The Numinous Way of DW Myatt

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The Numinous Way of DW Myatt

Introduction: Mystic Philosophy of a Modern Gnostic

The Numinous Way was the name given, by Myatt himself, to his own particular Weltanschauung, his own perspective about life, which he developed, and continually refined, over a period of some ten or more years. This now completed Weltanschauung has been expounded in a recent (December, 2008 AD) collection of essays, issued by The Numinous Way Foundation, and entitled Empathy, Compassion, and Honour: The Numinous Way of Life. According to Myatt, the essays in this collection “supersede, revise, and correct all other essays of mine about, or concerning, The Numinous Way, and what I, previously, called The Numinous Way of Folk Culture.” Thus, the majority of my references are to the chapters, and appendices, of this work (1).

Significantly, Myatt states that:

As for The Numinous Way, I do now incline toward the view that this ethical Way of Life, which I have developed, is now independent of me, a complete philosophy of life, and can and should be judged as all such Ways, all such philosophies are judged, on their merits or their lack of them, independent of the life, and wanderings and mistakes, of those individuals who may have brought such Ways into being, or rather, who have presenced something of the numinous in the causal, just as the life of an artist, while it may or may not be interesting, does not or should not detract from or colour an artistic, aesthetic, judgement of his, or her, works of art.

Myatt’s particular perspective, or philosophy of life – or apprehension, as Myatt himself calls it – is, in my view, fundamentally a mystical one. That is, it is based on a personal intuitive insight about, a personal awareness of, the nature of Reality. This personal insight is that “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.” (2)

According to Myatt, this awareness is that arising from empathy; more, precisely, from the faculty of empathy, which he explains is an awareness of, and a sympathy with, other living beings (3), and which he defines, in a somewhat technical way, as “a manifestation, an awareness, of our relation to acausality, and in particular as an awareness of the related and dependant nature of those beings which express or manifest or which presence acausal energy and which are thus described, in a causal way, as possessing life” (4). His other, more simple explanation, is of empathy, in relation to human beings, as “our ability to know, to be aware of, the feelings, the suffering, of others.” (5)

This mystical insight of Myatt’s led him, over a period of a decade, to develop and increasingly refine The Numinous Way, and this development and process of refinement was, according to him, inspired and aided by his own personal experiences and by his quest among, and experience of, the religions of the world. As he states (6), his conclusions are:

“The result of a four-decade long pathei mathos: the result of my many and diverse and practical (and, to many others, weird and strange) involvements (political, and otherwise), and my many and diverse and practical quests among the philosophies, Ways of Life, and religions, of the world. The Numinous Way is, in particular, the result of the often difficult process of acknowledging my many personal mistakes – many of which caused or contributed to suffering – and (hopefully) learning from these mistakes.”

These conclusions have led him to reject all the political and religious beliefs and views he formerly adhered to, and which he is publicly known for. Among the beliefs and views he has come to reject, as a result of what it is, I believe, accurate to describe as a life long gnostic search for knowledge, and wisdom (7), are National Socialism and its racialist policies and politics, of which he had practical experience of, and a personal involvement with, lasting many decades.

As Myatt himself claims, his philosophy of The Numinous Way is emphatically apolitical, rejects the dogma prevalent in established religions; rejects nationalism, racialism and racial prejudice; emphasizes and embraces tolerance, and is fundamentally an ethical, individual, way of life centered on the virtues of empathy, compassion and personal honor (8).

As Myatt states:

“There has been, for me, a profound change of emphasis, a following of the cosmic ethic of empathy to its logical and honourable conclusion, and thus a rejection of all unethical abstractions.” (9)

A Complete Philosophy of Life

In order to qualify as a complete, and distinct, philosophy – in order to be a Weltanschauung – a particular philosophical viewpoint should possess the following:

1) A particular ontology, which describes and explains the concept of Being, and beings, and our relation to them;
2) A particular theory of ethics, defining and explaining what is good, and what is bad;
3) A particular theory of knowledge (an epistemology); of how truth and falsehood can be determined;

It should also be able to give particular answers to questions such as “the meaning and purpose of our lives”, and explain how the particular posited purpose may or could be attained.

What follows is a brief, and introductory, analysis of how Myatt’s The Numinous Way deals with each of the above topics.


Ontology

Myatt, in the essay Ontology, Ethics and The Numinous Way, states that, according to The Numinous Way, “there are two types of being, differentiated by whether or not they possess, or manifest, what is termed acausal energy”. That is, he introduces the concept of a causal Universe, and an acausal Universe, which together form “the Cosmos”, or Reality itself.

