An Introduction to The Numinous Way

David Myatt

David Myatt

An Introduction to The Numinous Way

Empathy, Compassion and Honour:

The Numinous Way is a particular way of individual living; that is, it is a Way of Life, which individuals can choose to follow. The basis, the foundation, of The Numinous Way is the belief that we, as individual human beings, are a connexion to all other life, on this planet which is currently our home, and a connexion to the Cosmos itself. Thus, we are a connexion to – connected with – Nature. We are or we can be aware of this connexion through the faculty of empathy.

An awareness of this connexion, and the cultivation of our latent faculty of empathy with living beings, disposes us toward compassion and toward acting in accord with personal honour. Thus empathy disposes us to be compassionately aware of others, of the suffering of all living beings, and particularly aware of the reality that human beings are unique individuals who, like ourselves, can suffer pain, sadness, and experience joy and love. Personal honour directs us to treat people with manners, and respect, and as we ourselves would like to be treated. That is, personal honour disposes us toward both dignity and fairness, and, in a quite simple way, honour is a practical manifestation of empathy: of how we can relate to other people, and other life, in an empathic and compassionate way.

From compassion arises the desire to cease to cause suffering, the desire to alleviate suffering – and honour is one ethical way by which and how we can do this, for honour disposes us to restrain ourselves and so do the right, the moral, the empathic, thing. Thus, compassion and honour are how we can develope, and extend, our innate – but often underused or ignored – human faculty of empathy.

Empathy is thus, for The Numinous Way, the source of ethics, for what is good is considered to be that which manifests empathy and compassion and honour, and thus what alleviates, or what ceases to cause, suffering: for ourselves, for other human beings, and for the other life with which we share this planet. Hence, what is unethical, or wrong, is what causes or what contributes to or which continues such suffering.

Essentially, The Numinous Way places our own lives, as individuals, into a particular context: that of the Nature, of all Life, and of the Cosmos beyond the life which is Nature, and it provides practical guidelines – a code of ethics – to enable us to strive to live our own lives in an empathic, compassionate, and thus honourable, way.

The Numinous:

Empathy also makes us aware, or can – by its development – makes us aware, of the numinous: that is, of those things which do or which can or which have presenced (”manifested”) the beauty, the joy, the awe, the “sacredness” – the goodness – felt in those moments when we are transported beyond ourselves and become aware of the connexion between all life, and of the underlying unity beyond us, and of the potential we as individuals and as human beings possess to be a source of joy, positive change, and of love.

In a simple sense, the numinous places our own personal lives in a larger context: that of other human beings; that of the other life with which we share this planet; and that of the very Cosmos itself, with its billions upon billions of stars and billions upon billions of Galaxies, some of which stars and some of which Galaxies may well have life-bearing planets of their own.

What is numinous is that which predisposes us to change ourselves in an ethical way; that which reminds us of our mortality – of life, existence, beyond us; that which manifests the essence of Life itself, and that which re-presents to us what we feel is beautiful and good.

Empathy itself expresses – or can express – the numinous, and what is of particular importance about empathy is that it is only and ever personal. That is, empathy – like the numinous – only lives and thrives within an individual living being; it cannot be abstracted out of a living, individual, being.

A Reformation and Evolution of Ourselves:

One of the basic principles of The Numinous Way is that we human beings possess the ability to change ourselves. That is, we possess the faculty to consciously change our behaviour, our attitudes, our way of living. Thus, we are much more than just animals who possess the faculty of speech and the ability of conscious, rational, thought, for we have the faculty of will which enables us to restrain and control ourselves. However, like the faculty of empathy, our faculty of will – the faculty of reformation and evolution of ourselves – is often underused or ignored.

How can we develope this faculty? How can we reform ourselves and so evolve? The answer of The Numinous Way is that this is possible through compassion, empathy, gentleness, reason, and honour: through that gentle letting-be which is the real beginning of wisdom and a manifestation of our humanity. To presence, to be, what is good in the world – we need to change ourselves, through developing empathy and compassion, through letting-be, that is, ceasing to interfere, ceasing to view others (and “the world”) through the immorality of abstractions, and ceasing to strive to change or get involved with what goes beyond the limits determined by personal honour. For honour is only ever personal – and relates to that which affects us, as individuals, and those near to us, such as our family, or those with whom we come into contact on a personal basis. For personal honour can never be abstracted away from the immediacy of the moment – out from a living personal interaction between individuals.

