The following are the contents of the first book of The Refutation of all Heresies.
We propose to furnish an account of the tenets of natural philosophers, and who these are, as well as the tenets of moral philosophers, and who these are; and thirdly, the tenets of logicians, and who these logicians are.
Among natural philosophers may be enumerated Thales, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Heraclitus, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Anaxagoras, Archelaus, Parmenides, Leucippus, Democritus, Xenophanes, Ecphantus, Hippo.
Among logicians is Aristotle, pupil of Plato. He systematized the art of dialectics. Among the Stoic (logicians) were Chrysippus (and) Zeno. Epicurus, however, advanced an opinion almost contrary to all philosophers. Pyrrho was an Academic; this (speculator) taught the incomprehensibility of everything. The Brahmins among the Indians, and the Druids among the Celts, and Hesiod (devoted themselves to philosophic pursuits).
We must not overlook any figment devised by those denominated philosophers among the Greeks. For even their incoherent tenets must be received as worthy of credit, on account of the excessive madness of the heretics; who, from the observance of silence, and from concealing their own ineffable mysteries, have by many been supposed worshippers of God. We have likewise, on a former occasion, expounded the doctrines of these briefly, not illustrating them with any degree of minuteness, but refuting them in coarse digest; not having considered it requisite to bring to light their secret doctrines, in order that, when we have explained their tenets by enigmas, they, becoming ashamed, lest also, by our divulging their mysteries, we should convict them of atheism, might be induced to desist in some degree from their unreasonable opinion and their profane attempt. But since I perceive that they have not been abashed by our forbearance, and have made no account of how God is long-suffering, though blasphemed by them, in order that either from shame they may repent, or should they persevere, be justly condemned, I am forced to proceed in my intention of exposing those secret mysteries of theirs, which, to the initiated, with a vast amount of plausibility they deliver who are not accustomed first to disclose (to any one), till, by keeping such in suspense during a period (of necessary preparation), and by rendering him blasphemous towards the true God they have acquired complete ascendancy over him, and perceive him eagerly panting after the promised disclosure. And then, when they have tested him to be enslaved by sin, they initiate him, putting him in possession of the perfection of wicked things. Previously, however, they bind him with an oath neither to divulge (the mysteries), nor to hold communication with any person whatsoever, unless he first undergo similar subjection, though, when the doctrine has been simply delivered (to any one), there was no longer any need of an oath. For he who was content to submit to the necessary purgation, and so receive the perfect mysteries of these men, by the very act itself, as well as in reference to his own conscience, will feel himself sufficiently under an obligation not to divulge to others; for if he once disclose wickedness of this description to any man, he would neither be reckoned among men, nor be deemed worthy to behold the light, since not even irrational animals would attempt such an enormity, as we shall explain when we come to treat of such topics.
Since, however, reason compels us to plunge into the very depth of narrative, we conceive we should not be silent, but, expounding the tenets of the several schools with minuteness, we shall evince reserve in nothing. Now it seems expedient, even at the expense of a more protracted investigation, not to shrink from labour; for we shall leave behind us no trifling auxiliary to human life against the recurrence of error, when all are made to behold, in an obvious light, the clandestine rites of these men, and the secret orgies which, retaining under their management, they deliver to the initiated only. But none will refute these, save the Holy Spirit bequeathed unto the Church, which the Apostles, having in the first instance received, have transmitted to those who have rightly believed. But we, as being their successors, and as participators in this grace, high-priesthood, and office of teaching, as well as being reputed guardians of the Church, must not be found deficient in vigilance, or disposed to suppress correct doctrine. Not even, however, labouring with every energy of body and soul, do we tire in our attempt adequately to render our Divine Benefactor a fitting return; and yet withal we do not so requite Him in a becoming manner, except we are not remiss in discharging the trust committed to us, but careful to complete the measure of our particular opportunity, and to impart to all without grudging whatever the Holy Ghost supplies, not only bringing to light, by means of our refutation, matters foreign (to our subject), but also whatsoever things the truth has received by the grace of the Father, and ministered to men. These also, illustrating by argument and creating testimony by letters, we shall unabashed proclaim.
In order, then, as we have already stated, that we may prove them atheists, both in opinion and their mode (of treating a question) and in fact, and (in order to show) whence it is that their attempted theories have accrued unto them, and that they have endeavoured to establish their tenets, taking nothing from the holy Scriptures— nor is it from preserving the succession of any saint that they have hurried headlong into these opinions—but that their doctrines have derived their origin from the wisdom of the Greeks, from the conclusions of those who have formed systems of philosophy, and from would-be mysteries, and the vagaries of astrologers,— it seems, then, advisable, in the first instance, by explaining the opinions advanced by the philosophers of the Greeks, to satisfy our readers that such are of greater antiquity than these (heresies), and more deserving of reverence in reference to their views respecting the divinity; in the next place, to compare each heresy with the system of each speculator, so as to show that the earliest champion of the heresy availing himself of these attempted theories, has turned them to advantage by appropriating their principles, and, impelled from these into worse, has constructed his own doctrine. The undertaking admittedly is full of labour, and (is one) requiring extended research. We shall not, however, be wanting in exertion; for afterwards it will be a source of joy, just like an athlete obtaining with much toil the crown, or a merchant after a huge swell of sea compassing gain, or a husbandman after sweat of brow enjoying the fruits, or a prophet after reproaches and insults seeing his predictions turning out true. In the commencement, therefore, we shall declare who first, among the Greeks, pointed out (the principles of) natural philosophy. For from these especially have they furtively taken their views who have first pro-pounded these heresies, as we shall subsequently prove when we come to compare them one with another. Assigning to each of those who take the lead among philosophers their own peculiar tenets, we shall publicly exhibit these heresiarchs as naked and unseemly.
