Rebirth From the Fire

Philo, The Eternity of the World 85-86 (504)

“And this is also not unworthy of consideration: what will be the way of rebirth when everything has been destroyed by fire? For, when substance is completely burned up, then it is necessary that the fire burns out because it no longer has anything to feed it.

If the fire remains, then the essential logic of an orderly creation is preserved; but if fire is removed, then that disappears too. This is a double sacrifice and sacrilege—not only to ask for the destruction of the world but also to eradicate rebirth as if god took joy in disorder, lethargy, and all kinds of error.”

Ἐκεῖνο δ᾿ οὐκ ἀνάξιον διαπορῆσαι, τίνα τρόπον ἔσται παλιγγενεσία, πάντων εἰς πῦρ ἀναλυθέντων· ἐξαναλωθείσης γὰρ τῆς οὐσίας ὑπὸ πυρός, ἀνάγκη καὶ τὸ πῦρ οὐκέτ᾿ ἔχον τροφὴν ἀποσβεσθῆναι. μένοντος μὲν οὖν, ὁ σπερματικὸς τῆς διακοσμήσεως ἐσῴζετ᾿ <ἂν> λόγος, ἀναιρεθέντος δὲ συνανῄρηται. τὸ δ᾿ ἐστὶν ἔκθεσμον καὶ ἀσέβημα ἤδη διπλοῦν, μὴ μόνον φθορὰν τοῦ κόσμου κατηγορεῖν ἀλλὰ καὶ παλιγγενεσίαν ἀναιρεῖν, ὥσπερ ἐν ἀκοσμίᾳ καὶ ἀπραξίᾳ καὶ τοῖς πλημμελέσι πᾶσι χαίροντος θεοῦ.

Image result for medieval manuscript reincarnation
Medieval Wheel of Fortune

The Fates: What Was, What is, What Will Be

Hesiod, Theogony 904-906

“Klôthô, Lakhesis, and Atropos, who grant to mortals
Their share of both evil and good.”

Κλωθώ τε Λάχεσίν τε καὶ ῎Ατροπον, αἵ τε διδοῦσι
θνητοῖς ἀνθρώποισιν ἔχειν ἀγαθόν τε κακόν τε.

Plato, Republic 617a

“There were another three who sat equally apart in a circle, each on her own seat, the Fates, those daughters of necessity, dressed in white clothes with fillets on their heads: Lachesis, Klotho, and Atropos, all joining the hymn with the chorus of Sirens. Lachesis sings what was; Klotho sings what is, and Atropos sings what will be.”

ἄλλας δὲ καθημένας πέριξ δι᾽ ἴσου τρεῖς, ἐν θρόνῳ ἑκάστην, θυγατέρας τῆς ἀνάγκης, Μοίρας, λευχειμονούσας, στέμματα ἐπὶ τῶν κεφαλῶν ἐχούσας, Λάχεσίν τε καὶ Κλωθὼ καὶ Ἄτροπον, ὑμνεῖν πρὸς τὴν τῶν Σειρήνων ἁρμονίαν, Λάχεσιν μὲν τὰ γεγονότα, Κλωθὼ δὲ τὰ ὄντα, Ἄτροπον δὲ τὰ μέλλοντα.

Aristotle assigns the Moirai to different stages

Aristotle, On the Universe, 401b16-23

“There are three Fates—one allotted to different times—and part of the wool of their spindle is already spun, some still needs to be, and some is currently being worked. One of the Moirai is for the past—Atropos—because all things which are behind us cannot be altered (atrepta); the future, then, is Lakhesis, because that which is allotted [lêksis] by nature awaits everything; and the present belongs to Klôthô who decides what is proper for each as she spins (klôthein). That’s how the myth ends and not improperly.”

