Five Stages of Greek Religion
by Gilbert Murray
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In spite of its false psychology the Cynic conception of life had a great effect in Greece. It came almost as a revelation to both men and women[95:1] and profoundly influenced all the Schools. Here indeed, it seemed, was a way to baffle Fortune and to make one's own soul unafraid. What men wanted was to tharrein 'to be of good cheer'; as we say now, to regain their morale after bewildering defeats. The Cynic answer, afterwards corrected and humanized by the Stoics, was to look at life as a long and arduous campaign. The loyal soldier does not trouble about his comfort or his rewards or his pleasures. He obeys his commander's orders without fear or failing, whether they lead to easy victories or merely to wounds, captivity or death. Only Goodness is good, and for the soldier Goodness (arete) is the doing of Duty. That is his true prize, which no external power can take away from him.

But after all, what is Duty? Diogenes preached 'virtue' and assumed that his way of life was 'virtue'. But was it really so? And, if so, on what evidence? To live like a beast, to be indifferent to art, beauty, letters, science, philosophy, to the amenities of civic life, to all that raised Hellenic Man above the beast or the savage? How could this be the true end of man? The Stoic School, whose founder, Zeno, was a disciple of old Antisthenes, gradually built up a theory of moral life which has on the whole weathered the storms of time with great success. It largely dominated later antiquity by its imaginative and emotional power. It gave form to the aspirations of early Christianity. It lasts now as the nearest approach to an acceptable system of conduct for those who do not accept revelation, but still keep some faith in the Purpose of Things.

The problem is to combine the absolute value of that Goodness which, as we say, 'saves the soul' with the relative values of the various good things that soothe or beautify life. For, if there is any value at all—I will not say in health and happiness, but in art, poetry, knowledge, refinement, public esteem, or human affection, and if their claims do clash, as in common opinion they sometimes do, with the demands of absolute sanctity, how is the balance to be struck? Are we to be content with the principle of accepting a little moral wrong for the sake of much material or artistic or intellectual advantage? That is the rule which the practical world follows, though without talking about it; but the Stoics would have none of any such compromise.

Zeno first, like Antisthenes, denied any value whatever to these earthly things that are not virtue—to health or sickness, riches or poverty, beauty or ugliness, pain or pleasure; who would ever mention them when the soul stood naked before God? All that would then matter, and consequently all that can ever matter, is the goodness of the man's self, that is, of his free and living will. The Stoics improved on the military metaphor; for to the soldier, after all, it does matter whether in his part of the field he wins or loses. Life is not like a battle but like a play, in which God has handed each man his part unread, and the good man proceeds to act it to the best of his power, not knowing what may happen in the last scene. He may become a crowned king, he may be a slave dying in torment. What matters it? The good actor can play either part. All that matters is that he shall act his best, accept the order of the Cosmos and obey the Purpose of the great Dramaturge.

The answer seems absolute and unyielding, with no concession to the weakness of the flesh. Yet, in truth, it contains in itself the germ of a sublime practical compromise which makes Stoicism human. It accepts the Cosmos and it obeys the Purpose; therefore there is a Cosmos, and there is a purpose in the world. Stoicism, like much of ancient thought at this period, was permeated by the new discoveries of astronomy and their formation into a coherent scientific system, which remained unshaken till the days of Copernicus. The stars, which had always moved men's wonder and even worship, were now seen and proved to be no wandering fires but parts of an immense and apparently eternal order. One star might differ from another star in glory, but they were all alike in their obedience to law. They had their fixed courses, divine though they were, which had been laid down for them by a Being greater than they. The Order, or Cosmos, was a proven fact; therefore, the Purpose was a proven fact; and, though in its completeness inscrutable, it could at least in part be divined from the fact that all these varied and eternal splendours had for their centre our Earth and its ephemeral master. The Purpose, though it is not our Purpose, is especially concerned with us and circles round us. It is the purpose of a God who loves Man.

Let us forget that this system of astronomy has been overthrown, and that we now know that Man is not the centre of the universe. Let us forget that the majestic order which reigns, or seems to reign, among the stars, is matched by a brutal conflict and a chaos of jarring purposes in the realms of those sciences which deal with life.[98:1] If we can recover the imaginative outlook of the generations which stretched from, say, Meton in the fifth century before Christ to Copernicus in the sixteenth after, we shall be able to understand the spiritual exaltation with which men like Zeno or Poseidonius regarded the world.

We are part of an Order, a Cosmos, which we see to be infinitely above our comprehension but which we know to be an expression of love for Man; what can we do but accept it, not with resignation but with enthusiasm, and offer to it with pride any sacrifice which it may demand of us. It is a glory to suffer for such an end.

And there is more. For the Stars show only what may be called a stationary purpose, an Order which is and remains for ever. But in the rest of the world, we can see a moving Purpose. It is Phusis, the word which the Romans unfortunately translated 'Natura', but which means 'Growing' or 'the way things grow'—almost what we call Evolution. But to the Stoic it is a living and conscious evolution, a forethought or Pronoia in the mind of God, what the Romans called providentia, guiding all things that grow in a direction which accords with the divine will. And the direction, the Stoic pointed out, was not towards mere happiness but towards Arete, or the perfection of each thing or each species after its kind. Phusis shapes the acorn to grow into the perfect oak, the blind puppy into the good hound; it makes the deer grow in swiftness to perform the function of a deer, and man grow in power and wisdom to perform the function of a man. If a man is an artist it is his function to produce beauty; if he a governor, it is his function to produce a flourishing and virtuous city. True, the things that he produces are but shadows and in themselves utterly valueless; it matters not one straw whether the deer goes at ten miles an hour or twenty, whether the population of a city die this year of famine and sickness or twenty years hence of old age. But it belongs to the good governor to avert famine and to produce healthy conditions, as it belongs to the deer to run its best. So it is the part of a friend, if need arise, to give his comfort or his life for a friend; of a mother to love and defend her children; though it is true that in the light of eternity these 'creaturely' affections shrivel into their native worthlessness. If the will of God is done, and done willingly, all is well. You may, if it brings you great suffering, feel the pain. You may even, through human weakness, weep or groan; that can be forgiven. Esothen mentoi me stenaxes, 'But in the centre of your being groan not!' Accept the Cosmos. Will joyously that which God wills and make the eternal Purpose your own.

I will say no more of this great body of teaching, as I have dealt with it in a separate publication.[100:1] But I would point out two special advantages of a psychological kind which distinguish Stoicism from many systems of philosophy. First, though it never consciously faced the psychological problem of instinct, it did see clearly that man does not necessarily pursue what pleases him most, or what is most profitable to him, or even his 'good'. It saw that man can determine his end, and may well choose pain in preference to pleasure. This saved the school from a great deal of that false schematization which besets most forms of rationalistic psychology. Secondly, it did build up a system of thought on which, both in good days and evil, a life can be lived which is not only saintly, but practically wise and human and beneficent. It did for practical purposes solve the problem of living, without despair and without grave, or at least without gross, illusion.

The other great school of the fourth century, a school which, in the matter of ethics, may be called the only true rival of Stoicism, was also rooted in defeat. But it met defeat in a different spirit.[101:1] Epicurus, son of Neocles, of the old Athenian clan of the Philaidae, was born on a colony in Samos in 341 B. C. His father was evidently poor; else he would hardly have left Athens to live on a colonial farm, nor have had to eke out his farming by teaching an elementary school. We do not know how much the small boy learned from his father. But for older students there was a famous school on the neighbouring island of Teos, where a certain Nausiphanes taught the Ionian tradition of Mathematics and Physics as well as rhetoric and literary subjects. Epicurus went to this school when he was fourteen, and seems, among other things, to have imbibed the Atomic Theory of Democritus without realizing that it was anything peculiar. He felt afterwards as if his school-days had been merely a waste of time. At the age of eighteen he went to Athens, the centre of the philosophic world, but he only went, as Athenian citizens were in duty bound, to perform his year of military service as ephebus. Study was to come later. The next year, however, 322, Perdiccas of Thrace made an attack on Samos and drove out the Athenian colonists. Neocles had by then lived on his bit of land for thirty years, and was old to begin life again. The ruined family took refuge in Colophon, and there Epicurus joined them. They were now too poor for the boy to go abroad to study philosophy. He could only make the best of a hard time and puzzle alone over the problems of life.

Recent years have taught us that there are few forms of misery harder than that endured by a family of refugees, and it is not likely to have been easier in ancient conditions. Epicurus built up his philosophy, it would seem, while helping his parents and brothers through this bad time. The problem was how to make the life of their little colony tolerable, and he somehow solved it. It was not the kind of problem which Stoicism and the great religions specially set themselves; it was at once too unpretending and too practical. One can easily imagine the condition for which he had to prescribe. For one thing, the unfortunate refugees all about him would torment themselves with unnecessary terrors. The Thracians were pursuing them. The Gods hated them; they must obviously have committed some offence or impiety. (It is always easy for disheartened men to discover in themselves some sin that deserves punishment.) It would surely be better to die at once; except that, with that sin upon them, they would only suffer more dreadfully beyond the grave! In their distress they jarred, doubtless, on one another's nerves; and mutual bitterness doubled their miseries.

