Myatt, Anti-Racism, Extremism, Honour, and Culture

A pdf file of parts 1 and 2 of this article is available here – overview-myatt-philosophy.pdf


David Myatt

David Myatt

 

An Overview of David Myatt’s Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos
Part One: Anti-Racism, Extremism, Honour, and Culture

It is now generally acknowledged that David Myatt – once renowned as an ideologue {1} and as a ‘theoretician of terror’ {2} – has rejected the extremism that dominated his life for some forty years, thirty of which years were spent as a neo-nazi activist and ten as a “fierce Jihadist” {3} and apologist for Al-Qaeda {4}.

According to his own account {5} this rejection was a consequence of pathei mathos – primarily, the suicide of his partner in 2006 – and which learning from grief resulted in him developing what he termed a philosophy of pathei-mathos centred around personal virtues such as humility, compassion, empathy and personal honour {6}{7}. In addition he has written several interesting, if rather neglected, essays in which he discourses about culture and – politically relevant today – about topics such as extremism. In these discourses, which apply his philosophy to the topics discussed, he is at pains to point out that he presents only his “personal, fallible, opinion about such matters” and that these opinions derive from his decades of “experience of extremists and my decade of study and personal experience of, and involvement with, Islam.” {8}

Culture, Civilization, and Politics

Given Myatt’s predilection during his extremist decades, and especially as a neo-nazi ideologue, for pontificating about both ‘culture’ and ‘civilization’, his mature view of such things, resulting from his recent seven or so years of interior reflection following his learning from grief {9}, are of especial interest.

For he writes that:

“The very usage of the term civilization, for instance, implies a bias; a qualitative often pejorative, prejudiced, assessment and thence a division between something judged ‘better than’ – or ‘superior to’ or ‘more advanced than’ – something else, so that ‘to civilize’ denotes “the action or process of being made civilized” by something or someone believed or considered to be more distinguished, or better than, or superior to, or more advanced.

In common with some other writers, my view is that a clear distinction should be made between the terms culture, society, and civilization, for the terms culture and society – when, for example, applied to describe and distinguish between the customs and way of life of a group or people, and the codes of behaviour and the administrative organization and governance of those residing in a particular geographical area – are quantitative and descriptive rather than qualitative and judgemental. It is therefore in my view inappropriate to write and talk about a European or a Western ‘civilization’ […]

[T]he essence, the nature, of all cultures is the same: to refine, and develope, the individual; to provide a moral guidance; to cultivate such skills as that of reasoning and learning and civility; to be a repository of the recorded/aural pathei-mathos, experiences, and empathic understanding of others (such as our ancestors) over decades, centuries, millennia, as manifest for example in literature, music, memoirs, poetry, history, Art, and often in the past in myths and legends and religious allegories. A recorded/aural pathei-mathos and empathic understanding – a human learning – which teach the same lessons, whatever the culture, whatever the people, whatever the time and whatever the place. The lesson of the importance of a loyal love between two people; the lesson of the importance of virtues such as εὐταξία and honour; the lesson of the need to avoid committing the error of hubris. The lesson of hope, redemption, and change. And the lesson concerning our own nature […]

Ultimately, the assumed or the perceived, the outer, differences do not matter, since what matters for us as human beings capable of reason and civility is our shared humanity and the wisdom that all cultures guide us toward: which wisdom is that it is what is moral – it is what keeps us as mortals balanced, aware of and respective of the numinous – that should guide us, determine our choices and be the basis of our deeds, for our interaction with other human beings, with society, and with the life with which we share this planet.

As outlined in my philosophy of pathei-mathos, my personal view is that the criteria of assessment and judgement are the individual ones of empathy, reason, and the presumption of innocence; which means that abstractions, ideations, theories, and categories, of whatever kind – and whether deemed to be political, religious, or social – are considered an unimportant. That what matters, what is moral, is a very personal knowing in the immediacy-of-the- moment so that what is beyond the purveu of our empathy, of our personal knowing, knowledge, and experience, is something we rationally accept we do not know and so cannot judge or form a reasonable, a fair, a balanced, opinion about. Hence, and for example, individuals and people we do not know, of whatever faith, of whatever perceived ethnicity, sexual orientation, or perceived or assumed or proclaimed culture – whom we have no personal experience of and have had no interaction with over a period of causal time – are unjudged by us and thus given the benefit of the doubt; that is, regarded as innocent, assumed to be good, unless or until direct personal experience, and individual and empathic knowing of them, as individuals, proves otherwise […]

What matters are our own moral character, our interior life, our appreciation of the numinous, and the individual human beings we interact with on the personal level; so that our horizon is to refine ourselves into cultured beings who are civil, reasoned, empathic, non-judgemental, unbiased, and who will, in the words of one guide to what is moral, Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ.”  {8}

Myatt’s emphasis is thus on the individual; on their interior life, and their personal interaction with others in what he terms, in his philosophy of pathei-mathos, the immediacy of the personal moment:

“Since the range of our faculty of empathy is limited to the immediacy-of-the-moment and to personal interactions, and since the learning wrought by pathei-mathos and pathei-mathos itself is and are direct and personal, then the knowledge, the understanding, that empathy and pathei-mathos reveal and provide is of the empathic scale of things and of our limitations of personal knowing and personal understanding. That is, what is so revealed is not some grand or grandiose theory or praxis or philosophy which is considered applicable to others, or which it is believed can or should be developed to be applicable to others or developed to offer guidance beyond the individual in political and/or social and/or religious and/or ideological terms; but rather a very personal, individual, spiritual and thus interior, way. A way of tolerance and humility, where there is an acceptance of the unwisdom, the hubris, the unbalance, of arrogantly, pejoratively, making assumptions about who and what are beyond the range of our empathy and outside of our personal experience.” {10}

