Chapter 8; Saturn and Neptune
Physical Education as root of Wisdom Teaching
-in order to develop Sophrosyne-Discretion and Prudence
Saturn the Father of Time -who as Lord of Time and Discipline – eats his children!
Time takes us all. Neptune the Lord of the Deep Sea and Deep Perception.
Saturn for Discipline,
Neptune for Imagination. Genuine Education requires BOTH.
There are many ways to be educated. Some ways require a teacher and others do not. Over all, there is no better way of learning than reading and traveling. But, if a teacher is involved in the educational process, it is obvious that the teacher can be very influential in the life of a student. In this sense, whether the teacher wants it or not, he or she, will become a kind of mentor to, at least, the students who are closer to them. It can be a karmic collision or the welcoming of an ancient friend.
In ancient Greece and most other cultures and countries, teachers of education were, in their original form “Wisdom Teachers”.
I first encountered the term “Wisdom teacher” from Dorothea Fairbairn in England. Dorothea, daughter of famed Commando trainer W.E. Fairbairn, met with me one afternoon to discuss her father. I was very intrigued with the character of her father and asked if she knew whether on not her father had a “mentor”. She said, “Do you mean, a “Wisdom Teacher”?” I said yes, and she began to describe a venerable Russian gentleman who would meet with Fairbairn for tea- each week. This man was, wise and familiar with the affairs of the world and he had a personal interest in Fairbairn. According to her, it was this man who gave W.E.F. insight and polish and a view on life which allowed him to overcome an amazing and complex array of difficulties. For those unfamiliar with Fairbairn, he was assistant Commissioner to the Shanghai Municipal Police from around 1920-1940 or so. Shanghai was a bee-hive of corruption but Fairbairn managed to maintain order where seemingly, none could be achieved. When W.E.F. retired from the Police he returned to his home of England and volunteered to develop Commando training. This led to his employment in three countries simultaneously during WWII and he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from the U.S. It is this kind of contribution to the world a man can make, especially if he has a Wisdom Teacher.
In ancient times the Paidotribe or Physical Trainer was a Wisdom teacher of a kind.
Dorothea Fairbairn with a photo of her father, W.E.Fairbairne (1993, photo from authors collection).
In ancient cultures the Wisdom Teachers were responsible to not only give facts to the students but also help develop in them, the capacity for reasoning and problem solving. It was the objective of these teachers to create in the student, the potential for insight into themselves, and life itself. The Wisdom teacher asks the student what they think- how they feel. By doing this, the Wisdom teacher puts the student “on their feet”. These teachers were sometimes specialized, and at other times were tutors hired to teach a broad range of subjects. Because of this, they came out of more than one economic level or caste of society from shaman-priests (this includes the broad range of supernatural phenomena and medicine), warriors, craftsman to bards or poets and others.
I include here female versions of all of these, which indeed have existed since the beginning of civilization. Motherhood too, was taught by the elder women within each tribe, according to the peculiarities of the tribe. Fatherhood, was taught likewise by the elder fathers with respective initiations.
It is good for us to realize that societies organized themselves with respect to time, experience, youth-strength, old age-wisdom–not out of petty moralizing but out of survival-necessity. It was the sensible thing to do. And this was long before certificates and degrees and the over specialization which permeates our life with the interminable details which we encounter in modern times. Yes we have plumbing and technology and sanitation and roads but there was also the devil to pay as things became more and more mechanized and more and more bureaucratic…and at present we are encountering this more than ever…
At present, this idea of “Wisdom” is not taught in our educational system nor is the emphasis on the imparting of any kind of wisdom. In fact education has largely developed into a business of artisans, who rather than focus on educating, have fallen to maintaining a combination of child-care and indoctrination of consumer buyer-conformists who will simply continue a society in which “business as usual” is the essential motive. Granted, there are exceptions to this, still en-masse, this appears to be what the present educational structure largely consists of. This lowered standard is further extended to the teaching of physical education which is being removed from the educational curriculum of many schools and is substituted with “Sport” and “Games” which is basically physical abuse to amuse others and reinforce gambling and the exploitation of the sexual instincts.
