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.

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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)

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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.
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[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

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Tyndale-Gospel_of_John

Extract from the ἐπίλογος of my forthcoming translation of the Gospel Of John.

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ΕΠΙΛΟΓΟΣ
A Question Of Interpretation

Vernacular translations are, by the nature of translation, interpretations, with the history of vernacular translations of the Bible – and especially of the Gospels – revealing how such interpretations could be used to support schisms; for example, in the case of Wycliffe’s English, the Lollards, and in the case of Luther’s German, the Protestant reformation. In addition, some translations enriched the vernacular language itself, as for example, the translations of Tyndale and the King James Bible did in respect of English.

My own interpretation of the Gospel of John is not intended to be schismatic but rather to be unfamiliar, with such unfamiliarity hopefully betaking some readers to the unfamiliar milieu of an ancient Judaea governed as it was by Rome and abode as it was of those Judaeans who believed in a Messias/Messiah, with it being written in the first chapter of the Gospel of John that in, reference to Jesus, Andrew – the brother of Simon Peter – announced: εὑρήκαμεν τὸν Μεσσίαν (we have found the Messias).

My interpretation is intended to be unfamiliar for several reasons. Firstly, because the Gospels were written in Hellenistic (Koine, κοινὴ) Greek, with the author of the Gospel of John by including colloquial Greek sayings and offering explanations for some particular terms [1] indicating that his intended or actual audience – those reading or hearing his Gospel in late first century and early second century CE – were most probably native speakers of Hellenistic Greek or at least quite familiar with that language.

Intended to be unfamiliar secondly because the standard English versions of the Gospel of John – and English versions of the other Gospels – have become so familiar to so many people in the West over so many centuries that certain words and terms have acquired particular meanings, with those meanings and certain passages – via iconography, exegesis, and preaching – assuming archetypal status. Hence, and to provide just some examples, our assumptions about God (theos), about ‘angels’ (τοὺς ἀγγέλους τοῦ θεοῦ), about Heaven (οὐρανός), about sin (ἁμαρτία) and about ‘the Holy Spirit’ (τὸ πνεῦμα).

An interpretation intended to be unfamiliar, thirdly, because the Gospels were written at a time when Christianity was, in the lands of the Roman Empire, one small religious sect among many others and had yet to develope a standardized doctrinal theology or a centralized ecclesiastical authority, with the Gospel of John not providing any theological explanation of what is meant by theos, by τοὺς ἀγγέλους τοῦ θεοῦ, by οὐρανός, by ἁμαρτία, by τὸ πνεῦμα, and by many other terms. Thus, there is a natural tendency for us to project medieval, Renaissance, and modern meanings onto such terms with the inevitable consequence of us assuming that we understand the message of the Evangelist and thus comprehend at least something of Christianity itself.

In contrast, what are we to make of such translated passages as the following:

I beheld the Spiritus as a dove descend from Empyrean and remain there with him. (1.32)

It was He who sent me to baptize in water, saying to me: ‘Upon whosoever you behold the Spiritus descend and remain there with, is the same one who baptizes in Halig Spiritus.’ (1.33)

Having spoken to you of earthly things and you lack trust, how can you trust if I speak of things caelestien? (3.12)

And this is the condemnation: That the Phaos arrived in the world but mortals loved the darkness more than the Phaos, for their deeds were harmful. (3.19)

Are we betaken to an unfamiliar milieu where, having read or listened to the evangel attributed to John from familiar translations, we believe we may know something about such things as Heaven (οὐρανός, Empyrean) and the Spirit (τὸ πνεῦμα, the Spiritus) but now may have some doubts about their meaning and doubts about how they may relate to the Light (φῶς, Phaos) and thus to a man named Jesus? Are such doubts relevant or perhaps even necessary given that the emphasis in the Gospel seems to be on individuals trusting in the person of Jesus after they had accepted that the narrated signs (σημεῖᾰ) – such as the Passion, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and his Ascension – indicate that he may well be the only begotten Son of Theos so that, by trusting in him, we have the opportunity of life everlasting?

Such were some of the questions I pondered when a Christian monk, and my fallible interpretation of the Gospel of John, founded on some forty years of reflection and study, is my fallible attempt to find some answers.

David Myatt
2017

[1] Qv. my comments on 1.42 and 1.51.