τρεῖς μὲν γὰρ αἱ Μοῖραι, κατὰ τοὺς χρόνους μεμερισμέναι, νῆμα δὲ ἀτράκτου τὸ μὲν ἐξειργασμένον, τὸ δὲ μέλλον, τὸ δὲ περιστρεφόμενον· τέτακται δὲ κατὰ μὲν τὸ γεγονὸς μία τῶν Μοιρῶν, Ἄτροπος, ἐπεὶ τὰ παρελθόντα πάντα ἄτρεπτά ἐστι, κατὰ δὲ τὸ μέλλον Λάχεσις—[εἰς] πάντα γὰρ ἡ κατὰ φύσιν μένει λῆξις—κατὰ δὲ τὸ ἐνεστὸς Κλωθώ, συμπεραίνουσά τε καὶ κλώθουσα ἑκάστῳ τὰ οἰκεῖα. περαίνεται δὲ καὶ ὁ μῦθος οὐκ ἀτάκτως.

Inspired by this tweet

Moirai

Herakles’ Choice? More Tiring than Tawdry for a Tuesday

This toxic brew is one part myth, one part moral philosophy and at two parts misogyny mixed up with some delightful Xenophontic prose. It is as if Robert Frost wrote about the path less taken but in moralizing prose capitalizing on hateful stereotypes. Ok, so, it is not really like Robert Frost at all. Happy Tuesday!

Xenophon, Memorabilia 2.1.21-29

“Wise Prodikos in his composition on Herakles (which he performs for many people) also expresses similar views about virtue, he says this much, as far as I can remember. For he says:

“Herakles, when he was moving from childhood into adolescence, that time when the young take control of their lives and demonstrate whether they will turn onto the path of virtue or vice, went out to sit down in a quiet place because he was uncertain which road to take.

While he was there, two giant women appeared and approached him. The first was fine to look at and naturally free—her body was dressed in purity, her eyes with shame, her bearing with wisdom, and her clothing was white.

The other woman was fed too much and was thick and soft; her skin was all decorated so that she seemed whiter and pinker than she really was, and her bearing made her look taller than she was naturally. Her eyes were opened-wide; her clothing showed off how everything was especially “in season”; and she was looking over herself all the time, trying to spot if anyone else was looking at her. She often was peeking at her own shadow.

When they approached Herakles, that first woman went in the manner which was mentioned, but the second ran up to Herakles because she was eager to to defeat her. She said. “Herakles, I see that you are unsure what path to follow in your life. If you make me your friend, I will take you on the most pleasing and easy journey. You will not miss out on any of life’s pleasures, and you will live without experience of sufferings.”

[…]

Then, after Herakles listened to this, he asked “Woman, what is your name”. And she said, “My friends call me Happiness, the haters call me Vice.”

“Meanwhile, the other woman approached and said, “I have also come to you, Herakles, someone who knows your parents and I have learned your nature as you were educated. This is why I hope that, if you choose the path I am offering, you will become a great doer of noble and solemn acts and that I will seem more honorable and famous for the good things I bring. I will not lie to you with an introduction of pleasures: I will tell you the truth, how the gods have made the world for you.”

[21] καὶ Πρόδικος δὲ ὁ σοφὸς ἐν τῷ συγγράμματι τῷ περὶ Ἡρακλέους, ὅπερ δὴ καὶ πλείστοις ἐπιδείκνυται, ὡσαύτως περὶ τῆς ἀρετῆς ἀποφαίνεται, ὧδέ πως λέγων, ὅσα ἐγὼ μέμνημαι. φησὶ γὰρ Ἡρακλέα, ἐπεὶ ἐκ παίδων εἰς ἥβην ὡρμᾶτο, ἐν ᾗ οἱ νέοι ἤδη αὐτοκράτορες γιγνόμενοι δηλοῦσιν εἴτε τὴν δι᾽ ἀρετῆς ὁδὸν τρέψονται ἐπὶ τὸν βίον εἴτε τὴν διὰ κακίας, ἐξελθόντα εἰς ἡσυχίαν καθῆσθαι ἀποροῦντα ποτέραν τῶν ὁδῶν τράπηται:

[22] καὶ φανῆναι αὐτῷ δύο γυναῖκας προσιέναι μεγάλας, τὴν μὲν ἑτέραν εὐπρεπῆ τε ἰδεῖν καὶ ἐλευθέριον φύσει, κεκοσμημένην τὸ μὲν σῶμα καθαρότητι, τὰ δὲ ὄμματα αἰδοῖ, τὸ δὲ σχῆμα σωφροσύνῃ, ἐσθῆτι δὲ λευκῇ, τὴν δ᾽ ἑτέραν τεθραμμένην μὲν εἰς πολυσαρκίαν τε καὶ ἁπαλότητα, κεκαλλωπισμένην δὲ τὸ μὲν χρῶμα ὥστε λευκοτέραν τε καὶ ἐρυθροτέραν τοῦ ὄντος δοκεῖν φαίνεσθαι, τὸ δὲ σχῆμα ὥστε δοκεῖν ὀρθοτέραν τῆς φύσεως εἶναι, τὰ δὲ ὄμματα ἔχειν ἀναπεπταμένα, ἐσθῆτα δὲ ἐξ ἧς ἂν μάλιστα ὥρα διαλάμποι: κατασκοπεῖσθαι δὲ θαμὰ ἑαυτήν, ἐπισκοπεῖν δὲ καὶ εἴ τις ἄλλος αὐτὴν θεᾶται, πολλάκις δὲ καὶ εἰς τὴν ἑαυτῆς σκιὰν ἀποβλέπειν.

[23] ὡς δ᾽ ἐγένοντο πλησιαίτερον τοῦ Ἡρακλέους, τὴν μὲν πρόσθεν ῥηθεῖσαν ἰέναι τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον, τὴν δ᾽ ἑτέραν φθάσαι βουλομένην προσδραμεῖν τῷ Ἡρακλεῖ καὶ εἰπεῖν: ὁρῶ σε, ὦ Ἡράκλεις, ἀποροῦντα ποίαν ὁδὸν ἐπὶ τὸν βίον τράπῃ. ἐὰν οὖν ἐμὲ φίλην ποιησάμενος, ἐπὶ τὴν ἡδίστην τε καὶ ῥᾴστην ὁδὸν ἄξω σε, καὶ τῶν μὲν τερπνῶν οὐδενὸς ἄγευστος ἔσει, τῶν δὲ χαλεπῶν ἄπειρος διαβιώσῃ.

[26]καὶ ὁ Ἡρακλῆς ἀκούσας ταῦτα, ὦ γύναι, ἔφη, ὄνομα δέ σοι τί ἐστιν; ἡ δέ, οἱ μὲν ἐμοὶ φίλοι, ἔφη, καλοῦσί με Εὐδαιμονίαν, οἱ δὲ μισοῦντές με ὑποκοριζόμενοι ὀνομάζουσι Κακίαν.

[27] καὶ ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἑτέρα γυνὴ προσελθοῦσα εἶπε: καὶ ἐγὼ ἥκω πρὸς σέ, ὦ Ἡράκλεις, εἰδυῖα τοὺς γεννήσαντάς σε καὶ τὴν φύσιν τὴν σὴν ἐν τῇ παιδείᾳ καταμαθοῦσα, ἐξ ὧν ἐλπίζω, εἰ τὴν πρὸς ἐμὲ ὁδὸν τράποιο, σφόδρ᾽ ἄν σε τῶν καλῶν καὶ σεμνῶν ἀγαθὸν ἐργάτην γενέσθαι καὶ ἐμὲ ἔτι πολὺ ἐντιμοτέραν καὶ ἐπ᾽ ἀγαθοῖς διαπρεπεστέραν φανῆναι. οὐκ ἐξαπατήσω δέ σε προοιμίοις ἡδονῆς, ἀλλ᾽ ᾗπερ οἱ θεοὶ διέθεσαν τὰ ὄντα διηγήσομαι μετ᾽ ἀληθείας.

[29] καὶ ἡ Κακία ὑπολαβοῦσα εἶπεν, ὥς φησι Πρόδικος: ἐννοεῖς, ὦ Ἡράκλεις, ὡς χαλεπὴν καὶ μακρὰν ὁδὸν ἐπὶ τὰς εὐφροσύνας ἡ γυνή σοι αὕτη διηγεῖται; ἐγὼ δὲ ῥᾳδίαν καὶ βραχεῖαν ὁδὸν ἐπὶ τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν ἄξω σε.

