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

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

For, as mentioned in a previous essay,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Myatt

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


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



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

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

[3] In the context of the philosophy of pathei-mathos the term abstraction signifies a particular named and defined category or form (ἰδέᾳ, εἶδος) and which category or form is a manufactured generalization, a hypothesis, a posited thing, an assumption or assumptions about, an extrapolation of or from some-thing, or some assumed or extrapolated ideal ‘form’ of some-thing.

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

[4] Personal Reflexions On Some Metaphysical Questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[7] Qv. Towards Understanding Physis, 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

All translations by DW Myatt


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




My weltanschauung – otherwise known as ‘the philosophy of pathei-mathos’ – is currently (2014-2015) outlined in the following four works, available both in printed format and as pdf files:

° David Myatt: The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos. 2013. 82 pages. ISBN 978-1484096642

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/numinous-way-v5c-print.pdf

° David Myatt: Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos. 2013. 60 pages. ISBN 978-1484097984

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/myatt-religion-and-pathei-mathos.pdf

° David Myatt: One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods: Some Personal and Metaphysical Musings. 2014. 46 pages. ISBN 978-1502396105.

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/one-vagabond-pathei-mathos.pdf

° David Myatt: Sarigthersa: Some Recent Essays. 50 pages. ISBN 978-1512137149

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/dwmyatt-sarigthersa-v7.pdf

Also of interest may be:

° Understanding and Rejecting Extremism: A Very Strange Peregrination. 58 pages. ISBN 978-1484854266

pdf: http://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/dwm-rejecting-extremism-v3.pdf

° J.R. Wright & R. Parker: The Mystic Philosophy of David Myatt. 56 pages. ISBN 978-1523930135

pdf: https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/myatt-mystic-philosophy-second-edition.pdf

The four essays provide an introduction to the philosophy of pathei-mathos.

Image credit: NGC 206, Hubble Space Telescope

Note: This is a revised (September 2014) version of an article first published in 2011.

NASA - HST Orion Nebula

Towards Understanding The Acausal



In essence, what I have termed the acausal is not a generalization – a concept – deriving from a collocation of assumed, ideated, or observed Phainómenon, but instead is just a useful term used to distinguish a particular perceiveration from other perceiverations. This particular perceiveration is the wordless knowing which empathy can reveal and which a personal πάθει μάθος often inclines us toward: a revealing of the φύσις (physis) of some beings, of the non-causal connexions which exist between living beings, and of how we humans – as beings possessed of consciousness – are not only an affective connexion to other living beings but also can consciously decide to cease to harm other living beings.

For convenience, this revealing has been termed acausal-knowing to distinguish it from the causal-knowing that results from observing Phainómenon.

Hitherto, the φύσις of beings and Being has most usually been apprehended, and understood, in one of three ways or by varied combinations of those three ways. The first such perceiveration is that deriving from our known physical senses – by Phainómenon – and by what has been posited on the basis of Phainómenon, which has often meant the manufacture, by we human beings, of categories and abstract forms which beings (including living beings) are assigned to on the basis of some feature that has been outwardly observed or which has been assumed to be possessed by some beings or collocation of beings.

The second such perceiveration derives from positing a ‘primal cause’ – often denoted by God, or a god or the gods, but sometimes denoted by some mechanism, or some apparently inscrutable means, such as ‘karma’ or ‘fate’ – and then understanding beings (especially living beings) in terms of that cause: for example as subject to, and/or as determined or influenced by or dependant on, that primal cause.

The third such perceiveration derives from positing a human faculty of reason and certain rules of reasoning whereby it is possible to dispassionately examine collocations of words and symbols which relate, or which are said to relate, to what is correct (valid, true) or incorrect (invalid, false) and which collocations are considered to be – or which are regarded by their proponents as representative of – either knowledge or as a type of, a guide to, knowing.

All three of these perceiverations, in essence, involve denotatum, with our being, for example, understood in relation to some-thing we or others have posited and then named and, importantly, consider or believe applies or can apply (i) to those who, by virtue of the assumption of ipseity, are not-us, and (ii) beyond the finite, the living, personal moment of the perceiveration.

Thus, in the case of Phainómenon we have, in assessing and trying to understand our own φύσις as a human being, assumed ipseity – a separation from others – as well as having assigned ourselves (or been assigned by others) to some supra-personal category on the basis of such things as place of birth, skin colour, occupation (or lack of one), familial origin or status (or wealth or religion), some-thing termed ‘intelligence’, physical ability (or the lack thereof), our natural attraction to those of a different, or the same, gender; and so on.

