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12 November 2007

Comments

Margaret

There are many ways to be useful, I think.

http://adifferentvoice.wordpress.com/2007/11/13/amazing-grace-ii/

Sean

Here's an MP3 link to a Fr. Seraphim Rose talk at University of California in 1981 on "Signs of the End Times"

http://www.ortodoxmedia.com/inregistrare/140/The-signs-of-the-end-of-

The TXT version of said talk

http://www.roca.org/OA/134/134b.htm (P1)
http://www.roca.org/OA/134/134c.htm (Q & A)

Stavros

Sean,

Thanks for the links.

Margaret,

Wilberforce and Father Seraphim both have impacted others in a positive way. They took different paths to be sure but they both epitomize two very important aspects of Christianity: faith and works. Salvation requires both. I'm working on a future post.

Dimitrios

There's a point in Monk Damascene's account where he seems to refer to Nietzsche as a prophet; also the Blessed Seraphim refers to his fierce hunger for Christ. This strikes me as insightful. His spiritual longing, passionate intensity and deep meditation on God and Christ is undeniable; he still acts a s a touchstone: those who study and truly digest his thought and still hold onto their faith are blessed indeed.

It is a pity he did not find that which he was seeking, that his spiritual path did not lead to Constantinople (or even Rome). What a Christian he would have made!

We may also have been spared some of the efforts of his loathsome epigones, his self-described disciples from the Nazis to Foucault and his Deconstructionists, to demolish the precious civilized life of Christendom.

O Theos na ton sinhoresi.

Margaret

I have found Nietzsche's writing very challenging, but found my way through it finally after several years of struggle. I don't think he ever experienced love (a selfless going out, agapi rather than eros), except perhaps when he saw the horse collapse. At the risk of repeating myself, I don't think love and power can be reconciled, so I imagine that experiencing one when you've devoted your life to the other would be enough to make you mad.

I wrote an essay about it, which I enjoyed writing and which I've posted on my blog. Rather long, I'm afraid. The essay is particularly about the difference (as I see it) between compassion and pity. The first is a relationship of love, the second a relationship of power. I don't have a degree in philosophy, so am setting myself up to be shot down, I know. And I wrote it about four years ago so I can see all sorts of faults in it now. I did read around the subject a lot, and found Martha Nussbaum's work very useful. I enjoyed writing the essay if only because it enabled me to finally get beyond Nietzsche so that his thought no longer threatens me.

Hermes

Margaret, judging by your comments on Nietzsche I suggest you read him a bit more closely. His love was with mankind (with the except of his brief affair with Lou Salome). His concept of power was not power of others but power over oneself to enable creativity. Something akin to the 'magnanimous man' in Aristotle's Ethics. Many people speculate one of the reasons he broke down in the square of Turin was because he was overly concerned with the plight of mankind.

In many respects Nietzsche’s thinking resembles theology rather than a philosophy and his life resembles the struggles of a monk in the Egyptian desert. Even his writings are like the exhortations of early Christians. Even the plot in his most important book resembles a religious story: Zarathustra comes down from the mountain to preach a new religion to the European man who has killed God with rationality, inquiry and curiosity. The bargain the Europeans made with Mephistopheles (the devil) best characterized by the story of Faust. However, we should not confuse one theology for another. His theology is more akin to the early Greeks rather than Christians. Heraclitus also lived alone before he came to the city to preach to its inhabitants. Pythagoras lived in a religious community separate from the city. Parmenides poem reads like a religious text. The Greeks were an intensely religious people. So Nietzsche was a religious thinker. Heidegger was also a religious thinker. But their religion just happened not to be Christianity but idiosyncratic interpretations of Hellenism.

Margaret

Hermes, you never disappoint. I'll ignore the first sentence which is gratuitously offensive, don't you think? He didn't love mankind - he hated most of them, the sheep, the lemmings - and I'm not sure he loved Lou Salome either though he may, briefly, have been infatuated by the idea of her. I agree that he was principally concerned with "self-actualisation", to use a horrible modern phrase, or his own will to power, but there is no room for vulnerablity built into his schema and, without that, there is, I believe, no possibility of intimacy.

I really don't understand how a horse breaking down has anything to do with the plight of mankind, though it might have had quite a lot to do with the plight of horses at that time ... but I do think it might have been one of the rare occasions when he felt another's pain ... and if that is what you are trying to say too, then perhaps we can agree somewhat on that.

