The relations between words and objects is based on historic usage, whereas the relation between pathemata and objects is based on likeness. Aristotle’s view necessarily implies that pathemata must be universally similar for all language users since all objects are universally the same. Ludovic De Cuypere, Limiting the Iconic
Along the same line of my previous questioning, what is it that can truly be possessed, how much are thoughts my own or part of a greater, ultimately unfathomable pool of what lies fallow, yet unspoken, unthought, belonging to both no one and everyone? We might ask ourselves just how much does language serve a hermetic value, both as bridge between the world unseen and the world as it is expressed?
For thousands of years, Western culture has expressed a variety of ideas about soul, whether that of animal, vegetable, human, or the more encompassing idea of a World Soul, an Anima Mundi. We moderns struggle with making sense of, defining, or feeling the presence of soul, whether personal or otherwise. Soul is immaterial, in every sense of word! The struggle for soul is perceptual and experiential. For soul lies in between the tangible, material things, whether located within or without, and our awareness and response to those tangibles. Recognition of soul requires a struggle for the valuation of any interior reality, ours along with that of all beings, in which a vulnerability is created by our opening to the other. Through this opening we allow for the possibility the unnamed, unsensed, invisible world as the very ground of being.
In a dying culture, long held beliefs shatter as misplaced claims to power (rightly or wrongly) that once congealed a people are seen through and abandoned. The abandoning leaves a void. When the gods die, and power is thought to exist only in the visible, mathematically comprehensible human and material realm, the world shrinks. Language and ideas shrink too, limited to both products and byproducts of a human-only world. You may observe this shrinking even in ecological concerns. The most convincing arguments to care about animals, trees, rocks and oceans are frequently expressed through human only concerns and actions.* Everything alas, becomes a human resource. There is a deeper irony here. In a de-animated, dead world, we become dead to life, ours and that of others.
If these universal concepts are possessions of the soul and to be considered as psychological knowledge, then they are ideas that all psyches can be said to own, and each of us has a modicum in some form and to some intensity of all the virtues, all the categories, and all the pathemata. Then, the entire gamuts of differentiated concepts are properties of the psyche and constitutes its knowings. But all this knowledge is evidenced only idiosyncratically in the actual state of affairs of this or that person. Even if the psyche knows it all, what knowledge of the soul has an individual person?
Hillman, James (2016-05-08). Philosophical Intimations (Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman Book 8) (Kindle Locations 2602-2606). Spring Publications. Kindle Edition.
“…what knowledge of the soul has an individual person?
Good question! I would argue that knowledge that is understood and experienced as a flowing between an animated, very much alive world** makes the world bigger and much fuller of potential than one in which language and sense are limited to a human-only world.
We cannot bring back the gods once their presence is no longer experienced, but we might come to understand that the source of the material, thingyness of the world comes from a gooey, smeary, animated world-in-motion, much bigger than us, beyond formulas, human concepts and especially language. Human power cannot replace the gods of antiquity, but only displace and misappropriate an inherent power of the cosmos.
Like Hermes, the trickster god of Greek antiquity, language tricks, both opening and closing, as it abstracts from reality, both limiting and delimiting ideas and meaning. They give us knowledge while at the same time containing each thing to its separate identity, i.e., chair, table, human, sunset. Individual words carry soul; animate, enliven – horizontally through history, and vertically as bridges to nonverbal intuition, as do concepts and ideas carry and move soul both within nature and beyond. Language is then that which both creates, reveals and destroys mystery. We cannot claim its power but may align ourselves to experience a glimpse of it. Our desire for measure, exactitude, accuracy and correspondence between language and reality misses Hermes altogether and rather than constructing a bridge between the two worlds, deadens both by failing to perceive any distinction between them.
Pathemata then, is what lies beneath, within, without, here, yet beyond, under, over and above language. It is the inherent and underlying common ground and movement (passion) of living beings, which for Plato and Aristotle necessarily involve suffering.
I’ll end with this text from Voegelin on the Gorgias and Pathos:
Pathos is what men have in common, however variable it may be in its aspects and intensities. Pathos designates a passive experience, not an action; it is what happens to man, what he suffers, what befalls him fatefully, and what touches him in his existential core—as for instance the experiences of Eros (481C-D).
In their exposure to pathos all men are equal, although they may differ widely in the manner in which they come to grips with it and build the experience into their lives. There is the Aeschylean touch even in this early work of Plato, with its hint that the pathema experienced by all may result in a mathema different for each man. The community of pathos is the basis of communication. Behind the hardened, intellectually supported attitudes that separate men lie the pathemata that bind them together. From The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin
*Saving the planet, by its very definition refers to humans saving it for human life. Anything that destroys us, destroys the planet. Ultimately, there is no way to sacrifice only human existence for the sake of all else.
**By alive I mean more than just conscious, aware beings, but the ground of all being itself
4 thoughts on “Pathemata”
Beautiful and rich, Debra. I will paraphrase Shestov, because I do not have access to the English translation. He said, “Man wants to think in the categories in which he lives, instead of living in the categories, in which he learnt to think.” I too believe there is “the sphere of pathemata” where all the meaning of the words that we use escapes, ultimately eluding us. And that is good.
Feeling Mercury retrograde vibes already? I can definitely sense them in your post.
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Ha ha! Mercury retrograde, no wonder I am right at home here! I didn’t realize where Mercury was, but you’re observation is spot on Monika, which ironically is the theme here. Writing comes to me from where I do not know. Yes, I contribute with availing myself to the task and having a love for reading helps as well.
Thank you for alerting me. I recognize the Shestov quote which fits right in here as well. I appreciate you sharing it with us.
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