It is said that Thales of Miletus, one of the seven wise men, first attempted to frame a system of natural philosophy. This person said that some such thing as water is the generative principle of the universe, and its end—for that out of this, solidified and again dissolved, all things consist, and that all things are supported on it; from which also arise both earthquakes and changes of the winds and atmospheric movements, and that all things are both produced and are in a state of flux corresponding with the nature of the primary author of generation—and that the Deity is that which has neither beginning nor end. This person, having been occupied with an hypothesis and investigation concerning the stars, became the earliest author to the Greeks of this kind of learning. And he, looking towards heaven, alleging that he was carefully examining supernal objects, fell into a well; and a certain maid, by name Thratta, remarked of him derisively, that while intent on beholding things in heaven, he did not know , what was at his feet. And he lived about the time of Croesus.
But there was also, not far from these times, another philosophy which Pythagoras originated (who some say was a native of Samos), which they have denominated Italian, because that Pythagoras, flying from Polycrates the king of Samos, took up his residence in a city of Italy, and there passed the entire of his remaining years. And they who received in succession his doctrine, did not much differ from the same opinion. And this person, instituting an investigation concerning natural phenomena, combined together astronomy, and geometry, and music. And so he proclaimed that the Deity is a monad; and carefully acquainting himself with the nature of number, he affirmed that the world sings, and that its system corresponds with harmony, and he first resolved the motion of the seven stars into rhythm and melody. And being astonished at the management of the entire fabric, he required that at first his disciples should keep silence, as if persons coming into the world initiated in (the secrets of) the universe; next, when it seemed that they were sufficiently conversant with his mode of teaching his doctrine, and could forcibly philosophize concerning the stars and nature, then, considering them pure, he enjoins them to speak. This man distributed his pupils in two orders, and called the one esoteric, but the other exoteric. And to the former he confided more advanced doctrines, and to the latter a more moderate amount of instruction.
And he also touched on magic— as they say— and himself discovered an art of physiogony, laying down as a basis certain numbers and measures, saying that they comprised the principle of arithmetical philosophy by composition after this manner. The first number became an originating principle, which is one, indefinable, incomprehensible, having in itself all numbers that, according to plurality, can go on ad infinitum. But the primary monad became a principle of numbers, according to substance. — which is a male monad, begetting after the manner of a parent all the rest of the numbers. Secondly, the duad is a female number, and the same also is by arithmeticians termed even. Thirdly, the triad is a male number. This also has been classified by arithmeticians under the denomination uneven. And in addition to all these is the tetrad, a female number; and the same also is called even, because it is female. Therefore all the numbers that have been derived from the genus are four; but number is the indefinite genus, from which was constituted, according to them, the perfect number, viz., the decade. For one, two, three, four, become ten, if its proper denomination be preserved essentially for each of the numbers. Pythagoras affirmed this to be a sacred quaternion, source of everlasting nature, having, as it were, roots in itself; and that from this number all the numbers receive their originating principle. For eleven, and twelve, and the rest, partake of the origin of existence from ten. Of this decade, the perfect number, there are termed four divisions—namely, number, monad, square, (and) cube. And the connections and blendings of these are performed, according to nature, for the generation of growth completing the productive number. For when the square itself is multiplied into itself, a biquadratic is the result. But when the square is multiplied into the cube, the result is the product of a square and cube; and when the cube is multiplied into the cube, the product of two cubes is the result. So that all the numbers from which the production of existing (numbers) arises, are seven—namely, number, monad, square, cube, biquadratic, quadratic-cube, cubo-cube.
This philosopher likewise said that the soul is immortal, and that it subsists in successive bodies. Wherefore he asserted that before the Trojan era he was Aethalides, and during the Trojan epoch Euphorbus, and subsequent to this Hermotimus of Samos, and after him Pyrrhus of Delos; fifth, Pythagoras. And Diodorus the Eretrian, and Aristoxenus the musician, assert that Pythagoras came to Zaratas the Chaldean, and that he explained to him that there are two original causes of things, father and mother, and that father is light, but mother darkness; and that of the light the parts are hot, dry, not heavy, light, swift; but of darkness, cold, moist, weighty, slow; and that out of all these, from female and male, the world consists. But the world, he says, is a musical harmony; wherefore, also, that the sun performs a circuit in accordance with harmony. And as regards the things that are produced from earth and the cosmical system, they maintain that Zaratas makes the following statements: that there are two demons, the one celestial and the other terrestrial; and that the terrestrial sends up a production from earth, and that this is water; and that the celestial is a fire, partaking of the nature of air, hot and cold. And he therefore affirms that none of these destroys or sullies the soul, for these constitute the substance of all things. And he is reported to have ordered his followers not to eat beans, because that Zaratas said that, at the origin and concretion of all things, when the earth was still undergoing its process of solidification, and that of putrefaction had set in, the bean was produced. And of this he mentions the following indication, that if any one, after having chewed a bean without the husk, places it opposite the sun for a certain period—for this immediately will aid in the result—it yields the smell of human seed. And he mentions also another clearer instance to be this: if, when the bean is blossoming, we take the bean and its flower, and deposit them in a jar, smear this over, and bury it in the ground, and after a few days uncover it, we shall see it wearing the appearance, first of a woman's pudendum, and after this, when closely examined, of the head of a child growing in along with it. This person, being burned along with his disciples in Croton, a town of Italy, perished. And this was a habit with him, whenever one repaired to him with a view of becoming his follower, (the candidate disciple was compelled) to sell his possessions, and lodge the money sealed with Pythagoras, and he continued in silence to undergo instruction, sometimes for three, but sometimes for five years. And again, on being released, he was permitted to associate with the rest, and remained as a disciple, and took his meals along with them; if otherwise, however, he received back his property, and was rejected. These persons, then, were styled Esoteric Pythagoreans, whereas the rest, Pythagoristae.
