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Physis And Being
An Introduction To The Philosophy Of Pathei-Mathos

 
The philosophy of pathei-mathos is based on four axioms: (i) that it is empathy and pathei-mathos which can wordlessly reveal the ontological reality both of our own physis [1] and of how we, as sentient beings, relate to other living beings and to Being itself; (ii) that it is denotatum [2] – and thus the abstractions deriving therefrom [3] – which, in respect of human beings, can and often do obscure our physis and our relation to other living beings and to Being; (iii) that denotatum and abstractions imply a dialectic of contradictory opposites and thus for we human beings a separation-of-otherness; and (iv) that this dialectic of opposites is, has been, and can be a cause of suffering for both ourselves, as sentient beings, and – as a causal human presenced effect – for the other life with which we share the planet named in English as Earth.

For, as mentioned in a previous essay,

“empathy and pathei-mathos incline us to suggest that ipseity is an illusion of perspective: that there is, fundamentally, no division between ‘us’ – as some individual sentient, mortal being – and what has hitherto been understood and named as the Unity, The One, God, The Eternal. That ‘we’ are not ‘observers’ but rather Being existing as Being exists and is presenced in the Cosmos. That thus all our striving, individually and collectively when based on some ideal or on some form – some abstraction and what is derived therefrom, such as ideology and dogma – always is or becomes sad/tragic, and which recurrence of sadness/tragedy, generation following generation, is perhaps even inevitable unless and until we live according to the wordless knowing that empathy and pathei-mathos reveal.” [4]

In essence, empathy and pathei-mathos lead us away from the abstractions we have constructed and manufactured and which abstractions we often tend to impose, or project, upon other human beings, upon ourselves, often in the belief that such abstractions can aid our understanding of others and of ourselves, with a feature of all abstractions being inclusion and exclusion; that is, certain individuals are considered as belonging to or as defined by a particular category while others are not.

Over millennia we have manufactured certain abstractions and their assumed opposites and classified many of them according to particular moral standards so that a particular abstraction is considered good and/or beneficial and/or as necessary and/or as healthy, while its assumed dialectical opposite is considered bad (or evil), or unnecessary, or unhealthy, and/or as unwarranted.

Thus in ancient Greece and Rome slavery was accepted by the majority, and considered by the ruling elite as natural and necessary, with human beings assigned to or included in the category ‘slave’ a commodity who could be traded with slaves regarded as necessary to the functioning of society. Over centuries, with the evolution of religions such as Christianity and with the development in Western societies of humanist weltanschauungen, the moral values of this particular abstraction, this particular category to which certain human beings assigned, changed such that for perhaps a majority slavery came to be regarded as morally repugnant. Similarly in respect of the abstraction designated in modern times by such terms as “the rôle of women in society” which rôle for millennia in the West was defined according to various masculous criteria – deriving from a ruling and an accepted patriarchy – but which rôle in the past century in Western societies has gradually been redefined.

Yet irrespective of such developments, such changes associated with certain abstractions, the abstractions themselves and the dialectic of moral opposites associated with them remain because, for perhaps a majority, abstractions and ipseity, as a criteria of judgment and/or as a human instinct, remain; as evident in the continuing violence against, the killing of, and the manipulation, of women by men, and in what has become described by terms such as “modern slavery” and “human trafficking”.

In addition, we human beings have continued to manufacture abstractions and continue to assign individuals to them, a useful example being the abstraction denoted by the terms The State and The Nation-State [5] and which abstraction, with its government, its supra-personal authority, its laws, its economy, and its inclusion/exclusion (citizenship or lack of it) has come to dominate and influence the life of the majority of people in the West.

Ontologically, abstractions – ancient and modern – usurp our connexion to Being and to other living beings so that instead of using wordless empathy and pathei-mathos as a guide to Reality [6] we tend to define ourselves or are defined by others according to an abstraction or according to various abstractions. In the matter of the abstraction that is The State there is a tendency to define or to try to understand our relation to Reality by for example whether we belong, are a citizen of a particular State; by whether or not we have an acceptable standard of living because of the opportunities and employment and/or the assistance afforded by the economy and the policies of the State; by whether or not we agree or disagree with the policies of the government in power, and often by whether or not we have transgressed some State-made law or laws. Similarly, in the matter of belief in a revealed religion such as Christianity or Islam we tend to define or understand our relation to Reality by means of such an abstraction: that is, according to the revelation (or a particular interpretation of it) and its eschatology, and thus by how the promise of Heaven/Jannah may be personally obtained.

