Death, Sleep, and Our Bodies’ Recyclable Clay

Plutarch, Moralia. A Letter of Condolence to Apollonius, 106e-f

“For when is death not present among us? Truly, as Heraclitus says, “living and dying is the same and so is being awake and asleep or youth and old age. For each turns back into the other again.”

Just as someone can make shapes of living things from the same clay and then collapse them and shape something new again repeatedly, so too did nature shape our ancestors from the same material, collapse it, and reshape it to make our parents and us in turn”

πότε γὰρ ἐν ἡμῖν αὐτοῖς οὐκ ἔστιν ὁ θάνατος; καί, ᾗ φησιν Ἡράκλειτος, “ταὐτό γ᾿ ἔνι ζῶν καὶ τεθνηκὸς καὶ τὸ ἐγρηγορὸς καὶ τὸ καθεῦδον καὶ νέον καὶ γηραιόν· τάδε γὰρ μεταπεσόντα ἐκεῖνά ἐστι, κἀκεῖνα πάλιν μεταπεσόντα ταῦτα.” ὡς γὰρ ἐκ τοῦ αὐτοῦ πηλοῦ δύναταί τις πλάττων ζῷα συγχεῖν καὶ πάλιν πλάττειν καὶ συγχεῖν καὶ τοῦθ᾿ ἓν παρ᾿ ἓν ποιεῖν ἀδιαλείπτως, οὕτω καὶ ἡ φύσις ἐκ τῆς αὐτῆς ὕλης πάλαι μὲν τοὺς προγόνους ἡμῶν ἀνέσχεν, εἶτα συνεχεῖς αὐτοῖς3 ἐγέννησε τοὺς πατέρας, εἶθ᾿ ἡμᾶς,

black and white photo of an artist sitting in a studio looking at a sculpture. The woman is sitting on a stool looking at a small figurine on a high table in front of home

The Soul and Its Heroic Return, Two Fragments from Pindar

Pindar, Dirges Fr. 131b [= Plut. consol. ad Apoll. 35.120C]

“Every human’s body is a servant to death–
Yet a shadow of life goes on living still.
This part alone
Comes from the gods. It sleeps while our limbs move
But when we sleep it shows us
in multiple dreams a choice of things to come,
Some of pleasure, some of pain.”

σῶμα μὲν πάντων ἕπεται θανάτῳ περισθενεῖ,
ζωὸν δ᾿ ἔτι λείπεται αἰῶνος εἴδωλον·
τὸ γάρ ἐστι μόνον
ἐκ θεῶν· εὕδει δὲ πρασσόντων μελέων, ἀτὰρ εὑδόντεσσιν
ἐν πολλοῖς ὀνείροις
δείκνυσι τερπνῶν ἐφέρποισαν χαλεπῶν τε κρίσιν.

Pindar, Dirges Fr. 133 [=Plat. Men. 81B]

“When Persephone has taken the payment for that ancient pain,
From people, after nine years she gives their souls back
To the light of the sun above and from them come

Proud kings and men fast in strength and best in mind
And people call them holy heroes
for all that remains of time.”

οἷσι δὲ Φερσεφόνα ποινὰν παλαιοῦ πένθεος
δέξεται, ἐς τὸν ὕπερθεν ἅλιον κείνων ἐνάτῳ ἔτεϊ
ἀνδιδοῖ ψυχὰς πάλιν, ἐκ τᾶν βασιλῆες ἀγαυοί
καὶ σθένει κραιπνοὶ σοφίᾳ τε μέγιστοι
ἄνδρες αὔξοντ᾿· ἐς δὲ τὸν λοιπὸν χρόνον ἥροες ἁ-
γνοὶ πρὸς ἀνθρώπων καλέονται.

A somewhat impressionistic oil painting with outlines of two partial figures. One looks down and left, the other is seen only by an elbow in the upper right. The canvas is split between dark blue on top and tan on the bottom
“The freedom of new thinking”, by Erik Pevernagie, oil on canvas,80 x 100 cm

On Counting and Thinking and Souls

Plato, Euthydemos 294b

“Are you also talented at these kinds of things, counting the stars and the sands?”