Among his followers, however, who escaped the conflagration were Lysis and Archippus, and the servant of Pythagoras, Zamolxis, who also is said to have taught the Celtic Druids to cultivate the philosophy of Pythagoras. And they assert that Pythagoras learned from the Egyptians his system of numbers and measures; and I being struck by the plausible, fanciful, and not easily revealed wisdom of the priests, he himself likewise, in imitation of them, enjoined silence, and made his disciples lead a solitary life in underground chapels.
But Empedocles, born after these, advanced likewise many statements respecting the nature of demons, to the effect that, being very numerous, they pass their time in managing earthly concerns. This person affirmed the originating principle of the universe to be discord and friendship, and that the intelligible fire of the monad is the Deity, and that all things consist of fire, and will be resolved into fire; with which opinion the Stoics likewise almost agree, expecting a conflagration. But most of all does he concur with the tenet of transition of souls from body to body, expressing himself thus:—
For surely both youth and maid I was,
And shrub, and bird, and fish, from ocean stray'd.
This (philosopher) maintained the transmutation of all souls into any description of animal. For Pythagoras, the instructor of these (sages), asserted that himself had been Euphorbus, who sewed in the expedition against Ilium, alleging that he recognised his shield.The foregoing are the tenets of Empedocles.
But Heraclitus, a natural philosopher of Ephesus, surrendered himself to universal grief, condemning the ignorance of the entire of life, and of all men; nay, commiserating the (very) existence of mortals, for he asserted that he himself knew everything, whereas the rest of mankind nothing. But he also advanced statements almost in concert with Empedocles, saying that the originating principle of all things is discord and friendship, and that the Deity is a fire endued with intelligence, and that all things are borne one upon another, and never are at a standstill; and just as Empedocles, he affirmed that the entire locality about us is full of evil things, and that these evil things reach as far as the moon, being extended from the quarter situated around the earth, and that they do not advance further, inasmuch as the entire space above the moon is more pure. So also it seemed to Heraclitus.
After these arose also other natural philosophers, whose opinions we have not deemed it necessary to declare, (inasmuch as) they present no diversity to those already specified. Since, however, upon the whole, a not inconsiderable school has sprung (from thence), and many natural philosophers subsequently have arisen from them, each advancing different accounts of the nature of the universe, it seems also to us advisable, that, explaining the philosophy that has come down by succession from Pythagoras, we should recur to the opinions entertained by those living after the time of Thales, and that, furnishing a narrative of these, we should approach the consideration of the ethical and logical philosophy which Socrates and Aristotle originated, the former ethical, and the latter logical.
Anaximander, then, was the hearer of Thales. Anaximander was son of Praxiadas, and a native of Miletus. This man said that the originating principle of existing things is a certain constitution of the Infinite, out of which the heavens are generated, and the worlds therein; and that this principle is eternal and undecaying, and comprising all the worlds. And he speaks of time as something of limited generation, and subsistence, and destruction. This person declared the Infinite to be an originating principle and element of existing things, being the first to employ such a denomination of the originating principle. But, moreover, he asserted that there is an eternal motion, by the agency of which it happens that the heavens are generated; but that the earth is poised aloft, upheld by nothing, continuing (so) on account of its equal distance from all (the heavenly bodies); and that the figure of it is curved, circular, similar to a column of stone. And one of the surfaces we tread upon, but the other is opposite. And that the stars are a circle of fire, separated from the fire which is in the vicinity of the world, and encompassed by air. And that certain atmospheric exhalations arise in places where the stars shine; wherefore, also, when these exhalations are obstructed, that eclipses take place. And that the moon sometimes appears full and sometimes waning, according to the obstruction or opening of its (orbital) paths. But that the circle of the sun is twenty-seven times larger than the moon, and that the sun is situated in the highest (quarter of the firmament); whereas the orbs of the fixed stars in the lowest. And that animals are produced (in moisture ) by evaporation from the sun. And that man was, originally, similar to a different animal, that is, a fish. And that winds are caused by the separation of very rarified exhalations of the atmosphere, and by their motion after they have been condensed. And that rain arises from earth's giving back (the vapours which it receives) from the (clouds ) under the sun. And that there are flashes of lightning when the wind coming down severs the clouds. This person was born in the third year of the XLII . Olympiad.
An Infinite Air;His Views of Astronomy and Natural Phenomena.
But Anaximenes, who himself was also a native of Miletus, and son of Eurystratus, affirmed that the originating principle is infinite air, out of which are generated things existing, those which have existed, and those that will be, as well as gods and divine (entities), and that the rest arise from the offspring of this. But that there is such a species of air, when it is most even, which is imperceptible to vision, but capable of being manifested by cold and heat, and moisture and motion, and that it is continually in motion; for that whatsoever things undergo alteration, do not change if there is not motion. For that it presents a different appearance according as it is condensed and attenuated, for when it is dissolved into what is more attenuated that fire is produced, and that when it is moderately condensed again into air that a cloud is formed from the air by virtue of the contraction; but when condensed still more, water, (and) that when the condensation is carried still further, earth is formed; and when condensed to the very highest degree, stones. Wherefore, that the dominant principles of generation are contraries—namely, heat and cold. And that the expanded earth is wafted along upon the air, and in like manner both sun and moon and the rest of the stars; for all things being of the nature of fire, are wafted about through the expanse of space, upon the air. And that the stars are produced from earth by reason of the mist which arises from this earth; and when this is attenuated, that fire is produced, and that the stars consist of the fire which is being borne aloft. But also that there are terrestrial natures in the region of the stars carried on along with them. And he says that the stars do not move under the earth, as some have supposed, but around the earth, just as a cap is turned round our head; and that the sun is hid, not by being under the earth, but because covered by the higher portions of the earth, and on account of the greater distance that he is from us. But that the stars do not emit heat on account of the length of distance; and that the winds are produced when the condensed air, becoming rarified, is borne on; and that when collected and thickened still further, clouds are generated, and thus a change made into water. And that hail is produced when the water borne down from the clouds becomes congealed; and that snow is generated when these very clouds, being more moist, acquire congelation; and that lightning is caused when the clouds are parted by force of the winds; for when these are sundered there is produced a brilliant and fiery flash. And that a rainbow is produced by reason of the rays of the sun failing on the collected air. And that an earthquake takes place when the earth is altered into a larger (bulk) by heat and cold. These indeed, then, were the opinions of Anaximenes. This (philosopher) flourished about the first year of the LVIII . Olympiad.
