Character


There is an entire section in The Tibetan Book of the Dead that gives detailed and complex instruction for yet-to-be-born souls on how to most auspiciously choose a new uterus for your rebirth (a womb with a view). Seeing a moral and devout twosome making love is best but if you can’t find a couple with great virtue as they intercourse, at least find two people who are utterly given up to their joining. Yeah baby.

Many religious conceptions of the afterlife often include the pre-life and rebirth. Christians resurrect, Indians reincarnate, etc. Like Tibetan Buddhism, the Hellenic conception of rebirth is also quite nuanced and complex as it turns upon one’s characteristic play with the Fates.

According to Orpheus, at some point in the endless grey afterlife or eternal celebration of Elysium, the psyche is at last enjoined within the harmony of the spheres and prepares to take birth. In accordance with the soul’s character, the Fate Lachesis comes to him or her and attaches to the soul an appropriate spirit or daimon.  Lachesis’ daimon then blesses one’s journey to life and then through it. Think of the Lachesis spirit as your guardian angel (not as a pagan demon).

Upon the first breath of re-birth, the Three Fates, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, convene around the babe. First, all of the threads that surround the new-born — the mother, the father, the country, the times, the stars, et cetera — are spun by Clotho. That is our “spindle destiny”, the multi-dimensional inheritance of how we are woven and constituted: how we look, feel, re-member, and think in context. Thus, this is the fabric of how we tend to re-act.

Next, Lachesis measured the material and apportioned how much was to be woven for each person. Inevitably, Atropos, “she who cannot be turned”, cuts the fabric to its fated death.

Of the three Fates, only Lachesis is malleable. Beside any esoterics of choosing a womb, a soul is subject to Clotho as she weaves the threads that surround us at birth. Atropos, lit. “without turn”, is likewise inflexible as death demands our submission. But Lachesis is called by our own character, which is within our power to change. Many argue that a person doesn’t change across a lifespan, but that would make all wisdom teaching and spiritual instruction mute, which it is not. We can deepen our character.

At the dawn of philosophia, Heraklitos “the Obscure” (fl. 500 B.C.E.) wrote one manuscript, supposedly a single scroll of highly nuanced maxims. Perhaps he is best remembered by “You can’t step into the same river twice.”  (His delineations on “fools” are the lead quotes on the inside cover of this text.) He is also well known by “A man’s character is his fate.” But this translation, while conveying a great depth of understanding, was uttered with fewer words and more meaning: ethos anthropos daimon / character person fate. There is a causation implied by the order of the words, but Heraklitos left out any verb, acausally presenting his jewel of wisdom with a suggested singularity. The logic of the psyche dictates the psychologies of the individual and simultaneously summons the pattern of experience. Our archetypical patterns not only configure the development of our psyche, it is likewise imprinted upon the flow of time by our characteristic choices.

Heraklitos presumed his listeners would be familiar with the Orphic description of the Underworld, the processes of rebirth, and with the three Fates. He presumed his audience knew that Lachesis is called by the character of the soul and blesses each character with a helping spirit; Heraklitos spoke to listeners who knew this Fate is not inflexible but gracious; she is known for her blessing disposition. With these mythological features of Lachesis known, Heraklitos clarified prosaically that we can rationally see how our character calls our fate. Ethos anthropos daimon.

When asked “Are the stars causative?” Plotinus referred to the teaching of the Fates, assigning the astrological thread to the Spindle Destiny of Clotho. Plotinus asserted that we must indeed be aware of the many threads of our cloth, but he concluded that in every moment you have a choice: you can live your Spindle Destiny and be bound to re-act, or if you actively engage in deepening your ethos, you can exceed the re-active cloth of your birth and respond in feeling with maturing authenticity. Ethically empowered, we move beyond the re-activity of our cloth to the response-ability of deeper character and present feeling. Thus we live beyond automatic destinies.

Ethos, “ethical appeal”, likened unto charisma with its attractive shine, is often translated as character, which we get from another Hellenic word, kharakter, “imprint/mark on the soul”. (Also kharassein is “to engrave”.) In turn, the PIE root is gher-, to scratch or scrape. Upon each soul is scratched or engraved a “defining quality”, their kharakter. And deepening your character gives the shine of ethos.

Ethos anthropos daimon. The character of a person calls/is their fate. Want a better fate? Simple. We need only to attend to wisdom and change toward deeper ethics as we deepen our character. In doing so, the graven marks upon our soul will slowly be undone in the swell of blessing; and blessings will fall upon our path and whisper into our listening.




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