A Review Of Myatt’s Monas

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David Myatt
A Review Of Myatt’s Monas
Corpus Hermeticum IV

David Myatt’s translation of and commentary on the fourth tract of the Corpus Hermeticum continues the style of his two previous translations of Hermetic texts: transliterations of some Greek words (such as logos and theos) and not giving some other Greek words (such as κακός and μῖσος) there usual meanings such as are found, for instance, in the standard Greek-English Lexicon of Liddell, Scott, and Jones {1}. As with his other Hermetic translations this results in Myatt’s version reading like an ancient pagan text rather than one infused with Christian or ascetic ideas, as the following examples illustrate.

The 1906 Mead translation:

Unless thou first shalt hate thy Body, son, thou canst not love thy Self. But if thou lovest thy Self thou shalt have Mind, and having Mind thou shalt share in the Gnosis.

The 1992 Copenhaver translation, which is quite similar to Mead’s:

Unless you first hate your body, my child, you cannot love yourself, but when you have loved yourself, you will possess mind, and if you have mind, you will also have a share in the way to learn.

The 2016 Myatt translation:

My son, primarily, unless you have a prejudice about the body
You cannot have affection for yourself, and when you have affection for yourself
You can acquire perceiverance and, having perceiverance,
You can participate in episteme.

Regarding episteme, Myatt writes in his commentary:

A transliteration of ἐπιστήμη, which could be – and has been – accented thus: épistémé. The meaning is ‘a way’, or a means or a method, by which something can be known, understood, and appreciated. In this case, perceiveration, which the artisan-creator has positioned “half-way between psyches, as a reward.” Episteme, therefore, should be considered a technical, esoteric, term associated with some of the weltanschauungen that are described in the Corpus Hermeticum. Thus, in the Poemandres tractate, the anados through the seven spheres is an episteme.

A Contentious Choice

One of the most contentious aspects of Myatt approach is his view, described in his Introduction, of the relation of the text to ancient Egyptian beliefs; of the texts being in essence representative of the Greek world-view with only few passing Egyptian references such as using the name Thoth.

While this is also the view of the Dominican priest André-Jean Festugière – the Greek scholar who with Professor Arthur Nock edited the standard edition of the text used by Myatt and others – many modern scholars have veered toward the view of there being some Egyptian, and probably Christian, influence.

The other contentious aspect is how Myatt, in this tractate, defines ἀγαθός. As ‘honourable’ instead of the more usual ‘good’. In defence of his choice he quotes a passage, in Greek, from the Corpus Aristotelicum and provides his own translation, arguing that this expresses the pagan Greek view and is apposite given what the English term good often implies due to the legacy of Christianity.

Myatt’s choice here completely changes the tone of the whole work, as evident in the following passage:

The 1906 Mead translation:

But they who have received some portion of God’s gift, these, Tat, if we judge by their deeds, have from Death’s bonds won their release; for they embrace in their own Mind all things, things on the earth, things in the heaven, and things above the heaven,—if there be aught. And having raised themselves so far they sight the Good; and having sighted It, they look upon their sojourn here as a mischance; and in disdain of all, both things in body and the bodiless, they speed their way unto that One and Only One.

The 1992 Copenhaver translation:

But those who participate in the gift that comes from god, O Tat, are immortal rather than mortal if one compares their deeds, for in a mind of their own they have comprehended all things on earth, things in heaven and even what lies beyond heaven. Having raised themselves so far, they have seen the good and, having seen it, they have come to regard the wasting of time here below as a calamity. They have scorned every corporeal and incorporeal thing, and they hasten toward the one and only.

The 2016 Myatt translation:

And yet, Thoth, those who parten to that gift from theos become,
When set against their deeds, immortal instead of mortal
For they with their perceiverance apprehend the Earthly, the Heavenly,
And what is beyond the Heavens.
Having gone so far, they perceive what is honourable, and, having so perceived,
They regard what preceded this as a delay, as a problem
And, with little regard for whatever is embodied and disembodied,
They strive toward the Monas.

Also notable here is Myatt’s choice of Thoth for Τάτ, and Monas for μονάς. Certainly the choice of Tat by both Mead and Copenhaver is unfortunate given what ‘tat’ means in British English.

Conclusion

Once again Myatt has provided a refreshingly different translation of an important Hermetic text, and one which as with his previous translations of tracts I and III {2} both reads well and offers a different, if iconoclastic and controversial, interpretation most suitable to students of Hermeticism and – perhaps especially – to students of the Occult given how such hermetic texts formed and form one of the foundations of Western Occultism, both during the Renaissance and in our modern times.

As with his other translations and Myatt’s support of ‘copyleft’, it is available both as a free (pdf) download {3} and as a printed book {4}.

R. Parker
July 2016

{1} Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996. ISBN 9780198642268.

{2} His two previous Hermetica translations were of the Poemandres and the Ιερός Λόγος tracts.

{3} https://davidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/corpus-hermeticum-iv.pdf

{4}  David Myatt: Corpus Hermeticum IV: A Translation Of And A Commentary On The Fourth Tractate Of The Corpus Hermeticum. 2016. ISBN 978-1535245784


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