Tag Archives: soul

The Garden Lives

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…


“Sing to me, Muse, of that man of many ways…”

"The Odyssey" -- miniseries

A lighter post for you here. :)

Not everything on a screen is terrible, and this old HBO Odyssey came my way from 1997, which is great. Must have missed it at the time, same period as the well-received Ted Danson Gulliver which I did see. I also noticed something interesting about it, by which readers may feel free to be stunned…

No-one will be embarrassed by this, not 100% faithful but far from being some Harryhausen thing, sticking to Homer (/Virgil) for feel and 90% of plot. It has a true Greek flavour, doesn’t bowdlerise adult bits, wonderful scenery too; director got an Emmy. (Obviously there was some policy at the time about putting the ‘class’ into ‘fantasy classics’, prestige TV etc.)

Bernadette Peters as Circe

Unexpectedly and happily, female characters get attention and nice casting. Isabella Rossellini (Athena) and Greta Scacchi (Penelope) do their usual good jobs.

Vanessa Williams as Calypso

Bernadette Peters is a suitably sassy Circe. Vanessa Williams as the nymph Calypso and the always-impressive Geraldine Chaplin as Eurycleia were particular standouts, but the crown goes to the astonishing Irene Papas who lends Odysseus’ mother Anticlea some serious tragic weight.

Besides, I was impressed with Armand Assante’s Odysseus, himself. He manages to make human sense of the role whilst giving it heroic stature.

And that brings me to the something interesting.

Armand Assante as Odysseus

Classical Carving of Odysseus -- from the cheekguard of a helmet

Below we have Assante as Odysseus, photographed straight off the TV. Below that on the right, we have a carving dated about around 400 BCE (two and a half thousand years ago that is), depicting — Odysseus.

That is good casting. :)

Perhaps I should one day do a contrastingly bitchy post on the mangling of Greek myth in, say, Xena… don’t know if it’s worth it. I’m sometimes still startled sweating from slumber, with the image of the great snake-tailed founder of Athens, Cecrops, transformed again before my hypnopompic eye into a hunky bronze age flying Dutchman (“tall, dark and cursed for eternity…”) who yells Oprah Winfrey platitudes about love whilst being swilled down a cheap CGI plughole… if you have no idea what this paragraph means, as I hope, then thank your gods.

English translations abound for those wanting to investigate the Odyssey in greater detail, with Lattimore’s a great choice, and Ian McKellen’s reading of Fagles not bad either on a long journey or winter’s night. Take no English meanings for granted though, as all the translations roll over the words for “mind”, “soul” etc., in such a way as to obscure the Greek beliefs set out in books by Bremmer or Onians. Though academic those guys give the game away completely as far as concerns Greek understanding of energy bodies, especially Bremmer.

Next post I hope to blow minds in perhaps a slightly more useful or profound way.

Meanwhile here’s a fun scene from the Odyssey miniseries to give you an idea. Plenty more excerpts to choose from there on the right…

EDIT: Just found the complete miniseries here, how long it’ll be up I don’t know.


NB: Last week’s Glenn Morris videos opened some sectarian controversy I had no idea about, to do with his lineage succession, so I took them down. There has been disappointment on that, and I can hardly keep Glenn’s universally worthwhile words all to myself, so after a think and a couple of adjustments I’ll repost in the near future. Chill until then, if you would.