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


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David Myatt – Collected Works In Print

The following works of mine – in addition to being available as gratis Open Access pdf files, qv. Opera Omnia – are currently (2017) available as printed books.

°°°

Printed Books

N.B. All the books are 11 inches x 8.5 inches in format, which is somewhat larger than the conventional ‘trade paperback’. In terms of number of pages, add 20+ pages for each book listed below for the approximate number of pages in a standard 6 inches by 9 inches paperback.
 

1. Corpus Hermeticum: Eight Tractates

190 pages. 2017
ISBN-13: 978-1976452369
BISAC: Philosophy / Metaphysics

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

Contents:

Tractate I. Ποιμάνδρης. Poemandres

Tractate III. Ιερός Λόγος. An Esoteric Mythos

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

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

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

Tractate XI. Νοῦς πρὸς Ἑρμῆν. From Perceiverance To Hermes

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

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

2. The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos

93 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1484096642
BISAC: Philosophy / Metaphysics

Contents:

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

Errata: Appendix IV The Concept Of Physis

Paragraph 3: Ontologically, as Aristotle makes clear [2] should read Ontologically, as Aristotle makes clear [1]

The remaining bracketed numbers in the text should be renumbered consecutively so that, for example, in paragraph 4, It does not die, does not grow, does not decay.” [3] should read It does not die, does not grow, does not decay.” [2]

In the Notes section to the appendix, note [1] should be deleted. Note [2] should read: [1] See Appendix IV, below, and also my Personal Reflexions On Some Metaphysical Questions.

The remaining bracketed numbers in the Notes section should be renumbered consecutively, ending with: [10] Time And The Separation Of Otherness – Part One. 2012.

3. Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos

60 pages

ISBN-13: 978-1484097984
BISAC: Philosophy / Metaphysics

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

Contents:

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

4. Myngath

94 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1484110744
BISAC: Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs

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

5. The Agamemnon of Aeschylus

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

A Translation

6. Sophocles – Oedipus Tyrannus

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

A Translation

7. Sophocles – Antigone

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

A Translation

8. One Exquisite Silence

24 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1484179932
BISAC: Poetry / General

Some autobiographical poems

9. Understanding and Rejecting Extremism

58 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1484854266

Personal reflexions on forty years as an extremist

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

60 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1495402227
BISAC: Drama / Ancient, Classical & Medieval

A Translation of Books 1, 2, & 3

11. One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods: Some Personal and Metaphysical Musings

46 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1502396105
BISAC: Philosophy / Metaphysics

Contents:

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

12. Sarigthersa: Some Recent Essays

50 pages. 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1512137149
BISAC: Philosophy / Metaphysics

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

Chapters 1-4
40 pages. 2017
ISBN-13: 978-1548913670
BISAC: Religion / Biblical Criticism & Interpretation / New Testament

Errata:

° Translation
1:22 despatched should read dispatched
2:20 six years years should read six years
3:23 Aeon should read Aenon

° Commentary
1:14 1426 translation should read 1526 translation
The heading Chapter 4 should read Chapter Four

14. Classical Paganism And The Christian Ethos

42 pages. 2017
ISBN-13: 978-1979599023
BISAC: Philosophy / Metaphysics

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

15. Tu Es Diaboli Ianua

46 pages. 2017
ISBN-13: 978-1982010935
BISAC: Philosophy / Metaphysics

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

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

°°°

Also available:

° The Mystic Philosophy Of David Myatt

56 pages. 2016
ISBN 978-1523930135
BISAC: Philosophy / Metaphysics

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

Contents:

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

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

72 pages. 2017.
ISBN-13: 978-1978374355
BISAC: Biography & Autobiography / Philosopher
Contents

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


Image credit: NASA, Blue Marble Earth Mosaic


Papyrus Bodmer XIV-XV (P75). c. 175-225 CE. John, vv.1 ff. Vatican Library.

Nota Bene: This chapter (which is subject to revision) complements Volume I of my translation – chapters 1-4 – which was published in July 2017 (ISBN 978-1548913670). Volume II – containing chapters 5-10 – is scheduled for publication in 2018.

The text of chapter five was last revised on 16.x.17

°°°
Gospel of John: Chapter Five
(pdf)

 


Image credit: Papyrus Bodmer XIV-XV (P75). c. 175-225 CE.
Gospel of John, vv.1 ff. Vatican Library

Tractate 13, Corpus Hermeticum

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

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

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


Image credit: The beginning of tractate XIII from the book Mercvrii Trismegisti Pœmandres, published in Paris in 1554.


