Telesmata In The Picatrix

David Myatt

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Telesmata In The Picatrix

Telesmata is from Greek τέλεσμα via the post-classic Latin telesma and is possibly the origin of the English word talisman, dating as that English word does from 1638.

τέλεσμα in Ancient Greek meant a payment, or an offering to offset a debt or for services rendered. According to my fallible understanding, in Hellenistic times it acquired the sense of an object intended as an offering to the gods, and to lesser divinities such as daemons, as a mark of respect or in order to seek their favour or ward off their wroth. Thus if a person had toiled to make the offering, the telesma, or had at the very least exchanged goods or money for it, it was believed that such labour or such an exchange revealed that one had earned their protection or their help. The more valuable the object, the more help or protection they might expect.

This belief in such offerings and their efficacy was an integral part of not only the diverse Greco-Roman paganus weltanschauungen but also of many other paganus weltanschauungen around the world, past and present, founded as such weltanschauungen are on the understanding, on the ancestral wisdom, or on the intuition that we mortals are part of a living cosmos with the gods (the divinities) and Nature considered as living beings (or as archetypes, manifestations of cosmic forces) who and which can affect us and who have affected us – as individuals, and as communities – in terms of good fortune and misfortune.

For such understanding, such ancestral wisdom, or such intuition included the insight that some mortal deeds were wise and some mortal deeds were unwise because wise deeds were those which aided or did not upset the natural cosmic balance and because unwise deeds – acts of hubris – did upset the natural cosmic balance and invited, sooner or later, retribution by the divinities, be such retribution personal (against the hubriatic individual) or against the family and descendants of that individual or against the community that the hubriatic individual was a part of. A pattern of hubriatic deeds which both Aeschylus and Sophocles so well described: Aeschylus in the Oresteia, and Sophocles in his Antigone and his Oedipus Tyrannus.

In respect of the Greek belief in such divinities and asking for their help there is of course that beautiful poem by Sappho [1]

ποικιλόθρον’ ἀθανάτ Ἀφρόδιτα,
παῖ Δίος δολόπλοκε, λίσσομαί σε,
μή μ’ ἄσαισι μηδ’ ὀνίαισι δάμνα,
πότνια, θῦμον,

ἀλλὰ τυίδ’ ἔλθ’, αἴ ποτα κἀτέρωτα
τὰς ἔμας αὔδας ἀίοισα πήλοι
ἔκλυες, πάτρος δὲ δόμον λίποισα
χρύσιον ἦλθες

ἄρμ’ ὐπασδεύξαισα· κάλοι δέ σ’ ἆγον
ὤκεες στροῦθοι περὶ γᾶς μελαίνας
πύκνα δίννεντες πτέρ’ ἀπ’ ὠράνωἴθε-
ρος διὰ μέσσω·

αἶψα δ’ ἐξίκοντο· σὺ δ’, ὦ μάκαιρα,
μειδιαίσαισ’ ἀθανάτωι προσώπωι
ἤρε’ ὄττι δηὖτε πέπονθα κὤττι
δηὖτε κάλημμι

κὤττι μοι μάλιστα θέλω γένεσθαι
μαινόλαι θύμωι· τίνα δηὖτε πείθω
μαισ’ ἄγην ἐς σὰν φιλότατα; τίς σ’, ὦ
Ψά]πφ’, ἀδικήει;

καὶ γὰρ αἰ φεύγει, ταχέως διώξει,
αἰ δὲ δῶρα μὴ δέκετ’, ἀλλὰ δώσει,
αἰ δὲ μὴ φίλει, ταχέως φιλήσει
κωὐκ ἐθέλοισα.

ἔλθε μοι καὶ νῦν, χαλέπαν δὲ λῦσον
ἐκ μερίμναν, ὄσσα δέ μοι τέλεσσαι
θῦμος ἰμέρρει, τέλεσον, σὺ δ’ αὔτα
σύμμαχος ἔσσο.

Deathless Aphrodite – Daughter of Zeus and maker of snares –
On your florid throne, hear me!
My lady, do not subdue my heart by anguish and pain
But come to me as when before
You heard my distant cry, and listened:
Leaving, with your golden chariot yoked, your father’s house
To move beautiful sparrows swift with a whirling of wings
As from heaven you came to this dark earth through middle air
And so swiftly arrived.

