Livanios is a Hellenic philosopher born in the Hellenic city Antiocheia of Syria in 314 a.C. His family was local and...
Philosophical responses to a FB group of devotees who use the name, the teaching, and even terminology of Platon, but have no idea of them and they refuse to study and accept them.
In the current article, I have tried to present basic Platonic theories on the subject of piety and the Goddess Hekate, in the plainest and simple way possible. It was written after a period of reading a lot on Platonism and introspecting things that I experienced often, online. They prove certain things that both Eirini and I have talked about and written in the past. Take your time, make a coffee and then read the following paragraphs.
"You cannot enter the same river twice."
This is a riddle from the pre-Socratic Heracleitos, but what does it mean? Heracleitos said that everything moves, just like the river moves. He means that nothing remains the same and what he examines is our world, the one we understand from our senses. So, we can assume that the Goddess changes, right?
No. Matter is mortal. The mortal things change, not the immortal. This very simple teaching of ancient Platonic philosophy got me in a lot of trouble when I was in Hekate-related groups, as most modern devotees do not have the patience to read and understand ancient philosophy and they are ready to arm and shoot those who study ancient texts. When someone insists on constantly holding the lantern to people who want to remain blind, confusion and disagreements are unavoidable. If those situations continue, breakups are sure and also lies, cliques and drama. But, we are talking about ancient philosophy. We have to learn and respect a system, in order to use it effectively. Ancient theology was formed from philosophers and it was used by everyday people. Folk people respected philosophers, just like in our days, we respect the authors of well-written and documented books, papers, research.
Let’s begin with Platonism. Gods belong to the world of Ideas, which is a higher level of the unseen world. This world is the model for the creation of our world. In our world, we have various aspects of one Idea, which exists in the world of Ideas. According to Aristotle, Ideas exist separately, but as Plato writes not in time or space (Timaios 51 b-c, 52 a-c). So, we may have different trees on the earth, but there is one tree in the world of Ideas.
We cannot reach the truth from our world to the world of Ideas if we use our senses. The only way to reach the unseen world is through logical thinking, dialectics, and philosophy. We avoid multiplicity, variations, and diversity as we have a definition that remains unchanged because only logical syllogisms can see the nature of the Idea, which will have the same essence all the time. If we want to approach Hekate, we have to use our logical minds, not our senses. If we have experiences with Hekate, we should examine them and filter them to see if they were true. Dialectic is the science of making the right question, giving the right answer, and testing it through logical syllogisms. Most devotees tend to believe what they live, but we have to examine our lives daily, on everything we do, and if we have a metaphysical experience we have to test if it was good for us, ethical and if we have a practical gain or changes from that experience.
If we see that Hekate is changing, we transfer the Goddess to the sensible world, to a world that doesn’t belong. This is impiety! We are trying to bring the Goddess to our world and see Her as a statue! We can make an analogy that the Goddess is like a river. It moves, it changes. But only the sensible things change and Hekate isn’t sensible. It is not made out of matter. It is the creator of matter. To be accurate, Hekate as the Cosmic Soul moves and animates the universe. If we rely on our senses or experiences on Her, then our conclusions will be limited and false. If we rely in dialectic, our conclusions will be the same for all conditions. If we ask different people about Hekate, we will receive different opinions about the nature of the Goddess. But can we accept all opinions as true? No, because some contradict others and even historical texts. There are people who will say that all are true, but how is that possible in any logical way? We have to put aside opinions and search for the nature of the divine as it is. Our senses offer no help in this task. Philosophy is the quest for truth, knowledge, pure thought to the thing that is, to the Being, to the one Idea.
Ideas exist in the separate unseen world of Nous/Mind, which is below En/One. The word On/Being signifies this world and our world, the sensible is called Me On/Non-Being. On is what it is. But what it is? The idea, On and Genos/Genre are three words that are used for the same thing. An Idea is unique, this means that it has a unique form, the eidos (genre) and a character, remain the same under different circumstances. To explain it, an Idea of one thing cannot be the opposite of the same thing. It cannot have opposite characteristics or forms. It is absolute and complete.
