At 12:00 AM on Friday, January 1, 2021, my neighborhood erupted into a loud exorcism of 2020 — a rough, hated year — and a welcome of 2021 — the year that many have placed our hopes and aspirations into — while I was in bed trying to stay awake reading Proclus’ Platonic Theology.
The passage I was in the middle of was amusing considering the earnest post I wrote a few days ago about Homer, Platonic interpreters, and myths — it’s something I would have quoted from had I read it before writing that. I’ve had a superstition since I was young that the thing one is doing at midnight on December 31/January 1 will become significant in the coming year, which gave it extra meaning.
If, therefore, we consider the fabulous exections, both the Saturnian and the Celestial, of which Plato makes mention, and thinks that such like narrations should always be concealed in silence, that the arcane truth of them should be surveyed, and that they are indicative of mystic conceptions, because these things are not fit for young men to hear,—[if we consider these] we may obtain from them what the separative deity is, who accomplishes the divisions, and segregates the Saturnian genera indeed from the Celestial, and the Jovian from the Saturnian, and who separates the whole intellectual order from the natures prior and posterior to it, disjoins the different causes in it from each other, and always imparts to secondary natures, secondary measures of dominion. And let not any one be disturbed, or oppose me on hearing these things. How therefore does Plato reject exections, bonds, and the tragical apparatus of fables? For he thinks that all such particulars will be condemned by the multitude and the stupid, through ignorance of the arcana they contain; but that they will exhibit to the wise certain admirable opinions. Hence, he indeed does not admit such a mode of fiction, but thinks it proper to be persuaded by the ancients who were the offspring of the Gods, and to investigate their arcane conceptions. As therefore he rejects the Saturnian fables, when they are narrated to Euthyprhon, and the auditors of the Republic, yet at the same time admits them in the Cratylus, placing about the mighty Saturn and Pluto, other secondary bonds,—thus also, I think he forbids exections to be introduced to those who know only the apparent meaning of what is said, and does not admit that there is illegal conduct in the Gods, and nefarious aggressions of children against their parents, but he opposes, and confutes as much as possible such like opinions. He assents however to their being narrated to those who are able to penetrate into the mystic truth, and investigate the concealed meaning of fables, and admits the separation of wholes, whether [mythologists] are willing to denominate them exections for the purpose of concealment, or in whatever other way they may think fit to call them. For bonds and exections are symbols of communion and separation, and each is the progeny of the same divine mythology. Nor is there any occasion to wonder, if from these things we endeavour to confirm the opinion of Plato; but it is requisite to know how the philosophy of Plato admits all such particulars, and how it rejects them, and in what manner he apprehends they may be the causes of the greatest evils, and of an impious life to those that hear them. The seven intellectual Gods therefore, will through these conceptions appear to have been thought worthy of being mentioned by Plato.Proclus, trans. Thomas Taylor, Platonic Theology, Book V, Ch. III (last paragraph)
Exections isn’t a word we come across every day, and my computer doesn’t even recognize it as real; Google wants to know if I mean execution. The more common form of the word is exsection, which my computer also doesn’t recognize. It’s a word for cutting or cutting away. This passage is followed by multiple chapters of compare/contrast of Zeus (which Taylor translates as Jupiter according to the custom of the period) and Kronos (Saturn, translated according to the same custom), which perform analysis on their different modes of rulership and a really nice analysis of the myth in the Statesman that I had found baffling when I read it. Throughout the section, Proclus does often use heated language (at least as Taylor translates), and I imagine he’s just as frustrated by Christians slandering the Gods during his time as people are today with all of the hot takes.
Opening 2021 with this passage was a bit funny because, in September, I plan to shift my reading to mythology (and folklore) for the remainder of the year. In Goodreads, I set down 36 books as the goal (my actual goal is 40 books — 30 during the first ⅔ of the year, 10 during the final ⅓, but I don’t know how to judge my reading pace since I will have moved on to more concise Platonic works after finishing the Platonic Theology).