Then you my goddess with your immortal lips smiling
Would ask what now afflicts me, why again
I am calling and what now I with my restive heart
Desired:

Whom now shall I beguile
To bring you to her love?
Who now injures you, Sappho?
For if she flees, soon shall she chase
And, rejecting gifts, soon shall she give.
If she does not love you, she shall do so soon
Whatsoever is her will.

Come to me now to end this consuming pain
Bringing what my heart desires to be brought:
Be yourself my ally in this fight.

By the time the manuscripts of the Picatrix were written, as translations of a translation of an Arabic manuscript dating from some three or more centuries older, the concept of telesmata seems to have become somewhat divorced from its paganus origins since the Picatrix begins with a doxology to a singular God – Ad laudem et gloriam altissimi et omnipotentis Dei cuius est revelare suis predestinatis secreta scienciarum – echoing as it does the doxology to Allah, Al-Ahad, in that earlier Arabic manuscript and containing as that Arabic manuscript does several quotations from the Quran.

Thus, and again according to my fallible understanding, it seems to me that, given the importance attached in both the Latin and the Arabic text to telesmata – the locus has, despite such doxologies, moved away from the paganus understanding of mortals as an integral (Ciceronian) balancing part of the cosmos, as part of Nature and of their community and personally aware of the consequences of hubris, toward the εἶδος – the abstraction – of mortals as individuals who can by telesmata and other means achieve certain personal desires or bring about certain changes beneficial to themselves. Almost as if telesmata and other similar means have replaced the numinous, the paganus, awareness of our status as mortals who depend on the harmony that the older divinities represented, manifest as this awareness is in the phrase memento homo [2]. A phrase adopted by the Roman Catholic church in the form “memento homo quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris,” [3] and which church, despite its faults, perhaps for centuries kept alive at least something of the paganus understanding of the error of hubris, its awareness of our temporary mortal life and of our fallible mortal nature.

DW Myatt
2017

Note: This text is an edited version of a communication sent this year to someone who had enquired about the relation, if any, between the talismans described in the Latin text entitled Picatrix and Greco-Roman pagan beliefs.

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[1] My translation. The Greek text is that of Lobel and Page, Poetarum Lesbiorum Fragmenta, Oxford 1955.
[2] Although the use of a similar phrase about mortality in the Triumphus is disputed, there is evidence to suggest that during those victory processions in Rome the triumphant General was reminded by someone of his mortality, qv. M. Beard, The Roman Triumph, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007. p. 272f.
[3] “Recall, mortal, you are dust and you will revert to being dust.”


Article source: https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/telesmata-in-the-picatrix/


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Myatt: The Ethics Of Killing Vermin

The Ethics Of Killing Vermin
A Personal Opinion From Experience

The definitive record of the English language – the 20 volume Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, 1989 – defines vermin as (i) “animals of a noxious or objectionable kind [and which are] almost entirely restricted to those animals or birds which prey upon preserved game, crops, etcetera” and also as (ii) referring to “creeping or wingless insects (and other minute animals) of a loathsome or offensive appearance or character, especially those which infest or are parasitic on living beings and plants.”

Although the killing of vermin – especially those that prey upon preserved game and crops and those which infest or are parasitic on living beings and plants – is common practice in the majority of modern societies especially among farmers, gardeners, and horticulturalists, what aroused my curiosity about the ethics involved was a problem a long-standing friend of mine, who with his family were ethical vegans and trying to live in a self-sufficient way, was having with rats devouring their crops.

Before my retirement – as an old man – from manual work I had spent many, many, years working on farms, working as a gardener, and working in commercial horticulture. On the last farm on which I lived I had no problem hunting down and shooting the fox that had decimated the chickens we kept; had no problem in having Jack Russell’s hunt down and kill rats infesting the barns; had no ethical problem in previous employments in using pesticides and herbicides via knapsacks and tractor driven boom-sprayers. For the health of the livestock, and the health and yield of crops and plants, were part of my responsibility, a responsibility I willingly accepted.

Yet what was a self-sufficient ethical vegan and his self-sufficient ethical vegan family to do in respect of vermin control when suggested non-harmful methods – such as using raised crop beds and humanely trapping and releasing pests elsewhere – had failed? In addition, in the case of rats, would the released pests go on to prey on the crops of someone else and therefore would the vegans be somehow morally responsible for the damage so caused?

