Bibliotherapy

Pseudo Aristotle-‘De Mundo’-Echoes Of Plato’s ‘Law’ IV-‘As Old Tradition Tells’

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Gustav Adolph Spangenberg, Die Schule des Aristoteles, Fresko 1883-1888. Halle (Sachsen-Anhalt), Hauptgebäude der Universität, Treppenhaus. Aus dem Zyklus “Die Vier Fakultäten”.

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Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is an short excerpt echoing Plato’s ‘Law’, book IV-paragraphs 716a to 719 ,’as old tradition tells‘ we just published. Often called ‘Letter to Alexander’, ‘De Mundo’ was written by an eclectic mind belonging to the post Aristotelian current during the 4th or 3rd century BC, usually identified as ‘Pseudo-Aristotle’, as his real identity has proven more than elusive and is still subject to debate. Displays of Platonic, Stoic and Neo-Pythagorean philosophy permeates it. It provides us with a very detailed walk-through upon God’s plethoric attributes. Such familiar contemplations were to provide Proclus and the later Neo-Platonists the last standing fireworks of the Classical Era. We use here the English translation of Edward Seymour Forster (1879-1950); a work in the public domain first published by the Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1914, placed online at archive.org. Original Greek and English translation are from perseids.org. Full texts links in source section.

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CHAPTER 7

Being the end of the work

God being one yet has many names, being called after all the various conditions which he himself inaugurates. We call him Zen and Zeus, using the two names in the same sense, as though we should say ‘him through whom we live’. He is called the son of Kronos and of Time, for he endures from eternal age to age. He is God of Lightning (Atrapaios) and Thunder (Brontaios), God of the Clear Sky (Aithrios) and of Ether (Aitherios), God of the Thunderbolt (Keraunios) and of Rain (Hyetios), so called after the rain and the thunderbolts and other physical phenomena. Moreover, after the fruits he is called Epikarpios), Polieus, from cities (poleis): he is Genethlios (of birth ) and Herkeios (of the house fence), Homognios (of kindred), and Patrios (paternal) from his participation in such things. He is Hetairios (comradely) and Philios (of friendship) and Xenios (of hospitality), and Stratios (of armies) and Tropaiouchos (trophy-holder), Katharsios (purifying) and Palaimnios (of Vengeance) and Hikesios (of supplication) and Meilichios (of Propitiation), as the poets name him, and in very truth the Soter Eleutherios (of freedom), and to complete the tale of his titles, Ouranios (Heavenly) and Chthonios (of the lower world), deriving his names from all natural phenomena and conditions, inasmuch as he is himself the cause of all things.  Wherefore it is well said in the Orphic Hymns:

Zeus of the flashing bolt was the first to be born and the latest, Zeus is the head and the middle; of Zeus were all things created;  Zeus is the stay of the earth and the stay of the star-spangled heaven; Zeus is male and female of sex, the bride everlasting; Zeus is the breath of all and the rush of unwearying fire; Zeus is the root of the sea, and the sun and the moon in the heavens; Zeus of the flashing bolt is the king and the ruler of all men, Hiding them all away, and again to the glad light of heaven Bringing them back at his will, performing terrible marvels.’

I think also that God and naught else is meant when we speak of Necessity, which is as it were invincible being; and Fate, because his action is continuous and he cannot be stayed in his course; and Destiny, because all things have their bounds, and nothing which exists is infinite; and Lot, from the fact that all things are allotted; and Nemesis, from the apportionment which is made to every individual; and Adrasteia, which is a cause ordained by nature which cannot be escaped; and Dispensation, so called because it exists for ever.

What is said of the Fates and their spindle tends to the same conclusion; for they are three, appointed over different periods of time, and the thread on the spindle is part of it already spent, part reserved for the future, and part in the course of being spun. One of the Fates is appointed to deal with the past, namely, Atropos, for nothing that is gone by can be changed; Lachesis is concerned with the future, for cessation in the course of nature awaits all things; Clotho presides over the present, accomplishing and spinning for each his own particular destiny. This fable is well and duly composed.

All these things are naught else but God, even as worthy Plato tells us : ‘God, then, as the old story has it, holding the beginning and the end and the middle of all things that exist, proceeding by a straight path in the course of nature brings them to accomplishment; and with him ever follows Justice, the avenger of all that falls short of the Divine Law – Justice, in whom may he that is to be be happy, be from the very first a blessed and happy partaker!