The Immorality of Abstractions:

Empathy leads us away from the artificial, lifeless and thus un-numinous abstractions we have constructed and manufactured and which we impose, or project, upon other human beings, upon other life, and upon ourselves, often in an attempt to “understand” such beings and ourselves. And it is abstractions which are or which can be the genesis of prejudice, intolerance, and inhumanity. In addition, abstractions are one of the main causes of suffering: one of the main reasons we human beings have caused or contributed to the suffering of other human beings.

Abstraction (or abstractionism) – as understood by The Numinous Way – is the manufacture, and use of, some idea, ideal, “image” or category, and thus some generalization, and/or some assignment of an individual or individuals to some group or category. The positing of some “perfect” or “ideal” form, category, or thing, is part of abstraction.

According to The Numinous Way, it is immoral to apply such abstractions to what is living. Why? Because such abstractions usurp or limit or constrain our own individual judgement, which individual judgement – to be ethical – should and must be based upon empathy, that is, upon a direct and personal knowing of other individuals. All abstractions distort or destroy our correct, and of necessity our individual, perception of other human beings.

Abstractions – be they classified as political or religious or social – either predispose us to judge according to what someone else has devised or theorised, or they already contain, within themselves or within some theory or schema or model or “archetype” associated with them, a pre-judgement.

Thus, all abstractions to do with or concerning what is living, limit, restrict or undermine, or even destroy, empathy, and thus do they sever our numinous connexion to other life, and to the Cosmos itself.

An obvious example of one type of abstraction is the concept of “nation”. Thus, some individuals are said “to belong” to a particular designated “nation”, or consider themselves as belonging to a particular nation. That is, this nation becomes, for them, a source of personal identify, a provider of meaning for their lives, and a basis – often, the basis – of their judgement of others, with “their nation” becoming contrasted with others, and with they themselves often considering they have a “duty” and obligations to this particular abstraction termed a nation. Thus do differences, and conflicts, arise. Thus do people inflict suffering upon others in the name of this particular abstraction, and thus are there wars and invasions, as one “nation” – for whatever reason – wants to impose its own “values” and ideas and ways upon others.

Another obvious example of an abstraction is a political theory, or idea, or cause – such as, say, “democracy”. This abstraction (however defined) comes to be regarded – by a certain nation or government – as “right” and necessary. Some government or nation (or leader or whatever) then believes that such democracy should and can be imposed upon another nation and government, and that it is thus “right” and “moral” to use force to get “these others” to accept such an abstraction as democracy. In the process, of doing what they regard as “right”, there is of course conflict, and killing, and thus much suffering.

Yet another obvious example of an abstraction is the notion of a supra-personal culture, or way of life, or religion. This particular abstraction (be it a culture, or way of life, or religion) comes to be regarded by a certain group (be it a nation, a government or whatever) as “morally right”, as “civilized” (or even as “superior”), and this group believes it is their “duty” – or their “destiny” or whatever – to get others to accept this particular abstraction. This – as almost always – involves force or coercion or similar things. Thus is there, yet again, conflict, and killing, and thus much suffering.

Yet one more obvious example of an abstraction is a professional Army, or some large professional fighting force. Such an Army, or such a fighting force, have an allegiance – a duty – to observe a given chain-of-command, and their obligation is to do what some abstract authority commands them to do, even if they do not personally know the person or persons behind the abstract authority and even if they do not personally agree with all the orders given through such a chain-of-command. Thus will they go and fight – and kill – in the name of that abstract authority, such as some nation, or some leader who has been elected by millions of people or who has seized power. In this instance, the soldiers or fighters dehumanize both themselves, and dehumanize whatever “enemy” the abstract authority commands them to fight.

Another example of an abstraction is the judgement of an individual on the basis of their occupation or on their known or perceived political (or religious) views or on the basis of some deed they may have committed in their past. Thus, the person is viewed according to such an occupation or such views, instead of as an individual, or is judged according to the deed they have committed – or are alleged to have committed – in the past. That is, they are assigned to some abstract category, and – in a very important sense – become dehumanized, and are often treated according to whatever moral value is, abstractly, assigned to such a category or such a deed. Consider, for example, a woman categorized as being a “prostitute”. Almost always there are certain assumptions made about such a person, since the abstract category “prostitute” carries various connotations, or is assumed to denote a certain type of person. Thus, instead of being regarded, and treated as, an individual human being, the woman is regarded and treated as “a prostitute” and in the process often dehumanized.  All such judgement according to such an assigned abstract category is unethical because it is not based on a personal knowing of the person; it is not based on the immediacy of empathy with that person.