Epicurus is said to have had poor health, and the situation was one where even the best health would be sorely tried. But he had superhuman courage, and—what does not always go with such courage—a very affectionate and gentle nature. In later life all his three brothers were his devoted disciples—a testimonial accorded to few prophets or founders of religions. And he is the first man in the record of European history whose mother was an important element in his life. Some of his letters to her have been preserved, and show a touch of intimate affection which of course must have existed between human beings from the remotest times, but of which we possess no earlier record. And fragments of his letters to his friends strike the same note.[103:1]

His first discovery was that men torture themselves with unnecessary fears. He must teach them courage, tharrein apo ton theon, tharrein apo anthropon, to fear no evil from either man or God. God is a blessed being; and no blessed being either suffers evil or inflicts evil on others. And as for men, most of the evils you fear from them can be avoided by Justice; and if they do come, they can be borne. Death is like sleep, an unconscious state, nowise to be feared. Pain when it comes can be endured; it is the anticipation that makes men miserable and saps their courage. The refugees were forgotten by the world, and had no hope of any great change in their condition. Well, he argued, so much the better! Let them till the earth and love one another, and they would find that they had already in them that Natural Happiness which is man's possession until he throws it away. And of all things that contribute to happiness the greatest is Affection, philia.

Like the Cynics and Stoics, he rejected the world and all its conventions and prizes, its desires and passions and futility. But where the Stoic and Cynic proclaimed that in spite of all the pain and suffering of a wicked world, man can by the force of his own will be virtuous, Epicurus brought the more surprising good news that man can after all be happy.

But to make this good news credible he had to construct a system of thought. He had to answer the temple authorities and their adherents among the vulgar, who threatened his followers with the torments of Hades for their impiety. He had to answer the Stoics and Cynics, preaching that all is worthless except Arete; and the Sceptics, who dwelt on the fallibility of the senses, and the logical impossibility of knowledge.

He met the last of these by the traditional Ionian doctrine of sense-impressions, ingeniously developed. We can, he argued, know the outer world, because our sense impressions are literally 'impressions' or stamps made by external objects upon our organs. To see, for instance, is to be struck by an infinitely tenuous stream of images, flowing from the object and directly impinging upon the retina. Such streams are flowing from all objects in every direction—an idea which seemed incredible until the modern discoveries about light, sound, and radiation. Thus there is direct contact with reality, and consequently knowledge. Besides direct vision, however, we have 'anticipations', or prolepseis, sometimes called 'common conceptions', e. g. the general conception which we have of a horse when we are not seeing one. These are merely the result of repeated acts of vision. A curious result of this doctrine was that all our 'anticipations' or 'common ideas' are true; mistakes occur through some interpretation of our own which we add to the simple sensation.

We can know the world. How then are we to understand it? Here again Epicurus found refuge in the old Ionian theory of Atoms and the Void, which is supposed to have originated with Democritus and Leucippus, a century before. But Epicurus seems to have worked out the Atomic Theory more in detail, as we have it expounded in Lucretius' magnificent poem. In particular it was possibly he who first combined the Atomic Theory with hylozoism; i. e. he conceived of the Atoms as possessing some rudimentary power of movement and therefore able to swerve slightly in their regular downward course. That explains how they have become infinitely tangled and mingled, how plants and animals are alive, and how men have Free Will. It also enables Epicurus to build up a world without the assistance of a god. He set man free, as Lucretius says, from the 'burden of Religion', though his doctrine of the 'blessed Being' which neither has pain nor gives pain, enables him to elude the dangerous accusation of atheism. He can leave people believing in all their traditional gods, including even, if so they wish, 'the bearded Zeus and the helmed Athena' which they see in dreams and in their 'common ideas', while at the same time having no fear of them.

There remains the foolish fancy of the Cynics and Stoics that 'Arete' is the only good. Of course, he answers, Arete is good; but that is because it produces happy life, or blessedness or pleasure or whatever you call it. He used normally the word hedone 'sweetness', and counted the Good as that which makes life sweet. He seems never to have entered into small disputes as to the difference between 'sweetness', or 'pleasure', and 'happiness' and 'well-being' (hedone, eudaimonia, euesto, ktl.), though sometimes, instead of 'sweetness' he spoke of 'blessedness' (makariotes). Ultimately the dispute between him and the Stoics seems to resolve itself into a question whether the Good lies in paschein or poiein, in Experience or in Action; and average human beings seem generally to think that the Good for a conscious being must be something of which he is conscious.

Thus the great system is built, simple, intelligible, dogmatic, and—as such systems go—remarkably water-tight. It enables man to be unafraid, and it helps him to be happy. The strange thing is that, although on more than one point it seems to anticipate most surprisingly the discoveries of modern science, it was accepted in a spirit more religious than scientific. As we can see from Lucretius it was taken almost as a revelation, from one who had saved mankind; whose intellect had pierced beyond the 'flaming walls of Heaven' and brought back to man the gospel of an intelligible universe.[106:1]

In 310 B. C., when Epicurus was thirty-two, things had so far improved that he left Colophon and set up a school of philosophy in Mytilene, but soon moved to Lampsacus, on the Sea of Marmora, where he had friends. Disciples gathered about him. Among them were some of the leading men of the city, like Leonteus and Idomeneus. The doctrine thrilled them and seemed to bring freedom with it. They felt that such a teacher must be set up in Athens, the home of the great philosophers. They bought by subscription a house and garden in Athens for 80 minae (about L320)[107:1] and presented it to the Master. He crossed to Athens in 306 and, though he four times revisited Lampsacus and has left letters addressed To Friends in Lampsacus, he lived in the famous Garden for the rest of his life.

Friends from Lampsacus and elsewhere came and lived with him or near him. The Garden was not only a philosophical school; it was also a sort of retreat or religious community. There lived there not only philosophers like Metrodorus, Colotes, Hermarchus, and others; there were slaves, like Mys, and free women, like Themista, the wife of Leonteus, to both of whom the Master, as the extant fragments testify, wrote letters of intimate friendship. And not only free women, but women with names that show that they were slaves, Leontion, Nikidion, Mammarion. They were hetairae; perhaps victims of war, like many of the unfortunate heroines in the New Comedy; free women from conquered cities, who had been sold in the slave market or reduced to misery as refugees, and to whom now the Garden afforded a true and spiritual refuge. For, almost as much as Diogenes, Epicurus had obliterated the stamp on the conventional currency. The values of the world no longer held good after you had passed the wicket gate of the Garden, and spoken with the Deliverer.

The Epicureans lived simply. They took neither flesh nor wine, and there is a letter extant, asking some one to send them a present of 'potted cheese'[108:1] as a special luxury. Their enemies, who were numerous and lively, make the obvious accusations about the hetairae, and cite an alleged letter of the Master to Leontion. 'Lord Paean, my dear little Leontion, your note fills me with such a bubble of excitement!'[108:2] The problem of this letter well illustrates the difficulty of forming clear judgements about the details of ancient life. Probably the letter is a forgery: we are definitely informed that there was a collection of such forgeries, made in order to damage Epicurus. But, if genuine, would it have seemed to a fair-minded contemporary a permissible or an impermissible letter for a philosopher to write? By modern standards it would be about the border-line. And again, suppose it is a definite love-letter, what means have we of deciding whether Epicurus—or for that matter Zeno or Plato or any unconventional philosopher of this period—would have thought it blameworthy, or would merely have called our attention to the legal difficulties of contracting marriage with one who had been a Hetaira, and asked us how we expect men and women to live. Curiously enough, we happen to have the recorded sayings of Epicurus himself: 'The wise man will not fall in love', and 'Physical union of the sexes never did good; it is much if it does not do harm.'

This philosophy is often unjustly criticized. It is called selfish; but that it is certainly not. It is always aiming at the deliverance of mankind[109:1] and it bases its happiness on philia, Friendship or Affection, just as the early Christians based it on agape, a word no whit stronger than philia, though it is conventionally translated 'Love'. By this conception it becomes at once more human than the Stoa, to which, as to a Christian monk, human affection was merely a weakness of the flesh which might often conflict with the soul's duty towards God. Epicurus passionately protested against this unnatural 'apathy'. It was also human in that it recognized degrees of good or bad, of virtue or error. To the Stoic that which was not right was wrong. A calculator who says that seven sevens make forty-eight is just as wrong as one who says they make a thousand, and a sailor one inch below the surface of the water drowns just as surely as one who is a furlong deep. Just so in human life, wrong is wrong, falsehood is falsehood, and to talk of degrees is childish. Epicureanism had an easy and natural answer to these arguments, since pleasure and pain obviously admit of degrees.[110:1]

The school is blamed also for pursuing pleasure, on the ground that the direct pursuit of pleasure is self-defeating. But Epicurus never makes that mistake. He says that pleasure, or 'sweetness of life', is the good; but he never counsels the direct pursuit of it. Quite the reverse. He says that if you conquer your desires and fears, and live simply and love those about you, the natural sweetness of life will reveal itself.

A truer criticism is one which appears dimly in Plutarch and Cicero.[110:2] There is a strange shadow of sadness hanging over this wise and kindly faith, which proceeds from the essential distrust of life that lies at its heart. The best that Epicurus has really to say of the world is that if you are very wise and do not attract its notice—Lathe biosas—it will not hurt you. It is a philosophy not of conquest but of escape. This was a weakness from which few of the fourth-century thinkers completely escaped. To aim at what we should call positive happiness was, to the Epicureans, only to court disappointment; better make it your aim to live without strong passion or desire, without high hopes or ambitions. Their professed ideals—pantos tou algountos hypexairesis, ataraxia, heuroia, 'the removal of all active suffering', 'undisturbedness', 'a smooth flow'—seem to result in rather a low tension, in a life that is only half alive. We know that, as a matter of fact, this was not so. The Epicureans felt their doctrine to bring not mere comfort but inspiration and blessedness. The young Colotes, on first hearing the master speak, fell on his knees with tears and hailed him as a god.[111:1] We may compare the rapturous phrases of Lucretius. What can be the explanation of this?