Image credit: folio from the William Tyndale English translation of the Gospel of John, printed in 1526 ce

autumnal-trees

Perhaps Words Are The Problem

Of the many metaphysical things I have pondered upon in the last five or so years, one is the enigma of words. More specifically, of how nomen – a name, a term, a designation – can not only apparently bring-into-being abstractions (and their categories) but also prescribe both our thinking and our actions, with such abstractions and such prescription so often being used by us, we mortals, to persuade, to entreat, to manipulate, to control, not only ourselves but through us others of our human kind. Whence how denotatum can and so often does distance, distract, us from the essence – the physis – that empathy and its wordless (acausal) knowing can reveal and has for certain mortals so often in past millennia revealed.

For we seem somehow addicted to talk, to chatter – spoken and written – just as we assume, we believe, so often on the basis of nomina that we expand our pretension of knowing beyond the local horizon of a very personal wordless empathy breeding thus, encouraging thus, such hubris as has so marked our species for perhaps five thousand years. With such hubris – such certitude of knowing – being the genesis of such suffering as we have so often inflicted on others and, sometimes, even upon ourselves.

Would that we could, as a sentient species, dispense with nomen, nomina, and thus communicate with others – and with ourselves – empathically and thus acquire the habit of acausal wordless knowing. There would then be no need for the politics of propaganda and the rhetoric of persuasion; no need – no ability – to lie or pretend to others. For we would be known – wordlessly revealed – for who and what we really are. And what a different world that would be where no lie, no deception, would work and where guilt could never be concealed.

For some, a few mortals, such a wordless knowing is already, and has been for centuries, the numinous reality, born as such a personal reality is either via their pathei-mathos or via their innate physis. Which is perhaps why such others often secrete, or desire to secrete, themselves away: an isolated or secluded family – rural, or island – living, perhaps, and perhaps why Cistercians, some mystics, some artists, and others of a similar numinous kind, have saught to dwell, to live, in reclusive or communal silence.

There is – or so there seems to me to be according to my admittedly, fallible, uncertitude of knowing – a presencing of the essence of almost all religions here in such a knowing of the value, the mysterium, of silence. Of that which we so often in our hubris forget, have forgotten, or never known: that wordless, that empathic, that so very personal acausal knowing, that personal grief and personal suffering – that the personal awareness of the numinous – so often engenders, so often breeds, as has been so recounted for millennia in our human culture of pathei-mathos.

Given this culture – so accessible now through institutions of learning, through printed books, through art, memoirs, and music, and via this medium of this our digital age – shall we, can we, learn and apply the learning of that culture to significantly change our lives, thus somehow avoiding that periodicity of suffering which for millennia our hubris, our certainty of knowing born of nomen and nomina and the resultant abstractions, has inflicted and continues to inflict upon us?

I do so wish I had an answer. But for now, all I can do is dwell in hope of us en masse so evolving that such empathy, such wordless knowing, has become the norm.

David Myatt
2016

Extract From A Letter To A Friend

 


Related:

The Culture Of Pathei-Mathos


WWI British cemetery at Abbeville

There is such a failure of understanding, at least by me [1]. Such a failure because there seems no end to such human-made suffering – such killing, human upon human, such human-made emotionally-induced violence, such destruction – that we men in our majority cause and have caused, world-wide, year following year, decade following decade, century upon century, millennia after millennia.

For millennia, any and every cause – any ideology, any faith, any belief, any personal emotion,  personal loyalty, a chain-of-command – has hallowed our violence, our hatred, our killing. Every century we seem to invent some new excuse – or regurgitate some old excuse – for our unempathic behaviour.

Yet compassion, hope of peace, personal and familial love – those now so familiar muliebral virtues – endure and continue to enchant at least some of us. So much so that many men continue to believe in God, in Allah, or in some inscrutable mechanism such as karma. Are we men then the phenotype of Janus?

Perhaps we are. But can our human culture of pathei-mathos perhaps change, redeem, us? Yet again I do not know, and can only once again hope even given that:

I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

So I am returned to whence and where I was, the only fallible personal certainty now being personal and familial love.

