Worldview

It's all Greek to Me

August 6, 2021
Steven McCormack
1 min

Another Vervaeke inspired musing, folks. This time over four Greek words I have been introduced to, thanks to his series; Agape, Logos, Gnosis and Anagoge. The best way for me to explore these terms (or concepts even) is to relate them to my own investing and writing efforts. And before we begin, I must admit to borrowing heavily from other sources to help with the explanations (a big hat tip to Mark Mulvey and Andrew Seeney). So please bear with the heavy quoting. On that bombshell, let's roll.

Agape

The greeks had three terms for love; eros (the love of being one with something), philea (love born out of cooperation), and agape (love of creation). Vervaeke refers to agape as 'the love a parent has for a child'. It can be easily lost in translation, mixed up in today's more narrow focus on romantic love (which is pretty damn pleasant, to be fair). And for good measure, I'll let him expand on this further:

'Agapic love—a kind of cosmic, selfless love—rescues us from the meaning crisis and brings us towards existential fullness. The parent knows what agapic love is all about: by taking care of a child his or her ‘salience landscape’ is transformed from a ‘me-centered’ to a ‘you-centered’ one. Through attention, the parent brings the child to personhood—and this also radically changes the parent'.

Now I cannot speak for the parenthood experience (for the time being, at least). But I can characterise my site building and content creation here as agapic. I have focused my attention on bringing this place to life. I have developed my skills in design, (extremely basic) coding and (less basic) writing. This in turn has vastly expanded my understanding of the digital revolution. And changed me in the process. Perhaps this is a more mechanical version of agape? I don't care either way - it is my source of personal fulfilment.

Logos

Vervaeke describes logos as the structural-functional organisation that 'makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts'. Admittedly it is a pretty cliched phrase that can be easily applied to teamwork, investing, you name it. But upon closer inspection it becomes far more interesting. As our good friend John explains;

'It’s why you can just glue random feathers together in the shape of wings and add feet and a beak and body and tape it together and call it a bird. “Bird-ness” emerges out of how a specific structure functions. Germans have a word for this: Gestalt.'

'You have some sense of what a bird is, what its logos is, but if asked what a bird is you can’t really say. Your grasp of what a bird is is intuitive. Logos isn’t just how a form is integrated, it’s how your mind can be integrated with it.'

'Logos isn’t just how you know something, but it’s also the pattern that makes it be what it is.” When you really know something you con-form to it. You become like it in some important way.'

Logos is so much more than a technical explanation, folks. Logos is a thought process. A state of mind. Take Bitcoin as a prime example. As I break down Bitcoin-ness into it's component parts (mining, transaction, security etc.) I gain an intuitive understanding of its true value. I realise our collective attention is the most important aspect of this asset. Now I will promptly move on before heading into a tangent at light speed.

Gnosis

These words are taken shamelessly from Andrew Sweeney. I refer you to his wonderful summary of Vervaeke's work in Christ and Gnosis for the full detail;

'Vervaeke seems to define Gnosis as kind of elevated ‘participatory knowing’, rather than any kind of supernatural state. We experience gnosis when we ‘become one’ with a higher reality. For instance, when we hear sublime music, we feel one with the composer of that music. When John Vervaeke is reading Spinoza, he has moments beyond mere intellectual understanding, where he starts to ‘know’ the being and mind of Spinoza from the inside.'

'One of our difficulties in being able to experience gnosis is being stuck in our framing. What is outside the Matrix—our world of habit and mechanical reaction—is literally unthinkable to us. We are existentially stuck.'

'One of the functions of religion, Vervaeke points out, is to help us with this indecision, to teach us how to play with reality and come up with something new. And by play, he doesn’t mean fun necessarily, but the very serious play of orientating our lives.'

'One of the causes of the meaning crisis is a loss of this serious ritual play, which orients us in the world. Human beings are hungry for new ways to play, to participate in creation, to experience gnosis.'

So here is how I interpret all of this magic. My example is far less sophisticated; Batman (yes, I have brought Batman into this conversation). I love The Dark Knight, even though I'm not usually a fan of superhero movies. How so? There is just something in that film that always sucks me into the mindset of the main characters. There is a scene where the Joker sets alight an actual mountain of money. He is motivated only by chaos.

When I first saw that (in 2008), I found myself momentarily jolted out of my teenage framing - that money is everything. See also another example about The Shining. Both films let me play with reality.

Anagoge

Before I do any explaining, let's start with Plato's 'Allegory of the Cave'. I'll let Studiobinder do the talking;

'There exists prisoners chained together in a cave. Behind the prisoners is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners are people carrying puppets or other objects. This casts a shadow on the other side of the wall. The prisoners watch these shadows, believing them to be real. Plato posits that one prisoner could become free. He finally sees the fire and realises the shadows are fake. This prisoner could escape from the cave and discover there is a whole new world outside that they were previously unaware of.

This prisoner would believe the outside world is so much more real than that in the cave. He would try to return to free the other prisoners. Upon his return, he is blinded because his eyes are not accustomed to actual sunlight. The chained prisoners would see this blindness and believe they will be harmed if they try to leave the cave.'

Recognise the story? It's The Matrix. Vervaeke calls this the myth of enlightenment. Of seeing the light. And the Greek word for the prisoners climb (or ascent)? Anagoge.

McCormack & Partners is my version of anagoge.

Plato's Cave - DIY Allegories - The Philosophy Man
thephilosophyman.com/blog/platos-cave-diy-allegories
Signing out, Steven.

Photo by Visual Stories || Micheile on Unsplash.

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