             Empathy and pathei-mathos, however, wordlessly – sans denotatum, sans abstractions, sans a dialectic of contradictory opposites – uncover physis: our physis, that of other mortals, that of other living beings, and that of Being/Reality itself. Which physis, howsoever presenced – in ourselves, in other living beings, in Being – is fluxive, a balance between the being that it now is, that it was, and that it has the inherent (the acausal) quality to be. [7]

This uncovering, such a revealing, is of a knowing beyond ipseity and thus beyond the separation-of-otherness which denotatum, abstractions, and a dialectic of opposites manufacture and presence. A knowing of ourselves as an affective connexion [8] to other living beings and to Being itself, with Being revealed as fluxive (as a meson – μέσον [9]  – with the potentiality to change, to develope) and thus which (i) is not – as in the theology of revealed religions such as Christianity and Islam – a God who is Eternal, Unchanging, Omnipotent [10], and (ii) is affected or can be affected (in terms of physis) by what we do or do not do.

This awareness, this knowing, of such an affective connexion – our past, our current, our potentiality, to adversely affect, to have adversely affected, to cause, to having caused, suffering or harm to other living beings – also inclines us or can incline us toward benignity and humility, and thus incline us to live in a non-suffering causing way, appreciate of our thousands of years old culture of pathei-mathos. [11]

In terms of understanding Being and the divine, it inclines us or can incline us, as sentient beings, to apprehend Being as not only presenced in us but as capable of changing – unfolding, evolving – in a manner dependant on our physis and on how our physis is presenced by us, and by others, in the future. Which seems to imply a new ontology and one distinct from past and current theologies with their anthropomorphic θεὸς (god) and θεοὶ (gods).

An ontology of physis: of mortals, of livings beings, and of Being, as fluxive mesons. Of we mortals as a mortal microcosm of Being – the cosmic order, the κόσμος – itself [12] with the balance, the meson, that empathy and pathei-mathos incline us toward living presenced in the ancient Greek phrase καλὸς κἀγαθός,

“which means those who conduct themselves in a gentlemanly or lady-like manner and who thus manifest – because of their innate physis or through pathei-mathos or through a certain type of education or learning – nobility of character.” [13]

Which personal conduct, in the modern world, might suggest a Ciceronian-inspired but new type of civitas, and one

“not based on some abstractive law but on a spiritual and interior (and thus not political) understanding and appreciation of our own Ancestral Culture and that of others; on our ‘civic’ duty to personally presence καλὸς κἀγαθός and thus to act and to live in a noble way. For the virtues of personal honour and manners, with their responsibilities, presence the fairness, the avoidance of hubris, the natural harmonious balance, the gender equality, the awareness and appreciation of the divine, that is the numinous.” [14]

With καλὸς κἀγαθός, such personal conduct, and such a new civitas, summarising how the philosophy of pathei-mathos might, in one way, be presenced in a practical manner in the world.

David Myatt
2019

This essay is a revised and edited version of a reply sent to an academic
who enquired about the philosophy of pathei-mathos

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Further Reading:
The Numinous Way Of Pathei-Mathos. ISBN 978-1484096642

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Notes

[1]  I use the term physis – φύσις – ontologically, in the Aristotelian sense, to refer to the ‘natural’ and the fluxive being (nature) of a being, which nature is often manifest, in we mortals, in our character (persona) and in our deeds. Qv. my essay Towards Understanding Physis (2015) and my translation of and commentary on the Poemandres tractate in Corpus Hermeticum: Eight Tractates (2017).

[2] As noted elsewhere, I use the term denotatum – from the Latin denotare – not only as meaning “to denote or to describe by an expression or a word; to name some-thing; to refer that which is so named or so denoted,” but also as an Anglicized term implying, depending on context, singular or plural instances. As an Anglicized term there is generally no need to use the inflected plural denotata.