This causal Universe is the phenomenal world known to use via our five senses, and knowledge of this causal Universe is obtained through conventional sciences based upon practical observation (10). The acausal Universe is known to us via our faculty of empathy, since the acausal is the genesis of that particular type of energy which makes physical matter “alive” (11). That is, according to Myatt, all living beings are nexions, which are places – regions (or, one might say, “bodies”) – in the causal Universe where acausal energy is present, or manifests, or, to use Myatt’s term, is presenced. Hence, according to Myatt, “The Numinous Way adds empathy to the faculties by which we can perceive, know, and understand the Cosmos… Empathy is an essential means to knowing and understanding Life, which Life includes human beings…” (12)

In his earlier essay, Acausal Science: Life and The Nature of the Acausal, Myatt gives a little more detail as to the nature of acausal being, that is, the nature the acausal itself and of acausal energy.

Ethics

The ethics of Myatt’s Numinous Way derive from empathy, and in the section Ethics and the Dependant Nature of Being of the chapter Ontology, Ethics and The Numinous Way it is stated that:

“The faculty of empathy – and the conscious understanding of the nature of Reality – leads to a knowing, an understanding, of suffering. Part of suffering is that covering-up which occurs when a causal denoting is applied to living beings, and especially to human beings, which denoting implies a judgement (a pre-judgement) of such life according to some abstract construct or abstract value, so that the “worth” or “value” of a living-being is often incorrectly judged by such abstract constructs or abstract values.”

From a knowing and understanding of suffering, compassion arises, and:

“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.”

Furthermore, Myatt defines honor (or, more precisely, personal honor) as an ethical means to aid the cessation of suffering (13) and thus as “a practical manifestation of empathy: of how we can relate to other people, and other life, in an empathic and compassionate way”.

In addition, it is worth noting that Myatt views what he calls ‘abstractions’ as immoral, since abstraction obscures, or cover-ups, the essence, the being – the reality – of beings themselves. That is, such abstractions undermine, or replace, or distort, empathy, and thus distance us from life, from our true human nature, and lead us to identify with such abstractions instead of identifying with, sympathizing with, living beings. (14)

Epistemology

In Ontology, Ethics and The Numinous Way, Myatt writes:

“For The Numinous Way, truth begins with a knowing of the reality of being and Being – part of which is a knowing of the dependant nature of living beings.”

Furthermore,

“There is… a fundamental and important distinction made, by The Numinous Way, between how we can, and should, perceive and understand the causal, phenomenal, physical, universe, and how we can, and should, perceive and understand living beings. The physical world can be perceived and understood as: (1) existing external to ourselves, with (2) our limited understanding of this ‘external world’ depending for the most part upon what we can see, hear or touch: on what we can observe or come to know via our senses; with (3) logical argument, or reason, being a most important means to knowledge and understanding of and about this ‘external world’, and a means whereby we can make reasonable assumptions about it, which assumptions can be refuted or affirmed via observation and experiment; and (4) with the physical Cosmos being, of itself, a reasoned order subject to laws which are themselves understandable by reason. In this perception  and understanding of the causal, phenomenal, inanimate universe, concepts, denoting, ideas, forms, abstractions, and such like, are useful and often necessary.” (15)

Hence, Myatt conceives of there being two distinct types of knowing. That of the causal Universe, which derives from our senses and from practical science, and that of living beings, which derives from our empathy with such living beings, from a knowing that we are not separate from those living beings, but only one manifestation of that acausal, living, energy which connects all living beings, sentient and otherwise. (16) This second type of knowing derives from empathy, and is one means whereby we can apprehend the acausal, which is the matrix, The Unity, of connexions which is all life, presenced as living-beings in the causal. (17)

According to Myatt:

“The error of conventional philosophies – the fundamental philosophical error behind abstractionism – is to apply causal perception and a causal denoting to living being(s).” (18)


Praxeology

The primary goal is seen as living in such a way that we, as individuals, cease to cause suffering to other life. This means us using, and developing empathy, and thus changing – reforming – ourselves.

“How can we develope this faculty [of empathy]? 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.” (19)

Why should we pursue such a goal? Myatt answers, in a rather mystical and gnostic way, that:

“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.”