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Original Greek

Εἶς δὲ ὢν πολυώνυμός ἐστι, κατονομαζόμενος τοῖς πάθεσι πᾶσιν ἅπερ αὐτὸς νεοχμοῖ. Καλοῦμεν δὲ αὐτὸν καὶ Ζῆνα καὶ Δία, παραλλήλως χρώμενοι τοῖς ὀνόμασιν, ὡς ἂν εἰ λέγοιμεν δι’ ὃν ζῶμεν. Κρόνου δὲ παῖς καὶ χρόνου λέγεται διήκων ἐξ αἰῶνος ἀτέρμονος εἰς ἕτερον αἰῶνα· ἀστραπαῖός τε καὶ βρονταῖος καὶ αἴθριος καὶ αἰθέριος κεραύνιός τε καὶ ὑέτιος ἀπὸ τῶν ὑετῶν καὶ κεραυνῶν καὶ τῶν ἄλλων καλεῖται. Καὶ μὴν ἐπικάρπιος μὲν ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν, πολιεὺς δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν πόλεων ὀνομάζεται, γενέθλιός τε καὶ ἕρκειος καὶ ὁμόγνιος καὶ πάτριος ἀπὸ τῆς πρὸς ταῦτα κοινωνίας, ἑταιρεῖός τε καὶ φίλιος καὶ ξένιος καὶ στράτιος καὶ τροπαιοῦχος καθάρσιός τε καὶ παλαμναῖος καὶ ἱκέσιος καὶ μειλίχιος, ὥσπερ οἱ ποιηταὶ λέγουσι, σωτήρ τε καὶ ἐλευθέριος ἐτύμως, ὡς δὲ τὸ πᾶν εἰπεῖν, οὐράνιός τε καὶ χθόνιος, πάσης ἐπώνυμος ὢν φύσεώς τε καὶ τύχης ἅτε πάντων αὐτὸς αἴτιος ὤν. Διὸ καὶ ἐν τοῖς Ὀρφικοῖς οὐ κακῶς λέγεται

Ζεὺς πρῶτος γένετο, Ζεὺς ὕστατος ἀργικέραυνος·
Ζεὺς κεφαλή, Ζεὺς μέσσα· Διὸς δ’ ἐκ πάντα τέτυκται.
Ζεὺς πυθμὴν γαίης τε καὶ οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος.
Ζεὺς ἄρσην γένετο, Ζεὺς ἄμβροτος ἔπλετο νύμφη.
Ζεὺς πνοιὴ πάντων, Ζεὺς ἀκαμάτου πυρὸς ὁρμή.
Ζεὺς πόντοῦ ῥίζα, Ζεὺς ἥλιος ἠδὲ σελήνη.
Ζεὺς βασιλεύς, Ζεὺς ἀρχὸς ἁπάντων ἀργικέραυνος·
πάντας γὰρ κρύψας αὖθις φάος ἐς πολυγηθές
ἐξ ἱερῆς κραδίης ἀνενέγκατο, μέρμερα ῥέζων.

Οἶμαι δὲ καὶ τὴν ἀνάγκην οὐκ ἄλλο τι λέγεσθαι πλὴν τοῦτον, οἱονεὶ ἀνίκητον οὐσίαν ὄντα, εἱμαρμένην δὲ διὰ τὸ εἴρειν τε καὶ χωρεῖν ἀκωλύτως, πεπρωμένην δὲ διὰ τὸ πεπερατῶσθαι πάντα καὶ μηδὲν ἐν τοῖς οὖσιν ἄπειρον εἶναι, καὶ μοῖραν ἀπὸ τοῦ μεμερίσθαι, Νέμεσιν δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς ἑκάστῳ διανεμήσεως, Ἀδράστειαν δὲ ἀναπόδραστον αἰτίαν οὖσαν κατὰ φύσιν, αἶσαν δὲ ἀεὶ οὖσαν. Τά τε περὶ τὰς μοίρας καὶ τὸν ἄτρακτον εἰς τοῦτό πως νεύει· τρεῖς μὲν γὰρ οἱ 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 ἐστιν, 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. Ταῦτα δὲ πάντα ἐστὶν οὐκ ἄλλο τι πλὴν ὁ θεός, καθάπερ καὶ ὁ γενναῖος Πλάτων φησίν. Ὁ μὲν δὴ θεός, ὥσπερ ὁ παλαιὸς λόγος, ἀρχήν τε καὶ τελευτὴν καὶ μέσα τῶν ὄντων ἁπάντων ἔχων, εὐθείᾳ περαίνει κατὰ φύσιν πορευόμενος· τῷ δὲ ἀεὶ ξυνέπεται δίκη, τῶν ἀπολειπομένων τοῦ θείου νόμου τιμωρός, ἧς ὁ εὐδαιμονήσειν μέλλων μακάριός τε καὶ εὐδαίμων ἐξ ἀρχῆς εὐθὺς μέτοχος εἴη.

Paul Bramsom, illustrator, Cooper, F. T. , editor. ‘An argosy of fables’; a representative selection from the fable literature of every age and land, New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company. 1921. Paul Bransom (July 1885 – July 19, 1979) was an American painter, cartoonist, and illustrator.

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Full text of ‘De Mundo’: https://topostext.org/work/807 🌿 Full Greek text here: http://cts.perseids.org/read/greekLit/stoa0033a/tlg028/1st1K-grc1/1-7🌿 About the Pseudo-Aristotle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudo-Aristotle 🌿 About the ‘De Mundo’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Universe 🌿 About the translator: https://lsupress.org/authors/detail/edward-seymour-forster/
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