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 Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone

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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Fri 6 Mar 2015 - 21:50

Being confronted during my life in the closer circle of acquaintances with a lot of suicides I was always tempted to understand the circumstances which led to that act. An act that in my comprehension and as I understand it is just the opposite of that survival instinct that is inherent to humans and even to animals.
I had also some difficulty to understand why a human in the possession of his mental abilities, could be disposed to die for a cause.

I tried to realize how I would act if tortured to give the names of my comrades and think that I would try all the tricks available to disinform and play bluff poker with my ignorance and if murdered I would have nevertheless tried to survive on one manner or another...

And yet that is even not dying for a cause. A martyr, who with his complete mental consciousness, nevertheless don't bow for the obligation to convert to another thinking against his will and dies for it, even that is perhaps not my personal intention...I would bow for the moment and act as if I was converted, but then by the first opportunity to escape...

And yes you have people who want to die for the most unbelievable causes....as those who want to make the one direction voyage Mars to die overthere...only for the so called glory to be the first on Mars...stupid humans...in my comprehension of human behaviour Wink ...the job for the time being can be done even better by robots...they can always erect a statue for the first robot, which...no who Wink  died Wink on Mars...

But serious now... I did a small study of the phenomena of "martyrs".
I give first the links to comment them tomorrow.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martyr
http://www.amazon.com/Martyrdom-Psychology-Theology-Self-Sacrifice-Contemporary/dp/0275979938#reader_0275979938
http://www.langtoninfo.co.uk/web_content/9780521850407_frontmatter.pdf
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/bude_1247-6862_1964_num_23_4_4223
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_in_the_Cathedral
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Becket
http://www.encyclopedia.com/article-1G2-3420300013/becket-honor-god.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Man_for_All_Seasons
http://www.gallimard.fr/Catalogue/Table-Ronde/Theatre/Thomas-More-ou-L-homme-libre
http://www.sparknotes.com/drama/antigone/context.html
http://www.sparknotes.com/drama/antigone/summary.html


Kind regards, Paul.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Sat 7 Mar 2015 - 8:41

How do we define a "martyr"? The Greek word originally meant a "witness" -  to the truth. But to what truth - whose truth? A religious truth or the truth of the self? We still tend to think of martyrdom in terms of religious belief, don't we, but that is a mistake. Weren't the stories of Becket, More and Antigone more to do with - ironically - the essential preservation of the self?


These days we always think Darwinian in terms of the body - physical survival - but humans seem to be unique in their ability to say, "If this is living, I choose not to live - my "survival" transcends my mere physical existence." And if a tyrant is oppressing you, choosing to die physically takes away his power, defeats him utterly: it is the ultimate victory. And death of course can offer an escape from hell, the earthly hell which is possibly the only real hell?

The "self" has to be protected at all costs - our brains will do anything to preserve it: it is what our immensely powerful ego-defence mechanisms are for. The irony seems to be that in some people, people whom - oddly? - we admire and to whom we designate hero/heroine/martyr status (rather than simply stubborn idiot status), these mechanisms permit the destruction of the body in order to preserve something that is recognised as more important - the ego's integrity or the individual's "wholeness" (Latin integer=whole). This "wholeness" is crucial, even if it means death.

As Bolt's More says to our infamous friend, the Duke of Norfolk, "What matters is not that it's true, but that I believe it; or no, not that I believe it, but that I believe it."

The emphasis is very much on the "I".

But like you, Paul - and Galileo Galilei - I would avoid physical death and try to preserve my integrity by cheating. Faced with the fire, I would agree to anything, certainly that the earth does not go round the sun. However, I would mutter under my breath at the priests - "But it does."

I am a coward.


EDIT: muddled thoughts, Paul - it's early on a Saturday morning here, but I wanted to respond.

I've been thinking about religion, politics and the temptations of the "ego" while eating my porridge - and for some reason our Tolpuddle Martyrs have come into my head. The leader of the men of Tolpuddle, George Lovelace, was a Methodist preacher, but the stance of the men he led combined religion and politics - as of course did that of More and Becket. Tricky business, that - and not just for the individual protesters.

When sentenced to seven years' penal transportation, George Loveless wrote on a scrap of paper the following lines:


God is our guide! from field, from wave,
From plough, from anvil, and from loom;
We come, our country's rights to save,
And speak a tyrant faction's doom:
We raise the watch-word liberty;
We will, we will, we will be free!