[3] In the context of the philosophy of pathei-mathos the term abstraction signifies a particular named and defined category or form (ἰδέᾳ, εἶδος) and which category or form is 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.

In respect of denotatum, in Kratylus 389d Plato has Socrates talk about ‘true, ideal’ naming (denotatum) – βλέποντα πρὸς αὐτὸ ἐκεῖνο ὃ ἔστιν ὄνομα, qv. my essay Personal Reflexions On Some Metaphysical Questions, 2015.

[4] Personal Reflexions On Some Metaphysical Questions.

[5] Contrary to modern convention I tend to write The State instead of “the state” because I consider The State/The Nation-State a particular abstraction; as an existent, an entity, which has been manufactured, by human beings, and which entity, like many such manufactured ‘things’, has been, in its design and function, changed and which can still be changed, and which has associated with it a presumption of a supra-personal (and often moral) authority.

In addition, written The State (or the State) it suggests some-thing which endures or which may endure beyond the limited lifespan of a mortal human being.

[6] ‘Reality’ in the philosophical sense of what (in terms of physis) is distinguished or distinguishable from what is apparent or external. In terms of ancient Hellenic and Western Renaissance mysticism the distinction is between the esoteric and the exoteric; between the physis of a being and some outer form (or appearance) including the outer form that is a useful tool or implement which can be used to craft or to manufacture some-thing such as other categories/abstractions. With the important ontological proviso that what is esoteric is not the ‘essence’ of something – as for example Plato’s ἰδέᾳ/εἶδος – but instead the physis of the being itself as explicated for instance by Aristotle in Metaphysics, Book 5, 1015α,

ἐκ δὴ τῶν εἰρημένων ἡ πρώτη φύσις καὶ κυρίως λεγομένη ἐστὶν ἡ οὐσία ἡ τῶν ἐχόντων ἀρχὴν κινήσεως ἐν αὑτοῖς ᾗ αὐτά: ἡ γὰρ ὕλη τῷ ταύτης δεκτικὴ εἶναι λέγεται φύσις, καὶ αἱ γενέσεις καὶ τὸ φύεσθαι τῷ ἀπὸ ταύτης εἶναι κινήσεις. καὶ ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κινήσεως τῶν φύσει ὄντων αὕτη ἐστίν, ἐνυπάρχουσά πως ἢ δυνάμει ἢ ἐντελεχείᾳ

Given the foregoing, then principally – and to be exact – physis denotes the quidditas of beings having changement inherent within them; for substantia has been denoted by physis because it embodies this, as have the becoming that is a coming-into-being, and a burgeoning, because they are changements predicated on it. For physis is inherent changement either manifesting the potentiality of a being or as what a being, complete of itself, is.

That is, as I noted in my essay Towards Understanding Physis, it is a meson (μέσον) balanced between the being that-it-was and the being it has the potentiality to unfold to become.

In respect of “what is real” – τῶν ὄντων – cf. the Poemandres tractate of the Corpus Hermeticum and especially section 3,

φημὶ ἐγώ, Μαθεῖν θέλω τὰ ὄντα καὶ νοῆσαι τὴν τούτων φύσιν καὶ γνῶναι τὸν θεόν

I answered that I seek to learn what is real, to apprehend the physis of beings, and to have knowledge of theos [qv. Corpus Hermeticum: Eight Tractates, 2017]

[7] Qv. Towards Understanding Physis, 2015.

[8] I use the term affective here, and in other writings, to mean “having the quality of affecting; tending to affect or influence.”

[9] Qv. footnote [6]. In terms of ontology a meson is the balance, the median, existing between the being which-was and the being which-can-be.

[10] This understanding of Being as fluxive – as a changement – was prefigured in the mythos of Ancient Greece with the supreme deity – the chief of the gods – capable of being overthrown and replaced, as Zeus overthrew Kronos and as Kronos himself overthrew his own father.

[11] As explained in my 2014 essay Education And The Culture of Pathei-Mathos, the term describesthe accumulated pathei-mathos of individuals, world-wide, over thousands of years, as (i) described in memoirs, aural stories, and historical accounts; as (ii) have inspired particular works of literature or poetry or drama; as (iii) expressed via non-verbal mediums such as music and Art, and as (iv) manifest in more recent times by ‘art-forms’ such as films and documentaries.”