There is, therefore, a rejection of involvement with politics:

“Given that the concern of the philosophy of pathei-mathos is the individual and their interior, their spiritual, life, and given that (due to the nature of empathy and pathei-mathos) there is respect for individual judgement, the philosophy of pathei-mathos is apolitical, and thus not concerned with such matters as the theory and practice of governance, nor with changing or reforming society by political means.” {11}

In line with the virtues of his philosophy, Myatt is scathing regarding extremism in general:

“One of the worst consequences of the extremism of extremists – of modern hubris in general – is, or seems to me to be, the loss of what is personal, and thus what is human; the loss of the empathic, the human, scale of things; with what is personal, human, empathic, being or becoming displaced, scorned, forgotten, obscured, or a target for destruction and (often violent) replacement by something supra-personal such as some abstract political/religious notion or concept, or some ideal, or by some prejudice and some often violent intolerance regarding human beings we do not personally know because beyond the range of our empathy.

That is, the human, the personal, the empathic, the natural, the immediate, scale of things – a tolerant and a fair acceptance of what-is – is lost and replaced by an artificial scale posited by some ideology or manufactured by some τύραννος; a scale in which the suffering of individuals, and strife, are regarded as inevitable, even necessary, in order for ‘victory to be achieved’ or for some ideal or plan or agenda or manifesto to be implemented. Thus the good, the stability, that exists within society is ignored, with the problems of society – real, imagined, or manufactured by propaganda – trumpeted. There is then incitement to disaffection, with harshness and violent change of and within society regarded as desirable or necessary in order to achieve preset, predetermined, and always ‘urgent’ goals and aims, since slow personal reform and change in society – that which appreciates and accepts the good in an existing society and in people over and above the problems and the bad – is anathema to extremists, anathema to their harsh intolerant empathy-lacking nature and to their hubriatic striving.” {12}

All this amounts to viewing matters – events in the external world, and our relation to other humans – in terms of two principles rather than in terms of politics, ideology, dogma, or revolutionary social change. The first principle is personal honour; the second what Myatt terms ‘the cosmic perspective’, of which perspective Myatt writes:

“The Cosmic Perspective reveals a particular truth not only about the Anthropocene (and thus about our φύσις as human beings) but also about how sustainable millennial change has occurred and can occur. Which change is via the progression, the evolution – the development of the faculties and the consciousness – of individuals individually. This is the interior, the a-causal, change of individuals wrought by a scholarly learning of and from our thousands of years old human culture of pathei-mathos, by our own pathei-mathos, and by that personal appreciation of the numinous that both the Cosmic Perspective and the muliebral virtues incline us toward. This aeonic change voids what we now describe by the terms politics and religion and direct social activism of the violent type. There is thus a shift from identifying with the communal, the collective – from identifying with a particular contemporary or a past society or some particular national culture or some particular causal form such as a State or nation or empire or some -ism or some -ology – toward that-which has endured over centuries and millennia: our human culture of pathei-mathos. For the human culture of pathei-mathos records and transmits, in various ways, the pathei-mathos of individuals over thousands of years, manifest as this sustainable millennial culture is in literature, poetry, memoirs, aural stories, in non-verbal mediums such as music and Art, and in the experiences – written, recorded, and aural – of those who over the centuries have appreciated the numinous, and those who endured suffering, conflict, disaster, tragedy, and war, and who were fundamentally, interiorly, changed by their experiences.” {13}

Given this perspective, and given that personal honour “cannot be extracted out from the living moment and our participation in the moment” {7} and is a necessary virtue, then Myatt’s philosophy, while somewhat redolent of Buddhism, Taoism, and the Catholic contemplative tradition, is rather unique in that the personal use of force (including lethal force) in the immediacy of the moment is justified in personal defence of one’s self or of others, since

“the personal virtue of honour, and the cultivation of wu-wei, are – together – a practical, a living, manifestation of our understanding and appreciation of the numinous; of how to live, to behave, as empathy intimates we can or should in order to avoid committing the folly, the error, of ὕβρις, in order not to cause suffering, and in order to re-present, to acquire, ἁρμονίη. For personal honour is essentially a presencing, a grounding, of ψυχή – of Life, of our φύσις – occurring when the insight (the knowing) of a developed empathy inclines us toward a compassion that is, of necessity, balanced by σωφρονεῖν and in accord with δίκη.” {14}

Given the mention of wu-wei in many of Myatt’s recent writings, it is no surprise that Myatt admits (or, rather, overstates) his debt to Taoism:

“According to my limited understanding and knowledge, I am not expressing anything new here. Indeed, I feel (and I use the word ‘feel’ intentionally) that I am only re-expressing 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.” {13}

It is therefore possible to speculate that the archetypal follower of Myatt’s philosophy of pathei-mathos – if there were or could be such followers of such a personal philosophy of life – might be akin to one of the following: (i) a reclusive or wandering, or communal living, mystic, concerned only with their interior life and/or with scholarly study, yet prepared – in the immediacy of the moment and when confronted by someone or some group being dishonourable – to do what is honourable in defence of themselves or others even if that meant their own death; (ii) someone outwardly ordinary who was in, or who was seeking, a loving relationship, and who – compassionate and sensitive and cultured – was unconcerned with politics or conventional religion, and yet prepared – in the immediacy of the moment and when confronted by someone or some group being dishonourable – to do what is honourable in defence of themselves or others even if that meant their own death; (iii) someone with an interior sense of what is honourable whose occupation or career or way of life enables them, in a personal manner and within their milieu, to individually do what is honourable, fair, and just; and (iv) someone who – compassionate and empathic by nature – whose occupation or career or way of life enables them, in a personal manner and within their milieu, to individually do what is compassionate and who would – in the immediacy of the moment and when confronted by someone or some group being dishonourable – do what is honourable in defence of themselves or others even if that meant their own death.