PS I know the Tolpuddle Martyrs didn't die - they were transported to Australia - at the time a kind of living death, I suppose.


Last edited by Temperance on Mon 9 Mar 2015 - 7:58; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Sat 7 Mar 2015 - 22:16

Temperance,

great post indeed, even that early in the morning. My esteem for you, which was already growing, is now at an even greater level.

"These days we always think Darwinian in terms of the body - physical survival - but humans seem to be unique in their ability to say, "If this is living, I choose not to live - my "survival" transcends my mere physical existence." And if a tyrant is oppressing you, choosing to die physically takes away his power, defeats him utterly: it is the ultimate victory. And death of course can offer an escape from hell, the earthly hell which is possibly the only real hell?

The "self" has to be protected at all costs - our brains will do anything to preserve it: it is what our immensely powerful ego-defence mechanisms are for. The irony seems to be that in some people, people whom - oddly? - we admire and to whom we designate hero/heroine/martyr status (rather than simply stubborn idiot status), these mechanisms permit the destruction of the body in order to preserve something that is recognised as more important - the ego's integrity or the individual's "wholeness" (Latin integer=whole). This "wholeness" is crucial, even if it means death"

I think there you have formulated the essence of the dying for a cause? Not the cause is important but the freedom of the ego to decide for oneself and not to bow for the oppressor, but I will comment it again further in the thread.

First how I was as a youngster moved by these great questions of life. First there was the Antigone of Jean Anouilh that we studied at school in the Fifties. In that time I saw it as the nearly Protestant vision of the predestination.  One has a "duty" in life and one has to stick to this duty even at the cost of his own life, the unavoidable way of the events, which lead to the decisions. The duty of Antigone to act for the decency of her brother, the duty of Creon to act as a statesman to avoid the trouble of the mob.
But now looking to the comments that I also provided in a link I saw that Anouilh was not so much inspired by the ancient Antigone drama but by the "acte gratuite" of a young boy, a certain Paul Colette, in 1942 against a group of French collaborators during the German occupation of Northern France...
But now recently while studying all the theatre plays , as from Becket, which is studied in the French file from Persée that I provided, I see as perhaps Wolf's Hall that it are only interpretations of the real story or what is known from the real story.
The Persée article (in French) makes for instance a comparison between the Becket from Anouilh and the one from T.S. Eliot with the real history or what is known about it.

Later when grown up, I went to "A man for all seasons" at the theatre of Bruges brought by an English theatre crew. Perhaps because my English in that time wasn't yet good enough and I went to the theatre to see a Thomas More as a man for all seasons and saw it as a new illustration of the Antigone of Jean Anouilh, the same difficult choice between duty and self preservation. And the role of the other Thomas escaped me completely.
It is only now that I by the comments on Mantel's trilogy see that I catched not the whole history in that time.
But again, if one don't see it as an hypothetical case study about martyrdom and looks to the historical narration, I find that as in Bolt's Thomas More as in Mantel's one it is still an interpretation of the real motives of More, which will perhaps never known?

As for the subject of martyrdom I will start a new message as this one becomes too long.

Kind regards and with great esteem, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Sat 7 Mar 2015 - 23:05

Paul -
I'm sure you would find Seneca's comments on choosing death rather than slavery, or other intolerable conditions of life, in the "Epistulae Morales" illuminating in this regard.
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Sun 8 Mar 2015 - 5:40

How kind you are, Paul, as always. Your "great esteem" has cheered me so much - really - even though I do not deserve it!

I wish I knew the Anouilh play better so I could respond intelligently to your comments - didn't this playwright also write of Joan of Arc's death in his The Lark (1952) (L'Alouette)? Was that drama also written in response to the Nazi occupation of France?  Martyrdom - dying for a cause - clearly interested Anouilh deeply.

Gil's reference to Seneca is important, I think. How far have our ideas about the essential nobility of martyrdom and suicide been influenced, not by Christian tradition, but by the earlier Roman one?

When I read Gil's comment I immediately thought of Shakespeare's Cleopatra:


Good sirs, take heart:
We'll bury him; and then, what's brave, what's noble,
Let's do it after the high Roman fashion,
And make death proud to take us.
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Sun 8 Mar 2015 - 9:43

@Temperance wrote:
How far have our ideas about the essential nobility of martyrdom and suicide been influenced, not by Christian tradition, but by the earlier Roman one?

And wasn't it the Roman concept that the key unit in life was the family rather than the individual? In which case it sometimes made some sort of 'sense' for the individual to sacrifice themselves if it was for the good of the family as a whole. Death is inevitable for all, yet one can live on through children, at least to the next generation.