This culture remembers the suffering and the beauty and the killing and the hubris and the love and the compassion that we mortals have presenced and caused over millennia, and which culture

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

[12] κόσμον δὲ θείου σώματος κατέπεμψε τὸν ἄνθρωπον, “a cosmos of the divine body sent down as human beings.” Tractate IV:2, Corpus Hermeticum.

Cf. Marsilii Ficini, De Vita Coelitus Comparanda, XXVI, published in 1489 CE,

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

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

Which is a philosophical restatement of the phrase “quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius” (what is above is as what is below) from the Latin version, published in 1541 CE, of the medieval Hermetic text known as Tabula Smaragdina.

[13] The quotation is from my Classical Paganism And The Christian Ethos, 2017.

[14] The quotation is from my Tu Es Diaboli Ianua: Christianity, The Johannine Weltanschauung, And Presencing The Numinous, 2017.

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cc David Wulstan Myatt 2019
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons
Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-ND 4.0) License
and can be copied, distributed, and commercially published,
according to the terms of that license.

All translations by DW Myatt

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A pdf version of this article is available: Physis And Being

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The Day's Consecration: A painting by Richard Moult

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Three Emanations
(pdf)

 
I. From Mythoi To Empathy: A New Appreciation Of The Numinous (2018)

II. Towards Understanding Ancestral Culture (2018)

III. Perhaps Words Are The Problem (2016)


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


Orestes and the Ἐρινύες

 

Persecution And War

A Remembering

Reared as a Roman Catholic, educated for a while at a Catholic preparatory school and then – again for a while – at a Catholic boarding school, I remember the history taught by our teachers and Priests of the centuries-long persecution of English and Irish Catholics that began in the 16th century. There were stories of martyrs; of recusants; of secret Masses; of anti-Catholic polemics and propaganda; and of the monks who – after the suppression of the monasteries, the theft of monastic lands and wealth, begun by a tyrannos named Henry – escaped to France and founded monasteries such as the one at Dieulouard in Lorraine.

There thus was engendered in we Catholic children a feeling of difference, aided by the fact that our Mass was in Latin, by our sacrament of confession, by the practice of Gregorian chant, and by the singing of hymns such as Faith Of Our Fathers with its memorable verses

Faith of our Fathers living still
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword […]
We will be true to thee till death […]

Our Fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free […]
Faith of our Fathers, Mary’s prayers
Shall win our country back to thee

This feeling of difference was forcefully remembered when I in the early 1970’s – during The Troubles – ventured to visit Northern Ireland; when I in the mid-1970’s and as a Catholic monk spent several weeks staying at a Presbytery in Dublin; and when I in the mid-1990’s – before the Good Friday Agreement – visited Derry.

Forcefully remembered because I listened to accounts of the burning of Catholic homes by Protestant mobs in 1969 and the subsequent flight of hundreds of Catholic families to the Irish Republic where they were housed in refugee camps; listened to witness accounts of the killing of eleven Catholics, including a Priest, by the British Army in Ballymurphy in 1971; listened to witness accounts of the killing of fourteen Catholics, again by the British Army, in Derry in 1972; and listened to stories of the persecution of Irish Catholics under British rule.

Such a remembering, such a childhood feeling of difference, formed part of the years-long personal and philosophical reflexion that occupied me for several years as I, between 2006 and 2009, developed my ‘numinous way’ and then between 2011 and 2012 gradually refined it into the ‘way of pathei-mathos’, with the core of that reflexion concerning matters such as extremism, my own extremist past, war, prejudice, intolerance, and persecution.

War And Combat

Familiar as I was with ancient works by Thucydides, Herodotus, Livy, and others; with many works concerning more recent European history by modern historians, as well as with personal accounts of those who had fought for both the Allies and the Axis during World War Two, I recalled some words of Cicero:

“Aliis ego te virtutibus, continentiae, gravitatis, iustitiae, fidei, ceteris omnibus.”