Perhaps it is that a deep distrust of the world produces its own inward reaction, as starving men dream of rich banquets, and persecuted sects have apocalyptic visions of paradise. The hopes and desires that are starved of their natural sustenance project themselves on to some plane of the imagination. The martyr, even the most heretical martyr, sees the vision of his crown in the skies, the lover sees in obvious defects only rare and esoteric beauties. Epicurus avoided sedulously the transcendental optimism of the Stoics. He avoided mysticism, avoided allegory, avoided faith; he tried to set the feet of his philosophy on solid ground. He can make a strong case for the probable happiness of a man of kindly affections and few desires, who asks little from the outside world. But after all it is only probable; misfortunes and miseries may come to any man. 'Most of the evils you fear are false,' he answers, still reasonably. 'Death does not hurt. Poverty need never make a man less happy.' And actual pain? 'Yes, pain may come. But you can endure it. Intense pains are brief; long-drawn pains are not excruciating; or seldom so.' Is that common-sense comfort not enough? The doctrine becomes more intense both in its promises and its demands. If intense suffering comes, he enjoins, turn away your mind and conquer the pain by the 'sweetness' of memory. There are in every wise man's life moments of intense beauty and delight; if he has strength of mind he will call them back to him at will and live in the blessedness of the past, not in the mere dull agony of the moment. Nay, can he not actually enjoy the intellectual interest of this or that pang? Has he not that within him which can make the quality of its own life? On hearing of the death of a friend he will call back the sweetness of that friend's converse; in the burning Bull of Phalaris he will think his thoughts and be glad. Illusion, the old Siren with whom man cannot live in peace, nor yet without her, has crept back unseen to the centre of the citadel. It was Epicurus, and not a Stoic or Cynic, who asserts that a Wise Man will be happy on the rack.[112:1]

Strangely obliging, ironic Fortune gave to him also a chance of testing of his own doctrine. There is extant a letter written on his death-bed. 'I write to you on this blissful day which is the last of my life. The obstruction of my bladder and internal pains have reached the extreme point, but there is marshalled against them the delight of my mind in thinking over our talks together. Take care of the children of Metrodorus in a way worthy of your life-long devotion to me and to philosophy.'[113:1] At least his courage, and his kindness, did not fail.

Epicureanism had certainly its sublime side; and from this very sublimity perhaps arose the greatest flaw in the system, regarded as a rational philosophy. It was accepted too much as a Revelation, too little as a mere step in the search for truth. It was based no doubt on careful and even profound scientific studies, and was expounded by the master in a vast array of volumes. But the result so attained was considered sufficient. Further research was not encouraged. Heterodoxy was condemned as something almost approaching 'parricide'.[113:2] The pursuit of 'needless knowledge' was deliberately frowned upon.[113:3] When other philosophers were working out calculations about the size of the Sun and the commensurability of the sun-cycle and the moon-cycle, Epicurus contemptuously remarked that the Sun was probably about as big as it looked, or perhaps smaller: since fires at a distance generally look bigger than they are. The various theories of learned men were all possible but none certain. And as for the cycles, how did any one know that there was not a new sun shot off and extinguished every day?[113:4] It is not surprising to find that none of the great discoveries of the Hellenistic Age were due to the Epicurean school. Lucretius, writing 250 years later, appears to vary hardly in any detail from the doctrines of the Master, and Diogenes of Oenoanda, 500 years later, actually repeats his letters and sayings word for word.

It is sad, this. It is un-Hellenic; it is a clear symptom of decadence from the free intellectual movement and the high hopes which had made the fifth century glorious. Only in one great school does the true Hellenic Sophrosyne continue flourishing, a school whose modesty of pretension and quietness of language form a curious contrast with the rapt ecstasies of Stoic and Cynic and even, as we have seen, of Epicurean, just as its immense richness of scientific achievement contrasts with their comparative sterility. The Porch and the Garden offered new religions to raise from the dust men and women whose spirits were broken; Aristotle in his Open Walk, or Peripatos, brought philosophy and science and literature to guide the feet and interest the minds of those who still saw life steadily and tried their best to see it whole.

Aristotle was not lacking in religious insight and imagination, as he certainly was not without profound influence on the future history of religion. His complete rejection of mythology and of anthropomorphism; his resolute attempt to combine religion and science, not by sacrificing one to the other but by building the highest spiritual aspirations on ascertained truth and the probable conclusions to which it pointed; his splendid imaginative conception of the Divine Being or First Cause as unmoved itself while moving all the universe 'as the beloved moves the lover'; all these are high services to religious speculation, and justify the position he held, even when known only through a distorting Arabic translation, in medieval Christianity. If he had not written his other books he might well be famous now as a great religious teacher. But his theology is dwarfed by the magnificence and mass of his other work. And as a philosopher and man of science he does not belong to our present subject.

He is only mentioned here as a standard of that characteristic quality in Hellenism from which the rest of this book records a downfall. One variant of a well-known story tells how a certain philosopher, after frequenting the Peripatetic School, went to hear Chrysippus, the Stoic, and was transfixed. 'It was like turning from men to Gods.' It was really turning from Greeks to Semites, from philosophy to religion, from a school of very sober professions and high performance to one whose professions dazzled the reason. 'Come unto me,' cried the Stoic, 'all ye who are in storm or delusion; I will show you the truth and the world will never grieve you more.'

Aristotle made no such profession. He merely thought and worked and taught better than other men. Aristotle is always surprising us not merely by the immense volume of clear thinking and co-ordinated knowledge of which he was master, but by the steady Sophrosyne of his temper. Son of the court physician of Philip, tutor for some years to Alexander the Great, he never throughout his extant writings utters one syllable of flattery to his royal and world-conquering employers; nor yet one syllable which suggests a grievance. He saw, at close quarters and from the winning side, the conquest of the Greek city states by the Macedonian ethnos or nation; but he judges dispassionately that the city is the higher social form.

It seems characteristic that in his will, which is extant, after providing a dowry for his widow, Herpyllis, to facilitate her getting a second husband, and thanking her for her goodness to him, he directs that his bones are to be laid in the same grave with those of his first wife, Pythias, whom he had rescued from robbers more than twenty years before.[116:1]

Other philosophers disliked him because he wore no long beard, dressed neatly and had good normal manners, and they despised his philosophy for very similar reasons. It was a school which took the existing world and tried to understand it instead of inventing some intense ecstatic doctrine which should transform it or reduce it to nothingness.

It possessed no Open Sesame to unlock the prison of mankind; yet it is not haunted by that Oimoge of Kynoskephalai. While armies sweep Greece this way and that, while the old gods are vanquished and the cities lose their freedom and their meaning, the Peripatetics instead of passionately saving souls diligently pursued knowledge, and in generation after generation produced scientific results which put all their rivals into the shade.[116:2] In mathematics, astronomy, physics, botany, zoology, and biology, as well as the human sciences of literature and history, the Hellenistic Age was one of the most creative known to our record. And it is not only that among the savants responsible for these advances the proportion of Peripatetics is overwhelming; one may also notice that in this school alone it is assumed as natural that further research will take place and will probably correct as well as increase our knowledge, and that, when such corrections or differences of opinion do take place, there is no cry raised of Heresy.

It is the old difference between Philosophy and Religion, between the search of the intellect for truth and the cry of the heart for salvation. As the interest in truth for its own sake gradually abated in the ancient world, the works of Aristotle might still find commentators, but his example was forgotten and his influence confined to a small circle. The Porch and the Garden, for the most part, divided between them the allegiance of thoughtful men. Both systems had begun in days of discomfiture, and aimed originally more at providing a refuge for the soul than at ordering the course of society. But after the turmoil of the fourth century had subsided, when governments began again to approach more nearly to peace and consequently to justice, and public life once more to be attractive to decent men, both philosophies showed themselves adaptable to the needs of prosperity as well as adversity. Many kings and great Roman governors professed Stoicism. It held before them the ideal of universal Brotherhood, and of duty to the 'Great Society of Gods and Men'; it enabled them to work, indifferent to mere pain and pleasure, as servants of the divine purpose and 'fellow-workers with God' in building up a human Cosmos within the eternal Cosmos. It is perhaps at first sight strange that many kings and governors also followed Epicurus. Yet after all the work of a public man is not hindered by a slight irony as to the value of worldly greatness and a conviction that a dinner of bread and water with love to season it 'is better than all the crowns of the Greeks'. To hate cruelty and superstition, to avoid passion and luxury, to regard human 'pleasure' or 'sweetness of life' as the goal to be aimed at, and 'friendship' or 'kindliness' as the principal element in that pleasure, are by no means doctrines incompatible with wise and effective administration. Both systems were good and both in a way complementary one to another. They still divide between them the practical philosophy of western mankind. At times to most of us it seems as though nothing in life had value except to do right and to fear not; at others that the only true aim is to make mankind happy. At times man's best hope seems to lie in that part of him which is prepared to defy or condemn the world of fact if it diverges from the ideal; in that intensity of reverence which will accept many impossibilities rather than ever reject a holy thing; above all in that uncompromising moral sensitiveness to which not merely the corruptions of society but the fundamental and necessary facts of animal existence seem both nauseous and wicked, links and chains in a system which can never be the true home of the human spirit. At other times men feel the need to adapt their beliefs and actions to the world as it is; to brush themselves free from cobwebs; to face plain facts with common sense and as much kindliness as life permits, meeting the ordinary needs of a perishable and imperfect species without illusion and without make-believe. At one time we are Stoics, at another Epicureans.