This brings to mind examples like that of Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso and his wife, jointly charged with the murder of Germanicus. When it came to trial in the Senate, the emperor Tiberius seemed to be involved too. But before sentence was passed Piso committed suicide/or was persuaded to do so/or was simply killed on the orders of Tiberius and the death passed off as suicide. Nevertheless the trial was never concluded, any possible involvement of the emperor remained hidden, and Piso's wife had all charges against her dropped ... and so she was able to retain all the considerable family wealth, lands, honour and prestige to be passed on to their children. A bit like Thomas More feoffing his lands before being condemned for treason and all his property seized by the king.


Last edited by Meles meles on Sun 8 Mar 2015 - 23:50; edited 3 times in total (Reason for editing : grammar)
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Sun 8 Mar 2015 - 23:27

@Temperance wrote:
I wish I knew the Anouilh play better so I could respond intelligently to your comments - didn't this playwright also write of Joan of Arc's death in his The Lark (1952) (L'Alouette)? Was that drama also written in response to the Nazi occupation of France?  Martyrdom - dying for a cause - clearly interested Anouilh deeply.

Gil's reference to Seneca is important, I think. How far have our ideas about the essential nobility of martyrdom and suicide been influenced, not by Christian tradition, but by the earlier Roman one?



Temperance,

yes, "L'Alouette" is again the same theme of which Anouilh is fond of. I didn't found it in English, while there they speak always about "The Lark" an English adaptation. But in the original French, Joan of Arc first wish to agree with the authorities to escape the burning at the stake, but then ultimately she choose to be defiant for the exemple of the posterity.

And yes that theme is very dear to the thinking world of Jean Anouilh.
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/bude_1247-6862_1964_num_23_4_4223
Look at page 522
"Cette tâche, il met son point d'honneur à accomplir parfaitement...
On retrouve là un thème cher à Anouilh: la même obstination, quasi obtuse et la même intransigeance que celles d'Antigone. C'est une sorte de conscience professionelle exaspérée. Il fait son métier d'Archevêque comme Créon fait son métier de roi et Antigone son métier de soeur..."
Of this task he makes an issue of honour that he has to accomplish perfectly...
One find there a theme dear to Anouilh: the same obstination, nearly blunt and the same intransigence of those of Antigone. It is a kind of professional consciousness very exagerated. He makes of his task of Archbishop the same as Creon makes of it, as Antigone let revail her task as sister...

But further the article becomes a bit difficult to follow as it start the theme of
"l'incapacité d'aimer" of Becket...(the incapacity to love from Becket)
Can it be that that is an interpretation of the writer of the article about the Becket of Anouilh?

Temperance I have still a lot to say about martyrdom, but taht will be for tomorrow...

Kind regards and with esteem, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Mon 9 Mar 2015 - 13:44

"His reek ( ie smoke) infected any as it did blow upon"

The execution of Sir Patrick Hamilton for preaching Lutheran teachings at St Andrews in 1528;

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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Mon 9 Mar 2015 - 15:09

Foxe's Book of Martyrs, obligatory reading for young (Protestant) gentlemen in the late 16th, early 17th centuries.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxe%27s_Book_of_Martyrs
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Mon 9 Mar 2015 - 21:26

@Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
Paul -
I'm sure you would find Seneca's comments on choosing death rather than slavery, or other intolerable conditions of life, in the "Epistulae Morales" illuminating in this regard.

Gil, still reading the book I mentioned about martyrdom, before doing research for Seneca and his "Epistulae Morales"...


http://www.amazon.com/Martyrdom-Psychology-Theology-Self-Sacrifice-Contemporary/dp/0275979938#reader_0275979938

And the book about martyrdom looks promising (one inconvenient, only the pages available on Amazon...).
What a background of the main author, she herself having family in the Holocaust in Czecho-Slovakia...
And the four co-authors one in Belgium, one in California, one in Virginia and she in Washington D.C....
Read once the introduction...

Kind regards and with esteem, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Mon 9 Mar 2015 - 22:07

@Meles meles wrote:
@Temperance wrote:
How far have our ideas about the essential nobility of martyrdom and suicide been influenced, not by Christian tradition, but by the earlier Roman one?

And wasn't it the Roman concept that the key unit in life was the family rather than the individual? In which case it sometimes made some sort of 'sense' for the individual to sacrifice themselves if it was for the good of the family as a whole. Death is inevitable for all, yet one can live on through children, at least to the next generation.