The Acausal and The Cosmic Being

Myatt’s concept of what he terms the acausal is central to understanding his philosophy of The Numinous Way. He conceives of this acausal as a natural part of the Cosmos, which Cosmos he defines as the unity of the physical, causal, Universe, and of the acausal Universe. This acausal Universe has an a-causal geometry and an a-causal time, and there exists, in this acausal Universe, a-causal energy of a type quite different from the physical energy of causal Space-Time, which causal energy is known to us and described by causal sciences such as Physics. (20)

This acausal energy is, according to Myatt, what animates physical matter and makes it alive, and thus he conceives as life in the causal, physical, Universe as a place – a nexion – where acausal energy is “presenced” (manifested) in causal Space-Time. Hence, all living beings are, for Myatt, a connection, a nexion, to the acausal itself, and thus all living beings are connected to each other. This connectively is felt, revealed to us, as human beings, through empathy (21). Compassion is knowing, and acting upon, this  connectivity of life, since “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…” (22)

The acausal is thus the matrix of connectivity, where all life exists in the immediacy of the moment, and where causal abstractions, based on finite causal thinking, have no meaning and no value.

Myatt conceives of what he terms a Cosmic Being, which is regarded as the Cosmos in evolution, becoming sentient through the evolution of living beings. That is, the Cosmic Being is itself a type of living entity, manifest (or “incarnated”) in all living beings, including ourselves, and Nature. (23)

“The Cosmic Being….. is not perfect, nor omniscient, not God, not any human-manufactured abstraction. That is, it is instead a new kind of apprehension of Being: a Cosmic one, based upon empathy, and an apprehension which takes us far beyond conventional theology and ontology.” (24)

Thus, this Cosmic Being is not to be viewed in a religious, theological, way, as some kind of deity, for we are part of this Being, as this Being is us and all other life, changing, evolving, coming-into-consciousness (25).

Pathei Mathos

One phrase which frequently occurs in Myatt’s writings about his Numinous Way – and which he often uses in his private correspondence and his autobiographical essays – is the Greek term πάθει  μάθος. Myatt, in his own translation of The Agamemnon by Aeschylus, translates this as learning from adversity. Pathei Mathos is how Myatt describes his own strange personal journey, his gnostic search for knowledge, wisdom and meaning, and his ultimate rejection of the various beliefs, ideologies, and religions, he studied and embraced in the course of this four decade long journey.

A large part of this learning from adversity is, for him, firstly an acknowledgment of his personal errors in adhering to and identifying with various “abstractions” – which he admits caused or contributed to suffering – and, secondly, the sometimes painful and difficult personal process of learning from these mistakes and thus changing one’s outlook and beliefs in an ethical way.

As Myatt states:

“In essence, there was, for me, pathei mathos. Due to this pathei mathos, I have gone far beyond any and all politics, and beyond conventional religion and theology toward what I believe and feel is the essence of our humanity, manifest in empathy, compassion, personal love and personal honour. Hence, I cannot in truth be described by any political or by any religious label, or be fitted into any convenient category,  just as no -ism or no -ology can correctly describe The Numinous Way itself, or even the essence of that Way. Therefore, I believe it is incorrect to judge me by my past associations, by my past involvements, by some of my former effusions, for all such things – all the many diverse such things – were peregrinations, part of sometimes painful often difficult decades-long process of learning and change, of personal development, of interior struggle and knowing, which has enabled me to understand my many errors, my multitude of mistakes, and – hopefully – learn from them.” (26)

In addition, he does not make any claims for his Numinous Way, other than it represents his own personal conclusions about life.

“The Numinous Way is but one answer to the questions about existence; it does not have some monopoly on truth, nor does it claim any prominence, accepting that all the diverse manifestations of the Numen, all the diverse answers, of the various numinous Ways and religions, have or may have their place, and all perhaps may serve the same ultimate purpose – that of bringing us closer to the ineffable beauty, the ineffable goodness, of life; that of transforming us, reminding us; that of giving us as individuals the chance to cease to cause suffering, to presence the good, to be part of the Numen itself.”  (27)

Conclusion

This short overview of Myatt’s Numinous Way reveals it as a comprehensive and, in my view, rather original, moral philosophy with an ethics and a praxeology which, while having some resemblance to those of Buddhism, are quite distinct by reason of (a) how Myatt relates, and defines, empathy and honor, and how such honor allows for the employment, in certain situations, of reasonable (“honorable”) force (28), and (b) how Myatt views human life in terms of the acausal, and as a means for us to “reform and evolve” ourselves.

