THE GOODNESS OF THE GODS
Η ΑΓΑΘΟΤΗΣ ΤΩΝ ΘΕΩΝ
The Goodness of the Gods - (Greek: Η ΑΓΑΘΟΤΗΣ ΤΩΝ ΘΕΩΝ, E Agathotes ton Theon)
Is the Kosmos good? Is the Kosmos evil? At its most fundamental level, the Kosmos is neither good nor evil, these ideas being a point of view only, a perspective. The Universe IS. There is no evil nor good in Nature.
From another perspective, the natural state can be defined as Good. That which deviates from Natural Law strays into ignorance and delusion, which could be defined as 'evil.' Gross acts that violate natural law, acts such as enslaving others, murder, torture etc. are acts of a deviant mind, acts of stupidity and ignorance. Such acts could be defined as 'evil' and are symbolized by darkness, because in darkness we cannot see. As darkness is the absence of light, so 'evil' is the manifestation of the absence of an accurate perception of reality, ignorance.
The Gods are beings of great light. They enlighten the universe with their light. There is nothing dark or evil in them. Evil is small thinking involving great ignorance. The Gods are highly evolved beings whose thinking is vast and enlightened, the exact opposite of evil. Their vision is accurate and based on a great progression of the soul.
Below are quotations from texts concerning the goodness of the Gods.
A LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS can be found on this page: GLOSSARY HOME PAGE.
DIOGÆNIS LAÆRTIOS (Gr. Diogenes Laertius; Gr. Διογένης Λαέρτιος)
"The deity, say they, is a living being, immortal, rational, perfect or intelligent in happiness, admitting nothing evil [into him], taking providential care of the world and all that therein is..." Diogænis Laærtios The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Book 7.147, trans. by C. D. Yonge, 1828; Henry G. Bohn Publ. (London, England).
"For it is absurd to search for good in any direction other than from the Gods. Those who do so resemble a man who, in a country governed by a king, should do honor to one of his fellow-citizens who is a magistrate, while neglecting him who is the ruler of them all. Indeed, this is what the Pythagoreans thought of people who searched for good elsewhere than from God. For since He exists as the lord of all things, it must be self-evident that good must be requested of Him alone." (excerpt from The Life of Pythagoras 18. by Iamblichus, as found in The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, trans. Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, 1920; 1988 Phanes Press edition, p. 79)
"Whereas, the truth is that God is never in any way unrighteous--he is perfect righteousness; and he of us who is the most righteous is most like him." (Plato Theaetetus, 176, DPII pp. 178-179)
"Let me tell you then why the creator made this world of generation. He was good (ed. Plato exact words: agathos in; Gr. ἀγαθὸς ἦν), and the good can never have any jealousy of anything. And being free from jealousy, he desired that all things should be as like himself as they could be. This is in the truest sense the origin of creation and of the world, as we shall do well in believing on the testimony of wise men: God desired that all things should be good and nothing bad, so far as this was attainable." (Plato Timaeus 29d-e; DPII pp. 13-14)
"Then God, if he be good (ed. the text again is using the word agathos, Gr. ἀγαθός), is not the author of all things, as the many assert, but he is the cause of a few things only and not of most things that occur to men. For few are the goods of human life, and many are the evils, and the good is to be attributed to God alone; of the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in him." (Plato Republic, Book II, 379; DPI p. 643)
"For I maintain that the true life should neither seek for pleasures, nor, on the other hand, entirely avoid pains, but should embrace the middle state, which I just spoke of as gentle and benign, and is a state which we by some divine presage and inspiration rightly ascribe to God." (Plato Laws, Book VII, 792e; DPII p. 548)
" 'The conventions which we have most assuredly inherited from an unbroken succession of godlike men are as follows. The Gods are everything in Nature that is greater and more blessed than human nature' They provide for our happiness out of their abundance; they are the source of good, never of evil; 'bound by an irreversible and inevitable Fate, they allot the best of all that is possible to all men.' There are many Gods of various degrees of divinity. Supreme among them is Zeus, who is ungenerated, everlasting, the father of himself, the father and pre-eminent creator of all other things. He is the absolute good." (Plethon's The Book of Laws, Woodhouse, p. 329)
Again, from another principle we may be able to apprehend the theological demonstrations in the Republic. For these are common to all the divine orders, similarly extend to all the discussion about the Gods, and unfold to us truth in uninterrupted connexion with what has been before said. In the second book of the Republic therefore, Socrates describes certain theological types for the mythological poets, and exhorts his pupils to purify themselves from those tragic disciplines, which some do not refuse to introduce to a divine nature, concealing in these as in veils the arcane mysteries concerning the Gods. Socrates therefore, as I have said, narrating the types and laws of divine fables, which afford this apparent meaning, and the inward concealed scope, which regards as its end the beautiful and the natural in the fictions about the Gods, - in the first place indeed, thinks fit to evince, according to our unperverted conception about the Gods and their goodness, that they are the suppliers of all good, but the causes of no evil to any being at any time. In the second place, he says that they are essentially immutable, and that they neither have various forms, deceiving and fascinating, nor are the authors of the greatest evil lying, in deeds or in words, or of error and folly. These therefore being two laws, the former has two conclusions, viz. that the Gods are not the causes of evils, and that they are the causes of all good. The second law also in a similar manner has two other conclusions; and these are, that every divine nature is immutable, and is established pure from falsehood and artificial variety. All the things demonstrated therefore, depend on these three common conceptions about a divine nature, viz. on the conceptions about its goodness, immutability and truth. For the first and ineffable fountain of good is with the Gods; together with eternity, which is the cause of a power that has an invariable sameness of subsistence; and the first intellect which is beings themselves, and the truth which is in real beings.