By searching for the one truth to the world of Ideas, we will find one answer that will be applied to all circumstances as it is unchangeable true and real to different persons, time periods, and circumstances. This answer will be the same for all people at all times. Idea or Eidos remains the same and has the same essence. This is the nature of the Idea. It is unchangeable. If it consisted of matter, it would change, but its essence and form remain the same.
What happens and do people see multiplicity in the Goddess? The human mind based on the senses sees multiplicity, variation of characteristics, everywhere in the world. This is normal and expected if we examine sensible objects, not when we examine an immortal and unchangeable Goddess. If we insist on relying to our senses we will never move our mental perception beyond this world of illusions to the real world of Ideas.
By removing the Goddess through the river, we obtain an objective view for the Goddess, thus we will belong to a united community of the Goddess. If we insist on using our senses and personal experience despite historical knowledge and philosophical teachings, then we will have a divided community with certain groups of similar ideas and different philology on the same Goddess. An independent researcher will see confusion and disparity and that’s the situation that he has to consider when he will form his opinion on the modern community of the Goddess Hekate. While some people want that, I don’t see that this new turn in Hekate’s philology has anything to offer more than new writers who want to promote their books, their ideas through new “revealing” books or seminars. And I have seen that I experienced that in Hekate-related groups with writers and administrators who belong to a certain group and sell things targeted to that group. If our motive is the pleasures of the body, thus we make business, then we have nothing divine to expect from those communities. They use the name of an ancient Goddess in vain. Their written texts are based in the sensible world and they have interests in the sensible world. Of course, those texts will demand faith more than logical explanations. Opinions are valued more than knowledge. I have seen that happening… The question is, what do the new devotees gain from that? Some people gain money, the others share confusion and lack of freedom within a group as described.
Back to Platonism… Approaching an Idea means that we approach the truth, the one and true nature, the essence, and the characteristics of the Idea. We have to put aside variations, multiplicity, opinions (things that even famous writers present as good when it is the opposite) and use logical thinking. So, our minds should be trained by logic. We should understand things we say and examine. We should also test our sentences and put them to the right order so that we can have one definition. History will teach us how ancient Hellenes saw the Goddess. Archaeology too. Philosophy will explain to us the questions of why. Magick and religion will teach us ancient theology that derived from philosophy. We need that information to form logical syllogisms. In modern times, people do not read, study and take time to understand this hard work, they don’t even accept logical thinking. This will certainly lead to false conceptions and controversy. And it is expected as people will change opinions as they read and understand better ancient theology, but we will have to reach a point where our opinions will be based on ancient texts and logical thoughts. They should have universal and timeless strength, leaving multiplicity aside. Philosophy is the only science that can greatly help us with that. Through philosophy, we develop a way of thinking and filtering reality and we also approach the world of Ideas through logical syllogisms.
While different people, for their own reasons, present controversy in the community of the Goddess Hekate, we have to insist on a vision of unity within the community. The world of Ideas doesn’t have contradictions or variations. The form does not change, it is what it is, and it cannot be its opposite. Variations of one thing in our world are one form, one Idea in the world of Ideas. We may see different depictions of Hekate in our world. This means that human senses depict symbols of the Goddess in stone or paper, not that the Goddess Herself consists of different forms. We may see people describe a different Goddess, but the Goddess doesn’t have different characters. The Goddess is absolute, pure, and unique. It has one form and one character that exists in any circumstances. This is true for the Ideas and all Gods live in that world. That is the reason we cannot see the Goddess inside a river, it is not the river, it is not Me On/ Non Being it is the On, the Being.