After this (thinker) comes Anaxagoras, son of Hegesibulus, a native of Clazomenae. This person affirmed the originating principle of the universe to be mind and matter; mind being the efficient cause, whereas matter that which was being formed. For all things coming into existence simultaneously, mind supervening introduced order. And material principles, he says, are infinite; even the smaller of these are infinite. And that all things partake of motion by being moved by mind, and that similar bodies coalesce. And that celestial bodies were arranged by orbicular motion. That, therefore, what was thick and moist, and dark and cold, and all things heavy, came together into the centre, from the solidification of which earth derived support; but that the things opposite to these— namely, heat and brilliancy, and dryness and lightness— hurried impetuously into the farther portion of the atmosphere. And that the earth is in figure plane; and that it continues suspended aloft, by reason of its magnitude, and by reason of there being no vacuum, and by reason of the air, which was most powerful, bearing along the wafted earth. But that among moist substances on earth, was the sea, and the waters in it; and when these evaporated (from the sun), or had settled under, that the ocean was formed in this manner, as well as from the rivers that from time to time flow into it. And that the rivers also derive support from the rains and from the actual waters in the earth; for that this is hollow, and contains water in its caverns. And that the Nile is inundated in summer, by reason of the waters carried down into it from the snows in northern (latitudes). And that the sun and moon and all the stars are fiery stones, that were rolled round by the rotation of the atmosphere. And that beneath the stars are sun and moon, and certain invisible bodies that are carried along with us; and that we have no perception of the heat of the stars, both on account of their being so far away, and on account of their distance from the earth; and further, they are not to the same degree hot as the sun, on account of their occupying a colder situation. And that the moon, being lower than the sun, is nearer us. And that the sun surpasses the Peloponnesus in size. And that the moon has not light of its own, but from the sun. But that the revolution of the stars takes place under the earth. And that the moon is eclipsed when the earth is interposed, and occasionally also those (stars) that are underneath the moon. And that the sun (is eclipsed) when, at the beginning of the month, the moon is interposed. And that the solstices are caused by both sun and moon being repulsed by the air. And that the moon is often turned, by its not being able to make head against the cold. This person was the first to frame definitions regarding eclipses and illuminations. And he affirmed that the moon is earthy, and has in it plains and ravines. And that the milky way is a reflection of the light of the stars which do not derive their radiance from the sun; and that the stars, coursing (the firmament) as shooting sparks, arise out of the motion of the pole. And that winds are caused when the atmosphere is rarified by the sun, and by those burning orbs that advance under the pole, and are borne from (it). And that thunder and lightning are caused by heat falling on the clouds. And that earthquakes are produced by the air above falling on that under the earth; for when this is moved, that the earth also, being wafted by it, is shaken. And that animals originally came into existence in moisture, and after this one from another; and that males are procreated when the seed secreted from the right parts adhered to the right parts of the womb, and that females are born when the contrary took place. This philosopher flourished in the first year of the LXXXVIII . Olympiad, at which time they say that Plato also was born. They maintain that Anaxagoras was likewise prescient.
Archelaus was by birth an Athenian, and son of Apollodorus. This person, similarly with Anaxagoras, asserted the mixture of matter, and enunciated his first principles in the same manner. This philosopher, however, held that there is inherent immediately in mind a certain mixture; and that the originating principle of motion is the mutual separation of heat and cold, and that the heat is moved, and that the cold remains at rest. And that the water, being dissolved, flows towards the centre, where the scorched air and earth are produced, of which the one is borne upwards and the other remains beneath. And that the earth is at rest, and that on this account it came into existence; and that it lies in the centre, being no part, so to speak, of the universe, delivered from the conflagration; and that from this, first in a state of ignition, is the nature of the stars, of which indeed the largest is the sun, and next to this the moon; and of the rest some less, but some greater. And he says that the heaven was inclined at an angle, and so that the sun diffused light over the earth, and made the atmosphere transparent, and the ground dry; for that at first it was a sea, inasmuch as it is lofty at the horizon and hollow in the middle. And he adduces, as an indication of the hollowness, that the sun does not rise and set to all at the same time, which ought to happen if the earth was even. And with regard to animals, he affirms that the earth, being originally fire in its lower part, where the heat and cold were intermingled, both the rest of animals made their appearance, numerous and dissimilar, all having the same food, being nourished from mud; and their existence was of short duration, but afterwards also generation from one another arose unto them; and men were separated from the rest (of the animal creation), and they appointed rulers, and laws, and arts, and cities, and the rest. And he asserts that mind is innate in all animals alike; for that each, according to the difference of their physical constitution, employed (mind), at one time slower, at another faster.
Natural philosophy, then, continued from Thales until Archelaus. Socrates was the hearer of this (latter philosopher). There are, however, also very many others, introducing various opinions respecting both the divinity and the nature of the universe; and if we were disposed to adduce all the opinions of these, it would be necessary to compose a vast quantity of books. But, reminding the reader of those whom we especially ought— who are deserving of mention from their fame, and from being, so to speak, the leaders to those who have subsequently framed systems of philosophy, and from their supplying them with a starting-point towards such undertakings— let us hasten on our investigations towards what remains for consideration.