My initial suggestion, based both on my practical experience and my interest in Ancient Greek and Latin literature, was for him to use Jack Russell’s to hunt down and kill the rats. For would he – as Creon hoped by his walling-in of Antigone alive in a rock-hewn tomb {1} and as Fabius Maximus, Pontifex of Rome, hoped when he had a Vestal Virgin buried alive {2} – escape retribution by Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες {3} because he and they had not personally undertaken the deed of killing?

Such pest control certainly seems to be a moral dilemma for an ethical vegan, committed as such a person is to not harming or causing suffering to living beings, human and otherwise. Would, for instance, it be necessary for he and his family to suffer, to go hungry, because of a refusal to kill – directly or otherwise – such vermin as were devouring their crops?

              My fallible conclusion in respect of his dilemma was that it is for my friend, for each ethical vegan, for each ethical vegan family, to resolve such a moral dilemma in their own way and in their own time; for such individual, such familial, resolution seems to me – according to my admittedly fallible understanding of ethical veganism – to be a necessary part of the vegan weltanschauung where there is not and should not be any reliance on ideations, on dogma, on ideology, on the opinions of others, or on any causal – human-invented – abstractions.

For myself and in respect of vermin I would probably do again what I did when working on farms, when working as a gardener, and when working in commercial horticulture. The raison d’être being that to survive, to prosper, as human beings on this planet it seems to me (based on my experience) that we sometimes of necessity must make difficult decisions in regard to other life while respecting – as I personally always tried to do and as so many others before me had ancestrally done – the being, the soul, the presencing of the Cosmos, that was temporarily manifest in the life that we ended, be such life a fox or even a tree we felled. For there was no joy in such an ending, only – again in my experience – a balancing mingled with a wordless respect for all emanations of life. For ultimately we are they – that life – as they, that life, are us, with such an ancient and natural paganus wisdom almost forgotten in this modern majority city-dwelling age. And yet this wisdom survives – if only just – in some of those who for decades have manually toiled in the countryside.

              To end on a personal note, and in regard to abstractions, I have to admit that my long-standing – and now vegan – friend was the one who was responsible, years ago, for drawing my attention to the fact that the “folk” and “the tribe”, which I had eulogized in my pre-2011 ‘numinous way’, were causal – human-invented – abstractions and thus seemed to be contrary to the individual empathic-derived ethics of that numinous way. Which revelation forced me to reconsider that ‘numinous way’ and formed an important part of the process that eventually led me to evolve that ‘numinous way’ into my individualistic philosophy of pathei-mathos.

David Myatt
August 2018

{1} ἄγων ἔρημος ἔνθ᾽ ἂν ᾖ βροτῶν στίβος
κρύψω πετρώδει ζῶσαν ἐν κατώρυχι,
φορβῆς τοσοῦτον ὡς ἄγος μόνον προθείς,
ὅπως μίασμα πᾶσ᾽ ὑπεκφύγῃ πόλις.
κἀκεῖ τὸν Ἅιδην, ὃν μόνον σέβει θεῶν,
αἰτουμένη που τεύξεται τὸ μὴ θανεῖν,
ἢ γνώσεται γοῦν ἀλλὰ τηνικαῦθ᾽ ὅτι
πόνος περισσός ἐστι τἀν Ἅιδου σέβειν.

She will be led to where the paths are desolate of mortals
And be concealed alive in a rock-hewn tomb
With as much food before her as is required for expiation
So that the whole clan escapes pollution.
There she may if she asks have success from dying
By giving reverence to Hades, the only god she reveres –
Or she will learn at last though late by this
That it is useless toil to so revere Hades.

Sophocles, Antigone, vv. 773-780

{2} Stupri compertae et altera sub terra, uti mos est, ad portam Collinam necata fuerat. (Livy, Book XXII, 57)

{3} “Trimorphed Moirai with their ever-heedful Furies.” Aeschylus (attributed), Prometheus Bound, 516


Translations by DWM

Article source:
https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2018/08/17/the-ethics-of-killing-vermin/

Image credit:
The Day’s Consecration – from a painting by Richard Moult


Quite By Chance

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Shurooq Amin. The Dates Of Wrath

Quite By Chance

Quite recently, and quite by chance, I found myself in an art gallery. The paintings so wyrdfully discovered rather resonated with me, causing me in subsequent days to learn more about the art, and life, of the artist: Shurooq Amin.