David Myatt
2016


An extract from an e-mail to a friend, inspired by Gymnopédie No. 1 (Erik Satie) played by Lavinia Meijer,
with a footnote added, and some emendations made, post scriptum

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[1] εἶτα τὸν τὰ χαλεπὰ γνῶναι δυνάμενον καὶ μὴ ῥᾴδια ἀνθρώπῳ γιγνώσκειν τοῦτον σοφόν. “Yet the wise person is the one able to understand such complex matters as seem incomprehensible to other human beings.”

Thus it follows – quod erat demonstrandum – that I am still far, so very far, from being wise.


Image credit: British cemetery at Abbeville, World War One

M31-SW-Subaru-HST-S1024
A Non-Terrestrial View

Several times, in the last decade or so, I have – when considering certain current events, and social change, and the activities, policies, and speeches, of certain politicians – often asked myself a particular question: What impression or what conclusions would a non-terran (a hypothetical visiting alien from another star-system) have of or draw from those events, such social change, and those politicians? And what, therefore, would be the conclusions that such a non-terran would make regarding our nature, our human character, as a species?

Which answers seemed to me to depend on what criteria – ethical, experiential, ontological, and otherwise – such a non-terran might employ. Would, for instance, the home-world of such a non-terran be a place of relative peace and prosperity which, having endured millennia of conflict and war, had evolved beyond conflict and war and had also ended poverty? Would, for instance, such a non-terran view matters dispassionately, having evolved such that they are always able to control – or have developed beyond – such strong personal emotions as now, as for all of our human history, so often still seem to overwhelm we humans leading us and having led us to be selfish, to lie, to cheat, to manipulate, to use violence – and sometimes kill – in order to fulfil a personal desire?

The criteria I now (post-2011) apply to this hypothetical scenario are those derived from my own experience, and from reflecting over several years upon that experience, which criteria are of course subjective, personal, and it is thus no coincidence that they now are reflected in my philosophy of pathei-mathos. Thus the ethics I assume such an interstellar space-faring sentient non-terran might adhere to are based on honour and the apprehension of suffering and hubris that empathy provides; just as the ontology derives from a numinous awareness of how causal and fallible and transient every sentient life is in respect of the vastness of the cosmos (spatially and in terms of aeons of causal time), with such ethics and ontology a natural consequence of such a culture whose genesis is that pathei-mathos – ancestral, individual, societal – that derives from millennia of suffering, conflict, war, poverty, corruption, and oppression.

Furthermore, my reflexion on the past fifty years of human space exploration leads me to further conclude that we as a species – and perhaps every sentient species – can only venture forth, en masse, to explore and colonize new worlds when certain social and political conditions exist: when we, when perhaps every sentient species, have matured sufficiently to be able to, as individuals, control ourselves (without any internal or external coercion deriving from laws or from some belief be such belief ideological, political, or religious) and thus when we use reason and empathy as our raison d’etre and not our emotions, our desires, our egoism or some -ism or some -ology or some faith that we accept or believe in or need. For despite the technology making such space exploration and colonization now feasible for us (if only currently within our solar system) we lack the political will, the social desire, the trans-national cooperation, the vision, to realize it even given that our own habitable planet is slowly undergoing a transformation for the worse wrought by ourselves. All we have – decades after the landings on the Moon – are a few individuals inhabiting and only for a while just one Earth-orbiting space station and a few small-scale, theorized, human landings on Mars a decade or more in the future. For instead of such a vision of a new frontier which frontier a multitude of families can settle and which can be the genesis of new cultures and new human societies, all we have had in the past fifty years is more of the same: regional wars and armed conflicts; invasions, violent coups and revolutions; violent protests, the killing and imprisonment and torture of protestors and dissenters; political propaganda for this political cause or that; exploitation of resources and of other humans; terrorism, murder, rape, theft, and greed.

How then would my hypothetical space-faring alien judge us as a species, and how would such a non-terran view such squabbles – political, social, ideological, religious, and be they violent or non-violent – and such poverty, inequality, and oppression, as still seem to so bedevil almost all societies currently existing on planet Earth?

In addition, how would we as individuals – and how would our governments – interact with, and treat, such an alien were such an alien, visiting Earth incognito, to be discovered? Would we treat such an alien with respect, with honour: as a non-threatening ambassador from another world? Would any current government on Earth willingly and openly and world-wide acknowledge the existence of such extra-terrestrial life and allow Earth ambassadors from any country, and scientists, and the media, full and open access to such an alien sentient being? I have my own personal intuition regarding answers to such questions.