The goal of The Numinous Way is seen as us, as individuals, becoming aware of and having empathy with all life, and this involves us using and developing our faculty of empathy, being compassionate, and thus increasing the amount of life, of acausal energy, in the Cosmos, leading to not only the evolution of life, but also to a cosmic sentience, which we, when we are empathic, compassionate and honorable, are part of and which we can become aware of.

In addition, as his many autobiographical essays and his published letters reveal (29), The Numinous Way – as outlined in the recent compilation The Numinous Way of Life: Empathy, Compassion, and Honour – has no relation whatsoever to any of Myatt’s previously held views and beliefs, political, or religious. Indeed, Myatt is quite clear that he regards both race, and “the folk”, as abstractions which, like all abstractions, obscure and undermine the numinous and which are detrimental to empathy and compassion and, ultimately, unethical and therefore dishonorable. (30) Thus, and rather confusingly given the terminology, this new apolitical Numinous Way – with its emphasis on personal, ethical, change and the cessation of suffering – is completely distinct from his earlier, now rejected, philosophy which he first called “Folk Culture” and then called The Numinous Way of Folk Culture.

Thus, The Numinous Way, as expounded recently, and as developed by Myatt over a period of many years, is not only a rejection of all of those previously held beliefs and views of his, but possibly also, as he himself has claimed, a new moral way founded on his own learning from his experiences and errors.

JR Wright
Oxford


Notes:

1) This work (currently an e-text in both html and pdf formats) appears in some editions under the alternative title The Numinous Way of Life: Empathy, Compassion, and Honour. This work is due to be published in book format late in 2009. In addition to citing this work, I have, on occasion, referred to recent private correspondence between Myatt and myself (both written, and e-mail) where he elucidates certain matters in response to a particular question, or questions, of mine.
2) An Overview of The Numinous Way of Life
3) In Compassion, Empathy and Honour: The Ethics of the Numinous Way
4) Ontology, Ethics and The Numinous Way
6) Introduction, Empathy, Compassion, and Honour: The Numinous Way of Life
7) A Gnostic is someone who seeks gnosis – wisdom and knowledge; someone involved in a life-long search,a quest, for understanding, and who more often than not views the world, or more especially ordinary routine life, as often mundane and often as a hindrance. In my view, this is a rather apt description of Myatt.
8) Refer to Frequently Asked Questions About The Numinous Way and An Overview of The Numinous Way of Life
9) Introduction, Empathy, Compassion, and Honour: The Numinous Way of Life
10) Refer to the section Ontology and The Numinous Way in the chapter A Brief Analysis of The Immorality of Abstraction, and also to Myatt’s earlier essay Acausal Science: Life and The Nature of the Acausal which is referenced in that chapter.
11) A Brief Analysis of The Immorality of Abstraction
12) A Brief Analysis of The Immorality of Abstraction
13) An Overview of The Numinous Way of Life
14) Refer to Myatt’s recent essay, A Change of Perspective, dated December 21, 2008
15) A Brief Analysis of The Immorality of Abstraction
16) Refer to An Overview of The Numinous Way of Life and Ontology, Ethics and The Numinous Way and also Presencing The Numen In The Moment
17) A Change of Perspective. Also, private e-mail from Myatt to JRW, December 22, 2008
18) A Brief Analysis of The Immorality of Abstraction
19) An Overview of The Numinous Way of Life
20) Acausal Science: Life and The Nature of the Acausal
21) Private e-mail from Myatt to JRW, December 21, 2008
22) An Overview of The Numinous Way of Life. See also The Numinous Way and Life Beyond Death
23) Ontology, Ethics and The Numinous Way. Also, private e-mail from Myatt to JRW, December 22, 2008
24) Ontology, Ethics and The Numinous Way
25) Private e-mail from Myatt to JRW, December 22, 2008 and private letter from Myatt to JRW, which he dated 9.xii.08 (CE)
26) Presencing The Numen In The Moment
27) The Empathic Essence
28) Refer to An Overview of The Numinous Way of Life and also The Principles of Numinous Law
29) Among his dozens of autobiographical essays are the following:

So Many Tears
Love, Deities and God: Redemption and The Numinous Way
An Allegory of Pride and Presumption
One Simple Numinous Answer
The Empathic Essence

I have collected some of his recent personal letters in The Private Letters of David Myatt, Part 1.


30) Refer to Frequently Asked Questions About The Numinous Way, where Myatt writes that “such a concept as “the folk” now has no place in The Numinous Way…” See also The Development of The Numinous Way and Other Questions

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