The ancient Greeks, like many of the ancient empires, emphasized the importance of physical education. While they shared many of the same problems with Sports we have today, they also attempted to create a Wisdom teaching with Athletics. They had the Paidotribe. The Paidotribe of ancient Greece, was a specialist. He was teacher who specialized in initiating the young people in all phases of wrestling and boxing as well as running, jumping, throwing the discus, and javelin. Some also taught horsemanship.
The Paidotribe also taught massage and the healing of dislocations and bruises. Personal cleanliness and familiarity with types of infection- cuts from rusty nails or weapons, snake bits, bee stings- all figure in to this. This knowledge of first aide and personal hygiene balanced the combative and aggressive aspects by bringing in the healing and creative aspects.
Without the healing aspects the athletic aspect becomes one sided and the child will develop his Will-power as a purely competitive and aggressive force. In effect one simply develops ranks of bullies with the strongest at the top. Naturally the one at the top is willing to lead the others through base force; dominance or coercion.
R. Steiner in his “Study of Man” warned about this and stated plainly that the over- emphasis on competitive sports was simply a reinforcement of social Darwinism. By “social Darwinism” is meant the ideas of “only the strong survive” and “red in tooth and claw”, “survival of the fittest”. These ideas, which were sprouted in Darwins’ evolutionary theory, were transferred to economics and have poisoned the social conscience of the world. They are now, unfortunately embodied in team sports and account for certain obvious perverse behaviors (particularly sexual ones now coming to light) in so-called professional sports and the general lack of “sportsmanship”.
Individual sports are a very different matter from group or team sports. They tend to initiate and enlighten as well as enlarge the capacity for responsibility. They develop individuality. Geothe, the philosopher of Germany stated, “The health of society IS the health of the individual”.
The stress on the concept of individuality at one time in history, was a trademark of the American mentality. Individuality went hand in hand with “Freedom”. Mass “education” and mass media have tamped down this emphasis on individual freedom as well as lowering quality. The result is a more and more conformist society, with less and less opportunities for the training and expansion of the individual genius.
There are so-called “Gifted” or “Special” programs for talented students, yet the few that exist are oriented toward- again, producing a conformist, consumer; a strong smart beast which can trample out the competition and then perhaps graduate to being an actor-entertainer to further amuse the masses and carry the news of prevailing propaganda.
Granted, there is a healthy kind of competition but this is not what Social Darwinism is about. The purpose of competition to the ancient Greeks was to test and develop a sense of courage and vision in the student, in order that they could surpass their own false sense of limitations and enhance their imagination of their own potential and future and, in the end, become “Guardians of the State”, protectors of Culture. Now this idea can be warped into Fascism and the beat of drums and all sorts of Jingo-ism but at its core it’s a pretty good concept. The main thing in this concept is training and education a person to become unusually individualistic while at the same time TRYING to reveal to them their connection to the greater world, thereby developing in them some kind of Social Conscience to go WITH their strong individualism. Yes it’s a tall order to attempt to do that! but it is a Good Ideal! A Good Aim!
The Greek ladder of development according to Plato
in his “Republic” is as follows-the clear listing courtesy of Joe Simmons in his text “The Platonic Warrior”;
The Greek Ladder of Spiritual Development
Exercise- training of all kinds- especially physical training— running, wrestling, jumping, javelin, discuss as a form of self-discipline. This begins the process of developing the qualities called “virtues”. Pushing past physical limits and overcoming one’s innate cowardice and laziness is the main purpose. As one overcomes one’s weaker aspects of oneself, the developing physical strength allows the stronger person to consider assisting the weaker.
This is the insight which allows imagining the overcoming of higher and more difficult obstacles. This insight comes with the courage and understanding that happened in step one. The student “raises the bar” for themselves. They can do more than they initially thought. It is a new vision or “penetration of vision” which comes from having a new view of one’s abilities. A student becomes stronger than they thought. They defeat another in competition. They were unsure of themselves. Now they can imagine what else they can do. They can be more, do more, help more, contribute more.
