I realize that, though the content has remained the same, this site has gone through a few different titles at this point (first Phalanx and then Phanes). Over the last year, it has also been largely neglected, with only a few articles being posted. That is going to change.
Article writing can be very time-consuming. And, over the last year or so, I’ve also been working on a new book. However, with the founding of The Spiritual Survival Youtube channel, I am relaunching the site under the same name.
I will be publishing shorter articles, aimed at inspiring readers to live a full and authentic life in accord with ancient and natural principles. I will also be including some videos in the articles, where that makes sense.
I hope you will find the reborn site to be of value in your life.
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“The Dark Ages still reign over all humanity, and the depth and persistence of this domination are only now becoming clear,” says Richard Buckminster Fuller in Cosmography. “This Dark Ages prison has no steel bars, chains, or locks. Instead, it is locked by misorientation and built of misinformation… We are powerfully imprisoned in these Dark Ages simply by the terms in which we have been conditioned to think.”
Have you ever considered how History’s name-tagging takes effect in perception? It is generally assumed that Modernity was the fruit of the Enlightenment and that, in turn, the Renaissance was a time of unparalleled progress for humanity. Let’s move further back.
The term ‘dark age’ has been attributed to Petrarch (1304-1374) who described his own time as one of ‘darkness’. He was later followed by the Enlightened Voltaire, Rousseau, Gibbon and, more recently, Bertrand Russell.
Is it truly fair to deem the Middle Ages as ‘dark’? The Western Roman Empire had succumbed to Odin’s ravens. The Spanish Inquisition of the Church was clearly evil. But, is that all the Middle Ages were?
Professor Rodney Stark, a non-Catholic sociologist from UC Berkeley, published a seemingly counterculture book called Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History (Templeton Press, 2016), which addresses ten prevalent fallacies about Church history.
“For a long time,” he says, “the dominant opinion has been that, after the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe went through a long millennium of ignorance that has come to be called The Dark Age. The Renaissance was brought about by a weakening of the Church’s control over the great cities of northern Italy.”
This standard vision of the past world, in Stark’s words, is completely false: there are innumerable modern investigations of technological change that show how the Middle Ages “was one of the ages of humanity that stood out for its strong innovative character, in that technology was developed and put at the service of man in a way that no civilization had known before.” And it was during these dark centuries when Europe took the great technological leap forward that put it at the forefront of the world.
Stark is not alone. French medievalist Jean Gimpel demonstrates in his book The Medieval Machine (1976 and 2003) how “the industrial revolution of the eighteenth century has its roots in the Middle Ages, which had already revolutionized the world of work for the renewal of the sources of energy and technological invention.” The tech progress of the Middle Ages allowed a remarkable growth of productivity – which had remained stagnant in the Roman Empire, due to having enough slaves to get the job done – thanks to innovations such as wind and water mills, the rotation of agricultural crops, the plow, the chimney, glass spectacles, stirrups and saddles, firearms, sailing ships armed with cannons.
In addition to completely ignoring the prolific technological changes operated in the Middle Ages, most of the Enlightenment writers also turned their backs on the progress of that time in higher culture: music, architecture, painting, literature, the university.
The exceptional artistic current initiated in Europe in the 11th century was called ‘Romanesque’ even though the works created at that time were completely different from everything the Romans had done. And the ‘Gothic’ style, born in the 12th century, was criticized by some intellectuals during the Enlightenment.
In literature, the work of Gibbon, Voltaire, Cervantes, Machiavelli, was only possible because their respective languages had acquired literary form thanks to medieval giants such as Dante, Chaucer, the anonymous songs of deeds such as the Visigothic El Cantar de Mio Cid in Spain, and the monks who — from the 10th century — were dedicated to writing about the lives of their saints. In education, the university, an institution dedicated exclusively to higher education, was something new. The Benedictine Order rescued, compiled, and even preserved important and even ‘dangerous’ classical texts.
The first universities were created during the 12fth century, and it was there that science was born. From the eminent medievalist, Warren Hollister (1930-1997): “Anyone who believes that the era that witnessed the construction of Chartres Cathedral and the birth of parliament and the university was a Dark Age must be mentally retarded.”
Banking was started by the Templars, and this skill was later transferred to the Italian city-states, where it was perfected, insurance was introduced, double-entry accounting was created, etc. Such institutions — so essential to the next historical step we have been told to call ‘Renaissance’ — would migrate to Germany centuries later.
According to the prestigious Ludwig von Mises Institute, the University of Salamanca was truly the birthplace of Economic Theory. It was first officially taught by Francisco de Vitoria (1485-1546), more than two hundred years before Adam Smith’s The Wealth of the Nations. There could be no neo-Platonic Academia in Firenze without La Divina Commedia, and no King Arthur or Beowulf without troubadours.
If ‘Dark Ages’ is then a ridiculous fairytale, so is the concept of Renaissance and this same evaluation should be applied to the concept of Enlightenment. This takes us to our ostensibly progressive Modern Age as the pinnacle of human achievement. If what we have been taught is someone else’s interpretation of these epochs of human history, are we now in the post-modern Era? How shall we call our time? Who will set the record straight? Will it be fair or unfair?
