Casket with Scenes from Romances, ca. 1310-30

What follows is an excerpt from a section of an early draft of my article, “‘Where’s Your Will to Be Wyrd?’: An Examination of Wyrd in the Anglo-Saxon Religious Imagination.” In the early drafts of that article, I intended to connect wyrd to Aristotle’s notion of φύσις (physis). As I stated in that article, this connection had to do with my observation that “solitary practice and individual experience are a means to the radical confrontation with something other than the self, which empathy makes possible; and this confrontation recasts each initiate in a shadow of destiny that exceeds the boundaries of the individual.” The idea here was that wyrd involves the confrontation with “something other than the self,” which always takes the form of a relation to the Other. At one level, this confrontation can take the form of a relation to the other person; at another, it can take the form of fate or nature (physis).

Having quickly realized that a proper analysis of physis would go beyond the scope of that article, I omitted and abandoned the following section, which still needs to be unpacked and clarified. I am providing it here in its unfinished form for those interested in Aristotelian scholarship on physis in an effort to illuminate some of the deeper implications concerning its role within the philosophy of pathei-mathos.

This is meant as an introduction – a beginning, not an end – and is aimed at those wishing to explore serious scholarship on the subject rather than a general audience. In addition to the sources referenced, those wishing to investigate further in the aforesaid contexts may wish to examine David Myatt’s “Towards Understanding Physis”[1] and “Physis and Being: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos.”[2] In the former, Myatt’s point that physis, understood philosophically, “has specific ontological meanings … which are lost, or glossed over, when physis is simply translated either as ‘Nature’ or – in terms of mortals – as (personal) character” is consistent with what is written below. He is also correct in noting that physis is not “some abstract essence” (in contrast to Plato), which is elaborated upon below. And while I find the negative emphasis on denotatum and abstraction within Myatt’s philosophy problematic – here specifically in relation to physis – I will save that for another time.[3]

Some Notes on φύσις (Physis) in Aristotle

Both physis and wyrd have complex origins historically, etymologically, and in terms of their intended usage within the early literature of the Order of Nine Angles.[4] Though what follows is not meant to address these comprehensively, it should be noted that neither term can be understood in terms of a simple bifurcation: no division or single characterization can comprehensively address the way these phenomena are experienced or described across history. Such characterizations sometimes appear contradictory in ways that remain consistent in experience. In this, the ONA’s distinction between terms like “causal” and “acausal” can be misleading.[5] Such distinctions do, however, draw our attention to the complexities surrounding their apparent limitations.

The Greek term for nature, φύσις (physis) illustrates some of these complexities. While physis commonly refers to “the nature or essence of a living thing,”[6] Aristotle in fact distinguished between seven meanings of the word, eventually “settling on it as the essence of things that have a source of movement within themselves.”[7] Motion and change are crucial for understanding nature on this account, where for Aristotle nature is both a “source of motion and change”[8] and “a source of motion and rest.”[9] Certain entities – such as animals and plants – exist “by nature” because “each of them has within itself a principle of change and rest, some in respect of place, some in respect of growth and decline, some in respect of alteration.”[10] A study of nature thus “aims at the understanding of the principles, causes, and elements of the natural world”[11] according to this account of nature as a source of motion, change, and rest.

Aristotle’s account thus views nature as an internal source,[12] one that rests on the idea of nature manifesting “itself through [the] utter diversity of beings.”[13] In contrast to Plato’s Timaeus, “nature is not an abstract, impersonal, ‘all-pervading demiurgic force’,”[14] but rather an “inner driving force we reference when saying of a natural being: ‘That is its nature.’”[15] On this account, physis or nature “is anything but enigmatic, abstract, and impersonal,” as it “works not by imposing order and shape externally, but by instilling desire from the inside of a natural being: a being that is by nature ‘has in itself a source of motion and rest’ … and ‘stretches out’ toward its own nature … so as to become itself.”[16] Thus, while physis can broadly refer to “the natural world as a whole,”[17] Aristotle’s account contrasts with our modern notion of nature, “understood by way of nonnormative, abstract laws such as gravity, which moves things externally.”[18] His account thus “does not fit within a shallow empirical ‘philosophy of natural science’ but, instead, is part of a true ‘ontology of nature’ or a ‘proto-physics’: an examination into the origins or sources (archai) of nature.”[19]

