heraclitus-1a

 

On Translating Ancient Greek
(pdf)

Concerning ἀγαθός and νοῦς in the Corpus Hermeticum
(pdf)

Greek Terms In The Philosophy Of Pathei-Mathos
(pdf)

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The Philosophy Of Pathei-Mathos – A Précis

 

Exordium

What I have previously described as the ‘philosophy of pathei-mathos’ and the ‘way of pathei-mathos’ is simply my own weltanschauung, a weltanschauung developed over some years as a result of my own pathei-mathos. Thus, and despite whatever veracity it may or may not possess, it is only the personal insight of one very fallible individual, a fallibility proven by my decades of selfishness and by my decades of reprehensible extremism both political and religious.

Furthermore, and according to my admittedly limited understanding and limited knowledge, this philosophy does not – in essence – express anything new. For I feel (and I use the word ‘feel’ intentionally) that I have only re-expressed what so many others, over millennia, have expressed as result of (i) their own pathei-mathos and/or (ii) their experiences/insights and/or (iii) their particular philosophical musings.

Indeed, the more I reflect upon my (perhaps pretentiously entitled) ‘philosophy of pathei-mathos’ the more I reminded of so many things, such as (i) what I intuitively (and possibly incorrectly) understood nearly half a century ago about Taoism when I lived in the Far East and was taught that ancient philosophy by someone who was also trying to instruct me in a particular Martial Art, and (ii) what I as a Catholic monk felt “singing Gregorian chant in choir and which singing often connected me to what JS Bach so often so well expressed by his music; that is, connected me to what – in essence – Christianity (the allegory of the life and crucifixion of Christ) and especially monasticism manifested: an intimation of some-thing sacred causing us to know beyond words what ‘the good’ really means, and which knowing touches us if only for an instant with a very personal humility and compassion”, and (iii) what I learnt from “my first few years as a Muslim, before I adhered to a harsh interpretation of Islam; a learning from being invited into the homes of Muslim families; sharing meals with them; praying with them; learning Muslim Adab; attending Namaz at my local Mosque, and feeling – understanding – what their faith meant to them and what Islam really meant, and manifested, as a practical way of living”, and (iv) of what I discovered from several years, as a teenager, at first in the Far East and then in England, of practising Hatha Yoga according to the Pradipika and Patanjali, and (v) of what I intuited regarding Buddhism from over a year of zazen (some in a zendo) and from months of discussions with Dom Aelred Graham who had lived in a Zen monastery in Japan, and (vi) what I so painfully, so personally, discovered via my own pathei-mathos.

As a weltanschauung derived from a personal pathei-mathos, my ‘philosophy/way of pathei-mathos’ is therefore subject to revision. Thus this essay summarising my weltanschauung includes a few (2013-2014) slight revisions – mentioned, or briefly described, in some of my more recent effusions – of what was expressed in previous works of mine such as The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos (ISBN 9781484096642) and Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos: Essays and Letters Regarding Spirituality, Humility, and A Learning From Grief (ISBN 9781484097984).

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The Way Of Pathei-Mathos

1. Ontology

The ontology is of causal and acausal being, with (i) causal being as revealed by phainómenon, by the five Aristotelian essentials and thus by science with its observations and theories and principle of ‘verifiability’, and (ii) acausal being as revealed by συμπάθεια – by the acausal knowing (of living beings) derived from faculty of empathy [1] – and thus of the distinction between the ‘time’ (the change) of living-beings and the ‘time’ described via the measurement of the observed or the assumed/posited/predicted movement of ‘things’ [2].

2. Epistemology

a. The primacy of pathei-mathos: of a personal pathei-mathos being one of the primary means whereby we can come to know the true φύσις (physis) of Being, of beings, and of our own being; a knowing beyond ‘abstractions’, beyond the concealment implicit in manufactured opposites, by ipseity (the separation-of-otherness), and by denotatum.

b. Adding the ‘acausal knowing’ revealed by the (muliebral) faculty of empathy to the conventional, and causal (and somewhat masculous), knowing of science and logical philosophical speculation, with the proviso that what such ‘acausal knowing’ reveals is (i) of φύσις, the relation between beings, and between beings and Being, and thus of ‘the separation-of-otherness’, and (ii) the personal and numinous nature of such knowing in the immediacy-of-the-moment, and which empathic knowing thus cannot be abstracted out from that ‘living moment’ via denotatum: by (words written or spoken), or be named or described or expressed (become fixed or ‘known’) by any dogma or any -ism or any -ology, be such -isms or -ologies conventionally understood as political, religious, ideological, or social.

c. Describing a human, and world-wide and ancestral, ‘culture of pathei-mathos’ [3], and which culture of pathei-mathos could form part of Studia Humanitatis and thus of that education that enables we human beings to better understand our own φύσις [4].

3. Ethics

a. Of personal honour – which presences the virtues of fairness, tolerance, compassion, humility, and εὐταξία – as (i) a natural intuitive (wordless) expression of the numinous (‘the good’, δίκη, συμπάθεια) and (ii) of both what the culture of pathei-mathos and the acausal-knowing of empathy reveal we should do (or incline us toward doing) in the immediacy of the personal moment when personally confronted by what is unfair, unjust, and extreme [5].

b. Of how such honour – by its and our φύσις – is and can only ever be personal, and thus cannot be extracted out from the ‘living moment’ and our participation in the moment; for it only through such things as a personal study of the culture of pathei-mathos and the development of the faculty of empathy that a person who does not naturally possess the instinct for δίκη can develope what is essentially ‘the human faculty of honour’, and which faculty is often appreciated and/or discovered via our own personal pathei-mathos.

4. One fallible, personal, answer regarding the question of human existence

Of understanding ourselves in that supra-personal, and cosmic, perspective that empathy, honour, and pathei-mathos – and thus an awareness of the numinous and of the acausal – incline us toward, and which understanding is: (i) of ourselves as a finite, fragile, causal, viatorial, microcosmic, affective effluvium [6] of Life (ψυχή) and thus connected to all other living beings, human, terran, and non-terran, and (ii) of there being no supra-personal goal to strive toward because all supra-personal goals are and have been just posited – assumed, abstracted – goals derived from the illusion of ipseity, and/or from some illusive abstraction, and/or from that misapprehension of our φύσις that arises from a lack of empathy, honour, and pathei-mathos.

For a living in the moment, in a balanced – an empathic, honourable – way, presences our φύσις as conscious beings capable of discovering and understanding and living in accord with our connexion to other life; which understanding inclines us to avoid the hubris that causes or contributes to the suffering of other life, with such avoidance a personal choice not because it is conceived as a path toward some posited thing or goal – such as nirvana or Jannah or Heaven or after-life – and not because we might be rewarded by God, by the gods, or by some supra-personal divinity, but rather because it manifests the reality, the truth – the meaning – of our being. The truth that (i) we are (or we are capable of being) one affective consciously-aware connexion to other life possessed of the capacity to cause suffering/harm or not to cause suffering/harm, and (ii) we as an individual are but one viator manifesting the change – the being, the φύσις – of the Cosmos/mundus toward (a) a conscious awareness (an aiding of ψυχή), or (b) stasis, or (c) as a contributor toward a decline, toward a loss of ψυχή.

Thus, there is a perceiveration of our φύσις; of us as – and not separate from – the Cosmos: a knowledge of ourselves as the Cosmos presenced (embodied, incarnated) in a particular time and place and in a particular way. Of how we affect or can affect other effluvia, other livings beings, in either a harmful or a non-harming manner. An apprehension, that is, of the genesis of suffering and of how we, as human beings possessed of the faculties of reason, of honour, and of empathy, have the ability to cease to harm other living beings. Furthermore, and in respect of the genesis of suffering, this particular perceiveration provides an important insight about ourselves, as conscious beings; which insight is of the division we mistakenly but understandably make, and have made, consciously or unconsciously, between our own being – our ipseity – and that of other living beings, whereas such a distinction is only an illusion – appearance, hubris, a manufactured abstraction – and the genesis of such suffering as we have inflicted for millennia, and continue to inflict, on other life, human and otherwise.

David Myatt
September 2014

Notes

[1] Refer to: (i) The Way of Pathei-Mathos – A Philosophical Compendiary (pdf, Third Edition, 2012), and (ii) Towards Understanding The Acausal, 2011.

[2]Refer to Time And The Separation Of Otherness – Part One, 2012.

[3] The culture of pathei-mathos is the 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.

[4] Refer to Education and The Culture of Pathei-Mathos, 2014.

[5] By ‘extreme’ is meant ‘to be harsh’, unbalanced, intolerant, prejudiced, hubriatic.

[6] As mentioned elsewhere, I now prefer the term effluvium, in preference to emanation, in order to try and avoid any potential misunderstanding. For although I have previously used the term ’emanation’ in my philosophy of pathei-mathos as a synonym of effluvium, ’emanation’ is often understood in the sense of some-thing proceeding from, or having, a source; as for example in theological use where the source is considered to be God or some aspect of a divinity. Effluvium, however, has (so far as I am aware) no theological connotations and accurately describes the perceiveration: a flowing of what-is, sans the assumption of a primal cause, and sans a division or a distinction between ‘us’ – we mortals – and some-thing else, be this some-thing else God, a divinity, or some assumed, ideated, cause, essence, origin, or form.


Available in pdf format here – myatt-heraclitus-fragment-1.pdf
Attic red-figure vase, c. 500-450 BCE,  depicting The Horae. Antikenmuseen, Berlin
 Heraclitus Fragment 1 – Translation and Notes

Text

τοῦ δὲ λόγου τοῦδ᾽ ἐόντος ἀεὶ ἀξύνετοι γίνονται ἄνθρωποι καὶ πρόσθεν ἢ ἀκοῦσαι καὶ ἀκούσαντες τὸ πρῶτον· γινομένων γὰρ πάντων κατὰ τὸν λόγον τόνδε ἀπείροισιν ἐοίκασι, πειρώμενοι καὶ ἐπέων καὶ ἔργων τοιούτων, ὁκοίων ἐγὼ διηγεῦμαι κατὰ φύσιν διαιρέων ἕκαστον καὶ φράζων ὅκως ἔχει· τοὺς δὲ ἄλλους ἀνθρώπους λανθάνει ὁκόσα ἐγερθέντες ποιοῦσιν, ὅκωσπερ ὁκόσα εὕδοντες ἐπιλανθάνονται

Translation

My translation of the fragment is:

Although this naming and expression [which I explain] exists, human beings tend to ignore it, both before and after they have become aware of it. Yet even though, regarding such naming and expression, I have revealed details of how Physis has been cleaved asunder, some human beings are inexperienced concerning it, fumbling about with words and deeds, just as other human beings, be they interested or just forgetful, are unaware of what they have done.

Comments

1. λόγος

In respect of fragments 80 and 112 I have suggested that it is incorrect to interpret πόλεμος simplistically as ‘war’, strife, or kampf [1] and that, instead of using such words, it should be transliterated so as to name a distinct philosophical principle that requires interpretation and explanation with particular reference to Hellenic culture and philosophy. For, more often than not, such common English words as ‘war’ are now understood in a non-Hellenic, non-philosophical, context and explained in relation to some ideated opposite; and in the particular case of the term ‘war’, for example, in contrast to some-thing named, explained, or defined, as ‘peace’ or a state of non-belligerence.