For Parmenides likewise supposes the universe to be one, both eternal and unbegotten, and of a spherical form. And neither did he escape the opinion of the great body (of speculators), affirming fire and earth to be the originating principles of the universe— the earth as matter, but the fire as cause, even an efficient one. He asserted that the world would be destroyed, but in what way he does not mention. The same (philosopher), however, affirmed the universe to be eternal, and not generated, and of spherical form and homogeneous, but not having a figure in itself, and immoveable and limited.
But Leucippus, an associate of Zeno, did not maintain the same opinion, but affirms things to be infinite, and always in motion, and that generation and change exist continuously. And he affirms plenitude and vacuum to be elements. And he asserts that worlds are produced when many bodies are congregated and flow together from the surrounding space to a common point, so that by mutual contact they made substances of the same figure and similar in form come into connection; and when thus intertwined, there are transmutations into other bodies, and that created things wax and wane through necessity. But what the nature of necessity is, (Parmenides) did not define.
And Democritus was an acquaintance of Leucippus. Democritus, son of Damasippus, a native of Abdera, conferring with many gymnosophists among the Indians, and with priests in Egypt, and with astrologers and magi in Babylon, (propounded his system). Now he makes statements similarly with Leucippus concerning elements, viz. plenitude and vacuum, denominating plenitude entity, and vacuum nonentity; and this he asserted, since existing things are continually moved in the vacuum. And he maintained worlds to be infinite, and varying in bulk; and that in some there is neither sun nor moon, while in others that they are larger than with us, and with others more numerous. And that intervals between worlds are unequal; and that in one quarter of space (worlds) are more numerous, and in another less so; and that some of them increase in bulk, but that others attain their full size, while others dwindle away and that in one quarter they are coming into existence, while in another they are failing; and that they are destroyed by clashing one with another. And that some worlds are destitute of animals and plants, and every species of moisture. And that the earth of our world was created before that of the stars, and that the moon is underneath; next (to it) the sun; then the fixed stars. And that (neither) the planets nor these (fixed stars) possess an equal elevation. And that the world flourishes, until no longer it can receive anything from without. This (philosopher) turned all things into ridicule, as if all the concerns of humanity were deserving of laughter.
But Xenophanes, a native of Colophon, was son of Orthomenes. This man survived to the time of Cyrus. This (philosopher) first asserted that there is no possibility of comprehending anything, expressing himself thus:—
For if for the most part of perfection man may speak,
Yet he knows it not himself, and in all attains surmise.
And he affirms that nothing is generated or perishes, or is moved; and that the universe, being one, is beyond change. But he says that the deity is eternal, and one and altogether homogeneous and limited, and of a spherical form, and endued with perception in all parts. And that the sun exists during each day from a conglomeration of small sparks, and that the earth is infinite, and is surrounded neither by an atmosphere nor by the heaven. And that there are infinite suns and moons, and that all things spring from earth. This man affirmed that the sea is salt, on account of the many mixtures that flow into it. Metrodorus, however, from the fact of its being filtered through earth, asserts that it is on account of this that it is made salt. And Xenophanes is of opinion that there had been a mixture of the earth with the sea, and that in process of time it was disengaged from the moisture, alleging that he could produce such proofs as the following: that in the midst of earth, and in mountains, shells are discovered; and also in Syracuse he affirms was found in the quarries the print of a fish and of seals, and in Paros an image of a laurel in the bottom of a stone, and in Melita parts of all sorts of marine animals. And he says that these were generated when all things originally were embedded in mud, and that an impression of them was dried in the mud, but that all men had perished when the earth, being precipitated into the sea, was converted into mud; then, again, that it originated generation, and that this overthrow occurred to all worlds.
One Ecphantus, a native of Syracuse, affirmed that it is not possible to attain a true knowledge of things. He defines, however, as he thinks, primary bodies to be indivisible, and that there are three variations of these, viz., bulk, figure, capacity, from which are generated the objects of sense. But that there is a determinable multitude of these, and that this is infinite. And that bodies are moved neither by weight nor by impact, but by divine power, which he calls mind and soul; and that of this the world is a representation; wherefore also it has been made in the form of a sphere by divine power. And that the earth in the middle of the cosmical system is moved round its own centre towards the east.
Hippo, a native of Rhegium, asserted as originating principles, coldness, for instance water, and heat, for instance fire. And that fire, when produced by water, subdued the power of its generator, and formed the world. And the soul, he said, is sometimes brain, but sometimes water; for that also the seed is that which appears to us to arise out of moisture, from which, he says, the soul is produced.
So far, then, we think we have sufficiently adduced (the opinions of) these; wherefore, inasmuch as we have adequately gone in review through the tenets of physical speculators, it seems to remain that we now turn to Socrates and Plato, who gave special preference to moral philosophy.
Socrates, then, was a hearer of Archelaus, the natural philosopher; and he, reverencing the rule,
Know yourself, and having assembled a large school, had Plato (there), who was far superior to all his pupils. (Socrates) himself left no writings after him. Plato, however, taking notes of all his (lectures on) wisdom, established a school, combining together natural, ethical, (and) logical (philosophy). But the points Plato determined are these following.
Plato (lays down) that there are three originating principles of the universe, (namely) God, and matter, and exemplar; God as the Maker and Regulator of this universe, and the Being who exercises providence over it; but matter, as that which underlies all (phenomena), which (matter) he styles both receptive and a nurse, out of the arrangement of which proceeded the four elements of which the world consists; (I mean) fire, air, earth, water, from which all the rest of what are denominated concrete substances, as well as animals and plants, have been formed. And that the exemplar, which he likewise calls ideas, is the intelligence of the Deity, to which, as to an image in the soul, the Deity attending, fabricated all things. God, he says, is both incorporeal and shapeless, and comprehensible by wise men solely; whereas matter is body potentially, but with potentiality not as yet passing into action, for being itself without form and without quality, by assuming forms and qualities, it became body. That matter, therefore, is an originating principle, and coeval with the Deity, and that in this respect the world is uncreated. For (Plato) affirms that (the world) was made out of it. And that (the attribute of) imperishableness necessarily belongs to (literally
follows) that which is uncreated. So far forth, however, as body is supposed to be compounded out of both many qualities and ideas, so far forth it is both created and perishable. But some of the followers of Plato mingled both of these, employing some such example as the following: That as a waggon can always continue undestroyed, though undergoing partial repairs from time to time, so that even the parts each in turn perish, yet itself remains always complete; so after this manner the world also, although in parts it perishes, yet the things that are removed, being repaired, and equivalents for them being introduced, it remains eternal.