“because of your other virtues of self-restraint, of dignity, of fairness, of honesty, and all other such qualities…” [1]

Which led me to consider making a distinction between war and a more personal combat, between a modern krieg and the Old Germanic werra, given that war, from my reading of and admittedly fallible understanding of history, seemed to me to involve – by its very nature of necessitating killing and causing injury – intolerance, hatred, a divisive sense of difference often involving “us” believing we were “better” (or more civilized) than them, our enemies, thus leading to a dehumanization of “the enemy”. A divisive sense of difference and a dehumanization often aided (particularly in modern times) by polemics, rumour, and propaganda; and a divisive sense of difference, a dehumanization, together with polemics, rumour, and propaganda, which I knew from my own decades of political and religious activism formed a core part of all types of extremism.

The distinction I considered was that personal combat unlike war did not involve large armies fighting against each other because of some diktat or personal agenda by some tyrannos or because of some ideology or religion or policy of some State or government. Instead, combat involved small groups – such as clans or tribes or neighbours – fighting because of some personal quarrel or some wrong or some perceived grievance.

But the more I considered this supposed distinction between combat and war the more I realized that in practice there was no such distinction since both involved principles similar to those of the Ancient Roman Leges Regiae – qv. the Jus Papirianum attributed to Sextus Papirius – where someone or some many possess or have acquired (through for example force of arms) or have assumed authority over others, and who by the use of violence and/or by the threat of punishment and/or by oratory or propaganda, are able to force or persuade others to accept such authority and obey the commands of such authority.

This acceptance by individuals of a supra-personal authority – or, more often, the demand by some supra-personal authority that individuals accept such a supra-personal authority – was manifest in the Christian writings of Augustine (b.354 CE, d.430 CE), such as his De Civitate Dei contra Paganos where in Book XIX, chapter xiii, he wrote of the necessity of a hierarchy in which God is the supreme authority, with peace between human beings and God requiring obedience to that authority; with peace between human beings, and civil peace, also of necessity requiring obedience to an order in which each person has their allotted place, “Ordo est parium dispariumque rerum sua cuique loca tribuens dispositio.”

Which hierarchy and acceptance of authority led Augustine to describe – in book XXII of Contra Faustum Manichaeum – the concept that war requires the authority of a person (such as a monarch) who has such “necessary” authority over others. This concept regarding war has remained a guiding principle of modern Western nations where the authority to inaugurate and prosecute a war against perceived enemies resides in the State, and thus in modern potentates who have seized power or in elected governments and their representatives such as Presidents and Prime Ministers.

Authority And Society

In the nations of the West, such a hierarchy of authority applies not only to war and its prosecution but also to changes, to reform, in society [2] for there is, as I mentioned in The Numinous Way Of Pathei-Mathos,

“a hierarchy of judgement involved, whatever political ‘flavour’ the government is assigned to, is assumed to represent, or claims it represents; with this hierarchy of necessity requiring the individual in society to either (i) relinquish their own judgement, being accepting of or acquiescing in (from whatever reason or motive such as desire to avoid punishment) the judgement of these others, or (ii) to oppose this ‘judgement of others’ either actively through some group, association, or movement (political, social, religious) or individually, with there being the possibility that some so opposing this ‘judgement of others’ may resort to using violent means against the established order.” [3]

In the way of pathei-mathos authority is personal, based on individual empathy and a personal pathei-mathos; both of which have a local horizon so that what is

“beyond our personal empathic knowing of others, beyond our knowledge and our experience [our pathei-mathos], beyond the limited (local) range of our empathy and that personal (local) knowledge of ourselves which pathei-mathos reveals – is something we rationally, we humbly, accept we do not know and so cannot judge or form a reasonable, a fair, a balanced, opinion about. For empathy, like pathei-mathos, lives within us; manifesting, as both empathy and pathei-mathos do, the always limited nature, the horizon, of our own knowledge and understanding.” [4]

In practical terms this means trying to cultivate within ourselves the virtues mentioned by Cicero – self-restraint, dignity, fairness, honesty – and implies we have no concern for or we seek to cultivate no concern for supra-personal hierarchies and supra-personal authority – whether political, religious, or otherwise – and thus move away from, try to distance ourselves from, the consequences of such supra-personal hierarchies and supra-personal authority manifest as the consequences are and have been, throughout our history, in war, prejudice, intolerance, unfairness, extremism, and persecution in the name of some ideology, some religion, or because someone has commanded us to persecute those that they and others have declared are “our” enemies, and which war and persecutions are often, especially in modern times, accompanied by propaganda and lies.

