus

94 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1484128220
BISAC: Drama / Ancient, Classical & Medieval

Sophocles – Oedipus Tyrannus

112 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1484132104
BISAC: Drama / Ancient, Classical & Medieval

Sophocles – Antigone

88 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1484132067
BISAC: Drama / Ancient, Classical & Medieval

°°°

Here are two extracts from the translations.

1) From the Agamemnon

Her warning of ‘Father!’, her supplications,
Her virgin state – were counted as nothing
By those commanders lusting for battle.
After invokations, her father ordered the servants
To lift up and place upon the altar – like a yearling goat –
She who with all her passion had bent down
To grasp his robe,
And to place a guard upon her beautiful lips –
To prevent a sound from bringing misfortune to the family –
By the power of a strong bridle making her without a voice.
Then, as she poured to earth that which stained her garment,
So at each sacrificer she cast from her eyes
Arrows of lamentation
As if she were pre-eminent within a painting
With a desire to speak,
As often at her father’s good feasts
In the male dining-room she had, in song:
When – undeflowered, with her pure voice,
Honouring her beloved father –
She had with the third libation pleasingly sang
A paeon for good fortune.
I did not see, and do not speak of, what followed these things.

2) From Antigone.

By Cyanaei of the two-fold sea
Are the Bosphorus shores
And Thracian Salmydessus
Where Ares, dwelling close by the citadel,
Beheld the two sons of Phineas
Blinded by ruinous wounds
Dealt by that savage second wife –
A blinding of orbs the seeing of which brought vengeance –
By sticking at them with the points
Of her weaver’s spindle, blood staining her hands.

A Note on the Translations
The translations were undertaken during the four happy years I spent with Sue, with the Agamemnon completed some months after her untimely death in 1993. Now, almost a quarter of a century later, there is much that I would probably change/alter in all three translations. But they shall be left alone; creative emanations of their time, of those now long ago and fondly remembered years.

°°°

Image credit: Attic red-figure vase c. 460 BCE (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

STS107-columbia-2003-atlantic-earth-moon

One Slow and Painful Learning

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

°°°


1. 

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

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

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

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

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

June 2003

2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 2004

3.

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

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

April 11th 2007

4.

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

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

3rd of August 2006

5.

 

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

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

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

April 2007

6.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

°°°

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


This is the first draft of part three of my forthcoming work, Questions of Good, Evil, Honour, and God.
NASA/JPL/CalTech - Messier 104

Questions of Good, Evil, Honour, and God

Part Three

Religion, Law, and The Reformation of Individuals

The overview in parts one and two of how, in my view, good and evil are understood in the culture of pathei-mathos and by early Christianity and Islam presented several musings, based as that overview was and those musing are on my experiences, study, and reflexion, over some forty years. One of my musings was that, in the case of Islam and Christianity – two of the most influential spiritual ways of life in the last two millennia – the understanding of good and evil was not originally of some dogmatical and theological abstraction divorced from human life, but a more directly personal one related to the behaviour of individuals, with the promise that good behaviour – as outlined in the gospels and in the Quran and Sunnah – would most probably be rewarded with a place in Heaven or Paradise, and that the powerful and the leaders of governments are accountable to God [1].

In the case of the culture of pathei-mathos, it not only provides, as does the modern State, a perspective (and a teleology) unrelated to the judgement of a supreme deity and the promise of an after-life, but also points us toward answers rather different from those provided by proponents of the State, of liberal democracy, and of a jurisprudence concerned with international law and codifying and criminalizing what politicians, and/or some political theory, ideology, dogma, or agenda, deem to be bad. For what that culture provides is an understanding of how all forms – be they considered political [2], or codified ideologically [3] or in the form of a dogmatic hierarchical religion – have caused suffering, or do cause suffering sooner or later, because they are judgemental, supra-personal; and that such suffering is unjustified because it is individual human beings and indeed the other life with which we share this planet who and which are important; and that to alleviate and to prevent and remove the causes of suffering is necessary because a manifestation of what is good; that is, a manifestation of reasoned, balanced, compassionate, personal judgement, and of that learning, that knowledge, the insights, that personal experience of conflict, war, disaster, tragedy, havoc, violence, hatred, and pain, have taught and revealed to individuals for some three thousand years.

Thus it is that this culture contains the judgement, the insights, and the experience, of people as diverse in their origins, their life, and in some of their views, as Lao Tzu, Sappho, van Gogh, Solzhenitsyn, and Mohandas K. Gandhi. Sappho, for instance, moved by personal love, wrote over two and half thousand years ago that:

For some – it is horsemen; for others – it is infantry;
For some others – it is ships which are, on this black earth,
Visibly constant in their beauty. But for me,
It is that which you desire.

