Sappho Poetic Fragment

°°°

Analysing National Socialism
(pdf)

°°°

As described in the Preface,

Republished here are two essays – both written in January 2012 and respectively titled Some Philosophical and Moral Problems of National-Socialism and Hitler, National-Socialism, and Politics: A Personal Reappraisal – whose genesis was the development and the refinement of my earlier ‘numinous way’ into the philosophy of pathei-mathos.

The essays, although now somewhat dated, are republished because they may have some relevance for those interested in my rejection of extremism, and because the writing of the two essays enabled me to express the thoughts and feelings about the particular extremism named National Socialism engendered by the insights of that ‘numinous way’.

As I noted in Some Questions For DWM 2014,

“My writings, post-2011, were and are really dialogues: interiorly with myself and externally with a few friends or the occasional person who has contacted me and expressed an interest.”

In addition, as I wrote in Letter To My Undiscovered Self, published in 2012,

“That it took me four decades, and the tragic death of two loved ones, to discover [such] simple truths surely reveals something about the person I was and about the extremisms I championed and fought for. Now, I – with Sappho – not only say that,

“I love delicate softness:
For me, love has brought the brightness
And the beauty of the Sun”

but also that a personal, mutual, love between two human beings is the most beautiful, the most sacred, the most important, the most human, thing in the world; and that the peace that most of us hope for, desire in our hearts, only requires us to be, to become, loving, kind, fair, empathic, compassionate, human beings.

°°°


Image credit:
Sappho Poetic Fragment
P. Oxyrhynchus. XV (1922) number 1787, fr. 1 and 2
“I love delicate softness:
For me, love has brought the brightness
And the beauty of the Sun”


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Orestes and the Ἐρινύες

°°°

Contents

° Preface
° A Premature Grieving
° 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: Self-Dramatization, Sentimentalist?

°°°

Extremism And Reformation
(pdf)

Extract from the Preface:

The genesis of this 68-page compilation of essays was, as mentioned in the included essay A Premature Grieving, the publication in 2019, by a well-financed, now Establishment, political advocacy group, of various unsubstantiated allegations and disinformation about me and the subsequent repetition of such allegations and disinformation by some mainstream newspapers and media outlets.

The unsubstantiated allegations and the disinformation concerned my supposed continuing involvement with extremism, specifically neo-nazism; it being apparent that neither the political advocacy group nor the newspapers and media which repeated the allegations and the disinformation had bothered to read my extensive post-2011 writings about rejecting extremism and about seeking expiation for my decades-long extremist past.

This compilation of essays is my reply to those unsubstantiated allegations and disinformation.

°°°


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


David Myatt

°°°

While the following two part essay, written in 2012, has been superseded by my 2013 book Understanding And Rejecting Extremism (ISBN 978-1484854266) and by subsequent writings concerning the ‘philosophy of pathei-mathos’ it nevertheless in my fallible view may have some relevance for those interested both in my rejection of extremism and how and why I developed my ‘numinous way’ into the ‘philosophy of pathei-mathos’.

The writing of this essay – with its many suppositions and many generalizations and some rhetoric – helped me organize and then refine my thoughts about extremism in general and my own extremist past in particular. It also made me moderate my thoughts and how I came to express those thoughts in writing; a moderation expressed by my Understanding And Rejecting Extremism. [1]

David Myatt
May 2019

[1] A gratis open access (pdf) version of the book is available at https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/dwm-rejecting-extremism-v3.pdf

°°°

Politics and Ideology of Hate
(pdf)


Note: The following essay is taken from Part One of my book Understanding and Rejecting Extremism: A Very Strange Peregrination, and which book is available both in printed form [1] and as a free pdf download [2].

David Myatt

Towards Understanding Extremism

Some Notes From Personal Experience




Harshness, Hatred, and The Separation-of-Otherness

Some four years of reflexion concerning my four decades of extremism [3] have inclined me to consider that the genesis of extremism, and the making of extremists, may well be and may well involve three inter-related things: harshness, hatred, and what I term the-separation-of-otherness.

Thus, in my view, an extremist in active pursuit of some objective, usually of a political or a religious nature, manifests a certain personal harshness, a certain propensity toward impersonal hatred, and makes not only a clear distinction between ‘them’ and ‘us’ but also between (i) some vision of or some belief in a particular past and (ii) the state of things now and how it is believed things will be, or should be, the immediate future. All of which predispose a person toward, or which can be used (by agitators, ideologues, fanatics, propagandists, leaders) to incite people toward, violence and – sometimes – toward terrorism.