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Annibale Carracci, “The Choice of Hercules”

A Tunic of Flesh and Kirke as an Allegory

Plutarch’s Moralia Fr. 200

“Our fated nature is identified by Empedocles as the force behind this remaking, “wrapping [us] in a tunic of strange flesh” and transferring souls to a new place. Homer has called this circular revolution and the return of rebirth by the name Kirke, a child of Helios, the one who unites every destruction with birth and destruction again, binding it endlessly.

The Island Aiaia is that place which revives the person who dies, a place where the souls first step when they are wandering and feel like strangers to themselves as they mourn and cannot figure out which direction is west nor where the “sun which brings life to people over the land / descends again into the earth.”

These souls long for their habits of pleasure and their life in the flesh and the way they lived with their flesh and they fall again into that mixture where birth swirls together and truly stirs into one the immortal and moral, the material of thought and experience, elements of heaven and earth. The souls are enchanted but also weakened by the pleasures that pull them to birth again. At that time, souls require a great amount of good luck and much wisdom to find some way to resist and depart from their worst characters and become bound to their most base parts or passions and take up a terrible and beastly life.”

Αὐτῆς γὰρ τῆς μετακοσμήσεως εἱμαρμένη καὶ φύσις ὑπὸ Ἐμπεδοκλέους δαίμων ἀνηγόρευται σαρκῶν ἀλλογνῶτι περιστέλλουσα χιτῶνι καὶ μεταμπίσχουσα τὰς ψυχάς, Ὅμηρος δὲ τὴν ἐν κύκλῳ περίοδον καὶ περιφορὰν παλιγγενεσίας Κίρκην προσηγόρευκεν, Ἡλίου παῖδα τοῦ πᾶσαν φθορὰν γενέσει καὶ γένεσιν αὖ πάλιν φθορᾷ συνάπτοντος ἀεὶ καὶ συνείροντος. Αἰαίη δὲ νῆσος ἡ δεχομένη τὸν ἀποθνήσκοντα μοῖρα καὶ χώρα τοῦ περιέχοντος, εἰς ἣν ἐμπεσοῦσαι πρῶτον αἱ ψυχαὶ πλανῶνται καὶ ξενοπαθοῦσι καὶ ὀλοφύρονται καὶ οὐκ ἴσασιν ὅπῃ ζόφος οὐδ᾿ ὅπῃ ἠέλιος φαεσίμβροτος εἶσ᾿ ὑπὸ γαῖαν,ποθοῦσαι δὲ καθ᾿ ἡδονὰς τὴν συνήθη καὶ σύντροφον ἐν σαρκὶ καὶ μετὰ σαρκὸς δίαιταν ἐμπίπτουσιν αὖθις εἰς τὸν κυκεῶνα, τῆς γενέσεως μιγνύσης εἰς ταὐτὸ καὶ κυκώσης ὡς ἀληθῶς ἀίδια καὶ θνητὰ καὶ φρόνιμα καὶ παθητὰ καὶ ὀλύμπια καὶ γηγενῆ, θελγόμεναι καὶ μαλασσόμεναι ταῖς ἀγούσαις αὖθις ἐπὶ τὴν γένεσιν ἡδοναῖς, ἐν ᾧ δὴ μάλιστα πολλῆς μὲν εὐτυχίας αἱ ψυχαὶ δέονται πολλῆς δὲ σωφροσύνης, ὅπως μὴ τοῖς κακίστοις ἐπισπόμεναι καὶ συνενδοῦσαι μέρεσιν ἢ πάθεσιν αὑτῶν κακοδαίμονα καὶ θηριώδη βίον ἀμείψωσιν.

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Wright Barker (British, 1863-1941) – “Circe” c.1889

Plotinus on That Guy in Your Philosophy Seminar

Plotinus, Ennead 6.7

And the following cannot be dismissed, what some super-cranky man might say, that “you people, why do you puff yourselves up and down with words, claiming that life is good, saying that thought is good, and that there is something beyond these things? Why should thought be good? Or what that is good can the thinker of the ideal forms derive while he hunts for each of them? If he is deceived and feels pleasure in them, well then he might soon say that it is god and that life is because it is pleasant.

But what if he remains in a state free of pleasure, why would he call them good? Is it just because this exists? What difference could there be in existing or totally not existing, unless someone establishes affinity for these things as the cause for it? Then, he would have to concede that the good of these things is posited because of this natural kind of deception and fear of the loss of these things.”

