O N T H E
G O D S
On Mind and Soul,
and that the latter is immortal
There is a certain force, less primary
than being but more primary than the soul, which draws its existence from
being and completes the soul as the sun completes the eyes.
Of souls some are rational and immortal,
some irrational and mortal. The former are derived from the first Gods,
the latter from the secondary.
First, we must consider what soul
is. It is, then, that by which the animate differs from the inanimate.
The difference lies in motion, sensation, imagination, intelligence. Soul
therefore, when irrational, is the life of sense and imagination; when
rational, it is the life which controls sense and imagination and uses
reason. The irrational soul depends on the affections of the body; it feels
desire and anger irrationally.
The rational soul both, with the help
of reason, despises the body, and, fighting against the irrational soul,
produces either virtue or vice, according as it is victorious or defeated.
On Providence, Fate, and Fortune
This is enough to show the Providence of the Gods. For whence comes the ordering of the world, if there is no ordering power? And whence comes the fact that all things are for a purpose: e.g. irrational soul that there may be sensation, and rational that the earth may be set in order?
But one can deduce the same result from the evidences of providence in nature: e.g., the eyes have been made transparent with a view to seeing; the nostrils are above the mouth to distinguish bad-smelling foods; the front teeth are sharp to cut food, the back teeth broad to grind it. And we find every part of every object arranged on a similar principle. It is impossible that there should be so much providence in the last details, and none in the first principles. Then the arts of prophecy and of healing, which are part of the cosmos, come of the good providence of the Gods.
All this care for the world, we must believe, is taken by the Gods without any act of will or labor. As bodies which possess some power produce their effects by merely existing: e.g. the sun gives light and heat by merely existing; so, and far more so, the providence of the Gods acts without effort to itself and for the good of the objects of its forethought. This solves the problems of the Epicureans, who argue that what is divine neither has trouble itself nor gives trouble to others.
The incorporeal providence of the Gods, both for bodies and for souls, is of this sort; but that which is of bodies and in bodies is different from this, and is called fate, Heimarmene, because the chain of causes (Heirmos) is more visible in the case of bodies; and it is for dealing with this fate that the science of Mathematic [=Astrology] has been discovered.
Therefore, to believe that human things, especially their material constitution, are ordered not only by celestial beings but by the celestial bodies is a reasonable and true belief. Reason shows that health and sickness, good fortune and bad fortune, arise according to our deserts from that source. But to attribute men's acts of injustice and lust to fate, is to make ourselves good and the Gods bad. Unless by chance a man meant by such a statement that in general all things are for the good of the world and for those who are in a natural state, but that bad education or weakness of nature changes the goods of Fate for the worse. Just as it happens that the Sun, which is good for all, may be injurious to persons with ophthalmia or fever. Else why do the Massagetae eat their fathers, the Hebrews practice circumcision, and the Persians preserve rules of rank? Why do astrologers, while calling Saturn and Mars 'malignant' proceed to make them good, attributing to them philosophy and royalty, generalships and treasures? And if they are going to talk of triangles and squares, it is absurd that Gods should change their natures according to their position in space, while human virtue remains the same everywhere. Also the fact that the stars predict high or low rank for the father of the person whose horoscope is taken, teaches that they do not always make things happen but sometimes only indicate things. For how could things which preceded the birth depend upon the birth?
Further, as there is providence and fate concerned with nations and cities, and also concerned with each individual, so there is also fortune, which should next be treated. That power of the Gods which orders for the good things which are not uniform, and which happen contrary to expectation, is commonly called Fortune, and it is for this reason that the Goddess is especially worshipped in public by cities; for every city consists of elements which are not uniform. Fortune has power beneath the moon, since above the moon no single thing can happen by fortune.
If fortune makes a wicked man prosperous and a good man poor, there is no need to wonder. For the wicked regard wealth as everything, the good as nothing. And the good fortune of the bad cannot take away their badness, while virtue alone will be enough for the good.
Concerning Virtue and Vice
The doctrine of virtue and vice depends
on that of the soul. When the irrational soul enters into the body and
immediately produces fight and desire, the rational soul, put in authority
over all these, makes the soul tripartite, composed of reason, fight, and
Virtue in the region of reason is
wisdom, in the region of fight is courage, in the region of desire is temperance;
the virtue of the whole soul is righteousness.
It is for reason to judge what is
right, for fight in obedience to reason to despise things that appear terrible,
for desire to pursue not the apparently desirable, but, that which is with
When these things are so, we have
a righteous life; for righteousness in matters of property is but a small
part of virtue. And thus we shall find all four virtues in properly trained
men, but among the untrained one may be brave and unjust, another temperate
and stupid, another prudent and unprincipled. Indeed, these qualities should
not be called virtues when they are devoid of reason and imperfect and
found in irrational beings. Vice should be regarded as consisting of the
opposite elements. In reason it is folly, in fight, cowardice, in desire,
intemperance, in the whole soul, unrighteousness.
The virtues are produced by the right social organization and by good rearing and education, the vices by the opposite.
Concerning right and wrong Social Organization
Constitutions also depend on the tripartite
nature of the soul. The rulers are analogous to reason, the soldiers to
fight, the common folk to desires.