I don't think the rest of your comment is addressed to me particularly, and I wouldn't disagree with you anyway.

Perhaps, however, you'd care to tell me how you can reconcile the will to power with a loving intimate relationship with another person? I'd be interested in your answer.

Hermes

Margaret, you seem to be overly sensitive. But maybe I am a bit gruff (or less hypocritical) for genteel Anglo-Saxon ways. Nietzsche was deeply concerned with mankind that is why he railed against Christianity. He saw this religion has being nihilistic (note these are not wholly my views). I would not interpret his use of words like “sheep, lemmings etc” negatively. He wrote in a very aphoristic, hyperbolic and metaphorical manner. This is one of the reasons he has been so misinterpreted. Yes, he believed most of humanity were no better than sheep but is that not true? But this pained him and that is why he believed in the Overman to help rid humanity of its problems. Also, remember I think the bible makes references to sheep and flocks to represent people.

The only way one can have an intimate relationship with another is when one has will to power. Power over their wasteful desires, resentments, jealousies etc. Are you not happier with your partner when you feel at your best? When your life is operating as “controlled passion”? Despite Nietzsche’s arrogance these are very old ideas found in ancient texts.

Also, there is much room for vulnerability in his thinking. All of his texts are a cry of anguish for the exalted Overman. He has deep sympathy for this man’s fight against mediocrity and nihilism. His plight against utilitarianism, socialism, industrialization and other leveling tendencies and a world lacking great Art. It is a sympathy for aristeia over the mass man. Aristocratic in its original sense.

I can detect in your interpretation of his thinking a heavy influence of neoliberalism. Try and change the blinkers. There is a world beyond The Observer.

Margaret

Hermes, you are patronising, and I am sensitive.

I wonder which of us knows Nietzsche best? Neither of us knows the other's history, so best not to make assumptions ...

I love this quote from him, though, and am quite sure you will approve too. In fact you could easily have written it yourself:

"To blunder over the fundamental problem of "man and woman", to deny here the most abysmal antagonism and the necessity of an eternally hostile tension, perhaps here to dream of equal rights, equal education, equal claims and duties: this is a 'typical' sign of shallow-mindedness, and a thinker who has proved himself to be shallow and an Observer reader on this dangerous point - shallow of instinct! - may be regarded as suspect in general, more, as betrayed, as found out: he will probably be too 'short' for all the fundamental questions of life, those of life in the future too, incapable of any depth. On the other hand a man who has depth, in his spirit as well as his desires, and also that depth of benevolence which is capable of hardness and severity and lack of hypocrisy and is easily confused with them, can think of woman only in an oriental way - he must conceive of woman as a possession, as property with lock and key, as something predestined for service and attaining her fulfilment in service - in this matter he must take his stand on this tremendous intelligence of Asia, on Asia's superiority of instinct, as the Greeks formerly did: they were Asia's best heirs and pupils and, as is well known, from Homer to the age of Pericles, with the increase of their culture and the amplitude of their powers, also became step by step more strict with women, in short more oriental. How necessary, how logical, how humanly desirable even, this was: let each ponder for himself!"

I think Nietzsche's will to power is essential to a healthy life and, yes, I orten feel happy when I feel most free. But in reality my life (which I am very happy with) is a series of interdependencies, of demands made on me, of needs I have to, want to, meet, from my husband, my children, my friends, and at work. It is also a life full of joys that come from those relationships.

Perhaps I could not have lived as Nietzsche lived, but neither could he have lived as a family man except with a family of other Nietzsches, each independent of the other. I do not say he is wrong, only that it doesn't work for me.

Margaret

Stavros, I apologise for monopolising space on your blog in a conversation that does not even involve you. I could discuss Nietzsche with Hermes for the rest of my life and we would still disagree I think. So I'll leave my comments there. Hermes can have the last word.

Dimitrios

The thing seems to be, that Nietzsche tried to think himself into the mindset of the archaic, Pre-Socratic Greeks...and succeeded. (He was, by all accounts, an extraordinarily insightful Hellenist and classical scholar). The problem- he inherited all the spiritual problems of that mindset as well. Some of the early Christian Fathers pointed out that Greek philosophy can be seen as a process of seeking the "unknown God". Nietzsche may have, on some level, perceived this...and that the Overman in whom he had pinned his hopes had already come, been crucified and died in the governership of Pontius Pilate.