My divination for 2021 indicates that the year ahead will be rough, with more focus on the material world and more opportunities for engaging with ways to improve my relationship with consumption and my emotions — establishing better self-control. Conversely, there are dangers in being unhealthily reclusive (inverted Hermit/Old Man in the studies, spirituality, travels, philosophy, religion section and, on the flip side, of experiencing the worst of “hell is other people,” the inverted Tower in the social status, ambition, honor place — something that I have a lot of fear about, as I do have some trauma responses from spending my childhood bullied that lead to flashbacks, and while they’re usually controllable with enough self-care and self-compassion, it’s a hard-won unity, so I’m apprehensive about what this could mean. There’s Death in the capital, credit, heirlooms, inner changes, sexuality area — hopefully student loan forgiveness (😂), but possibly a fallow period in terms of inner changes, which would be consistent with the inverted Hermit/Old Man and the fact that 2019 felt like a supernova; supernovae always calm down, and the calming trend present in 2020 could be continuing. Zeus (the Emperor) rules the annual card of activities in general, work, health, so at the very least, I will be able to be productive and in control even while the fires burn and die down to embers. It’s made me consider my annual goals paper that I’ve posted to my wall, and maybe a few things on it are less appropriate — we’ll see as time passes. I might follow up with an actual human being about this year because I know that I tend to plan for the worst, but there are opportunities in the cards that could make for quiet upheavals and disappointments instead of explosive ones. Regardless, I tend to be an adaptive person.
Finally, one of the blog posts I’ve been thinking about frequently in the past few days is one that I wrote about prayer and nonviolence, specifically the section about making sure to pray for the best for others even when we don’t want to.
Ὅτι ὁ αὐτὸς ἀπεϕαίνετο τοῖς θεοῖς εὔχεσθαι δεῖν τὰ ἀγαθὰ τοὺς ϕρονίμους ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀϕρόνων· τοὺς γὰρ ἀσυνέτους ἀγνοεῖν, τί ποτέ ἐστιν ἐν τῷ βίῳ κατὰ ἀλήθειαν ἀγαθόν. (10.9.8) Ὅτι ὁ αὐτὸς ἔϕασκε δεῖν ἐν ταῖς εὐχαῖς ἁπλῶς εὔχεσθαι τἀγαθά, καὶ μὴ κατὰ μέρος ὀνομάζειν, οἷον ἐξουσίαν, κάλλος, πλοῦτον, τἄλλα τὰ τούτοις ὅμοια· πολλάκις γὰρ τούτων ἕκαστον τοὺς κατ’ ἐπιθυμίαν αὐτῶν τυχόντας τοῖς ὅλοις ἀνατρέπειν.
For he himself [Pythagoras] disclosed that wise men should pray to the gods for the good things for the benefit of the unwise, since the unwise are incapable of understanding what in life is truly good. (10.9.8) He used to say that it was necessary in prayers to pray simply for the good things, and not to name them individually, such as for instance to pray for power, beauty, wealth, and other similar things. For often each of these things, when those who desired them acquire them, turning against them, totally ruins them.Diodorus Siculus on Pythagoras’ views on prayers, p. 63 of Inner Purity & Pollution in Greek Religion
It’s probably been on my mind because I have been having a mixed experience reading Conflict Is Not Abuse, as there are some positions Schulman possesses that I do not share. She went on a rant about how she hates email that landed weird. (I agree that text-based communication is not the best venue for conflict resolution because tone and body language are valuable.) She also argued for our desires being the arbiters of yes and no instead of our reasoning faculties, stating that it wasn’t violence if someone said no but meant yes because other people pick up on the mixed body language signals (or, to be candid, read way too much into friendliness). Whether or not someone has mixed feelings or desires is irrelevant; no is a choice driven by the combination of rational and irrational, and the choice itself must be respected, full stop, once it is made. She also has a weird take on “know thyself” that also privileges desire and emotion over reason, when in fact these are all at play. I value truth above convenience and have since I decided lying always came back to bite the liar when I was a child, and I do approach the appetitive and spirited parts of a person with a lot of input from Platonism, so I can trace many (not all) of our positional differences to these things. It’s frustrating to see such difference given that I saw so many glowing reviews of this book after it came out.
I do, however, appreciate her emphasis that communication during conflict is important, especially taking a step back to check in about whether something truly is “power over” versus “conflict between”; her positional statement against shunning; and reflections on the ways that people can harm one another using legal recourse when a conflict escalates and the members of said conflict feel vindictive. These are all things that I have seen on the Internet and in society at large — we decide that others are not worth being treated like people, and the outcomes are disastrous for everyone involved.
So those are the three things.