But amid their differences there is one faith which was held by both schools in common. It is the great characteristic faith of the ancient world, revealing itself in many divergent guises and seldom fully intelligible to modern men; faith in the absolute supremacy of the inward life over things external. These men really believed that wisdom is more precious than jewels, that poverty and ill health are things of no import, that the good man is happy whatever befall him, and all the rest. And in generation after generation many of the ablest men, and women also, acted upon the belief. They lived by free choice lives whose simplicity and privation would horrify a modern labourer, and the world about them seems to have respected rather than despised their poverty. To the Middle Age, with its monks and mendicants expectant of reward in heaven, such an attitude, except for its disinterestedness, would be easily understood. To some eastern nations, with their cults of asceticism and contemplation, the same doctrines have appealed almost like a physical passion or a dangerous drug running riot in their veins. But modern western man cannot believe them, nor believe seriously that others believe them. On us the power of the material world has, through our very mastery of it and the dependence which results from that mastery, both inwardly and outwardly increased its hold. Capta ferum victorem cepit. We have taken possession of it, and now we cannot move without it.

The material element in modern life is far greater than in ancient; but it does not follow that the spiritual element is correspondingly less. No doubt it is true that a naval officer in a conning-tower in a modern battle does not need less courage and character than a naked savage who meets his enemy with a stick and a spear. Yet probably in the first case the battle is mainly decided by the weight and accuracy of the guns, in the second by the qualities of the fighter. Consequently the modern world thinks more incessantly and anxiously about the guns, that is, about money and mechanism; the ancient devotes its thought more to human character and duty. And it is curious to observe how, in general, each tries to remedy what is wrong with the world by the method that is habitually in its thoughts. Speaking broadly, apart from certain religious movements, the enlightened modern reformer, if confronted with some ordinary complex of misery and wickedness, instinctively proposes to cure it by higher wages, better food, more comfort and leisure; to make people comfortable and trust to their becoming good. The typical ancient reformer would appeal to us to care for none of those things (since riches notoriously do not make men virtuous), but with all our powers to pursue wisdom or righteousness and the life of the spirit; to be good men, as we can be if we will, and to know that all else will follow.

This is one of the regions in which the ancients might have learned much from us, and in which we still have much to learn from them, if once we can shake off our temporal obsessions and listen.


As an example it is worth noticing, even in a bare catalogue, the work done by one of Aristotle's own pupils, a Peripatetic of the second rank, Dicaearchus of Messene. His floruit is given as 310 B. C. Dorian by birth, when Theophrastus was made head of the school he retired to the Peloponnese, and shows a certain prejudice against Athens.

One of the discoveries of the time was biography. And, by a brilliant stroke of imagination Dicaearchus termed one of his books Bios Hellados, The Life of Hellas. He saw civilization as the biography of the world. First, the Age of Cronos, when man as a simple savage made no effort after higher things; next, the ancient river-civilizations of the orient; third, the Hellenic system. Among his scanty fragments we find notes on such ideas as patra, phratria, phyle, as Greek institutions. The Life of Hellas was much used by late writers. It formed the model for another Bios Hellados by a certain Jason, and for Varro's Vita Populi Romani.

Then, like his great master, Dicaearchus made studies of the Constitutions of various states (e. g. Pellene, Athens, and Corinth); his treatise on the Constitution of Sparta was read aloud annually in that city by order of the Ephors. It was evidently appreciative.

A more speculative work was his Tripoliticus, arguing that the best constitution ought to be compounded of the three species, monarchic, aristocratic, and democratic, as in Sparta. Only then would it be sure to last. Polybius accepted the principle of the Mixed Constitution, but found his ideal in the constitution of Rome, which later history was to prove so violently unstable. Cicero, De Republica, takes the same line (Polyb. vi. 2-10; Cic. De Rep. i. 45; ii. 65). Dicaearchus treated of similar political subjects in his public addresses at Olympia and at the Panathenaea.

We hear more about his work on the history of literature, though his generation was almost the first to realize that such a subject had any existence. He wrote Lives of Philosophers—a subject hitherto not considered worth recording—giving the biographical facts followed by philosophic and aesthetic criticism. We hear, for example, of his life of Plato; of Pythagoras (in which he laid emphasis on the philosopher's practical work), of Xenophanes, and of the Seven Wise Men.

He also wrote Lives of Poets. We hear of books on Alcaeus and on Homer, in which latter he is said to have made the startling remark that the poems 'should be pronounced in the Aeolic dialect'. Whatever this remark exactly meant, and we cannot tell without the context, it seems an extraordinary anticipation of modern philological discoveries. He wrote on the Hypotheses—i. e. the subject matter—of Sophocles and Euripides; also on Musical Contests, peri Mousikon agonon, carrying further Aristotle's own collection of the Didascaliae, or official notices of the production of Tragedies in Athens. The book dealt both with dates and with customs; it told how Skolia were sung, with a laurel or myrtle twig in the hand, how Sophocles introduced a third actor, and the like.

In philosophy proper he wrote On the Soul, peri psyches. His first book, the Corinthiacus, proved that the Soul was a 'harmony' or 'right blending' of the four elements, and was identical with the force of the living body. The second, the Lesbiacus, drew the conclusion that, if a compound, it was destructible. (Hence a great controversy with his master.)

He wrote peri phthoras anthropon, on the Perishing of Mankind; i. e. on the way in which large masses of men have perished off the earth, through famine, pestilence, wild beasts, war, and the like. He decides that man's most destructive enemy is Man. (The subject may have been suggested to him by a fine imaginative passage in Aristotle's Meteorology (i. 14, 7) dealing with the vast changes that have taken place on the earth's surface and the unrecorded perishings of races and communities.)

He wrote a treatise against Divination, and a (satirical?) Descent to the Cave of Trophonius. He seems, however, to have allowed some importance to dreams and to the phenomena of 'possession'.

And, with all this, we have not touched on his greatest work, which was in the sphere of geography. He wrote a Periodos ges, a Journey Round the Earth, accompanied with a map. He used for this map the greatly increased stores of knowledge gained by the Macedonian expeditions over all Asia as far as the Ganges. He also seems to have devised the method of denoting the position of a place by means of two co-ordinates, the method soon after developed by Eratosthenes into Latitude and Longitude. He attempted calculations of the measurements of large geographic distances, for which of course both his data and his instruments were inadequate. Nevertheless his measurements remained a well-known standard; we find them quoted and criticized by Strabo and Polybius. And, lastly, he published Measurements of the Heights of Mountains in the Peloponnese; but the title seems to have been unduly modest, for we find in the fragments statements about mountains far outside that area; about Pelion and Olympus in Thessaly and of Atabyrion in Rhodes. He had a subvention, Pliny tells us (N. H. ii. 162, 'regum cura permensus montes'), from the king of Macedon, probably either Cassander or, as one would like to believe, the philosophic Antigonus Gonatas. And he calculated the heights, so we are told, by trigonometry, using the dioptra, an instrument of hollow reeds without lenses which served for his primitive theodolite. It is an extraordinary record, and illustrates the true Peripatetic spirit.


[79:1] Hellen. ii. 2, 3.

[80:1] Cf. Tarn, Antigonus Gonatas, p. 52, and authorities there quoted.

[81:1] Lysias, xxxiii.

[82:1] Dem. Crown, 208.

[83:1] 'Such-like trash', Gorgias, 519 A; dust-storm, Rep. vi. 496; clothes, Gorg. 523 E; 'democratic man', Rep. viii. 556 ff.

[84:1] Laws, 709 E, cf. Letter VII.

[85:1] Aulus Gellius, xiv. 3; Plato, Laws, p. 695; Xen. Cyrop. viii. 7, compared with Hdt. i. 214.

[87:1] This is the impression left by Xenophon, especially in the Symposium. Cf. Duemmler, Antisthenica (1882); Akademika (1889). Cf. the Life of Antisthenes in Diog. Laert.

[87:2] Geron opsimathes, Plato, Soph. 251 B, Isocr. Helena, i. 2.

[87:3] e. g. no combination of subject and predicate can be true because one is different from the other. 'Man' is 'man' and 'good' is 'good'; but 'man' is not 'good'. Nor can 'a horse' possibly be 'running'; they are totally different conceptions. See Plutarch, adv. Co. 22, 1 (p. 1119); Plato, Soph. 251 B; Arist. Metaph. 1024{b} 33; Top. 104{b} 20; Plato, Euthyd. 285 E. For similar reasons no statement can ever contradict another; the statements are either the same or not the same; and if not the same they do not touch. Every object has one logos or thing to be said about it; if you say a different logos you are speaking of something else. See especially Scholia Arist., p. 732{a} 30 ff. on the passage in the Metaphysics, 1024{b} 33.