What these obvious examples illustrate is a giving-up of individual judgement; a taking of the individual out of the immediacy of the numinous, personal, moment. Instead, the individual relates to, or judges by, the abstraction; refers to the abstraction for value, worth and judgement. Almost always, there is an acting on behalf of the abstraction, often with a sense of “being right” and of desiring to persuade or force others to accept or adopt this particular abstraction and a use of some sort of force or violence or coercion to persuade others to change and adopt such an abstraction. Always there is lack of letting-be; always there are impersonal generalizations; and, almost always, there is dehumanization.

According to The Numinous Way, when applied to what is living, all abstractions, by their very nature, by their very being, cause – or are or can be the genesis of – conflict and suffering. Furthermore, the individual intent behind the abstraction is irrelevant, for once empathy is lost – and empathy is only and ever individual – then there is either suffering or the potential for suffering. Thus, it does not matter if someone or some many believe that some particular abstraction is “right” and “just”, for what is right and just cannot ever reside in an abstraction, or be manifest by, an abstraction or by someone acting on behalf of such an abstraction. What is right and just only ever reside in and through and because of individual empathy and an individual, personal, honour and personal judgement.

A Better Way of Life:

According to The Numinous Way, the only ethical way in which we can change ourselves, and our society, is through an inner, individual, transformation by developing empathy and by striving to live in an ethical, and honourable, way.

There is thus a self-transformation, an inner change – a personal and very individual living according to the ethics of The Numinous Way. That is, there is compassion, empathy, honour, reason – the cessation of suffering, and the gradual evolution, development, of the individual. This is a personal change, and, in consequence, a very slow, social change. The social change arises, for example, when groups of people who follow such a Way freely decide to live in a certain manner through, for example, being part of, or creating, a small community. The social change also arises when others are inspired by the ethical example of those who are individually or collectively following such a way as The Numinous Way.

Hence, The Numinous Way is profoundly apolitical, and opposed to the use of force, and violence, in the service of any abstraction or “cause”, believing that better communities – “a better world” – can only be brought-into-being by the efforts of ethical individuals who concern themselves only with that which, and those whom, they personally know and personally interact with.

Fairness, Law and Self-Defence:

The Numinous Way expresses the view that honour is not only personal, relates to the immediacy of the moment, cannot be abstracted out from such a personal immediacy, but also depends – by its very nature – upon others treating us honourably, and with respect. This means that our personal, individual, tolerance, and compassion, have certain ethical limits, and it is these setting of very human, and ethical limits, which in one way serves to distinguish and separate The Numinous Way from other ethical philosophies, such as Buddhism, based upon compassion and upon a desire to cease to cause suffering.

Thus, while personal honour demands that we are fair and tolerant and unprejudiced and compassionate toward others, it also allows for not only self-defence, but also for the employment, if required, and as a last resort, of the use of violent force (including lethal force) to defend one’s self and those who might be in need of some immediate, honourable, and personal, assistance. Hence, if one is attacked, it is – according to The Numinous way – honourable to defend one’s self, and if the circumstances require it, ethical to use such force as is necessary, even if this means that the attackers or attackers are injured or possibly killed.

Similarly, if one finds one’s self in a personal situation where, for example, several people violently attack another individual, it would be quite honourable to come to the aid of that individual, and use whatever force necessary, because such a violent attack is, in itself, a dishonourable thing.

To so act in such a personal situation is the fair, the just, the human – even the numinous – thing to do, because our practical use of honour restores the natural balance that the dishonourable actions of such attackers have upset.

However, it is worth emphasizing again that such a use of force is only fair, honourable and ethical, in a personal situation, in the immediacy of the moment, and the individual so using such force only does so because they themselves are immediately attacked or because some one, or some others, nearby in that moment, are dishonourably attacked.