This brings to mind examples like that of Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso and his wife, jointly charged with the murder of Germanicus. When it came to trial in the Senate, the emperor Tiberius seemed to be involved too. But before sentence was passed Piso committed suicide/or was persuaded to do so/or was simply killed on the orders of Tiberius and the death passed off as suicide. Nevertheless the trial was never concluded, any possible involvement of the emperor remained hidden, and Piso's wife had all charges against her dropped ... and so she was able to retain all the considerable family wealth, lands, honour and prestige to be passed on to their children. A bit like Thomas More feoffing his lands before being condemned for treason and all his property seized by the king.


Meles meles,

"And wasn't it the Roman concept that the key unit in life was the family rather than the individual? In which case it sometimes made some sort of 'sense' for the individual to sacrifice themselves if it was for the good of the family as a whole. Death is inevitable for all, yet one can live on through children, at least to the next generation."

I suppose there you have a point. To sacrifice one self for the benefit of the family...and even for the extended family, the clan, or even the more extended one as the "ethnie" or the as their homeland perceived nation...? To live further in the memory of the clan, the "ethnie", the nation...?

Kind regards and with esteem, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Mon 9 Mar 2015 - 23:04

Temperance,

further digging in the phenomena of martyrdom and suicide...while I suppose there is a relationship between the two...
Reading for the moment the book I mentioned from Rona M. Fields on the site of Amazon, in fact only the pages available...

http://www.amazon.com/Martyrdom-Psychology-Theology-Self-Sacrifice-Contemporary/dp/0275979938#reader_0275979938


Your comments from some days ago:

"These days we always think Darwinian in terms of the body - physical survival - but humans seem to be unique in their ability to say, "If this is living, I choose not to live - my "survival" transcends my mere physical existence." And if a tyrant is oppressing you, choosing to die physically takes away his power, defeats him utterly: it is the ultimate victory. And death of course can offer an escape from hell, the earthly hell which is possibly the only real hell?

The "self" has to be protected at all costs - our brains will do anything to preserve it: it is what our immensely powerful ego-defence mechanisms are for. The irony seems to be that in some people, people whom - oddly? - we admire and to whom we designate hero/heroine/martyr status (rather than simply stubborn idiot status), these mechanisms permit the destruction of the body in order to preserve something that is recognised as more important - the ego's integrity or the individual's "wholeness" (Latin integer=whole). This "wholeness" is crucial, even if it means death"

""If this is living, I choose not to live - my "survival" transcends my mere physical existence." "

I think that this is one of the essential characteristics of suicide/ martyrdom? All the suicides that I made allusion on, were a bit of that scenario. For instance the man who had a job in the education sector and wrote in a letter before he sprang for a heavy lorry that he found that his task for the education was done and that he nothing could add anymore to his job. My reaction reading it: Could he not have jumped in the water instead of disturbing the life of the lorry driver? Asocial one that he was...
Another example, one from the related family: once his second wife was starting for a whole life in the hospital, he didn't saw a future anymore for himself and sprang for a train...
Many times it is also a well planned kind of a punishment for in this case the parents, who were divorced. The girl deliberately obliging the mother to enter through the  garage, where she hung at a rope...

I agree that suicide needs a special mental state, but I wonder if there aren't some parallels with the individual who decides that, if he/she isn't free to choose for what he/she is living for, it is better to end the mere physical existence?
There is also perhaps in many cases in the back of one's mind, the thought that by the example of the essential taking of the ending of the physical existence, it will give a shock effect to the surrounding community..?
Jan Palach in Prague, the Buddhist burning himself to dead, the famous picture of the man halting the tanks on the Tien a men square...

Temperance before adding something more I will first read the here in this message mentioned book ...

And still thinking about what you said:

"these mechanisms permit the destruction of the body in order to preserve something that is recognised as more important - the ego's integrity or the individual's "wholeness" (Latin integer=whole). This "wholeness" is crucial, even if it means death"


Kind regards and with esteem, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Tue 10 Mar 2015 - 6:08

Paul Ryckier wrote:

I agree that suicide needs a special mental state, but I wonder if there aren't some parallels with the individual who decides that, if he/she isn't free to choose for what he/she is living for, it is better to end the mere physical existence?
There is also perhaps in many cases in the back of one's mind, the thought that by the example of the essential taking of the ending of the physical existence, it will give a shock effect to the surrounding community..?
Jan Palach in Prague, the Buddhist burning himself to dead, the famous picture of the man halting the tanks on the Tien a men square...