Stavros

Margaret, Hermes and Dimitrios,

I have been following your comments with interest. If I have not made any comments of my own it is simply because I feel totally unqualified to add anything worthwhile to the discussion. It has caused me however, to do some research, just so I can keep up with what is being said. Please don't feel like you are monopolizing anything. In fact, it has given me a much needed respite during which I have been working on my next post.

Margaret

OK, Stavros, with your permission ...

To try to tie all this in with your original post ... Nietzsche was extremely cynical of all philosophers (with the exception of himself) because he thought that each philosophy they constructed was no more than "a confession on the part of its author and a kind of involontary and unconscious memoir", that each philosopher creates the world in his own image, as he sees it. The point I'm trying (badly) to make is that he saw the world as he did because of how he saw the world ... because of how he was, and he couldn't see it differently without becoming a different person. But my world is different because I am different.

Your monk Seraphim Rose could, perhaps, have not been other than a man who lived in a hut with a matted beard. He clearly did what he did very well, but could he have lived your life with all the things you have done, achieved, the people you've kept happy, the responsibilities you have shouldered, the children you've looked after? I somehow doubt that. Why was his life of contemplation any better than yours? Was not his life of contemplation a predictable outcome of his earlier traumas? If I imagine alternatives outcomes for him with his history, I can imagine an early death more easily than I can imagine a happy family life with children. I've met my own Nietzsches, and the same goes for them. Whether they are destined to live such lives from birth, or whether their early life predisposes them to lives of extreme solitude is a moot point, but one that interests me greatly.

Stavros

Margaret,

You never disappoint. I would like to respond to the weighty issues that you bring up in a post rather than a comment in order to do them justice. I'll do my best to have both posts completed by tonight.

Hermes

Dimitrios, I am interested in what these spiritual problems the early Greeks had? Before you answer can you please do me a favour and read the primary texts. Please do not read anything else - no secondary texts. Just read the primary texts and then tell me what these spiritual problems are? And then tell me if other people have had spiritual problems and tell me what they?

Margaret, people are predisposed to some pathways and others are not and both inform each other. The issue is not really whether one is better than the other but how they conduct themselves in these paths. Oswald Spengler had a good saying:

"We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honourable end is the one thing that can not be taken from a man."

-Oswald Spengler

 Lutheran church

For the first time I heard about the father Hieromonk Seraphim Rose and a brief history about him is very good and I got understand many things about him and his writings. Thanks for this information.

Stavros

Lutheran,

You are very welcome, if you would like to read more try this link:

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/searchresults.aspx?kw=seraphim%2

May your efforts be blessed.

Dimitrios

I'm not a professional scholar, Hermes; merely a dilettante. However, I'll try to explain my thinking.
My understanding of the "spiritual problems of the Early Greeks" is through the lens of Plato. The Dialogues for the most part seem to be a general critique of the received wisdom of the Greek of pre-classical times. In the persona of Socrates, Plato subjects the traditional wisdom of the Pre-Classical Greeks about justice, morals, religion etc. to rigorous dialectic analysis. The end result of most dialogues is aporia, where nothing is resolved, rather than resolution in favour of ancestral wisdom...thus leaving open ended-the question of whether ancestral wisdom was correct or not.

I draw attention to the fact that Socrates (and Plato) was considered by Nietzsche to be main causes of the decadence of post-Classical European culture, right up there with "The Crucified" himself.

As to the "original texts" of the Pre-Socratics, I'm not as well up on them as you obviously are. In mitigation I might say that there aren't any "original texts". What we have are fragments, quoted in the works of later (often hostile) commentators. Perhaps what Nietzsche "filled the gaps" in those fragments with a worldview wholly his own, that had a patina of the ancient world on it. Nevertheless, in expressing the views of interlocutors like Trasymachus and Gorgias in the Dialogues, Plato probably described actually existing precoursers to Nietzsche's ideas of "master and slave morality"

The Spengler quote is moving...the idea was expressed most pointedly in Napoleonic times: "The Guard may die, but never surrenders!" Much as I may admire futile yet glorious last stands (My Greek roots are showing) as much as the next guy, I'd like to make mention of great Odysseus, definitely a man who knew the value of a good tactical retreat. As Stavros mentioned before on his blog, we are Roumious, as well as Hellenes.