That therefore, which has the hyparxis of itself, and the whole of its essence defined in the good, and which by its very being produces all things, must necessarily be productive of every good, but of no evil. For if there was any thing primarily good, which is not God, perhaps some one might say that divinity is indeed a cause of good, but that he does not impart to beings every good. If, however, not only every God is good, but that which is primarily boniform and beneficent is God, (for that which is primarily good will not be the second after the Gods, because every where, things which have a secondary subsistence, receive the peculiarity of their hyparxis from those that subsist primarily) - this being the case, it is perfectly necessary that divinity should be the cause of good, and of all such goods as proceed into secondary descents, as far as to the last of things. For as the power which is the cause of life, gives subsistence to all life, as the power which is the cause of knowledge, produces all knowledge, as the power which is the cause of beauty, produces every thing beautiful, as well the beauty which is in words, as that which is in the phænomena, and thus every primary cause produces all similars from itself and binds to itself the one hypostasis of things which subsist according to one form, - after the same manner I think the first and most principal good, and uniform hyparxis, establishes in and about itself, the causes and comprehensions of all goods at once. Nor is there any thing good which does not possess this power from it, nor beneficent which being converted to it, does not participate of this cause. For all goods are from thence produced, perfected and preserved; and the one series and order of universal good, depends on that fountain. Through the same cause of hyparxis therefore, the Gods are the suppliers of all good, and of no evil. For that which is primarily good, gives subsistence to every good from itself, and is not the cause of an allotment contrary to itself; since that which is productive of life, is not the cause of the privation of life, and that which is the source of beauty is exempt from the nature of that which is void of beauty and is deformed, and from the causes of this. Hence, of that which primarily constitutes good, it is not lawful to assert that it is the cause of contrary progeny; but the nature of goods proceeds from thence undefiled, unmingled and uniform."
THE GODS ARE NOT THE SOURCE OF OUR MISERY:
"The belief that the Gods are never the cause of any evil, it seems to me, contributes greatly to proper conduct towards the Gods. For evils proceed from vice alone, while the Gods are of themselves the causes of good, and of any advantage, though in the meantime we slight their beneficence, and surround ourselves with voluntary evils. That is why I agree with the poet who says,
(Proclus' The Theology of Plato, Book I, Chapter XVI & XVII, translated by Thomas Taylor; found in the 1999 Prometheus Trust edition, Vol. VIII of The Thomas Taylor Series, on pp. 98-100)
as if they were the causes of their evils!
Many arguments prove that God is never in any way the cause of evil, but it will suffice to read [in the first book of the Republic] the words of Plato "that as it is not the nature of heat to refrigerate, so the beneficent cannot harm; but the contrary." Moreover, God being good, and from the beginning replete with every virtue, cannot harm nor cause evil to anyone; on the contrary, he imparts good to all willing to receive it, bestowing on us also such indifferent things as flow from nature, and which result in accordance with nature." (excerpt from The Ethical Fragments of Hierocles 1, as found in The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, trans. Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, 1920; 1988 Phanes Press edition, p. 276)
HOMER:"Ah how shameless--the way these mortals blame the Gods. From us alone, they say, come all their miseries, yes, but they themselves, with their own reckless ways, compound their pains beyond their proper share."
Zeus speaking to assembled Gods. (Homer's Odyssey, Book I, 37-40; translated by Robert Fagles, 1996, Penguin, p. 78)
The same passage at greater length in a more poetic translation:
"Perverse mankind! whose wills, created free,
Charge all their woes on absolute decree;
All to the dooming Gods their guilt translate,
And follies are miscall'd the crimes of fate.
When to his lust Ægysthus gave the rein,
Did fate, or we, the adulterous act constrain?
Did fate, or we, when great Atrides died,
Urge the bold traitor to the regicide?
Hermes I sent, while yet his soul remain'd
Sincere from royal blood, and faith profaned;
To warn the wretch, that young Orestes, grown
To manly years, should re-assert the throne,
Yet, impotent of mind, and uncontroll'd,
He plunged into the gulf which Heaven foretold."