κἀκεῖνο δὲ οὐκ ἀφετέον, ὃ τάχ᾿ ἄν τις δυσχεραντικὸς ἀνὴρ εἴποι, ὡς “ὑμεῖς, ὦ οὗτοι, τί δὴ ἀποσεμνύνετε τοῖς ὀνόμασιν ἄνω καὶ κάτω ζωὴν20ἀγαθὸν λέγοντες καὶ νοῦν ἀγαθὸν λέγοντες καί τι ἐπέκεινα τούτων; τί γὰρ ἂν καὶ ὁ νοῦς ἀγαθὸν εἴη; ἢ τί ὁ νοῶν τὰ εἴδη αὐτὰ ἀγαθὸν ἔχοι αὐτὸ ἕκαστον θερῶν; ἠπατημένος μὲν γὰρ ἂν καὶ ἡδόμενος ἐπὶ τούτοις τάχα ἂν ἀγαθὸν λέγοι καὶ τὴν ζωὴν ἡδεῖαν οὖσαν· στὰς δ᾿ ἐν 25τῷ ἀνήδονος εἶναι διὰ τί ἂν φήσειν ἀγαθά; ἢ τὸ αὐτὸν εἶναι; τί γαρ ἂν ἐκ τοῦ εἶναι καρπώσαιτο; ἢ τί ἂν διαφέροι ἐν τῷ εἶναι ἢ ὅλως μὴ εἶναι, εἰ μή τις τὴν πρὸς αὑτὸν φιλίαν αἰτίαν τούτων θεῖτο; ὥστε διὰ ταύτην τὴν ἀπάτην φυσικὴν οὖσαν καὶ τὸν φόβον τῆς φθορᾶς τὴν 30τῶν ἀγαθῶν νομισθῆναι θέσιν.”

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From this website.

More Attention to Wheels (Less to Walls)

Pindar, Fr. 194

“Come, let us build walls now,
A speaking, intricate, construction of words”

εἶα τειχίζωμεν ἤδη ποικίλον
κόσμον αὐδάεντα λόγων

Aristotle, Mechanical Problems, 851b

“Why do round and circular things move most easily of all shapes? A wheel has three different types of movement. It can move along the rim of the wheel as the center moves too (the way a wheel of a simple cart turns). It can also move around the center, the way that pulleys do, when the center stays still. Or, it may move parallel to the ground with the center still too, the way a potter’s wheel moves.

These movements are really fast because of the limited friction with the ground—this is the same as how a circle only touches a single point on a line and for that reason there is little resistance.”

Διὰ τί τὰ στρογγύλα καὶ περιφερῆ τῶν σχημάτων εὐκινητότερα; τριχῶς δὲ ἐνδέχεται τὸν κύκλον κυλισθῆναι· ἢ γὰρ κατὰ τὴν ἁψῖδα, συμμεταβάλλοντος τοῦ κέντρου, ὥσπερ ὁ τροχὸς ὁ τῆς ἁμάξης κυλίεται· ἢ περὶ τὸ κέντρον μόνον, ὥσπερ αἱ τροχιλέαι, τοῦ κέντρου μένοντος· ἢ παρὰ τὸ ἐπίπεδον, τοῦ κέντρου μένοντος, ὥσπερ ὁ εραμεικὸς τροχὸς κυλίνδεται. εἰ μὲν δὴ τάχιστα τὰ τοιαῦτα, διά τε τὸ μικρῷ ἅπτεσθαι τοῦ ἐπιπέδου, ὥσπερ ὁ κύκλος κατὰ στιγμήν, καὶ διὰ τὸ μὴ προσκόπτειν·

Plotinus, Ennead, 4.3

“There is a certain kind of center and over it there is a circle shining out from it. In addition to these, there is another and light comes from light. Outside of these, there is no other circle of light, but a circle which, because it lacks its own illumination, requires rays of light from somewhere else. Let’s call this a wheel, or, instead, a kind of ball which emerges from the third (since it is situated around it) and it is illuminated by however much light the third has.