In Myatt’s view, such individuals would be acting in a wise way – in accord with the aforementioned cosmic perspective – since:

“The only effective, long-lasting, change and reform that does not cause suffering – that is not redolent of ὕβρις – is the one that changes human beings in an individual way by personal example and/or because of πάθει μάθος, and thus interiorly changes what, in them, predisposes them, or inclines them toward, doing or what urges them to do, what is dishonourable, undignified, unfair, and uncompassionate. That is what, individually, changes or rebalances bad φύσις and thus brings-into-being, or restores, good φύσις.” {15}

For:

“It is inner, personal, change – in individuals, of their nature, their character – that is is the ethical, the numinous, way to solve such personal and social problems as exist and arise. That such inner change of necessity comes before any striving for outer change by whatever means, whether such means be termed or classified as political, social, economic, religious. That the only effective, long-lasting, change and reform is understood as the one that evolves human beings and thus changes what, in them, predisposes them, or inclines them toward, doing or what urges them to do, what is dishonourable, undignified, unfair, and uncompassionate.” {11}

Extremism, Racism, And Prejudice

In Myatt’s philosophy, the personal knowing of others provided by empathy and the self-knowing that pathei-mathos reveals replace the categorizations by which we have assumed we can know and understand others and ourselves:

“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.” {16}

In Myatt’s view, extremism – whether political or religious – makes some category an ideal to be strived for or returned to, since:

“All extremists accept – and all extremisms are founded on – the instinctive belief or the axiom that their cherished ideation(s) or abstraction(s) is or are more important, more valuable, than the individual and the feelings, desires, hopes, and happiness, of the individual. The extremist thus views and understands the world in terms of abstractions; in terms of 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.

The abstractions of extremism are manifest in the ideology, which posits or which attempts to explain (however irrationally and intolerantly) some ideated form, some assumed or believed in perfect (ideal) form or category of some-thing, and which ideated form is or can be or should be (according to the ideology) contrasted with what is considered or assumed to be its opposite.” {17}

Thus in racism individuals are assigned to, associated with, some ‘race’ with the various ‘races’ assigned a qualitative value – describing their ‘worth’ – based on what some ideology or some ideologue state or believe is their contribution to ‘civilization’ and on how useful or harmful they might be to those deeming themselves ‘superior’.

This is immoral, according to Myatt, not only because it is dishonourable but because of the primacy of empathic, of personal, knowing:

“Everything others associate with an individual, or ascribe to an individual, or use to describe or to denote an individual, or even how an individual denotes or describes themselves, are not relevant, and have no bearing on our understanding, our knowledge, of that individual and thus – morally – should be ignored, for it is our personal knowing of them which is necessary, important, valid, fair.  For assessment of another – by the nature of assessment and the nature of empathy – can only be personal, direct, individual. Anything else is biased prejudgement or prejudice or unproven assumption.

This means that we approach them – we view them –  without any prejudice, without any expectations, and without having made any assumptions concerning them, and as a unique, still unknown, still undiscovered, individual person: as ‘innocent’ until proven, until revealed by their actions and behaviour to be, otherwise. Furthermore, empathy – the acausal perception/knowing and revealing of physis – knows nothing of temporal things and human manufactured abstractions/categories such as assumed or assigned ethnicity; nothing of gender; nothing of what is now often termed ‘sexual preference/orientation’. Nothing of politics, or religion. Nothing of some disability someone may suffer from; nothing of social status or wealth; nothing regarding occupation (or lack of one). Nothing regarding the views, the opinions, of others concerning someone.  For empathy is just empathy, a perception different from our other senses such as sight and hearing, and a perception which provides us, or which can provide us, with a unique perspective, a unique type of knowing, a unique (acausal) connexion to the external world and especially to other human beings.

Empathy – and the knowing that derives from it – thus transcends ‘race’, politics, religion, gender, sexual orientation, occupation, wealth (or lack of it), ‘status’, and all the other things and concepts often used to describe, to denote, to prejudge, to classify, a person; so that to judge someone – for example – by and because of their political views (real or assumed) or by their religion or by their sexual orientation is an act of hubris.