[90:1] To nomisma paracharattein: see Life in Diog. Laert., fragments in Mullach, vol. ii, and the article in Pauly-Wissowa.

[95:1] There were women among the Cynics. 'The doctrine also captured Metrocles' sister, Hipparchia. She loved Crates, his words, and his way of life, and paid no attention to any of her suitors, however rich or highborn or handsome. Crates was everything to her. She threatened her parents that she would commit suicide unless she were given to him. They asked Crates to try to change the girl's mind, and he did all he could to no effect, till at last he put all his possessions on the floor and stood up in front of her. 'Here is your bridegroom; there is his fortune; now think!' The girl made her choice, put on the beggar's garb, and went her ways with Crates. She lived with him openly and went like him to beg food at dinners.' Diog. Laert. vi. 96 ff.

[98:1] e. g. the struggle for existence among animals and plants; the allelophagia, or 'mutual devouring', of animals; and such points as the various advances in evolution which seem self-destructive. Thus, Man has learnt to stand on two feet and use his hands; a great advantage but one which has led to numerous diseases. Again, physiologists say that the increasing size of the human head, especially when combined with the diminishing size of the pelvis, tends to make normal birth impossible.

[100:1] The Stoic Philosophy (1915). See also Arnold's Roman Stoicism (1911); Bevan's Stoics and Sceptics (1913); and especially Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta by von Arnim (1903-5).

[101:1] The chief authorities on Epicurus are Usener's Epicurea, containing the Life from Diog. Laert., fragments and introduction: the papyrus fragments of Philodemus in Volumina Herculanensia; Diogenes of Oenoanda (text by William, Teubner, 1907); the commentaries on Lucretius (Munro, Giussani, &c.).

[103:1] Epicurus is the one philosopher who protests with real indignation against that inhuman superiority to natural sorrows which is so much prized by most of the ancient schools. To him such 'apathy' argues either a hard heart or a morbid vanity (Fr. 120). His letters are full of affectionate expressions which rather shock the stern reserve of antique philosophy. He waits for one friend's 'heavenly presence' (Fr. 165). He 'melts with a peculiar joy mingled with tears in remembering the last words' of one who is dead (Fr. 186; cf. 213). He is enthusiastic about an act of kindness performed by another, who walked some five miles to help a barbarian prisoner (Fr. 194).

[106:1] Lucretius, i. 62-79, actually speaks of the great atheist in language taken from the Saviour Religions (see below, p. 162):

When Man's life upon earth in base dismay, Crushed by the burthen of Religion, lay, Whose face, from all the regions of the sky, Hung, glaring hate upon mortality, First one Greek man against her dared to raise His eyes, against her strive through all his days; Him noise of Gods nor lightnings nor the roar Of raging heaven subdued, but pricked the more His spirit's valiance, till he longed the Gate To burst of this low prison of man's fate. And thus the living ardour of his mind Conquered, and clove its way; he passed behind The world's last flaming wall, and through the whole Of space uncharted ranged his mind and soul. Whence, conquering, he returned to make Man see At last what can, what cannot, come to be; By what law to each Thing its power hath been Assigned, and what deep boundary set between; Till underfoot is tamed Religion trod, And, by His victory, Man ascends to God.

[107:1] That is, 8,000 drachmae. Rents had risen violently in 314 and so presumably had land prices. Else one would say the Garden was about the value of a good farm. See Tarn in The Hellenistic Age (1923), p. 116.

[108:1] tyron kythridion, Fr. 182.

[108:2] Fr. 143. Paian anax, philon Leontarion, oiou krotothorybou hemas aneplesas, anagnontas sou to epistolion. Fr. 121 (from an enemy) implies that the Hetairae were expected to reform when they entered the Garden. Cf. Fr. 62 synousie onese men oudepote, agapeton de ei me eblapse: cf. Fr. 574.

[109:1] See p. 169 below on Diogenes of Oenoanda.

[110:1] Pleasures and pains may be greater or less, but the complete 'removal of pain and fear' is a perfect end, not to be surpassed. Fr. 408-48, Ep. iii. 129-31.

[110:2] e. g. Plut. Ne suaviter quidem vivi, esp. chap. 17 (p. 1098 D).

[111:1] Cf. Fr. 141 when Epicurus writes to Colotes: 'Think of me as immortal, and go your ways as immortal too.'

[112:1] Fr. 601; cf. 598 ff.

[113:1] Fr. 138; cf. 177.

[113:2] 'hoi toutois antigraphontes ou pany ti makran tes ton patraloion katadikes aphestekasin', Fr. 49. Usener, from Philodemus, De Rhet. This may be only a playful reference to Plato's phrase about being a patraloias of his father, Parmenides, Soph., p. 241 D.

[113:3] Epicurus congratulated himself (erroneously) that he came to Philosophy katharos pases paideias, 'undefiled by education'. Cf. Fr. 163 to Pythocles, paideian de pasan, makarie, pheuge to akation aramenos, 'From education in every shape, my son, spread sail and fly!'

[113:4] Fr. 343-6.

[116:1] Pythias was the niece, or ward, of Aristotle's friend, Hermias, an extraordinary man who rose from slavery to be first a free man and a philosopher, and later Prince or 'Dynast' of Assos and Atarneus. In the end he was treacherously entrapped by the Persian General, Mentor, and crucified by the king. Aristotle's 'Ode to Virtue' is addressed to him. To his second wife, Herpyllis, Aristotle was only united by a civil marriage like the Roman usus.

[116:2] See note on Dicaearchus at end of chapter.



Any one who turns from the great writers of classical Athens, say Sophocles or Aristotle, to those of the Christian era must be conscious of a great difference in tone. There is a change in the whole relation of the writer to the world about him. The new quality is not specifically Christian: it is just as marked in the Gnostics and Mithras-worshippers as in the Gospels and the Apocalypse, in Julian and Plotinus as in Gregory and Jerome. It is hard to describe. It is a rise of asceticism, of mysticism, in a sense, of pessimism; a loss of self-confidence, of hope in this life and of faith in normal human effort; a despair of patient inquiry, a cry for infallible revelation; an indifference to the welfare of the state, a conversion of the soul to God. It is an atmosphere in which the aim of the good man is not so much to live justly, to help the society to which he belongs and enjoy the esteem of his fellow creatures; but rather, by means of a burning faith, by contempt for the world and its standards, by ecstasy, suffering, and martyrdom, to be granted pardon for his unspeakable unworthiness, his immeasurable sins. There is an intensifying of certain spiritual emotions; an increase of sensitiveness, a failure of nerve.

Now this antithesis is often exaggerated by the admirers of one side or the other. A hundred people write as if Sophocles had no mysticism and practically speaking no conscience. Half a dozen retort as if St. Paul had no public spirit and no common sense. I have protested often against this exaggeration; but, stated reasonably, as a change of proportion and not a creation of new hearts, the antithesis is certainly based on fact. The historical reasons for it are suggested above, in the first of these essays.

My description of this complicated change is, of course, inadequate, but not, I hope, one-sided. I do not depreciate the religions that followed on this movement by describing the movement itself as a 'failure of nerve'. Mankind has not yet decided which of two opposite methods leads to the fuller and deeper knowledge of the world: the patient and sympathetic study of the good citizen who lives in it, or the ecstatic vision of the saint who rejects it. But probably most Christians are inclined to believe that without some failure and sense of failure, without a contrite heart and conviction of sin, man can hardly attain the religious life. I can imagine an historian of this temper believing that the period we are about to discuss was a necessary softening of human pride, a Praeparatio Evangelica.[124:1]

I am concerned in this paper with the lower country lying between two great ranges. The one range is Greek Philosophy, culminating in Plato, Aristotle, the Porch, and the Garden; the other is Christianity, culminating in St. Paul and his successors. The one is the work of Hellas, using some few foreign elements; the second is the work of Hellenistic culture on a Hebrew stock. The books of Christianity are Greek, the philosophical background is Hellenistic, the result of the interplay, in the free atmosphere of Greek philosophy, of religious ideas derived from Egypt, Anatolia, Syria, and Babylon. The preaching is carried on in Greek among the Greek-speaking workmen of the great manufacturing and commercial cities. The first preachers are Jews: the central scene is set in Jerusalem. I wish in this essay to indicate how a period of religious history, which seems broken, is really continuous, and to trace the lie of the main valleys which lead from the one range to the other, through a large and imperfectly explored territory.

The territory in question is the so-called Hellenistic Age, the period during which the Schools of Greece were 'hellenizing' the world. It is a time of great enlightenment, of vigorous propaganda, of high importance to history. It is a time full of great names: in one school of philosophy alone we have Zeno, Cleanthes, Chrysippus, Panaetius, Posidonius. Yet, curiously enough, it is represented in our tradition by something very like a mere void. There are practically no complete books preserved, only fragments and indirect quotations. Consequently in the search for information about this age we must throw our nets wide. Beside books and inscriptions of the Hellenistic period proper I have drawn on Cicero, Pliny, Seneca, and the like for evidence about their teachers and masters. I have used many Christian and Gnostic documents and works like the Corpus of Hermetic writings and the Mithras Liturgy. Among modern writers I must acknowledge a special debt to the researches of Dieterich, Cumont, Bousset, Wendland, and Reitzenstein.