Tractate 13, Corpus Hermeticum

Some Notes On Translating Tractate XIII

As with many of the tractates of the Corpus Hermeticum, the Greek text of tractate XIII provides an interesting insight into ancient Hellenic paganism and mysticism. It also – as with most of those tractates – presents the translator with certain problems, sometimes related to textual corruption, sometimes grammatical (should ῥοίζῳ, for example, in v. 9  of XIII be related to νικηθεῖσαι or to ἐξέπτησαν) and many of which problems concern the variety of meanings which can be assigned to certain words, as for instance in the important matter of νοῦς which is invariably translated as either “intellect” or as “mind”, neither of which is satisfactory especially given what both of those English words now often denote almost two thousand years after those Greek tractates were written.

My own choice in this tractate in respect of νοῦς – as in my translations of other Hermetic tractates – is perceiveration/perceiverance, which, even though such English words hint at what I believe νοῦς meant and implied esoterically and philosophically in Hellenistic times, are not entirely satisfactory. The only reasonable alternative seems to be a transliteration, as I do in this tractate – and have done in other tractates – in respect of λόγος, θεός and several other Greek words.

However, given that the goal of the translator is to provide for the general reader an intelligible interpretation of the text, to utilize transliterations for every problematic word would fail to accomplish that goal. Which is why the translator has to use their judgement and why every translation is ‘an interpretation of meaning’.

Such problematic words occur not only in the title of tractate XIII but also from the very first line of the text. In respect of the title – Ερμού του τρισμεγίστου προς τον υιόν Τάτ εν όρει λόγος απόκρυφος περί παλιγγενεσίας και σιγής επαγγελία – there is the question of translating (i) Τάτ, (ii) λόγος απόκρυφος, (iii) παλιγγενεσία, and (iv) ἐπαγγελία. In respect of the first line there is the question, at the very beginning, of Ἐν τοῖς Γενικοῖς, and what ὦ πάτερ – and the related ὦ τέκνον – might imply.

All of which questions – and the many subsequent ones together with the Cantio Arcana (The Esoteric Song) of sections 17 and 18 – make tractate XIII most interesting in regard to ancient Hellenic paganism and mysticism.


Title

A conventional translation of the title (by GRS Mead) is: “Concerning Rebirth and the Promise of Silence Of Thrice-greatest Hermes unto Tat his Son.”

My translation, however, is:

“On A Mountain: Hermes Trismegistus To His Son Thoth, An Esoteric Discourse Concerning Palingenesis And The Requirement of Silence.”

Which translation requires some explanation:

Thoth. As in other tractates I translate Τάτ by Thoth, avoiding the conventional Tat which, in English, has a colloquial meaning inappropriate here. As to which ‘Thoth’ is meant, the consensus is that in this and some other tractates it refers to the son (possibly biologically or more probably metaphorically) of Hermes Trismegistus who himself was named by the Greeks as Thoth, with the Τάτ of some other tractates being a scribal corruption of the name Thoth.

Esoteric Discourse. λόγος απόκρυφος. While ‘esoteric’ is an apt translation in regard to απόκρυφος, ‘discourse’ is not entirely satisfactory in respect of λόγος since it could be here interpreted to mean ‘disclosure’ or ‘explanation’. However, given what follows in section 1 – πυθομένου τὸν τῆς παλιγγενεσίας λόγον μαθεῖν…παραδιδόναι μοι – ‘discourse’ does seem appropriate.

Palingenesis. Rather than ascribe a particular meaning to παλιγγενεσία – such as ‘rebirth’ or ‘regeneration’ – I have chosen the English word palingenesis (from the Latin palingenesia) with that word explained by what follows in this particular discourse, qv. sections 12 and 13.

Requirement. The sense of ἐπαγγελία here, given what is discussed in this tractate, is ‘requirement’ rather than the strident ‘command’ or what is implied by the rather vague word ‘promise’.


The First Line

The first part of the first line of XIII is: Ἐν τοῖς Γενικοῖς͵ ὦ πάτερ͵ αἰνιγματωδῶς καὶ οὐ τηλαυγῶς ἔφρασας περὶ θειότητος διαλεγόμενος.

Conventionally: “In the General Sermons, father, thou didst speak in riddles most unclear, conversing on Divinity.”

My translation is:

When, father, you in the Exoterica conversed about divinity your language was enigmatic and obscure.