Zeus speaking to the assembled Gods. (Homer's Odyssey, Book I, 37-52; translated by Alexander Pope, 1726)
Socrates: "...the friend of the Gods may be supposed to receive from them all things at their best, excepting only such evil as is the necessary consequence of former sins?
"When Er and the spirits arrived, their duty was to go at once to Lachesis (ed. one of Moirae, the Fates); but first of all there came a prophet who arranged them in order; then he took from the knees of Lachesis lots and samples of lives, and having mounted a high pulpit, spoke as follows: 'Hear the word of Lachesis, the daughter of Necessity. Mortal souls, behold a new cycle of life and mortality. Your genius will not be allotted to you, but you will choose your genius; and let him who draws the first lot have the first choice, and the life which he chooses shall be his destiny. Virtue is free, and as a man honours or dishonours her he will have more of less of her; the responsibility is with the chooser--God is justified.' When the Interpreter had thus spoken he scattered lots indifferently among them all, and each of them took up the lot which fell near him, all but Er himself (he was not allowed), and each as he took his lot perceived the number which he had obtained. Then the Interpreter placed on the ground before them the samples of lives; and there were many more lives than the souls present, and they were of all sorts. There were lives of every animal and of man in every condition. And there were tyrannies among them, some lasting out the tyrant's life, others which broke off in the middle and came to an end in poverty and exile and beggary; and there were lives of famous men, some who were famous for their form and beauty as well as for their strength and success in games, or, again, for their birth and the qualities of their ancestors; and some who were the reverse of famous for the opposite qualities. And of women likewise; there was not, however, any definite character in them, because the soul, when choosing a new life, must of necessity become different. But there was every other quality, and they all mingled with one another, and also with elements of wealth and poverty, and disease and health; and there were mean states also. And here, my dear Glaucon, is the supreme peril of our human state; and therefore the utmost care should be taken. Let each one of us leave every other kind of knowledge and seek and follow one thing only, if peradventure he may be able to learn and find some one who will make him able to learn and discern between good and evil, and so to choose always and everywhere the better life as he has opportunity. He should consider the bearing of all these things which have been mentioned severally and collectively upon virtue; he should know what the effect of beauty is when combined with poverty or wealth in a particular soul, and what are the good and evil consequences of noble and humble birth, of private and public station, of strength and weakness, of cleverness and dullness, and of all the natural and acquired gifts of the soul, and the operation of them when conjoined; he will then look at the nature of the soul, and from the consideration of all these qualities he will be able to determine which is the better and which is the worse; and so he will choose, giving the name of evil to the life which will make his soul more unjust, and good to the life which will make his soul more just; all else he will disregard.......
"All the souls had now chosen their lives, and they went in the order of their choice to Lachesis, who sent with them the genius whom they had severally chosen, to be the guardian of their lives and the fulfiller of the choice: this genius led the souls first to Clotho (ed. one of the Fates), and drew them within the revolution of the spindle impelled by her hand, thus ratifying the destiny of each; and then, when they were fastened to this, carried them to Atropos (ed. one of the Fates), and when they had all passed, they marched on in a scorching heat to the plain of Forgetfulness, which was a barren waste destitute of trees and verdure; and then towards evening they encamped by the river of Unmindfulness, whose water no vessel can hold; of this they were all obliged to drink a certain quantity, and those who were not saved by wisdom drank more than was necessary; and each one as he drank forgot all things. Now after they had gone to rest, about the middle of the night there was a thunderstorm and earthquake, and then in an instant they were driven upwards in all manner of ways to their birth, like stars shooting." (Plato The Republic, 617-622, DPI pp. 875-878)
THE GODS REWARD GOODNESS:
Glaucon: Yes, if he is like God he will surely not be neglected by him.
Socrates: And of the unjust may not the opposite be supposed?
Socrates: Such, then, are the palms of victory which the Gods give the just?
Glaucon: That is my conviction." (Plato The Republic, Book X, 613; DPI p. 871)
Socrates to the jurors, after he had been condemned to death: "Wherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and know of a certainty, that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death. He and his are not neglected by the Gods..." (Plato Apologia, 41; DPI p. 423)
Socrates: Then this must be our notion of the just man, that even when he is in poverty or sickness, or any other seeming misfortune, all things will in the end work together for good to him in life and death: for the Gods have a care of any one whose desire is to become just, and to be like God, as far as man can attain the divine likeness, by the pursuit of virtue?
(Plato The Republic, 613, DPI p. 871)
According to the Myth of Er, the life we were born into was chosen by ourselves. A man name Er has died in battle along with many others, but Er's body does not decay. Many days after his death, he revives and recounts in detail the activities he has witnessed in the afterlife.
A LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS can be found on this page: GLOSSARY HOME PAGE.
PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally; a literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is often concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation..
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