But, remaining undiscovered, what would our visiting alien observer report regarding Earth and ourselves on their return to their own planet? Again, I have my own personal intuition regarding answers to such questions. Which answers could well be that we are an aggressive, still rather primitive and very violent, species best avoided until such time as we might outwardly demonstrate – through perhaps having numerous peaceful, cooperating, colonies on other worlds – that we have culturally and personally, in moral terms, advanced.

Which rather – to me at least – places certain current events, social change by -isms, by -ologies, through disruption and violence and via revolution, and the activities, policies, and speeches, of certain politicians, and armed conflicts, into what I intuit is a necessary cosmic, non-terran, perspective. Which perspective is of us as a species still evolving; as having the potential and now the means to further and to consciously, and as individuals, to so evolve.

Will we do this? And how? Again, my answer – fallible as it is, repeated by me as it hereby is, and born as it is from my own pathei-mathos – is that it could well begin with us as individuals consciously deciding to change through cultivating empathy and viewing ourselves and our world in the perspective of the cosmos. Which perspective is of our smallness, our fallibility, our mortality, and of our appreciation of the numinous and thus of the need to avoid the error of hubris; an error which we mortals, millennia following millennia, have always made and which even now – even with our ancestral world-wide culture of pathei-mathos – we still commit day after day, year after year, and century after century, enshrined as such hubris seems to be in so many politicians; in -isms and -ologies; in disruptive and violent social change and revolutions; in armed conflicts, and in our very physis as human individuals: an apparently unchanged physis which so motivates so many of us to still be egoistic, to lie, to cheat, to steal, to murder, to manipulate, to be violent, and to often be motived by avarice, pride, jealousy, and a selfish sexual desire.

As someone, over one and half-thousand years ago, wrote regarding human beings:

τοῖς δὲ ἀνοήτοις καὶ κακοῖς καὶ πονηροῖς καὶ φθονεροῖς καὶ πλεονέκταις καὶ φονεῦσι καὶ ἀσεβέσι πόρρωθέν εἰμι͵ τῷ τιμωρῷ ἐκχωρήσας δαίμονι͵ ὅστις τὴν ὀξύτητα τοῦ πυρὸς προσβάλλων θρώσκει αὐτὸν αἰσθητικῶς καὶ μᾶλλον ἐπὶ τὰς ἀνομίας αὐτὸν ὁπλίζει͵ ἵνα τύχῃ πλείονος τιμωρίας͵ καὶ οὐ παύεται ἐπ΄ ὀρέξεις ἀπλέ τους τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν ἔχων͵ ἀκορέστως σκοτομαχῶν͵ καὶ τοῦ τον βασανίζει͵ καὶ ἐπ΄ αὐτὸν πῦρ ἐπὶ τὸ πλεῖον αὐξάνει

“I keep myself distant from the unreasonable, the rotten, the malicious, the jealous, the greedy, the bloodthirsty, the hubriatic, instead, giving them up to the avenging daemon, who assigns to them the sharpness of fire, who visibly assails them, and who equips them for more lawlessness so that they happen upon even more vengeance. For they cannot control their excessive yearnings, are always in the darkness – which tests them – and thus increase that fire even more.” [1]

Which is basically the same understanding that Aeschylus revealed in his Oresteia trilogy many centuries before: the wisdom of pathei-mathos and the numinous pagan allegory of Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες [2], and which wisdom was also described by Milton over a millennia later by means of another allegory:

The infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile,
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind.

David Myatt
2015

Extract from a letter to a personal correspondent

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[1] Poemandres, 23. Corpus Hermeticum. Translated by DWM in Poemandres, A Translation and Commentary. 2014. ISBN 978-1495470684.

[2] Aeschylus (attributed), Prometheus Bound, 515-6

τίς οὖν ἀνάγκης ἐστὶν οἰακοστρόφος.
Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες

Who then compels to steer us?
Trimorphed Moirai with their ever-heedful Furies!


David Myatt

Memories Of Manual Labour
(pdf)


Orestes and the Ἐρινύες

A Note On Greek Terms In The Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos
(pdf)
Extract from a letter to a correspondent


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