Which translation, as with title, requires some explanation:

Father. The Greek ὦ πάτερ – literally ‘my father’ – is a polite form of address, akin to the English ‘sir’. Similarly, ὦ τέκνον – ‘my son’ – is a polite reply. Given the esoteric nature of the text, a possible interpretation here of ὦ πάτερ would be ‘Master’, and of ὦ τέκνον ‘my pupil’.

in the Exoterica. Ἐν τοῖς γενικοῖς. Since the term γενικῶν λόγων occurs in tractate X it is reasonable to assume that γενικός here refers to the same thing although the meaning of the term is moot given that no details are provided in this tractate nor in tractate X, nor in Stobaeus  – Excerpts, III, 1 and VI, 1 – where the term also occurs. While most translators have assumed that it refers to ‘generic’ things or ‘generalities’ and thus (by adding λόγοι) have opted for an expression such as ‘General Sermons’, and given that a transliteration – such as genikois or genikoi – is awkward, I have in respect of the γενικοὶ opted for exoterica (from the Latin via the Greek τὰ ἐξωτερικά) with the meaning of “exoteric treatises designed for or suitable to the generality of disciples or students,” with the plausible suggestion thus being that there are exoteric Hermetic treatises and esoteric Hermetic treatises, with Reitzenstein describing these other treatises as διεξοδικοί λόγοι (R.A. Reitzenstein. Poimandres. Teubner, Leipzig. 1904. p.118) a distinction he also mentioned in his later work Die Hellenistischen Mysterien Religionen. One such esoteric treatise is tractate XIII.

The Esoteric Song

This much translated part of XIII has, in my opinion, been somewhat misunderstood given, for example, that θεὸς has invariably been translated by ‘God’ – implying as that word now so often does the God of Christianity – and φῶς (as in translations of the New Testament) translated by ‘light’, with ἀλήθεια as some kind of abstract ‘truth’, and with ὕμνος as ‘hymn’ suggestive as that English word now so often is of the hymns of Christian worship.

Conventionally, the first few verses are translated along the following lines:

“Let every nature of the World receive the utterance of my hymn!
Open thou Earth! Let every bolt of the Abyss be drawn for me. Stir not, ye Trees!
I am about to hymn creation’s Lord, both All and One.
Ye Heavens open, and ye Winds stay still; and let God’s deathless Sphere receive my word.”

My translation [1] is as follows:

Let every Physis of Kosmos favourably listen to this song.
Gaia: be open, so that every defence against the Abyss is opened for me;
Trees: do not incurvate;
For I now will sing for the Master Artisan,
For All That Exists, and for The One.
Open: you Celestial Ones; and you, The Winds, be calm.
Let the deathless clan of theos accept this, my logos.

Which, for me at least, evokes – as tractate XIII does in its entirety – something redolent of paganism rather than of Christianity.

David Myatt
2017

[1] https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/eight-tractates-v2-print.pdf


Image credit: The beginning of tractate XIII from the book Mercvrii Trismegisti Pœmandres, published in Paris in 1554


Botticelli - Madonna del Magnificat

The first volume of a projected series of five volumes of my translation of and commentary on the Gospel Of John is now available in print.

The Gospel According To John: A Translation And Commentary – Volume I

Chapters 1-4

ISBN-13: 978-1548913670
BISAC: Religion / Biblical Criticism & Interpretation / New Testament


Image credit: Botticelli: Madonna del Magnificat
(from the 1481 painting now in Uffizi, Florence)


John the Evangelist: Folio 209v of the Lindisfarne Gospels
A Note On The Term Jews In The Gospel of John

In the past century or so there has been much discussion about the term ‘the Jews’ in standard English translations of the Gospel of John and thus whether or not the Gospel portrays Jews in a negative way given such words about them as the following, from the translation known as the Douay-Rheims Bible:

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he stood not in the truth; because truth is not in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof. (8.44)

In the Gospel of John the term οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι first occurs in verse 19 of chapter one:

ὅτε ἀπέστειλαν πρὸς αὐτὸν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἐξ Ἱεροσολύμων ἱερεῖς καὶ Λευίτας ἵνα ἐρωτήσωσιν αὐτόν

In the Douay-Rheims Bible this is translated as: “when the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to him.” In the King James Bible: “when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him.”

In my translation of John – a work in progress [1] – I translated as: “when the Judaeans dispatched priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him.”

For, after much consideration, I chose – perhaps controversially – to translate ἰουδαία by Judaeans, given (i) that the English terms Jews and Jewish (deriving from the 13th/14th century words gyv/gyw and Iewe) have acquired connotations (modern and medieval) which are not relevant to the period under consideration; and (ii) that the Greek term derives from a place name, Judaea (as does the Latin iudaeus); and (iii) that the Anglo-Saxon version (ASV) retains the sense of the Greek: here (iudeas) as elsewhere, as for example at 2.6, æfter iudea geclensunge, “according to Judaean cleansing.”