Some maintain that Plato asserts the Deity to be one, ingenerable and incorruptible, as he says in The Laws:
God, therefore, as the ancient account has it, possesses both the beginning, and end, and middle of all things. Thus he shows God to be one, on account of His having pervaded all things. Others, however, maintain that Plato affirms the existence of many gods indefinitely, when he uses these words:
God of gods, of whom I am both the Creator and Father. But others say that he speaks of a definite number of deities in the following passage:
Therefore the mighty Jupiter, wheeling his swift chariot in heaven; and when he enumerates the offspring of the children of heaven and earth. But others assert that (Plato) constituted the gods as generable; and on account of their having been produced, that altogether they were subject to the necessity of corruption, but that on account of the will of God they are immortal, (maintaining this) in the passage already quoted, where, to the words,
God of gods, of whom I am Creator and Father, he adds,
indissoluble through the fiat of My will; so that if (God) were disposed that these should be dissolved, they would easily be dissolved.
And he admits natures (such as those) of demons, and says that some of them are good, but others worthless. And some affirm that he states the soul to be uncreated and immortal, when he uses the following words, soul is self-moved, and capable of originating motion. Others, however, (say that Plato asserted that the soul was) created, but rendered imperishable through the will of God. But some (will have it that he considered the soul) a composite (essence), and generable and corruptible; for even he supposes that there is a receptacle for it, and that it possesses a luminous body, but that everything generated involves a necessity of corruption. Those, however, who assert the immortality of the soul are especially strengthened in their opinion by those passages (in Plato's writings), where he says, that both there are judgments after death, and tribunals of justice in Hades, and that the virtuous (souls) receive a good reward, while the wicked (ones) suitable punishment. Some notwithstanding assert, that he also acknowledges a transition of souls from one body to another, and that different souls, those that were marked out for such a purpose, pass into different bodies, according to the desert of each, and that after certain definite periods they are sent up into this world to furnish once more a proof of their choice. Others, however, (do not admit this to be his doctrine, but will have it that Plato affirms that the souls) obtain a place according to the desert of each; and they employ as a testimony the saying of his, that some good men are with Jove, and that others are ranging abroad (through heaven) with other gods; whereas that others are involved in eternal punishments, as many as during this life have committed wicked and unjust deeds.
And people affirm that Plato says, that some things are without a mean, that others have a mean, that others are a mean. (For example, that) waking and sleep, and such like, are conditions without an intermediate state; but that there are things that had means, for instance virtue and vice; and there are means (between extremes), for instance grey between white and black, or some other colour. And they say, that he affirms that the things pertaining to the soul are absolutely alone good, but that the things pertaining to the body, and those external (to it), are not any longer absolutely good, but reputed blessings. And that frequently he names these means also, for that it is possible to use them both well and ill. Some virtues, therefore, he says, are extremes in regard of intrinsic worth, but in regard of their essential nature means, for nothing is more estimable than virtue. But whatever excels or falls short of these terminates in vice. For instance, he says that there are four virtues— prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude— and that on each of these is attendant two vices, according to excess and defect: for example, on prudence, recklessness according to defect, and knavery according to excess; and on temperance, licentiousness according to defect, stupidity according to excess; and on justice, foregoing a claim according to defect, unduly pressing it according to excess; and on fortitude, cowardice according to defect, foolhardiness according to excess. And that these virtues, when inherent in a man, render him perfect, and afford him happiness. And happiness, he says, is assimilation to the Deity, as far as this is possible; and that assimilation to God takes place when any one combines holiness and justice with prudence. For this he supposes the end of supreme wisdom and virtue. And he affirms that the virtues follow one another in turn, and are uniform, and are never antagonistic to each other; whereas that vices are multiform, and sometimes follow one the other, and sometimes are antagonistic to each other. He asserts that fate exists; not, to be sure, that all things are produced according to fate, but that there is even something in our power, as in the passages where he says,
The fault is his who chooses, God is blameless; and
the following law of Adrasteia. And thus some (contend for his upholding) a system of fate, whereas others one of free-will. He asserts, however, that sins are involuntary. For into what is most glorious of the things in our power, which is the soul, no one would (deliberately) admit what is vicious, that is, transgression, but that from ignorance and an erroneous conception of virtue, supposing that they were achieving something honourable, they pass into vice. And his doctrine on this point is most clear in The Republic, where he says,
But, again, you presume to assert that vice is disgraceful and abhorred of God; how then, I may ask, would one choose such an evil thing? He, you reply, (would do so) who is worsted by pleasures. Therefore this also is involuntary, if to gain a victory be voluntary; so that, in every point of view, the committing an act of turpitude, reason proves to be involuntary. Some one, however, in opposition to this (Plato), advances the contrary statement,
Why then are men punished if they sin involuntary? But he replies, that he himself also, as soon as possible, may be emancipated from vice, and undergo punishment. For that the undergoing punishment is not an evil, but a good thing, if it is likely to prove a purification of evils; and that the rest of mankind, hearing of it, may not transgress, but guard against such an error. (Plato, however, maintains) that the nature of evil is neither created by the Deity, nor possesses subsistence of itself, but that it derives existence from contrariety to what is good, and from attendance upon it, either by excess and defect, as we have previously affirmed concerning the virtues. Plato unquestionably then, as we have already stated, collecting together the three departments of universal philosophy, in this manner formed his speculative system.
