I’m very pleased to learn from Hiram Crespo that Epicureanism, which I still also like, is experiencing some surge of interest. The International Society of Friends of Epicurus has been formed, in his words, “to ignite a much-needed full revival of the ancient philosophical school.” We learn too that there are Gardens in Athens and Thessaloniki which attract hundreds at annual events, and one in Sydney that is rather smaller.
I suppose I will have to remain a fellow traveller. If I were to establish a Garden of my own here, it would likely have a similar vibe, but I would want to hypnotise people occasionally too. :)
Since Epicureanism has so often been used in modernity to dismiss the nonphysical (Locke, Jefferson), and always had strong materialist leanings, why use it as a spiritual person?
I was always looking for something that didn’t have a spiritual element, so it would be more neutral and allow me to discover spirituality without reference to a particular dogma.
The main difference between a spiritual and a non-spiritual philosophy overtly is the basing of one’s actions and identity in the non-physical. One finds the soul, and it must be the basis and guide.
When I look at what I actually took from Epicurus, it emphatically does help with this.
— the contentment with the simple, the ability to distinguish natural and unnatural desires, an excellent idea not least since we know simplicity and maturity helps to ignite spirit (more on that in the upcoming series);
— the ability to come to terms with death and pain, not to fear them — the example of Epicurus being someone who was cheerful under any pain; you need some way to interfere with its power to affect the thought and disposition;
— the enjoyment of the state that results.
Epicurus himself maintains that with these you are no longer a “mere mortal animal”. These particular emphases are useful in a society that constantly projects violence and pain and hypes appetite. Yes these profoundly interfere with the workings of the soul. When I am in contact with my soul, I don’t necessarily need words. But I think the value of a simple philosophy like this is that it can give the conscious mind somewhere useful and positive to focus. The thought of Epicurus (and Democritus too actually) is fresh and friendly. It has no hierarchicalism. So it suits me.
But of course I focus on plenty of other things that many Epicureans wouldn’t like, especially not now…