Who decides whether such a use of honourable force is justified? According to The Numinous Way, this can only and ever be the individual in the immediacy of the moment itself. It is for the individual to use their own experience and judgement: their faculties of empathy and of fairness. This is so because, as mentioned previously, personal honour can never be abstracted away from the immediacy of the moment, out from a living personal interaction between individuals, and thus cannot be enshrined in some abstraction, such as a law manufactured by someone else at some other time, or be manifest in some supra-personal abstraction, such as a government or State or their “Courts of Law”.

For true, human, justice is only and ever personal, related to and entirely dependant upon, personal honour. Hence, for The Numinous Way, the basis for all law in any community can only be personal honour.

The Spirituality of The Numinous Way

Our very individuality is a type of abstraction in itself, and thus something of an illusion, for it often obscures our relation to other life, as we often describe and define ourselves, or own personal life, in relation to, and by, our own personal desires, needs and feelings, which needs, feelings and desires we often do not understand and often do not control or, it seems, we cannot control.

Thus are we brought into conflict with others, and often ourselves; and thus do we often cause suffering, to others, and sometimes to ourselves. In addition, we often pursue the illusion which other abstractions present to us, and which we believe, or which we have been led or persuaded to believe, will bring us “peace”, security and a personal “happiness”.

However, according to The Numinous Way, all life is a manifestation of – a presencing of – what it is convenient to call acausal energy, and that it is this acausal energy which makes our physical molecules “alive”. In addition, it is this energy which is the basis for the matrix of Life: which is the connexion between us and all other life, human, on this planet Earth, and elsewhere in the Cosmos; and it is this acausal energy which forms the basis of empathy itself: what we sense, feel, and can come to know and understand, when we interact compassionately with other life.

Thus, all living beings in the physical, causal, Cosmos possess a certain type and amount of this acausal energy, which – like all energy – can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed in some way. Hence, when our physical, causal, bodies die, they die because the acausal energy which has animated them and which gave them life and vitality has ceased to be presenced – ceased to be manifest – in the causal physical Cosmos. This acausal energy – which in a causal sense, “was us”, the essence of our being – then returns to the acausal part of the Cosmos from whence it was presenced to give us our causal life. That is, it flows back to its origin, and will flow from there to become presenced in some other, causal, form, some-where, at some causal Time. Or, expressed another way, our acausal aspect – or essence, beyond the illusion of our causal, abstractive, mortal self – returns from whence “we” arose.

In a quite important sense, empathy, compassion, and a living by honour, are a means whereby we increase, or access for ourselves, acausal energy – where we presence such energy in the causal – and whereby we thus strengthen the matrix of Life, and, indeed, increase Life itself. Thus, when we live in such an ethical way we are not only aiding life here, now, in our world, in our lifetime, we are also aiding all future life, in the Cosmos, for the more acausal energy we presence, by our deeds, our living, the more will be available not only to other life, here – in our own small causal Time and causal Space – but also, on our mortal death, available to the Cosmos to bring-into-being more life. Thus will we aid – and indeed become part of – the very change, the very evolution of the life of the Cosmos itself.

This does not mean we transcend – as some conscious, individual, being – to some other acausal realm where we “live” another type of individual existence. It only means that we have used the opportunity of this, our mortal life, to increase life, to further evolution; that we have seen beyond the illusion of self to the essence, and choose the essence, the reality, over the illusion. For the illusion is of separate, discrete, unconnected living beings, while the essence, the reality, is of the flow of Life; of acausal energy being presenced in the causal, and so “creating” life. The illusion is of this mortal life as the aim, the goal, whereas the reality is of an evolving living Cosmos that we are part of, were once part of and will be part of, again.

Thus, we conceive of the very Cosmos itself as a living, evolving Being. We – all life – are not separate from this Being, but rather we are this Being, in evolution, evolving in the causal to become, by virtue of our sentience, the very consciousness of this Being, the very awareness of this Being. Similarly, Nature – the life dwelling with us on our planet, Earth – is a manifestation of this Being.

In addition, this Cosmic Being is not perfect, nor omniscient – not God, not any human-manufactured abstraction – but rather a burgeoning of Life, which Life we aid when we live with empathy, compassion and honour, when we respect other life, and which we diminish, or harm, when we do the opposite. Hence, there is not, nor cannot be, any “prayer” to this living Cosmic Being; no “reward” or “punishment” from this living Cosmic Being. Instead, there is only an empathic awareness, often – or mostly – beyond words, and presenced, manifested, sometimes, in some numinous music, or some work of Art, or in a personal love or by some honourable deed.

David Myatt

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