Aristotle, who was a pupil of this (Plato), reduced philosophy into an art, and was distinguished rather for his proficiency in logical science, supposing as the elements of all things substance and accident; that there is one substance underlying all things, but nine accidents,— namely, quantity, quality, relation, where, when, possession, posture, action, passion; and that substance is of some such description as God, man, and each of the beings that can fall under a similar denomination. But in regard of accidents, quality is seen in, for instance, white, black; and quantity, for instance two cubits, three cubits; and relation, for instance father, son; and where, for instance at Athens, Megara; and when, for instance during the tenth Olympiad; and possession, for instance to have acquired; and action, for instance to write, and in general to evince any practical powers; and posture, for instance to lie down; and passion, for instance to be struck. He also supposes that some things have means, but that others are without means, as we have declared concerning Plato likewise. And in most points he is in agreement with Plato, except the opinion concerning soul. For Plato affirms it to be immortal, but Aristotle that it involves permanence; and after these things, that this also vanishes in the fifth body, which he supposes, along with the other four (elements),— viz., fire, and earth, and water, and air—to be a something more subtle (than these), of the nature of spirit. Plato therefore says, that the only really good things are those pertaining to the soul, and that they are sufficient for happiness; whereas Aristotle introduces a threefold classification of good things, and asserts that the wise man is not perfect, unless there are present to him both the good things of the body and those extrinsic to it. The former are beauty, strength, vigour of the senses, soundness; while the things extrinsic (to the body) are wealth, nobility, glory, power, peace, friendship. And the inner qualities of the soul he classifies, as it was the opinion of Plato, under prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude. This (philosopher) also affirms that evils arise according to an opposition of the things that are good, and that they exist beneath the quarter around the moon, but reach no farther beyond the moon; and that the soul of the entire world is immortal, and that the world itself is eternal, but that (the soul) in an individual, as we have before stated, vanishes (in the fifth body). This (speculator), then holding discussions in the Lyceum, drew up from time to time his system of philosophy; but Zeno (held his school) in the porch called Poecilé. And the followers of Zeno obtained their name from the place— that is, from Stoa— (i.e., a porch), being styled Stoics; whereas Aristotle's followers (were denominated) from their mode of employing themselves while teaching. For since they were accustomed walking about in the Lyceum to pursue their investigations, on this account they were called Peripatetics. These indeed, then, were the doctrines of Aristotle.
The Stoics themselves also imparted growth to philosophy, in respect of a greater development of the art of syllogism, and included almost everything under definitions, both Chrysippus and Zeno being coincident in opinion on this point. And they likewise supposed God to be the one originating principle of all things, being a body of the utmost refinement, and that His providential care pervaded everything; and these speculators were positive about the existence of fate everywhere, employing some such example as the following: that just as a dog, supposing him attached to a car, if indeed he is disposed to follow, both is drawn, or follows voluntarily, making an exercise also of free power, in combination with necessity, that is, fate; but if he may not be disposed to follow, he will altogether be coerced to do so. And the same, of course, holds good in the case of men. For though not willing to follow, they will altogether be compelled to enter upon what has been decreed for them. (The Stoics), however, assert that the soul abides after death, but that it is a body, and that such is formed from the refrigeration of the surrounding atmosphere; wherefore, also, that it was called psyche (i.e., soul). And they acknowledge likewise, that there is a transition of souls from one body to another, that is, for those souls for whom this migration has been destined. And they accept the doctrine, that there will be a conflagration, a purification of this world, some say the entire of it, but others a portion, and that (the world) itself is undergoing partial destruction; and this all but corruption, and the generation from it of another world, they term purgation. And they assume the existence of all bodies, and that body does not pass through body, but that a refraction takes place, and that all things involve plenitude, and that there is no vacuum. The foregoing are the opinions of the Stoics also.
Epicurus, however, advanced an opinion almost contrary to all. He supposed, as originating principles of all things, atoms and vacuity. He considered vacuity as the place that would contain the things that will exist, and atoms the matter out of which all things could be formed; and that from the concourse of atoms both the Deity derived existence, and all the elements, and all things inherent in them, as well as animals and other (creatures); so that nothing was generated or existed, unless it be from atoms. And he affirmed that these atoms were composed of extremely small particles, in which there could not exist either a point or a sign, or any division; wherefore also he called them atoms. Acknowledging the Deity to be eternal and incorruptible, he says that God has providential care for nothing, and that there is no such thing at all as providence or fate, but that all things are made by chance. For that the Deity reposed in the intermundane spaces, (as they) are thus styled by him; for outside the world he determined that there is a certain habitation of God, denominated
the intermundane spaces, and that the Deity surrendered Himself to pleasure, and took His ease in the midst of supreme happiness; and that neither has He any concerns of business, nor does He devote His attention to them. As a consequence on these opinions, he also propounded his theory concerning wise men, asserting that the end of wisdom is pleasure. Different persons, however, received the term
pleasure in different acceptations; for some (among the Gentiles understood) the passions, but others the satisfaction resulting from virtue. And he concluded that the souls of men are dissolved along with their bodies, just as also they were produced along with them, for that they are blood, and that when this has gone forth or been altered, the entire man perishes; and in keeping with this tenet, (Epicurus maintained) that there are neither trials in Hades, nor tribunals of justice; so that whatsoever any one may commit in this life, that, provided he may escape detection, he is altogether beyond any liability of trial (for it in a future state). In this way, then, Epicurus also formed his opinions.