* * * * *

The Hellenistic Age seems at first sight to have entered on an inheritance such as our speculative Anarchists sometimes long for, a tabula rasa, on which a new and highly gifted generation of thinkers might write clean and certain the book of their discoveries about life—what Herodotus would call their 'Historie'. For, as we have seen in the last essay, it is clear that by the time of Plato the traditional religion of the Greek states was, if taken at its face value, a bankrupt concern. There was hardly one aspect in which it could bear criticism; and in the kind of test that chiefly matters, the satisfaction of men's ethical requirements and aspirations, it was if anything weaker than elsewhere. Now a religious belief that is scientifically preposterous may still have a long and comfortable life before it. Any worshipper can suspend the scientific part of his mind while worshipping. But a religious belief that is morally contemptible is in serious danger, because when the religious emotions surge up the moral emotions are not far away. And the clash cannot be hidden.

This collapse of the traditional religion of Greece might not have mattered so much if the form of Greek social life had remained. If a good Greek had his Polis, he had an adequate substitute in most respects for any mythological gods. But the Polis too, as we have seen in the last essay, fell with the rise of Macedon. It fell, perhaps, not from any special spiritual fault of its own; it had few faults except its fatal narrowness; but simply because there now existed another social whole, which, whether higher or lower in civilization, was at any rate utterly superior in brute force and in money. Devotion to the Polis lost its reality when the Polis, with all that it represented of rights and laws and ideals of Life, lay at the mercy of a military despot, who might, of course, be a hero, but might equally well be a vulgar sot or a corrupt adventurer.

What the succeeding ages built upon the ruins of the Polis is not our immediate concern. In the realm of thought, on the whole, the Polis triumphed. Aristotle based his social theory on the Polis, not the nation. Dicaearchus, Didymus, and Posidonius followed him, and we still use his language. Rome herself was a Polis, as well as an Empire. And Professor Haverfield has pointed out that a City has more chance of taking in the whole world to its freedoms and privileges than a Nation has of making men of alien birth its compatriots. A Jew of Tarsus could easily be granted the civic rights of Rome: he could never have been made an Italian or a Frenchman. The Stoic ideal of the World as 'one great City of Gods and Men' has not been surpassed by any ideal based on the Nation.

What we have to consider is the general trend of religious thought from, say, the Peripatetics to the Gnostics. It is a fairly clear history. A soil once teeming with wild weeds was to all appearance swept bare and made ready for new sowing: skilled gardeners chose carefully the best of herbs and plants and tended the garden sedulously. But the bounds of the garden kept spreading all the while into strange untended ground, and even within the original walls the weeding had been hasty and incomplete. At the end of a few generations all was a wilderness of weeds again, weeds rank and luxuriant and sometimes extremely beautiful, with a half-strangled garden flower or two gleaming here and there in the tangle of them. Does that comparison seem disrespectful to religion? Is philosophy all flowers and traditional belief all weeds? Well, think what a weed is. It is only a name for all the natural wild vegetation which the earth sends up of herself, which lives and will live without the conscious labour of man. The flowers are what we keep alive with difficulty; the weeds are what conquer us.

It has been well observed by Zeller that the great weakness of all ancient thought, not excepting Socratic thought, was that instead of appealing to objective experiment it appealed to some subjective sense of fitness. There were exceptions, of course: Democritus, Eratosthenes, Hippocrates, and to a great extent Aristotle. But in general there was a strong tendency to follow Plato in supposing that people could really solve questions by an appeal to their inner consciousness. One result of this, no doubt, was a tendency to lay too much stress on mere agreement. It is obvious, when one thinks about it, that quite often a large number of people who know nothing about a subject will all agree and all be wrong. Yet we find the most radical of ancient philosophers unconsciously dominated by the argument ex consensu gentium. It is hard to find two more uncompromising thinkers than Zeno and Epicurus. Yet both of them, when they are almost free from the popular superstitions, when they have constructed complete systems which, if not absolutely logic-proof, are calculated at least to keep out the weather for a century or so, open curious side-doors at the last moment and let in all the gods of mythology.[129:1] True, they are admitted as suspicious characters, and under promise of good behaviour. Epicurus explains that they do not and cannot do anything whatever to anybody; Zeno explains that they are not anthropomorphic, and are only symbols or emanations or subordinates of the all-ruling Unity; both parties get rid of the myths. But the two great reformers have admitted a dangerous principle. The general consensus of humanity, they say, shows that there are gods, and gods which in mind, if not also in visual appearance, resemble man. Epicurus succeeded in barring the door, and admitted nothing more. But the Stoics presently found themselves admitting or insisting that the same consensus proved the existence of daemons, of witchcraft, of divination, and when they combined with the Platonic school, of more dangerous elements still.

I take the Stoics and Epicureans as the two most radical schools. On the whole both of them fought steadily and strongly against the growth of superstition, or, if you like to put it in other language, against the dumb demands of man's infra-rational nature. The glory of the Stoics is to have built up a religion of extraordinary nobleness; the glory of the Epicureans is to have upheld an ideal of sanity and humanity stark upright amid a reeling world, and, like the old Spartans, never to have yielded one inch of ground to the common foe.

The great thing to remember is that the mind of man cannot be enlightened permanently by merely teaching him to reject some particular set of superstitions. There is an infinite supply of other superstitions always at hand; and the mind that desires such things—that is, the mind that has not trained itself to the hard discipline of reasonableness and honesty, will, as soon as its devils are cast out, proceed to fill itself with their relations.

* * * * *

Let us first consider the result of the mere denial of the Olympian religion. The essential postulate of that religion was that the world is governed by a number of definite personal gods, possessed of a human sense of justice and fairness and capable of being influenced by normal human motives. In general, they helped the good and punished the bad, though doubtless they tended too much to regard as good those who paid them proper attention and as bad those who did not.

Speaking broadly, what was left when this conception proved inadequate? If it was not these personal gods who made things happen, what was it? If the Tower of Siloam was not deliberately thrown down by the gods so as to kill and hurt a carefully collected number of wicked people, while letting the good escape, what was the explanation of its falling? The answer is obvious, but it can be put in two ways. You can either say: 'It was just chance that the Tower fell at that particular moment when So-and-so was under it.' Or you can say, with rather more reflection but not any more common sense: 'It fell because of a definite chain of causes, a certain degree of progressive decay in the building, a certain definite pressure, &c. It was bound to fall.'

There is no real difference in these statements, at least in the meaning of those who ordinarily utter them. Both are compatible with a reasonable and scientific view of the world. But in the Hellenistic Age, when Greek thought was spreading rapidly and superficially over vast semi-barbarous populations whose minds were not ripe for it, both views turned back instinctively into a theology as personal as that of the Olympians. It was not, of course, Zeus or Apollo who willed this; every one knew so much: it happened by Chance. That is, Chance or Fortune willed it. And Tyche became a goddess like the rest. The great catastrophes, the great transformations of the mediterranean world which marked the Hellenistic period, had a strong influence here. If Alexander and his generals had practised some severely orthodox Macedonian religion, it would have been easy to see that the Gods of Macedon were the real rulers of the world. But they most markedly did not. They accepted hospitably all the religions that crossed their path. Some power or other was disturbing the world, that was clear. It was not exactly the work of man, because sometimes the good were exalted, sometimes the bad; there was no consistent purpose in the story. It was just Fortune. Happy is the man who knows how to placate Fortune and make her smile upon him!

It is worth remembering that the best seed-ground for superstition is a society in which the fortunes of men seem to bear practically no relation to their merits and efforts. A stable and well-governed society does tend, speaking roughly, to ensure that the Virtuous and Industrious Apprentice shall succeed in life, while the Wicked and Idle Apprentice fails. And in such a society people tend to lay stress on the reasonable or visible chains of causation. But in a country suffering from earthquakes or pestilences, in a court governed by the whim of a despot, in a district which is habitually the seat of a war between alien armies, the ordinary virtues of diligence, honesty, and kindliness seem to be of little avail. The only way to escape destruction is to win the favour of the prevailing powers, take the side of the strongest invader, flatter the despot, placate the Fate or Fortune or angry god that is sending the earthquake or the pestilence. The Hellenistic period pretty certainly falls in some degree under all of these categories. And one result is the sudden and enormous spread of the worship of Fortune. Of course, there was always a protest. There is the famous

Nullum numen habes si sit prudentia: nos te, Nos facimus, Fortuna, deam,

taken by Juvenal from the Greek. There are many unguarded phrases and at least three corrections in Polybius.[133:1] Most interesting of all perhaps, there is the first oration of Plutarch on the Fortune of Alexander.[133:2] A sentence in Pliny's Natural History, ii. 22, seems to go back to Hellenistic sources:

'Throughout the whole world, at every place and hour, by every voice Fortune alone is invoked and her name spoken: she is the one defendant, the one culprit, the one thought in men's minds, the one object of praise, the one cause. She is worshipped with insults, counted as fickle and often as blind, wandering, inconsistent, elusive, changeful, and friend of the unworthy. . . . We are so much at the mercy of chance that Chance is our god.'

The word used is first Fortuna and then Sors. This shows how little real difference there is between the two apparently contradictory conceptions.—'Chance would have it so.' 'It was fated to be.' The sting of both phrases—their pleasant bitterness when played with, their quality of poison when believed—lies in their denial of the value of human endeavour.