The extremist therefore identifies with a particular category which is given certain characteristics or which is believed to be based on certain characteristics, and which category is invariably regarded – instinctively or otherwise – as either having a special (or even God-given) destiny or as being better than or superior to ‘the others’. In case of racism, for example, the category is what is believed to be one’s own particular ethnic group; in the case of radical nationalism, one’s own particular country, land, or nation; in the case of radical Islam, of having the authentic interpretation and belonging with those who do adhere to that interpretation.

There thus exists, or developes, or there is cultivated, a distinct and a prideful sense of identity, dependant upon the belief – instinctive, or formulated in some manifesto, tract, doctrine, ideology, or dogma – that what exists now (society, or ‘our way of life’, for example) is under threat, and either (i) has deviated from a posited or some believed in ideal or idealized community/society/way of life that is said to have existed in the past or (ii) can and should move toward that new community/society/way of life demanded by the ideology, manifesto, tract, doctrine, dogma, ideologue, or interpretation.

This identity produces or can produce resentment, anger; caused by both (i) a perceived or a felt disparity between the now and the assumed ideal, past or future, and (ii) by the belief that someone or some many are responsible for the ‘current state of affairs’ and/or are preventing a return to, or the creation of, the ideal. For the problems or the conditions of the present are assumed, by extremists, to have certain identifiable and simple supra-personal causes, just as the path to the goal is regarded as requiring that those causes be dealt with; with the causes of the problems often or mostly being the work of ‘others’; not our fault, but instead the result of ‘our enemies’, and/or of some opposing ideology. That is, our enemies ‘threaten’ our way of life and/or are to blame.

Hence in order for extremists to return to this past perfection – or in order for them to create a new form of this past perfection, this past ideal, or in order for them to create a new perfection inspired by some past or newly posited ideal – the enemies, and/or opposing ideologies and those adhering to them, must be dealt with. There must therefore be struggle; the notion of future victory; and at the very least political/social/religious activity, and propaganda, directed toward political/social/religious goals; a moving toward regaining the authority, the power, the influence which supporters of, for example, an ideology believe or assume they and their kind have lost and which they almost invariably believe are now ‘in the hands of their enemies’ and/or of traitors or ‘heretics’.

All this combines to provide the extremist with a simplicity of purpose, for their life now has a meaning which – instinctive or otherwise – vivifies, removes doubt, with the result that the goal, the ideal, the ideology, is given or assumes a high priority in the life of the individual, often to the extent that they are prepared – even willing – to use violence, and actively hate their perceived enemies, ‘the others’, whom thus they, in their harshness and intolerance, have dehumanized.

Extremism, Ideation, and Abstractions

Such violence, such hatred, such a dehumanizing of those deemed enemies with the consequent immoral denial of innocence [4], are inevitable consequences of all ideologies founded on notions of a prideful identity which glorify a past (real or idealized), which posit some future ideal or goal, and which involve a struggle against stated enemies to achieve such a goal or such an ideal.

For all extremists accept – and all extremisms are founded on – the instinctive belief or the axiom that their cherished ideation(s) or abstraction(s) is or are more important, more valuable, than the individual and the feelings, desires, hopes, and happiness, of the individual. The extremist thus views and understands the world in terms of abstractions; in terms of

“…a manufactured generalization, a hypothesis, a posited thing, an assumption or assumptions about, an extrapolation of or from some-thing, or some assumed or extrapolated ideal ‘form’ of some-thing. Sometimes, abstractions are generalization based on some sample(s), or on some median (average) value or sets of values, observed, sampled, or assumed.