In the case of a primal cause, we have again assumed ipseity because implicit in such a primal cause is a causal progression of individuals: from what-we-are (or are said to have been created for or born as) to what-we-can-be if we follow the correct way or praxis as described or revealed, for example, by a religious prophet, teacher, group or by some authority. Thus, in Buddhism there is the supra-personal Noble Eightfold Way which it is said can lead to the cessation of dukkha and thus to nibbana; while in Christianity there are the supra-personal teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the gospels, a following of which it is said can lead the individual to eternal life in samayim/οὐρανός/caelum – the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the case of the perceiveration termed reason, there is again denotatum because of the assumptions – codified in certain supra-personal rules – whereby what is denoted by ‘true’ and what is denoted by ‘false’ may be ascertained and which ‘truth’ or falsity is also by that very denotatum supra-personal and ‘valid/invalid’ beyond the finite, the living, personal moment.

However, and in contrast to those three perceiverations, acausal-knowing is a direct and personal – an individual – revealing of beings and Being which does not depend on denoting or naming or causality or the assumption of a primal cause, and which knowing, being individual in φύσις and concerned with living beings, cannot be abstracted out from the living personal moment of the perceiveration. Thus, such a perceiveration – in respect of other human beings – does not and cannot involve and does not and cannot lead to any of the following: (i) any personal claim regarding possessing ‘the truth’ about some-thing; (ii) no ‘correct way or praxis’ or dogma or ideology which are assumed or believed to be applicable to anyone else; (iii) no understanding of or assumption of knowledge about others on the basis of assigning those others to some category or to some abstract form. Instead, there is only an intuition of the moment concerning one’s own φύσις and thus a wordless individual revealing of – a numinous knowing concerning – one’s own being and of one’s own relation to Being and to other living beings.

This particular revealing of beings and Being therefore means that our faculty of empathy – or more correctly, a developed faculty of human empathy – should perhaps be added to the four Aristotelian essentials [1], and which now five essentials can enable us to come to know both the reality external to ourselves and the reality of ourselves (our φύσις), as individuals. That is, it is the combination of causal-knowing and acausal-knowing that can incline us toward a knowing of Reality and thus which manifests thoughtful-reasoning, a reasoned or balanced judgement (σωφρονεῖν).

The nature of living-beings that empathy reveals is of Being coming-into-being through beings and manifest in the φύσις of those beings, and of the acausal connexions between all living-beings, sentient and otherwise, and this leads us to the understanding that our own self-identity, our separateness, and even our assumed uniqueness in causal Time and causal Space, are causal presumptions. That is, a product of Phainómenon, of only causal-knowing. Since such causal-knowing is incomplete, lacking as it does acausal-knowing, it would not seem to be a sound foundation to use in the matter of making ethical judgements, for such judgements should take into consideration what empathy reveals about Being and beings [2].

Acausal Postulations

It is possible, and certainly interesting although not necessary and possibly fallacious, to make some postulations regarding the nature of the acausal; that is, regarding the nature and extent and cause of the ‘acausal connexions’ between living beings that acausal-knowing reveals.

Such speculations are possibly fallacious because – while they may seem reasonable assumptions about the acausal – they (i) almost certainly impose assumed causal forms upon that-which, being acausal, might be and most probably is formless, and (ii) will of necessity involve denotatum and representation by some form of mathematics (either currently existing or yet to be developed).

Among the speculations that I have personally made in the past are the following. Of conceptualizing ‘the acausal’ as a continuum of acausal Space and acausal Time, in contrast to the causal geometrical Space and linear causal Time of the causal and four-dimensional continuum of Phainómenon familiar to us through sciences such as physics, chemistry, and astronomy. Such a speculation lead me to further postulate that this ‘acausal continuum’ could simply be ‘extra dimensions’ beyond four-dimensional causal space-time (a causal space-time currently conceptualized by mathematical models such as the one involving a Riemannian metric) with the cosmos therefore being an n-dimensional space-time of both causal and acausal dimensions where n (the number of dimensions) is greater than four but less than or equal to infinity, with the extra ‘acausal’ dimensions then offering an explanation for the difference in φύσις between living beings and ordinary matter. Which lead to another postulate regarding the existence of ‘acausal energy’ different from the causal energy known from sciences such as physics, and which ‘acausal energy’ is assumed to be what animates physical matter, imparting to that matter what we observe as life [3], with such animation not the result of some cause-and-effect (or even some assumed acausal effect) but rather the state of such matter being alive – a living-being (a biological organism) as distinct from a non-living being (ordinary physical matter). Living beings are therefore a nexus – nexions – between the acausal aspect (or dimensions) and the causal aspect (or four causal dimensions) of n-dimensional space-time. A further speculation is that of assuming that such acausal energy is a possibly observable attribute of a living-being having the hitherto causally-observed attributes of life. This then leads to the postulation of such acausal energy having certain attributes [4], and of some or all of these attributes possibly being observable by the development of observational/experimental techniques perhaps partly based on acausal energy, and of such acausal energy therefore being manifest or capable of being manifest, as energy sans beings, in the causal continuum, with such acausal energy forming the basis for an ‘acausal technology’ as distinct from our current causal technology of electronics, and machines, powered by electrical energy and/or involving the flow of things such as electrons.