With the continued quest or aspiration, is this, the “Highest Vision”. The “Highest Vision” is ideal and therefore in actuality, unattainable. This is the cause of the “Agathon” or test of Agony. Can the student endure an ideal which they cannot achieve? Why should they? How does it affect others in their environment? Is it good or bad? If they are willing to hold to the ideal and participate in the “Agathon” then this creates additional motivation for further refinements in training (“Askesis”). The loop of training and gratification continues as more difficulties are overcome. Adventure writer, Talbot Mundy
had a good quote, “The gods do not corrupt a man with fame and wealth but with a satisfying inner vision”. This is what makes the difficult training worthwhile.The result of the Agathon is a vivid memory in the mind of the teacher and of the effect of training. This memory is what keys the teacher to the student. How it feels to pass the test. And the ancient tests were ones of life and death-they were Vital Skills; like how to protect yourself or give first aid to another person.
As a student continues the loop of hard training and self- discovery and self- motivation, the formation of the self occurs. (I was forced to do this because for many years I trained alone, being allowed to see the teacher only every few months). The thinking student will find they get injured, have doubts and difficulties. This gives them self-understanding. They find they have to rest to get nurturing and more strength for a later time. This is sometimes called “Re-spiritualizing” or “Soul Rightness”. It is about tempering training and psychology. This is generated from the ongoing relation and reciprocity between Askesis/Training and the Agathon/Ideal Vision. Gnosis is the mid step between the two. I have heard this fourth step called “common sense” but it comes from an uncommon 5process!
This is the formation of reasoning or logic in a person. True logic comes OUT OF the process of training (Askesis) as it brings out the Agathon (high vision and testing) and Dikaiosune (sense of reality). So the “reasoning body” or “reasoning part of the person” called the Logistikon- is the measuring of degrees of difficulty and possibility which results from training and the contrasting of high vision/ideals and common sense. It is in some way the rebirth of common sense. But it is not common. It is truly experience- made conscious-into knowledge. This knowledge also gives Courage and is a central quality for a good teacher or Paidotribe.
“Nous” is the light of genuine Consciousness. It develops out of the logistikon, out of clear reasoning. The process of developing “Nous” is analogous to the analysis of facts which leads to accurate intuition. The intuition can later, if honed, become clairvoyance. This is connected to the ancient training of prophets in the past and in the present this process is akin to the modern so-called “remote viewing” in time. It is also related to telepathy. One could say that animal intuition is instinctive consciousness. With Nous we take the animal instinct and making it a fully self-conscious power-humanise it and individualise it. Then we extend this perception or Conscious Awareness into our activities.
Like the word “amnesia” this is the level of development connected to memory. But this is about making memory sharper, and then the recovery of lost memories. In this case the light of Nous allows the person to remember their true self- in some cases- past lives. Anamnesis also means “to be true to yourself” or “to remember who you really are” or to “discover your own soul.” But this comes most clearly, from the above process.
Like the word “Sophomore” this is a beginning step. It is connected to Sophia or Wisdom. It is about the synthesis of Wisdom which comes from the process shown above. It is the result of training, knowing yourself, knowing who you have been and all the time maintaining your highest vision.
“Arete” can be called “humility before the facts”. It is not about acting humble. It is about understanding one’s own limitations through the repeated resonances of the above process. One can have a lifetime of training, logic and very high idealism with a wonderful fusion of wisdom but still lack the light to get to “Arete”. Arete is the sign the practitioner has managed to stay self- aware throughout the whole process of development. It is the proof of the presence of a constant witness in oneself. This power to observe oneself in both weakness and strength, on an ongoing basis is the necessary qualification to be a mentor, or Initiator. This means that anyone who teaches Rites of Passage needs to have gone through the process of Arete themselves!
*Question; “With all this training and analysis, where does passion come in?”
Answer; “Thumos” the spirited nature used in war; the “fire”, the passion— is to be guided by the Logistikon, the mind of logic—which is filled with the Agathon/highest vision or ideal.
This whole process is understood from “Katharsis”. The Katharsis is the ecstatic moment which comes out of the agony of the Agathon! J.R.R. Tolkien had an understanding of the kind of defining climax – when the many loose ends of a life or adventure come together into a climax even great than Katharsis -he called it “Eucatastrophe” a sort of “Fullfilling Catastrophe”.
*Practical Exercise; Hoplite Spear and Shield tactical training and a discussion of Good and Evil