In respect of fragment 1 [2], does λόγος suggest a philosophical principle and therefore should it, like πόλεμος, be transliterated and thus be considered as a basic principle of the philosophy of Heraclitus, or at least of what, of that philosophy or weltanschauung, we can adduce from the textual fragments we possess? Or does λόγος, as I suggested in respect of fragment 112 and 123 [3] imply:

both a naming (denoting), and a telling – not a telling as in some abstract explanation or theory, but as in a simple describing, or recounting, of what has been so denoted or so named. Which is why, in fragment 39, Heraclitus writes:

ἐν Πριήνηι Βίας ἐγένετο ὁ Τευτάμεω, οὗ πλείων λόγος ἢ τῶν ἄλλων [4]

and why, in respect of λέγειν, Hesiod wrote:

ἴδμεν ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγειν ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα,
ἴδμεν δ᾽, εὖτ᾽ ἐθέλωμεν, ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι [5]

I contend that fragment 1 also suggests a denoting, in the sense of expressing some-thing by denoting it or describing it by a ‘name’. That is, that λόγος here does not refer here to what has often be termed Logos, and that the ‘ambiguous’ ἀεὶ [6] is not really ambiguous at all.

For one has to, in my view, take account of the fact that there is poetry in Heraclitus; a rather underrated style that sometimes led others to incorrectly describe him as ὁ σκοτεινός, the ambiguous (or the obtuse) one, and led Aristotle to write:

τὰ γὰρ Ἡρακλείτου διαστίξαι ἔργον διὰ τὸ ἄδηλον
εἶναι ποτέρῳ πρόσκειται, τῷ ὕστερον ἢ τῷ πρότερον, οἷον ἐν τῇ ἀρχῇ αὐτῇ τοῦ συγγράμματος:
φησὶ γὰρ “τοῦ λόγου τοῦδ᾽ ἐόντος ἀεὶ ἀξύνετοι ἄνθρωποι γίγνονται”:
ἄδηλον γὰρ τὸ ἀεί, πρὸς ποτέρῳ δεῖ διαστίξαι. [6]

It is the poetic style of Heraclitus that I have tried, however badly, to express in my often non-literal and rather idiosyncratic translations/interpretations of some of the fragments attributed to him. Hence my interpretation of the first part:

Although this naming and expression [which I explain] exists – human beings tend to ignore it, both before and after they have become aware of it.

The ‘which I explain’ being implicit in the sense of λόγος here as a naming and expression by a particular individual, contrasted (as often with Heraclitus) rather poetically with a generality; in this instance, contrasted with human beings – ‘men’ – in general.

2. ἀεὶ

In my view, “tend to” captures the poetic sense of ἀεὶ here. That is, the literal – the bland, strident – ‘always’ is discarded in favour of a more Heraclitean expression of human beings having an apparently rather irreconcilable tendency – both now and as in the past – to ignore (or forget or not understand) certain things, even after matters have been explained to them (they have heard the explanation) and even after they have discovered certain truths for themselves.

3. διαιρέων and Φύσις

I take the sense of διαιρέων here somewhat poetically to suggest not the ordinary ‘divide’ but the more expressive ‘cleave’, with it being undivided Physis that is cleaved into parts by “such naming and expression” as Heraclitus has revealed. That is, Heraclitus is not saying that he has described or expressed each thing ‘in accordance with its true nature’ (or divided things correctly, or something of the kind) but rather that the process of naming and categorization is or has divided Physis, obscuring the true nature of Being and beings, and it is this process, this obscuring, or concealment. of Physis – of cleaving it into separate parts or each thing, ‘each’ contrasted with a generality [7] – that he has revealed and is mentioning here, as he mentioned it in fragment 123:

Φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ

Concealment accompanies Physis [8]

Which is why I have transliterated Φύσις as referring to a general philosophical principle of the philosophy of Heraclitus, or at least of what, of that philosophy or weltanschauung, we can adduce from the textual fragments we possess.

4. πειρώμενοι καὶ ἐπέων καὶ ἔργων τοιούτων

In respect of ἐπέων καὶ ἔργων τοιούτων, the Homeric usage [9]  is, for me, interesting as it implies a proverbial kind of saying rather than just ‘words’ and ‘deeds’:

Τηλέμαχ᾽, οὐδ᾽ ὄπιθεν κακὸς ἔσσεαι οὐδ᾽ ἀνοήμων,
εἰ δή τοι σοῦ πατρὸς ἐνέστακται μένος ἠύ,
οἷος κεῖνος ἔην τελέσαι ἔργον τε ἔπος τε:

Telemachus – you will not be unlucky nor lacking in resolution
If you hereafter instill into yourself the determination of your father
Whose nature was to accomplish those deeds he said he would.

Furthermore, I take the sense here of πειρώμενοι poetically to suggest a “fumbling about” – as the inexperienced often fumble about and experiment until, often by trial and error, they have gained sufficient experience to understand and know what they are doing and what is involved, which rather reminds one of a saying of Pindar [10]:

γλυκὺ δὲ πόλεμος ἀπείροισιν, ἐμπείρων δέ τις
ταρβεῖ προσιόντα νιν καρδίᾳ περισσῶ

5. ἐγερθέντες and εὕδοντες

Given that, as mentioned above, there is poetry in Heraclitus, I am inclined to avoid the literal, and usual, understanding of ἐγερθέντες and εὕδοντες, particularly given the foregoing πειρώμενοι καὶ ἐπέων καὶ ἔργων τοιούτων which renders such a literal understanding not only out of context and disjointed but decidedly odd. Human beings forgetting things when they sleep? If, however, and for example, ἐγείρω here poetically suggests alertness, an interest or excitement – as ἤγειρεν in the Agamemnon suggests an alertness and excitement, an interest in what has occurred, and thence the kindling of a pyre [11] – then there is, as often in Heraclitus, a flowing eloquence and that lack of discordance one might expect of an aphorism remembered and recorded long after the demise of its author.

David Myatt
February 2013

Notes

[1] qv. The Abstraction of Change as Opposites and Dialectic, and Some Notes on Πόλεμος and Δίκη in Heraclitus B80

As mentioned in The Abstraction of Change as Opposites and Dialectic:

“In addition, Polemos was originally the δαίμων [not the god] of kindred strife, whether familial, or of one’s πόλις (one’s clan and their places of dwelling). Thus, to describe Polemos, as is sometimes done, as the god of conflict (or war), is doubly incorrect.”

[2] qv. Sextus Empiricus: Advenus Mathematicos VII. 132

[3] Regarding 123Φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ – qv. Physis, Nature, Concealment, and Natural Change, e-text 2010

[4] “In Priene was born someone named and recalled as most worthy – Bias, that son of Teutamas.”

[5]

We have many ways to conceal – to name – certain things
And the skill when we wish to expose their meaning

[6] Aristotle: Ars Rhetorica Book 3, chapter 5 [1407b]

[7] As in Homer et al, for example Iliad, Book VII, 215 –

Τρῶας δὲ τρόμος αἰνὸς ὑπήλυθε γυῖα ἕκαστον

But over the Trojans, a strange fear, to shake the limbs of each one there

[8] qv. my Physis, Nature, Concealment, and Natural Change [Notes on Heraclitus fragment 123], e-text 2010

[9] Odyssey, Book II, 272

[10] Fragment 110

[11] Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 296-299

σθένουσα λαμπὰς δ᾽ οὐδέπω μαυρουμένη,
ὑπερθοροῦσα πεδίον Ἀσωποῦ, δίκην
φαιδρᾶς σελήνης, πρὸς Κιθαιρῶνος λέπας
ἤγειρεν ἄλλην ἐκδοχὴν πομποῦ πυρός.
The torch, vigorous and far from extinguished,
Bounded over the Asopian plain
To the rocks of Cithaeron as bright as the moon
So that the one waiting there to begin that fire, jumped up

Note that here the watchman is not awakened from sleep.



This above text combines, in a new layout and with one or two slight revisions, my two articles relating to fragment 1 published under the titles The Poetry of Heraclitus: Part One – Some Notes on λόγος in Fragment B1 and The Poetry of Heraclitus: Part Two – Some Notes on Physis and Forgetfulness in Fragment B1.
°°°
cc David Myatt 2013

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Image credit: Attic red-figure vase, c. 500-450 BCE,  depicting The Horae. Antikenmuseen, Berlin

Attic Red Figure Vase c. 480 BCE, depicting Athena, in Antikensammlungen, Munich, Germany
The Poetry of Heraclitus
Part Two – Some Notes on Physis and Forgetfulness in Fragment B1

τοῦ δὲ λόγου τοῦδ᾽ ἐόντος ἀεὶ ἀξύνετοι γίνονται ἄνθρωποι καὶ πρόσθεν ἢ ἀκοῦσαι καὶ ἀκούσαντες τὸ πρῶτον· γινομένων γὰρ πάντων κατὰ τὸν λόγον τόνδε ἀπείροισιν ἐοίκασι, πειρώμενοι καὶ ἐπέων καὶ ἔργων τοιούτων, ὁκοίων ἐγὼ διηγεῦμαι κατὰ φύσιν διαιρέων ἕκαστον καὶ φράζων ὅκως ἔχει· τοὺς δὲ ἄλλους ἀνθρώπους λανθάνει ὁκόσα ἐγερθέντες ποιοῦσιν, ὅκωσπερ ὁκόσα εὕδοντες ἐπιλανθάνονται

Translation

My translation of the fragment is:

Although this naming and expression [which I explain] exists, human beings tend to ignore it, both before and after they have become aware of it. Yet even though, regarding such naming and expression, I have revealed details of how Physis has been cleaved asunder, some human beings are inexperienced concerning it, fumbling about with words and deeds, just as other human beings, be they interested or just forgetful, are unaware of what they have done.

Comments

1. For the first part – τοῦ δὲ λόγου τοῦδ᾽ ἐόντος ἀεὶ ἀξύνετοι γίνονται ἄνθρωποι καὶ πρόσθεν ἢ ἀκοῦσαι καὶ ἀκούσαντες τὸ πρῶτον – refer to Part One – Some Notes on λόγος in Fragment B1

2. I take the sense of διαιρέων here somewhat poetically to suggest not the ordinary ‘divide’ but the more expressive ‘cleave’, with it being undivided Physis that is cleaved into parts by “such naming and expression” as Heraclitus has revealed. That is, Heraclitus is not saying that he has described or expressed each thing ‘in accordance with its true nature’ (or divided things correctly, or something of the kind) but rather that the process of naming and categorization is or has divided Physis, obscuring the true nature of Being and beings, and it is this process, this obscuring, or concealment. of Physis – of cleaving it into separate parts or each thing, ‘each’ contrasted with a generality [1] – that he has revealed and is mentioning here, as he mentioned it in fragment 123:

Φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ

Concealment accompanies Physis [2]

Which is why I have transliterated Φύσις as referring to a general philosophical principle of the philosophy of Heraclitus, or at least of what, of that philosophy or weltanschauung, we can adduce from the textual fragments we possess.