Regarding these speculations about ‘acausal energy’, there is the analogy of the discovery of electricity. Static electricity was known for many centuries, but not really understood until the concept of positive and negative charges was postulated. Later, instruments such as the gold-leaf electroscope were invented for detecting and measuring such charges, followed by the invention of other instruments, such as frictional machines and the Leyden jar, to produce and accumulate, or store, electric charges, and to produce small ‘galvanic currents’ or electricity. Then the experimental scientist Faraday showed that ‘galvanic currents’, magnetism and static charges were all related, and developed what we now call an electro-magnetic generator to produce electricity. Thus, from such simple experimental beginnings, our world and our lives have been transformed by machines and equipment using electricity, and by the electronics developed from electricity. One might therefore speculate that the experimental discovery of the ‘acausal energy’ that animates living beings making them ‘alive’ and different from ordinary matter, might similarly transform our lives.


Such speculations aside, all that the acausal-knowing which empathy currently reveals to us is: (i) of a personal and wordless knowing of other living-beings and of ourselves in the immediacy-of-the-moment, and (ii) of how the acausal itself is not some ‘essence’ behind or beyond the causal and beyond causal forms, since such an ‘essence’ is but itself a postulated ideation.

Or, expressed somewhat differently, our acausal-knowing is simply a revealing of the matrix of nexions which are living-beings, and thus of The Cosmic Perspective: of an acceptance of ourselves as but one fragile fallible microcosmic nexion only temporarily presenced on one planet orbiting one star in one Galaxy in a Cosmos of billions of Galaxies. This is the essence of wu-wei – a knowing, a feeling, of Being; a knowing, a feeling, of the numinous. It is also the same kind of wordless understanding hinted in that ancient wisdom termed Tao, and yet which even then, as now, could not and cannot be described by or contained within that one, or any, particular term, such as ‘the acausal’ or ‘gnosis’.

David Myatt
(Revised 2014)



[1] These Aristotelian essentials 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 – that is, on what we can see, hear or touch; that is, 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.

[2] I briefly touched on the question of empathy in relation to ethics in my 2013 essay Questions of Good, Evil, Honour, and God – Some Personal Musings.

[3] Currently, we observe or assume life by the following seven attributes: a living organism respires; it moves; it grows or changes; it excretes waste; it is sensitive to, or aware of, its environment; it can reproduce itself, and it can nourish itself.

[4] For convenience, the acausal energy that may (if it exists) be detected in the causal could be considered to be manifest, to us, in our causal phenomenal universe, by means of what we may call acausal charge (analogous to electrical charge), such that the acausal energy that manifests itself in the causal – within, for example, living causal beings – possessess the property of propagating, or emitting, by its flux (change), such ‘acausal charge’. Hence, a living causal being could be conceptualized as physical, causal, matter plus ‘acausal charge’.

Some of the attributes of acausal energy, expressed in terms of acausal mass (analogous to causal mass/energy) might be the following:

(1) An acausal object, or mass, can change without any external force acting upon it – that is, the change is implicit in that acausal matter, by virtue of its inherent acausal charge.

(2) The rate of change of an acausal object, or mass, is proportional to its acausal charge.

(3) The change of an acausal object can continue until all its acausal charge has been dissipated.

(4) Acausal charge is always conserved.

(5) An acausal object, or mass, is acted upon by all other acausal matter in the cosmos.

(6) Each acausal object in the cosmos attracts or repels every other acausal object in the physical cosmos with a magnitude which is proportional to the product of the acausal charges of those objects, and inversely proportional to the distance between them as measured in causal space.

The Philosophy Of Pathei-Mathos – A Précis



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).



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


[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.

NASA Blue Marble Earth Mosaic
Time and The Separation of Otherness

Part One

Causal Time and Living Beings

In the philosophy of pathei-mathos, Time is considered to be an expression of the φύσις of beings [1], and thus, for living beings, is a variable emanation of ψυχή, differing from being to being and representing how a living being can change or may change or has changed, which such change being a-causal [2].

Thus, Time – as conventionally understood and as measured/represented by a terran-calendar with durations marked hours, days, weeks, and years – is regarded as an abstraction [3], and an abstraction which attempts to interpret living beings as functions of or as limited to a linear cause-and-effect described by separated moments progressing from a past to a present and thence to some future ‘time’. Such conventional measured causal time may therefore be said to contribute to the concealment of the nature of living beings.