Yes, and I think Hilary Mantel sums up the problem in Wolf Hall when she has an exasperated - and furious - Cromwell turn on Thomas More (The Map of Christendom, very near the end of the book). Losing his cool - unusual for TC - he also loses the point to More:

"I have never understood where the line is drawn, between sacrifice and self-slaughter."

"Christ drew it."

"You don't see anything wrong with the comparison?"

Silence. The loud, contentious, quality of More's silence. It's bouncing off the walls.



Of course, whenever Christ/Christianity/Christendom are mentioned - here or elsewhere - the inference is always that the martyr's stance must be pathological. But - Gil and MM having mentioned the Romans - what about the Greeks? Was their attitude also pathological? Ages ago, on the old Plato thread, it was suggested that Christianity is mere Platonism revisited, so should More have actually said: "Socrates drew it?"


One of my big chunks of quotation coming up now, I'm afraid, but I hope the ideas here are relevant:


As Plato recounted in the Apology and the Crito, Socrates makes it clear that he prefers to keep to his moral principles and die sooner rather than violate these principles and die somewhat later. The account of his death presents Socrates as courageously accepting death—he freely drinks the hemlock and philosophizes as the hemlock kills him. He also expresses defiance against his accusers and a respectful defiance towards the state. In regards to the state, he claims that he will obey the state, unless he is ordered to cease engaging in philosophy—he cannot accept that order.

While Socrates' death is often considered to be the model of how a philosopher should face death, other philosophers have even more dramatic ends. Diogenes of Sinope, it is claimed, held his breath until he perished. Zeno, of the famous paradoxes, allegedly bit of his tongue and spat it towards the tyrant who was questioning him. Perhaps the most extreme case involves Anaxarchus—not only did he spit his own tongue at the tyrant Nicocreon, he also responded to being beaten with pestles (while, appropriately enough, being in a mortar) with the remark, “just pound the bag of Anaxarchus. You do not pound himself.” This remark mirrors one made by Socrates when Crito inquires about how he is to be buried. In reply he says, “However you want to, if you can actually catch me and I don’t escape you.”



http://blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=6835


Re your other point -


Paul Ryckier wrote:



There is also perhaps in many cases in the back of one's mind, the thought that by the example of the essential taking of the ending of the physical existence, it will give a shock effect to the surrounding community..?



- I am afraid Mantel is horribly blunt about this. After More's reply, Cromwell thinks to himself (Mantel's/Cromwell's F-word, not mine): "Well, I tell you, he says to himself. Bargain* all you like. Consign yourself to the hangman if you must. The people don't give a fourpenny f*ck..."



He was wrong, of course. Trike interestingly mentions Foxe's Book of Martyrs. As the huge success of that publication showed, brilliant propaganda - lurid prose combined with even more lurid illustrations - made certain the people did come to give "a fourpenny f*ck" about the martyrs of the age. Ironically, Foxe's martyrs were all from the Protestant camp and, had Foxe had his way, Thomas Cromwell would have been up there with the best of them -  designated saint and martyr status. This is what the martyrologist** wrote about Mantel's hero:

"...this valiant soldier and captain of Christ" who showed "a flagrant zeal to set forward the truth of the gospel" and sought "all means and ways to beat down false religion and to advance the truth."


Mmm.


PS * Cromwell suggests More is simply making a bargain with God.

PPS **Martyrologist - wouldn't that be a great occupation to have on your passport?
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Thu 12 Mar 2015 - 23:29

Gil and Temperance,

still wrestling with the book I mentioned.
I see now that on Amazon there is only the introduction while I thought that I had read something else.
I now found this site back, where there is more from Rona M. Fields...

http://goo.gl/VedKKy


But I also found this:
http://www.c-span.org/video/?182058-2/book-discussion-martyrdom-psychology-theology-politics

I don't know if you have had once that feeling too...one has read a book and unwillingly has made in your mind a picture of the author... I had in this case some difficulties to adapt to the reality, but further in the episode I got more used to her talk and her figure...and yes after all those years and that practice in the English language I prefer in such difficult material still the written form or perhaps subtitles in English...

If I remember it well she said (or I read it in her text?) that primitive communities are not so sophisticated as about the decision making in once life and had as such no such difficulties to make "choices", she says also somewhere that the human brain isn't mature before the age of 25. So all these primitve societies and those youngsters under 25 are easy prey of shamans and indoctrinators...

