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The Thymic part of the Soul and the importance
of Euthymia (tranquility of the soul),
by George Lathyris.
From the depths of time, wise Plutarchus delivers to us a relible navigator that proves to be extremely valuable for our journey through a riotious age such as the one we live in. Today we realize that through the course of centuries man, despite all the changes in his exterior environment, is constantly being tormented by the same old psychic factors which not only have been increased in tension in our age but also dangerously multiplied.
Lured by the rapid technological development and almost exclusively focused on heavy matter, man has completely forgotten everything that concerns his spiritual evolution and -due to this- cannot understand the cause of his misfortune. The majority of people today are being cut off from any spiritual evolution abruptly and in a very young age. The body grows but the soul doesn’t, mainly because of the way of life that has prevailed and conflicts with the spiritual essence of man. It is only natural that any human being would feel distress and anxiety in this manipulative atmosphere that our world has developed around, and this is how thw essential need for philosophy is born again in our times.
Like a magical ring, Greek Philosophy becomes the link to the existing chasm between religion and science, suggesting with its firm everlasting word ways to free ourselves and our lives from all that is without substance in spiritual evolution, the union of body and soul, harmony and the well-being of the soul. The well-being (the EU of the Ancients) is the continous goal of any philosopher who sharpens his perception and sense through the ill-balanced circumstances of life. This is wisely put into words by an ancient wishfull phrase: “May good rise upon all”!
The thymic part of the soul, in its ancient meaning, reffers to the core of our existence, our emotional center in its total. In other words, it is the part of the soul that icludes our emotions and our will. It represents our temper and seems to be the outflow of who we are.
Greek people (Hellenes) are deeply sentimental, thus we often suffer. This means that our emotions are alive but caged and need to be treated with the right therapy to be freed and became healthy again. When this occurs, euthymia will prevail once again within us and the smile -the external characteristic of euthymia- will shine again on our faces. People and entire nations that have entered unevolving cycles have made no spiritual progress whatsoever in any level and have turned, without their knowing, into chimerical beings.
According to Plutarch’s Teaching, the soul is divided into 5 parts:
1.phytikon or threptikon -nurishing
This division is thoroughly analysed in Plutarch’s work “Concerning the E in Delphi”: “If one divides the soul by its nature, the first and darkest part is the nurishing one (threptikon), then follows the sensual (aesthetikon), the desiring (epithymetikon)and the thymic part (thymikon).In the fifth and highest level, one finds the intellect part of the soul (logistikon)which perfectionizes its nature”.
The five-part division of the soul is an extention of Plato’s three-part division (logistikon -intellect, thymikon -thymic, epithymetikon -desiring). In his work “Phaedros”, Plato gives us a vivid picture of the nature of each part and how they interact. He says that the soul is like a chariot drawn by two winged horses and driven by one charioteer. The intellect, the most human part, is represented by the charioteer (heniochus), while the thymic and desiring parts are represented by the two winged horses, white (leukos hippos) and black (mauros hippos) accordingly. The white one (thymic part) is easy to control with no whip, only by the orders of the charioteer, whereas the black (desiring part) one is wild and can barely controlled by whip and stings. The opposition between these two “horses” iw the cause of all of man’s internal strive.
In his work “Platonic Matters”, Plutarchus further clarifies the relationship between the parts of the soul saying that, thymic’s main characteristic is that it is made both to rule and be ruled, while the intellect part is made only to rule and the desiring part to be ruled. Thus, thymic’s connecting nature is revealed and the reason why is the key to the unification of the soul made clear. “Discipline and leadership are part of thymic’s nature since it obeys to reason (intellect part) while it rules over desire (desiring part) and enforces punishment when desire rebels to reason”. However, Plutarchus also notes that: “...the parts of the soul should not be in any way restrained by names and places. They should be examined in depth according to force and analogy.”
In order for the soul to become a shining star of five rays, it has to unify and develop its five parts.
Euthymie is a homeric word that means good temper, good heart and great courage. Democritus was the first one to write about euthymy and gave a more specific meaning to the word explaining it as the state of being in which the soul is freed from all desire and unified with all its parts. Democritus believed that euthymy should be the final goal of everything we do in life. He also used same synonymous to the word such as stability (euesto), peace, harmony, symmetry, calmness. These are all higher states of being for the soul that came from its atom’s harmonic movements and are accompanied by emotions of joy, deep satisfaction and trust.
Ever since Democritus others have elaborated this issue as well. One of the most important attributions was made by the pythagorean philosopher Hipparchus (4th century b.c.) who wrote “Concerning Euthymia” and also the stoic philosopher Panaetius (2nd century b.c.) who wrote an essay “Concerning the soul’s tranquility”. A tradition on this issue was created this way which helped enrich the ways of approach to it. Plutarch’s work is based on this tradition and the information that the author has taken from it is thoroughly developped in a better way.
Euthymia, as the ideal state of being for the thymic centre of our soul is in this book examined in twenty rich chapters in a direct but warm and friendly way. Plutarchus never “moralizes” out and about. He always reffers to specific manifestations of our everyday life and uses with great maestry the wealth of our written tradition, by giving opinions of great men and writters of ancient times which he smartly combines with his any new ideas and observations. This work has been a katalyte for the thought of many who, have even used in their own works whole parts of it.
Euthymia iw an internal characteristic and as such, we need to search for it within ourselves. However, evn if we find it we will not be able to maintain it if we ignore what is happening around us. Human relations, material belongings, wealth or the lack of, things that happen by chance etc., are all factors that we ought to take under consideration for this is the real challenge: When we are able to balance, stabilize and unify our “external” life, we will have also achieved balance and unification within our “internal” life as well. We will have internal coherence.
The unification of our psychism is hard but at the same time admirable work. There’s never a bad time to start, but in our times it seems like an immediate need.
This book makes an effective and usefull tool on this difficult task and we have many times found ourselves flipping through its pages time after time for inspiration and guidance...
(This text is taken from the Introduction on Plutarch’s “Concerning Euthymia”, Heliodromion Editions, series: Hellenic Tradition, Athens 2000).
Translation in English: Vassia Bouchagiar
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