To all, it is easy to make this completely understood
For Helen – she who greatly surpassed other mortals in beauty –
Left her most noble man and sailed forth to Troy
Forgetting her beloved parents and her daughter
Because [ the goddess ] led her away […]

Which makes me to see again Anactoria now far distant:
For I would rather behold her pleasing, graceful movement
And the radiant splendour of her face
Than your Lydian chariots and foot-soldiers in full armour… [4]

While Gandhi, motivated by a desire for communal change and a vision of the future, more recently wrote that civilization, correctly understood, does not mean and does not require cities and centralized government and vast industries – and thus a modern State – but rather means and requires a certain personal moral conduct, a “mastery over our mind and our passions” [5], non-violence, the simplicity of village life [6], and communities voluntarily cooperating together in pursuit of collective, and personal, development.

Which two examples illustrate what are, perhaps, the two main answers that the culture of pathei-mathos offers and has so far offered to the question, posed in the Introduction of this essay, of what, if anything, can or perhaps should (i) replace the answers of religions for those who do not or cannot accept such religious answers and the theological perspective and guidance so offered, and/or (ii) replace the answers offered by the jurisprudence of nation-States and the political theories of governance of such States for those who adjudge that the suffering such States cause is, on balance, unacceptable [7]. These two answers – founded on or inspired by the insight of a personal rather than an impersonal, dogmatical, good and bad – are the internal one of a personal life, focused on personal love (and/or on Art, music, and so on), and the external one of seeking change by means such as the non-violence of passive resistance [8] and through personal example.

How to choose? What criteria, moral or otherwise, to use to judge these two answers, and the other answers that over millennia and by pathei-mathos, have been lived and/or proposed? The criterion of the reformation – the development, the change – of the individual? If so, a change from what to where? Or, perhaps, the criterion should be personal honour? Indeed, should there be, or can there even be, some suprapersonal judgemental criteria that others may employ?

Given the nature of pathei-mathos [9], and the nature of a criterion, I incline toward the view that there is no criteria beyond the very individual, the reasoned, the personal, non-transferable, and fallible, judgement which derives from our own pathei-mathos, our own empathy, our own experience, our own life, and our own understanding of the causes of suffering.


Good, Evil, and The Criteria of Progress

To formulate some standard or rule or some test to try to evaluate alternatives and make choices in such matters is to make presumptions about what constitutes progress; about what constitutes a ‘higher’ level – or a more advanced stage – and what constitutes a ‘lower’ level or stage. That is, to not only make a moral judgement connected to what is considered to be ‘good’ and ‘evil’ – right and wrong, correct and incorrect – but also to apply that judgement to others and to ‘things’. To judge them, and/or the actions of others, by whether they are on a par with, or are moving toward or away from, that ‘right’ and that ‘wrong’.

This is, in my view, a veering toward hubris, away from the natural balance, and thus away from that acknowledgement of our fallibility, of our uncertitude of knowing, that is the personal virtue of humility. For the essence of the culture of pathei-mathos, and the genesis, the ethos, of all religious revelations and spiritual ways before or until they become dogmatical [10], seems to be that we can only, without hubris, without prejudice, judge and reform ourselves.

For what the culture of pathei-mathos reveals is that we human beings, are – personally – both the cause and the cure of suffering; and that our choice is whether or not we live, or try to live, in a manner which does not intentionally contribute to or which is not the genesis of new suffering. The choice, in effect, to choose the way of harmony – the natural balance – in preference to hubris. But how, if we choose the way of harmony, are we to live? Are we to try and judge the lives and works of those who in the past have so chosen, or seem to us to have so chosen, or whose life and works seems to manifest a certain harmony or a particular numinous understanding which resonates with us? Are we then to try and judge and compare the passive resistance of Gandhi to the life and works of William Penn to the poetry of Sappho to the life and work of van Gogh to the influence of Lao Tzu or Jesus of Nazareth. Who are we to do this, and why? Does non-violent activism toward and in the name of ‘progress’, and/or a message of spiritual reformation and redemption, have – or should have – a higher value than poetry or Art or music or a life lovingly devoted to a partner or to cultivating Wu-Wei?