For her art seemed to make a connexion between the West and Islam; a quite personal connexion for me, given my somewhat outré past involving as it did a ‘reversion’ to Islam by a former fanatical exponent of Western culture who while travelling as a Muslim in the Muslim world had, albeit briefly, been engaged to a Muslimah in Egypt.

Thus was there for me, in that gallery at that time, another and quite numinous and quite fortuitous intimation of the importance of love, of the importance of the muliebral: beyond the rather stark, and often violent, most decidedly (in my view) misogynist, patriarchal, ethos that still seems to so dominate our world, East and West.

There was also a reminder, for me, of how Art can not only sometimes transcend human manufactured causal abstractions (such as nation, religion, and ethnicity) but can also be a rather acausal vector of that slow social, non-violent, evolutionary change whereby what is numinous, honourable, and so very human, can be presenced, to the benefit of us all.

David Myatt
2014

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Image credit:
Shurooq Amin. The Dates Of Wrath.
Mixed media on canvas mounted on wood. 2012.
Ayyam Gallery, Dubai


Article source: https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/quite-by-chance/


Another Iconoclastic Translation

David Myatt

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DW Myatt: The Beatitudes
(pdf)

The document contains David Myatt’s translation of and commentary on The Beatitudes, {1} which part of the New Testament – Matthew 5:1–10 – is an iconic part of the Christian religion.

As with his other iconoclastic translations – such as from the Corpus Hermeticum {2} and The Gospel Of John {3} – he provides a new and refreshingly different insight into an ancient text.

However, readers should be aware that Myatt’s commentary on the Greek text of The Beatitudes relies heavily on his commentary on the Greek text of the Gospel of John {3} and on his commentaries on the Greek texts of the Corpus Hermeticum which he has translated {2}.

RDM Crew
June 2018

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{1} https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/the-beatitudes/

{2} https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/corpus-hermeticum/

{3} https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/gospel-according-to-john/


A Very Different Perspective

odal3

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A Very Different Perspective
(pdf)

The compilation conveniently gathers together articles published in late 2017 and early 2018 all but one of which discuss or which review some of David Myatt’s recent books and essays. The articles draw attention to or explain various aspects of Mr Myatt’s philosophy and metaphysical writings such as his usage of terms such as “the numinous” and the “new pagan metaphysics” which he has proposed.

The one exception is the article titled Decoding The Life Of Myatt which provides an overview of Mr Myatt’s controversial life.

As the authoress of one of the articles included notes, “there is a cultural revolution in the truths embedded in the book Regarding Western Paganism And Hermeticism and in the [Myattian] texts referenced therein. But whether such truths can replace the prevalent and mistaken belief that Christianity is somehow the embodiment of Western culture remains to be seen.”

As noted in another article also included, recent works by Myatt provide “an intellectual basis for a new, an enlightened, paganism firmly rooted in an understanding of our debt to Greco-Roman, pagan, culture.”


Numinous Expiation

David Myatt

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Editorial Note: We reproduce here an essay written by David Myatt in 2012 in which he asks an interesting metaphysical question relevant to those who perhaps from pathei mathos have regretted their past deeds but who are not conventionally religious. A question certainly relevant to Myatt’s own life following his apostasy from Islam, his rejection of his extremist past, and his subsequent development of his ‘numinous way’.

Myatt’s answer to the question reveals several things. First, his erudition. Second, how it refreshingly takes us far away from the personal and impersonal demands and intrusions of our temporal material and often egotistical modern world to the world of the mystic and the philosopher where questions about hubris and humility are more important than what this or that politician or government are saying or doing or planning to do. As such the essay echoes truths about our human nature which people such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Christopher Marlow, and many others sought to convey millennia after millennia.

The essay was later included in Myatt’s book Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos: Essays and Letters Regarding Spirituality, Humility, and A Learning From Grief, available both as a printed book – ISBN 978-1484097984 – and as a gratis open access document here: https://regardingdavidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/religion-and-empathy.pdf

It should be noted that Myatt uses some Greek terms such as σωφρονεῖν in an unusual and idiosyncratic way. As new Anglicized terms, which in respect of σωφρονεῖν he explained in his technical note at https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/concerning-σωφρονεῖν.