3. In respect of πειρώμενοι καὶ ἐπέων καὶ ἔργων τοιούτων, the Homeric usage [3] is, for me, interesting as it implies a proverbial kind of saying rather than just ‘words’ and ‘deeds’:

Τηλέμαχ᾽, οὐδ᾽ ὄπιθεν κακὸς ἔσσεαι οὐδ᾽ ἀνοήμων,
εἰ δή τοι σοῦ πατρὸς ἐνέστακται μένος ἠύ,
οἷος κεῖνος ἔην τελέσαι ἔργον τε ἔπος τε:

Telemachus – you will not be unlucky nor lacking in resolution
If you hereafter instill into yourself the determination of your father
Whose nature was to accomplish those deeds he said he would.

Furthermore, I take the sense here of πειρώμενοι poetically to suggest a “fumbling about” – as the inexperienced often fumble about and experiment until, often by trial and error, they have gained sufficient experience to understand and know what they are doing and what is involved, which rather reminds one of a saying of Pindar [4]:

γλυκὺ δὲ πόλεμος ἀπείροισιν, ἐμπείρων δέ τις
ταρβεῖ προσιόντα νιν καρδίᾳ περισσῶ

4. Given that, as mentioned in Part One, there is poetry in Heraclitus, I am inclined to avoid the literal, and usual, understanding of ἐγερθέντες and εὕδοντες, particularly given the foregoing πειρώμενοι καὶ ἐπέων καὶ ἔργων τοιούτων which renders such a literal understanding not only out of context and disjointed but decidedly odd. Human beings forgetting things when they sleep? If, however, and for example, ἐγείρω here poetically suggests alertness, an interest or excitement – as ἤγειρεν in the Agamemnon suggests an alertness and excitement, an interest in what has occurred, and thence the kindling of a pyre [5] – then there is, as often in Heraclitus, a flowing eloquence and that lack of discordance one might expect of an aphorism remembered and recorded long after the demise of its author.

David Myatt
February 2013

Notes:

[1] As in Homer et al, for example Iliad, Book VII, 215 –

Τρῶας δὲ τρόμος αἰνὸς ὑπήλυθε γυῖα ἕκαστον

But over the Trojans, a strange fear, to shake the limbs of each one there

[2] qv. my Physis, Nature, Concealment, and Natural Change [Notes on Heraclitus fragment 123], e-text 2010

[3] Odyssey, Book II, 272

[4] Fragment 110

[5] Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 296-299

σθένουσα λαμπὰς δ᾽ οὐδέπω μαυρουμένη,
ὑπερθοροῦσα πεδίον Ἀσωποῦ, δίκην
φαιδρᾶς σελήνης, πρὸς Κιθαιρῶνος λέπας
ἤγειρεν ἄλλην ἐκδοχὴν πομποῦ πυρός.

The torch, vigorous and far from extinguished,
Bounded over the Asopian plain
To the rocks of Cithaeron as bright as the moon
So that the one waiting there to begin that fire, jumped up

Note that here the watchman is not awakened from sleep.


Attic Red Figure Vase c. 480 BCE, depicting Athena, in Antikensammlungen, Munich, Germany
The Poetry of Heraclitus
Part One: Some Notes on
λόγος in Fragment B1

In respect of fragments 80 and 112 I have suggested that it is incorrect to interpret πόλεμος simplistically as ‘war’, strife, or kampf [1] and that, instead of using such words, it should be transliterated so as to name a distinct philosophical principle that requires interpretation and explanation with particular reference to Hellenic culture and philosophy. For, more often than not, such common English words as ‘war’ are now understood in a non-Hellenic, non-philosophical, context and explained in relation to some ideated opposite; and in the particular case of the term ‘war’, for example, in contrast to some-thing named, explained, or defined, as ‘peace’ or a state of non-belligerence.

In respect of fragment 1 [2], does λόγος suggest a philosophical principle – Logos – and therefore should it, like πόλεμος, be transliterated and thus be considered as a basic principle of the philosophy of Heraclitus, or at least of what, of that philosophy or weltanschauung, we can adduce from the textual fragments we possess? Or does λόγος, as I suggested in respect of fragment 112 and 123 [3] imply:

both a naming (denoting), and a telling – not a telling as in some abstract explanation or theory, but as in a simple describing, or recounting, of what has been so denoted or so named. Which is why, in fragment 39, Heraclitus writes:

ἐν Πριήνηι Βίας ἐγένετο ὁ Τευτάμεω, οὗ πλείων λόγος ἢ τῶν ἄλλων [4]

and why, in respect of λέγειν, Hesiod wrote:

ἴδμεν ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγειν ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα,
ἴδμεν δ᾽, εὖτ᾽ ἐθέλωμεν, ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι [5]

I contend that fragment 1 also suggests a denoting, in the sense of expressing some-thing by denoting it or describing it by a ‘name’. That is, that λόγος here does not refer to what has often be termed Logos, and that the ‘ambiguous’ ἀεὶ [6] is not really ambiguous at all.

For one has to, in my view, take account of the fact that there is poetry in Heraclitus; a rather underrated style that sometimes led others to incorrectly describe him as ὁ σκοτεινός, the ambiguous (or the obtuse) one, and led Aristotle to write:

τὰ γὰρ Ἡρακλείτου διαστίξαι ἔργον διὰ τὸ ἄδηλον
εἶναι ποτέρῳ πρόσκειται, τῷ ὕστερον τῷ πρότερον, οἷον ἐν τῇ ἀρχῇ αὐτῇ τοῦ συγγράμματος:
φησὶ γὰρτοῦ λόγου τοῦδ᾽ ἐόντος ἀεὶ ἀξύνετοι ἄνθρωποι γίγνονται“:
ἄδηλον γὰρ τὸ ἀεί, πρὸς ποτέρῳ δεῖ διαστίξαι. [6]

It is the poetic style of Heraclitus that I have tried, however badly, to express in my often non-literal and rather idiosyncratic translations/interpretations of some of the fragments attributed to him. Hence my interpretation of the first part [8] of fragment 1, published in 2012:

Although this naming and expression [which I explain] exists – human beings tend to ignore it, both before and after they have become aware of it.

The ‘which I explain’ is implicit in the sense of λόγος here as a naming and expression by a particular individual, contrasted (as often with Heraclitus) rather poetically with a generality; in this instance, contrasted with human beings – ‘men’ – in general, and with “tend to” modifying the sense of ἀεὶ from the strident, bland, ‘always’ to a more poetic expression of human beings having an apparently rather irreconcilable tendency – for now (at least) and certainly as in the past – to ignore (or forget or not understand) certain things, even after matters have been explained to them (they have heard the explanation) and even after they have discovered certain truths for themselves.

David Myatt
January 2013

[1] qv. The Abstraction of Change as Opposites and Dialectic, and Some Notes on Πόλεμος and Δίκη in Heraclitus B80

As mentioned in The Abstraction of Change as Opposites and Dialectic:

“In addition, Polemos was originally the δαίμων [not the god] of kindred strife, whether familial, or of one’s πόλις (one’s clan and their places of dwelling). Thus, to describe Polemos, as is sometimes done, as the god of conflict (or war), is doubly incorrect.”

[2] qv. Sextus Empiricus: Advenus Mathematicos VII. 132

The text of fragment 1 (with the reading τοῦδ᾽ ἐόντος and not τοῦ δέοντος) is:

τοῦ δὲ λόγου τοῦδ᾽ ἐόντος ἀεὶ ἀξύνετοι γίνονται ἄνθρωποι καὶ πρόσθεν ἢ ἀκοῦσαι καὶ ἀκούσαντες τὸ πρῶτον· γινομένων γὰρ πάντων κατὰ τὸν λόγον τόνδε ἀπείροισιν ἐοίκασι, πειρώμενοι καὶ ἐπέων καὶ ἔργων τοιούτων, ὁκοίων ἐγὼ διηγεῦμαι κατὰ φύσιν διαιρέων ἕκαστον καὶ φράζων ὅκως ἔχει· τοὺς δὲ ἄλλους ἀνθρώπους λανθάνει ὁκόσα ἐγερθέντες ποιοῦσιν, ὅκωσπερ ὁκόσα εὕδοντες ἐπιλανθάνονται.

[3] Regarding 123Φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ – qv. Physis, Nature, Concealment, and Natural Change, e-text 2010

[4] “In Priene was born someone named and recalled as most worthy – Bias, that son of Teutamas.”

[5]

We have many ways to conceal – to name – certain things
And the skill when we wish to expose their meaning

[6] Aristotle: Ars Rhetorica Book 3, chapter 5 [1407b]

[7] θεοί – and Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες – permitting I may in the not too distant future endeavour to translate/interpret the rest of the fragment.

°°°
Acknowledgements: The genesis of this article was a personal reply sent to Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi of Oxford university, in response to questions concerning ἀεὶ and my rather idiosyncratic interpretation of the first part of the text of fragment 1.


pdf version (c. 82 kB) available here – vocab-philos-pathei-mathos.pdf

Attic Red Figure Vase c. 480 BCE, depicting Athena, in Antikensammlungen, Munich, Germany
Vocabulary of The Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos

 

Last Updated 23rd November 2012


Abstraction

An abstraction 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. Sometimes, abstractions are generalization based on some sample(s), or on some median (average) value or sets of values, observed, sampled, or assumed.

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

All abstractions involve a causal perception, based as they are on the presumption of a linear cause-and-effect (and/or a dialectic) and on a posited or an assumed category or classification which differs in some way from some other assumed or posited categories/classifications, past, present or future. When applied to or used to describe/classify/distinguish/motivate living beings, abstractions involve a causal separation-of-otherness; and when worth/value/identity (and exclusion/inclusion) is or are assigned to such a causal separation-of-otherness then there is or there arises hubris.

Abstractions are often assumed to provide some ‘knowledge’ or some ‘understanding’ of some-thing assigned to or described by a particular abstraction. For example, in respect of the abstraction of ‘race’ applied to human beings, and which categorization of human beings describes a median set of values said or assumed to exist ‘now’ or in some recent historical past.

According to the philosophy of pathei-mathos, this presumption of knowledge and understanding by the application of abstractions to beings – living and otherwise – is false, for abstractions are considered as a primary means by which the nature of Being and beings are and have been concealed, requiring as abstractions do the positing and the continuation of abstractive opposites in relation to Being and the separation of beings from Being by the process of ideation and opposites.

Acausal

The acausal is not a generalization – a concept – deriving from a collocation of assumed, imagined, or causally observed Phainómenon, but instead is that wordless, conceptless, a-temporal, knowing which empathy reveals and which a personal πάθει μάθος and an appreciation of the numinous often inclines us toward. That is, the acausal is a direct and personal (individual) revealing of beings and Being which does not depend on denoting or naming.