To find what is Hekate, we should understand the theory of Ideas, find the unique form and the character that is always true under all circumstances. We need a definition of a conclusion of logical syllogisms, of pure thought. This definition of the Idea, should not contradict itself, should not be opposite with itself and it should be absolute. Only in that case, we will see the Idea of the Goddess, Her true nature. When we become divine beings, thus using our soul more than the body, but not neglecting the needs of the body, we will be closer to the En/One, the Agathon, which is the source of knowledge, science, and truth. The En is the cause of the birth of everything, the Ultimate Divine. The more we occupy ourselves with the quest for truth or knowledge, the more we will be closer to the world of Ideas. The more we live in virtue, the closer to the divine we come. Until now we have seen the Goddess as an Idea, but all Gods are not Ideas, they just belong to the same world.
Some people may want to think that Ideas are like archetypes that exist in all visible things of our world. This won’t be a bad thought at all. Imagine that Hekate is a certain archetype. We couldn’t say that the archetype has a property that is opposite from the archetype. Archetypes are certain and absolute. We cannot have two different Ideas on one Idea, as each Idea is unique. Likewise, as our world is a reflection of the upper world, one genre that participates in one Idea cannot participate in another opposite Idea at the same time. So, Hekate in our world, cannot be two different “Hekates” and this is also confirmed by the teaching that the Idea cannot have opposite characteristics and the Idea cannot be the Idea and the non Idea. If we are talking about a person, he could have different characteristics, thus participating in different Ideas, but Hekate is not a person and does not belong to our world, to participate in the higher world. She is the higher world, She is closer to Agathon or a part of Agathon as the Cosmic Soul. As we can see, Ideas are also hierarchically organized. The more divine they are the closest to the Source/Agathon they are. However, when an object (Me On/Non-Being) contains characteristics of different Ideas, this may also mean that Ideas are linked together. This is a logical sentence because there are five substances in beings, one of them is movement, which allows a being to contain different Ideas, but each Idea is unique and absolute. However, the Gods do not contain this substance.
How we can be certain about that? If we draw our attention back to the vertical line (Platonic theory) we will notice that in the lower part of the upper world we meet mathematics. The laws of mathematics do not change and they are always true. Mathematics exist below Ideas. In the first book of Metaphysics, Aristoteles (Aristotle) writes about the theory of Ideas. On mathematics he says that they are eternal and they do not move and “while there is a stack of same mathematical beings while Ideas are each by each one, real, different and unique.” (987b)
Everything we try to understand through our senses, it will be under damage and decay. Things that change and loose their initial form are things of our world and of course they are changing in time. On the contrary, things that are beyond time, thus outside our world, remain the same. So, if we see Gods and try to understand them through our senses, those Gods will change in our perception, even though Gods don’t change, because they are timeless. As all Ideas, and beings of those worlds, they remain the same and they have the same characteristics. They only way to approach ideas is through logic, dialectic, right syllogisms and not through our senses. Knowledge that changes is not knowledge, but opinion. We cannot apply this type of “knowledge” which has been gained through experience on things of experience to the world of Ideas and thus on theology.
In the Platonic dialogue Gorgias we read that injustice is a sickness of the soul and it definitely is because it is the opposite of the virtue of justice. Moreover, injustice doesn’t help humans live a better life, it does the opposite. It promotes hurt and evil. While there are diseases and bad situation that will affect humans “psychologically”, our soul just notices what is happening to the body, it doesn’t change. But the soul will become earthy, it will be influenced by the body, if the life of the human being is centered around bodily pleasures, desires and wishes. Those will bring injustice to the character and they will make the soul “heavy”. A human being with that earthy soul won’t be able to approach and connect with the Goddess, because of his choice to be impure, or being a man of the earth, not the sky. If we believe to a Goddess that promotes curses, evil, bad luck, haunted dreams, revenge etc. we believe to a lie. This is not a goddess, this is our earthy soul that wants to see the divine in its impure actions. Gods have nothing to do with our wrong perceptions, which are based on our bodily senses and not the logical and clear thinking. When our mindset is based on senses, it will change with time, because it is mortal and as all mortal things change. We have to orient our minds to the unseen world in order to keep it pure and closer to the divine. This doesn’t mean that we won’t deal successfully with our mundane needs.
