deification of the soul: sources
Deification of the Soul: Sources
ÆKTHǼOHSIS - ΕΚΘΕΩΣΙΣ
This page addresses topics of great importance to Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion: the concept of Ækthǽohsis (Ektheosis; Gr. Ἐκθέωσις), the deification of the soul, providing citations from texts both ancient and contemporary. There are also quotations concerning Próödos (Gr. Πρόοδος), the progress of the soul, and Palingænæsía (Palingenesía; Gr. Παλιγγενεσία), reincarnation, without which deification cannot occur.
According to Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς), the great Thæólogos (Theologian; Gr. Θεόλογὁς), the soul is immortal and takes on many bodies as it wanders through lives, but these bodies are temporal and are subject to the ravages of sickness, old-age, and death. As the soul reincarnates (Gr. Palingænæsía) and experiences each life, it has the potential to advance or progress (Gr. Próödos). We experience many, many lives, but it is said that, in reality, there is only one death, known in Greek as Kýklou Líxai (Gr. Κύκλου Λήξαι), the end of the circle. This final death is effected by what is called Ækthǽohsis, the deification of the soul by the Gods. Ækthǽohsis is possible because we consist of the two fundamental kosmogonic substances, Earth (Yi; Gr. Γῆ) and Water (Ýdohr; Gr. Ὕδωρ). These are the substance of Gods, the substance of Íra (Hera; Gr. Ἥρα) and the substance of Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς). Like a seed, such a small thing, which matures to become a real tree, our soul, when mature, becomes not god-like, but a true God, because we are of the same substance as the Gods.
Ækthǽohsis (Ektheosis; Gr. Ἐκθέωσις, ΕΚΘΕΩΣΙΣ) Lexicon entry: deification, consecration. (L&S, p. 507, edited for simplicity.) Etymology: εκ forth, out, or from + Θεός God, but used here as a verb. Therefore, Ækthǽohsis means "I God-forth," in other words, "I come forth as a God" or "I emerge a God," i.e., the deification of the soul.
It is easy to confuse Ækthǽohsis with two other words. Apothǽohsis (apotheosis, Gr. ἀποθέωσις) refers to the state of an individual who has achieved a 'god-like' personality, and is honored as such. Thǽosis (Theiosis; Gr. θέωσις) is an Orthodox Christian term defined as divinization, meaning that the devotee has united with God by his or her purity and has achieved salvation and sanctity, sainthood, ultimately culminating in the future resurrection of the body. The meaning of Ækthǽohsis is different from both of these words; Ækthǽohsis is not becoming like a God or god-like, but rather, Ækthǽohsis is becoming an actual God from a human being.
Anámnisis - (anámnēsis; Gr. ἀνάμνησις, ΑΝΑΜΝΗΣΙΣ) Anámnisis is the recollection of that which has been forgotten: remembrance. This is a word associated with Platonic philosophy and implies agreement to the Orphic and Pythagorean belief in palingænæsía, the transmigration of the soul. Anámnisis is the means by which an individual can arrive at knowledge independent of untrustworthy sensory perceptions. In the dialogue Mǽnohn (Meno; Gr. Μένων) 80e-86c, Sohkrátis (Socrates; Gr. Σωκράτης) demonstrates anámnisis by questioning a slave boy with no schooling in mathematics. By simply asking him questions and actually teaching him nothing, the boy is led to the correct solution to a basic problem in geometry. Sohkrátis states (Mǽnohn 81d) that what we call learning is actually recollection.
"And if the truth of all things always existed in the soul, then the soul is immortal. Wherefore be of good cheer, and try to recollect what you do not know, or rather what you do not remember." (Plátohn Mǽnohn 86b, trans. B. Jowett, 1892)
In the Historical Dictionary of Ancient Greek Philosophy, 2007, p. 45, Anthony Preus ends his entry for anámnisis by stating that:
"Such 'recovered memories' may enable us to gain some provisional understanding of sensory experiences, but the objective is to recover as much as possible of the original experience of reality."
Plátohn expands the idea of anámnisis in Phaidohn (Phaedo; Gr. Φαίδων) 72e-77a and discusses its relationship to the theory of forms.