Abstractions can be of some-thing past, in the present, or described as a goal or an ideal which it is assumed could be attained or achieved in the future.” [5]

The abstractions of extremism are manifest in the ideology, which posits or which attempts to explain (however irrationally and intolerantly) some ideated form, some assumed or believed in perfect (ideal) form or category of some-thing, and which ideated form is or can be or should be (according to the ideology) contrasted with what is considered or assumed to be its ‘opposite’. For example, in nazism and neo-nazism, the basal ideation is the White (or the Aryan) race, so that for those who accept such a racial ideology a White or Aryan ideal (man and woman) exists, has existed, or should exist, with individuals judged or expected to judge themselves according to this standard and expected to strive to emulate or attain it; and with enemies (such as Jews – Zionists [6] – and Muslims) pejoratively contrasted with it, and thus viewed in a bigoted and a dehumanizing way. The individual, extremist or otherwise, is therefore required to accept – be subservient to – the judgement that the ideology asserts, or which some ideologue proclaims, is correct; for all ideologies denigrate or require (overtly or otherwise) the suspension of individual judgement either in favour of the collective, ‘correct’, ideological one, or in favour of the judgement of some leader, ideologue, or some ‘higher authority’.

For there is the belief or the assumption, implicit in ideation, that what is observed by the senses, or revealed by observation, is either an ‘imperfect copy’ or an approximation of that posited ideal thing or form, with the additional assumption or belief that such an ideated form contains or in some way expresses (or can express) ‘the essence’ or ‘the ethos’ of that thing and of similar things, and ideologies of whatever kind assert or claim that (i) it is this essence or ethos that the ideology – or some leader or ideologue – has revealed or does reveal, and (ii) this essence or ethos can and should inspire and motivate individuals to strive and struggle to implement, to make real, their posited ideal or ideals even if, or especially if, such striving and struggle involves conflict and violence.

The Masculous Extremist

Given the foregoing, the extremist is a certain type of person; or at least, in my experience, the majority of extremists are: by nature, or become so through association with or because of the influence of others, or because of ideological indoctrination. This type of person has or developes not only a certainty-of-knowing about their cause, faith, or ideology, but also a need or an enthusiasm for territorial pride and personal aggression. In brief, they have or they develope an inflexible masculous [7] character, often excessively so; and a character which expresses the masculous nature, the masculous ethos, of extremism. A character, a nature, unbalanced by muliebral virtues.

For it is in the nature of extremists that they disdain, and often despise, the muliebral virtues of empathy, sensitivity, humility, gentleness, forgiveness, compassion, and the desire to love and be loved over and above the desire for conflict, territorial identity, and for war. Thus we find in extremism a glorification of the masculous at the expense of the muliebral [8]; a definite personal certitude of knowing; a glorification of toughness and aggression and war; an aggressive territorial pride; a tendency to believe, or the forthright assertion, that ‘might is right’ and kampf is necessary; the desire to organize/control; a prominent desire for adventure and/or for conflict/war/violence/competition; and – especially in ideologues, fanatics, propagandists, agitators, and leaders – the love of manipulation through the charisma of words.

For extremism certainly manifests – and is an example, par excellence – of the love some people have or seem to need for the manipulation of others through words both spoken and written. As I have noted elsewhere:

It is as if we terrans, en masse, have forgotten, keep forgetting, or have never discovered the wisdom that what involves too many words – and especially what involves or requires speeches, rhetoric, propaganda, dogma – is what obscures empathy and thus the numinosity that empathy reveals; the numinosity presented to us by the pathei-mathos of our human past; manifest to us – and living now – in the way of living of those whose personal pathei-mathos – whose personal experience of suffering, death, destruction, hate, violence, of too many killings – has forever changed them. The numinous revelation of kindness, of humility, of gentleness, of love, of compassion; of being able to restrain, control, ourselves; of being able to comprehend our small, insignificant, place in the indefinity of the Cosmos, bringing as this comprehension does an understanding of the importance, the numinosity, that is a shared and loyal love between two people: and revealing as this does the Cosmic unimportance of such wars and conflicts and such brutality as have blighted our terran history. [9]

A Cure For Extremism?

Understood thus, extremism could be considered to be akin to bad (or rotten) individual physis [10]; as a manifestation of an unbalanced, an intemperate, psyche [11]; and as something which is or which has the potential to be contagious. Or, expressed less dramatically, extremism is a modern manifestation of hubris; of a lack of respect for, and a lack of appreciation of, the numinous. And, as hubris, is a manifestation of the error that is the genesis of the tyrant [12] as well as the genesis (in my view) of what has been termed the patriarchal ethos and in particular of how that ethos continues to not only survive but also still dominates the world.