Thus in the case of my Catholic remembering, those soldiers in Ballymurphy and in Derry shot and killed civilians, women included, because those soldiers believed them to be “enemies”, because propaganda had dehumanized those enemies; because those soldiers were part of and obeyed a hierarchical, supra-personal, chain-of-command by being there armed and prepared to use deadly force and violence against individuals they did not personally know; and because in the aftermath of those killings, and for years afterwards, they were not honest and hence did not contradict the propaganda stories, the lies, about those events which some of their superiors and others circulated in an attempt to justify such acts of inhumanity.

Yet for me the real tragedy is that events similar to those of my very personal remembering have occurred on a vaster scale millennia after millennia and are still occurring, again on a vaster scale and world-wide, despite us having access to the wisdom of the past, manifest as such wisdom is, for those reared in the West, in the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, in the Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles, in the mythos of Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες [5], in many of the writings of Cicero, in Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν by Marcus Aurelius, in the numinous beauty of Gregorian chant, in the music of JS Bach, and in so many, many, other writers and artists ancient and modern.

Ða sceolde se hearpere weorðan swa sarig
þæt he ne meahte ongemong oðrum mannum bion
(XXXV, 6)

David Myatt
9.ix.18

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[1] M. Tullius Cicero, Pro Murena Oratio, 23. My translation.

[2] By ‘society’ in the context of this essay and the way of pathei-mathos is meant a collection of individuals who dwell, who live, in a particular area and who are subject to the same laws and the same institutions of authority. Modern society is thus a manifestation of some State, and States are predicated on individuals actively or passively accepting some supra-personal authority, be it governmental (national) or regional (county), or more usually both.

[3] “Society, Politics, Social Reform, and Pathei-Mathos”. The Numinous Way Of Pathei-Mathos. 2013. Fifth edition. Link: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/numinous-way-v5c-print.pdf

[4] “Personal Reflexions On Some Metaphysical Questions.” 2015. Link: https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/personal-reflexions-on-some-metaphysical-questions/

[5] “Trimorphed Moirai with their ever-heedful Furies.” Aeschylus (attributed), Prometheus Bound, 516

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Related:

° Agamemnon: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/agamemnon.pdf

° Oedipus Tyrannus: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/oedipus-tyrannus-v1.pdf


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


The Day's Consecration: A painting by Richard Moult

The Ethics Of Killing Vermin
A Personal Opinion From Experience

The definitive record of the English language – the 20 volume Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, 1989 – defines vermin as (i) “animals of a noxious or objectionable kind [and which are] almost entirely restricted to those animals or birds which prey upon preserved game, crops, etcetera” and also as (ii) referring to “creeping or wingless insects (and other minute animals) of a loathsome or offensive appearance or character, especially those which infest or are parasitic on living beings and plants.”

Although the killing of vermin – especially those that prey upon preserved game and crops and those which infest or are parasitic on living beings and plants – is common practice in the majority of modern societies especially among farmers, gardeners, and horticulturalists, what aroused my curiosity about the ethics involved was a problem a long-standing friend of mine, who with his family were ethical vegans and trying to live in a self-sufficient way, was having with rats devouring their crops.

Before my retirement – as an old man – from manual work I had spent many, many, years working on farms, working as a gardener, and working in commercial horticulture. On the last farm on which I lived I had no problem hunting down and shooting the fox that had decimated the chickens we kept; had no problem in having Jack Russell’s hunt down and kill rats infesting the barns; had no ethical problem in previous employments in using pesticides and herbicides via knapsacks and tractor driven boom-sprayers. For the health of the livestock, and the health and yield of crops and plants, were part of my responsibility, a responsibility I willingly accepted.

Yet what was a self-sufficient ethical vegan and his self-sufficient ethical vegan family to do in respect of vermin control when suggested non-harmful methods – such as using raised crop beds and humanely trapping and releasing pests elsewhere – had failed? In addition, in the case of rats, would the released pests go on to prey on the crops of someone else and therefore would the vegans be somehow morally responsible for the damage so caused?