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Numinous Expiation

One of the many problems regarding both The Numinous Way and my own past which troubles me – and has troubled me for a while – is how can a person make reparation for suffering caused, inflicted, and/or dishonourable deeds done. For, in the person of empathy, of compassion, of honour, a knowledge and understanding of dishonour done, of the suffering one has caused – perhaps before one became such a person of compassion, honour, and empathy – is almost invariably the genesis of strong personal feelings such as remorse, grief, and sorrow. The type of strong feelings that Christopher Marlowe has Iarbus, King of Gaetulia, voice at the end of the play The Tragedie of Dido Queene of Carthage , written c.1587:

Cursed Iarbas, die to expiate
The grief that tires upon thine inward soul.

One of the many benefits of an organized theistic religion, such as Christianity or Islam or Judaism, is that mechanisms of personal expiation exist whereby such feelings can be placed in context and expiated by appeals to the supreme deity. In Judaism, there is Teshuvah culminating in Yom Kippur, the day of expiation/reconciliation. In Catholicism, there is the sacrament of confession and penance. In Islam, there is personal dua to, and reliance on, Allah Ar-Rahman, Ar-Raheem, As-Salaam.

Even pagan religions and ways had mechanisms of personal expiation for wrong deeds done, often in the form of propitiation; the offering of a sacrifice, perhaps, or compensation by the giving or the leaving of a valuable gift or votive offering at some numinous – some sacred and venerated – place or site.

One motivation, in the case of pagan religions and ways, for a person to seek expiation is fear of wrake; fear of the retribution or of the misfortune, that – from the gods – might befall them or their descendants in this life. Similarly, for those acceptive of an all-knowing, all-seeing supreme deity – or even of the Buddhist mechanism of karma – there is also fear of wrake; fear of the punishment, the retribution, the misfortune, that might await them in the next life; or, in the case of Buddhism, the type of life that might result when next they are reborn.

As the Owl explains in the mediæval English religious allegory The Owl and the Nightingale,

ich wat þar schal beo niþ & wrake

I can see when there shall be strife and retribution [1]

All such religious mechanisms of expiation, whatever the theology and regardless of the motivation of the individual in seeking such expiation, are or can be cathartic; restorative, healing. But if there is no personal belief in either a supreme deity or in deities, how then to numinously make reparation, propitiation, and thus to not only expiate such feelings as remorse, grief, and sorrow but also and importantly offset the damage one’s wrong actions have caused, since by their very nature such suffering-causing actions are ὕβρις and not only result in harm, in people suffering, but also upset the natural balance.

In truth, I do not know the answer to the question how to so numinously make reparation, propitiation. I can only conject, surmise. One of my conjectures is enantiodromia; of the process, mentioned by Diogenes Laërtius and attributed to Heraclitus, of a wholeness arising both before and after discord and division [2]. This wholeness is the healthy, the numinous, interior, inward, and personal balance beyond the separation of beings – beyond πόλεμος and ὕβρις and thus beyond ἔρις; beyond the separation and thence the strife, the discord, which abstractions, ideations, encourage and indeed which they manufacture, bring-into-being. As Heraclitus intimated, according to another quotation attributed to him –

εἰδέναι δὲ χρὴ τὸν πόλεμον ἐόντα ξυνόν, καὶ δίκην ἔριν, καὶ γινόμενα πάντα κατ΄ ἔριν καὶ χρεώμενα [χρεών]

One should be aware that Polemos pervades, with discord δίκη, and that beings are naturally born by discord. [3]

But what, then, in practical personal terms are this wholeness and this process termed enantiodromia? To me, this wholeness is a knowing and an acceptance of both the importance of the numinous principle of Δίκα [4] and the necessity of wu-wei [5] – and a knowing which empathy can provide – and thence a desire to live life in a non-interfering manner consistent with empathy, compassion, reason, honour, and humility. And it is this very knowing, this very desire to live in such a manner, which is enantiodromia; which is cathartic, restorative, healing; with a natural humility and the cultivation and practice of reason – σωφρονεῖν, a fair and balanced judgement – being the essence of this personal process, the essence of enantiodromia.