This conventional idea of time can be conveniently described as linear or causal-time, and considered as aptly represented by the term duration, a term which is a better translation of the Greek χρόνος than the English word ‘time’, as for example in Oedipus Tyrannus vv. 73-75:

καί μ᾽ ἦμαρ ἤδη ξυμμετρούμενον χρόνῳ
λυπεῖ τί πράσσει: τοῦ γὰρ εἰκότος πέρα
ἄπεστι πλείω τοῦ καθήκοντος χρόνου

But I have already measured the duration
And am concerned: for where is he? He is longer than expected
For his absence is, in duration, greater than is necessary.

Such causal-time is the time of sciences such as physics and astronomy, with the universe, for instance, considered to be an entity ‘expanding’ as such expansion is measured by fixed linear points termed past, present, and future. Similarly, space itself is construed as a causal, dimensional, space-time manifold [4]. Thus and conventionally, to understand matter/energy is to ‘know’ (to observe or to theorize) how causal entities – such as elementary particles, or physical objects such as planets and stars – move and change and relate to each other (and other matter/energy in terms of composition and interactions) in this posited space-time manifold. There is thus a sense of physical order; a hierarchy of sub-atomic » atomic » ‘classical mechanics’ » gravitational » cosmological, with events occurring in the causal sequence past-present-future, and with interactions described in terms of certain fundamental physical forces, be such descriptions based on ‘string theory’, quantum theory [5], relativity theory, classical mechanics, or some theory which attempts to unify current descriptions of the aforementioned causal hierarchy.

This causal time is a quantity; a measurement of the observed or the assumed/posited/predicted movement of ‘things’ according to a given and a fixed pre-determined scale, and which measurement and fixed scale allows comparisons to be made regarding the movement or ‘change’ in position of ‘things’.

While this understanding of time, and of space, has provided a useful understanding of the external world and aided the construction of machines and the development of a modern technology – and thus enabled humans to set foot on the Moon and send spacecraft to photograph the planets in our solar system – it is nonetheless limited in respect of revealing and understanding the φύσις of beings and thus the relation between living beings.

The Error of Causality As Applied to Living Beings

The understanding of Time as a manifestation of the φύσις of beings is derived from the acausal knowing that empathy provides [6]; and a knowing that allows us to make a philosophical distinction, in respect of Time, between an observed or posited movement and ‘a change’; with the former – movement – applicable to observed or posited physical things and the latter – change – to living beings. For example ‘change’ describes how a tree – a living organism – grows and which change includes, but is not limited to, the measured movement (in causal time and causal space) of its branches and its trunk as measured in fixed units such as girth and height and the position and size of branches in relation to other branches and nearby objects.  Such change – of a living being – is an effluvium, a fluxion [7].

That is, living beings possess or manifest a type of Time – a species of change, manifest as a fluxion – that is different from the movement (the time) of things and thus different from the time used in sciences such as physics.

Furthermore, there is not only a distinction between a living being and a thing, but also the distinction regarding the assumed separation of beings. As a finite emanation (or presencing) of ψυχή, a living being is not, according to its φύσις, a separate being; as such, it cannot be ‘known’ – its nature cannot be understood – by external causal observations or by ‘measuring’/describing it (in terms of ‘space’) in relation to other living beings or to ‘things’ and/or by using such observations/observational-classifications/measurements/descriptions to formulate a theory to characterize a ‘type’ (or genus or species) that such a living being is regarded as belonging to. For its φύσις is manifest – known – by its acausal relation to other living beings and by the acausal interconnectivity of such beings. Such a knowing is numinous; that is, an awareness of living (and often dependant) connexions and of the unity of Life beyond the finite, mortal, emanation we, as an individual human being, are.

In personal terms, the error of applying causal time, and the perception derived therefrom, to living beings is most evident in causal abstractions, and in what we may refer to as the dialectic of egoism: of ourselves as one distinct, self-interested, human being contrasted with (or needing to be contrasted with) and often opposed to (or needing to be opposed to or seen to be opposed to) other humans. Thus, for millennia we have manufactured causal abstractions and identified with one or more of them, saught to bring them into being; as we have opposed other abstractions and especially those humans who identify with some abstraction or whom we have assigned to some abstraction, such as some group or some faith or some nation or some ethnicity or some ideology regarded as ‘inferior’ to ‘ours’ or as ‘bad’ compared to ‘ours’. Similarly, we humans have for millennia often felt compelled to place our own self-interest, our welfare, before that of other humans – and before the welfare of Nature [8] – just as we have been often compelled and often are still compelled to strive, competitively or otherwise, against other humans in order to establish or reaffirm our personal identity, our difference from them (or their ‘inferiority’ compared to us). Thus has there been, and thus is there, hubris and suffering. Thus has there been, and thus is there, a lack of appreciation of the numinous and a lack of understanding of our φύσις and that of the φύσις of the other living beings (including other humans) who share this planet with us.