(Incidently, I apologise both to Hermes and to Stavros for this long, tiresome screed. Cicero once wrote to a friend "I have written you a long letter as I didn't have time to write you a short one")

Hermes

Not bad. But where is the spiritual problem? Or any worse or better spiritual problem not faced by any other people? I suspect the comments on your previous post were merely the same ones provided by Christian apologists i.e. "the Greeks, despite being so inventive, had a gaping hole and we helped to fill that hole". On the other hand, the reality is that when the Greeks (the aristocratic representatives and not the proletariat) encountered Christianity they did not express aporia but they expressed bewilderment at such a silly creed. This is from the writings of Celsus, Porphyry etc

Dimitrios

I see your point, Hermes, I honestly do. However, Celsus and Porphyry were Platonists themselves. Please see Neitzsche's many disdainful comments on Christianity as "Platonism for the People"...they would have been seen by him as no better. Porphyry's works were preserved laboriously by generations of medieval monkish copyists for a reason. Similar philosophic worldview, perhaps? There were quite a few Christian Platonists around too: think Clement of Alexandria, for ex.

The aristocratic representatives of Greco-Roman antiquity generally adopted Platonism and its variants wholesale, unwittingly preparing the ground for Christianity. To paraphrase Burke, a great revolution comes when the minds of men are fitted to it. That defintely includes the minds of the majority of the intellectual elites. It can't come any other way.

In the Latin West the Roman Imperial structure collapsed, bringing about the Dark Ages. This perhaps allowed Neitzsche and other idealistic Western Hellenists to indulge in the belief that the collapse of the Classical world, together with its glorious, healthy Dionysian paganism, was brought about by "Christianity and the Barbarians" (Gibbon's phrase). "Thou hast triumphed, O pale Galileean, and the world hast grown pale with thy breath!".

We as Greeks, however shouldn't really indulge in these fantasies. After all classical civilisation did NOT collapse in the Greek East. It was baptised (perhaps perhaps peremptorily) by Constantine, but had generally converted over the course of a few centuries. It recognisably remained the continuation of classical Greco-Roman civilisation, holding out against all comers, til the stab in the back by the Crusaders, and the final crushing by the Turks. Christianity was not some alien virus, infecting and killing the great body of Clasical civ; it was of the blood and bone of that world. I myself can't maintain the pleasantly subversive, elitist belief that the Classical Oecumene and Christendom were completely different opposites, like some effete sanctimonious snob out of a Cavafy poem, wearing his ostentatious paganism as a badge of contempt for the Christian mob.

Dimitrios

I'm sorry Hermes. In that farrago of stuff above, I lost sight of your main point.

"I suspect the comments on your previous post were merely the same ones provided by Christian apologists i.e. "the Greeks, despite being so inventive, had a gaping hole and we helped to fill that hole"."

If ancient Hellenic religion had been as complete, generally fulfilling and self-sufficient as you imply, then there wouldn't have been a niche available for the major religious change that occurred in Late Antiquity, Not to say that the change would have necessarily been to Christianity, particularly. That seems to have happened through sheer chance (or God's will, depending on your faith level). Without Christianity what would have developed in the Mediterranean and Europe would have a kind of Neoplatonic mystical monotheism, an "astral piety".

Catholic writer John Reilly actually has some interesting speculations about this Platonic religion and what its historic effects would have been without the existence of Christianity. Link: www.johnreilly.info/ijhnbb.htm

Worth looking at, actually, and relevant to this discussion.

Stavros

Dimitrios,

Your comments are not tiresome in the slightest, they are lucid, clear and spot on. The quality of the discussions and the input of the commenters lately have been outstanding and surpass my simple postings by far. Thanks.