For the human virtue of humility is essential in us for us not to repeat our errors of ὕβρις, a humility which our πάθει μάθος makes us aware of, makes us feel, know, in a very personal sense. For we are aware of, we should remember, our fallibility, our mortality, our mistakes, our errors, our wrong deeds, the suffering we have caused, the harm we have done and inflicted; how much we personally have contributed to discord, strife, sorrow.

In addition,

” …by and through humility, we do what we do not because we expect some reward, or some forgiveness, given by some supra-personal supreme Being, or have some idealized duty to such a Being or to some abstraction (such as some nation, some State) but because it is in our very nature to do an act of compassion, a deed of honour: to do something which is noble and selfless.That is, we act, not out of duty, not out of a desire for Heaven or Jannah, or enlightenment or some other “thing” we have posited – not from any emotion, desire or motive, not because some scripture or some revelation or some Buddha says we should – but because we have lost the illusion of our self-contained, personal, identity, lost our Earth-centric, human-centric, perspective, lost even the causal desire to be strive to something different, and instead just are: that is, we are just one microcosmic living mortal connexion between all life, on Earth, and in the Cosmos. For our very nature, as human beings, is a Cosmic nature – a natural part of the unfolding, of the naturally and numinously changing, Cosmos.” [6]

Thus a personal humility is the natural balance living within us; that is, we being or becoming or returning to the balance that does not give rise to ἔρις. Or, expressed simply, humility disposes us toward gentleness, toward kindness, toward love, toward peace; toward the virtues that are balance, that express our humanity.

This personal humility inclines us toward σωφρονεῖν; toward being fair, toward rational deliberation, toward a lack of haste. Toward a balanced judgement and thence toward a balanced life of humility, wu-wei, and a knowing of the wisdom of Δίκα.

There is nothing especially religious here, nor any given or necessary praxis. No techniques; no supplication to some-thing or to some posited Being. No expectation of reward, in this life or some posited next life. Only an interior personal change, an attempt to live in a certain gentle, quiet, way so as not to intentionally cause suffering, so as not to upset the natural balance of Life.

David Myatt
February 2012 ce

Notes

[1] v.1194. The text is that of the Cotton Caligula MS in the British Library as transcribed by JWH Atkins in The Owl and the Nightingale , Cambridge University Press, 1922.

[2] The quotation from Diogenes Laërtius is: πάντα δὲ γίνεσθαι καθ᾽ εἱμαρμένην καὶ διὰ τῆς ἐναντιοδρομίας ἡρμόσθαι τὰ ὄντα (ix. 7)

My translation is: All by genesis is appropriately apportioned [separated into portions] with beings bound together again by enantiodromia.

As I mentioned in my essay The Abstraction of Change as Opposites and Dialectic,

I have used a transliteration of the compound Greek word – ἐναντιοδρομίας – rather than given a particular translation, since the term enantiodromia in my view suggests the uniqueness of expression of the original, and which original in my view is not adequately, and most certainly not accurately, described by a usual translation such as ‘conflict of opposites’. Rather, what is suggested is ‘confrontational contest’ – that is, by facing up to the expected/planned/inevitable contest.

Interestingly, Carl Jung – who was familiar with the sayings of Heraclitus – used the term enantiodromia to describe the emergence of a trait (of character) to offset another trait and so restore a certain psychological balance within the individual.

[3] Fragment 80 – qv. Some Notes on Πόλεμος and Δίκη in Heraclitus B80 and also The Balance of Physis – Notes on λόγος and ἀληθέα in Heraclitus.

As I noted in The Abstraction of Change as Opposites and Dialectic, it is interesting that:

“in the recounted tales of Greek mythology attributed to Aesop, and in circulation at the time of Heraclitus, a personified πόλεμος (as the δαίμων of kindred strife) married a personified ὕβρις (as the δαίμων of arrogant pride) [8] and that it was a common folk belief that πόλεμος accompanied ὕβρις – that is, that Polemos followed Hubris around rather than vice versa, causing or bringing ἔρις.”

[4] In respect of the numinous principle of Δίκα, refer to my short essay The Principle of Δίκα.

[5] As mentioned elsewhere, wu-wei is a Taoist term used in my philosophy of 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, for to do otherwise is incorrect, and inclines us toward, or is, being excessive – that is, is ὕβρις. In practice, this is the cultivation of a certain (an acausal, numinous) perspective – 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 of things/beings/ourselves and gently, naturally, slowly, working with this inner nature, not striving against it.”

