balance
Balance

  • Aristotle and the Golden Mean
  • Pythagoreanism
  • Stoicism
  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism
  • Metaphysics
  • Quotes
  • Links

  • Funny how our western culture likes to emphasize EXTREMES when balance is the key to a good soul, ain't it?
    Aristotle and the Golden Mean
    Aristotle concerned himself with what was right and wrong in everyday life. He believed that people pursued self-fulfillment, or happiness, and he believed that people should search for happiness both in the divine and in the material world. And not surprising for a philosopher, he believed that the greatest happiness, the greatest self-benefit and the greatest virtue came with the pursuit of theoretical wisdom. Similar to the Hindus, Socrates and Plato, Aristotle believed that the pursuit of knowledge moved one closer to the harmony of God.

    Happiness, Aristotle believed, could be achieved by choosing a golden mean between extremes. This was a recognition that humanity functions within a range of possibilities and limited conditions and that it functions best at a point of balance within these ranges. For example, humanity needs sunshine, but people can have too much sunshine and too little rain, which would ruin their crops. Aristotle believed in the kind of moderation advocated in The Analects purportedly written by Confucius. For example, Aristotle advocated moderation over the extremes of gluttony and self-deprivation, and he chose courage over the extremes of rashness and cowardice. Aristotle believed in moderating one's passions. He compared a man in a state of passion to a man asleep, drunk or insane.

    Excerpt from Nicomachean Ethics: In order to be happy a person must find the mean between two extremes. A courageous person is the mean between the extremes of cowardice and foolhardiness. A soldier who is a coward will not fight in a war even though they have more than enough resources to defeat the enemy quite easily, while the foolhardy soldier will fight in a war when they are very poorly equipped. Aristotle defined the mean when he stated, "But though our present account is of this nature we must give what help we can. First, then, let us consider this, that it is the nature of such things to be destroyed by defect and excess, as we see in the case of strength and of health (for to gain light on things imperceptible we must use the evidence of sensible things); both excessive and defective exercise destroys the strength, and similarly drink or food which is above or below a certain amount destroys the health, while that which is proportionate both produces and increases and preserves it. So too is it, then, in the case of temperance and courage and the other virtues. For the man who flies from and fears everything and does not stand his ground against anything becomes a coward, and the man who fears nothing at all but goes to meet every danger becomes rash; and similarly the man who indulges in every pleasure and abstains from none becomes self-indulgent, while the man who shuns every pleasure, as boors do, becomes in a way insensible; temperance and courage, then, are destroyed by excess and defect, and preserved by the mean.

    The excellent archer will find the mean between the two extremes when trying to hit the target, and he will not aim with force in excess like Machiavelli states to do in his book the Prince, "Let him act like the clever archers who, designing to hit the mark which yet appears too far distant, and knowing the limits to which the strength of their bow attains, take aim much higher than the mark, not to reach by their strength or arrow to so great a height, but to be able with the aid of so high an aim to hit the mark they wish to reach." A follower of Aristotle will seek to find the mean in every action whether it deals with pleasure, honor, or expression of reason because they will understand that virtue is a mean. In order to seek the good they must also use reason as a guide to seek the virtue/mean.

    As stated in the inscription at the temple at the Oracle at Delphi, a person should do nothing to excess. The inscription should have also included the words, find the mean. Temperance is the virtue that is the mean in order to control emotions, courage is the mean when seeking honor, and wisdom is the mean when seeking knowledge.

    A general must seek to find courage the mean between cowardice and foolhardiness, in order to gain honor. A person who seeks pleasure must find the mean between becoming a drunkard and not drinking at all. A person who seeks pleasure through eating must find the mean between being a glutton and being anorexic. A person who seeks pleasure through sex must find the mean between abstinence and nymphomania. A person who seeks honor through knowledge must find the mean between ignorance and seeking knowledge to excess.

    from Nicomachean Ethics

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    Pythagoreanism
    The Pythagorean theory of health is based on the harmonious balance between the firey Pneuma, the three vital forces, the five elments, and the four humours. This state of harmony can be disturbed by emotional imbalances, environmental factors, faulty nutrition, disruption of the function of the three vital forces, and imbalances of heat, cold, moisture, and dryness internally. Philolaus explained:

    "The manner in which they (diseases) are formed can be clear to anyone. The body is composed of a mixture of four elements; earth fire, water, and air. The abundance or lack of these element beyond the natural (contra naturam) or a change of place, making them go from their natural position to another that does not suit them; or the fact that one of them is forced to recieve a quality that is not proper for it but suitable for another kind (for there are different qualities for every kind): all these and other similar factors are the causes that produce disturbance and diseases. there is also another kind of disease that must be regarded as having three different origins: one from the air that is breathed, another from the phlegm; a third from the bile."