What is so revealed is the a-causal nature of some beings, the connexion which exists between living beings, and how living beings are emanations of ψυχή.

Thus speculations and postulations regarding the acausal only serve to obscure the nature of the acausal or distance us from that revealing of the acausal that empathy and πάθει μάθος and an appreciation of the numinous provide.

ἀρετή

Arête is the prized Hellenic virtue which can roughly be translated by the English word ‘excellence’ but which also implies what is naturally distinguishable – what is pre-eminent – because it reveals or shows certain valued qualities such as beauty, honour, valour, harmony.


Aristotelian Essentials

The essentials which Aristotle enumerated are: (i) Reality (existence) exists independently of us and our consciousness, and thus independent of our senses; (ii) our limited understanding of this independent ‘external world’ depends for the most part upon our senses, our faculties – that is, on what we can see, hear or touch; on what we can observe or come to know via our senses; (iii) logical argument, or reason, is perhaps the most important means to knowledge and understanding of and about this ‘external world’; (iv) the cosmos (existence) is, of itself, a reasoned order subject to rational laws.

Experimental science seeks to explain the natural world – the phenomenal world – by means of direct, personal observation of it, and by making deductions, and formulating hypothesis, based on such direct observation.

The philosophy of pathei-mathos adds the faculty of empathy – and the knowing so provided by empathy – to these essentials. Part of the knowing that empathy reveals, or can reveal, concerns the nature of Being, of beings, and of Time.

ἁρμονίη

ἁρμονίη (harmony) is or can be manifest/discovered by an individual cultivating wu-wei and σωφρονεῖν (a fair and balanced personal, individual, judgement).

Compassion

The English word compassion dates from around 1340 CE and the word in its original sense (and as used in this work) means benignity, which word derives from the Latin benignitatem, the sense imputed being of a kind, compassionate, well-mannered character, disposition, or deed.  Benignity came into English usage around the same time as compassion; for example, the word occurs in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde [ ii. 483 ] written around 1374 CE.

Hence, compassion is understood as meaning being kindly disposed toward and/or feeling a sympathy with someone (or some living being) affected by pain/suffering/grief or who is enduring vicissitudes.

The word compassion itself is derived from com, meaning together-with, combined with pati, meaning to-suffer/to-endure and derived from the classical Latin passiō. Thus useful synonyms for compassion, in this original sense, are compassivity and benignity.

Cosmic Perspective

The Cosmic Perspective refers to our place in the Cosmos, to the fact that we human beings are simply one fragile fallible mortal biological life-form on one planet orbiting one star in one galaxy in a Cosmos of billions of galaxies. Thus in terms of this perspective all our theories, our ideas, our beliefs, our abstractions are merely the opinionated product of our limited fallible Earth-bound so-called ‘intelligence’, an ‘intelligence’, an understanding, we foolishly, arrogantly, pridefully have a tendency to believe in and exalt as if we are somehow ‘the centre of the Universe’ and cosmically important.

The Cosmic Perspective inclines us – or can incline us – toward wu-wei, toward avoiding the error of hubris, toward humility, and thus toward an appreciation of the numinous.


δαίμων

A δαίμων is not one of the pantheon of major Greek gods – θεοί – but rather a lesser type of divinity who might be assigned by those gods to bring good fortune or misfortune to human beings and/or watch over certain human beings and especially particular numinous (sacred) places.

Descriptor

A descriptor is a word, a term, used to describe some-thing which exists and which is personally observed, or is discovered, by means of our senses (including the faculty of empathy).

A descriptor differs from an ideation, category, or abstraction, in that a descriptor describes what-is as ‘it’ is observed, according to its physis (its nature) whereas an abstraction, for example, denotes what is presumed/assumed/idealized, past or present or future. A descriptor relies on, is derived from, describes, individual knowing and individual judgement; an abstraction relies on something abstract, impersonal, such as some opinion/knowing/judgement of others or some assumptions, theory, or hypothesis made by others.

An example of a descriptor is the term ‘violent’ [using physical force sufficient to cause bodily harm or injury to a person or persons] to describe the observed behaviour of an individual. Another example would be the term ‘extremist’ to describe – to denote – a person who treats or who has been observed to treat others harshly/violently in pursuit of some supra-personal objective of a political or of a religious nature.

δίκη

Depending on context, δίκη could be the judgement of an individual (or Judgement personified), or the natural and the necessary balance, or the correct/customary/ancestral way, or what is expected due to custom, or what is considered correct and natural, and so on.

A personified Judgement – the Δίκην of Hesiod – is the goddess of the natural balance, evident in the ancestral customs, the ways, the way of life, the ethos, of a community, whose judgement, δίκη, is “in accord with”, has the nature or the character of, what tends to restore such balance after some deed or deeds by an individual or individuals have upset or disrupted that balance. This sense of δίκη as one’s ancestral customs is evident, for example, in Homer (Odyssey, III, 244).

In the philosophy of pathei-mathos, the term Δίκα – spelt thus in a modern way with a capital Δ – is sometimes used to intimate a new, a particular and numinous, philosophical principle, and differentiate Δίκα from the more general δίκη. As a numinous principle, or axiom, Δίκα thus suggests what lies beyond and what was the genesis of δίκη personified as the goddess, Judgement – the goddess of natural balance, of the ancestral way and ancestral customs.

Empathy

Etymologically, this fairly recent English word, used to translate the German Einfühlung, derives, via the late Latin sympathia, from the Greek συμπάθεια – συμπαθής – and is thus formed from the prefix σύν (sym) together with παθ- [root of πάθος] meaning enduring/suffering, feeling: πάσχειν, to endure/suffer.

As used and defined by the philosophy of pathei-mathos, empathy – ἐμπάθεια – is a natural human faculty: that is, a noble intuition about (a revealing of) another human being or another living being. When empathy is developed and used, as envisaged by that way of life, 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 – and thus differs in nature from compassion.

Empathic knowing 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.

Empathy reveals or can reveal the nature (the physis) – sans abstractions/ideations/words – of Being, of beings, and of Time. This revealing is of the the a-causal nature of Being, and of how beings have their genesis in the separation-of-otherness; and thus how we human beings are but causal, mortal, fallible, microcosmic emanations of ψυχή.


Enantiodromia

The unusual compound Greek word ἐναντιοδρομίας occurs in a summary of the philosophy of Heraclitus by Diogenes Laërtius.

Enantiodromia is the term used, in the philosophy of pathei-mathos, to describe the revealing, the process, of perceiving, feeling, knowing, beyond causal appearance and the separation-of-otherness, and thus when what has become separated – or has been incorrectly perceived as separated – returns to the wholeness, the unity, from whence it came forth. When, that is, beings are understood in their correct relation to Being, beyond the causal abstraction of different/conflicting ideated opposites, and when as a result, a reformation of the individual, occurs. A relation, an appreciation of the numinous, that empathy and pathei-mathos provide, and which relation and which appreciation the accumulated pathei-mathos of individuals over millennia have made us aware of or tried to inform us or teach us about.

An important and a necessary part of enantiodromia involves a discovery, a knowing, an acceptance, and – as prelude – an interior balancing within individuals, of what has hitherto been perceived and designated as the apparent opposites described by terms (descriptors) such as ‘muliebral’ and ‘masculous’.

The balance attained by – which is – enantiodromia is that of simply feeling, accepting, discovering, the empathic, the human, the personal, scale of things and thus understanding our own fallibility-of-knowing, our limitations as a human being

ἔρις

Strife; discord; disruption; a quarrel between friends or kin. As in the Odyssey:

ἥ τ᾽ ἔριν Ἀτρεΐδῃσι μετ᾽ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἔθηκε.

Who placed strife between those two sons of Atreus

Odyssey, 3, 136

According to the recounted tales of Greek mythology attributed to Aesop, ἔρις was caused by, or was a consequence of, the marriage between a personified πόλεμος (as the δαίμων of kindred strife) and a personified ὕβρις (as the δαίμων of arrogant pride) with Polemos rather forlornly following Hubris around rather than vice versa. Eris is thus the child of Polemos and Hubris.

Extremism

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

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

In the terms of the philosophy/way of pathei-mathos, an extremist is someone who commits the error of hubris; and error which enantiodromia – following from πάθει μάθος – can sometimes correct or forestall. The genesis of extremism – be such extremism personal, or described as political or religious – is when the separation-of-otherness is used as a means of personal and collective identity and pride, with some ‘others’ – or ‘the others’ – assigned to a category considered less worthy than the category we assign ourselves and ‘our kind/type’ to.

Extremist ideologies manifest an unbalanced, an excessive, masculous nature.

εὐταξία

The quality, the virtue, of self-restraint, of a balanced, well-mannered conduct especially under adversity or duress, of which Cicero wrote:

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

Those two qualities are evident in that way described by the Greeks as εὐταξίαν although what is meant by εὐταξία is not what we mean by the moderation of the moderate, but rather what we consider is restrained behaviour…    
[My translation]

De Officiis, Liber Primus, 142 

Honour

The English word honour dates from around 1200 CE, deriving from the Latin honorem (meaning refined, grace, beauty) via the Old French (and thence Anglo-Norman) onor/onur. As used by The Way of Pathei-Mathos, honour means an instinct for and an adherence to what is fair, dignified, and valourous. An honourable person is thus someone of manners, fairness, natural dignity, and valour.

In respect of early usage of the term, two quotes may be of interest. The first, from c. 1393 CE, is taken from a poem, in Middle English, by John Gower:

And riht in such a maner wise
Sche bad thei scholde hire don servise,
So that Achilles underfongeth
As to a yong ladi belongeth
Honour, servise and reverence.

John Gower, Confessio Amantis. Liber Quintus vv. 2997-3001 [Macaulay, G.C., ed. The Works of John Gower. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1901]

The second is from several centuries later:

” Honour – as something distinct from mere probity, and which supposes in gentlemen a stronger abhorrence of perfidy, falsehood, or cowardice, and a more elevated and delicate sense of the dignity of virtue, than are usually found in vulgar minds.”

George Lyttelton. History of the Life of Henry the Second. London, Printed for J. Dodsley. M DCC LXXV II [1777] (A new ed., cor.) vol 3, p.178

In the philosophy of pathei-mathos, the personal virtue of honour is considered to be a presencing, a grounding, an expression, 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. That is, as a means 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.

Humility

Humility is used, in a spiritual context, to refer to that gentleness, that modest demeanour, that understanding, which derives from an appreciation of the numinous and also from one’s own admitted uncertainty of knowing and one’s acknowledgement of past mistakes. An uncertainty of knowing, an acknowledgement of mistakes, that often derive from πάθει μάθος.

Humility is thus the natural human balance that offsets the unbalance of hubris (ὕβρις) – the balance that offsets the unbalance of pride and arrogance, and the balance that offsets the unbalance of that certainty of knowing which is one basis for extremism, for extremist beliefs, for fanaticism and intolerance. That is, humility is a manifestation of the natural balance of Life; a restoration of ἁρμονίη, of δίκη, of σωφρονεῖν – of those qualities and virtues – that hubris and extremism, that ἔρις and πόλεμος, undermine, distance us from, and replace.

