2.16: Happy are the peacemakers

Here we achieve the first of two effects. We started with four stages on the way to development (poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger). Then we stopped and meditated on the end goal: purity. Now, we move to the outworking of this achievement: peace and persecution. And, isn’t is strange that purity of heart could be productive of peace and persecution. This calls for explanation. But we begin with the sense in which the next logical step beyond purity would be the effect of peace. Peace is the opposite of war, strife and tension. Instead of friction we sense comradery, unity, calm. This is hardly imaginable in the social realm, but as with the prior analysis of blessedness stages I think these are in a sense regulative ideals. They are that which should be approached by the developing being.

What must it mean, in the deeper sense, to be a peacemaker? I am going to wax mystical. Peace can be thought of as a state of an individual or a relation between individuals. Any individual at peace is so either because its parts are in good relation or because it as a whole is in good relation with other wholes. Either way, peace is best captured as a negation: the absence of strife. But, where there is no strife there is either nothing, something that cannot be in strife (like a stone), or finally that which is potentially in strife but is not. This latter category of “no strife” must be the category we seek.

When we remember that he who reaches the end is the pure in heart we see how being at peace is a logical implication. Purity of silver requires the approach to homogeneity and a lack of non-silver. Purity of heart requires a similar identity and homogeneity but it is moral in nature. The heart which aims with one voice and one effort at a single good is that which cannot be in conflict with itself. Peace then starts in the individual. It is the work of the individual insofar as that individual is at unity with itself.

But we must go further. Unity with self is only possible as one approaches that which makes a rational animal what it is in its essence. And that which a rational animal is in its essence is undeniably that which fits voluntarily with deepest reality. Aristotle called this contemplation. Epictetus said to “will that things will happen as the will”. Buddha calls is ceasing craving and grasping or letting go. Jesus tells his followers to pray “thy (the controller of deep reality) will be done”. In each case what is emphasized is unity with deep reality. The Stoic Epictetus hammered at this in his recommendations: you have a task that is discoverable by your investigation into your role as a part in a whole. It is the discovery of the task which both integrates the individual with the rest of reality and creates tranquility in the individual itself.

Before you are tempted to hippie pacifism, please remember that Aristotle was the tutor of Alexander the Great, Stoicism became the philosophy popular among soldiers and emperors, Socrates was a soldier, and the Buddha was at one time the captain of a boat named Great Compassionate where he killed a killer. It is complicated. We could note also that Jesus saw great faith in some of the soldiers he encountered and had no strong words against their profession. Down here hard measures will always be needed against aggressors. And this is tragic. But pursuing unity with deep reality is not to be equated with a simplistic picture of peacefulness.

In the end peace is identical with good which is identical to purity. As we approach one we approach the others. The peace that Jesus speaks of is not to be equated with earthly peace any more than the mourning he speaks of is to be equated with earthly mourning or the hungering after righteousness with hungering after food. He uses earthly representation to express to earthly animals (potentially rational) the way to deep reality (blessedness).

I do not severe the tie completely. That there is more peace in the home of the pure of heart than on the impure of heart on average I do not doubt for a minute. I only wish to resist earthly peace being a necessary sign of the peacefulness that Jesus speaks of. That earthly peace will often be an effect of the peacefulness Jesus speaks of is certain. But we should not aim at earthly peace. We should aim at purity of heart. Since the cause is greater than the effect, and I am taking the final two blessed categories as signs of the achievement of purity, we should stay focused on the cause. Purity of heart.

Published by Purilib

Anonymously interested in grasping the good life.

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