I first became acquainted with the concept of wu-wei when, as a youth living in the Far East, I studied Taoism and a learnt a martial art based on Taoism. Thus it might be fair to assume that Taoism may well have influenced, to some degree, the development of my weltanschauung.

[6] The quote is from my essay Humility, Abstractions, and Belief.


Some Problems With Modern Democracy

David Myatt

Editorial Note: Although this 2010 essay by Myatt pre-dates his philosophy of pathei mathos and may therefore fall into the category of writings disowned by him, we republish it here as in our view it offers some interesting insights into modern democracy.

RDM Crew
May 2018 ev

Article source: https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2010/05/29/the-moment-of-my-reading/

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A Moment Among My Reading

Some Problems With Modern Democracy

For the past few weeks I have been re-reading classical authors such as Thucydides, Herodotus, Pliny, and Tacitus. Which reading led to me to reflect upon the histories of the nations of the modern West and the form of government – the modern democracy – that they have developed and whether such problems as I, personally, perceive that such a form of government has may be detrimental to Western societies in the future.

Some Basic Problems

1. The first problem I perceive with modern democracy is that a country generally gets the leaders – presidents, prime ministers – and the government who and which tend to reflect, in their words, promises, and policies, the often changeable fears, hopes, and emotions of a majority of people at election time or at least of the percentage necessary to win an election; with such fears, hopes, and emotions often engendered by the Media, by a specific political party, by a ‘social movement’, and by ‘special interest’ (advocacy) groups or individuals with their own agendas, all of whom seek to influence ‘public opinion’ and the policies of politicians and governments. Such ‘special interest’ groups invariably include those with particular business and political concerns who have the financial resources to employ professional lobbyists, Media consultants, and propagandists.

The result is that the political party and/or particular advocacy groups who have the most money during elections campaigns, and who have the support of a substantial part of the Media, and/or who have a candidate for high office who is a persuasive public speaker, influence the result of elections, having persuaded or influenced the percentage of people necessary to win an election.

In other words, modern elections have become an often cynical process of targeting, persuading, and influencing, people (or specific types of people) by appealing to their fears, their hopes, their emotions, based on specific – and supra-personal – political, social, and business, agendas and interests.

In practical terms this means that the leaders tend to represent their own personal (sometimes emotive) and/or political agenda and/or the agendas of whatever ‘special interest’ groups have helped them get elected. Naturally they deny this, since they invariably and cynically declare that their policies and actions represent “the will of the people” – and thus that they have a mandate for those policies and actions – or they rather naively do believe that they have a mandate having a personality or the personal vanity which has made them a mere figurehead for ‘special interest’ groups and/or the political magnates of their own political party who themselves have their own agendas.

Over decades, the cynical process of targeting, persuading, and influencing, people results in changing governments, for with each new election a majority of people are persuaded or believe that “it will be better, different, next time” and that their hopes will be realized by electing a different president or a different political party or even by electing the same political party but with a different prime minister and some different politicians. Meanwhile, very little of substance changes for the majority. There may be some cosmetic changes, but public services often get worse, crime increases, with the poor staying poor, and the rich staying rich or becoming richer, immune or indifferent as the majority of the rich are to declining public services, to social problems, and to increasing crime.

2. The second problem with modern democracy is that politicians in general and candidates for leadership positions in government do not have to have – and in these modern times are not expected by the public to have – practical character-revealing life-experiences; and thus to have undertaken deeds which have revealed that they are courageous individuals who in dangerous or difficult situations have placed the life of others and of their country before their own. Life-experience such as serving in the armed forces of one’s country and being awarded a medal or medals for gallantry; or serving as a ‘first responder’ – such as a paramedic, or a police officer, or in the Fire & Rescue service – and thus having faced difficult, trying, and life-threatening circumstances.

Instead, all individuals have to do to qualify as a politician is to have powerful and influential friends, and/or have the support of a substantial part of the Media, and/or have the support of influential advocacy groups, and/or have adroitly played ‘the political game’ and thus have been selected by the political magnates of their own political party, and/or have personal wealth sufficient to buy their way into the Media or – through (sometimes secret) donations or other means – gain the support of influential advocacy groups.