Not to say in my opinion that a mature human hasn't the same difficulties and perhaps more than the primitive or the youngster to make a choice in some alternatives which can lead to self destruction or undergoing dead for a cause.
I am however always a bit annoyed (experience of my last sixty years) by zealotes, who even for the in my eyes futile causes make a stand, which is again in my eyes, not worth all the fuss the zealote makes of it.
No I have some admiration for politicians, who try to come to a compromise to not let escalate certain tensions. Working with what is possible in the given circumstances...
That would not say that I don't understand the pain of a politician who needs to make the difficult decisions to stear a mayor conflict...some politicians can even in such circumstances exceed the own level of capacities. For instance Churchill with Mers el Kebir to show to Hitler that he was bloody serious about his earnestness to stay in war and to not surrender...

Some first views, tomorrow more...

Kind regards and with esteem, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Fri 13 Mar 2015 - 8:56

This will be another of my porridge and philosophy posts, dashed off without really thinking things through, Paul. But what the heck - this is a message board, not a university seminar.

Your first link - to Rona M. Fields' Martyrdom: The Psychology, Theology and Politics of Self-sacrifice - I found really interesting and I noticed that she mentions the work of Eric Fromm. I remember reading his Escape From Freedom many, many years ago - a book which fascinated me. The mention of Fromm made me think immediately of your naming of Thomas More in your original post - and of how Robert Bolt's presentation of More was greatly influenced by Fromm's work.

The huge irony is that nowadays More is seen - and rejected - as the upholder of a terrible authoritarian system, the Catholic Church (see edit below). Whereas Cromwell, thanks to revisionist historians and Mantel's portrayal of him so far*, is now become the reasonable, sane, well-balanced politician - your man of compromise. Cromwell offers the ideal of thoughtful, secular(?) freedom; More demands unhealthy, blind, outdated obedience.

But that's far too simple a view, and is a misunderstanding, I would suggest, of what More really stood for - and died for. More was above all else a humanist who loathed tyranny. He believed we should run into freedom, not from it. Whereas Cromwell, a man trying to escape from the tyranny of his past, blindly ran out of freedom and into the arms (literally - see below) of one of history's greatest tyrants. As Fromm points out, running from freedom is the easy - and tempting -  option. People choose to escape from freedom all the time - it is what is happening - terrifyingly - in our own world today.

http://www.philosophicalinvestigations.co.uk/ethics/a2/conscience/69-three-theories-of-conscience?showall=&start=7


"Different from the authoritarian conscience is the "humanistic conscience"; this is the voice present in every human being and independent from external sanctions and rewards. Humanistic conscience is based on the fact that as human beings we have an intuitive knowledge of what is human and inhuman, what is conducive of life and what is destructive of life. This conscience serves our functioning as human beings. It is the voice which calls us back to ourselves, to our humanity". (Eric Fromm On Disobedience)


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escape_from_Freedom

Perhaps this from the Wiki page on Fromm is relevant here:

Fromm believed that freedom was an aspect of human nature that we either embrace or escape. He observed that embracing our freedom of will was healthy, whereas escaping freedom through the use of escape mechanisms was the root of psychological conflicts. Fromm outlined three of the most common escape mechanisms: automaton conformity, authoritarianism, and destructiveness. Automaton conformity is changing one's ideal self to conform to a perception of society's preferred type of personality, losing one's true self in the process. Automaton conformity displaces the burden of choice from self to society. Authoritarianism is giving control of oneself to another. By submitting one's freedom to someone else, this act removes the freedom of choice almost entirely. Lastly, destructiveness is any process which attempts to eliminate others or the world as a whole, all to escape freedom. Fromm said that "the destruction of the world is the last, almost desperate attempt to save myself from being crushed by it".

More v. Cromwell - who was the one really trying to escape from freedom? Cromwell had spent all his life running from his tyrannical father - only to "escape" into the arms of another even more brutal.


*Re Mantel's depiction of Cromwell so far - we must remember that the story is not yet finished: it will be interesting to see how this great writer develops her character as he moves towards his own destruction: that Faustian moment at the very end of the Kosminsky production, when Henry VIII, grinning like the devil himself, clasps Cromwell to his heart, was very telling, I thought.

Cromwell's/Rylance's face seemed to register all the agony of the moment of anagnorisis: "Oh, dear Christ, what have I done?"