In this way, the great light remains, shining and its brilliance expands into the world in proper order. Other lights join its brightness: some remain in place, but others, pulled by the gleam of the light, are moved. And then, while those things that are filled with light require more consideration, they also bend inward to their own concerns, just as captains of ships in a storm pay more attention to the operation of their ships and forget to care for themselves and run the risk of drowning along with the wreck of their ship.”

ἔστι γάρ τι οἷον κέντρον, ἐπὶ δὲ τούτῳ κύκλος ἀπ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐκλάμπων, ἐπὶ δὲ τούτοις ἄλλος, φῶς ἐκ φωτός· ἔξωθεν δὲ τούτων οὐκέτι φωτὸς κύκλος ἄλλος, ἀλλὰ δεόμενος οὗτος οἰκείου φωτὸς ἀπορίᾳ αὐγῆς ἀλλοτρίας. ἔστω δὲ ῥόμβος οὗτος, μᾶλλον δὲ σφαῖρα τοιαύτη, ἣ δὴ κομίζεται ἀπὸ τῆς τρίτης—προσεχὴς γὰρ αὐτῇ—ὅσον ἐκείνη ἐναυγάζεται.

τὸ μὲν οὖν μέγα φῶς μένον ἐλλάμπει, καὶ διήκει κατὰ λόγον ἐξ αὐτοῦ αὐγή, τὰ δ᾿ ἄλλα συνεπιλάμπει, τὰ μὲν μένοντα, τὰ δ᾿ ἐπιπλέον ἐπισπᾶται τῇ τοῦ ἐλλαμπομένου ἀγλαΐᾳ. εἶτα δεομένων τῶν ἐλλαμπομένων πλείονος φροντίδος, ὥσπερ χειμαζομένων πλοίων κυβερνῆται ἐναπερείδονται πρὸς τὸ πλέον τῇ τῶν νεῶν φροντίδι καὶ ἀμελήσαντες αὑτῶν ἔλαθον, ὡς κινδυνεύειν συνεπισπασθῆναι πολλάκις τῷ τῶν νεῶν ναυαγίῳ, ἔρρεψαν τὸ πλέον καὶ αὗται καὶ τοῖς ἑαυτῶν

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British Library Harley MS 4431, f. 129.

There’s also always this:

But, I think this will be a good soundtrack for the weekend:

“This Filly Needs to Be Broken”: An Allegory from a Man for a Lady

The following poem is as thoroughly unsurprising as it is abominable

Anacreon, fr. 417

“Thracian filly, why do you
Flee me without pity
When you give me a side glance with your eyes?
Do you think I know no trick at all?

Know this, I could easily
Put a bridle in your mouth
And with its reins in my hand
Turn you around the race’s bends.

But now you graze through the meadows
and you leap, playing lightly
Because you do not have a skillful rider
To mount you.”

πῶλε Θρηικίη, τί δή με
λοξὸν ὄμμασι βλέπουσα
νηλέως φεύγεις, δοκεῖς δέ
μ’ οὐδὲν εἰδέναι σοφόν;

ἴσθι τοι, καλῶς μὲν ἄν τοι
τὸν χαλινὸν ἐμβάλοιμι,
ἡνίας δ’ ἔχων στρέφοιμί
σ’ ἀμφὶ τέρματα δρόμου·

νῦν δὲ λειμῶνάς τε βόσκεαι
κοῦφά τε σκιρτῶσα παίζεις,
δεξιὸν γὰρ ἱπποπείρην
οὐκ ἔχεις ἐπεμβάτην.

This charming horror is preserved in Heraclitus, who prefaces it with the following:

417 Heraclit. Alleg. Hom. 5 (p. 5s. Buffière)

“And Anakreon the Teian, in abusing the whorish thought and arrogance of an uppity woman applied as an allegory for her cavorting mind a horse, when he says the following”

καὶ μὴν ὁ Τήιος Ἀνακρέων ἑταιρικὸν φρόνημα καὶ σοβαρᾶς γυναικὸς ὑπερηφανίαν ὀνειδίζων τὸν ἐν αὐτῇ σκιρτῶντα νοῦν ὡς ἵππον ἠλληγόρησεν οὕτω λέγων·

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