And another opinion of the philosophers was called that of the Academics, on account of those holding their discussions in the Academy, of whom the founder Pyrrho, from whom they were called Pyrrhonean philosophers, first introduced the notion of the incomprehensibility of all things, so as to (be ready to) attempt an argument on either side of a question, but not to assert anything for certain; for that there is nothing of things intelligible or sensible true, but that they appear to men to be so; and that all substance is in a state of flux and change, and never continues in the same (condition). Some followers, then, of the Academics say that one ought not to declare an opinion on the principle of anything, but simply making the attempt to give it up; whereas others subjoined the formulary
not rather (this than that), saying that the fire is not rather fire than anything else. But they did not declare what this is, but what sort it is.
But there is also with the Indians a sect composed of those philosophizing among the Brachmans. They spend a contented existence, abstain both from living creatures and all cooked food, being satisfied with fruits; and not gathering these from the trees, but carrying off those that have fallen to the earth. They subsist upon them, drinking the water of the river Tazabena. But they pass their life naked, affirming that the body has been constituted a covering to the soul by the Deity. These affirm that God is light, not such as one sees, nor such as the sun and fire; but to them the Deity is discourse, not that which finds expression in articulate sounds, but that of the knowledge through which the secret mysteries of nature are perceived by the wise. And this light which they say is discourse, their god, they assert that the Brachmans only know on account of their alone rejecting all vanity of opinion which is the soul's ultimate covering. These despise death, and always in their own peculiar language call God by the name which we have mentioned previously, and they send up hymns (to him). But neither are there women among them, nor do they beget children. But they who aim at a life similar to these, after they have crossed over to the country on the opposite side of the river, continue to reside there, returning no more; and these also are called Brachmans. But they do not pass their life similarly, for there are also in the place women, of whom those that dwell there are born, and in turn beget children. And this discourse which they name God they assert to be corporeal, and enveloped in a body outside himself, just as if one were wearing a sheep's skin, but that on divesting himself of body that he would appear clear to the eye. But the Brachmans say that there is a conflict in the body that surrounds them, (and they consider that the body is for them full of conflicts); in opposition to which, as if marshalled for battle against enemies, they contend, as we have already explained. And they say that all men are captive to their own congenital struggles, viz., sensuality and inchastity, gluttony, anger, joy, sorrow, concupiscence, and such like. And he who has reared a trophy over these, alone goes to God; wherefore the Brachmans deify Dandamis, to whom Alexander the Macedonian paid a visit, as one who had proved victorious in the bodily conflict. But they bear down on Calanus as having profanely withdrawn from their philosophy. But the Brachmans, putting off the body, like fishes jumping out of water into the pure air, behold the sun.
And the Celtic Druids investigated to the very highest point the Pythagorean philosophy, after Zamolxis, by birth a Thracian, a servant of Pythagoras, became to them the originator of this discipline. Now after the death of Pythagoras, Zamolxis, repairing there, became to them the originator of this philosophy. The Celts esteem these as prophets and seers, on account of their foretelling to them certain (events), from calculations and numbers by the Pythagorean art; on the methods of which very art also we shall not keep silence, since also from these some have presumed to introduce heresies; but the Druids resort to magical rites likewise.
But Hesiod the poet asserts himself also that he thus heard from the Muses concerning nature, and that the Muses are the daughters of Jupiter. For when for nine nights and days together, Jupiter, through excess of passion, had uninterruptedly lain with Mnemosyne, that Mnemosyne conceived in one womb those nine Muses, becoming pregnant with one during each night. Having then summoned the nine Muses from Pieria, that is, Olympus, he exhorted them to undergo instruction:—
How first both gods and earth were made,
And rivers, and boundless deep, and ocean's surge,
And glittering stars, and spacious heaven above;
How they grasped the crown and shared the glory,
And how at first they held the many-valed Olympus.
These (truths), you Muses, tell me of, says he,
From first, and next which of them first arose.
Chaos, no doubt, the very first, arose; but next
Wide-stretching Earth, ever the throne secure of all
Immortals, who hold the peaks of white Olympus;
And breezy Tartarus in wide earth's recess;
And Love, who is most beauteous of the gods immortal,
Chasing care away from all the gods and men,
Quells in breasts the mind and counsel sage.
But Erebus from Chaos and gloomy Night arose;
And, in turn, from Night both Air and Day were born;
But primal Earth, equal to self in truth begot
The stormy sky to veil it round on every side,
Ever to be for happy gods a throne secure.
And forth she brought the towering hills, the pleasant haunts
Of nymphs who dwell throughout the woody heights.
And also barren Sea begot the surge-tossed
Flood, apart from luscious Love; but next
Embracing Heaven, she Ocean bred with eddies deep,
And Caeus, and Crius, and Hyperian, and Iapetus,
And Thia, and Rhea, and Themis, and Mnemosyne,
And gold-crowned Phoebe, and comely Tethys.
But after these was born last the wiley Cronus,
Fiercest of sons; but he abhorred his blooming sire,
And in turn the Cyclops bred, who owned a savage breast.
And all the rest of the giants from Cronus, Hesiod enumerates, and somewhere afterwards that Jupiter was born of Rhea. All these, then, made the foregoing statements in their doctrine regarding both the nature and generation of the universe. But all, sinking below what is divine, busied themselves concerning the substance of existing things, being astonished at the magnitude of creation, and supposing that it constituted the Deity, each speculator selecting in preference a different portion of the world; failing, however, to discern the God and maker of these.
The opinions, therefore, of those who have attempted to frame systems of philosophy among the Greeks, I consider that we have sufficiently explained; and from these the heretics, taking occasion, have endeavoured to establish the tenets that will be after a short time declared. It seems, however, expedient, that first explaining the mystical rites and whatever imaginary doctrines some have laboriously framed concerning the stars, or magnitudes, to declare these; for heretics likewise, taking occasion from them, are considered by the multitude to utter prodigies. Next in order we shall elucidate the feeble opinions advanced by these.
Books 2 and 3 are wanting.
Source. Translated by J.H. MacMahon. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/050101.htm>.
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