My initial suggestion, based both on my practical experience and my interest in Ancient Greek and Latin literature, was for him to use Jack Russell’s to hunt down and kill the rats. For would he – as Creon hoped by his walling-in of Antigone alive in a rock-hewn tomb {1} and as Fabius Maximus, Pontifex of Rome, hoped when he had a Vestal Virgin buried alive {2} – escape retribution by Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες {3} because he and they had not personally undertaken the deed of killing?

Such pest control certainly seems to be a moral dilemma for an ethical vegan, committed as such a person is to not harming or causing suffering to living beings, human and otherwise. Would, for instance, it be necessary for he and his family to suffer, to go hungry, because of a refusal to kill – directly or otherwise – such vermin as were devouring their crops?

              My fallible conclusion in respect of his dilemma was that it is for my friend, for each ethical vegan, for each ethical vegan family, to resolve such a moral dilemma in their own way and in their own time; for such individual, such familial, resolution seems to me – according to my admittedly fallible understanding of ethical veganism – to be a necessary part of the vegan weltanschauung where there is not and should not be any reliance on ideations, on dogma, on ideology, on the opinions of others, or on any causal – human-invented – abstractions.

For myself and in respect of vermin I would probably do again what I did when working on farms, when working as a gardener, and when working in commercial horticulture. The raison d’être being that to survive, to prosper, as human beings on this planet it seems to me (based on my experience) that we sometimes of necessity must make difficult decisions in regard to other life while respecting – as I personally always tried to do and as so many others before me had ancestrally done – the being, the soul, the presencing of the Cosmos, that was temporarily manifest in the life that we ended, be such life a fox or even a tree we felled. For there was no joy in such an ending, only – again in my experience – a balancing mingled with a wordless respect for all emanations of life. For ultimately we are they – that life – as they, that life, are us, with such an ancient and natural paganus wisdom almost forgotten in this modern majority city-dwelling age. And yet this wisdom survives – if only just – in some of those who for decades have manually toiled in the countryside.

              To end on a personal note, and in regard to abstractions, I have to admit that my long-standing – and now vegan – friend was the one who was responsible, years ago, for drawing my attention to the fact that the “folk” and “the tribe”, which I had eulogized in my pre-2011 ‘numinous way’, were causal – human-invented – abstractions and thus seemed to be contrary to the individual empathic-derived ethics of that numinous way. Which revelation forced me to reconsider that ‘numinous way’ and formed an important part of the process that eventually led me to evolve that ‘numinous way’ into my individualistic philosophy of pathei-mathos.

David Myatt
August 2018

{1} ἄγων ἔρημος ἔνθ᾽ ἂν ᾖ βροτῶν στίβος
κρύψω πετρώδει ζῶσαν ἐν κατώρυχι,
φορβῆς τοσοῦτον ὡς ἄγος μόνον προθείς,
ὅπως μίασμα πᾶσ᾽ ὑπεκφύγῃ πόλις.
κἀκεῖ τὸν Ἅιδην, ὃν μόνον σέβει θεῶν,
αἰτουμένη που τεύξεται τὸ μὴ θανεῖν,
ἢ γνώσεται γοῦν ἀλλὰ τηνικαῦθ᾽ ὅτι
πόνος περισσός ἐστι τἀν Ἅιδου σέβειν.

She will be led to where the paths are desolate of mortals
And be concealed alive in a rock-hewn tomb
With as much food before her as is required for expiation
So that the whole clan escapes pollution.
There she may if she asks have success from dying
By giving reverence to Hades, the only god she reveres –
Or she will learn at last though late by this
That it is useless toil to so revere Hades.

Sophocles, Antigone, vv. 773-780

{2} Stupri compertae et altera sub terra, uti mos est, ad portam Collinam necata fuerat. (Livy, Book XXII, 57)

{3} “Trimorphed Moirai with their ever-heedful Furies.” Aeschylus (attributed), Prometheus Bound, 516


Translations by DWM

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


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

The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos
(pdf)

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

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

°°°

Contents

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Myatt
January 2018
(Revised March 2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

°°°

Related:

Corpus Hermeticum

The Culture of Pathei-Mathos

From Mythoi To Empathy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Appreciation Of The Numinous

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

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

David Myatt
January 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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