It really does appear to be the case, as I perhaps somewhat controversially noted in a recent missive, that we men en masse have learnt nothing from the past four or five thousand years,

For the uncomfortable truth is that we, we men, are and have been the ones causing, needing, participating in, wars and conflicts. We – not women – are the cause of most of the suffering, death, destruction, hate, violence, brutality, and killing, that has occurred and which is still occurring, thousand year upon thousand year; just as we are the ones who seek to be – or who often need to be – prideful and ‘in control’; and the ones who through greed or alleged need or because of some ideation have saught to exploit not only other human beings but the Earth itself. We are also masters of deception; of the lie. Cunning with our excuses, cunning in persuasion, and skilled at inciting hatred and violence. And yet we men have also shown ourselves to be, over thousands of years, valourous; capable of noble, selfless, deeds. Capable of doing what is fair and restraining ourselves from doing what is unethical. Capable of a great and a gentle love.

This paradoxy continues to perplex me. And I have no answers as to how we might change, reform, this paradoxical φύσις of ours, and so – perhaps – balance the suffering-causing masculous with the empathic muliebral and yet somehow in some way retain that which is the genesis of the valourous. And if we cannot do this, if we cannot somehow reform ourselves, can we terrans as a species survive, and do we deserve to? [9]

My only fallible suggestions are the empathy, the primacy of love and of pathei-mathos, and the appreciation of the numinous and of humility, that form the basis of my philosophy of pathei-mathos, and which philosophy is only my attempt to expresses what I believe I have understood because of and from my own personal pathei-mathos.

David Myatt
2013

°°°

Notes:

[1] ISBN 978-1484854266

[2] Understanding and Rejecting Extremism (pdf)

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

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

In the philosophical terms of my weltanschauung, an extremist is someone who commits the error of hubris.

See either The Vocabulary of the Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos (pdf) or the glossary in my book The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos (2013. ISBN 978-1484096642) for how I use and/or define particular terms, such as society, the State, masculous, indefinity, and so on.

[4]  My understanding of innocence is that it is an attribute of those who, being personally unknown to us, are therefore unjudged us by and who thus are given the benefit of the doubt. For this presumption of innocence of others – until direct personal experience, and individual and empathic knowing of them, prove otherwise – is the fair, the reasoned, the numinous, the human, thing to do.

Empathy and πάθει μάθος incline us toward treating other human beings as we ourselves would wish to be treated; that is they incline us toward fairness, toward self-restraint, toward being well-mannered, and toward an appreciation and understanding of innocence.

[5] The definition is taken from the glossary in The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos.

[6] The term Zionist is often employed by contemporary neo-nazis as a euphemism for Jews, partly in order to try and circumvent racial hatred legislation in countries where such legislation is in force, and partly to try and avoid accusations of being a ‘conspiracy theorist’.

[7] Masculous is from the Latin masculus and is a term used to refer to certain traits, abilities, and qualities that are conventionally and historically associated with men, such as competitiveness, aggression, a certain tendency toward harshness.

[8] The term muliebral derives from the classical Latin word muliebris, and in the context my philosophy of Pathei-Mathos refers to those positive traits, abilities, and qualities – such as empathy, sensitivity, gentleness, compassion – that are conventionally and historically associated with women.

[9] Blue Reflected Starlight. 2012

[10] I use the term φύσις (physis) here in reference to the nature or the character of a person. As Heraclitus noted:

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

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

Fragment 112

[11]  Psyche is here used in reference to its classical origins and my philosophy of pathei-mathos; as an emanation, embodied in a fallible mortal, of Life qua being.

[12]

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

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

Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus. vv.872ff



cc David Myatt 2013
This item is issued under the Creative Commons
(Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0) License



numinous-religion


The three articles included in the pdf compilation below developed from – and in a many places summarize and/or quote from – replies I sent to various correspondents between February and November of 2012 and which correspondence concerned topics such as prejudice, my views concerning Islam and anti-Muslim groups, the use of the terms culture and civilization, and whether or not those opposed to immigration and/or ‘Islamification’ are prejudiced and, if so, whether they should be reproved. Given this diversity of topics, and the individual nature of my replies over a period of some nine months, there is inevitably some slight overlap of topics in the three essays.

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

As I wrote in one such reply in respect of my criticism of certain political groups and their beliefs:

Reluctant as I am and have been for some time to give my personal opinion about such political organizations – given my own lamentable history of extremism and my many errors of experience spanning some four decades – I cannot quite escape the feeling that perhaps by not criticizing such groups, when directly asked and on the basis of my personal experience and knowledge of extremism, I am somehow not doing something I morally should do.

