Archive for the ‘GREAT INITIATES’ Category





  1. The Importance of Telos


I have already noted the connection between ethics and politics in Aristotle’s thought. The concept that most clearly links the two is that which Aristotle called telos. A discussion of this concept and its importance will help the reader make sense of what follows. Aristotle himself discusses it in Book II, Chapter 3 of the Physics and Book I, Chapter 3 of the Metaphysics.

The word telos means something like purpose, or goal, or final end. According to Aristotle, everything has a purpose or final end. If we want to understand what something is, it must be understood in terms of that end, which we can discover through careful study. It is perhaps easiest to understand what a telos is by looking first at objects created by human beings. Consider a knife. If you wanted to describe a knife, you would talk about its size, and its shape, and what it is made out of, among other things. But Aristotle believes that you would also, as part of your description, have to say that it is made to cut things. And when you did, you would be describing its telos. The knife’s purpose, or reason for existing, is to cut things. And Aristotle would say that unless you included that telos in your description, you wouldn’t really have described – or understood – the knife. This is true not only of things made by humans, but of plants and animals as well. If you were to fully describe an acorn, you would include in your description that it will become an oak tree in the natural course of things – so acorns too have a telos. Suppose you were to describe an animal, like a thoroughbred foal. You would talk about its size, say it has four legs and hair, and a tail. Eventually you would say that it is meant to run fast. This is the horse’s telos, or purpose. If nothing thwarts that purpose, the young horse will indeed become a fast runner.

Here we are not primarily concerned with the telos of a knife or an acorn or a foal. What concerns us is the telos of a human being. Just like everything else that is alive, human beings have a telos. What is it that human beings are meant by nature to become in the way that knives are meant to cut, acorns are meant to become oak trees, and thoroughbred ponies are meant to become race horses? According to Aristotle, we are meant to become happy. This is nice to hear, although it isn’t all that useful. After all, people find happiness in many different ways. However, Aristotle says that living happily requires living a life of virtue. Someone who is not living a life that is virtuous, or morally good, is also not living a happy life, no matter what they might think. They are like a knife that will not cut, an oak tree that is diseased and stunted, or a racehorse that cannot run. In fact they are worse, since they have chosen the life they lead in a way that a knife or an acorn or a horse cannot.

Someone who does live according to virtue, who chooses to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, is living a life that flourishes; to borrow a phrase, they are being all that they can be by using all of their human capacities to their fullest. The most important of these capacities is logos – a word that means “speech” and also means “reason” (it gives us the English word “logic”). Human beings alone have the ability to speak, and Aristotle says that we have been given that ability by nature so that we can speak and reason with each other to discover what is right and wrong, what is good and bad, and what is just and unjust.

Note that human beings discover these things rather than creating them. We do not get to decide what is right and wrong, but we do get to decide whether we will do what is right or what is wrong, and this is the most important decision we make in life. So too is the happy life: we do not get to decide what really makes us happy, although we do decide whether or not to pursue the happy life. And this is an ongoing decision. It is not made once and for all, but must be made over and over again as we live our lives. Aristotle believes that it is not easy to be virtuous, and he knows that becoming virtuous can only happen under the right conditions. Just as an acorn can only fulfill its telos if there is sufficient light, the right kind of soil, and enough water (among other things), and a horse can only fulfill its telos if there is sufficient food and room to run (again, among other things), an individual can only fulfill their telos and be a moral and happy human being within a well constructed political community. The community brings about virtue through education and through laws which prescribe certain actions and prohibit others.

And here we see the link between ethics and politics in a different light: the role of politics is to provide an environment in which people can live fully human, ethical, and happy lives, and this is the kind of life which makes it possible for someone to participate in politics in the correct way. As Aristotle says at Ethics1103a30: “We become just by the practice of just actions, self-controlled by exercising self-control, and courageous by performing acts of courage….Lawgivers make the citizens good by inculcating [good] habits in them, and this is the aim of every lawgiver; if he does not succeed in doing that, his legislation is a failure. It is in this that a good constitution differs from a bad one.” This is not a view that would be found in political science textbooks today, but for Aristotle it is the central concern of the study of politics: how can we discover and put into practice the political institutions that will develop virtue in the citizens to the greatest possible extent?

  1. The Text of the Politics

Having laid out the groundwork for Aristotle’s thought, we are now in a position to look more closely at the text of the Politics. The translation we will use is that of Carnes Lord, which can be found in the list of suggested readings. This discussion is by no means complete; there is much of interest and value in Aristotle’s political writings that will not be considered here. Again, the reader is encouraged to investigate the list of suggested readings. However, the main topics and problems of Aristotle’s work will be included. The discussion will, to the extent possible, follow the organization of the Politics.