In practice, therefore, in the revealing of the physis of a person, the political views, the religion, the gender, the perceived ethnicity, of someone are irrelevant. It is a personal knowing of them, the perception of their physis by empathy, and an acceptance of them as – and getting to know them as – a unique individual which are important and considered moral; for they are one emanation of the Life of which we ourselves are but one other finite and fallible part.” {12}

However, Myatt’s analysis of extremism goes much further. Based on his forty years of personal experience he considers that the extremist is a particular type of person “by nature or becomes so through association with or because of the influence of others, or because of ideological indoctrination” and that

“it is in the nature of extremists that they disdain, and often despise, the muliebral virtues of empathy, sensitivity, humility, gentleness, forgiveness, compassion, and the desire to love and be loved over and above the desire for conflict, territorial identity, and for war. Thus we find in extremism a glorification of the masculous at the expense of the muliebral; a definite personal certitude of knowing; a glorification of toughness and aggression
and war; an aggressive territorial pride; a tendency to believe, or the forthright assertion, that ‘might is right’ and kampf is necessary; the desire to organize/control; a prominent desire for adventure and/or for conflict/war and/or violence and competition.” {17}

Thus, in Myatt’s philosophy, the extremist is hubriatic: unbalanced because lacking in – or having rejected or suppressed – the muliebral virtues which are or which should be an essential part of our human nature and the genesis of all culture; with the need for such muliebral virtues, for such a balance, and the necessity of culture, among the important things that ‘our culture of pathei-mathos’ informs us about {18}. Little wonder, then, that

“it is [our] shared human culture of pathei-mathos that extremists of whatever kind, and those who advocate -isms and -ologies, scorn and so often try to suppress when, for however short a time, they have political or social or religious power and control over the lives of others. It is this human culture of pathei-mathos which – at least according to my experience, my musings, and my retrospection – reveals to us the genesis of wisdom: which is that it is the muliebral virtues which evolve us as conscious beings, which presence sustainable millennial change. Virtues such as empathy, compassion, humility, and that loyal shared personal love which humanizes those masculous talking-mammals of the Anthropocene, and which masculous talking-mammals have – thousand year following thousand year – caused so much suffering to, and killed, so many other living beings, human and otherwise.” {13}

Furthermore, according to Myatt:

“Given the masculous nature and the masculous ethos of extremism, it is no surprise that the majority of extremists are men; and given that, in my own opinion, the predominant ethos of the last three millennia – especially within the societies of the West – has been a masculous, patriarchal, one it is no surprise that women were expected to be, and often had no option but to be, subservient, and no surprise therefore that a modern movement has arisen to try and correct the imbalance between the masculous and the muliebral […]

[Yet] it is only by using and developing our faculty of empathy, on an individual basis, that we can apprehend and thence understand the muliebral; [for] the muliebral can only be manifested, presenced, individually in our own lives according to that personal, individual, apprehension. Presenced, for example, in our compassion, in our honour, by a personal loyal love, and in that appreciation of innocence and of the numinous that inclines us, as individuals, to reject all prejudice and to distance ourselves from that pride, that certainty-of-knowing about ourselves and those presumptions we make about others, which are so redolent of, and which so presence and have so presenced, the patriarchal ethos.” {13}

Extremism and racism, therefore, are understood in Myatt’s philosophy in relation to hubris and enantiodromia:

“Enantiodromia is the term used, in the philosophy of pathei-mathos, to describe the revealing, the process, of perceiving, feeling, knowing, beyond causal appearance and the separation-of-otherness and thus when what has become separated – or has been incorrectly perceived as separated – returns to the wholeness, the unity, from whence it came forth. When, that is, beings are understood in their correct relation to Being, beyond the causal abstraction of different/conflicting ideated opposites, and when as a result, a reformation of the individual, occurs. A relation, an appreciation of the numinous, that empathy and pathei-mathos provide, and which relation and which appreciation the accumulated pathei-mathos of individuals over millennia have made us aware of or tried to inform us or teach us about.” {14}

“For what the culture of pathei-mathos reveals is that we human beings, are – personally – both the cause and the cure of suffering; and that our choice is whether or not we live, or try to live, in a manner which does not intentionally contribute to or which is not the genesis of new suffering. The choice, in effect, to choose the way of harmony – the natural balance – in preference to hubris.” {19}

 

Conclusion

In his seminal and scholarly essay Questions of Good, Evil, Honour, and God {19}, Myatt places the ethics of his philosophy in the context of the theories of ethics postulated by Christianity, by Islam, and by the proponents of the modern State. He concludes, in respect of his philosophy and its ethics, that:

“The alternative ontology, derived from the culture of pathei-mathos, suggests that the answer to the question regarding the meaning of our existence is simply to be that which we are. To be in balance, in harmony, with Life; the balance that is love, compassion, humility, empathy, honour, tolerance, kindness, and wu-wei. This, by its nature, is a personal answer and a personal choice; an alternative way that compliments and is respectful of other answers, other choices, and of other ways of dealing with issues such as the suffering that afflicts others, the harm that humans do so often inflict and have for so long inflicted upon others. The personal non-judgemental way, of presumption of innocence and of wu-wei, balanced by, if required, a personal valourous, an honourable, intervention in a personal situation in the immediacy of the moment.”

However, this answer is contingent on understanding, via empathy and pathei-mathos, not only ‘the illusion of ipseity’ {16} – the ‘separation-of-otherness’ – but also the cosmic perspective and thus the temporary nature of all our human manufactured forms, categories, and abstractions, for according to Myatt:

“There has been, as there still is, at least in my view, a failure to appreciate two things. Firstly, the causal (the mortal) nature of all forms: from institutions, governments, laws, States, nations, movements, societies, organizations, empires, to leaders and those embodying in some manner the authority, the volksgeist, the ideations, the principles, the aspirations, of their time. Secondly, and possibly most important of all, that what is muliebral cannot be embodied in some organization or movement, or in some -ism, or in any causal form – and certainly cannot be expressed via the medium of words, whether spoken or written – without changing it, distorting it, from what it is into some-thing else. For the muliebral by its very φύσις is personal, individual, in nature and only presenced in the immediacy-of-the-moment, and thus cannot be the object of a supra-personal aspiration and thus should not be ‘idealized’ or even be the subject of an endeavour to express it in some principles or principles (political or otherwise), or by some axiom or axioms, or by some dogma. For all such things – forms and words included – are manifestations, a presencing, of what is, in φύσις, masculous and temporal. Or, expressed more simply, the muliebral presences and manifests what is a-causal – what, in the past, has often inclined us to appreciate the numinous – while the masculous presences and manifests what is causal, temporal, and what in the past has often inclined us toward hubris and being egoistic.” {13}