Hermes

I’ll ignore your first post because I am not sure what relevance it has; however, there is plenty there for another discussion. As to your second post I am not exclusively referring to the ancient Hellenic religion but Hellenic spiritual culture which included religion, philosophical systems, art, poesy, music and political structures which at different times overlapped to varying degrees i.e. one could be more philosophically inclined than religiously inclined but still could be considered a Hellene in a spiritual sense. This overarching spiritual culture never purported to be completely fulfilling and self sufficient. Actually, its very own nature facilitated syncretism by absorbing influences through time and space. There was a niche available for anything if it contributed new ways of understanding and living. Let’s not forget that offshoots and the development of less than Christian niches have dogged Christianity right from the outset – so does that mean it should be superseded by some more encompassing? Perhaps something akin to Islam which is not just a religion but system governing the totality of life.

Also, I believe your statement that Christianity was brought about by sheer chance is fairly close to the mark but this position undermines much of what Christianity claims to be. Overall, you seem to have a similar position to mine. I’ll have a look at this article. If you are interested there is some very good research being conducted on Late Antiquity and “pagan” monotheism in some Academies.

Dimitrios

I'm very interested, Hermes; this subject is rich, and worth further investigation. When you have time, drop me a line at jimmylevendia@hotmail.com (yes, yes, I know: jimmymangas@hotmail.com and jimmypallikari@hotmail.com were already taken...)

Also, I appreciate your comments, Stavros

Diogenes

Reading these comments reminds me of this: http://freedomkeys.com/ar-racism.htm

Anglo-Saxone

Thanks for the link to a fantastic article, Diogenes.

I'm a great fan of Ayn Rand - not that I agree with everything she wrote but, by God, does she provoke ...

I love this sentence: "Even if it were proved -- which it is not -- that the incidence of men of potentially superior brain power is greater among the members of certain races than among the members of others, it would still tell us nothing about any given individual and it would be irrelevant to one's judgment of him" if only because I remember once writing something similar myself on another blog ...

Stavros

Diogenes,

I don't disagree with what she says in the article you link to. Here is my problem however,with Rand in a nutshell. It goes without saying that Rand, good rationalist that she was, did not believe in any kind of religious salvation for man. She wanted to save man’s soul and she believed she could save him. Talk about hubris. She a developed theory of human nature which vindicated her belief that man could achieve a state of moral and spiritual perfection in this life, here on earth. With the right ideas, a man could secure the secular equivalent of religious salvation. No wonder she is so popular in our secularized world.

Hermes

I must say it is very sad when Greeks start quoting very 3rd rate thinkers such as Ayn Rand. Particularly, when it has no relevance to the discussion. I agree with Stavros here.

Maximus the Confessor or St Symeon the New Theologian over Ayn Rand any day!

Margaret

You see, she provokes a reaction. I think that she was a very complicated, passionate, angry woman often overwhelmed by her emotions who, therefore, needed to construct "rationalism" as the supreme virtue as an antidote (and don't draw parallels or comparisons with me ...:)). Simplistically, if she stayed in the left side of her brain, she could shut out the right side. (Nathaniel Branden's account of his life with her is compelling, but somehow turns my stomach - http://www.amazon.com/Years-Ayn-Rand-Nathaniel-Branden/dp/0787945137)

I think she was often wrong, but that is not to say that what she has written - about selfishness, about love being only about respect for someone's positive characteristics - has not challenged me much more than reading something that has me nodding in agreement all the time.

Is there not some truth, also, in her championing of reason? What are we if we let our emotions rule our lives? How do we sort out the wheat from the chaff - reason, instinctive emotion, or prayer? Is it possible to love someone we do not respect? What are emotions anyway?

In many ways, I think she was like Bertrand Russell - Analytical philosopher but chaotic, passionate personal life.

Yes, she rejected any transcendental faith, but she had to grapple with the same questions and problems that face us all. I suspect the answers elude us too, to a greater or lesser extent.

Diogenes

Rand's thoughts on religion are tangential to the point at hand.

The cognitive dissonance of Greeks who proclaim themselves naturally superior "just because they are" never ceases to amaze me.

Blaming America for their ills might make them feel better, but it is not going to change their situation.

Hermes

The cognitive dissonance of Greeks who think that other Greeks proclaim themselves superior simply because they are Greeks never ceases to amaze. However, we are allowed to appreciate our culture aren't we? We are allowed to plunge its depths for inspiration aren't we? We are allowed to sings its praises when it is qualitatively better aren't we? We are allowed to feel good about ourselves that our ancestors have done great things although we may we know full well that it does not mean we are great?

The United States is a legitimate target for criticism.

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