Researched Author: Sir Godfrey Gregg GCO, ROMC, OHPM
The Personal Goal of Areté
Areté (pronounced ah rhi tay in English) is an important concept in The Mystical Court. You will see it used as a greeting or salute among our Companions, and as the motto on our official armorial design.
The word is Greek for 1) excellence; 2) the highest virtue; and 3) the greatest good.
While grammatically it could apply to the excellent accomplishment of anything, it refers to something very specific for our purposes, the highest significant characteristic of human beings.
Ancient Greek philosophers examined human nature for traits that set it apart from other creatures. They sought to discover what made us special in order to learn our purpose in the universe, and better attain that goal. Two traits were seen as definitive: the use of reason, and the development of virtue.
The combination of reason and virtue is what makes us most excellently human. We are therefore expected to develop a high degree of reason and virtue in our lives. When we accomplish that, it is said that we achieve Areté, our highest virtue. Philosophers concluded that the goal of human nature is to strive for this excellence.
Areté lies at the heart of everything that The Mystical Court espouses. Reasonable, virtuous people live reasonable and virtuous lives. Here we find the simple cure for all our social and political ills, and for dispelling the inner dissatisfaction that plagues so many of us in our personal lives. People of Areté simply do not contribute to the cause of so many problems. They work for the improvement of both themselves and society instead. They achieve the kind of personhood that places them consciously at the moment. They respect truth, think for themselves, and never allow political ideologies to dictate their views. They do not encourage vice. They are courteous to others because they understand the value of personal relationships. They exhibit strong self-control. And lastly, they enjoy life because they are in tune with it. They enjoy having purpose and meaning, the deprivation of which dampens life with low self-esteem and lack of direction.
We attain Areté by applying ourselves to the self-discipline of acquiring virtue and expressing that virtue through the application of reason. The excellence it implies is achieved over time. Everyday life is seen as a quest for building our own Areté, a learning experience through which truth is found and accumulated, and our intelligence and compassion grow accordingly. Areté leads to personal fulfilment.
If our commitment is real, The Mystical Court helps us achieve that goal. First of all, it calls our attention to the concept of Areté, a task which our culture should be doing as a matter of course, but does not. Next, it provides the 12 Trusts as a simple moral guide that expresses our own innate values that need to be reclaimed. It teaches us to live life as a quest in order for Areté to develop as nature intended. It provides courteous fellowship to help us on our individual paths. Its deeper concepts (Telos, Areté, Aletheia, Nature’s Law, etc.) provide profound catalysts for thought while fleshing out the meaning of our own western ideas so that they make sense and pull us back on track.
Whether or not you join us, you can still benefit by thinking about Areté, and how it can apply to your life. When you do that, the process of healing and growth begins, for yourself and for the society of which you are part.