Evil Words Lead to Evil Deeds

Basil the Great, to Young Men 5

“For growing comfortable with wicked words is a kind of path towards wicked deeds. For this reason, we must defend the soul with all care, just in case we overlook something of the worse nature in accepting pleasure from words, as those who receive poisons with honey.

Therefore, we will not praise the poets when they slander, mock, or show people lusting or drunk, or when they characterize happiness with a full table or corrupting songs. And we shall pay the least attention to their words about he gods, especially when they describe them as being many in number and in discord with each other. For in their poems, brothers war with brothers, parents fight with children, and the children have war without truce against their parents. We will leave to the stage performers those adulterous acts of the gods, their lusts and sex out in the open, and especially those of the highest and best of all, Zeus, how they tell it, those stories someone would blush even if they were telling them about animals!”

ἡ γὰρ πρὸς τοὺς φαύλους τῶν λόγων συνήθεια, ὁδός τίς ἐστιν ἐπὶ τὰ πράγματα. διὸ δὴ πάσῃ φυλακῇ τὴν ψυχὴν τηρητέον, μὴ διὰ τῆς τῶν λόγων ἡδονῆς παραδεξάμενοί τι λάθωμεν τῶν χειρόνων, ὥσπερ οἱ τὰ δηλητήρια μετὰ τοῦ μέλιτος προσιέμενοι, οὐ τοίνυν ἐπαινεσόμεθα τοὺς ποιητὰς οὐ λοιδορουμένους, οὐ σκώπτοντας, οὐκ ἐρῶντας ἢ μεθύοντας μιμουμένους, οὐχ ὅταν τραπέζῃ πληθούσῃ καὶ ᾠδαῖς ἀνειμέναις τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν ὁρίζωνται.πάντων δὲ ἥκιστα περὶ θεῶν τι διαλεγομένοις προσέξομεν, καὶ μάλισθ᾿ ὅταν ὡς περὶ πολλῶν τε αὐτῶν διεξίωσι καὶ τούτων οὐδὲ ὁμονοούντων. ἀδελφὸς γὰρ δὴ παρ᾿ ἐκείνοις διαστασιάζει πρὸς ἀδελφὸν καὶ γονεὺς πρὸς παῖδας καὶ τούτοις αὖθις πρὸς τοὺς τεκόντας πόλεμός ἐστιν ἀκήρυκτος. μοιχείας δὲ θεῶν καὶ ἔρωτας καὶ μίξεις ἀναφανδόν, καὶ ταῦτάς γε μάλιστα τοῦ κορυφαίου πάντων καὶ ὑπάτου Διός, ὡς αὐτοὶ λέγουσιν, ἃ κἂν περὶ βοσκημάτων τις λέγων ἐρυθριάσειε, τοῖς ἐπὶ σκηνῆς καταλείψομεν.

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Evil Words Lead to Evil Deeds

Basil the Great, to Young Men 5

“For growing comfortable with wicked words is a kind of path towards wicked deeds. For this reason, we must defend the soul with all care, just in case we overlook something of the worse nature in accepting pleasure from words, as those who receive poisons with honey.

Therefore, we will not praise the poets when they slander, mock, or show people lusting or drunk, or when they characterize happiness with a full table or corrupting songs. And we shall pay the least attention to their words about he gods, especially when they describe them as being many in number and in discord with each other. For in their poems, brothers war with brothers, parents fight with children, and the children have war without truce against their parents. We will leave to the stage performers those adulterous acts of the gods, their lusts and sex out in the open, and especially those of the highest and best of all, Zeus, how they tell it, those stories someone would blush even if they were telling them about animals!”

ἡ γὰρ πρὸς τοὺς φαύλους τῶν λόγων συνήθεια, ὁδός τίς ἐστιν ἐπὶ τὰ πράγματα. διὸ δὴ πάσῃ φυλακῇ τὴν ψυχὴν τηρητέον, μὴ διὰ τῆς τῶν λόγων ἡδονῆς παραδεξάμενοί τι λάθωμεν τῶν χειρόνων, ὥσπερ οἱ τὰ δηλητήρια μετὰ τοῦ μέλιτος προσιέμενοι, οὐ τοίνυν ἐπαινεσόμεθα τοὺς ποιητὰς οὐ λοιδορουμένους, οὐ σκώπτοντας, οὐκ ἐρῶντας ἢ μεθύοντας μιμουμένους, οὐχ ὅταν τραπέζῃ πληθούσῃ καὶ ᾠδαῖς ἀνειμέναις τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν ὁρίζωνται.πάντων δὲ ἥκιστα περὶ θεῶν τι διαλεγομένοις προσέξομεν, καὶ μάλισθ᾿ ὅταν ὡς περὶ πολλῶν τε αὐτῶν διεξίωσι καὶ τούτων οὐδὲ ὁμονοούντων. ἀδελφὸς γὰρ δὴ παρ᾿ ἐκείνοις διαστασιάζει πρὸς ἀδελφὸν καὶ γονεὺς πρὸς παῖδας καὶ τούτοις αὖθις πρὸς τοὺς τεκόντας πόλεμός ἐστιν ἀκήρυκτος. μοιχείας δὲ θεῶν καὶ ἔρωτας καὶ μίξεις ἀναφανδόν, καὶ ταῦτάς γε μάλιστα τοῦ κορυφαίου πάντων καὶ ὑπάτου Διός, ὡς αὐτοὶ λέγουσιν, ἃ κἂν περὶ βοσκημάτων τις λέγων ἐρυθριάσειε, τοῖς ἐπὶ σκηνῆς καταλείψομεν.

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Select Only What You Like from The Ancients

St. Basil may have set some patterns that persist to this day.

Basil the Great, To Young Men 4

“Don’t be surprised if I have discovered something pretty profitable for those of you who go each day to teachers and the sayings of ancient men in the works they have left behind them. This is the very thing I have come for the purpose of telling you, that it is not necessary that you give up to these men for good the rudders of your understanding, the way you would a ship, to follow them wherever they lead. No, accept from them only as much as is useful and recognize what should be overlooked.”

Μὴ θαυμάζετε δὲ εἰ καὶ καθ᾿ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν εἰς διδασκάλους φοιτῶσι, καὶ τοῖς ἐλλογίμοις τῶν παλαιῶν ἀνδρῶν, δι᾿ ὧν καταλελοίπασι λόγων, συγγινομένοις ὑμῖν αὐτός τι παρ᾿ ἐμαυτοῦ λυσιτελέστερον ἐξευρηκέναι φημί. τοῦτο μὲν οὖν αὐτὸ καὶ ξυμβουλεύσων ἥκω, τὸ μὴ δεῖν εἰς ἅπαξ τοῖς ἀνδράσι τούτοις, ὥσπερ πλοίου, τὰ πηδάλια τῆς διανοίας ὑμῶν παραδόντας, ᾗπερ ἂν ἄγωσι, ταύτῃ συνέπεσθαι· ἀλλ᾿ ὅσον ἐστὶ χρήσιμον αὐτῶν δεχομένους, εἰδέναι τί χρὴ καὶ παριδεῖν.

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