Ideation

To posit or to construct an ideated form – an assumed perfect (ideal) form or category or abstraction – of some-thing, based on the belief or the assumption that what is observed by the senses, or revealed by observation, is either an ‘imperfect copy’ or an approximation of that thing, which the additional assumption that such an ideated form contains or in some way expresses (or can express) ‘the essence’ or ‘the ethos’ of that thing and of similar things.

Ideation also implies that the ideated form is or can be or should be contrasted with what it considered or assumed to be its ‘opposite’.

Immediacy-of-the-Moment

The term the ‘immediacy-of-the-moment’ describes both (i) the nature and the extent of the acausal knowing that empathy and pathei-mathos provide, and (ii) the nature and extent of the morality of the philosophy of pathei-mathos.

Empathy, for example, being a natural and an individual faculty, 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. An acceptance of (i) the unwisdom, the hubris, of arrogantly making assumptions about who and what are beyond the range of our empathy and outside of our personal experience/beyond the scope of our pathei-mathos.

Morality, for the philosophy of pathei-mathos, is a result of individuals using the faculty of empathy; a consequence of the insight and the understanding (the acausal knowing) that empathy provides for individuals in the immediacy-of-the-moment. Thus, morality is considered to reside not in some abstract theory or some moralistic schemata presented in some written text which individuals have to accept and try and conform or aspire to, but rather in personal virtues – such as such as compassion and fairness, and εὐταξία – that arise or which can arise naturally through empathy, πάθει μάθος, and thus from an awareness and appreciation of the numinous.

Innocence

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

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

Masculous

Masculous is a term, a descriptor, used to refer to certain traits, abilities, and qualities that are conventionally and historically associated with men, such as competitiveness, aggression, a certain harshness, the desire to organize/control, and a desire for adventure and/or for conflict/war/violence/competition over and above personal love and culture. Extremist ideologies manifest an unbalanced, an excessive, masculous nature.

Masculous is from the Latin masculus and occurs, for example, in some seventeenth century works such as one by William Struther: “This is not only the language of Canaan, but also the masculous Schiboleth.” True Happines, or, King Davids Choice: Begunne In Sermons, And Now Digested Into A Treatise. Edinbvrgh, 1633


Muliebral

The term muliebral derives from the classical Latin word muliebris, and in the context the philosophy of Pathei-Mathos refers to those positive traits, abilities, and qualities that are conventionally and historically associated with women, such as empathy, sensitivity, gentleness, compassion, and a desire to love and be loved over and above a desire for conflict/adventure/war.

Numinous

The numinous is what manifests or can manifest or remind us of (what can reveal) 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. In a practical way, it is what we regard or come to appreciate as ‘sacred’ and dignified; what expresses our developed humanity and thus places us, as individuals, in our correct relation to ψυχή, and which relation is that we are but one mortal emanation of ψυχή.

Pathei-Mathos

The Greek term πάθει μάθος derives from The Agamemnon of Aeschylus (written c. 458 BCE), and can be interpreted, or translated, as meaning learning from adversary, or wisdom arises from (personal) suffering; or personal experience is the genesis of true learning.

When understood in its Aeschylean context, it implies that for we human beings pathei-mathos possesses a numinous, a living, authority. That is, the understanding that arises from one’s own personal experience – from formative experiences that involve some hardship, some grief, some personal suffering – is often or could be more valuable to us (more alive, more relevant, more meaningful) than any doctrine, than any religious faith, than any words/advice one might hear from someone else or read in some book.

Thus, pathei-mathos, like empathy, offers we human beings a certain conscious understanding, a knowing; and, when combined, pathei-mathos and empathy are or can be a guide to wisdom, to a particular conscious knowledge concerning our own nature (our physis), our relation to Nature, and our relation to other human beings, leading to an appreciation of the numinous and an appreciation of virtues such as humility and εὐταξία.

Πόλεμος

Heraclitus fragment 80

Πόλεμος is not some abstract ‘war’ or strife or kampf, but rather that which is or becomes the genesis of beings from Being (the separation of beings from Being), and thus not only that which manifests as δίκη but also accompanies ἔρις because it is the nature of Πόλεμος that beings, born because of and by ἔρις, can be returned to Being, become bound together – be whole – again by enantiodromia.

According to the recounted tales of Greek mythology attributed to Aesop, ἔρις was caused by, or was a consequence of, the marriage between a personified πόλεμος (as the δαίμων of kindred strife) and a personified ὕβρις (as the δαίμων of arrogant pride) with Polemos rather forlornly following Hubris around rather than vice versa. Thus Eris is the child of Polemos and Hubris.

Furthermore, Polemos was originally the δαίμων (not the god) of kindred strife, whether familial, of friends, or of one’s πόλις (one’s clan and their places of dwelling). Thus, to describe Polemos, as is sometimes done, as the god of war, is doubly incorrect.

Physis (φύσις)

φύσις suggests either (i) the Homeric usage of nature or character of a person, as for example in Odyssey, Book 10, vv. 302-3, and also in Herodotus (2.5.2):

Αἰγύπτου γὰρ φύσις ἐστὶ τῆς χώρης τοιήδε


or (ii) Φύσις (Physis) as in Heraclitus fragment 123 – that is, the natural nature of all beings, beyond their outer appearance, and which natural nature we, as human beings, have a natural [an unconscious] inclination to conceal; either because of ὕβρις or through an ignorance, an unknowing, of ourselves as an emanation of ψυχή.

In terms of the nature or the character of an individual:

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

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

Heraclitus fragment 112

Separation-of-Otherness

The separation-of-otherness is a term used to describe the implied or assumed causal separateness of living beings, a part of which is the distinction we make (instinctive or otherwise) between our self and the others. Another part is assigning our self, and the-others, to (or describing them and us by) some category/categories, and to which category/categories we ascribe (or to which category/categories has/have been ascribed) certain qualities or attributes.

Given that a part of such ascription/denoting is an assumption or assumptions of worth/value/difference and of inclusion/exclusion, the separation-of-otherness is the genesis of hubris; causes and perpetuates conflict and suffering; and is a path away from ἁρμονίη, δίκη, and thus from wisdom.

The separation-of-otherness conceals the nature of Beings and beings; a nature which empathy and pathei-mathos can reveal.

The Good

For the philosophy of Pathei-Mathos, ‘the good’ is considered to be what is fair; what alleviates or does not cause suffering; what is compassionate; what is honourable; what is reasoned and balanced. This knowing of the good arises from the (currently underused and undeveloped) natural human faculty of empathy, and which empathic knowing is different from, supplementary and complimentary to, that knowing which may be acquired by means of the Aristotelian essentials of conventional philosophy and experimental science.

Time

In the philosophy of pathei-mathos, Time is considered to be an expression of the nature – the φύσις – of beings, and thus, for living beings, is a variable emanation of ψυχή, differing from being to being, and representing how that living being can change (is a fluxion) or may change or has changed, which such change (such fluxions) being a-causal.

Time – as conventionally understood and as measured/represented by a terran-calendar with durations marked days, weeks, and years – is therefore regarded as an abstraction, and an abstraction which tends to conceal the nature of living beings.


ὕβρις

ὕβρις (hubris) is the error of personal insolence, of going beyond the proper limits set by: (a) reasoned (balanced) judgement – σωφρονεῖν – and by (b) an awareness, a personal knowing, of the numinous, and which knowing of the numinous can arise from empathy and πάθει μάθος.

Hubris upsets the natural balance – is contrary to ἁρμονίη [harmony] – and often results from a person or persons striving for or clinging to some causal abstraction.

According to The Way of Pathei-Mathos, ὕβρις disrupts – and conceals – our appreciation of what is numinous and thus of what/whom we should respect, classically understood as ψυχή and θεοί and Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες and δαιμόνων and those sacred places guarded or watched over by δαιμόνων.

Way

The philosophy of pathei-mathos makes a distinction between a religion and a spiritual Way of Life. 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.

Wisdom

Wisdom is both the ability of reasoned – a balanced – judgement, σωφρονεῖν, a discernment; and a particular conscious knowledge concerning our own nature, and our relation to Nature, to other life and other human beings: rerum divinarum et humanarum. Part of this knowledge is of how we human beings are often balanced between honour and dishonour; balanced between ὕβρις and ἀρετή; between our animalistic desires, our passions, and our human ability to be noble, to morally develope ourselves; a balance manifest in our known ability to be able to control, to restrain, ourselves, and thus find and follow a middle way, of ἁρμονίη.

 

Wu-wei

Wu-wei is a Taoist term used in The Way of Pathei-Mathos/The Numinous Way to refer to a personal ‘letting-be’ deriving from a feeling, a knowing, that an essential part of wisdom is cultivation of an interior personal balance and which cultivation requires acceptance that one must work with, or employ, things according to their nature, their φύσις, for to do otherwise is incorrect, and inclines us toward, or is, being excessive – that is,  toward the error, the unbalance, that is hubris, an error often manifest in personal arrogance, excessive personal pride, and insolence – that is, a disrespect for the numinous.

In practice, the knowledge, the understanding, the intuition, the insight that is wu-wei is a knowledge, an understanding, that can be acquired from empathy, πάθει μάθος, and by a knowing of and an appreciation of the numinous. This knowledge and understanding is of wholeness, and that life, things/beings, change, flow, exist, in certain natural ways which we human beings cannot change however hard we might try; that such a hardness of human trying, a belief in such hardness, is unwise, un-natural, upsets the natural balance and can cause misfortune/suffering for us and/or for others, now or in the future. Thus success lies in discovering the inner nature (the physis) of things/beings/ourselves and gently, naturally, slowly, working with this inner nature, not striving against it.

ψυχή

Life qua being. Our being as a living existent is considered an emanation of ψυχή. Thus ψυχή is what ‘animates’ us and what gives us our nature, φύσις, as human beings. Our nature is that of a mortal fallible being veering between σωφρονεῖν (thoughtful reasoning, and thus fairness) and ὕβρις.

°°°°°°°

Sources

Conspectus of The Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos

Recuyle of the Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos
(pdf  314 kB)

Time and The Separation-of-Otherness


cc David Myatt 2012
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Conspectus of The Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos

Prefatory Note
I. Morality, Virtues, and Way of Life
II. Wisdom, Pathei-Mathos, and Humility
III. Enantiodromia and The Separation-of-Otherness
Glossary of Terms

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Prefatory Note

The philosophy of pathei-mathos (πάθει μάθος) represents my weltanschauung, and which philosophy I advanced earlier this year after I had, upon reflexion, rejected much of and revised what then remained of the ‘numinous way’, and which ‘numinous way’ I developed between 2006 and 2011.

Hopefully this conspectus will serve as a better introduction to this new philosophy than my at times abstruse writing in Recuyle of the Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos. I have provided a Glossary where most of the terms, and Greek words, used in the philosophy of pathei-mathos are defined or explained, since I often use particular terms in a particular (some might say a peculiar) way.