Aristotle’s account of physis highlights a tension found in the ambiguous relationship between “form and matter, soul and body, fulfillment and movement,”[20] one that can lead to “nature’s self-suspension and transgression into the divine.”[21] The relationship between physis and wyrd involves a similarly ambiguous relationship and tension. On the one hand, Aristotle’s account of physis is neither enigmatic, abstract, nor impersonal. Superficially, this seems to conflict with our general understanding of fate or “destiny” as something incomprehensible, impersonal, and removed from the particular circumstances in which it takes place. Destiny is typically thought to exceed or “transgress” the individual lives and circumstances it affects (and in this sense it is “abstract”); and yet, there is a sense in which it is deeply personal and meaningful in its ability to concretely affect particular lives.

Nameless Therein
Scothorn Nexion
June 12, 2022


[1] David Myatt, “Towards Understanding Physis,” David Myatt: Learning from Adversity; A Rejection of Extremism, March 2015,

[2] David Myatt, “Physis and Being: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos,” David Myatt: Learning from Adversity; A Rejection of Extremism, 2019,

[3] I do, for example, take issue with Myatt’s point that “the ontology of beings … [with reference to] a reality, a ‘true nature’ … is often obscured by denotatum and by abstractions, both of which conceal physis.” Myatt, “Towards Understanding Physis.”

[4] Sadly, overuse and an improper understanding of these terms on the part of many ONA associates has diminished the significance of these and most ONA terminology; but through a careful examination of some of the complexities that inform their intended meaning, we may breathe fresh life into a terminological framework that has been stripped of significance through years of carelessness.

[5] There is evidence that the early authors of the ONA were both aware of the complexities surrounding such terminology and were even attempting to transcend the limitations of these terms in creating such divisions.

[6] Robert Audi, ed., “Physis,” in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 3rd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

[7] Simon Blackburn, “Physics, Philosophy of,” in A Dictionary of Philosophy, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).

[8] On this point, Aristotle notes that, “Since the nature [of a natural thing] is a source of motion and change, and our μέθοδος is concerned with nature, [the question] what is motion must not escape our notice; for necessarily when we are ignorant of this we are also ignorant of nature.” Aristotle, Physics III.I, 200b12-15. Quoted in James G. Lennox, “How to Study Natural Bodies: Aristotle’s μέθοδος,” chap. 1 of Aristotle’s Physics: A Critical Guide, ed. Mariska Leunissen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 11.

[9] Helen S. Lang, The Order of Nature in Aristotle’s Physics: Place and the Elements (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 34. See Aristotle, Physics II.I, 192b14. See also the point made by Heidegger that, “Rest is a kind of movement; only that which is able to move can rest.” Quoted in Marjolein Oele, “Aristotle on Physis: Analyzing the Inner Ambiguities and Transgression of Nature,” in A Companion to Ancient Philosophy, ed. Sean D. Kirkland and Eric Sanday (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2018), 163.

[10] Aristotle, Physics II.I, 192b13-15, quoted in Stasinos Stavrianeas, “Nature as a Principle of Change,” chap. 3 in Aristotle’s Physics: A Critical Guide, ed. Mariska Leunissen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 47.

[11] Stavrianeas, “Nature,” 46.

[12] Oele, “Aristotle on Physis,” 162.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Oele, “Aristotle on Physis,” 161. See also “Heidegger, Martin,” in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, where the author notes how Heidegger’s “portrayal of human existence” is in accord with what “Heidegger regards as the earliest Greek experience of being as an emerging into-presence (physis).” This may be related to Oele’s sense of physis as a “[stretching out] toward its own nature … so as to become itself.”

[17] Audi, “Physis.”

[18] Oele, “Aristotle on Physis,” 161.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid., 162.

[21] Ibid.