Athánatos - (Gr. Ἀθάνατος) Athánatos means deathless or immortal, which is the state of being of the Gods. The soul of any being, on the other hand, is also immortal, but this immortal soul wanders through many births and deaths. It is only the blessed Gods who are deathless.
Kýklou Líxai - (Κύκλου Λήξαι, ΚΥΚΛΟΥ ΛΗΞΑΙ) Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς) taught Palingænæsía, the transmigration of the soul. Palingænæsía is the cycle whereby the soul wanders from life to life. If the soul progresses sufficiently, she (the soul is thought of in the feminine) is assisted by one of the pairs of Olympian Gods and is deified; the mortal body of this soul dies and the circle has ended. So Kýklou Líxai is the end of the circle, deification by the Gods. And it is called the final death because the soul is now Athánatos (Gr. Ἀθάνατος), i.e., deathless or immortal, no more subject to the wandering from birth to death, over and over again; this soul is Athánatos because this soul has become a God by means of Ækthǽohsis.
Palingænæsía - (Palingenesía; Gr. Παλιγγενεσία, ΠΑΛΙΓΓΕΝΕΣΊΑ) rebirth, the transmigration of the soul, reincarnation. Palingænæsía is the primary Greek term for rebirth, the transmigration of the soul. Often in philosophy, the word mætæmpsýkhohsis (metempsychosis) is used, but Palingænæsía is the more ancient term (source: Greek Philosophical Terms by F.E. Peters, 1967, p. 151; not a direct quote).
- Lexicon entry: 1. in philosophy: rebirth, regeneration, of the world, renewal of a race; of persons, beginning of a new life: hence of restoration after exile; transmigration, reincarnation of souls, 2. in Stoic philosophy, rebirth of the κὀσος. (L&S p. 1291, edited for simplicity.)
[The word Palingænæsía is also used by Christians for the state post-baptism and also to describe the resurrection. (source: Ancient Greek Philosophy by Anthony Preus, 2007, p. 192; not a direct quote)]
Próödos - (Pröodos; Gr. πρόοδος, ΠΡOΟΔΟΣ) Próödos is progress and is a Natural Law which is under the dominion of Poseidóhn. The word próödos has many definitions. For our purposes, Próödos is the ascending progress of the soul to deification. Using the word "evolution" can be misleading because Próödos is not the evolutionary change due to "survival of the fittest" or similar Darwinian ideas, but rather Próödos is genuine progress to a more elevated state of being. From the perspective of Neoplatonism, this term próödos has a specific and different meaning.
"....'progression' (ed. próödos) is later Platonism's attempt to solve the Parmenidean difficulties of unity and plurality. If the One (hen) is, and is transcendent..., whence the subsequent plurality of the kosmos?" (Greek Philosophical Terms by F.E. Peters, 1967, p. 165)
Æmpædoklís (Empedocles; Gr. Ἐμπεδοκλῆς. 490-430 BCE)
For a brief biography of Æmpædoklís, please visit this page: ÆMPÆDOKLÍS - ΕΜΠΕΔΟΚΛΗΣ.
Fragment 102(112) (concerning deification)
"My friends who live in the great town of the tawny Acragas, on the city's citadel, who care for good deeds (havens of kindness for strangers, men ignorant of misfortune), greetings! I tell you I travel up and down as an immortal God, mortal no longer, honored by all as it seems, crowned with ribbons and fresh garlands. Whenever I enter prospering towns I am revered by both men and women. They follow me in countless numbers, to ask where their advantage lies, some seeking prophecies, others, long pierced by harsh pains, ask to hear the word of healing for all kinds of illnesses." (Empedocles: The Extant Fragments, translated by M.R. Wright, 1981 Yale, found in the 2001 Bristol Classical Press edition on p. 264)
Professor Wright (the translator of the above fragment) goes on to express the opinion of Sextus (adv. math. I.302) that Æmpædoklís' claim to deity is "not (ed. meant), according to the obvious assumption, as a boast but as arising from the conviction that Empedocles had kept free from evil, and so, by means of the god within, apprehended the god without; this interpretation is supported by Plotinus, 220.127.116.11." (Ibid. Wright, p. 264)
Fragment 105 (113) (deification and reincarnation)
"But why do I lay stress on this, as if it were some great achievement of mine, if I am superior to many-times-dying mortal men?" (Ibid. Wright, p. 268)
Fragment 107 (115) (on reincarnation)