Myatt’s comprehensive philosophy – propounded in various writings between 2012 and 2014 and which he recently described as being just his personal weltanschauung rather than a philosophy {20} – thus provides an interesting, intriguing, and insightful if iconoclastic, analysis of extremism and contemporary society as well as offering an understandable ethics centred on personal honour, a rather mystical ontology, and a somewhat mystical answer to the question of existence; and although his philosophy certainly deserves to be more widely studied and more widely appreciated, it will doubtless – given Myatt’s outré and controversial life – continue to be neglected for many, many, decades to come.

R. Parker
2014

Notes

{1} (a) Barnett, Antony. Right here, right now, The Observer, February 9, 2003.  (b) Michael, George. The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right. University Press of Kansas, 2006, p. 142ff.
{2} Searchlight, July 2000.
{3} Amis, Martin. The Second Plane. Jonathan Cape, 2008, p.157
{4} (a) Simon Wiesenthal Center: Response, Summer 2003, Vol 24, #2. (b) Wistrich, Robert S. A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad, Random House, 2010.
{5} (a) Myatt, David. Myngath – Some Recollections of a Wyrdful and Extremist Life. 2013. ISBN 978-1484110744. (b) Myatt, David. Understanding And Rejecting Extremism. 2013. ISBN 978-1484854266
{6} Myatt’s philosophy of pathei-mathos is described in the following three published collections of his essays: (a) The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos. 2013. ISBN 978-1484096642. (b) One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods: Some Personal and Metaphysical Musings. 2014. ISBN 978-1502396105. (c) Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos. 2013. ISBN 978-1484097984
The three collections of essays are also available, as of October 2014 and as pdf files, from his weblog at http://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/
{7} Of the virtue of personal honour, Myatt writes that it

“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 […]

[For] 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.” The Way Of Pathei-Mathos – A Précis, in One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods: Some Personal and Metaphysical Musings.

{8} Myatt, David. Let Us Then Try What Love Can Do. 2012. e-text.
{9} The Development of the Numinous Way. The essay is included, as an appendix, in the printed version of his autobiography Myngath, ISBN 978-1484110744
{10} Conspectus of The Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos. 2012. The essay is included in Myatt’s book The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos, ISBN 978-1484096642
{11} Society, Politics, Social Reform, and Pathei-Mathos. 2012. The essay is included in The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos, ISBN 978-1484096642
{12} Some Personal Musings On Empathy In Relation to the Philosophy of πάθει μάθος. 2012. The essay is included in The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos, ISBN 978-1484096642
{13} Some Questions For DWM. 2014. The essay is included in One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods: Some Personal and Metaphysical Musings, 2014, ISBN 978-1502396105
{14} The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos. 2013. ISBN 978-1484096642
{15}  The Way of Pathei-Mathos – A Philosophical Compendium. 2012. The essay is included in The Numinous Way of Pathei-Mathos, ISBN 978-1484096642
{16} See: (a) Toward Understand The Acausal, and (b) The Way Of Pathei-Mathos – A Précis. Both essays are included in One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods: Some Personal and Metaphysical Musings, 2014, ISBN 978-1502396105
{17} Myatt, David. Understanding And Rejecting Extremism. 2013. ISBN 978-1484854266
{18} Regarding ‘the culture of pathei-mathos’ – a key part of his philosophy – see Myatt’s 2014 essay Education And The Culture Of Pathei-Mathos, which is included in One Vagabond In Exile From The Gods: Some Personal and Metaphysical Musings, ISBN 978-1502396105
{19} Questions of Good, Evil, Honour, and God. 2013. The essay is included in Religion, Empathy, and Pathei-Mathos, ISBN 978-1484097984


cc  R. Parker 2014
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.
Can be freely copied and distributed under the terms of that license


David Myatt – Street Fighting Days

David Myatt

David Myatt


The following interesting quote about David Myatt’s youthful years as a neo-nazi thug is taken from a February 2013 (ev) thread about ‘Satanism and the far-right’ on a popular British conspiracy web forum; a thread which quickly became dominated by posts about Myatt and which had over 1,200 views in the space of one week. This apparent interest in Myatt – pro and con (mostly con) – echoes a 2012 thread about him on the well-known right-wing Stormfront forum, and which David Myatt, A Wyrdful Life thread, with over 4,000 views, became one of the most read threads on the Politics & Activism section of Stormfront Britain (and which thread about Myatt, BTW, inspired the creation of this regardingdavidmyatt blog – to gather together info, both pro and con, about Myatt).

Street Fighting Days

” [David] Myatt was an angry young chap who was a joiner, liked a ruck and was handy to have at your back when it kicked off, accordingly he was well respected if not liked.

Myatt was also far more intelligent than the knuckle draggers who were attracted to the cause so he found it hard to make friends with them […]

The satanism stuff is window dressing, most Nazis at one time or another flirt with it and then, realising that it gets no one anywhere. They move on.

That’s as valid a speculation as any about Myatt and it does have the benefit of being written by someone who knew of the guy back when he was a handy street fighter.”