David Myatt
October 2012

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I. Morality, Virtues, and Way of Life

For the philosophy of Pathei-Mathos, ‘the good’ is considered to be what is fair; what alleviates or does not cause suffering; what is compassionate; what is honourable; what is reasoned and balanced. This knowing of the good arises from the (currently underused and undeveloped) natural human faculty of empathy, and which empathic knowing is different from, supplementary and complimentary to, that knowing which may be acquired by means of the Aristotelian essentials of conventional philosophy and experimental science.

Empathy thus inclines a person toward certain virtues; toward a particular type of personal character; and disinclines them toward doing what is bad, what is unfair; what is harsh and unfeeling; what intentionally causes or contributes to suffering.

For empathy enables us to directly perceive, to sense, the φύσις (the physis, the nature or character) of human beings and other living beings, involving as empathy does a translocation of ourselves and thus a knowing-of another living-being as that living-being is, without presumptions and sans all ideations, all projections, all assumed or believed categories or categorizations. For empathy involves a numinous sympathy with another living-being; a becoming – for a causal moment or moments – of that other-being, so that we know, can feel, can understand, the suffering or the joy of that living-being. In such moments, there is no distinction made between them and us – there is only the flow of life; only the presencing and the ultimate unity of Life, of ψυχή, with our individuals self understood as just one fallible, fragile, microcosmic, mortal emanation of Life, and which emanation can affect other life in a good way or a bad way. In addition, empathy and pathei-mathos, provide us with the understanding that we human beings have the ability – the character – (or can develope the ability, the character) to understand and to restrain ourselves, to decide to do what is good and not do what is wrong. This ability of reason, this choice, and this ability to develope our character, are the genesis of culture and express our natural potential as human beings.

The numinous sympathy – συμπάθεια (sympatheia, benignity) – with another living being that empathy provides naturally inclines us to treat other living beings as we ourselves would wish to be treated: with fairness, compassion, honour, and dignity. It also inclines us not to judge those whom we do not know; those beyond the purveu – beyond the range of – our faculty of empathy. There is thus or there developes or there can develope:

(i) Wu-wei, the cultivation of an inner balance arising from an appreciation of the natural change (the flux) of living beings and how it is unbalanced, and harsh, of us to interfere in ways which conflict with the natural character of such beings and with that natural change. Part of this appreciation is of the numinous; another is of our own limits and limitations because we ourselves are only a small part of such natural change, an aspect of which is Nature; and which appreciation of the numinous and of our limits incline us toward a certain humility.

(ii) An appreciation of innocence, for innocence is regarded as an attribute of those who, being personally unknown to us, are therefore unjudged by us and who thus are given the benefit of the doubt. For this presumption of innocence of others – until direct personal experience, and individual and empathic knowing of them, prove otherwise – is the fair, the reasoned, the numinous, the human and cultured, thing to do.

(iii) An appreciation of how and why a personal and loyal love between two individuals is the most beautiful, the most numinously human, thing of all.

Thus among the virtues of the philosophy – the way – of pathei-mathos are compassion; self-restraint [εὐταξία], fairness, honour; manners; wu-wei, and a reasoned personal judgement.

Living according to the way of pathei-mathos therefore simply means:

  • being compassionate or inclining toward compassion by trying to avoid causing, or contributing, to suffering;
  • being honourable – fair, reasonable, well-mannered, just, dignified, tolerant, balanced;
  • appreciating the value and importance of personal love;
  • inclining toward a personal humility;
  • appreciating the numinous;
  • cultivating empathy and wu-wei.

In essence, The Way of Pathei-Mathos is an ethical, an interior, a personal, a non-political, a non-interfering, a non-religious but spiritual, way of individual reflexion, individual change, and empathic living, where there is an awareness of the importance of virtues such as compassion, humility, tolerance, gentleness, and love.

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II. Wisdom
, Pathei-Mathos, and Humility

Over millennia, the accumulated pathei-mathos of individuals – often evident in Art, literature, memoirs, music, myths, legends, and often manifest in the ethos of a religious-type awareness or in spiritual allegories – has produced certain insights, certain intimations of wisdom, one of which was the need for a balance, for ἁρμονίη, achieved by not going beyond the numinous limits; an intimation evident in Taoism, and in Greek myths and legends where this unwise ‘going beyond’ is termed ὕβρις – hubris – and well-described by, for example, Sophocles in Antigone and Oedipus Tyrannus.

Another intimation of wisdom – and perhaps one of the most significant – is pathei-mathos, with Aeschylus writing, in his Agamemnon, that the Immortal, Zeus, guiding mortals to reason, provided we mortals with a new law, which law replaces previous ones, and which new law – this new guidance laid down for mortals – is pathei-mathos. That is, that for we human beings, pathei-mathos possesses a numinous, a living, authority; that the wisdom, the understanding, that arises from one’s own personal experience, from formative experiences that involve some hardship, some grief, some personal suffering, is often or could be more valuable to us (more alive, more meaningful) than any doctrine, than any religious faith, than any words one might hear from someone else or read in some book.

Pathei-mathos thus, like empathy, offers a certain understanding, a knowing; and, when combined, pathei-mathos and empathy are or can be a guide to wisdom, to a particular conscious knowledge concerning our own nature, our relation to Nature, and our relation to other human beings. Or, expressed philosophically, they can reveal the nature of Being and beings.

Since the range of our faculty of empathy is limited to the immediacy-of-the-moment and to personal interactions, and since the learning wrought by pathei-mathos and pathei-mathos itself is and are direct and personal, then the knowledge, the understanding, that empathy and pathei-mathos reveal and provide is of the empathic scale of things and of our limitations of personal knowing and personal understanding. That is, what is so revealed is not some grand or grandiose theory or praxis or philosophy which is considered applicable to others, or which it is believed can or should be developed to be applicable to others or developed to offer guidance beyond the individual in political and/or social and/or religious and/or ideological terms; but rather a very personal, individual, spiritual and thus interior, way. A way of tolerance and humility, where there is an acceptance of the unwisdom, the hubris, the unbalance, of arrogantly, pejoratively, making assumptions about who and what are beyond the range of our empathy and outside of our personal experience. That is, we are honest we do not know when we do not know; we accept that we do not have enough knowledge and/or experience to form and express an opinion about matters we have not studied and have no personal experience of, and about people we do not know and have not personally interacted with over a period of time. We accept that our empathy and pathei-mathos – our personal judgement, our experience, our interior appreciation of the numinous, the knowledge personally acquired – are what inform and guide us: not faith and not the rhetoric or the words or the passion or the propaganda or the ideas or the dogma or the policies or the ideology of others.

There is therefore an appreciation, a knowing, that is the genesis of a balanced and personal judgement – a discernment – and which knowing is evidential of our perception of Being and beings. Which is of how all living beings are emanations of Being, of ψυχή, and of how the way of non-suffering-causing moral change and reform both personal and social is the way of individual, interior, change; of aiding, helping, assisting other individuals in a direct, a personal manner, and in practical ways, because our perception is that of the human scale of things; of ourselves as fallible, and of individuals as individuals, as fellow human beings presumed innocent and good, or capable of reforming change, until direct experience and knowledge of them reveals otherwise.

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III. Enantiodromia and The Separation-of-Otherness

The revealing concerning our own nature, our relation to Nature, and our relation to other human beings, that empathy and pathei-mathos provide is, as mentioned previously, of how all living beings are emanations of ψυχή, and thus of what is beyond ‘the separation-of-otherness’ that our division (instinctive or otherwise) into our self and the others causes. A revealing that this ‘separation-of-otherness’ is mere causal appearance, and which appearance not only obscures the nature of Being and of beings, but is also the genesis of hubris, and thence of suffering; a path away from wisdom.

Part of this ‘separation-of-otherness’ is when we (again, instinctively or otherwise) divide people into assumed categories and thus assign to them some term or some label or some name. We then presume we ‘know’ them as we often then prejudge them on the basis of the qualities (or lack of them) we or others have assigned to or associate with that category or term or label or name. In addition, we often or mostly come to define ourselves – provide ourselves with identity and our life with meaning – by accepting or assuming or assigning ourselves (or allowing others to so assign us) to a human manufactured category or categories. However, all these categories, terms, labels, names – and the duties and responsibilities, and/or likes/dislikes, assigned to them – have been and are the genesis of suffering, for they lead to and have led to certain categories being regarded as ‘better than’, or opposed to, others, and from notions of superiority/inferiority, of liked/hated opposites/enemies, conflict arises; both personal conflict, and the supra-personal conflict of some human beings, assigned to or identifying with some category, fighting/killing/hating/subjugating some other human beings assigned to or identifying with some other category.

For millennia, the periodicity of such assigning to, such identification with, such conflict between, human manufactured categories has continued. Old categories fade away, or are renamed, or become extinct; new ones are manufactured. Sometimes, categories become merged, forming a new type, assigned a new name. And the suffering, the lack of understanding about the nature of Being and beings, ‘the separation-of-otherness’, continues.

Enantiodromia is the term used, in the philosophy of pathei-mathos, to describe the revealing, the process, of perceiving, feeling, knowing, beyond causal appearance and the separation-of-otherness and thus when what has become separated – or has been incorrectly perceived as separated – returns to the wholeness, the unity, from whence it came forth. When, that is, beings are understood in their correct relation to Being, beyond the causal abstraction of different/conflicting ideated opposites, and when as a result, a reformation of the individual, occurs. A relation, an appreciation of the numinous, that empathy and pathei-mathos provide, and which relation and which appreciation the accumulated pathei-mathos of individuals over millennia have made us aware of or tried to inform us or teach us about.

For all living religions, all living spiritual ways, manifest or have expressed or were founded to express this same wisdom. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Taoism, all – in their own particular way and beyond their different outer manifestations and the different terms and expressions and allegories used to elucidate ‘that of the numinous’ – express, enhance (or can enhance), our humanity: our ability to restrain ourselves, to admit our unknowing, to admit our mistakes, to perceive beyond our self and beyond ‘the separation-of-otherness’. To be compassionate, forgiving, and receptive to humility and reformation.

Enantiodromia is therefore nothing new, accept that the process, the discovery, the reformation, is – in the philosophy of pathei-mathos – a natural one that does not involve any theory, or dogma, or praxis, or require any faith or belief of any kind. Rather, there is the personal cultivation of empathy, of wu-wei, an appreciation of the numinous, and the personal knowledge discovered by pathei-mathos; and that is all.

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Glossary


Abstraction

An abstraction 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. Sometimes, abstractions are generalization based on some sample(s), or on some median (average) value or sets of values, observed, sampled, or assumed.

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

All abstractions involve a causal perception, based as they are on the presumption of a linear cause-and-effect (and/or a dialectic) and on a posited or an assumed category or classification which differs in some way from some other assumed or posited categories/classifications, past, present or future. When applied to or used to describe/classify/distinguish/motivate living beings, abstractions involve a causal separation-of-otherness; and when worth/value/identity (and exclusion/inclusion) is or are assigned to such a causal separation-of-otherness then there is or there arises hubris.