Ἦ καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα, τοὺς ἀστέρας, ὁπόσοι εἰσί, καὶ τὴν ἄμμον;

Plato, Theaetetus 198c

“Shall we make counting nothing different from examining how great a number happens to be?”

Τὸ δὲ ἀριθμεῖν γε οὐκ ἄλλο τι θήσομεν τοῦ σκοπεῖσθαι πόσος τις ἀριθμὸς τυγχάνει ὤν.

Aristotle, On Indivisible Lines 96ba-b

“The thought of touching each point of an infinite series is not counting, if someone should imagine that the mind approaches infinity in this way. Perhaps this is impossible. For the movement of thought is not like the movement of things carried along in a continuous sequence. But, whatever the case, even if movement like this can happen, it is not counting. For counting needs discrete stopping points.”

Οὐδὲ δὴ τὸ καθ᾿ ἕκαστον ἅπτεσθαι τῶν ἀπείρων τὴν διάνοιαν οὐκ ἔστιν ἀριθμεῖν, εἰ ἄρα τις καὶ νοήσειεν οὕτως ἐφάπτεσθαι τῶν ἀπείρων τὴν διάνοιαν. ὅπερ ἴσως ἀδύνατον· οὐ γὰρ ἐν συνεχέσι
καὶ ὑποκειμένοις ἡ τῆς διανοίας κίνησις, ὥσπερ ἡ τῶν φερομένων.
Εἰ δ᾿ οὖν καὶ ἐγχωρεῖ κινεῖσθαι οὕτως, οὐκ ἔστι τοῦτο ἀριθμεῖν· τὸ γὰρ ἀριθμεῖν ἐστὶ τὸ μετὰ ἐπιστάσεως.

Plotinus, Ennead 1.1

“But how do we have God? For he travels on the true nature of thought and reality as it really is. Here is we we come to meet him, in the third lot counted from him. As Plato says, “from the undivided above” and from those things that are divided into bodies.

We need to imagine this portion of the soul as also divided into bodies and that it supplies itself in part as the size of the bodies in relations to how much each living thing is proportionally, since it gives itself to everything, even though it is one….”

Τὸν δὲ θεὸν πῶς; Ἢ ὡς ἐποχούμενον τῇ νοητῇ φύσει καὶ τῇ οὐσίᾳ τῇ ὄντως, ἡμᾶς δὲ ἐκεῖθεν τρίτους ἐκ τῆς ἀμερίστου, φησί, τῆς ἄνωθεν καὶ ἐκ τῆς περὶ τὰ σώματα μεριστῆς, ἣν δὴ δεῖ νοεῖν οὕτω μεριστὴν περὶ τὰ σώματα, ὅτι δίδωσιν ἑαυτὴν τοῖς σώματος μεγέθεσιν, ὁπόσον ἂν ζῷον ᾖ ἕκαστον, ἐπεὶ καὶ τῷ παντὶ ὅλῳ, οὖσα μία·

Wandering Souls and Empty Bodies

These tales are popular among the paradoxographers. Apollonios also tells of Epimenides and Aristeas, and Hermotimus.

 Pliny the Elder 7. 174-5 

“This is the mortal condition—we are born to face these chance occurrences and others like them so that we ought not even trust death when it comes to a human. We find, among other examples, so soul of Hermotimos the Clazomenian which was in the habit of wandering with his body left behind and after a long journey to announce what they could not know unless they were present. Meanwhile, the body remained half-alive until it was cremated by some enemies called the Cantharidae who, ultimately, stole from the returning body as if taking away a sheath.

We also know of Aristeas of Procennesus whose soul was seen alighting from his mouth in the image of a crow—along with the excessive fiction that accompanies this tale. I also approach the story of Epimenides of Knossos in a similar way: when he was a boy and tired out by heat and a journey he went to sleep in a cave and slumbered for 57 years. Upon waking, he wondering and the shape of things and the change as if it were just the next day. Even though old age overcame him in the same number of days as years slept, he still lived to 157 years old.

