Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Scattered thoughts on the Ganymede model (virtue sets)

"G" of the Junior Ganymede is writing about virtue sets again, and incorporating some of my own work in that area. Most importantly, he now agrees with me that all individual virtue sets are examples of two complementary types of good (Ahuric and Devic) and two complementary types of evil (Luciferic and Ahrimanic). I'm going to go ahead and dub this four-factor theory of good and evil the Ganymede model, unless G strenuously objects and suggests a better name.

Since someone else is also working on this now, I am, in the interests of creative cross-pollination, going to throw out several half-developed ideas in the hope that some of them will fall on fertile ground.

In defense of opaque terminology

G says he doesn't really like my terminology (Ahuric, Devic, Luciferic, Ahrimanic), but I would like to insist on it and on the importance of not replacing it with more descriptive terminology such as Active/Passive, Masculine/Feminine, etc. Essentially, I think the observation that there are two complementary types of good and two complementary types of evil is prior to any hypotheses about the fundamental nature of these goods and evils. It is important to keep in mind that I arrived at the Ganymede model inductively, by looking at lots of individual virtue charts. This inductive -- "botanical," as it were -- classification of good and evil comes first. Theories about why there are two types of good and two types of evil, and about how these may relate to other concepts, come later. To use descriptive titles rather than just names is to make unjustified presuppositions.

As I explained when I originally introduced the terms, Zoroastrianism contrasts good ahuras with evil daevas, while Hinduism contrasts good devas with evil asuras. The terms are assumed to be etymologically related, but the moral polarity is reversed. These four words, then, would be perfect for the Ganymede model. Asuric evil distorts Ahuric good and opposes Devic good; Daevic evil distorts Devic good and opposes Ahuric good. In practice, though, I think the terms are too phonetically similar to be practical, and would be easily confused. Since Steiner's Luciferic/Ahrimanic distinction fits the Ganymede model so well and is already well established, and since Ahriman happens to be the Zoroastrian name for the enemy of the ahuras, I decided to keep Steiner's terms for the two evils and use Ahuric and Devic for the two goods.

I think the fact that most of the terms are of non-Christian origin is a feature, not a bug. It keeps the terms free of unwanted baggage, since we Christians are unlikely to get sidetracked by arguments over whether Ahriman is truly "Ahrimanic" or the devas are truly "Devic." Lucifer, of course, is a name used in Christianity, so we just have to accept that we're using it in a technical sense in the Ganymede model and are not necessarily claiming that the Lucifer of scripture is specifically "Luciferic" rather than "Ahrimanic" in nature.

Nietzsche again

I've mentioned Nietzsche's discussion, in The Genealogy of Morals, of Gut-und-Böse versus Gut-und-Schlecht, and identified Böse and Schlecht with Luciferic and Ahrimanic, respectively. The other day I got out The Genealogy of Morals to review some of the specific things Nietzsche had said about this. My copy of this work is bound together with The Birth of Tragedy, which made me realize that another famous Nietzschean dichotomy may also be relevant: Apollinisch vs. Dionysisch. Isn't it obvious that Apollo is Devic/Ahrimanic in nature, while Dionysos is Ahuric/Luciferic?

Throwing Dante into the mix

Dante's Purgatorio groups the Seven Deadly Sins into three categories: perverted love, insufficient love, and excessive love. Our model tends to identify supposed "excess" of virtue with perversion or distortion of virtue. It would be an interesting exercise to give the Seven Deadly Sins the Ganymede treatment.

From Barry Moser's illustration for Allen Mandelbaum's Dante

What about Sorath?

Bruce Charlton and I, in our thinking about Steiner's Lucifer and Ahriman, have both come to place more and more emphasis on a third sort of evil, the Sorathic, and to see it as being just as important as the other two. How does Sorathic evil fit into the Ganymede model? Does it have as its opposite some third type of good?

Masculine and feminine

Looking at lists of Ahuric and Devic virtues, I found that the first list made me think of Jesus Christ and the second of Our Lady. This led me to the tentative conclusion that these two types of good corresponded to masculine and feminine, and that the Ganymede model helped to explain why the two sexes were necessary and eternal.

I had also at one point thought of Ahuric good as primarily "seeking good," and Devic good as "avoiding evil." I was not really happy with those descriptions, though, since "avoiding evil" can be accomplished perfectly by not existing at all! Both types of good must be in some way positive and active, not merely negative and passive.

In his latest post on the topic. G helpfully summarizes the two types of good in a rather different way.

In a virtue set, one complementary virtue will be [an Ahuric] virtue of strength and passion.  The other complementary virtue will generally be a [Devic] virtue of control and discipline.  The matching vices will be [Luciferic] vices of uncontrolled strength and passion and [Ahrimanic] vices of a lack of strength and passion.

This startled me because, by "coincidence," my wife and I had just hours earlier been discussing (without reference to the Ganymede model) the question "What is masculinity?" and kept coming back to the idea of control and discipline as definitive masculine characteristics. My wife also mentioned that very masculine men -- Ernest Hemingway, Humphrey Bogart, James Bond -- sometimes seem to be almost emotionless and not to care about anything. Since I had provisionally been thinking of Ahuric as masculine and Devic as feminine, it came as a shock to see G (correctly) identify Devic virtue with "control and disciple" and Ahuric virtue with "passion." Clearly the relationship of masculinity and femininity to Ahuric and Devic good is more complicated than I had been assuming.

Apropos of this, Ron Tomlinson left this comment on my post "Satan divided against himself" -- a post which discussed Lucifer and Ahriman extensively, before I had developed the Ahuric/Devic concept.

Good men tend to err on the side of Luciferanism (pursue good by evil means)
Good women tend to err on the side of Ahrimanism (avoid evil by playing it safe)

Bad men are often Ahrimanic, e.g. those who pursue power/promotion
Bad women are often Luciferan, e.g. overweight with tattoos

Again, this suggests that sex is an important element in the Ganymede model, but not in so straightforward a way that we can simply identify each sex with one type of good or evil.

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