In summary, applying causal time to living beings creates and maintains division and divisiveness; while the perception of acausal time brings an appreciation of the numinous and thus a knowing of the inherent unity behind our ordinary understanding of separate living beings.

David Myatt
November 2012


[1] While it is convenient to understand φύσις simply as the ‘nature’ of a being, the term, as used in the philosophy of pathei-mathos, implies a revealing of not only the true ‘nature’ of beings but also of the relationship between beings, and between beings and Being.

[2] In respect of the acausal, refer to my texts Some Notes On The Theory of The Acausal (2010) and Toward Understanding the Acausal (2011).

Furthermore, it is useful to make a distinction, in terminology, between living beings/existents and non-living beings/existents. Thus, a ‘thing’ is used to describe matter or objects (natural or constructed) which do not possess the quality termed life, and which life is possessed by organisms. Currently, we observe or assume life by the following seven attributes: a living organism respires; it moves or can move without any external force being applied as cause of such movement; it grows or changes; it excretes waste; it is sensitive to, or aware of, its environment; it can reproduce itself, and it can nourish itself.

ψυχή is ‘Life qua being’, with our own being (as a human) understood as a mortal emanation of ψυχή. Thus ψυχή is what ‘animates’ us and what gives us our φύσις, as human beings. ψυχή is also how we can begin to apprehend Being and how we relate to Being.

[3] An abstraction is defined, in the philosophy of pathei-mathos, as:

“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.” Vocabulary of The Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos (2012)

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.

[4] Current exotic theories – such as ‘string theory’ (including M-theory) – are still based on an ideation of space-time that involves a causal-only time (time as a measurable and a separate quantity).

‘String’ theories posit not only transformations of a non-zero ‘string’ or strings in a causal space-time instead of a ‘zero-dimensional point’ (or points) as in a classical three-dimensional Lorentz transformation or a four-dimensional Riemannian space, but also in possible manifolds whose dimensions are > 4 (as in a Hilbert space). Also, while they do not describe space-time as a Riemannian manifold (as general relativity does), such theories posit manifolds or structures – such as H-flux and topological ‘branes’ – which, and whose changes, are described by or come to be described by mathematical equations which involve a causal time – a measured or measurable movement – in relation to other properties (such as extension/space), be those other properties mathematical (as in a topology) or physical (as in a metric, Riemannian or otherwise). Thus, in perturbation theory and in order to consider possible experimental results of the theory, a space-time is posited consisting of a four-dimensional extended Minkowksi space combined with a compact Riemannian manifold; and as in M-theory where an 11-dimensional Minkowksi space has been assumed with the extra seven dimensions being ‘compacted’ or compactable.

All such theories are currently ‘exotic’ because they have not yet [as of 2012] led to any unique predictions that could be experimentally verified.

[5] Like ‘string theory’ and cosmological theories (such as general relativity) quantum mechanics is based on a posited causal space-time. Therefore, a quantum theory cannot be used to describe the φύσις of living beings or acausality.

[6] In respect of acausal knowing, see ‘The Nature and Knowledge of Empathy’ in The Way of Pathei Mathos: A Philosophical Compendium.

[7] The use of the term fluxion dates from the sixteenth century (ce) with the term describing a change that occurs naturally and also one that arises from or because of itself (an effluvium). A description used by John Davies in his 1616 (ce) work Mirum in Modum: “If the fluxion of this instant Now Effect not That, noght wil that Time doth know.”

As used here, fluxion describes how a particular living being not only changes/develops/manifests (that is, in an acausal manner) but also the fact of its (acausal) relation to other living beings and to Being.

[8] Nature is here understood as ‘the creative force’ that is the genesis of, and which maintains the balance of, the life which inhabits the Earth, and which life includes ourselves. This ‘creative force’ (or manifestation/presencing of ψυχή) can be and often has been understood as a particular type of living being, as ‘Nature’ personified.

Image credit: NASA Blue Marble Earth

A pdf version is available here – exegesis-translation-part-one.pdf

Glasgow University library: MS Hunter 374 fol.4r

Exegesis and Translation
Some Personal Reflexions
(Part One)

Since I first studied the Greek text of the Septuagint as a Christian monk, more than thirty five years ago, I have often reflected on matters pertaining to exegesis and translation. Four issues in particular have interested me during those decades.

1. How revealed religions, such as Christianity and Islam, and how certain spiritual ways [1], such as Buddhism and even Hinduism [2], are reliant on or have developed to become reliant upon certain texts, and how such dependant texts either by their nature require interpretation [3] or (more often) how interpretation is considered as necessary in order for the religion or spiritual way to gain support, influence, and adherents.