Such a translation not only dispenses with the “portraying Jews in a negative way” discussion but also reveals a consistent narrative, with the Evangelist not writing that “the Jews” saught to kill Jesus, but only that some Judaeans desired to do so. In addition, as the story of the Samarian (Samaritan) woman in chapter 4 makes clear, it places into perspective the difference between Judaea, Samaria, and Galilee, and why the Evangelist narrates that it was “necessary” for Jesus to pass through Samaria on the way to Galilee, Ἔδει δὲ αὐτὸν διέρχεσθαι διὰ τῆς Σαμαρείας.

Given what follows (chapter 4 vv.9-10) this suggests a certain historical antipathy between the people of Judaea and the people of Samaria even though the Samarians – as is apparent from the Gospel – shared many, but not all, of the religious traditions of the Judaeans, as did most of the people of Galilee, including Jesus. Since the Evangelist specifically writes that it was Judaeans who saught to kill Jesus (5.18; 7.1; 7.19 et seq) it seems as if the antipathy by Judaeans to Jesus of Nazareth in particular and to Samarians in general – with the Evangelist stating that Judaeans would not share or make use of (συγχράομαι) Samarian things – arose from Judaeans in general believing that their religious practices based on their particular interpretation of the religion of Moses and the Prophets were correct and that they themselves as a result were ‘righteous’ – better than Samarians – with Jesus the Galilean considered by many Judaeans, and certainly by the priestly authorities, as having committed (qv. 10.33) ‘blasphemy’ (βλασφημία) and thus should be killed.

Such differing religious traditions, such internecine feuds, such religious fanaticism and intolerance on behalf of some Judaeans – an intolerance exemplified also when (qv. 10.22) one of the guards of Caiaphas the High Priest (Καιάφαν τὸν ἀρχιερέα) physically assaults Jesus for not showing the High Priest “due deference” – exemplifies why in this Gospel ἰουδαία should be translated not by the conventional term ‘Jews’ but rather by Judaeans.

°°°

In respect of the term ἰουδαία, it is interesting to consider two writings by Flavius Josephus, and one by Cassius Dio Cocceianus (dating from c.230 CE). The two works by Josephus are conventionally entitled ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ (c. 93 CE) and ‘The Jewish Wars’ (c. 75 CE) although I incline toward the view that such titles are incorrect and that the former – entitled in Greek, Ιουδαικης αρχαιολογιας – should be ‘Judaean Antiquities’, while the latter – entitled in Greek, Ἱστορία Ἰουδαϊκοῦ πολέμου πρὸς Ῥωμαίου – should be ‘History of the Conflict Between Judaeans and Romaeans’, and this because of how Josephus, in those works, describes himself and that conflict.

Ιουδαικης αρχαιολογιας

In this work Josephus wrote:

1.4 τούτων δὴ τῶν προειρημένων αἰτιῶν αἱ τελευταῖαι δύο κἀμοὶ συμβεβήκασι· τὸν μὲν γὰρ πρὸς τοὺς Ῥωμαίους πόλεμον ἡμῖν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις γενόμενον […]

1.5 διάταξιν τοῦ πολιτεύματος ἐκ τῶν Ἑβραϊκῶν μεθηρμηνευμένην γραμμάτων […]

1.6 δηλῶσαι τίνες ὄντες ἐξ ἀρχῆς Ἰουδαῖοι

a) 1.4. τὸν μὲν γὰρ πρὸς τοὺς Ῥωμαίους πόλεμον ἡμῖν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις γενόμενον, “how that conflict between Romaeans and we Judaeans came about.”

To be pedantic, Ῥωμαίους – Romaeans – implies those “of Rome”. That is, the word suggests those associated with a particular place, as does the term Judaeans. Which association of people with a particular place or region is historically germane.

b) 1.5. διάταξιν τοῦ πολιτεύματος τῶν Ἑβραϊκῶν μεθηρμηνευμένην γραμμάτων, “the decrees of our civitatium as expounded in the writings of the Hebrews.” Less literally, “the laws of our communities as expounded in the writings of the Hebrews.”

