Sunday, June 3, 2012

PBP: Delphic Maxims

One of my little loves is ethics. I adore figuring out what makes me tick, where I draw the line and how different these lines can be for other people. As a result, I tend to have a fondness for ethical and moral codes placed upon us by our ancestors. Many traditions have a set of these. The Nine Noble Virtues for the Asatru, the Brehon Laws for the Druids, the Ten Commandments for Jews and Christians, the Laws of Ma'at for Kemetics, the Roman Virtues for the Romanitas and for Hellenics, they are the Delphic Maxims and there are a 147 of them.

I've been studying the Maxims for a while now and they hold such a simple and compelling truth that it's been hard to deny most of them. Alright, some are a little outdated (like maxim 95: rule your wife (Γυναικος αρχε)) but in general, it's sound advice for an honest, mortal life.

Throughout this blog, I will undoubtedly work through quite a few of the maxims as I apply them to my life or as they spring up from it. For now, I want to relay a bit about what they are and what they represent.

The maxims are said to be delivered by Apollon Himself to his Oracle at Delphi. They represent a honest, worthy way of living but are not to be taken as commandments. They are guidelines, forming a framework to life, without restraining the mortal soul. Because our ability to think and act for ourselves is a great good, even to the Theoi. In fact, it might have been a logical conclusion after receiving the gifts of Pandora.

The maxims are said to have been written down by the Seven Sages. They are usually identified as: Solon of Athens, Chilon of Sparta, Thales of Miletus, Bias of Priene, Cleobulus of Lindos, Pittacus of Mitylene and Periander of Corinth. Once noted down, they were shared with any who would listen.

I have heard people complain or joke that some of the maxims are virtually the same so there really should be fewer in the list. But the intention behind each and every one is different. An example:
Perceive what you have heard (Ακουσας νοει)
Observe what you have heard (Ακουων ορα)
Both, at first glance mean the same: to notice what is heard. But looking deeper, to perceive means not only to notice but also to discern and understand. To observe means not only to notice but to put into action that which is heard. It's a logical next step to perceiving that which is heard and both steps are equally important. Without perceiving, one could not observe and without observing, what is the point of perceiving? Both teach valuable lessons; in this case lessons that we tend to forget in our busy and hurried lives.

When was the last time you have really listened to someone and acted on it? When was the last time you have let someone truly listen to you without holding back out of fear, lack of time or shame. For me, it's been a while, especially the latter part. So now I blog. And the maxims have played a vital role in that.

Image taken from: Harry's Greece Travel Guide.

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