2. How many of those of faith – especially in revealed religions and almost certainly the majority of the faithful – have to rely on, and often quote, the translations of others; even if such people of faith are engaged in proselytizing.

3. How certain English words, used to interpret a particular Hebrew or Greek or Arabic word, suggest, represent, or have acquired, a particular meaning to English readers/listeners but which particular meaning may not necessary accurately reflect the meaning of the non-English word as that non-English word was possibly understood at the time it was included in a particular text.

4. How there seems to be, in revealed religions and most conventional spiritual ways, a rejection of pathei-mathos in favour of the wisdom said to be contained in the texts and thus in the teachings of the founder(s) of the religion/spiritual way, and – in the case of revealed religions – in the writings/edicts of those who have been vested with or who have acquired a certain religious authority, and – also in the case of revealed religions – how such pathei-mathos, to be accepted at all, has to be judged by criteria developed from such texts and/or developed from interpretations of such texts.

Interpretation and The Question of Sin

It is my view that in translations into English it is often be best to avoid words that impose or seem to impose a meaning on an ancient text especially if the sense that an English word now imputes is the result of centuries of assumptions or opinions or influences and thus has acquired a modern meaning somewhat at variance with the culture, the milieu, of the time when the text that is being translated was written. Especially so in the matter of religious or spiritual texts where so many people rely or seem to rely on the translations, the interpretations, of others and where certain interpretations seem to have become fixed. [4]

Thus, it may be helpful if one can suggest, however controversial they may seem in their time, reasoned alternatives for certain words important for a specific and a general understanding of a particular text, and helpful because such alternatives might enable a new appreciation of such a text, as if for instance one is reading it for the first time with the joy of discovery.

One of the prevalent English words used in translations of the New Testament, and one of the words now commonly associated with revealed religions such as Christianity and Islam, is sin. A word which now imputes and for centuries has imputed a particular and at times somewhat strident if not harsh moral attitude, with sinners starkly contrasted with the righteous, the saved, and with sin, what is evil, what is perverse, to be shunned and shudderingly avoided.

One of the oldest usages of the word sin – so far discovered – is in the c. 880 CE translation of the c. 525 CE text Consolatio Philosophiae, a translation attributed to King Ælfred. Here, the Old English spelling of syn is used:

Þæt is swiðe dyslic & swiðe micel syn þæt mon þæs wenan scyle be Gode

The context of the original Latin of Boethius [5] is cogitare, in relation to a dialogue about goodness and God, so that the sense of the Latin is that it is incorrect – an error, wrong – to postulate/claim/believe certain things about God. There is thus here, in Boethius, as in early English texts such as Beowulf [6], the sense of doing what was wrong, of committing an error, of making a mistake, of being at fault; at most of overstepping the bounds, of transgressing limits imposed by others, and thus being ‘guilty’ of such an infraction, a sense which the suggested etymology of the word syn implies: from the Latin sons, sontis.

Thus, this early usage of the English word syn seems to impart a sense somewhat different from what we now associate with the word sin, which is why in my translation of John, 8.7 [7] I eschewed that much overused and pejorative word in order to try and convey something of the numinous original:

So, as they continued to ask [for an answer] he straightened himself, saying to them: Let he who has never made a mistake [ Αναμαρτητος ] throw the first stone at her.

ὡς δὲ ἐπέμενον ἐρωτῶντες αὐτόν, ἀνέκυψεν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· ὁ ἀναμάρτητος ὑμῶν πρῶτος ἐπ’ αὐτὴν βαλέτω λίθον.

Jesus here is not, in my view, sermonizing about sin, as a puritan preacher might, and as if he is morally superior to and has judged the sinners. Instead, he is rather gently and as a human pointing out an obvious truth about our human nature; explaining, in v.11, that he has not judged her conduct:

ἡ δὲ εἶπεν· οὐδείς, κύριε. εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· οὐδὲ ἐγώ σε κατακρίνω· πορεύου, ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε

[And] she answered, No one, my Lord. Whereupon Jesus replied Neither do I judge [κατακρίνω] you, therefore go, and avoid errors such as those. [8]

Such a translation avoids the rather contradictory nature of most other translations which have Jesus clearly stating that he also does not judge her but then have him go on to say that she should ‘sin no more’ with the obvious implication that he has indeed judged her in that in his judgement she had indeed sinned before.

Understood and appreciated thus, sans the now culturally-biased word sin, these passages from the gospel according to John – together with passages such as Luke 19.10 and Romans 13.10 [9] – perhaps usefully summarize the evangel of Jesus of Nazareth; the (in my view) rather human message of avoiding judging others because we ourselves are prone to error, the message of love, and the message of redemption (forgiveness) for those who in the past have made mistakes but who have thereafter tried to avoid making such mistakes again, those hitherto perhaps damaged or lost.