Yet on the whole, as one might expect, the believers in Destiny are a more respectable congregation than the worshippers of Chance. It requires a certain amount of thoughtfulness to rise to the conception that nothing really happens without a cause. It is the beginning, perhaps, of science. Ionic philosophers of the fifth century had laid stress on the Ananke physios,[134:1] what we should call the Chain of causes in Nature. After the rise of Stoicism Fate becomes something less physical, more related to conscious purpose. It is not Ananke but Heimarmene. Heimarmene, in the striking simile of Zeno,[134:2] is like a fine thread running through the whole of existence—the world, we must remember, was to the Stoics a live thing—like that invisible thread of life which, in heredity, passes on from generation to generation of living species and keeps the type alive; it runs causing, causing for ever, both the infinitesimal and the infinite. It is the Logos tou Kosmou,[135:1] the Nous Dios, the Reason of the World or the mind of Zeus, rather difficult to distinguish from the Pronoia or Providence which is the work of God and indeed the very essence of God. Thus it is not really an external and alien force. For the human soul itself is a fragment or effluence of the divine, and this Law of God is also the law of man's own Phusis. As long as you act in accordance with your true self you are complying with that divine Heimarmene or Pronoia, whose service is perfect freedom. Only when you are false to your own nature and become a rebel against the kingdom of God which is within you, are you dragged perforce behind the chariot-wheels. The doctrine is implied in Cleanthes' celebrated Hymn to Destiny and is explained clearly by Plotinus.[135:2]

That is a noble conception. But the vulgar of course can turn Kismet into a stupid idol, as easily as they can Fortune. And Epicurus may have had some excuse for exclaiming that he would sooner be a slave to the old gods of the vulgar, than to the Destiny of the philosophers.[135:3]

So much for the result in superstitious minds of the denial, or rather the removal, of the Olympian Gods. It landed men in the worship of Fortune or of Fate.

Next, let us consider what happened when, instead of merely rejecting the Gods en masse, people tried carefully to collect what remained of religion after the Olympian system fell.

Aristotle himself gives us a fairly clear answer. He held that the origins of man's idea (ennoia) of the Divine were twofold,[136:1] the phenomena of the sky and the phenomena of the human soul. It is very much what Kant found two thousand years later. The spectacle of the vast and ordered movements of the heavenly bodies are compared by him in a famous fragment with the marching forth of Homer's armies before Troy. Behind such various order and strength there must surely be a conscious mind capable

Kosmesai hippous te kai aneras aspidiotas,

To order steeds of war and mailed men.

It is only a step from this to regarding the sun, moon, and stars as themselves divine, and it is a step which both Plato and Aristotle, following Pythagoras and followed by the Stoics, take with confidence. Chrysippus gives practically the same list of gods: 'the Sun, Moon, and Stars; and Law: and men who have become Gods.'[136:2] Both the wandering stars and the fixed stars are 'animate beings, divine and eternal', self-acting subordinate gods. As to the divinity of the soul or the mind of man, the earlier generations are shy about it. But in the later Stoics it is itself a portion of the divine life. It shows this ordinarily by its power of reason, and more conspicuously by becoming entheos, or 'filled with God', in its exalted moments of prevision, ecstasy, and prophetic dreams. If reason itself is divine, there is something else in the soul which is even higher than reason or at least more surprisingly divine.

Let us follow the history of both these remaining substitutes for the Olympian gods.

First for the Heavenly bodies. If they are to be made divine, we can hardly stop there. The Earth is also a divine being. Old tradition has always said so, and Plato has repeated it. And if Earth is divine, so surely are the other elements, the Stoicheia, Water, Air, and above all, Fire. For the Gods themselves are said by Plato to be made of fire, and the Stars visibly are so. Though perhaps the heavenly Fire is really not our Fire at all, but a pempton soma, a 'Fifth Body', seeing that it seems not to burn nor the Stars to be consumed.

This is persuasive enough and philosophic; but whither has it led us? Back to the Olympians, or rather behind the Olympians; as St. Paul puts it (Gal. iv. 9), to 'the beggarly elements'. The old Kore, or Earth Maiden and Mother, seems to have held her own unshaken by the changes of time all over the Aegean area. She is there in prehistoric Crete with her two lions; with the same lions orientalized in Olympia and Ephesus; in Sparta with her great marsh birds; in Boeotia with her horse. She runs riot in a number of the Gnostic systems both pre-Christian and post-Christian. She forms a divine triad with the Father and the Son: that is ancient and natural. But she also becomes the Divine Wisdom, Sophia, the Divine Truth, Aletheia, the Holy Breath or Spirit, the Pneuma. Since the word for 'spirit' is neuter in Greek and masculine in Latin, this last is rather a surprise. It is explained when we remember that in Hebrew the word for Spirit, 'Ruah', is mostly feminine. In the meantime let us notice one curious development in the life of this goddess. In the old religion of Greece and Western Asia, she begins as a Maiden, then in fullness of time becomes a mother. There is evidence also for a third stage, the widowhood of withering autumn.[138:1] To the classical Greek this motherhood was quite as it should be, a due fulfilment of normal functions. But to the Gnostic and his kind it connoted a 'fall', a passage from the glory of Virginity to a state of Sin.[138:2] The Kore becomes a fallen Virgin, sometimes a temptress or even a female devil; sometimes she has to be saved by her Son the Redeemer.[138:3] As far as I have observed, she loses most of her earthly agricultural quality, though as Selene or even Helen she keeps up her affinity with the Moon.

Almost all the writers of the Hellenistic Age agree in regarding the Sun, Moon, and Stars as gods. The rationalists Hecataeus and Euhemerus, before going on to their deified men, always start with the heavenly bodies. When Plutarch explains in his beautiful and kindly way that all religions are really attempts towards the same goal, he clinches his argument by observing that we all see the same Sun and Moon though we call them by different names in all languages.[139:1] But the belief does not seem to have had much religious intensity in it, until it was reinforced by two alien influences.

First, we have the ancient worship of the Sun, implicit, if not explicit, in a great part of the oldest Greek rituals, and then idealized by Plato in the Republic, where the Sun is the author of all light and life in the material world, as the Idea of Good is in the ideal world. This worship came gradually into contact with the traditional and definite Sun-worship of Persia. The final combination took place curiously late. It was the Roman conquests of Cilicia, Cappadocia, Commagene, and Armenia that gave the decisive moment.[139:2] To men who had wearied of the myths of the poets, who could draw no more inspiration from their Apollo and Hyperion, but still had the habits and the craving left by their old Gods, a fresh breath of reality came with the entrance of Helios aniketos Mithras, 'Mithras, the Unconquered Sun'. But long before the triumph of Mithraism as the military religion of the Roman frontier, Greek literature is permeated with a kind of intense language about the Sun, which seems derived from Plato.[139:3] In later times, in the fourth century A. D. for instance, it has absorbed some more full-blooded and less critical element as well.

Secondly, all the seven planets. These had a curious history. The planets were of course divine and living bodies, so much Plato gave us. Then come arguments and questions scattered through the Stoic and eclectic literature. Is it the planet itself that is divine, or is the planet under the guidance of a divine spirit? The latter seems to win the day. Anthropomorphism has stolen back upon us: we can use the old language and speak simply of the planet Mercury as Hermou aster. It is the star of Hermes, and Hermes is the spirit who guides it.[140:1] Even Plato in his old age had much to say about the souls of the seven planets. Further, each planet has its sphere. The Earth is in the centre, then comes the sphere of the Moon, then that of the Sun, and so on through a range of seven spheres. If all things are full of gods, as the wise ancients have said, what about those parts of the sphere in which the shining planet for the moment is not? Are they without god? Obviously not. The whole sphere is filled with innumerable spirits everywhere. It is all Hermes, all Aphrodite. (We are more familiar with the Latin names, Mercury and Venus.) But one part only is visible. The voice of one school, as usual, is raised in opposition. One veteran had seen clearly from the beginning whither all this sort of thing was sure to lead. 'Epicurus approves none of these things.'[140:2] It was no good his having destroyed the old traditional superstition, if people by deifying the stars were to fill the sky with seven times seven as many objects of worship as had been there before. He allows no Schwaermerei about the stars. They are not divine animate beings, or guided by Gods. Why cannot the astrologers leave God in peace? When their orbits are irregular it is not because they are looking for food. They are just conglomerations of ordinary atoms of air or fire—it does not matter which. They are not even very large—only about as large as they look, or perhaps smaller, since most fires tend to look bigger at a distance. They are not at all certainly everlasting. It is quite likely that the sun comes to an end every day, and a new one rises in the morning. All kinds of explanations are possible, and none certain. Monon ho mythos apesto. In any case, as you value your life and your reason, do not begin making myths about them!

On other lines came what might have been the effective protest of real Science, when Aristarchus of Samos (250 B. C.) argued that the earth was not really the centre of the universe, but revolved round the Sun. But his hypothesis did not account for the phenomena as completely as the current theory with its 'Epicycles'; his fellow astronomers were against him; Cleanthes the Stoic denounced him for 'disturbing the Hearth of the Universe', and his heresy made little headway.[141:1]

The planets in their seven spheres surrounding the earth continued to be objects of adoration. They had their special gods or guiding spirits assigned them. Their ordered movements through space, it was held, produce a vast and eternal harmony. It is beautiful beyond all earthly music, this Music of the Spheres, beyond all human dreams of what music might be. The only pity is that—except for a few individuals in trances—nobody has ever heard it. Circumstances seem always to be unfavourable. It may be that we are too far off, though, considering the vastness of the orchestra, this seems improbable. More likely we are merely deaf to it because it never stops and we have been in the middle of it since we first drew breath.[142:1]

The planets also become Elements in the Kosmos, Stoicheia. It is significant that in Hellenistic theology the word Stoicheion, Element, gets to mean a Daemon—as Megathos, Greatness, means an Angel.[142:2] But behold a mystery! The word Stoicheia, 'elementa', had long been used for the Greek A B C, and in particular for the seven vowels a e e i o u o. That is no chance, no mere coincidence. The vowels are the mystic signs of the Planets; they have control over the planets. Hence strange prayers and magic formulae innumerable.