The result is that in a modern democracy there is a leader, and a government composed of a majority of politicians, who have no courageous deeds to their name, who have no experience of ‘front line’ service to their country and to their people, but who send people to fight wars, who make and enforce policy for the ‘front line’ services of their own land, and who can and who do, and based on some supra-personal political agenda, impose sanctions on other countries and who thus cause suffering to the ordinary people of those other countries.

In other words, you have career politicians who have never proved their mettle – never been tested – in dangerous or difficult situations lauding it over those who have.

3. The third problem with modern democracy is that modern politicians – with only a few exceptions – have mastered and use the art of propaganda, evident in their inability to be open and honest about their own failings and culpability while in public office, and in their inability to be honest about the failure of the policies of their government. Instead, they are adroit at manufacturing excuses, or shifting the blame away from themselves and government policies, or are disingenuous when answering questions or when addressing concerns about their culpability or that of their government.

4. The fourth problem with modern democracy is that, as a consequence of the aforementioned three problems, there is not “government by the people for the people” but instead government by a generally self-serving or advocacy-driven clique. Which political clique is generally wealthier – for politicians are paid well and often have other sources of income – than the majority of the electorate they were elected to serve.

Consequences

Since modern democracy is today still considered by the majority to function reasonably well in terms of maintaining society, it will remain for that majority the only viable option. For its inherent cynical process of targeting, persuading, and influencing, people will work so long as a majority can be persuaded that, after the next election, “it will be better, different,” with the self-serving or advocacy-driven political clique well-understanding the Psychologie des Foules.

Thus, the always well-off political clique will continue to laud it over the poor and those whose ‘front-line’ public service keeps society functioning. The self-perpetuating political clique will continue to makes excuses for their own failures, for declining public services, for government failure to solve social problems, and for increasing poverty, homelessness, and crime.

Mass discontent, as for example in the anti-war protests before and after the invasion of Iraq, strikes, scandals about corrupt politicians, even occasional riots, have not impacted significantly on the self-perpetuating political cliques: a change of leadership, some new policies, the dismissal or the resignation of a few politicians, propaganda by the Media, perhaps the election of a new government, are usually all that is required to maintain the democratic ‘status quo’.

A study of history, ancient and modern, indicates – at least to me – that such manipulation of the many by the few for the benefit of the few cannot, given human nature en masse, continue indefinitely. That there may well arise such a breakdown of basic services, such perceived inequality, such perceived injustices, such widespread discontent, that revolution, somewhere – peaceful or otherwise – seems almost inevitable, with the attendant suffering that revolutions often cause. Thus will the cyclical nature of human history repeat itself, for we humans apparently have not changed, en masse, significantly enough so that we are personally guided by such virtues as honesty, reason, and εὐταξία to thus be immune to the propagandistic machinations of politicians, demagogues, ideologues, and special interest groups. Instead, it seems that the same fears, hopes, and emotions, still guide us, just as the negative traits of old seem to still guide so many of those few who have, by whatever means, acquired power and authority over the majority.

Can this apparently inevitable suffering-causing cyclicity – such as that of governing cliques and their overthrow, and of the decline of societies – be avoided? My own personal – and admittedly fallible – answer is to reform modern democracy so that leaders and politicians must have such personal character-revealing experience as qualifies them to lead and to govern, with that personal experience consisting of proven and years-long ‘front line’ service to their country and to their people such as in the armed forces or serving as a ‘first responder’ in such occupations as paramedic, a police officer, and in the Fire & Rescue service.

However, such a reform by having character-revealing experience as a qualification for political office is unlikely to occur, given vested interests and – dare I say it – an education system which has neglected study in their original language of authors such as Thucydides, Herodotus, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Aristotle, Pliny, Tacitus, and Cicero.

So many times, in the past somewhat turbulent decade of my life, I have reflected upon a particular verse by Sophocles:

πολλὰ τὰ δεινὰ κοὐδὲν ἀνθρώπου δεινότερον πέλει [1]

For this seems to me to capture something of our rather strange human nature – of our ability, our potential, our capacity, to be honourable, self-restrained, rational human beings, and our seemingly equal capacity (or often, greater capacity) to be unsympathetic, insensitive, selfish, dishonourable, untrustworthy, or just plain barbaric.

David Myatt
2010

[1] Antigone, 334. My translation: “There exists much that is strange, but nothing has more strangeness than we human beings.”