The gender of women seems to be especially susceptible to this ill because of the disruption of the womb—which, if corrected can restore proper breathing. That work famous among the Greeks of Heraclides pertains to this subject as well—he tells the story of a woman returned to life after being dead for seven days.”

haec est conditio mortalium: ad has et eiusmodi occasiones fortunae gignimur, ut de homine ne morti quidem debeat credi. reperimus inter exempla Hermotimi Clazomenii animam relicto corpore errare solitam vagamque e longinquo multa adnuntiare quae nisi a praesente nosci non possent, corpore interim semianimi, donec cremato eo inimici qui Cantharidae vocabantur remeanti animae veluti vaginam ademerint; Aristeae etiam visam evolantem ex ore in Proconneso corvi effigie, cum magna quae sequitur hanc fabulositate. quam equidem et in Gnosio Epimenide simili modo accipio, puerum aestu et itinere fessum in specu septem et quinquaginta dormisse annis, rerum faciem mutationemque mirantem velut postero die experrectum, hinc pari numero dierum senio ingruente, ut tamen in septimum et quinquagesimum atque centesimum vitae duraret annum. feminarum sexus huic malo videtur maxime opportunus conversione volvae, quae si corrigatur, spiritus restituitur. huc pertinet nobile illud apud Graecos volumen Hexaclidis septem diebus feminae exanimis ad vitam revocatae.

Image result for medieval manuscript epimenides
Yates_thompson_ms_14_f070v_detail

How Many Pieces Has a Soul?

Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus [=Diogenes Laertius 10.65]

“For this reason, because the soul is embodied, it never loses perception even if some part of it is removed. So, even if parts of the soul perish along with the container when it is destroyed completely or partially, should the soul in fact persist it retains perception. But the rest of the body that remains either whole or in parts does not have perception when this thing has been removed, that number of atoms requisite for the nature of the soul.

So, really, when the whole mass is destroyed, the soul scatters and no longer has the same abilities and can no longer move, just as if it never even obtained perception.”

“Διὸ δὴ καὶ ἐνυπάρχουσα ἡ ψυχὴ οὐδέποτε ἄλλου τινὸς μέρους ἀπηλλαγμένου ἀναισθητεῖ· ἀλλ᾿ ἃ ἂν καὶ ταύτης ξυναπόληται τοῦ στεγάζοντος λυθέντος εἴθ᾿ ὅλου εἴτε καὶ μέρους τινός, ἐάν περ διαμένῃ, ἕξει τὴν αἴσθησιν. τὸ δὲ λοιπὸν ἄθροισμα διαμένον καὶ ὅλον καὶ κατὰ μέρος οὐκ ἔχει τὴν αἴσθησιν κείνου ἀπηλλαγμένου, ὅσον ποτέ ἐστι τὸ συντεῖνον τῶν ἀτόμων πλῆθος εἰς τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς φύσιν. καὶ μὴν καὶ λυομένου τοῦ ὅλου ἀθροίσματος ἡ ψυχὴ διασπείρεται καὶ οὐκέτι ἔχει τὰς αὐτὰς δυνάμεις οὐδὲ κινεῖται, ὥσπερ οὐδ᾿ αἴσθησιν κέκτηται.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail | Return to the 80s

How Many Pieces for the Soul?

Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus [=Diogenes Laertius 10.65]

“For this reason, because the soul is embodied, it never loses perception even if some part of it is removed. So, even if parts of the soul perish along with the container when it is destroyed completely or partially, should the soul in fact persist it retains perception. But the rest of the body that remains either whole or in parts does not have perception when this thing has been removed, that number of atoms requisite for the nature of the soul.

So, really, when the whole mass is destroyed, the soul scatters and no longer has the same abilities and can no longer move, just as if it never even obtained perception.”