Abstractions are often assumed to provide some ‘knowledge’ or some ‘understanding’ of some-thing assigned to or described by a particular abstraction. For example, in respect of the abstraction of ‘race’ applied to human beings, and which categorization of human beings describes a median set of values said or assumed to exist ‘now’ or in some recent historical past.

According to the philosophy of pathei-mathos, this presumption of knowledge and understanding by the application of abstractions to beings – living and otherwise – is false, for abstractions are considered as a primary means by which the nature of Being and beings are and have been concealed, requiring as abstractions do the positing and the continuation of abstractive opposites in relation to Being and the separation of beings from Being by the process of ideation and opposites.

Acausal

The acausal is not a generalization – a concept – deriving from a collocation of assumed, imagined, or causally observed Phainómenon, but instead is that wordless, conceptless, a-temporal, knowing which empathy reveals and which a personal πάθει μάθος and an appreciation of the numinous often inclines us toward. That is, the acausal is a direct and personal (individual) revealing of beings and Being which does not depend on denoting or naming.

What is so revealed is the a-causal nature of some beings, the connexion which exists between living beings, and how living beings are emanations of ψυχή.

Thus speculations and postulations regarding the acausal only serve to obscure the nature of the acausal or distance us from that revealing of the acausal that empathy and πάθει μάθος and an appreciation of the numinous provide.

ἀρετή

Arête is the prized Hellenic virtue which can roughly be translated by the English word ‘excellence’ but which also implies what is naturally distinguishable – what is pre-eminent – because it reveals or shows certain valued qualities such as beauty, honour, valour, harmony.


Aristotelian Essentials

The essentials which Aristotle enumerated are: (i) Reality (existence) exists independently of us and our consciousness, and thus independent of our senses; (ii) our limited understanding of this independent ‘external world’ depends for the most part upon our senses, our faculties – that is, on what we can see, hear or touch; on what we can observe or come to know via our senses; (iii) logical argument, or reason, is perhaps the most important means to knowledge and understanding of and about this ‘external world’; (iv) the cosmos (existence) is, of itself, a reasoned order subject to rational laws.

Experimental science seeks to explain the natural world – the phenomenal world – by means of direct, personal observation of it, and by making deductions, and formulating hypothesis, based on such direct observation.

The philosophy of pathei-mathos adds the faculty of empathy – and the knowing so provided by empathy – to these essentials. Part of the knowing that empathy reveals, or can reveal, concerns the nature of Being, of beings, and of Time.

ἁρμονίη

ἁρμονίη (harmony) is or can be manifest/discovered by an individual cultivating wu-wei and σωφρονεῖν (a fair and balanced personal, individual, judgement).

Compassion

The English word compassion dates from around 1340 CE and the word in its original sense (and as used in this work) means benignity, which word derives from the Latin benignitatem, the sense imputed being of a kind, compassionate, well-mannered character, disposition, or deed. Benignity came into English usage around the same time as compassion; for example, the word occurs in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde [ ii. 483 ] written around 1374 CE.

Hence, compassion is understood as meaning being kindly disposed toward and/or feeling a sympathy with someone (or some living being) affected by pain/suffering/grief or who is enduring vicissitudes.

The word compassion itself is derived from com, meaning together-with, combined with pati, meaning to-suffer/to-endure and derived from the classical Latin passiō. Thus useful synonyms for compassion, in this original sense, are compassivity and benignity.

Cosmic Perspective

The Cosmic Perspective refers to our place in the Cosmos, to the fact that we human beings are simply one fragile fallible mortal biological life-form on one planet orbiting one star in one galaxy in a Cosmos of billions of galaxies. Thus in terms of this perspective all our theories, our ideas, our beliefs, our abstractions are merely the opinionated product of our limited fallible Earth-bound so-called ‘intelligence’, an ‘intelligence’, an understanding, we foolishly, arrogantly, pridefully have a tendency to believe in and exalt as if we are somehow ‘the centre of the Universe’ and cosmically important.

The Cosmic Perspective inclines us – or can incline us – toward wu-wei, toward avoiding the error of hubris, toward humility, and thus toward an appreciation of the numinous.


δαίμων

A δαίμων is not one of the pantheon of major Greek gods – θεοί – but rather a lesser type of divinity who might be assigned by those gods to bring good fortune or misfortune to human beings and/or watch over certain human beings and especially particular numinous (sacred) places.

Descriptor

A descriptor is a word, a term, used to describe some-thing which exists and which is personally observed, or is discovered, by means of our senses (including the faculty of empathy).

A descriptor differs from an ideation, category, or abstraction, in that a descriptor describes what-is as ‘it’ is observed, according to its physis (its nature) whereas an abstraction, for example, denotes what is presumed/assumed/idealized, past or present or future. A descriptor relies on, is derived from, describes, individual knowing and individual judgement; an abstraction relies on something abstract, impersonal, such as some opinion/knowing/judgement of others or some assumptions, theory, or hypothesis made by others.

An example of a descriptor is the term ‘violent’ [using physical force sufficient to cause bodily harm or injury to a person or persons] to describe the observed behaviour of an individual. Another example would be the term ‘extremist’ to describe – to denote – a person who treats or who has been observed to treat others harshly/violently in pursuit of some supra-personal objective of a political or of a religious nature.

δίκη

Depending on context, δίκη could be the judgement of an individual (or Judgement personified), or the natural and the necessary balance, or the correct/customary/ancestral way, or what is expected due to custom, or what is considered correct and natural, and so on.

A personified Judgement – the Δίκην of Hesiod – is the goddess of the natural balance, evident in the ancestral customs, the ways, the way of life, the ethos, of a community, whose judgement, δίκη, is “in accord with”, has the nature or the character of, what tends to restore such balance after some deed or deeds by an individual or individuals have upset or disrupted that balance. This sense of δίκη as one’s ancestral customs is evident, for example, in Homer (Odyssey, III, 244).

In the philosophy of pathei-mathos, the term Δίκα – spelt thus in a modern way with a capital Δ – is sometimes used to intimate a new, a particular and numinous, philosophical principle, and differentiate Δίκα from the more general δίκη. As a numinous principle, or axiom, Δίκα thus suggests what lies beyond and what was the genesis of δίκη personified as the goddess, Judgement – the goddess of natural balance, of the ancestral way and ancestral customs.

Empathy

Etymologically, this fairly recent English word, used to translate the German Einfühlung, derives, via the late Latin sympathia, from the Greek συμπάθεια – συμπαθής – and is thus formed from the prefix σύν (sym) together with παθ- [root of πάθος] meaning enduring/suffering, feeling: πάσχειν, to endure/suffer.

As used and defined by the philosophy of pathei-mathos, empathy – ἐμπάθεια – is a natural human faculty: that is, a noble intuition about (a revealing of) another human being or another living being. When empathy is developed and used, as envisaged by that way of life, 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 – and thus differs in nature from compassion.

Empathic knowing 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.

Empathy reveals or can reveal the nature (the physis) – sans abstractions/ideations/words – of Being, of beings, and of Time. This revealing is of the the a-causal nature of Being, and of how beings have their genesis in the separation-of-otherness; and thus how we human beings are but causal, mortal, fallible, microcosmic emanations of ψυχή.


Enantiodromia

The unusual compound Greek word ἐναντιοδρομίας occurs in a summary of the philosophy of Heraclitus by Diogenes Laërtius.

Enantiodromia is the term used, in the philosophy of pathei-mathos, to describe the revealing, the process, of perceiving, feeling, knowing, beyond causal appearance and the separation-of-otherness, and thus when what has become separated – or has been incorrectly perceived as separated – returns to the wholeness, the unity, from whence it came forth. When, that is, beings are understood in their correct relation to Being, beyond the causal abstraction of different/conflicting ideated opposites, and when as a result, a reformation of the individual, occurs. A relation, an appreciation of the numinous, that empathy and pathei-mathos provide, and which relation and which appreciation the accumulated pathei-mathos of individuals over millennia have made us aware of or tried to inform us or teach us about.

An important and a necessary part of enantiodromia involves a discovery, a knowing, an acceptance, and – as prelude – an interior balancing within individuals, of what has hitherto been perceived and designated as the apparent opposites described by terms (descriptors) such as ‘muliebral’ and ‘masculous’.

The balance attained by – which is – enantiodromia is that of simply feeling, accepting, discovering, the empathic, the human, the personal, scale of things and thus understanding our own fallibility-of-knowing, our limitations as a human being

ἔρις

Strife; discord; disruption; a quarrel between friends or kin. As in the Odyssey:

ἥ τ᾽ ἔριν Ἀτρεΐδῃσι μετ᾽ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἔθηκε.

Who placed strife between those two sons of Atreus

Odyssey, 3, 136

According to the recounted tales of Greek mythology attributed to Aesop, ἔρις was caused by, or was a consequence of, the marriage between a personified πόλεμος (as the δαίμων of kindred strife) and a personified ὕβρις (as the δαίμων of arrogant pride) with Polemos rather forlornly following Hubris around rather than vice versa. Eris is thus the child of Polemos and Hubris.

Extremism

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

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

In the terms of the philosophy/way of pathei-mathos, an extremist is someone who commits the error of hubris; and error which enantiodromia – following from πάθει μάθος – can sometimes correct or forestall. The genesis of extremism – be such extremism personal, or described as political or religious – is when the separation-of-otherness is used as a means of personal and collective identity and pride, with some ‘others’ – or ‘the others’ – assigned to a category considered less worthy than the category we assign ourselves and ‘our kind/type’ to.

Extremist ideologies manifest an unbalanced, an excessive, masculous nature.

εὐταξία

The quality, the virtue, of self-restraint, of a balanced, well-mannered conduct especially under adversity or duress, of which Cicero wrote:

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

Those two qualities are evident in that way described by the Greeks as εὐταξίαν although what is meant by εὐταξία is not what we mean by the moderation of the moderate, but rather what we consider is restrained behaviour…
[My translation]

De Officiis, Liber Primus, 142

Honour

The English word honour dates from around 1200 CE, deriving from the Latin honorem (meaning refined, grace, beauty) via the Old French (and thence Anglo-Norman) onor/onur. As used by The Way of Pathei-Mathos, honour means an instinct for and an adherence to what is fair, dignified, and valourous. An honourable person is thus someone of manners, fairness, natural dignity, and valour.

In respect of early usage of the term, two quotes may be of interest. The first, from c. 1393 CE, is taken from a poem, in Middle English, by John Gower:

And riht in such a maner wise
Sche bad thei scholde hire don servise,
So that Achilles underfongeth
As to a yong ladi belongeth
Honour, servise and reverence.

John Gower, Confessio Amantis. Liber Quintus vv. 2997-3001 [Macaulay, G.C., ed. The Works of John Gower. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1901]

The second is from several centuries later:

” Honour – as something distinct from mere probity, and which supposes in gentlemen a stronger abhorrence of perfidy, falsehood, or cowardice, and a more elevated and delicate sense of the dignity of virtue, than are usually found in vulgar minds.”