We have seen that Nietzsche promotes a number of different values. In some cases, these values reinforce one another. For example, Nietzsche’s emphasis on affirming life could be taken to enhance or to confirm the value of life itself, qua successful expression of will to power, or conversely, one might trace the value of affirmation to its acknowledgment of our inescapable condition as living, power-seeking creatures. Similarly, we saw that both the virtue of honesty and the value of art and artistry play essential roles in support of the person’s ability to affirm life (Anderson 2005: 203–11). Nietzsche appeals to the metaphor of a tree’s growth to capture this sort of organic interconnection among his commitments:

For this alone is fitting for a philosopher. We have no right to be single in anything: we may neither err nor hit upon the truth singly. Rather, with the necessity with which a tree bears its fruit our thoughts grow out of us, our values, our yes’s and no’s and if’s and whether’s—the whole lot related and connected among themselves, witnesses to one will, one health, one earthly kingdom, one sun. (GM Pref., 2)

However interrelated Nietzsche’s values, though, they appear to remain irreducible to a single common value or principle that explains them all. For example, the account of honesty and artistry explored in sections 3.2.3 and 3.2.4 revealed that the support they provide to the value of affirmation depends on their opposition to one another, as “counterforces” (GS 107): if this is right, then Nietzsche’s various values may interact within an organic whole, but some of the interactions are oppositional, so they cannot all arise from a monistic philosophical system.

That very fact, however, fits nicely with another of Nietzsche’s core values, the value of pluralism itself. For Nietzsche, a person’s ability to deploy and be responsive to a multiplicity of values, of virtues, of outlooks and “perspectives”, is a positive good in its own right. Nietzsche’s defense of this idea is perhaps clearest in the epistemic case, where he insists on the value of bringing multiple perspectives to bear on any question: the thinker must “know how to make precisely the difference in perspectives and affective interpretations useful for knowledge”, because

There is only a perspectival seeing, only a perspectival “knowing”; and the more affects we allow to speak about a matter, the more eyes, different eyes, we know how to bring to bear on one and the same matter, that much more complete will our “concept” of this matter, our “objectivity”, be. (GM III, 12)

As the passage makes clear, however, Nietzschean perspectives are themselves rooted in affects (and the valuations to which affects give rise), and in his mind, the ability to deploy a variety of perspectives is just as important for our practical and evaluative lives as it is for cognitive life. In GM I, 16, for example, he wraps up a discussion of the sharp opposition between the good/bad and good/evil value schemes with a surprising acknowledgment that the best of his contemporaries will need both, despite the opposition:

today there is perhaps no more decisive mark of the “higher nature”, of the more spiritual nature, than to be conflicted in this sense and to be still a real battleground for these opposites. (GM I, 16; see also BGE 212; TI V, 3; and EH I)

While efforts to provide a systematic reconstruction unifying Nietzsche’s philosophy around one fundamental thought or basic value retain their attraction for many commentators, it is fair to say that all such efforts have remained controversial. Meanwhile, Nietzschean pluralism has been a major theme of several landmark Nietzsche studies (e.g., Nehamas 1985, Schacht 1983, Poellner 1995, Richardson 2004), and some of the most sophisticated recent treatments of his value theory have returned evaluative pluralism to the center of attention (Railton 2012; Huddleston, forthcoming, b). Huddleston’s view is particularly noteworthy, since he argues that Nietzsche’s conceptions of strength and health—which, as we saw, are connected to the allegedly foundational value of power—are themselves disunified “cluster concepts” involving an internal plurality of separate and irreducible commitments. In fact, Nietzsche’s commitment to pluralism helps us understand how his diverse positive values fit together. From his pluralistic point of view, it is a selling point, not a drawback, that he has many other value commitments, and that they interact in complex patterns to support, inform, and sometimes to oppose or limit one another, rather than being parts of a single, hierarchically ordered, systematic axiology.




Αμέσως μετά ήρθαν κι οι μουσικοί, όργανα στα χέρια

παράξενα κι όμως η μουσική ακούστηκε γνωστή και

φευγαλέα, σαν κλέφτης που ήρθε για ν’αρπάξει κάτι από

μας πολύτιμο, η γυναίκα σταύρωσε τις γάμπες της, λες ήθελε

να κρύψει κάποιο μυστικό, κι ο μαέστρος που περίμενε

με αγωνία να κατατοπιστεί για το τι καπνό φουμάραμε,

σηκώθηκε κι αγκάλιασε το σοφό μας φίλο. Τότε μια μύγα

απροσδόκητα κάθισε σαν βασίλισσα στο θρόνο της

στο δέρμα του μαέστρου που δεν κατάλαβε το νόημα

της κίνησης αυτής αλλά είπε με τρανταχτή φωνή.