 


Humility, Pathei-Mathos, Islam, and The Need for Tolerance

David Myatt

David Myatt

In Explanation Of Humility and The Need for Tolerance
With Reference to Islam


  • Prefatory Note
  • Of Learning Humility and Tolerance
  • Of Respect for Islam
  • Terror and Al-Quran
  • Of Islam and Violence
  • Conclusion

Prefatory Note

The following text is from a reply sent, in November of 2012, to a personal correspondent living in America who enquired about my peregrinations among various religions; about why – as mentioned in previous correspondence – I still respected the Muslim way of life; and about my response to the particular criticism that ‘Islam encourages terrorism’. I have corrected a few typos, clarified the sense in one or two places, and added sub-headings.

A pdf version is available here – humility-tolerance-islam.pdf (281 kB)

David Myatt
2012

◊◊◊

Of Learning Humility and Tolerance

As someone who has lived an unusual and somewhat itinerant (but far from unique) life, I have a certain practical experience, over nearly fifty years, of various living religions and spiritual Ways of Life. An experience from which I have acquired the habit of respecting all those living religions and spiritual Ways: Christianity (especially Catholicism and monasticism); Buddhism; Islam; Taoism; Hinduism; Judaism; and the paganism manifest in an empathic appreciation of and a regard for Nature.

Due to this respect, there is a sadness within me because of the ignorance, intolerance, prejudice – and often the hatred – of the apparently increasing number of people, in modern Western societies, who disparage Islam, Muslims, and the Muslim way of life, and who thus seem to me to reflect and to display that hubris, that certitude-of-knowing, that lack of appreciation of the numinous, that at least in my fallible opinion and from my experience militates against the learning, the culture, the civility, that make us more than, or can make us more than, talking beings in thrall to their instincts who happen to walk upright.

My personal practical experience of, for example, Christianity, is of being raised a Catholic, and being a Catholic monk. Of Buddhism, of spending several years meditating and striving to follow the Noble Eightfold Path, including in a Buddhist monastery and with groups of Buddhists. Of Islam, of a decade living as a Muslim, performing daily Namaz (including attending Jummah Namaz in a Mosque), fasting in Ramadan, and travelling in Muslim lands. Of Taoism, of experience – in the Far East – a Taoist Martial Art and learning from a Taoist priest. Of Hinduism, of learning – in the Far East – from a Hindu lady and of over a year on my return to England continuing my learning and undertaking daily practice of Hatha Yoga according to the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā. Of paganism, of developing an empathic reverence and respect for Nature by time spent as a rural ‘gentleman of the road’, as a gardener, and by years doing outdoor manual labour on farms…

Following a personal tragedy which suffused me with sadness and remorse and which – via pathei-mathos – ended my life-long desire for and enjoyment of practical Faustian peregrinations, there arose a years-long period of intense interior reflexion, and which reflexion included not only discovering and knowing the moral error of my immoral extremist pasts but also questions concerning the nature of faith, of God, and our desire, in times of personal grief and tragedy and remorse, and otherwise, to seek and often to need the guidance, the catharsis, of a religion or a spiritual Way.

Importantly, as I wrote in Pathei-Mathos, Genesis of My Unknowing,

“…what exposed my hubris – what for me broke down that certitude-of-knowing which extremism breeds and re-presents – was not something I did; not something I achieved; not something related to my character, my nature, at all. Instead, it was a gift offered to me by two others – the legacy left by their tragic early dying. That it took not one but two personal tragedies – some thirteen years apart – for me to accept and appreciate the gift of their love, their living, most surely reveals my failure, the hubris that for so long suffused me, and the strength and depth of my so lamentable extremism.”

Forced by grief – by pathei-mathos – to admit my mistakes, the suffering I had because of my extremism and my selfishness caused, I discovered I did not like myself, my character, and felt I needed to reform myself. But how? Through the guidance and acceptance of a living religion or some spiritual Way of Life? By holding fast onto Islam? By returning to my Catholic roots, or to Buddhism or Taoism? Or by, and perhaps unhumbly, trying to find some solutions of my own? Suffice to say it took me over five years [2006-2011], and culminated this year in my philosophy of pathei-mathos, my fallible answers to certain questions concerning morality, expiation, reformation, the numinous, and the nature of Being and of beings.

In the process, I came to appreciate humility; to admit its importance in trying to live a moral life where there is an appreciation of the numinous, a desire to be gentle, compassionate, to value love, and where there is the feeling that one needs to avoid causing suffering. To admit that we do not have or know all or even many of the answers; that we are fallible and thus that our own answers or conclusions or opinions may be wrong, and that we need therefore to be tolerant and respect the choice, the views, of others and the religions and the spiritual ways that offer and which have offered them answers to questions regarding meaning, morality, and love, and possibly also given them catharsis, purpose, an appreciation of the numinous, and happiness.

For one of my answers was that I felt, in common with many others, that

“…there is, to paraphrase an expression of George Fox used by The Religious Society of Friends, ‘that of the numinous’ in every person, and that answering to ‘that of the numinous’ can take and has taken various manifestations over millennia with all such manifestations deserving of respect since there is an underlying unity, a similar spiritual essence – a similar discovery and knowing and appreciation of the numinous, a similar understanding of the error of hubris – beyond those different outer manifestations and the different terms and expressions and allegories used to elucidate that of the numinous.” [1]

In addition, I began during those five years to fully appreciate Islam, beyond the rather harsh interpretation of it which I as a Muslim had for many years accepted and followed. An appreciation which took me on further travels; involved days of discussions; much further study, personal and with others; and enabled me to place my years of living the Muslim way of life in the context of not only my life in general but also in relation to my experience of other religions and spiritual ways of living.