“Διὸ δὴ καὶ ἐνυπάρχουσα ἡ ψυχὴ οὐδέποτε ἄλλου τινὸς μέρους ἀπηλλαγμένου ἀναισθητεῖ· ἀλλ᾿ ἃ ἂν καὶ ταύτης ξυναπόληται τοῦ στεγάζοντος λυθέντος εἴθ᾿ ὅλου εἴτε καὶ μέρους τινός, ἐάν περ διαμένῃ, ἕξει τὴν αἴσθησιν. τὸ δὲ λοιπὸν ἄθροισμα διαμένον καὶ ὅλον καὶ κατὰ μέρος οὐκ ἔχει τὴν αἴσθησιν κείνου ἀπηλλαγμένου, ὅσον ποτέ ἐστι τὸ συντεῖνον τῶν ἀτόμων πλῆθος εἰς τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς φύσιν. καὶ μὴν καὶ λυομένου τοῦ ὅλου ἀθροίσματος ἡ ψυχὴ διασπείρεται καὶ οὐκέτι ἔχει τὰς αὐτὰς δυνάμεις οὐδὲ κινεῖται, ὥσπερ οὐδ᾿ αἴσθησιν κέκτηται.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail | Return to the 80s

Wandering Souls and Empty Bodies

These tales are popular among the paradoxographers. Apollonios also tells of Epimenides and Aristeas, and Hermotimus.

 Pliny the Elder 7. 174-5 

“This is the mortal condition—we are born to face these chance occurrences and others like them so that we ought not even trust death when it comes to a human. We find, among other examples, so soul of Hermotimos the Clazomenian which was in the habit of wandering with his body left behind and after a long journey to announce what they could not know unless they were present. Meanwhile, the body remained half-alive until it was cremated by some enemies called the Cantharidae who, ultimately, stole from the returning body as if taking away a sheath.

We also know of Aristeas of Procennesus whose soul was seen alighting from his mouth in the image of a crow—along with the excessive fiction that accompanies this tale. I also approach the story of Epimenides of Knossos in a similar way: when he was a boy and tired out by heat and a journey he went to sleep in a cave and slumbered for 57 years. Upon waking, he wondering and the shape of things and the change as if it were just the next day. Even though old age overcame him in the same number of days as years slept, he still lived to 157 years old.

The gender of women seems to be especially susceptible to this ill because of the disruption of the womb—which, if corrected can restore proper breathing. That work famous among the Greeks of Heraclides pertains to this subject as well—he tells the story of a woman returned to life after being dead for seven days.”

haec est conditio mortalium: ad has et eiusmodi occasiones fortunae gignimur, ut de homine ne morti quidem debeat credi. reperimus inter exempla Hermotimi Clazomenii animam relicto corpore errare solitam vagamque e longinquo multa adnuntiare quae nisi a praesente nosci non possent, corpore interim semianimi, donec cremato eo inimici qui Cantharidae vocabantur remeanti animae veluti vaginam ademerint; Aristeae etiam visam evolantem ex ore in Proconneso corvi effigie, cum magna quae sequitur hanc fabulositate. quam equidem et in Gnosio Epimenide simili modo accipio, puerum aestu et itinere fessum in specu septem et quinquaginta dormisse annis, rerum faciem mutationemque mirantem velut postero die experrectum, hinc pari numero dierum senio ingruente, ut tamen in septimum et quinquagesimum atque centesimum vitae duraret annum. feminarum sexus huic malo videtur maxime opportunus conversione volvae, quae si corrigatur, spiritus restituitur. huc pertinet nobile illud apud Graecos volumen Hexaclidis septem diebus feminae exanimis ad vitam revocatae.

Image result for medieval manuscript epimenides
Yates_thompson_ms_14_f070v_detail

How Many Pieces for the Soul?

Epicurus, Letter to Herodotus [=Diogenes Laertius 10.65]

“For this reason, because the soul is embodied, it never loses perception even if some part of it is removed. So, even if parts of the soul perish along with the container when it is destroyed completely or partially, should the soul in fact persist it retains perception. But the rest of the body that remains either whole or in parts does not have perception when this thing has been removed, that number of atoms requisite for the nature of the soul.

