Béla Hamvas: On Friendship

Plato says that the primeval word for community is law; as for Aristotle he thinks it is Philia. Both could be right. What holds a community together is the law above beings. But what creates a community is friendship that lives in these beings. Philia means friendship, but this friendship is not an idea. Rather it is a being itself, too. Where discord is, presumably Ares, the stormy one is present; where there is love, presumably Aphrodite, the one who dissolves opposites, is present; and where friendship is, presumably Philia, the goddess of friendship is present, too. According to Aristotle if thousands and millions of people live together, speak the same language, foster the same traditions– all of these are the magic of the presence of goddess Philia. Without her La Bruyere would be right asking: why are you surprised that the humanity does not live in the same state, does not believe in the same religion, and does not speak the same language? If I look at the diversity and colorfulness of human character, temperament, talent and wisdom, I am rather surprised that two people can sleep under the same roof without strangling each other before morning. It is because of the magic of goddess Philia that such things as common house, a common language, or a common custom can exist between beings snarling at each other. Without her, they would be no more than lonely beast of prey. Community is created by goddess Friendship and thus the primeval word for community is Philia.

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Compared to the many things to which we paid special attention in the past hundred years, the silence around friendship is more than strange. There exists only one considerable work, made by Emerson. In the ancient world no one failed to keep it in mind. The reason that so few write on friendship today is not really that friendship is a classical subject and today’s people are not up to a classical subject. The reason is rather that friendship is a classical relationship and today’s man is not up to a classical relationship. Mankind has never been so close to all beings becoming just beasts of prey, snarling at each other from hiding. The aggressive collectivism of mass-religions is only the surface; beneath it lives the man who is ready to kill the one he lives with under the same roof before morning arrives, and only because he is different. Everyone who had reached out his hands these days toward someone else had to have experienced, humiliated, that people don’t understand the only thing that is important. But no one can be called to account. Yesterday I reached out my hands toward someone but he did not notice; today someone reached out for me and I was the one not noticing him. We’re living a Philialess life and the relationships that are still here between us might be only the remains of the old days or a possibility for the future; no friendship springs from today.

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However, Aristotle probably is wrong when he says that the possibility of community is created by Philia. The community is not more and is not less. The community is something different. It is an wholly and perfectly and basically different life; an existence, possibility, reality, magic and mysterium. They have found an expression for these days: they say it is the relationship of Me and You. There must be at least three people for a community. But when there are three Philia takes off. The Me and the You makes two, always and only two. More with one than when one is alone and less with one than when one is part of a community. The relationship of Me and You is a circle of existence apart: a specific circle between the individual and the collective. Between loneliness and community. Between aloneness and crowd. Between the One and the Three. This two is the world where Philia thrives.


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