EDIT: People forget that More was all for conciliarism - he didn't like the idea of any tyrant, any absolute rule, even that of the Pope: "conciliarism  in the Roman Catholic church, a theory that a general council of the church has greater authority than the pope and may, if necessary, depose him". And we should remember More's famous words about dying the King's servant, but "God's first" - following St. Augustine's idea of "whose service is perfect freedom" maybe?
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Sun 15 Mar 2015 - 9:32

But you can perhaps scrub all that out.

I've been up since the early hours (sad, but true) reading John Guy's Thomas More. The penultimate chapter of this book especially has made me realise how little I actually understand about More. Guy says we all find ourselves, in any discussion of More's stand against Henry VIII, "in a bewildering hall of mirrors". Who is reflecting whom? Guy's chapter title is, intriguingly, "Whose conscience?". There is so much in this man's book I should like to discuss - especially his analysis of More's trial and the contribution of Rich's "perjury" (was it perjury, or was that a Roper invention?) to the "Guilty" verdict - but this is not the place to do so. But I should like, if I may, to offer here what Guy has to say about the quotation from Bolt's play that I have so often blithely given as "evidence" for my viewpoint on More. It seems I must consider that I have perhaps been swept away by the "thrilling drama" of it all...  

In the Preface to A Man For All Seasons, Bolt imagines More as a man who possesses "an adamantine sense of his own sense." He knows exactly how far he will bend: he becomes unyielding when asked "to retreat from that final area where he located his self." Thereafter, Bolt suggests, this "supple, humorous, unassuming and sophisticated person set like metal". He could "no more be budged than a cliff". All links to the ideas of Fromm which I mentioned above. And, of course, links to my favourite quotation from Bolt's play: "What matters to me is not whether it's true or not, but that I believe it to be true, or rather not that I believe it, but that I believe it."  

Guy dismisses all this saying that it makes for "thrilling drama", but that it "entirely misrepresents the way that the historical More understood his 'conscience' ". He then offers this (for me) devastating paragraph. Guy's quotations are from Surtz and Murphy, editors, The Divorce Tracts of Henry VIII.

"This definition of conscience is not More's. It is the one which the authors of the Collectanea satis copiosa* created for Henry VIII in the later stages of his divorce suit and which the King was soon citing vigorously against the Pope. Henry argued that the Pope could be lawfully resisted when a man was guided by 'conscience' or 'private law' as written in his heart by the Holy Spirit. In the public sphere, the moral law was established and confirmed by the agreement of all nations and was perpetual. It was the foundation of the 'public law'. This element of Henry's argument is not so far from More's. But Henry also maintained that the Holy Spirit could inscribe the moral law on the hearts of individuals. The result was 'private law', which 'is of more dignity than the public law'. It was 'private law' which moved an individual's conscience. And when a man 'was moved by the private law of his conscience', there was 'no reason' why 'he should be bound to the public law', Conscience set a man free. Its dictates must be obeyed, especially when a man discovered that his marriage was against God's law! A man whose 'private conscience' told him that his marriage was unlawful was 'bound to make a divorce with her'. As the logic was encapsulated, 'we must obey our conscience: and in other things the Church.' "

That it was Henry VIII, not Thomas More, who believed that "Yes, a man's soul is his self!" and that "what matters to me is...that I believe it" is, says Professor Guy, "the ultimate irony". He then adds his mirror comment: "The trouble with any discussion of More's stand against Henry VIII is that we always seem to be standing in a hall of mirrors."

I'll say.

PS * The Collectanea satis copiosa (1530) - The Sufficiently Abundant Collection - sounds like something out of Harry Potter. It is not. Explanation of it here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collectanea_satis_copiosa

PPS Hilary Mantel, whose degree is in Law, has such a great advantage over us lesser mortals. Reading about More's performance at his trial, a performance which apparently dumbfounded the Lord Chancellor Audley and the Lord Chief Justice Fitzjames, has left me more than dumbfounded. As Guy notes, it was "a virtuoso legal performance; it raised moral and philosophical questions of the highest order". Not that it did him much good, of course, Cromwell having rigged the jury.
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Sun 15 Mar 2015 - 21:33

Temperance,

excuses for the delay. Was a bit ill last days. Some indigestion. Still not able to eat that much...

As usual what a richness of thoughts from you.

"Fromm believed that freedom was an aspect of human nature that we either embrace or escape. He observed that embracing our freedom of will was healthy, whereas escaping freedom through the use of escape mechanisms was the root of psychological conflicts."


