Monday, December 27, 2010

In Medias Res - The Synchronized Phalanx aka Row, Row, Row your Boat

No man, Aisimides, who bows to the mud-slinging
mob has ever been capable of profound


If, Aisimides, you will attend to the gossip of others,
then you will find in life not very much to enjoy.
-Archilochus of Paros

Corybantes, sons of Apollo and the Muse Thalia, mythical attendants of the ancient Oriental and Greco-Roman deity the Great Mother of the Gods. They were often identified or confused with the Cretan Curetes (who protected the infant Zeus from detection by his father, Cronus) and were distinguished only by their Asiatic origin and by the more pronouncedly orgiastic nature of their rites. Accounts of the origin of the Corybantes vary, and their names and number differ from one authority to another. They apparently had a mystic cult, and a prominent feature of their ritual was a wild dance, which was claimed to have powers of healing mental disorder. It is possible that they originally were priests or medicine men of ancient times, later thought of as superhuman. They were credited with the invention of the drum.
ATHENIAN: Let us assume, then, as a first principle in relation both to the body and soul of very young creatures, that nursing and moving about by day and night is good for them all, and that the younger they are, the more they will need it (compare Arist. Pol.); infants should live, if that were possible, as if they were always rocking at sea. This is the lesson which we may gather from the experience of nurses, and likewise from the use of the remedy of motion in the rites of the Corybantes; for when mothers want their restless children to go to sleep they do not employ rest, but, on the contrary, motion—rocking them in their arms; nor do they give them silence, but they sing to them and lap them in sweet strains; and the Bacchic women are cured of their frenzy in the same manner by the use of the dance and of music.

CLEINIAS: Well, Stranger, and what is the reason of this?

ATHENIAN: The reason is obvious.


ATHENIAN: The affection both of the Bacchantes and of the children is an emotion of fear, which springs out of an evil habit of the soul. And when some one applies external agitation to affections of this sort, the motion coming from without gets the better of the terrible and violent internal one, and produces a peace and calm in the soul, and quiets the restless palpitation of the heart, which is a thing much to be desired, sending the children to sleep, and making the Bacchantes, although they remain awake, to dance to the pipe with the help of the Gods to whom they offer acceptable sacrifices, and producing in them a sound mind, which takes the place of their frenzy. And, to express what I mean in a word, there is a good deal to be said in favour of this treatment.

CLEINIAS: Certainly.

ATHENIAN: But if fear has such a power we ought to infer from these facts, that every soul which from youth upward has been familiar with fears, will be made more liable to fear (compare Republic), and every one will allow that this is the way to form a habit of cowardice and not of courage.

CLEINIAS: No doubt.

ATHENIAN: And, on the other hand, the habit of overcoming, from our youth upwards, the fears and terrors which beset us, may be said to be an exercise of courage.


ATHENIAN: And we may say that the use of exercise and motion in the earliest years of life greatly contributes to create a part of virtue in the soul.

CLEINIAS: Quite true.
--Plato "Laws"


  1. I'd say that the "moral" of this post might be Acta non Verba.

  2. With regards to studying, I'm sure.

  3. ...the night before, anyways. ;)

  4. I'd say that the "moral" of this post might be Acta non Verba.

    May I ask why? Am I missing something here?

  5. "Only the dancing stopped the pain."

    Shakespeare, "Hamlet"

    "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them?"

    ...or from the "bolded" type in the post:

    "the remedy of motion"

    You can alleviate your pains and fears only by taking "action" against them. This must be your "habit" from early childhood, on. :)

  6. ...To "surrender" oneself to a frenzy greater than one's own, like madmen in the Fifteenth century were "given up" to the sea ... to its frenzy. There may be a therapeutic reason to it, of course ... not so much inherent in the rocking motion but in the surrender ... however, the main reason may be to learn to act in spite of the madness, in spite of the rocking motion of the sea, of the ship ... and not "without" it.

    I wish I could put it better. But I am having a severe headache.

  7. Yes, that is the nature of the dance (but not necessarily of motion). And that was very well put.

    But only half of your mind identifies WITH the herd. To go against the herd is to deny and repress a part (1/2) of your nature. Nothing is more "liberating" then to raise the thyrsus and join the revel rout (dance), acting in concert with the rest of the herd and not "immorally" placing your individual needs above the group/ species. In this case, the "selfish" Ego is self-repressed and (Ego Ideal) SuperEgo assumes control (hypnosis) and eliminates the "discontent" in "thought difference".

    And yes, acting "in spite" the madness can also be a virtue. For environments change, and so must the habits/morals of species.

  8. Emerson, "Illusions" (Conduct of Life)

    The intellect is stimulated by the statement of truth in a trope, and the will by clothing the laws of life in illusions. But the unities of Truth and of Right are not broken by the disguise. There need never be any confusion in these. In a crowded life of many parts and performers, on a stage of nations, or in the obscurest hamlet in Maine or California, the same elements offer the same choices to each new comer, and, according to his election, he fixes his fortune in absolute Nature. It would be hard to put more mental and moral philosophy than the Persians have thrown into a sentence: --

    "Fooled thou must be, though wisest of the wise:
    Then be the fool of virtue, not of vice."

    There is no chance, and no anarchy, in the universe. All is system and gradation. Every god is there sitting in his sphere. The young mortal enters the hall of the firmament: there is he alone with them alone, they pouring on him benedictions and gifts, and beckoning him up to their thrones. On the instant, and incessantly, fall snow-storms of illusions. He fancies himself in a vast crowd which sways this way and that, and whose movement and doings he must obey: he fancies himself poor, orphaned, insignificant. The mad crowd drives hither and thither, now furiously commanding this thing to be done, now that. What is he that he should resist their will, and think or act for himself? Every moment, new changes, and new showers of deceptions, to baffle and distract him. And when, by and by, for an instant, the air clears, and the cloud lifts a little, there are the gods still sitting around him on their thrones, -- they alone with him alone.