In respect of ἁμαρτάνω [10] consider, for example, Matthew 18.21:

Τότε προσελθὼν ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν [αὐτῷ] Κύριε, ποσάκις ἁμαρτήσει εἰς ἐμὲ ὁ ἀδελφός μου καὶ ἀφήσω αὐτῷ; ἕως ἑπτάκις

Peter then approached [προσέρχομαι] him saying My Lord, how often [ποσάκις] may my brother fail [ἁμαρτάνω] me and be ignored [ἀφίημι]? Up to seven times?

Which is somewhat different from the usual “how many times shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him.”

Ontology, Exegesis, and Pathei-Mathos

All religions and spiritual ways, because they are spiritual/metaphysical, either posit, or are interpreted as positing, an ontology. That is, they all offer an explanation, or an analysis, of the nature of our being as humans and of the nature of, and our relation to, Being, whether Being is understood as God/Allah/gods/Nature/Fate or in terms of axioms such as karma and nirvana. There thus exists, or there developes, an explanation or explanations concerning the meaning and the purpose of our mortal lives; of how that purpose may be attained; and thus of what wisdom is and why there is and continues to be suffering.

However, as I mentioned in Questions of Good, Evil, Honour, and God, citing several examples, the original message of a revelation or of a spiritual way often seems to become obscured or somehow gets lost over centuries. A loss or obscuration party due to the reliance on revealed or given texts; partly due to divergent interpretations of such texts, with some interpretations accepted or rejected by those assuming or vested with a religious authority; and partly due to a reliance, by many of the faithful, on translations of such texts.

Furthermore, the interpretation of such religious texts – and/or the emergence or the writing of new texts concerning a particular spiritual way – has often led to schism or schisms, and to harsh interpretations of religions; schisms and a harshness that have sometimes led to sects, to violence between believers and sects, to accusations of heresy, and to the persecution of those said to be heretics. All of which have thus caused or been the genesis of suffering.

Thus, in respect of Christianity,

“…it is tempting therefore to suggest that it was later, and theological, interpretations and interpolations which led to a harsh dichotomy, an apocalyptic eschatology, a ‘war’ between an abstract ‘good’ and ‘evil’, and that with such interpretations and interpolations – much in evidence in the persecution of alleged heretics – the simple gospel message of the health of love was somehow lost for a while, to be, later on, re-expressed by people such as William Penn, who wrote, in his Some Fruits of Solitude, “Let us then try what love can do.” [11]

In effect, the humility that I have found by experience that all or most religions and spiritual ways manifest – and an essential part of their revelation, their message, their presencing of the numinous – is obscured or ignored in favour of arrogant human presumptions and assumptions and a personal pride: that ‘we’ know better, or believe we know better; that ‘we’ have somehow found or been given the ‘right’ answer(s) or the ‘right’ interpretation(s), and that therefore ‘the others’ are wrong, and ‘we’ are better or more ‘pure’/devout than them. And so on.

Yet there is, it seems to me, after many years of reflexion, something else which accounts for why this loss of a necessary humility occurs, other than the aforementioned reliance on revealed or given texts, the divergent interpretations of such texts, and the reliance, by many of the faithful, on translations of such texts. This is the reality of religions and many spiritual ways either rejecting pathei-mathos as a source of wisdom or favouring specific texts and their interpretation(s) over and above the pathei-mathos of individuals.

For pathei-mathos – the personal learning from grief, suffering, pain, adversity, and experience – directly connects us to and thus enables us to personally experience and appreciate the numinous, sans words, ideations, ideology, theology, and dogma. An experience and an appreciation outwardly and inwardly manifest in a personal humility; in the knowledge of ourselves as but one fallible, mortal, fragile, human emanation of and connexion to Being; and in an empathic understanding of how all religions and spiritual ways, in their genesis and in their original emanations, express – or try to express – the same wisdom: manifest in an appreciation of the numinous, and in our human necessity for the natural balance that is humility and a very personal honour. And, because of this spiritual and religious equivalence, it does not matter if the individual of pathei-mathos, having so touched and felt the numinous, developes their own weltanschauung or none, or leaves or finds an existing spiritual or religious one, although it is and often has been such pathei-mathos which reveals to individuals, or which enables them to rediscover, the essence of a particular religion or a particular spiritual way: that simple and similar numinous essence which schisms, harsh interpretations, dogma, and ideology, have so often and for so long obscured.

For what pathei-mathos reveals does matter, beyond such outward and such supra-personal manifestations, are the personal, the individual, virtues of love, empathy, gentleness, and compassion.


David Myatt


[1] As outlined in Appendix II (Glossary of Terms and Greek Words) of The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos (2013) I make 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.