So, really, when the whole mass is destroyed, the soul scatters and no longer has the same abilities and can no longer move, just as if it never even obtained perception.”

“Διὸ δὴ καὶ ἐνυπάρχουσα ἡ ψυχὴ οὐδέποτε ἄλλου τινὸς μέρους ἀπηλλαγμένου ἀναισθητεῖ· ἀλλ᾿ ἃ ἂν καὶ ταύτης ξυναπόληται τοῦ στεγάζοντος λυθέντος εἴθ᾿ ὅλου εἴτε καὶ μέρους τινός, ἐάν περ διαμένῃ, ἕξει τὴν αἴσθησιν. τὸ δὲ λοιπὸν ἄθροισμα διαμένον καὶ ὅλον καὶ κατὰ μέρος οὐκ ἔχει τὴν αἴσθησιν κείνου ἀπηλλαγμένου, ὅσον ποτέ ἐστι τὸ συντεῖνον τῶν ἀτόμων πλῆθος εἰς τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς φύσιν. καὶ μὴν καὶ λυομένου τοῦ ὅλου ἀθροίσματος ἡ ψυχὴ διασπείρεται καὶ οὐκέτι ἔχει τὰς αὐτὰς δυνάμεις οὐδὲ κινεῖται, ὥσπερ οὐδ᾿ αἴσθησιν κέκτηται.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail | Return to the 80s

Wandering Souls and Empty Bodies

These tales are popular among the paradoxographers. Apollonios also tells of Epimenides and Aristeas, and Hermotimus.

 Pliny the Elder 7. 174-5 

“This is the mortal condition—we are born to face these chance occurrences and others like them so that we ought not even trust death when it comes to a human. We find, among other examples, so soul of Hermotimos the Clazomenian which was in the habit of wandering with his body left behind and after a long journey to announce what they could not know unless they were present. Meanwhile, the body remained half-alive until it was cremated by some enemies called the Cantharidae who, ultimately, stole from the returning body as if taking away a sheath.

We also know of Aristeas of Procennesus whose soul was seen alighting from his mouth in the image of a crow—along with the excessive fiction that accompanies this tale. I also approach the story of Epimenides of Knossos in a similar way: when he was a boy and tired out by heat and a journey he went to sleep in a cave and slumbered for 57 years. Upon waking, he wondering and the shape of things and the change as if it were just the next day. Even though old age overcame him in the same number of days as years slept, he still lived to 157 years old.

The gender of women seems to be especially susceptible to this ill because of the disruption of the womb—which, if corrected can restore proper breathing. That work famous among the Greeks of Heraclides pertains to this subject as well—he tells the story of a woman returned to life after being dead for seven days.”

haec est conditio mortalium: ad has et eiusmodi occasiones fortunae gignimur, ut de homine ne morti quidem debeat credi. reperimus inter exempla Hermotimi Clazomenii animam relicto corpore errare solitam vagamque e longinquo multa adnuntiare quae nisi a praesente nosci non possent, corpore interim semianimi, donec cremato eo inimici qui Cantharidae vocabantur remeanti animae veluti vaginam ademerint; Aristeae etiam visam evolantem ex ore in Proconneso corvi effigie, cum magna quae sequitur hanc fabulositate. quam equidem et in Gnosio Epimenide simili modo accipio, puerum aestu et itinere fessum in specu septem et quinquaginta dormisse annis, rerum faciem mutationemque mirantem velut postero die experrectum, hinc pari numero dierum senio ingruente, ut tamen in septimum et quinquagesimum atque centesimum vitae duraret annum. feminarum sexus huic malo videtur maxime opportunus conversione volvae, quae si corrigatur, spiritus restituitur. huc pertinet nobile illud apud Graecos volumen Hexaclidis septem diebus feminae exanimis ad vitam revocatae.

Image result for medieval manuscript epimenides
Yates_thompson_ms_14_f070v_detail

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

Image result for medieval manuscript wheel of lights
British Library Harley MS 4431, f. 129.

There’s also always this:

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