Ήρθα να σας διασκεδάσω, η φήμη μάλλον είχε βλάψει

το μυαλό του, άλλη εξήγηση δεν υπήρχε και στρέψαμε

το βλέμμα προς τον προφήτη που μοναχά ψέλλισε: μουσική,

η γλώσσα του Σύμπαντος.


~ Μου αρέσει όποιος είναι το προάγγελμα του κεραυνού κι

εξαφανίζεται σαν τον κεραυνό.





Soon after the musicians arrived, strange instruments

in their hands, music sounded so familiar and

fleeting, like the thief who came to grab precious stones

that belonged to us, the woman crossed her legs as if

to hide her secret, and the maestro who waited anxiously

to find out what kind of smoke we smoked, got up and

hugged our wise friend. Then a fly, quite unexpectedly

landed, like a queen on her throne, on the maestro’s skin,

who never understood the reason for such movement, but

said in a loud voice.

I’ve arrived here to entertain you. Fame had gone to

his head, there was no other explanation and we turned

our eyes toward the prophet who just whispered: music,

the language of the Universe.


~ I like him who is the forerunner of thunderbolt and

vanish like the thunderbolt.


Edouard Schure



Indian and Brahmanic Initiation

He who creates worlds without ceasing is threefold. He is Brahma, the Father; he is Maya, the Mother; he is Vishnu, the Son; Essence, Substance and Life, each include the others, and all three are one in the Ineffable.

~Brahmanic Doctrine, Upanishads

Thou carriest within thee a sublime Friend whom thou knowest not. For God dwells in the inner part of every man, but few know how to find Him. The man who sacrifices his desires and his works to the Beings from whom the principles of everything stem, and by whom the Universe was formed, through this sacrifice attains perfection. For one who finds his happiness and joy within himself, and also his wisdom within himself is one with God. And, mark well, the soul which has found God is freed from rebirth and death, from old age and pain, and drinks the water of Immortality.


Μύηση Ινδών και Βραχμάνων

Αυτός που δημιουργεί τους κόσμους αέναα είναι τρίπτυχος. Είναι ο Βράχμα ο Πατέρας, η Μάγια η μητέρα κι είναι ο Βίσνου ο Υιός. Ουσία, Υπόσταση και Ζωή το κάθε ένα περιλαμβάνει τα άλλα δύο κι όλα μαζί αποτελούν το Ανέκφραστο.

~Δογματισμός των Βραχμάνων, Ουπανισάντς

Είσαι αυτός που περιέχει στο είναι σου τον ανυπέρβλητο φίλο που καν δεν γνωρίζεις. Γιατί ο Θεός υπάρχει στο είναι του κάθε ανθρώπου αλλά λίγοι γνωρίζουν πώς να τον βρουν. Ο άνθρωπος που θυσιάζει τις επιθυμίες και τα έργα του στις υπάρξεις από τις οποίες στοιχειωδώς τα πάντα που αποτελούν την Οικουμένη πηγάζουν με τη θυσία του αποκτά τελειότητα. Γιατί αυτός που ανακαλύπτει την ευτυχία και τη σοφία μέσα του ταυτίζεται με το Θεό. Και σημειώστε το καθαρά η ψυχή που έχει φτάσει στο Θεϊκό έχει απελευθερωθεί από τις συνεχείς αναγεννήσεις και θανάτους, απ’ τα γηρατειά και τον πόνο και πίνει το νερό της Αθανασίας!

~ Μπαγκαβάντ Γκίτα

~Translated into Greek by Manolis Aligizakis


Brief were my days among you and briefer still the words
I have spoken but should my voice fade in your ears and
my love vanish in your memory, then I shall come again

Σύντομες ήταν οι μέρες μου ανάμεσά σας κι ακόμα συντομότερες
οι λέξεις που έχω πει μα όταν η φωνή μου αχνοσβύσει στ’ αυτιά σας
κι η αγάπη μου ξεθωριάσει απ’ τη μνήμη σας τότε θα ξαναγυρίσω

~ The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran//Ο Προφήτης του Καλίλ Γκιμπράν