Monday, January 14, 2013

The Epicurean Revival

Now, farewell.  Remember all my words.- Epicurus' parting words
A funny twist happened in the 2012 meta-narrative when the world didn't end and no significant historical events transpired on the solstice.  Many 2012-ers began to speak of the world coming to a start.  Although I normally remain cynical, I liked the idea of a fresh perspective, the idea that periodically one can start again, remove the dross of the ages to use Marxist verbiage, or bad faith to use existentialist verbiage.  Alan Watts said our history is not our destiny.  Without renewal, we'd be slaves to the past.

At around the beginning of 2013, I decided to not only send an Act of Defection to the dioceses where I had been baptized as an infant without my consent, but also to take a vow to formally adopt Epicureanism as my philosophy, as was done in antiquity according to the sources which indicate that Epicurus "instituted a hierarchical system of levels among his followers, and had them swear an oath on his core tenets".

I did this, in part, because for months I've been saying: "Wouldn't it be great if the ancient schools and the Epicurean Gardens had not been dismantled, but had continued to exist until our day?"  Now, I've decided that rather than continuing to say this, I will be the change I want to see.

The formality of the Act of Defection led me to research the Epicurean oath, and after deliberating on whether or not to formally adopt the philosophy as my own, I wrote a simple discipleship resolution that reflected my level of adherence and am now officially and formally a proud disciple of Epicurus.  The following is a generic contemporary version of the vow that I wrote for this:
I, ___ , freely and out of my own authenticity declare myself a disciple of Epicurus and I resolve to follow his teachings and to adopt his doctrine as my own, to further it, update it, and make it relevant in my context.  I take refuge in his teachings and I resolve to share them with anyone who expresses a genuine interest in them.  I resolve to treat my mind as an Epicurean Garden and to cultivate it.  I resolve to apply the four remedies, to seek the three goods and to cultivate a blissful state of ataraxia.
In recent months, I took to delving into the Epicurean doctrine in a full manner, seeking to maximize the benefits and the consolations of philosophy.  And so I did not take this oath, until I had thoroughly studied the foundations upon which I was setting my spiritual welfare and, having considered that Epicurean Gardens persisted for seven centuries and obviously fulfilled the social, mental, and other needs of adherents, I decided that this noble philosophy was worthwhile, robust, relevant, and inspiring, that it represented the best and the highest of the secular humanist tradition, and that I needed and desired the light discipline that it provided me with.

In the process of cultivating an Epicurean spirituality, I bumped into gems such as the wonderful, Jules Evans' Epicureans piece in his Philosophy for Life Series, and several other contemporary sites, as well as collections of modern and ancient writings like the one found at

I also administer a forum (only) for adherents of our school of philosophy, the Epicurean Garden.  It's meant as a space where we can discuss issues like philosophy as a practice, how to effectively apply the Epicurean theory and philosophical / empirical methodology to the pursuit of happiness, etc.

Below is a portion of a commentary by a modern Epicurean, Nikos, on one of the 40 Principal Doctrines which points to how by being instead of wanting, we can begin to peer into the Zen-like lake of serenity that is ataraxia.
For Epicurus, the key to taking maximum advantage of the pleasure life affords is appreciating who we are and where we are .... The sickness of desire – more, more, more.  Enough is never enough for the unwise man or woman.   If we are not experiencing physical pain or mental pain, which is the vast majority of the time, we should enjoy and value the pleasures life affords.  If you cannot enjoy the simple pleasure of taking a deep breath or the taste of your morning coffee or listening to the birds sing or the sight of trees turning in fall, you are missing the natural rhythms of being alive.  In a very real sense, all we have is the present moment - relax and enjoy. 
Nikos the Epicurean

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good to see a like minded being!