Words we live by

 

Agapao

Meaning "I love". We love this word because it starts with Alpha and end with Omega. The very essence of everything in life. Love. The alpha and the omega and everything in between.

 

Anamnesis

Remembering, un-forgetting, recollection.

According to Socrates and Plato, the most important forms of knowledge come not from instruction, but by a re-awakening of already existing dormant or latent knowledge. This is called anamnesis (an- = un-, amnesis = forgetting, as in amnesia).

Anamnesis comes in the form of "aha!" experiences -- insights, moments of unusual clarity, peak experiences, etc.

It involves only certain forms of knowledge: moral, existential, spiritual/metaphysical, and mathematical.

Truths understood by anamnesis, valuable in themselves, also serve as first principles for reasoning about oneself and ones life. 

Conclusions based on these truths are more certain and correct than those based on false opinion (see epoche), which is typically distorted by desires and fears.

Anamnesis, thus, leads to a genuine life, whereas false opinion promotes inauthenticity.

 

Ataraxia

Imperturbability, freedom from disturbance, equipoise, tranquility. Ataraxia is a state of consciousness, characterized by freedom from mental agitation.

The derivation of the term is instructive: a is a privative, i.e. meaning 'not'; taraxia is the condition of being confused, disturbed, agitated, roiled, muddied or darkened -- qualities which unfortunately characterize the quality of waking consciousness much of the time.

It is often supposed that ataraxia implies passivity and quiet contemplation, but that is not necessarily so. Ataraxia can also be experienced during activity; this is action which is both internally and externally harmonized and in accord with Nature -- i.e., a flow state characterized by effortless action, following divine inspiration without resistance.

One of the fruits of ataraxia is joy (chara).

 

Epoche

Suspension of judgment.

Not a single word, but a constellation of related terms that also includes aporia (a state of 'puzzlement'), elenchus (investigation by question and answer), and skeptikos (an attitude of undogmatic investigation). All these relate in a most central way to the mission of Socrates: to call attention to the perils of false opinion (or, more accurately, false opining, the process of forming false opinions) and to propose remedies.

False opining, or pseudodoxia, is an absolutely fundamental problem with human nature, a near universal source of our errors and unhappiness. Many of our personal problems are the direct result of false opinion. For example, false opinions about bad things -- that they exist, that they are likely to happen, that they would actually harm us -- are the basis of endless worry, anxiety, fear and hatred. False opinions about presumed goods -- that they are good, that they are what we really want, etc., beget endless folly, wasted effort, frustration, etc.

Due to its connection with fear and desire, false opinion contributes to mental disturbance. Several strategies exist to rid oneself of false opinion, including a habit of suspending judgment (epoche).

 

Metamorphosis

One of the translations could be "transformation". Metamorphosis is a key element in Greek mythology. This ability to change shape or form is a major development in the stories of Arachne, Zeus, and Daphne. Almost all of the gods had the power of metamorphosis.

"One of the most enduring metaphors for the spiritual path is the transformation of the lowly caterpillar into a butterfly.  Out of its own substance, the ground-hugging grub weaves the medium for its metamorphosis—the chrysalis within which it evolves into a beautiful creature with wings.  The human being undergoes an equally dramatic transformation, unfolding the path to liberation from within the depths of the soul and emerging, after great struggle, as an expression of divinity in the world." From When the Soul Awakens

In the ageless wisdom teachings, transformation is the process by which a human being becomes a spiritual being—an individual who comes to embody the divinity of the human soul.  It is a process of metamorphosis that begins when the soul in incarnation awakens to its spiritual essence and discovers the path of return to its Source.  Along the way, the individual who was identified with the outer persona—body, emotions, and mind—becomes identified with the Soul, the true or higher Self.  Ultimately that outer persona, which was once the mask of the soul, will become the vehicle for the soul's expression in the world.

 

Nous

The mental faculty by which one perceives truth, goodness, and divine things; the Intellect.

Nous is the special faculty or part of the soul by which one perceives truth and other things of a more divine nature, such as Virtue. The exercise of the Nous – i.e., knowing things by means of it – is called noesis. Noesis is often compared to vision; it is something like 'seeing' a truth. When we say, "Ah, now I see your point" and the like, that expresses having a noetic understanding or grasp of a truth or principle.

Today there is no English word in common use that carries the same meaning as Nous. As a result, the concept of the Nous has all but vanished from modern science. Historically, the words Intellect and Intelligence meant much the same thing as Nous; however today that connection is obscured by a very broad meaning of 'intelligence', which can be even applied to animals and machines (because they can, for example, plan and learn). However Nous is something like consciousness itself, and, at least with machines, certainly wouldn't be applicable.

Another possible English near-equivalent is Reason. But here we must distinguish between Reason and reasoning. Reasoning is a form of discursive thought, whereas noesis is direct apprehension of truth. Discursive thought corresponds to what Greek philosophers called dianoesis, which is associated with a different mental faculty, the dianoia. Reason itself (i.e., Nous) is part of reasoning – i.e., the means by which we perceive trueness of an argument or inference.

Noesis is sometimes defined as intuition. Again, this is only partly true, because intuition has two common meanings. The first (the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning) is similar to noesis; the second (knowledge that comes from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning) is not.

We are left with the practical difficulty that, in terms of common usage, there are no convenient English words with the same meanings as Nous and noesis. Therefore it might be advantageous to simply re-introduce the Greek terms into common use. In the case of noesis, this seems to be gradually happening.