Hellas And The Complete Man

In light of my recent post on Dalrock and Cane Caldo one commenter proposed that in my ‘basic sophistry’ had given ‘game apologetics that address anything but game.’  Monsieur Empathologicalism might have a point, though I take offense at ‘basic sophistry;’ if anything my purple prose rises to at least to the level of intermediate sophistry.  Empathologicalism has an interesting blog either way; expect to see him on this coming weeks LIGFY.  More to the point of this post is that the previous rank on D and CC was not a matter of apologetics on Game, but instead a proof against the idea that for the Christian the Bible is enough, that it is the sole fulfillment of man. From Dalrock’s initial post that started it all, to Cane’s first response this idea of the biblical satiation is taken as granted for the Christian.  I disagree.

In reading this week I have stumbled across an author from 1915, one J. B. Stoughton Holborn, who proposes that a similar one-sided metaphysic caused the ails of then modern life. Instead of going into my own summation allow me to quote and link. Enjoy.


On the ends of the great temple at Delphi, which in some respects may be considered the centre of Greek religion, were two mottoes which may be taken as the mottoes of Greek life. At the one end gnothi seauton, know thyself; at the other end meeden agan, nothing in excess.

Gnothi seauton: know thyself–if ever there was a people who made it their aim to understand the nature of man it was the Greeks. they were humanists in the highest sense. Know thyself, find out what it is to be a man, find out all that marks him out and distinguishes him from the lower creation, that lifts him above the mere physical nature which he shares with them and then endeavour to the utmost of thine ability to develop all these essentials and to be a man.

It is the fundamental spirit of humanism, the spirit that realises the glory and significance of man. It is the spirit that neither with boasting nor self-deprecation declares that “the proper study of mankind is man.” After all, man is put here upon earth to perform his own proper function; whatever may be the animal state from which he has risen or the future state to which he may rise. It is a plain neglect of his duty to dally with one or idly sigh in vain aspiration after the other. Everything has its proper function to perform, man or angel, clod or previous stone; it is, as Marcus Aurelius phrases it:–”as though the emerald should say,–’whatever happens I must be an emerald.’”

Humanism is opposed to sensationalism, materialism and the uncultivated pleasures of a savage boorish existence, but it stands equally for the value and dignity of human life as such, and refuses to regard the visions of a future existence as the only reality. The advent of that future will not be hastened by the spurning of opportunities and obligations in relation to our development in this world.

We are here for a definite purpose, with definite powers, intelligences, emotions and capacities, and the earth and its wonders are to be appreciated and understood, the lilies to be considered and the truth to be learned. These things are neither brutishly to be made subservient to the senses nor utterly despised. It stands for breadth and it stands for sympathy. Whatever happens, I must be a man.

Man is a reasoning creature. The lower animals may have the rudiments of this faculty, but it is in the great development of his reasoning power that we see one of the essential distinctions between him and the beast. If one, then, is to be a man, it is necessary to develop one’s intelligence, to quicken one’s intellectual desire for knowledge.

Man, too, is moral, and again, although the animals may exhibit an elementary morality, it is this higher development that distinguishes him from them and it is one of his primary functions to live an upright life.

But there is also implanted in every man a capacity to distinguish between the beautiful and the ugly which may be dwarfed or undeveloped just as the moral sense may be dwarfed or undeveloped nonetheless is there. This element is as universal as the moral sense, even though it be untrained. Even the philistine who most prides himself upon being entirely indifferent to such things is nevertheless continually revealing the fact that it is not so.

This point is so important and at the same time so frequently overlooked that a whole lecture, in the series of which this is one, has been devoted to it. We may then, say that, starting with a physical nature that is common to man and other animals, we have these three great fundamentals that make man man, the artistic, the intellectual and the moral. This diagram, then, represents the aim of man, AIM, man’s complete being.

But we have yet to consider the motto at the other end of the temple. Know thyself: be all that it is to be a man, but meeden agan, nothing in excess, and we may take with it its corollary, nothing too little.

It is the even, all-round development of the Greek that is his most marked characteristic. No side was overdeveloped, nothing was left out. No side was developed at the expense of another. All extremes were avoided.

This meeden agan is responsible for the reserve of Greek life and Greek feeling. Everything exaggerated, ostentatious, vulgar, was abhorrent to him. Consequently we find Greek Art marked by reserve and restraint and refinement that we find in no other art. Gothic Art is wonderful in its own way, but there is an exuberance about it which is totally unlike Greek Art, which at first sight might appear to us, more used to the warmer art of the North, almost austere or cold. All this is true in the relationship of the higher and the lower elements in man’s being. None realized more clearly than the Greek the value and importance of the body and the part that our animal nature plays in life. The right relationship of athletics to metal activity, of the pleasures of sense to the pleasures of the higher man, have never been so clearly grasped; nothing is left out, but nowhere do we find excess.

But for the present it is the inter-relation of the higher activities, the more purely human elements of our nature, with which we are to deal.

It is most essential that we should grasp this fact of the even, all-round development of the Greek, who saw life clearly and saw it whole. Indeed, it is the foundation upon which the rest depends. It is the absolute necessity for beauty is a necessity because an all-round development is a necessity. Beauty is a necessity just as the other elements in man’s life are a necessity and in the same way. To leave out any one of these three fundamentals, the artistic, the intellectual or the moral, or to develop any one at the expense of the rest, spells disaster.

Now, in taking the Greek as the example of the all-round man, let there be no misunderstanding. The claim is not that he reached the highest point in each department that has ever been reached. He may have done or he may not have done–that does not exactly concern us now. Still less is it to be maintained that he was altogether perfect. All that is sought to be shown is that no side of his nature was left out of consideration but that every side received full attention and was thoroughly developed, no one side at the expense of the rest. . .


From the essay Hellas And The Complete Man.  Read the rest here.

Veritas numquam perit,
The Poet

This entry was posted in Autodidacticism, Essays, Greeks, Reading, Western Heritage and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Hellas And The Complete Man

  1. Cane Caldo says:

    I’ve been meaning to reply more directly to your previous post, but events and inspiration have gotten in the way.

    For now: I don’t want to be a Greek.

  2. Alkibiades says:

    Try for advanced sophistry and high dudgeon. It works for me.

  3. Johnycomelately says:

    ‘Nothing in excess” of course we couldn’t accuse Christians of that, could we?

    Being a sexless blue balled beta chump marrying a settling carouseler past her prime is certainly God’s will.

  4. Would you have me tag it sarcasm? Come now friend, certainly the Father of creation has a better sense of humor than this.

  5. Pingback: Linkage is fucking awesome « The Two Fisted Traveler

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