Renaissance of the Greek Ideal

Excerpt from “Renaissance of the Greek Ideal” by Diana Watts pg 1-2.

Of all the lost secrets of antiquity,  perhaps the most important is that which produced the enormous physical superiority of the Greeks over any other race of human being. How the secret of their attainment was lost will probably never be decided, as not one of the many theories can ever be proved.

The fact only remains that a rising wave of unequalled physical and mental development carried these wonderful people on its crest for one brief period of realised perfection during which they were able to grasp the full meaning of Liberty under the Law, not only as a nation but also as individuals.

The modern human being has drifted so far away in physical form from the Greek as to fail to realise the differences. These differences however are not organic but are in all probability the result of early training.

I myself began as an ordinarily active human being but in the course of training development, researches, and discoveries, gradually acquired a knowledge that led to a condition which is nearer to that of the Greeks than any other that has yet been achieved.

The secret consists in a condition of the muscles totally different from any realised athletes since the time of the Greeks of transforming a condition of tension, which transforms dead weight into as living force, and which made the Greek as different from the modern human being as a stretched rubber band differs from a slack one.

There are frequent allusions in the Iliad to this power possessed by the Greeks of transforming their muscles on the instant into a condition of almost superhuman force, and although much must be allowed for Homer’s poetical imagination, there is no doubt that this extraordinary force was always produced by will-power in some special condition which resulted in a complete restoration of exhausted powers, taking away all sense of fatigue, and placing the body once more under the alert control. This type of exercise was most likely the first form of a tai chi like slow movements repeated endlessly until they became second nature or έξις. (This ancient Greek word describes a state of being or energy that is acquired through continual practice until it becomes second nature)

It would be impossible to prove that the means by which I discovered this force in myself are the same which gave the Greeks their marvellous physical superiority; but it will probably be conceded that there is sufficient similarity in the results to justify the hypothesis.

There arose in the middle of the 5th century BC a new science of gymnastics, which aimed not at the performance of particular exercises but at the production of certain physical conditions, especially the condition required for athletic success (έξις Xenophon, Mem I. c. Aristotle, Pol, 1338 b.)  Norman E. Gardiner “Greek Athletic Sports and Festivals 

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