Athens, Sparta, And The Division And Decline of The West

The West has long been split into two. “While Athens is justly credited with phenomenal achievements in visual art, architecture, theater, philosophy and democratic politics,” writes Paul Cartledge in The Spartans, “the ideals and traditions of its greatest rival, Sparta, are equally potent and enduring: duty, discipline, the nobility of arms in a cause worth dying for, the sacrifice of the individual for the greater good of the community and the triumph of will over seeming insuperable obstacles.”

Cartledge believes that the ethos of ancient Greece influenced, and to some degree came to reside in the Roman and British empires. Yet these too have gone. Rome remains, and Britain remains, though the latter is still battling to have relevance in the world — especially, perhaps, moral relevance. With the traditional religion of the country collapsed, its politicians — like the politicians of most Western European nations — believe less in representing the public than in educating and molding them morally, as priests would once have attempted. Continue reading “Athens, Sparta, And The Division And Decline of The West”

Myth, Catharsis, and The Riddle of The Sphinx

A macroscopic view of myth (Gr: Μύθος) as logos (usually translated as “word”) reveals important associations, insights, and interpretations, all which deserve our attention and can assist us in our exploration of the human soul and its journey towards freedom. During the 9th – 8th century BC, Homer (in his poems the Iliad and the Odyssey) equates myth with speech and conversation, but also with advice, opinion, and promise. During classical times (5th and 4th century BC), myth continues to be treated as a story, as evident by the dramatic works of Sophocles and Euripides.

In the context of philosophy, myth becomes a powerful pedagogical and initiatory device, especially as it appears in the dialogues of Plato. In works such as Phaedo and Phaedrus, the philosopher employs myths to structure his arguments in order to equate knowledge with memory – not simply as remembrance, but also as a recollection from a previous incarnation. Continue reading “Myth, Catharsis, and The Riddle of The Sphinx”

The Guru On The Journey Of Self-Initiation

In the documentary Kumare, Vikram Gandhi dresses himself as a guru, speaks in a fake Indian accent, and builds a following of devotees. His teaching: he is an illusion and that the student has to make changes for themselves. The devotion to “Kumare” remains high until he reveals that he really grew up in America, and is not a guru (he’s a reporter for Vice). Then, half of his devotees walk out in disgust. Those that don’t, however, are the ones that see major changes in their lives — changes that they had apparently been unable to make before.

In the West, the guru is a controversial figure. Although many Americans reference their university professors and first bosses whenever possible, most utterly reject the notion of a guru. Conversely, some — especially in the fields of Yoga, Tantra, Sufism, and Eastern religion — actively search for a guru to almost blindly follow. Continue reading “The Guru On The Journey Of Self-Initiation”