My criticism of such groups and the anti-Muslim views they expound, and which views form the raison d’etat of such groups, derives from my four decades of experience of extremists and my decade of study and personal experience of, and involvement with, Islam; and this experience, involvement, and study has led me to conclude that the majority of people involved with such groups are prejudiced and that the views they expound are unbalanced and extreme revealing as such views do not only a profound ignorance of Islam, of the Muslim way of life, and of Shariah, but also that hubriatic certitude-of-knowing, that impersonal harshness and lack of a personal humility, which are the essence of all extremism and which inspires extremists to violent dishonourable deeds in the name of their prejudice, their cause or their ideology.

Thus, and for example, I draw attention to the fact that such people have the temerity to write, speak, and demonstrate about, what they are ignorant about and prejudiced against, and that one of their propaganda ploys they use, redolent of their ignorance, of their lack of knowledge about Islam and their lack of practical in-depth experience of the Muslim way of life,

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

In addition, many such anti-Muslim groups and the people involved with or supportive of them – and who say things like “Islam is one of the great evils of the world” – also profess to be defending ‘Western Christian culture/civilization’ even though their attitude, behaviour, and words, reveal a profound ignorance of Christianity.

It is my belief that such extremism, prejudice and ignorance, should be rejected and exposed; that the ways of Western societies and the Muslim way of life are both – when understood and appreciated – a force for good, and that,

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

I am thus reminded of words such as the following:

“For what purpose then was [the scroll of Ruth] written? To teach how great is the reward of those who do deeds of kindness.” Midrash Ruth Rabbah 2, 13

“Let us then try what love can do.” William Penn, Some Fruits of Solitude

David Myatt
2012

 

Concerning Islam, The West, Prejudice, and Islamophobia
(pdf 517 kB)

Contents

  • Prefatory Note
  • Prejudice, Extremism, Islamophobia, and Culture
  • Toward A Balanced View Of Islam and The West
  • Concerning Islamophobia

numinous-religion
Prejudice, Extremism, Islamophobia, and Culture

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

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

◊◊◊

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

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

A Modern Yet Old Concern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Culture, Civilization, and Identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Myatt
2012

Notes

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

See my 2012 article Concerning Islamophobia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I mentioned to one correspondent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


NASA/JPL/CalTech - Messier 104

Just My Fallible Views, Again
Replies to Some Enquiries

Prefatory Note

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

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

David Myatt
2012


Correspondent #1
(2012)

Politics, Pathei-Mathos, and My Extremist Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]


Correspondent #2
(2012)

Reply 1

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


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

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

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

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

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

[…]

Reply 2

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

Another simple personal story; one from among so many in relation to other religions and their positive attributes. Once I happened to be travelling to […] an area which colonial and imperialist Europeans formerly described as part of ‘darkest Africa’ […] Part of this travel involved a really long journey on unpaved roads by bus from an urban area. You know the type of thing – an unreliable weekly or sporadic service in some old vehicle used by villagers to take themselves (and often their produce and sometimes their livestock) to and from an urban market and urban-dwelling relatives. On this service, to a remote area, it [seemed to be] the custom – before the journey could begin – for someone to stand at the front and say a Christian prayer with every passenger willingly joining in. It was quite touching. As was the fact that, at the village where I stayed (with a local family) near that grave, everyone went to Church on a Sunday, wearing the best clothes they could, and there was a real sense (at least to me) of how their faith helped them and gave them some guidance for the better, for it was if they, poor as they were, were in some way living, or were perhaps partly an embodiment of, the ethos expressed by the Sermon of the Mount, and although I no longer shared their Christian faith, I admired them and respected their belief and understood what that faith seemed to have given them. Who was – who am – I to try and preach to them, to judge them and that faith? I was – I am – just one fallible human being who believes he may have some personal and fallible answers to certain questions; just one person among billions aware of his past arrogance and his suffering-causing mistakes.

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

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

[…]

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

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


Reply 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Reply 4

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]


Correspondent #3
(2011)

Views Regarding Islam

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Muslim Organizations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note, Post Scriptum:

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

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

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

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


Image credit: NASA/JPL/CalTech – Messier 104