[2] In Buddhism, the primary texts are regarded as: (i) for Theravada Buddhism, the collections referred to as Tipitaka/Tripitaka; (ii) for Mahāyāna Buddhism, the Tipitaka (in some cases, depending on interpretation) and the various Sutras, including the collection often referred to as The Perfection of Wisdom; (iii) for Tibetan Buddhism, the various Tantric texts, plus some of the Tipitaka (in some cases, depending on interpretation) and some the Mahāyāna sutras (in some cases, depending on interpretation).

In Hinduism, there is the Bhagavad Gītā and the literature of the Vedas.

[3] By interpretation here is meant (i) commentaries (academic, theological, and otherwise); (ii) explanations (critical, and otherwise); (iii) translations; and – most importantly – (iv) a seeking of the meaning of (a) both the text (in whole and in parts) and (b) of the words and terms used.

[4] One misused English word is ‘terror’, often used to translate الرُّعْبَ in Ayah 151 of Surah Al ‘Imran. See Part Two, Translation and Al-Quran.

As I noted there:

My, admittedly fallible, view now – after some years of reflexion and study – is that, in an English interpretation of the meaning of a work as revered, and misunderstood, as the Quran, English words in common usage must be carefully chosen, with many common words avoided, and that it would sometimes be better to choose an unusual or even archaic word in order to try and convey something of the sense of the Arabic. Thus, with a careful interpretation common misunderstandings of the text – by non-Muslims unversed in Arabic – can possibly be avoided, especially if – as might be the case with unusual words – the reader has to pause to consider the meaning or make the effort to find the meaning, if only in a glossary appended to the interpretation. A pause and/or an effort that is suited to reading a work revered by millions of people around the world.

[5] Quare quod a summo bono diversum est sui natura, id summum bonum non est; quod nefas est de eo cogitare, quo nihil constat esse praestantius. Consolatio Philosophiae, Liber Tertius, pr. x

[6] Beowulf, 2470f, where the spelling synn is used:

eaferum læfde, swa deð eadig mon,
lond ond leodbyrig, þa he of life gewat.
þa wæs synn ond sacu Sweona ond Geata
ofer wid wæter, wroht gemæne,
herenið hearda, syððan Hreðel swealt

[7] qv. Myatt, Fifty Years of Diverse Peregrinations. 2013 [pdf]

[8] The conventional interpretation of ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε is “from now on sin no more”.

[9] Luke 19.10:

ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ζητῆσαι καὶ σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός

The arrivance [ἔρχομαι] of the Son of Man was to seek and to save what was lost

However, a more interesting interpretation is:

The arrivance of the Son of Man was to seek and to repair [σῴζω] what had been damaged [ἀπόλλυμι]

and which interpretation is suggested by (i) the sense of σῴζω: keep safe, preserve, maintain – whence repair, and (ii) the sense of ἀπόλλυμι: destroy, ruin, kill, demolish, and – metaphorically – damaged, lost, and die.

Romans 13.10:

ἡ ἀγάπη τῷ πλησίον κακὸν οὐκ ἐργάζεται· πλήρωμα οὖν νόμου ἡ ἀγάπη

love brings no harm to the neighbour; love is the completion of the law

[11] ἁμαρτάνω implies a failure, mistake, an error, deprivation, loss, to miss/fail. qv (i) Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus:

ὅταν ταχύς τις οὑπιβουλεύων λάθρᾳ
χωρῇ, ταχὺν δεῖ κἀμὲ βουλεύειν πάλιν:
εἰ δ᾽ ἡσυχάζων προσμενῶ, τὰ τοῦδε μὲν
πεπραγμέν᾽ ἔσται, τἀμὰ δ᾽ ἡμαρτημένα 621

But when there is a plot against me which is swiftly and furtively
Moving forward, then I must be swift in opposing that plot
Since if I remain at rest, then indeed
What is about to be done, will be – because of my mistake.

and (ii) Aeschylus, Agamemnon:

ὀφλὼν γὰρ ἁρπαγῆς τε καὶ κλοπῆς δίκην
τοῦ ῥυσίου θ᾽ ἥμαρτε καὶ πανώλεθρον 535
αὐτόχθονον πατρῷον ἔθρισεν δόμον.

The penalty for the pillage and theft was fair –
He lost his booty and completely ruined
His own land with his father’s family cut down

[11] Myatt. Questions of Good, Evil, Honour, and God. 2013 [pdf]

cc David Myatt 2013
This work is issued under the Creative Commons
(Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0) License
and can be freely copied and distributed, according to the terms of that license.
All translations: DW Myatt

Image credit:
Illumination from the MS Anicii Manlii Torqvati Severini Boetii,
De Consolatione Philosophiae cvm Commento,
dated c. 1385 ce, in Glasgow University library: MS Hunter 374 fol.4r

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.”


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.