Knowledge is acquired information. Wisdom is applied knowledge. Values and attitudes change; but to judge human history through incorrect or biased notions make us ideologize past and, with it, the present and future.
is a common fallacy to which many of those who come close to the “spiritual” realm, that is, the matters of the soul, as opposed to
the matters of the physical body, fall into and use as an excuse for an unattended
body shape or health condition. The fallacy goes: if the only part that
overcomes death is the soul, which is immortal, why spend time attending the
needs of the body, other than covering its basics? Orphic Materialism, an
immanent – as opposed to transcendent – system that precedes and constitutes
the cradle of the Platonic philosophy, could be of great help in dismantling
for their Olympic Games, ancient Greeks practiced sports on a regular basis,
involving exercises on horizontal bars, ladders, poles, ropes, foot races,
dumbbells, wrestling, throwing of the javelin and discus. Gymnastics, just like
music, was part of the education of any young man who aspired to become a
philosopher. In the Book III of the Republic, Plato observes that young people
should practice gymnastics regularly as a tool of the soul to improve the body
(and not vice versa): “Gymnastic as well as music should begin in early years;
the training in it should be careful and should continue through life. Now my
belief is, (…) not that the good body by any bodily excellence improves the
soul, but, on the contrary, that the good soul, by her own excellence, improves
the body as far as this may be possible. What do you say?” Glaucon asked
Socrates, who answered: ”Yes, I agree. Then, to the mind when adequately
trained, we shall be right in handing over the more particular care of the body“.
(1) This is what is called in modern medicine top – down, or mind – body
tension between the material and spiritual aspects of life is a major theme in
the Platonic dialogues, and was unfortunately imported as dichotomy by
transcendentalist religions such as the Christianism, contributing to the
condemnation of the “flesh” by the Christian church. How did this
happen? According to one of the authorities of the Hellenic tradition, “many of
the early church fathers were enamoured of the Platonic ideas and incorporated
them into their theology. The Christian terminology simply substitutes
“spiritual” for Nous or Mind or Ideas, making a separation between
the spiritual and the material”. (2)
what Plato calls in The Republic “a just soul” (ψυχή – psykhí, psyche)
this tension should not lead to dichotomy and conflict, but to an effort
towards harmony. In Phaedrus, Plato indicates that the material plane of
existence is the source of non-rational passions, desires and appetites, hosted
by the appetitive part of the soul (ἐπιθυμητικόν – Epithymetikon, the
Appetite), while the spirited part of the soul (θυμοειδές – Thymoeides)
makes an individual, or a state, aspire towards goodness. Both aspects must be
controlled and harmonized by the Reason (λογιστικός – Logistikon), which
seeks the truth. The harmony within the soul depends on the outcome of this
continuous dialogue between its three parts – The Reason, the Spirited part and
the Appetitive part. If someone allows to be ruled by bodily passions and
appetites – which Socrates and Plato regard as sources of sophistry and
delusion – then the soul falls prey to vice; but if the appetites are ruled by
reason, then the soul is virtuous. Plato does not negate the appetitive part of
the soul, with its hedonistic inclinations, but he indicates that a control
mechanism should be in place so the individual is not driven by comfort and
pleasure seeking. The soul can be declared “just” only if all three parts agree
that the Reason (logistikon) should rule.
Republic, Plato categorizes values, or goods, in two sets, of human and divine
nature. Thus, wealth, health, beauty and strength are of human (more dense,
palpable) nature, while wisdom, temperance, courage and justice are of godly
(impalpable) nature. Apparently, physical exercise could be most obviously
connected to two of human set of goods – strength and health. However,
Socrates advises otherwise:
“Socrates: ‘Have you noticed,’ I asked, ‘how a lifelong devotion to
physical exercise, to the exclusion of anything else, produces a certain kind
of mind? Just as a neglect of it, produces another type? One type tends to be
uncivilised and tough, the other soft and over-sensitive.’
Glaucon: ‘Yes … excessive
emphasis on athletics produces an excessively uncivilised type, while a purely
literary training leaves men indecently soft.’
Socrates: ‘What I
should say therefore is that these two branches of education seem to have been
given by some god to men to train these two parts of us – the one to train our
philosophic part, the other our energy and initiative. They are not intended
the one to train body, the other mind, except incidentally, but to ensure a
proper harmony between energy and initiative on the one hand and reason on the
other by tuning each to the right pitch”. (3)
Socrates indicates that gymnastics has a godly origin, is a tool gifted by the
Gods to the humanity to be used to harmonize and bind together the three
centers of the human being: the mind, which knows, the emotions, which
give birth to the wish and the body, who does the work. Know –
wish – do: they all coordinate together harmoniously towards a common goal,
such as better health or getting in shape. When the will power (βουλή – voulí)
and the mind (νους – nous) work in harmony, the soul itself becomes
harmonious and makes progress. This is the state of justice and harmony within
the complex unit of the rational, spirited, and appetitive elements of the soul
described by Plato in The Republic. Gymnastics needed to be balanced by the
practice of the right type of music in order to maintain harmony within the
soul. To Plato, individuals who practice gymnastics will not become soft and
effeminate by neglecting their bodies, nor harsh by neglecting training in
beautiful, but simple music. Thus the proper guardian of the soul is a balanced
gentleman, a philosopher. Music may soothe the savage beast; but the just soul
needs the kind of music that does not undermine valuable qualities of vigour
and manliness (andreia) – although Plato did not generally endorse a
gendered view of qualities of the soul, which needs to be balanced in all
aspects, and is of both feminine and masculine nature, as showed in Symposium.
