From letter to students for Therapeia 22.9, 09-10 December 2022.
Character and Destiny.
“Ethos Anthropos Daimon” Heraclitus, frag.119
This phrase is most often translated as ‘Character is Destiny’, although there are other ways to deepen our understanding of what Heraclitus might mean, by more closely examining some of his ideas.1
You could go a more meditative route, with the author qualifying that ‘this interpretation thinks in a more modern way.’2 It’s quite a gentle bit of writing. However, it lands up (in an examination of the Book of Job) with ‘One of the first things I rediscovered once I settled into the practice of meditation, was that sense of emotional security, the feeling that things are happening the way they are supposed to happen, and everything will be alright in the end.’3 Which is a bit too transcendental for us, rooted in the sufferings of psychopathology, on the one hand, and the notion of dialogues with the Gods, on the other.
John Russey (who he?4) explores some interesting ideas and research, albeit in a convoluted and haphazard manner and on a dreadfully designed ‘website’. He offers, ‘One can also interpret it as “The Character (Ethos) of Man (Anthropos) is in accordance with the Daimon.’5 He traces the meaning of the words used, which is useful. Here, the idea of the Daimon, as the gods-given portion of our personal soul, takes precedence over the ego, and thus accords with an Archetypal perspective.
And then there are modern interpretations. You could go New Age, with Jane Roberts’ channelling of ‘the words spoken by a discarnate entity named Seth.’6 Then you’d get ‘Your thoughts have reality, and you create the reality that you know.’7 Which is not really the Archetypal view. There are other similar entitled interpretations. Like ‘What you set your intent on, will manifest’. Pretty much The Secret sort of nonsense,8 and not of much interest or value. Let’s return to the good stuff.
Heidegger’s translation is, ‘The (usual) place where humans dwell is the openness where the god (as the un-usual) can appear.’9 This concurs somewhat with the well-known inscription that Jung carved into the lintel of his property in Kusnacht, ‘Called or Not Called, God is Present’.10 Hillman develops the idea of the need for a ‘Place’, for the anchoring of the Gods of Fate.
That’s our starting point to continue with our studies of Hillman’s essay on Ananke, and coming to terms with our fate.
1. https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/philosophy-and-religion/philosophy-biographies/heraclitus Go the sub-heading ‘Theology’, to reference frag.119.
2. https://msvarnyk.wordpress.com/tag/heraclitus/ The lovely story of Heraclitus at the stove. ‘For here too the god appears’, in everyday reality.
3. https://msvarnyk.wordpress.com/2017/11/27/surrender-the-book-of-job-and-william-blake/ A fine little meditation on Job, sprinkled with pastoral salt.
4. https://www.geocities.ws/john_russey/ Clearly a thinking, busy mind. Who really could use an editor. Or even a friend.
5. https://www.geocities.ws/john_russey/philosophy/Ethos_Anthropos_Daimon.html A bit like Jung’s description of a flooded mind. Yet good work.
6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seth_Material Lovely when the imaginal realms break open. Just don’t literalise it, take it seriously or call it prophecy.
7. https://longsworde.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/heraclitus-ethos-anthropos-daimon/ Interesting thinker, who tends to get blog bogged. I prefer simple.
8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Secret_(Byrne_book) Grossed $300m by 2009. Yup, it’s gross. The desparate neediness for instant salvation.
9. https://colinbodayle.wordpress.com/2016/12/19/heidegger-ethics/ I used a different translation of Heidegger. This one is obscure. As is the rest of this link.
10. https://carljungdepthpsychologysite.blog/2020/08/30/called-or-not-called-the-god-will-be-there/#.Y5CQ8y3Rbi0 Fortunately, this useful reference is very short.