Of Respect For Islam

In respect of this appreciation of Islam:

” I felt really at home with, among, devout Muslims – those trying to follow the guidelines of Quran and Sunnah (or in the case of the Shia, being Taqlid of a Mujtahid). There was, and is, so much to admire about the Muslim way of life, from the modesty of women, the reverence for the Prophet, the cultivation of humility, the necessity of Wudhu, praying five times a day, the reliance on only Allah, fasting in Ramadan, the real feeling of belonging to the Ummah, the avoidance of intoxicating substances…

Of all the religions I have personal experience of, I found Islam to be perhaps the most human. In the Quran and Sunnah our weaknesses are laid bare, and in Shariah there is a guide to living in a balanced, a human, and a numinous, way.” [2]

Thus my personal view of Islam, of the Muslim way of life, and which view I have expressed in recent correspondence with others, is a very positive and tolerant one; of respect born from experience, a scholarly study, and a comparative assessment with other religions and spiritual ways also personally experienced.

Perhaps the bad opinion many people in the West have of Islam would be changed if they spent time with Muslim families in places as diverse as Egypt, Somalia, Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan, Senegal, Malaysia, and Birmingham. Until they have, who are they to pass judgement on the Muslim way of life, and on the Quran, the Sunnah, and the Shariah, that inspires and informs that way of life?

Terror and Al-Quran

An ayah [verse] often (mis)quoted by those ignorant of, intolerant toward, or prejudiced against, Islam, Muslims and the Muslim way of life, is Ayah 151 of Surah Al ‘Imran, which is usually interpreted as “Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers.” Indeed, some self-proclaimed enemies of Islam have even produced images of the World Trade Center in flames, following the attack in 2001, overlaid with that interpretation of that Ayah as one of their ‘proofs’ that Islam incites ‘terrorism’.

However, a reasoned consideration of the interpretations of the Ayat [verses] such people use in their propaganda reveals their error and their ignorance. For instance, the Arabic of Ayah 151 of Surah Al ‘Imran is:

سَنُلْقِي فِي قُلُوبِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا الرُّعْبَ بِمَا أَشْرَكُوا بِاللَّهِ مَا لَمْ يُنَزِّلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا وَمَأْوَاهُمُ النَّارُ وَبِئْسَ مَثْوَى الظَّالِمِينَ

[Transliteration: sanulqi fee qulubi allazeena kafaroo l-ruba bima ashraku bil-lahi ma lam yunazzil bihi sultanan wamawhumu l-naru wabisa mathwa l-zalimeena ]

Importantly, does الرُّعْبَ imply ‘terror’ as the aforementioned interpretation suggests, along with all that the modern English word terror implies, as in the difficult to define term terrorism? No, it does not; rather, the Arabic implies the fear/the dread and ‘the astonishment/awe’ – that is, that human feeling inspired by apprehending or experiencing some-thing supernaturally or extraordinarily powerful and numinous; for example, an Ayah (Sign) of Allah, Al-Khaliq, Al-Azim, Al-Jalil. The fear/trembling/awe/astonishment felt, for instance, by the Apostles when, as recounted in Luke 24.37, they witnessed Jesus alive after the crucifixion.

That is, I suggest that what is referred to in Ayah 151 of Surah Al ‘Imran – as in the other four Ayat where الرُّعْبَ / رُعْبًا occur – is similar to the ‘suffusion with fear’ and the ‘being scared’ that occurs and has occurred, as recounted in both Christian scripture and the Quran, when a mortal is (a) confronted by God/Allah or some-thing divine/numinous/awe-inspiring, and/or (b) has such fear, and such a being scared, thrust into their hearts by God/Allah, as a Sign, a warning, or as mention of their fate.

In respect of Luke 24.37, for instance, the Greek text is: πτοηθέντες δὲ καὶ ἔμφοβοι γενόμενοι ἐδόκουν πνεῦμα θεωρεῖν. The term ἔμφοβος means ‘suffused with/by phobos’ – held/gripped by fear; timorous – and occurs in Sirach 19.24 and Luke 24.5, the latter of which is very interesting: ἐμφόβων δὲ γενομένων αὐτῶν καὶ κλινουσῶν τὰ πρόσωπα εἰς τὴν γῆν εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτάς Τί ζητεῖτε τὸν ζῶντα μετὰ τῶν νεκρῶν. That is, suffused with phobos, they assumed a posture of submission/reverence/respect by bowing their heads; in effect prostrating themselves in the presence of some-thing divine/numinous/awe-inspiring. Since πνεῦμα – pneuma – implies apparition or ghost, and πτοηθεντες suggests they were ‘scared’ (cf. Odyssey 22.298 – τῶν δὲ φρένες ἐπτοίηθεν) then Luke 24.37 could be translated as “But they, suffused with fear and scared, felt that they saw an apparition.” [3]

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.

In the matter of Ayah 151 of Surah Al ‘Imran, a possible interpretation of meaning is:

Into the hearts of they who disbelieve We shall hurl redurre because they, without any authority revealed about such things, associate others with Allah; and for their home: The Fire, that harrowing resting place of the unjust.

Here, I have used the unusual English word redurre, with a meaning of ‘awe combined with a trembling fear’. A word suggested by its occurrence in religious works by Richard Rolle and John Gower, and also by texts such as Morte Arthure [4].