Even the way of reckoning time changed under the influence of the Planets. Instead of the old division of the month into three periods of nine days, we find gradually establishing itself the week of seven days with each day named after its planet, Sun, Moon, Ares, Hermes, Zeus, Aphrodite, Kronos. The history of the Planet week is given by Dio Cassius, xxxvii. 18, in his account of the Jewish campaign of Pompeius. But it was not the Jewish week. The Jews scorned such idolatrous and polytheistic proceedings. It was the old week of Babylon, the original home of astronomy and planet-worship.[143:1]

For here again a great foreign religion came like water in the desert to minds reluctantly and superficially enlightened, but secretly longing for the old terrors and raptures from which they had been set free. Even in the old days Aeschylus had called the planets 'bright potentates, shining in the fire of heaven', and Euripides had spoken of the 'shaft hurled from a star'.[143:2] But we are told that the first teaching of astrology in Hellenic lands was in the time of Alexander, when Berossos the Chaldaean set up a school in Cos and, according to Seneca, Belum interpretatus est. This must mean that he translated into Greek the 'Eye of Bel', a treatise in seventy tablets found in the library of Assur-bani-pal (686-626 B. C.) but composed for Sargon I in the third millennium B. C. Even the philosopher Theophrastus is reported by Proclus[143:3] as saying that 'the most extraordinary thing of his age was the lore of the Chaldaeans, who foretold not only events of public interest but even the lives and deaths of individuals'. One wonders slightly whether Theophrastus spoke with as much implicit faith as Proclus suggests. But the chief account is given by Diodorus, ii. 30 (perhaps from Hecataeus).

'Other nations despise the philosophy of Greece. It is so recent and so constantly changing. They have traditions which come from vast antiquity and never change. Notably the Chaldaeans have collected observations of the Stars through long ages, and teach how every event in the heavens has its meaning, as part of the eternal scheme of divine forethought. Especially the seven Wanderers, or Planets, are called by them Hermeneis, Interpreters: and among them the Interpreter in chief is Saturn. Their work is to interpret beforehand ten ton theon ennoian, the thought that is in the mind of the Gods. By their risings and settings, and by the colours they assume, the Chaldaeans predict great winds and storms and waves of excessive heat, comets, and earthquakes, and in general all changes fraught with weal or woe not only to nations and regions of the world, but to kings and to ordinary men and women. Beneath the Seven are thirty Gods of Counsel, half below and half above the Earth; every ten days a Messenger or Angel star passes from above below and another from below above. Above these gods are twelve Masters, who are the twelve signs of the Zodiac; and the planets pass through all the Houses of these twelve in turn. The Chaldaeans have made prophecies for various kings, such as Alexander who conquered Darius, and Antigonus and Seleucus Nikator, and have always been right. And private persons who have consulted them consider their wisdom as marvellous and above human power.'

Astrology fell upon the Hellenistic mind as a new disease falls upon some remote island people. The tomb of Ozymandias, as described by Diodorus (i. 49, 5), was covered with astrological symbols, and that of Antiochus I, which has been discovered in Commagene, is of the same character. It was natural for monarchs to believe that the stars watched over them. But every one was ready to receive the germ. The Epicureans, of course, held out, and so did Panaetius, the coolest head among the Stoics. But the Stoics as a whole gave way. They formed with good reason the leading school of philosophy, and it would have been a service to mankind if they had resisted. But they were already committed to a belief in the deity of the stars and to the doctrine of Heimarmene, or Destiny. They believed in the pervading Pronoia,[145:1] or Forethought, of the divine mind, and in the Sympatheia ton holon—the Sympathy of all Creation,[145:2] whereby whatever happens to any one part, however remote or insignificant, affects all the rest. It seemed only a natural and beautiful illustration of this Sympathy that the movements of the Stars should be bound up with the sufferings of man. They also appealed to the general belief in prophecy and divination.[145:3] If a prophet can foretell that such and such an event will happen, then it is obviously fated to happen. Foreknowledge implies Predestination. This belief in prophecy was, in reality, a sort of appeal to fact and to common sense. People could produce then, as they can now, a large number of striking cases of second sight, presentiment, clairvoyance, actual prophecy and the like;[145:4] and it was more difficult then to test them.

The argument involved Stoicism with some questionable allies. Epicureans and sceptics of the Academy might well mock at the sight of a great man like Chrysippus or Posidonius resting an important part of his religion on the undetected frauds of a shady Levantine 'medium'. Still the Stoics could not but welcome the arrival of a system of prophecy and predestination which, however the incredulous might rail at it, possessed at least great antiquity and great stores of learning, which was respectable, recondite, and in a way sublime.

In all the religious systems of later antiquity, if I mistake not, the Seven Planets play some lordly or terrifying part. The great Mithras Liturgy, unearthed by Dieterich from a magical papyrus in Paris,[146:1] repeatedly confronts the worshipper with the seven vowels as names of 'the Seven Deathless Kosmokratores', or Lords of the Universe, and seems, under their influence, to go off into its 'Seven Maidens with heads of serpents, in white raiment', and its divers other Sevens. The various Hermetic and Mithraic communities, the Naassenes described by Hippolytus,[146:2] and other Gnostic bodies, authors like Macrobius and even Cicero in his Somnium Scipionis, are full of the influence of the seven planets and of the longing to escape beyond them. For by some simple psychological law the stars which have inexorably pronounced our fate, and decreed, or at least registered the decree, that in spite of all striving we must needs tread their prescribed path; still more perhaps, the Stars who know in the midst of our laughter how that laughter will end, become inevitably powers of evil rather than good, beings malignant as well as pitiless, making life a vain thing. And Saturn, the chief of them, becomes the most malignant. To some of the Gnostics he becomes Jaldabaoth, the Lion-headed God, the evil Jehovah.[147:1] The religion of later antiquity is overpoweringly absorbed in plans of escape from the prison of the seven planets.

In author after author, in one community after another, the subject recurs. And on the whole there is the same answer. Here on the earth we are the sport of Fate; nay, on the earth itself we are worse off still. We are beneath the Moon, and beneath the Moon there is not only Fate but something more unworthy and equally malignant, Chance—to say nothing of damp and the ills of earth and bad daemons. Above the Moon there is no chance, only Necessity: there is the will of the other six Kosmokratores, Rulers of the Universe. But above them all there is an Eighth region—they call it simply the Ogdoas—the home of the ultimate God,[147:2] whatever He is named, whose being was before the Kosmos. In this Sphere is true Being and Freedom. And more than freedom, there is the ultimate Union with God. For that spark of divine life which is man's soul is not merely, as some have said, an aporroia ton astron, an effluence of the stars: it comes direct from the first and ultimate God, the Alpha and Omega, who is beyond the Planets. Though the Kosmokratores cast us to and fro like their slaves or dead chattels, in soul at least we are of equal birth with them. The Mithraic votary, when their wrathful and tremendous faces break in upon his vision, answers them unterrified: ego eimi symplanos hymin aster, 'I am your fellow wanderer, your fellow Star.' The Orphic carried to the grave on his golden scroll the same boast: first, 'I am the child of Earth and of the starry Heaven'; then later, 'I too am become God'.[148:1] The Gnostic writings consist largely of charms to be uttered by the Soul to each of the Planets in turn, as it pursues its perilous path past all of them to its ultimate home.

That journey awaits us after death; but in the meantime? In the meantime there are initiations, sacraments, mystic ways of communion with God. To see God face to face is, to the ordinary unprepared man, sheer death. But to see Him after due purification, to be led to Him along the true Way by an initiating Priest, is the ultimate blessing of human life. It is to die and be born again. There were regular official initiations. We have one in the Mithras-Liturgy, more than one in the Corpus Hermeticum. Apuleius[148:2] tells us at some length, though in guarded language, how he was initiated to Isis and became 'her image'. After much fasting, clad in holy garments and led by the High Priest, he crossed the threshold of Death and passed through all the Elements. The Sun shone upon him at midnight, and he saw the Gods of Heaven and of Hades. In the morning he was clad in the Robe of Heaven, set up on a pedestal in front of the Goddess and worshipped by the congregation as a God. He had been made one with Osiris or Horus or whatever name it pleased that Sun-God to be called. Apuleius does not reveal it.

There were also, of course, the irregular personal initiations and visions of god vouchsafed to persons of special prophetic powers. St. Paul, we may remember, knew personally a man who had actually been snatched up into the Third Heaven, and another who was similarly rapt into Paradise, where he heard unspeakable words;[149:1] whether in the body or not, the apostle leaves undecided. He himself on the road to Damascus had seen the Christ in glory, not after the flesh. The philosopher Plotinus, so his disciple tells us, was united with God in trance four times in five years.[149:2]

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