    Any excess or deficiency of the five elements and four humours (contra naturam), or disruptions of the three energies, wind (breath), heat (bile) and cold (phlegm) produce the state of disease. These factors show that the Pythagorean's theory of medicine has much in common with the Aryur Veda which also uses the five elements (ether, air, fire, water, and earth) and the tridhatu (the three forces) and tridosha (the three faults) theory, which uses, vayu (the vital airs), pitta (the force of heat and light), and kapha (the cooling cohesive force) as the foundation of function and pathology.

    These three energies are also symbolized by the Sun (heat), Moon (cold), and Wind (movement), as well as the three Gunas (qualities), sattva (balance), rajas (activity) and tamas (passivity). These similarities show that the Pythagorean view had very ancient links with the Vedic philiosophy but developed along different lines. Much of the philosophy of the Hippocratic Corpus is based on the principles developed by the Pythagorean school. All of the early Greek naturalists believed that a disturbance of the natural elements in a human being was the cause of disease rather than the influences of the gods or spirits. In their view the older mythological archtypes of the Heroic Age contained deeper symbolic meanings and they were studied for a more complete understanding of human nature. This attitude lead to a period of free thinking in philosophy, astronomy, astrology, physiogomy, and medicine.

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    Stoicism
    "The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us.
    If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man."
    Euripides

    The ancient Stoics are often misunderstood because the terms they used meant different things in the past than they do today. The word stoic has come to mean unemotional or indifferent to pain, because Stoic ethics taught freedom from passion by following reason. But the Stoics did not seek to extinguish emotions, only to avoid emotional troubles by developing clear judgement and inner calm through diligent practice of logic, reflection, and concentration.

    Borrowing from the Cynics, the foundation of Stoic ethics is that good lies in the state of the soul itself; in wisdom and self-control. Stoic ethics stressed the rule: "Follow where reason leads." One must therefore strive to be free of the passions (hate, fear, pain, pleasure, distress, appetite, etc.), bearing in mind that the ancient meaning of passion was "anguish" or "suffering" - somewhat different to the modern use of the word.

    The idea was to be free of suffering (which the Stoics called passion) through apatheia or apathy, where apathy was understood in the ancient sense - being objective or having "clear judgement" - rather than simple indifference, as apathy implies today. The Stoic concepts of passion and apatheia are analogous to the Buddhist noble truths; All life has suffering (Dukkha), suffering is rooted in passion and desire (Samudaya), meditation and virtue can free one from suffering (Nirodha and Marga).

    Stoic reason not only meant using logic, but was also associated with the processes of nature - the logos, or universal reason, inherent in all things. Living according to reason and virtue, they held, is to live in harmony with the divine order of the universe, in recognition of the common reason and essential value of all people. The four cardinal virtues of the Stoic philosophy are wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance, a classification derived from the teachings of Plato.

    Following Socrates, the Stoics held that unhappiness and evil are the results of ignorance. If someone is unkind, it is because they are unaware of their own universal reason. Likewise, if you are unhappy, it is because you've forgotten how nature actually works. The solution to evil and unhappiness then, is the practice of philosophy - to examine one's own judgements and behaviour and determine where they have diverged from the universal reason of nature.