Temperance, I think with the word "freedom" and "free will" we are at the core of the question of what is possible in one's mind to decide as a free individual, if the cause is worth to die for it?

Perhaps it is less a decision for indoctrinated youngsters which give there decision making to a higher authority, a dictatorial regime a religion if they die to defend their religion and with a promised afterlife?
But the question isn't so easy as that?
And that's perhaps the Thomas More case?

But I say it again all the interpretations of the historical Thomas More are indeed interpretations. I make a comparaison with the figure of Philip II (Carlos I in Spain), well known in the Low Countries. I read a lot of books about him and by historians, but nobody, even with all the speech parts, was able to describe the real Philip and what was in his mind.
Even the theatre performances of Jean Anouilh, were no history but a dramatized narration to bring a message of his thinking about the great decisions a human has to make during his life.

Somewhere you said:
"these mechanisms permit the destruction of the body in order to preserve something that is recognised as more important - the ego's integrity or the individual's "wholeness" (Latin integer=whole). This "wholeness" is crucial, even if it means death"
Yes, to defend his own individual integrity, as for what one stays for, even if it is not the perceived truth of the surrounding community. The fact of having a free will to have a free choice to act for his cause (again a cause in what one believes even if it is against the will of certain communities)
For instance the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietrich_Bonhoeffer

But life is not that easy...and it is again Anouilh's beloved theme: the Antigone versus Creon...
Creon had to act as he acted for state reasons...and when is authority right and when not? For individuals many times a difficult choice...
For instance the French soldier, who escaped Dunkirk. I did a study of what happened to the 100,000 French soldiers. Most of them were repatriated immediately to Bretagne to fight further against the Germans. After the Pétain armistice, de Gaulle was condemned to the fire squad. But that was also the case for the not that high rank soldier, if he decided to escape to Britain or to stay with de Gaulle in London. And of course in the meantime you had had Mers el Kebir, where an 1800 French marines died...
Not easy to decide...perhaps it was normal that de Gaulle had only some 2000 men in the beginning and even then a lot not soldiers...of course with Operation Torch and Darlan, Giraud and de Gaulle things were already more evoluated...
I remember also the reading about a lot of history and novels about the Spanish Civil War...even within the families there were many times two factions...
And what with the decent Syrian house father, who seeks the best for his family... to what faction he has to lean to...even condemned if he don't join the ruling faction of the moment in his region...?

Kind regards and with esteem, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Mon 16 Mar 2015 - 10:22

Paul wrote:
Some indigestion.


I suspect my porridge posts are rather heavy and hard to digest, Paul.  Smile

Hope your tum is recovered now.
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Fri 27 Mar 2015 - 10:39

Ambrose Bierce, as usual, had a good stab at hitting the proverbial nail square on its nut in his "Devil's Dictionary".

MARTYR, n. [1.] One who moves along the line of least reluctance to a desired death. [2.] One who submits to death rather than do something more disagreeable to him. The distinction between martyrdom and mere assassination is not always clear to the victim.

Evan Esar emulated Bierce with his own 1947 Dictionary:

Martyr: Anyone who is obliged to listen to a martyr.
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PostSubject: Re: Martyrs, Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Antigone   Fri 27 Mar 2015 - 20:50

@nordmann wrote:
Ambrose Bierce, as usual, had a good stab at hitting the proverbial nail square on its nut in his "Devil's Dictionary".

MARTYR, n. [1.] One who moves along the line of least reluctance to a desired death. [2.] One who submits to death rather than do something more disagreeable to him. The distinction between martyrdom and mere assassination is not always clear to the victim.

Evan Esar emulated Bierce with his own 1947 Dictionary:

Martyr: Anyone who is obliged to listen to a martyr.


Nordmann,

I know it is perhaps not about a "martyr", but about a suicide (Tiens, in English the word for the perpetrator of the act and the act of suicide is the same word. Poor English Wink  ).

This evening on the Dutch speaking Belgian tele...a psychiatrist about the German pilot of the actuality...some do it just as an act to themselves...but others want some "heroic" suicide...that they are sure that their name will be remembered in history...the society can't avoid this...they are less dangerous in general than society is dangerous and repressive to the patients...

My comment: I can understand the first but the second...no society has the task to separate the psychiatric cases that endager society and who are a threat to the surrounding circle...not the few dangerous ones to the many, but the many have to be protected against the few...

Yes and with psychiatrists you can always end in all kind of directions...

Kind regards and with esteem, Paul.
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