Of Islam and Violence

It is easy to misinterpret texts; easy to form an opinion based on reading such misinterpretations; easy to generalize from a few misinterpreted texts – or from texts taken out of context – and produce propaganda that incites prejudice, intolerance, and even hatred.

For example, it is possible for a reader of translations to find more talk of ‘terror’, retribution, destruction, killing, and violence, in the Old Testament than in the Quran. Consider, for example, a commonly available translation of Deuteronomy 32. 25:

“The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.”

Do the plethora of such quotations from readily available translations of the Old Testament make Christianity and Judaism barbarous religions of hatred, violence, and terrorism? Are such translations of LXX accurate, to be relied upon in the matter of forming an opinion about what is meant?

Few people today would claim – based on some quotations from a translation of the Greek Old Testament – that Christianity and Judaism are barbarous religions of hatred and terrorism, and if they did so claim, there is over a thousand years of Jewish and Christian scholarship to contradict it, as well as the contribution adherents of both those religions have made, over thousands of years, to culture, science, and to doing works which have benefited humanity. Not to mention the millions of adherents who, following the precepts and guidelines of their faith, live or try to live moral lives and who thus make and have made the world a better place.

Similarly, there is the contribution Muslims have made, over more than a thousand years, to culture, science [5], and to doing works which have benefited humanity. Just as there are millions of Muslims who, following the precepts and guidelines of their faith, live or try to live moral lives and who thus make and have made the world a better place; and just as there is over a thousand years of Muslim scholarship to contradict the claims made by the ‘Islam is a savage, evil, religion’ brigade, a treasure of scholarship that the members and supporters of the anti-Muslim brigade are, of course, either ignorant about or which they, in their bigotry, scorn.

Similarly, who today – other than the ignorant or the bigoted – commits the logical fallacy of distribution in respect of Christianity by condemning that faith based on the actions of a few individuals or fanatics who claim they are Christians, or who, for instance, in the name of defending ‘Western Christian culture’ murder seventy-seven, mostly young, innocent people? Who, other than the ignorant or the bigoted, condemns Catholicism because a few priests commit crimes against children? Who draws attention to the professed Christian faith or the Christian baptism of murderers and rapists in order to defame Christianity?

Yet the anti-Muslim brigade repeatedly commit the logical fallacy of distribution, and the fallacy of incomplete evidence, arguing as they do from the particular to the general, and selecting and presenting as they do – in support of their prejudice – material which appears to support their claims about Islam and Muslims, while ignoring or dismissing the much larger body of material which does not support their claims about Islam and Muslims.

Thus do the ignorant, the bigoted, the intolerant, anti-Muslim brigade draw attention to the beliefs and the acts of the small numbers of Muslims – out of billions – who follow a harsh interpretation of Islam, while ignoring the diversity within Islam, ignoring the scholarship which militates against such a harsh interpretation and such acts, and ignoring the millions upon millions of Muslims, world-wide who, by following the precepts and guidelines of Islam as manifest in Quran, Sunnah, Ijmah and Qiyas, live or try to live moral lives, who appreciate the numinous, strive to avoid the error of hubris, and who thus make and have made the world a better place.

Conclusion

In this matter of division, divide, tolerance, and prejudice, I am rather reminded of George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address. Such eloquent, reasoned, words expressive of a man of good intentions and discernment who not only appreciated the virtue of tolerance but knew the nature of we oft-times dishonourable, sometimes honourable, human beings:

“…designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection…

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government… Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge…

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it…

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.

It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy.”

Did his words prevent designing men from causing a civil war between North and South? No. Did his words in support of virtue and the diffusion of knowledge prevent the racism that prevailed in the South from lasting over a hundred years? No. Did his words prevent the disharmony between nations that led to the First and the Second World Wars? No.

But his words did inspire generation after generation of individuals who, each in their own personal way – sometimes small, and local, sometimes larger – did make a moral difference, and who all in their own personal way promoted and diffused knowledge, fostered fraternal affection, who championed good faith and justice towards all nations, and who strove to cultivate peace and harmony.

Who all, in summary and gradually, made America, and the world, a better place.


Notes

[1] Pathei-Mathos – A Path To Humility. 2012.

[2] Just My Fallible Views, Again. 2012.

[3] On a pedantic note, I understand δοκέω as meaning here not the conventional unemotional ‘suppose/thought’ nor (worse) ‘opinion’ but rather as ‘felt’ in the sense of experiencing (as they do) an intense and personal feeling. Hence my rendering that they “felt that they saw…”

[4] John Gower, Confessio Amantis

That thogh thi love more drawe
And peise in the balance more,
Thou miht noght axe ayein therfore
Of duete, bot al of grace.
For love is lord in every place,
Ther mai no lawe him justefie
Be reddour ne be compaignie,
That he ne wole after his wille

Whom that him liketh spede or spille

(Book 5, v. 4558) The Complete Works of John Gower. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899-1902


Morte Arthure

That thow ne schall rowte ne ryste vndyr the heuene ryche,
Þofe thow for reddour of Rome ryne to þe erthe [108-109]

[5] In terms of culture one might mention just a few, such as the preservation of important Greek manuscripts; Bayt Ul-Hikma;the first universities (in Al-Andalus) and pleasures such as coffee. In terms of science, one might mention Arabic numerals and the decimal system, algebra, early research in chemistry and medicine, pharmacology, observational astronomy, navigation, the inventions of Abbas ibn Firnas; and so on.


cc David Myatt 2012
This text 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.