orphism, the Ancient Greek religion of Pythagoras and Plato, the human being is
a reflection of the entire cosmos. Therefore, the desirable state of harmony
within the human being must be a reflection of the cosmic harmony. In fact,
human beings are able to tap into that cosmic ability through the aithir
(αἰθήρ). Impressions and eternal ideas of beauty, health and wellbeing are
first received within a medium which Orpheus calls aithir, and is the
medium within which the soul communicates, within itself, as well as with the
outer world (4). Images of a perfect prototype of you – your most perfect
version of endurance and strength – is “downloaded” in the human nous
(mind) from the cosmic nous via the aithir.
Greeks decorated their homes and cities with marble statues of toned, strong
bodies as symbols of character and discipline, embodying Forms, prototypes of
beauty and harmony. Contemplating a perfect toned body had different layers of
meaning, alluding to a strong character with perfectly balanced centers, that
could as well encapsulate a Delphic maxim** such as: Respect yourself,
or Guard what is yours or Be well off as a mortal. In
Phaedrus, Socrates describes an otherworldly existence in which souls ride
across the top of heaven enjoying direct visions of the Forms. After falling
into bodily existence a soul responds to beauty more avidly than it does to any
other qualities for which there are Forms.
olympians use visualizing before performance as mental enhancement before
competition. (5) The brain has neuroplasticity, and training creates new
synapses in the brain. As a consequence the body functions differently after
visualization. (6) It is likely that statues representing Forms, prototypes of
perfect beauty and character, were used by the Ancient Greeks as capturing
devices within the aithir, as visual aids for the souls aspiring to
reach beauty and self perfection. Modern scientific studies (7) on the
relationship between brain and intense physical exercise show that exercise
enhances the communication between the brain cells that regulate physical and
emotional health, increasing the levels of two common neurotransmitters –
glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA – that are responsible for
chemical messaging within the brain. These finding offer new insights into
brain metabolism and why exercise could become an important part of treating
depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders linked with deficiencies in neurotransmitters.
Many levels of connection and connectivity here, that could all be part of the
generic aithiric forcesidentified by the Ancient Greeks. It is clear, for this
author, that physical training with the purpose of a good shape and healthy
body is an act of the soul (while sitting passively in front of the TV is
not!). It is also clear that the soul – as the architect of the body – needs
self discipline so it does not tilt the balance towards the hedonistic
inclinations of its appetitive parts. The Delphic maxims indicate honoring
discipline. Discipline builds character. Character builds virtue, which builds
beauty and harmony within the the soul, eventually leading to freedom. This is
the journey that the Platonists were on.
* “When the two Kozmogonic substances attain harmony, they
merge together: the Aithír enters the Particulate Substance, the Mæristí Substance: Earth. This unification forms the most
elemental cell, what Orphéfs calls an Egg, from which the entire
Universe emerged, as described in the Orphic Rhapsodies:
“For Ageless (ἀγήραος) Time (Χρόνος) was moved by Necessity (Ἀνάγκη) and gave birth to Aithír (Αἰθήρ) and a limitless chasm (χάσμα) which extended in every direction, and everything was in tumult. In the Aithír, Time formed a silvery egg (ὠεόν or ᾠόν), the offspring of Aithír and Kháos (Χάος). And the egg began to move in an enormous and wondrous circle  and from the egg Phánis (Φάνης) emerged, and as he was born, the Aithír and the Chasm were torn apart (ἐρράγη).” 
evolving Egg is called the Soul (Psykhí; Gr. Ψυχή).  The Kózmos
itself is a Soul. Likewise, all creatures have souls and are the result of the
union of the two Kozmogonic substances.” http://www.hellenicgods.org/mystic-materialism
Delphic maxims constitute the ethical and moral code of the Ancient Greece,
attaining virtue being the ultimate state of the perfection of the soul
for the orphics, including the Platonists.
Clarey, Christopher. Olympians Use Imagery as Mental Training. New York Times,
February 22, 2014.
Alivisatos, A. Paul et al. The Brain Activity Map Project and the Challenge of
Functional Connectomics. Neuron, Volume 74 Issue 6, 21 June 2012, Pages
J. Maddock, G. A. Casazza, D. H. Fernandez, M. I. Maddock. Acute Modulation of
Cortical Glutamate and GABA Content by Physical Activity. Journal of
Neuroscience, 2016; 36 (8): 2449 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3455-15.2016