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    Hinduism
    The ancient Hindu concept of Karma; Karma can be explained in at least six different equivalent descriptions, as follows:

  • 1. You have a higher self. You might call it a conscience, which is aware of any inequalities, or any short cuts taken by your lower self. The higher self keeps track of all these "tricks" and as they accumulate, they become a reverse driving factor, played by the higher self back down to the lower self. This reverse driving force is called Karma.
  • 2. Karma is the comprehensive context of all your experiences, while you are the driver in control of the experience itself. The experience is conscious, and can therefore be called "known," while the context is often ignored, but "colors" all experience. Karma is this color effect.
  • 3. You as a conscious entity have first order control, but your sense of fairness, and a level playing field, requires you to impose a second order control system outside of your direct control, and this second order control is called Karma.
  • 4. All of your personal conscious decisions are absolute, but all your understandings of others are relative to yourself. So as you move in some absolute direction, Karma is the process of shifting the relative distance between you and others to compensate, since you can only communicate when you are equivalent to others.
  • 5. All thoughts are discreet objects that operate in a closed field of differential equations. (Differential equations: Calculus equations which are arranged into classes allowing solutions to be applied, or translations into other forms of equations, and thereby allowing predictions.) When you "believe" in a thought, you thereby "disbelieve," or discredit, all the other thoughts. When you communicate this belief to others, you present the object, and you present the causative differential equation (the context). Karma is the weight of the "disbelieved" thoughts acting on the differential equation to balance it and make it closed. (You don't get something for nothing.)
  • 6. When your life is out of control, and you are mad as hell, Karma is the answer to your unconscious prayer for some event to occur to make it right. It is like a hidden spring popping free and releasing energy.

    In conclusion, Karma is created by you to balance your life, and make it possible for you to communicate with others. It is an unavoidable part of your honesty with others and it is more important than your current life, since without it you could not have meaningful communications with others. You would be communicating, but there would not be any meaning to it. This is because your word would not have any history to it. You would be trapped into a double-speak and that would violate long-term established facts that you have already established with others.

    Karma is all about balance and your relationship with others. To keep the tension on the Karma spring to a minimum, you need to look for situations where both people can gain in a relationship and the relationship can stay in balance. These can be called, "win - win" relationships, as compared to "win-lose", or "lose-lose". If you have not been exposed to this language, a win-win is a situation in a relationship where both people have the experience of being in a win situation. A win-lose, is where we win at their expense, and a lose-win is where we lose to give them the feeling of winning. When the relationship is out of balance, it cannot be sustained, and Karma takes place to try to bring about balance.
    From
    'The Dyad Way To Enlightenment'

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    Buddhism
    Samsara (derived from sanskrit, "to flow together," to go or pass through states, to wander; The cycle of birth and rebirth) is what it is all about. Existing in eternity, self awareness is inevitable. Self aware in samsara inevitably brings happiness and sorrow, pleasure and pain. Dealing with isolation prevents the need to always seek pleasure or pain, and enables one to achieve nirvana when necessary. In this way, one become enriched by samsara, not buried in it. Enriched by samsara, the pleasures and pains naturally balance. In balance, one is at peace with samsara. The Buddhist path requires a correct balance between three components: wisdom, morality and mental culture. Progress in all these three areas must be made simultaneously, and exclusive concentration on any one these is not the balanced path.

    "The middle way discovered by a Perfect One avoids both these extremes; it gives vision, it gives knowledge, and it leads to peace, to direct acquaintance, to discovery, to nibbana. And what is that middle way? It is simply the noble eightfold path, that is to say, right view, right intention; right speech, right action, right livelihood; right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. That is the middle way discovered by a Perfect One, which gives vision, which gives knowledge, and which leads to peace, to direct acquaintance, to discovery, to nibbana." - Gautama Buddha from the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

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    Metaphysics
    In the metaphysical or conceptual sense, balance is used to mean a point between two opposite forces that is desirable over purely one state or the other, such as a balance between the metaphysical Law and Chaos law by itself being overly controlling, chaos being overly unmanageable, balance being the point that minimizes the negatives of both.

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    Quotes

    "The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us.
    If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man."
    Euripides

    "So divinely is the world organized that every one of us, in our place and time, is in balance with everything else."
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    "Moderation is the secret of survival."
    Manly P. Hall

    "The word happiness would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness."
    Carl Gustav Jung

    "There’s no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves."
    Frank Herbert

    "Remember that there is nothing stable in human affairs; therefore avoid undue elation in prosperity, or undue depression in adversity."
    Socrates

    "Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance."
    Epicurus

    "What I dream of is an art of balance."
    Henri Matisse

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    Links
    The noble eightfold path 1 2
    Aristotle and the Golden Mean from Nicomachean Ethics

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