Miguel A. Fernandez
The Olympic Ideal
The Olympic principle of physical activity, as the sacred origin of sport, aims to reveal the presence of divine modes of action, this is, it aims to reveal extremely precise actions that overthrow all probabilistic approach and that necessarily demand the existence of an “axis” that unifies the spirit, mind and body of the athlete. In myth, the revelation of this “axis” demonstrates a convergence with the “axis” of the world, or with a sort of “eye of the hurricane” that is imagined as the mount Olympus (Greek: Ὄλυμπος) where also in myth the divinities are assumed to reign.
By applying an operative approach to the experiential aspects of such Olympic principles we can however overcome this mythological transposition and realize that the “perfect action” is, above all, a noumenic experience that Julius Evola excellently explains as “a sheer power that is capable of producing effects, of acting, and of manifesting itself. The sense of the real presence of such powers, or numina, as something simultaneously transcendent and yet immanent, marvelous yet fearful, constituted the substance of the original experience of the sacred". In the most elite Olympic competitions, it is still assumed today by the best coaches that physical discipline, discipline of the mind and discipline of the spirit are three fundamental elements of a triangle that enclose the ideal of such perfect action, which is assumed to be the key for attaining an undefeatable skill mastery during competition. However, it must be made clear that the Olympic Games derive from a purely ceremonial understanding of myth, and therefore such games are founded on a sociopolitical re-enactment of a much higher set of principles of the human relation to the cosmos which transcend any interpretation in terms of competitiveness or entertainment.
Although the motivation for organizing Olympic Games is recently very much determined by business interests and struggle for corporate sponsorship or political influence, such games are still like a memorial that can eventually expose to the athlete who keeps up the three disciplines of body, mind and spirit a heroic view of the cosmos from above where everything becomes integrated and acquires meaning. Not only this idea is symbolically expressed in the initial ceremony of the solitary athlete carrying the Olympic torch up to the Olympic cauldron and finally lighting it, but such is also the Olympic “promise” of the correct consecution of the three disciplines, which do not have to be applied necessarily in the sport modalities that are strictly defined in the official Olympic Games celebrated every four years, but can be applied in any modality that provides enough space for development of the three disciplines. Such is the esoteric mystery that is always open to each spectator who contemplates the exoteric aspects of the Olympic ceremony, but it is only by reenacting such principles in their actual life challenges how such spectators shall also be able to effectively penetrate into such Olympic mystery.
The sport modalities that are present in the Olympic Games require physical predispositions that are extremely linked to the standards that characterize each modality, to the point that it is not difficult to deduce the specialized modality that is practiced by an athlete through observation of their bodily features. Form and function of the body correlate here in a very precise way, and this correspondence between form and function at all levels is indispensable for eventually attaining the perfect action. However, this doesn´t imply that in order to attain eventually the perfect action beyond such ceremonial domain that the body ought to rigidly comply with a set of form standards that are linked to specific efficacious functions, in terms of action. Rather, in order to “craft” the body, mind and spirit for attaining eventually the perfect action it ought to be applied exactly the same operative principles of work that are applied in traditional craft. As shown in Operative Traditions Vol IV, a master craftsman or master engineer who follows an operative discipline aims to work the materials in such a way that the qualitative aspects of the materials combine all with each other, attaining a process that French mechanologist Gilbert Simondon referred as “concretization” where a synergy is eventually created between all elements and where maximum self-resonance of the whole is attained, just like in a musical instrument. Here, it is the qualitative aspects of the materials what determines the form of the instrument and not vice versa, and this is so because by forcing a rigid form upon matter it is extremely unlikely that any self-resonance of the instrument shall take place. And the same occurs with the “instrument” of the body… Also, as shown in Operative Traditions IV, self-resonance is a key factor for absorbing maximum power in processes that dissipate energy, just as occurs in an internal combustion engine or in nature at large. Accomplishment of this whole-body synergy allows the eventual discovery of an invisible “axis” of body equilibrium that is crucial for the biomechanical accumulation of body momentum and final maximum release of power, a dynamics of biomechanical perfection magnificently expressed by the Discobolus of Myron.
The discovery of this axis of balance between body, mind and spirit is an empirical verification of the virtue of the athlete, by conceiving here virtue in its etymological Latin sense of virtus, which means courage, warrior valor, combative energy. Virtus derives from vir, Sir, virile being, which is equivalent as well to a type of energy that in the Indo-European root corresponds to wei, which means vital force. The ignition of this type of energy in an athlete can easily trigger in those who surround such athlete a rather disturbing feeling, a sensation of core vulnerability due to the sudden powerlessness of the reactions derived from the ego. Also, the acquisition of this type of vital energy (which has its equivalent in the word virya in Sanscrit, and Ch´i in Eastern traditions) reveals that the athlete has attained the highest form of health that is attainable in life, a health that is pure psychobiological homeostasis, this is, a spiritual and sovereignty under conditions of chaos and danger that emulates the power of the gods in myth.
From this primordial and Olympic perspective, the whole point of practicing sport is to eventually encounter this highest state of being, this “solar” and highest state of health. The ceremonial reenactment of this ideal in games such as the Olympic exposes as well the social and political decisiveness of attaining this ideal, especially in order to maintain in society a collective memory of which is the highest pursuit that every single member of society must aspire to accomplish. It is therefore not a coincidence that the best Olympic athletes were in the past endorsed with political prerogatives and entitlements, since they were actual embodiments of values that can be of great usefulness when defining successful political action.
Whenever a society and political system is not corrupt, we´ll always observe that the Olympic ideal is assumed tacitly as the highest human pursuit, even if there are no Olympic ceremonies taking place in such society. In these thriving and healthy societies the simultaneous discipline of the body, mind and spirit is very much encouraged and perceived as an ethos that honors the deeds of the first heroic pioneers who succeeded in Olympically igniting new values which illuminated and provided guidance and future to a people, just like a beacon that orientates amidst chaos and tempest. As Nietzsche´s prophet Zarathustra states in this regard: “Truly, men have given themselves all their good and evil. Truly, they did not take it, they did not find it, it did not descend to them as a voice from heaven. Man first implanted values into things to maintain himself – he created the meaning of things, a human meaning! Therefore he calls himself: ‘Man’, that is: the evaluator. Evaluation is creation: hear it, you creative men! Valuating is itself the value and jewel of all valued things”.
Contrarily, the first crucial evidence of a corrupt society is that the Olympic ideal is collectively forgotten, marginalized, and that a neurotic barrier is encouraged between the discipline of the body and the discipline of the mind; or in other words, the language of the body no longer aims to follow the spoken language and vice versa. Hence, in this type of societies people no longer say what they do, nor do what they say, to the point that intellectuality dissociates from action and becomes dilettante intellectualism.
This fundamental “crevice” in the Olympic ideal gives free reign to an hypertrophic practice of egotistic competition where the physical aspects of the body gain absolute value and become financial commodities, although the crucial problem of values remains always unanswered. And another consequence of this derivation is that health is no longer conceived in this context as the attainment of the regal virtus, but as neurotic relief, mostly in the form of physical well-being, cult of security, hedonistic comfort and absence of pain, which dangerously opens the door to the consumption of pharmaceuticals and drugs.
But whether a society politically encourages or marginalizes the human incarnation of the Olympic ideal, none of both standpoints have any effect whatsoever on the ideal itself, which is always alive, like a star, and often it is required to reach absolute darkness in societal values and corruption in order to perceive these tiny beacons of light. As another Olympic spirit, Ernst Jünger, already stated when addressing this dilemma: “Perhaps the future is decided precisely in those places where darkness seems deeper”