Where all things are done according
to reason and the best man in the nation rules, it is a kingdom; where
more than one rule according to reason and fight, it is an aristocracy;
where the government is according to desire and offices depend on money,
that constitution is called a timocracy.
The contraries are: to kingdom, tyranny,
for kingdom does all things with the guidance of reason and tyranny nothing;
to aristocracy, oligarchy, when not the best people but a few of the worst
are rulers; to timocracy, democracy, when not the rich but the common folk
possess the whole power.
The origin of evil things;
and that there is no positive evil
The Gods being good and making all
things, how do evils exist in the world? Or perhaps it is better first
to state the fact that, the Gods being good and making all things, there
is no positive evil, it only comes by absence of good; just as darkness
itself does not exist, but only comes about by absence of light.
If evil exists it must exist either in Gods or minds or souls or bodies. It does not exist in any God, for all god is good. If anyone speaks of a 'bad mind' he means a mind without mind. If of a bad soul, he will make the soul inferior to body, for no body in itself is evil. If he says that evil is made up of soul and body together, it is absurd that separately they should not be evil, but joined should create evil.
Suppose it is said that there are
evil spirits: - if they have their power from the Gods, they cannot be
evil; if from elsewhere, the Gods do not make all things. If they do not
make all things, then either they wish to or cannot, or they can and do
not wish; neither of which is consistent with the idea of god. We may see,
therefore, from these arguments, that there is no positive evil in the
It is in the activities of men that
the evils appear, and that not of all men nor always. And as to these,
if men sinned for the sake of evil, nature itself would be evil. But if
the adulterer thinks his adultery bad but his pleasure good, and the murderer
thinks the murder bad but the money he gets by it good, and the man who
does evil to an enemy thinks that to do evil is bad but to punish his enemy
good, and if the soul commits all its sins in that way, then the evils
are done for the sake of goodness. (In the same way, because in a given
place light does not exist, there comes darkness, which has no positive
existence.) The soul sins therefore because, while aiming at good, it makes
mistakes about the good, because it is not primary essence. And we see
many things done by the Gods to prevent it from making mistakes and to
heal it when it has made them. Arts and sciences, curses and prayers, sacrifices
and initiations, laws and constitutions, judgments and punishments, all
came into existence for the sake of preventing souls from sinning; and
when they are gone forth from the body, Gods and spirits of purification
cleanse them of their sins.
How things eternal are said to be made
Concerning the Gods and the world and human things this account will suffice for those who are not able to go through the whole course of philosophy but yet have not souls beyond help.
It remains to explain how these objects were never made and are never separated one from another, since we ourselves have said above that the secondary substances were 'made' by the first.
Everything made is made either by
art or by a physical process or according to some power.
Now in art or nature the maker must
needs be prior to the made: but the maker, according to power, constitutes
the made absolutely together with itself, since its power is inseparable
from it; as the sun makes light, fire makes heat, snow makes cold.
Now if the Gods make the world by art, they do not make it be, they make it be such as it is. For all art makes the form of the object. What therefore makes it to be?
If by a physical process, how in that case can the maker help giving pat of himself to the made? As the Gods are incorporeal, the world ought to be incorporeal too. If it were argued that the Gods were bodies, then where would the power of incorporeal things come from? And if we were to admit it, it would follow that when the world decays, its maker must be decaying too, if he is a maker by physical process.
If the Gods make the world neither
by art nor by physical process, it only remains that they make it by power.
Everything so made subsists together with that which possesses the power.
Neither can things so made be destroyed, except the power of the maker
be taken away: so that those who believe in the destruction of the world,
either deny the existence of the Gods, or, while admitting it, deny God's
Therefore he who makes all things by his own power makes all things subsist together with himself. And since his power is the greatest power he must needs be the maker not only of men and animals, but of Gods, men, and spirits. And the further removed the first God is from our nature, the more powers there must be between us and him. For all things that are very far apart have many intermediate points between them.
In what sense, though the Gods never change,
they are said to be made angry and appeased
If any one thinks the doctrine of
the unchangeableness of the Gods is reasonable and true, and then wonders
how it is that they rejoice in the good and reject the bad, are angry with
sinners and become propitious when appeased, the answer is as follows:
god does not rejoice - for that which rejoices also grieves; nor is he
angered - for to be angered is a passion; nor is he appeased by gifts -
if he were, he would be conquered by pleasure.
It is impious to suppose that the
divine is affected for good or ill by human things. The Gods are always
good and always do good and never harm, being always in the same state
and like themselves.
The truth simply is that, when we
are good, we are joined to the Gods by our likeness to live according to
virtue we cling to the Gods, and when we become evil we make the Gods our
enemies - not because they are angered against us, but because our sins
prevent the light of the Gods from shining upon us, and put us in communion
with spirits of punishment.
And if by prayers and sacrifices we
find forgiveness of sins, we do not appease or change the Gods, but by
what we do and by our turning toward the divine we heal our own badness
and so enjoy again the goodness of the Gods. To say that god turns away
from the evil is like saying that the sun hides himself from the blind.
Copyright ©1999 Roy George