Thus he does not write about the “Jewish scriptures” or about “the scriptures of the Jews”, even though the consensus is that γραφῇ here – as throughout the New Testament – has the meaning ‘scripture’ rather than its normal sense of ‘that which is written’, with the English word ‘scripture’ (usually written with a capital S) having the specific meaning “the writings of the Old and/or of the New Testament”. However, this specific meaning only dates back to c.1300 and was used by Wycliffe in his 1389 translation, from whence, via Tyndale, it was used in the King James version. Prior to 1300, the ASV has gewrite – ‘what was written’, writing, inscription – with the Latin of Jerome having scripturae, as does Codex Palatinus of the earlier Vetus Latina. [2]  Classically understood, the Latin has the same meaning as the Greek γραφῇ: writing, something written, an inscription. [3]

c) 1.6 δηλῶσαι τίνες ὄντες ἐξ ἀρχῆς Ἰουδαῖοι, “to make known how Judaeans came about.”


Ἱστορία Ἰουδαϊκοῦ πολέμου πρὸς Ῥωμαίου

In the Προοίμιον of this book Josephus wrote:

a) Ἰώσηπος Ματθίου παῖς ἐξ Ἱεροσολύμων ἱερεύς

That is, Josephus describes himself as “the son of Matthias, a priest, from Jerusalem.”  He does not write that he is “Jewish” and nor does he write that he is from Judaea.

b) σχεδὸν δὲ καὶ ὧν ἀκοῇ παρειλήφαμεν ἢ πόλεων πρὸς πόλεις ἢ ἐθνῶν ἔθνεσι συρραγέντων.

A conventional translation would have πόλις as ‘city’ and ἔθνος as ‘nation’ so that the latter part would conventionally be translated along the following lines: “cities would have fought against cities, or nations against nations.”

However, the terms ‘nation’ and ‘city’ are or can be misleading, given their modern connotations, whereas a historical approximation for ἔθνος would be ‘tribe’, ‘people’, or ‘community’, and for πόλις – understood here as referring to a particular named place with a history of settlement – town, fortified town, burg, borough, municipality. Such choices would produce a translation such as: “municipality would have fought municipality, community with community.” The evocation is thus more parochial, more regional, as befits the historical past and the context: here, an insurrection, a conflict between the people of Judaea and the armed forces commanded by Roman citizens (those “of Rome”) duly appointed to positions of power.

Regarding The Term Ἰουδαικός

While the term is conventionally cited as meaning Jewish – although LSJ provides no sources, with the English words ‘Jew’ and ‘Jewish’ not existing until the 13th/14th century CE – the sense of the term in Ῥωμαϊκὴ Ἱστορία by Cassius Dio Cocceianus (for example, 67.14.2, 68.1.2) is Judaean, referring to the people of Judaea and their customs and way of life, Ἰουδαϊκοῦ βίου, τῶν Ἰουδαίων ἤθη:

ὑφ᾽ ἧς καὶ ἄλλοι ἐς τὰ τῶν Ἰουδαίων ἤθη ἐξοκέλλοντες πολλοὶ κατεδικάσθησαν καὶ οἱ μὲν ἀπέθανον οἱ δὲ τῶν γοῦν οὐσιῶν ἐστερήθησαν (67.14.2)

°°°

Conclusion

As noted in the Preface to my translation of The Gospel of John, I have endeavoured to avoid reading into the text the meanings that some of the English words conventionally used in other translations – and given in lexicons – may now suggest, or do suggest often as a result of over a thousand years of exegesis. In the matter of ἰουδαία the translation by the relatively recent term ‘Jews’ has suggested meanings which, at least in my fallible opinion, are irrelevant to the milieu of the Gospels and which thus distorts, or which can distort, the narrative of the Gospel of John.

David Myatt
July 2017

This article is based on, and includes quotations from, my commentary on John 1.19, 2.22, 4.4, et seq.
°°°

[1] As of July 2017, the translation of and a commentary on chapters one to four of The Gospel of John have been completed, which partial translation and commentary is available at: https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/gospel-according-to-john/

[2] For context, the verse in the Latin version of Jerome is: cum ergo resurrexisset a mortuis recordati sunt discipuli eius quia hoc dicebat et crediderunt scripturae et sermoni quem dixit iesus.

The Latin of Codex Palatinus, Vetus Latina: Cum ergo resurrexit a mortuis commonefacti sunt discipuli eius quoniam hoc dicebat et crediderunt scripturae et sermoni quem dixit IHS.

The Latin of Codex Brixianusis, Vetus Latina: cum ergo resurre xisset a mortuis recordati sunt discipuli eius quia hoc dixerat et crediderunt scribturae et sermoni quem dixit IHS.

[3] Qv. Tacitus: “non diurna actorum scriptura reperio ullo insigni officio functam.” Annals, Book III, 3.


Image credit: John the Evangelist: Folio 209v of the Lindisfarne Gospels
British Library Cotton MS Nero D.IV