George Lyttelton. History of the Life of Henry the Second. London, Printed for J. Dodsley. M DCC LXXV II [1777] (A new ed., cor.) vol 3, p.178

In the philosophy of pathei-mathos, the personal virtue of honour is considered to be a presencing, a grounding, an expression, 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. That is, as a means 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.

Humility

Humility is used, in a spiritual context, to refer to that gentleness, that modest demeanour, that understanding, which derives from an appreciation of the numinous and also from one’s own admitted uncertainty of knowing and one’s acknowledgement of past mistakes. An uncertainty of knowing, an acknowledgement of mistakes, that often derive from πάθει μάθος.

Humility is thus the natural human balance that offsets the unbalance of hubris (ὕβρις) – the balance that offsets the unbalance of pride and arrogance, and the balance that offsets the unbalance of that certainty of knowing which is one basis for extremism, for extremist beliefs, for fanaticism and intolerance. That is, humility is a manifestation of the natural balance of Life; a restoration of ἁρμονίη, of δίκη, of σωφρονεῖν – of those qualities and virtues – that hubris and extremism, that ἔρις and πόλεμος, undermine, distance us from, and replace.

Ideation

To posit or to construct an ideated form – an assumed perfect (ideal) form or category or abstraction – of some-thing, based on the belief or the assumption that what is observed by the senses, or revealed by observation, is either an ‘imperfect copy’ or an approximation of that thing, which the additional assumption that such an ideated form contains or in some way expresses (or can express) ‘the essence’ or ‘the ethos’ of that thing and of similar things.

Ideation also implies that the ideated form is or can be or should be contrasted with what it considered or assumed to be its ‘opposite’.

Immediacy-of-the-Moment

The term the ‘immediacy-of-the-moment’ describes both (i) the nature and the extent of the acausal knowing that empathy and pathei-mathos provide, and (ii) the nature and extent of the morality of the philosophy of pathei-mathos.

Empathy, for example, being a natural and an individual faculty, 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. An acceptance of (i) the unwisdom, the hubris, of arrogantly making assumptions about who and what are beyond the range of our empathy and outside of our personal experience/beyond the scope of our pathei-mathos.

Morality, for the philosophy of pathei-mathos, is a result of individuals using the faculty of empathy; a consequence of the insight and the understanding (the acausal knowing) that empathy provides for individuals in the immediacy-of-the-moment. Thus, morality is considered to reside not in some abstract theory or some moralistic schemata presented in some written text which individuals have to accept and try and conform or aspire to, but rather in personal virtues – such as such as compassion and fairness, and εὐταξία – that arise or which can arise naturally through empathy, πάθει μάθος, and thus from an awareness and appreciation of the numinous.

Innocence

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

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

Masculous

Masculous is a term, a descriptor, used to refer to certain traits, abilities, and qualities that are conventionally and historically associated with men, such as competitiveness, aggression, a certain harshness, the desire to organize/control, and a desire for adventure and/or for conflict/war/violence/competition over and above personal love and culture. Extremist ideologies manifest an unbalanced, an excessive, masculous nature.

Masculous is from the Latin masculus and occurs, for example, in some seventeenth century works such as one by William Struther: “This is not only the language of Canaan, but also the masculous Schiboleth.” True Happines, or, King Davids Choice: Begunne In Sermons, And Now Digested Into A Treatise. Edinbvrgh, 1633


Muliebral

The term muliebral derives from the classical Latin word muliebris, and in the context the philosophy of Pathei-Mathos refers to those positive traits, abilities, and qualities that are conventionally and historically associated with women, such as empathy, sensitivity, gentleness, compassion, and a desire to love and be loved over and above a desire for conflict/adventure/war.

Numinous

The numinous is what manifests or can manifest or remind us of (what can reveal) 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. In a practical way, it is what we regard or come to appreciate as ‘sacred’ and dignified; what expresses our developed humanity and thus places us, as individuals, in our correct relation to ψυχή, and which relation is that we are but one mortal emanation of ψυχή.

Pathei-Mathos

The Greek term πάθει μάθος derives from The Agamemnon of Aeschylus (written c. 458 BCE), and can be interpreted, or translated, as meaning learning from adversary, or wisdom arises from (personal) suffering; or personal experience is the genesis of true learning.

When understood in its Aeschylean context, it implies that for we human beings pathei-mathos possesses a numinous, a living, authority. That is, the understanding that arises from one’s own personal experience – from formative experiences that involve some hardship, some grief, some personal suffering – is often or could be more valuable to us (more alive, more relevant, more meaningful) than any doctrine, than any religious faith, than any words/advice one might hear from someone else or read in some book.

Thus, pathei-mathos, like empathy, offers we human beings a certain conscious understanding, a knowing; and, when combined, pathei-mathos and empathy are or can be a guide to wisdom, to a particular conscious knowledge concerning our own nature (our physis), our relation to Nature, and our relation to other human beings, leading to an appreciation of the numinous and an appreciation of virtues such as humility and εὐταξία.

Πόλεμος

Heraclitus fragment 80

Πόλεμος is not some abstract ‘war’ or strife or kampf, but rather that which is or becomes the genesis of beings from Being (the separation of beings from Being), and thus not only that which manifests as δίκη but also accompanies ἔρις because it is the nature of Πόλεμος that beings, born because of and by ἔρις, can be returned to Being, become bound together – be whole – again by enantiodromia.

According to the recounted tales of Greek mythology attributed to Aesop, ἔρις was caused by, or was a consequence of, the marriage between a personified πόλεμος (as the δαίμων of kindred strife) and a personified ὕβρις (as the δαίμων of arrogant pride) with Polemos rather forlornly following Hubris around rather than vice versa. Thus Eris is the child of Polemos and Hubris.

Furthermore, Polemos was originally the δαίμων (not the god) of kindred strife, whether familial, of friends, or of one’s πόλις (one’s clan and their places of dwelling). Thus, to describe Polemos, as is sometimes done, as the god of war, is doubly incorrect.

Physis (φύσις)

φύσις suggests either (i) the Homeric usage of nature or character of a person, as for example in Odyssey, Book 10, vv. 302-3, and also in Herodotus (2.5.2):

Αἰγύπτου γὰρ φύσις ἐστὶ τῆς χώρης τοιήδε


or (ii) Φύσις (Physis) as in Heraclitus fragment 123 – that is, the natural nature of all beings, beyond their outer appearance, and which natural nature we, as human beings, have a natural [an unconscious] inclination to conceal; either because of ὕβρις or through an ignorance, an unknowing, of ourselves as an emanation of ψυχή.

In terms of the nature or the character of an individual:

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

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

Heraclitus fragment 112

Separation-of-Otherness

The separation-of-otherness is a term used to describe the implied or assumed causal separateness of living beings, a part of which is the distinction we make (instinctive or otherwise) between our self and the others. Another part is assigning our self, and the-others, to (or describing them and us by) some category/categories, and to which category/categories we ascribe (or to which category/categories has/have been ascribed) certain qualities or attributes.

Given that a part of such ascription/denoting is an assumption or assumptions of worth/value/difference and of inclusion/exclusion, the separation-of-otherness is the genesis of hubris; causes and perpetuates conflict and suffering; and is a path away from ἁρμονίη, δίκη, and thus from wisdom.

The separation-of-otherness conceals the nature of Beings and beings; a nature which empathy and pathei-mathos can reveal.

The Good

For the philosophy of Pathei-Mathos, ‘the good’ is considered to be what is fair; what alleviates or does not cause suffering; what is compassionate; what is honourable; what is reasoned and balanced. This knowing of the good arises from the (currently underused and undeveloped) natural human faculty of empathy, and which empathic knowing is different from, supplementary and complimentary to, that knowing which may be acquired by means of the Aristotelian essentials of conventional philosophy and experimental science.

Time

In the philosophy of pathei-mathos, Time is considered to be an expression of the nature – the φύσις – of beings, and thus, for living beings, is a variable emanation of ψυχή, differing from being to being, and representing how that living being can change (is a fluxion) or may change or has changed, which such change (such fluxions) being a-causal.

Time – as conventionally understood and as measured/represented by a terran-calendar with durations marked days, weeks, and years – is therefore regarded as an abstraction, and an abstraction which tends to conceal the nature of living beings.


ὕβρις

ὕβρις (hubris) is the error of personal insolence, of going beyond the proper limits set by: (a) reasoned (balanced) judgement – σωφρονεῖν – and by (b) an awareness, a personal knowing, of the numinous, and which knowing of the numinous can arise from empathy and πάθει μάθος.

Hubris upsets the natural balance – is contrary to ἁρμονίη [harmony] – and often results from a person or persons striving for or clinging to some causal abstraction.

According to The Way of Pathei-Mathos, ὕβρις disrupts – and conceals – our appreciation of what is numinous and thus of what/whom we should respect, classically understood as ψυχή and θεοί and Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες and δαιμόνων and those sacred places guarded or watched over by δαιμόνων.

Way

The philosophy of pathei-mathos makes a distinction between a religion and a spiritual Way of Life. 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.

Wisdom

Wisdom is both the ability of reasoned – a balanced – judgement, σωφρονεῖν, a discernment; and a particular conscious knowledge concerning our own nature, and our relation to Nature, to other life and other human beings: rerum divinarum et humanarum. Part of this knowledge is of how we human beings are often balanced between honour and dishonour; balanced between ὕβρις and ἀρετή; between our animalistic desires, our passions, and our human ability to be noble, to morally develope ourselves; a balance manifest in our known ability to be able to control, to restrain, ourselves, and thus find and follow a middle way, of ἁρμονίη.

 

Wu-wei

Wu-wei is a Taoist term used in The Way of Pathei-Mathos/The Numinous Way to refer to a personal ‘letting-be’ deriving from a feeling, a knowing, that an essential part of wisdom is cultivation of an interior personal balance and which cultivation requires acceptance that one must work with, or employ, things according to their nature, their φύσις, for to do otherwise is incorrect, and inclines us toward, or is, being excessive – that is, toward the error, the unbalance, that is hubris, an error often manifest in personal arrogance, excessive personal pride, and insolence – that is, a disrespect for the numinous.

In practice, the knowledge, the understanding, the intuition, the insight that is wu-wei is a knowledge, an understanding, that can be acquired from empathy, πάθει μάθος, and by a knowing of and an appreciation of the numinous. This knowledge and understanding is of wholeness, and that life, things/beings, change, flow, exist, in certain natural ways which we human beings cannot change however hard we might try; that such a hardness of human trying, a belief in such hardness, is unwise, un-natural, upsets the natural balance and can cause misfortune/suffering for us and/or for others, now or in the future. Thus success lies in discovering the inner nature (the physis) of things/beings/ourselves and gently, naturally, slowly, working with this inner nature, not striving against it.

ψυχή

Life qua being. Our being as a living existent is considered an emanation of ψυχή. Thus ψυχή is what ‘animates’ us and what gives us our nature, φύσις, as human beings. Our nature is that of a mortal fallible being veering between σωφρονεῖν (thoughtful reasoning, and thus fairness) and ὕβρις.

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A pdf file of the above article is available here – Conspectus.pdf

cc David Myatt 2012
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