Basic syllogisms on Soul. (Soul with capital S is the Cosmic Soul in Hellenic.) If we have something that it moves, it needs something else to set it in its initial movement. But, there must be something that moved firstly and moved the objects so that they keep moving now. This initial thing should have the movement within itself. So, it will be the source of movement and it will move continuously. The Cosmic Soul does that. So, the Cosmic Soul moves eternally. This means that it is a principle, a law for all other beings and subjects. As a principle it could not have a birth time, so the Soul is bornless. Something that hasn't been born, it could not decay or damaged in any possible way. So, the Soul is immortal, unchanged, eternal. Ironically, devotees who claim to see Hekate as the Cosmic Soul, don’t accept this simple Platonic syllogism.
Basic theory on Methexis is that one sensible thing will participate to one group of Ideas that is its basic connection, its substance. It will participate to other Ideas occasionally. It may also participate to some certain Ideas, but they won’t be its basic substance, it needs those Ideas. If one thing participates to a certain Idea then it cannot participate to the opposite Idea of the previous one, because as we said, there are no contradictions. An Idea cannot be one thing and its opposite, so the same thing is true for methexis. If a dog is cute, it cannot be not cute at the same time. So, differences of the same characteristic are illogical. If we have characteristic one that is opposite of the characteristic two, one of them can only apply to the object. If the object can have one characteristic, it can have the second when the first one leaves the object. Usually an object that has one main characteristic, thus participates to an Idea that is its substance. It can’t participate to the opposite Idea. For example, if Hekate we sense in our world has specific characteristics that are Her identity, we cannot say that it also has the opposite characteristics and characterize that phenomenon as diversity. It can’t happen. It is a false syllogism and we see that happen daily on articles, for a, groups and books today. This is nothing but a lack of understanding or worse, complete ignorance of methexis.
I am closing the article by saying that the union with the Goddess can be achieved through knowledge of the unseen world of Ideas, which is absolutely linked with the practice of the four platonic virtues; bravery, justice, fronisis (logic), sofrosyne (temperance). Science and ethical living are interconnected in the ancient Hellenic though. Science and philosophy are ancient terms that were referring to things that only the ancient Hellenic civilization could grasp and today, we see one of their sight, not the whole, just why some things may seem weird in this article. We have to look at the definitions of the ancients, not our modern and limited view of the ancient definitions. Living a life trying to see and approach this unseen world will keep our soul pure, thus divine, as it is the divine ray within our body. We will develop a love for this world and in a moment we will grasp Agathon.
"Within the area of human knowledge is very hard to conceive the Idea of Agathon. If you see it one time he will understand that is the cause of all right and beauty of this world and even that it gave birth to the light of the sensible-visible world and the master of the light who offers truth and knowledge, so the one who will rule with prudence in its private life or public life and he is the one who should meet that source.” (Platon, On Country/On Justice, book 7, 517 c)
Knowledge, not opinion. Logical syllogisms are not unfiltered metaphysical experiences. Dialectic, not impulses, urges, or impressions. Anyone can have an opinion and express it and maybe his opinion is true, but it isn’t worth as much as knowledge. The unseen world can be approached with logic, science, pure thought, not with our senses and with the criteria that they provide. Such a method is destined for errors, misguidance, and illusion. “We should decorate our cities with (temple) offerings, our souls, with lessons.” (Demonaktos Ypsaios and Socrates Stovaios 2. 31 53)
Image credit: Constantinos Nterziotis, bridge of Ilissos river in Athens. The river doesn't exist anymore due to the architects and the archeologists who build over the river. Yet, the place is connected with Hekate and Socrates in antiquity ...with drug users today. The second picture is from the Archaeological Museum of Athens. We see Hekate in a fairly unknown depiction. She was identified by Eirini.
Theurgy and Philosophy are two different methods which lead to the union with God.