Or do we see the empathic, the human, the personal, scale of things, and our own human limitations, and accept that we do not need to so judge and so choose because we incline toward the view that all we can hope to do without veering toward hubris – toward upsetting the natural balance of Life, and thus causing more suffering – is to gently and with humility to try and personally alleviate some suffering somewhere in our own small way by, for instance, being compassionate and honourable in the immediacy of the living moment? With thus little or no concern for, or presumptions about, what others believe constitutes some-thing termed progress, and with little or no concern either about the promise, the reward, of an afterlife or about some supra-personal human manufactured form, such as a State, that in some shape or other exists during our own brief mortal life? If so, then what – if anything – is the meaning, the purpose, of our so brief human living?

David Myatt
2013


Notes

[1]  “For what can a Man give in Exchange for his Life, as well as Soul? And though the chiefest in Government are seldom personally exposed, yet it is a Duty incumbent upon them to be tender of the Lives of their People; since without all Doubt, they are accountable to God for the Blood that is spilt in their Service. So that besides the Loss of so many Lives, of importance to any Government, both for Labour and Propagation, the Cries of so many Widows, Parents and Fatherless are prevented, that cannot be very pleasant in the Ears of any Government, and is the Natural Consequence of War in all Government.”  William Penn. An Essay towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe. 1693 CE

[2] By the term politics is meant: (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, either in accordance with a particular ideology or not.

[3] 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.

[4] From fragment 16 (7th century BCE), the full text of which, from P. Oxy. 1231 and 2166, is, with square brackets indicating conjectures and missing text:

ο]ἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον οἰ δὲ πέσδων,
οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ᾿ ἐπ[ὶ] γᾶν μέλαι[ν]αν
ἔ]μμεναι κάλλιστον, ἔγω δὲ κῆν᾿ ὄτ-
τω τις ἔραται·
πά]γχυ δ᾿ εὔμαρες σύνετον πόησαι
π]άντι τ[o]ῦτ᾿, ἀ γὰρ πόλυ περσκέθοισα
κάλλος [ἀνθ]ρώπων Ἐλένα [τὸ]ν ἄνδρα
τὸν [   αρ]ιστον
καλλ[ίποι]σ᾿ ἔβα ᾿ς Τροΐαν πλέοι[σα
κωὐδ[ὲ πα]ῖδος οὐδὲ φίλων το[κ]ήων
πά[μπαν] ἐμνάσθη, ἀλλὰ παράγαγ᾿ αὔταν
[ ]σαν
[
[ ]αμπτον γὰρ [
[
[ ]…κούφως τ[             ]οη.[.]ν
[
..]με νῦν Ἀνακτορί[ας ὀ]νέμναι-
σ᾿ οὐ ] παρεοίσας,
τᾶ]ς <κ>ε βολλοίμαν ἔρατόν τε βᾶμα
κἀμάρυχμα λάμπρον ἴδην προσώπω
ἢ τὰ Λύδων ἄρματα κἀν ὄπλοισι
[πεσδομ]άχεντας.

[5] Hind Swaraj, part 13. 1909 CE

[6] Letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, October 5, 1945 CE

[7] The argument here is along the following lines. That nation-States accept both the primacy of a codified law based on the maintenance of internal order according to that law, and the need to ensure the security, the interests, and the preservation, of the nation-State, both of which often necessitate or have necessitated the following: (i) the killing of and/or the use of violence against human beings in their own lands, and/or elsewhere by means of war or otherwise; (ii) the imprisonment/persecution of human beings both for deeds/dissent deemed illegal and for ‘crimes against the State’; (iii) actions which cause pain and suffering and hardship to others, such as internal economic policies and/or external economic/trade sanctions; (iv) the commercial exploitation of the resources of this planet and of the other life with which we share this planet.

[8] “Passive resistance is a method of securing rights by personal suffering, it is the reverse of resistance by arms. When I refuse to do a thing that is repugnant to my conscience, I use soul-force […] Passive resistance, that is, soul-force, is matchless. It is superior to the force of arms.” Gandhi, Hind Swaraj, part 17. 1909 CE

Concerning governments, he wrote, also in Hind Swaraj, that: “They do not say: ‘You must do such and such a thing,’ but they say: ‘if you do not do it, we will punish you’.”

[9] qv. my The Way of Pathei-Mathos – A Philosophical Compendiary.

[10] As William Penn wrote in his tract The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Once More Briefly Debated and Defended, published in 1670 CE:

“They overturn the Christian Religion: 1. In the Nature of it, which is Meekness; 2. In the Practice of it, which is Suffering.”


cc David Myatt 2013

This work is issued under the Creative Commons
(Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0) License
and can be freely copied and distributed, under the terms of that license.