James Douglas (Jim) Morrison is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in eastern Paris. Since the early 90s, a flat stone placed on his grave by his father George Stephen which bears the Greek inscription (transcribed here into Roman lettering) “KATA TON DAIMONA EAYTOY”. But which is the true meaning of the phrase?
Jim Morrison’s grave became one of the city’s most visited tourist attractions almost immediately after his death. The shield which placed initially by French officials on the grave, was stolen in 1973. In 1981, a bust created by the Croatian sculptor Mladen Mikulin was placed along with a new grave stone. Cemetery vandals defaced the bust, which finally been stolen (once again) in 1988. In 1990, Morrison’s father visited his son’s grave and placed the flat stone which remains until today on Jim Morrison’s tomb.
Any attempt to translate the Greek inscription which is written on the gravestone literally, will lead us in a completely wrong path. “According to his own daimon”, sounds as a decent translation, but such a straight approach could easily make us turn in a wrong direction.
The name derives from the word “stoa” which means portico. Porticoes in ancient times were used as a promenade or meeting place. Zeno of Citium founded this philosophy in an Athens’s portico, in the early third century BC, which soon became popular throughout Greece and the Roman Empire. That until 529 AD, when Justinian I, ordered all the schools of philosophy to close as he perceived their pagan character to be at odds with his Christian faith. Except Zeno, the Greek philosopher Cleanthes, and later Roman thinkers such as Cato the Younger, Seneca the Younger, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus, are associated with Stoicism.
Stoics believe that developing self-control by mastering passions and emotions; it is possible to find equilibrium in oneself and in the world. Some basic tenets of Stoicism are:
- “Every soul has Free Will to act and that the action of the soul is opinion.”
- “Spiritual growth comes from seeking the good.”
- “The Cardinal Virtues are Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance.”
- “The path to personal happiness and inner peace is through the extinguishing of all desire to have or to affect things beyond ones control and through living for the present without hope for or fear of the future; beyond the power of opinion.”
- “Everyone has an individual connection to All.”
- “One to live in accord with worldly and human nature.”
- “It is irrational to want that which is not God’s will, so attune thyself with thy inner Nature and live happily.”
- “Live according to YOUR own Nature.”
Finally, according to Epictetus’s philosophy: “……Each man has within him a guardian spirit, a god within him, who never sleeps; so that even in darkness and solitude we are never alone, because God is within, our guardian spirit.” The spirit on which Epictetus refers, is obviously similar to what Christians call our guardian angel. (If we study deeper Stoicism and Christianity have many common aspects on many fields, but this is not the main subject of the article.)
Daimon in ancient Greek means spirit, rather than daimon and contains no negative or pejorative qualities. It derives from the word “daiein” (=to distribute). In ancient times, deities who distributed the fate and believed to be life changers were called daimones (daimons). The protector deity that lived inside the man from his birth till death, and took care of the personal evolution and prosperity (something like the guardian angel) was called “daimon eaytoy”.
Now we can understand the true meaning of the phrase “KATA TON DAIMONA EAYTOY” as “KATA” means according. According to what conscience suggests being right, and maybe not caring about what others might say; or in other words we might say “True to his own spirit”. An idea Stoics embraced, and most probably Jim Morrison’s relatives wanted to convey through his gravestone: Throughout his short life, James acted obeying to his personal God and not to the society rules.
(All images by the author)