"There is a decree of necessity, ratified long ago by Gods, eternal and sealed by broad oaths, that whenever one in error, from fear, (defiles) his own limbs, having by his error made false the oath he swore--daimons to whom life long-lasting is apportioned--he wanders from the blessed ones for three times countless years, being born throughout the time as all kinds of mortal forms, exchanging one hard way of life for another. For the force of air pursues him into sea, and sea spits him out onto earth's surface, earth casts him into the rays of blazing sun, and sun into the eddies of air; one takes him from another, and all abhor him. I too am now one of these, an exile from the Gods and a wanderer, having put my trust in raving strife." (Ibid. Wright, p. 270)
Fragment 108 (117) (reincarnation)
"For before now I have been at some time boy and girl, bush, bird, and a mute fish in the sea." (Ibid. Wright, p. 275)
Fragment 131 (127) (on Próödos/Progress)
"Among animals they are born as lions that make their lairs in the hills and bed on the ground, and among fair-leafed trees as laurels." (Ibid. Wright, p. 290)
Fragment 132 (146) (on deification and Próödos/Progress)
"And at the end they come among men on earth as prophets, minstrels, physicians, and leaders, and from these they arise as Gods, highest in honor." (Ibid. Wright, p. 291)
Fragment 133 (147) (on deification)
"With other Immortals they share hearth and table, having no part in human sorrows, unwearied." (Ibid. Wright, p. 292)
Golden Tablets This term, Golden Tablet, refers to sheets of gold upon which are inscriptions. These inscriptions were found in the graves of devotees who were Orphic or Dionysian. Many of the texts are instructions to the deceased as to how to proceed in the time between lives. Most of the tablets date from the fourth century BCE.
Golden Tablet: V. Compagno tablet (a)
"Out of the pure I come, Pure Queen of Them Below,
Eukles and Eubouleus, and other Gods immortal,
For I also avow me that I am of your blessed race,
But Fate laid me low and the other Gods immortal
.................. star-flung thunderbolt.
I have flown out of the sorrowful weary Wheel.
I have passed with eager feet to the Circle desired.
I have entered into the bosom of Despoina, Queen of the Underworld.
I have passed with eager feet from the Circle desired.
Happy and Blessed One, thou shalt be God instead of mortal.
A kid I have fallen into milk."
( Kaibel, CIGIS 641, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion by J. E. Harrison in 1903, found in the 1991 Princeton Univ. Press edition on p. 585)
Lucanian Golden Tablet - 3 Thurii 1 (excerpt) 1-4
"But as soon as the soul has left the light of the sun,
Go to the right [....] being very careful of all things.
'Greetings, you who have suffered the painful thing; you have never endured this before.
You have become a God instead of a mortal. A kid you fell into the milk.' "
(Ritual Texts for the Afterlife by Fritz Graf and Sarah Iles Johnston, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2007, p. 9)
Golden Tablet: 29 Unknown place in Thessaly
"I (masculine) am parched with thirst and am dying; but grant me to drink
from the ever-flowing spring. On the right is a white cypress.
'Who are you? Where are you from?' I am a son of Earth and starry Sky.
But my race is heavenly."
(Ritual Texts for the Afterlife by Fritz Graf and Sarah Iles Johnston, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2007, p. 41)
Iródotos the Historian
(Herodotus; Gr. Ἡρόδοτος. 484–425 BCE) is called the "Father of History" on account of his book on the subject (primarily) of the Persian Wars. It is one of the very first histories and Iródotos made an attempt at accuracy, although he is also called the "father of lies" by those who think he stretched the truth. The English word, history, is derived from the title of Iródotos' book: Ἱστορίαι (inquiries).
"The Egyptians maintain that Demeter and Dionysus preside in the realms below. They were also the first to broach the opinion, that the soul of man is immortal, and that, when the body dies, it enters into the form of an animal which is born at the moment, thence passing on from one animal into another, until it has circled through the forms of all the creatures which tenant the earth, the water, and the air, after which it enters again into a human frame, and is born anew. The whole period of the transmigration is (they say) three thousand years. There are Greek writers, some of an earlier, some of a later date, who borrowed this doctrine from the Egyptians, and put it forward as their own. I could mention their names, but I abstain from doing so."
(Herodotus: The Histories Book II, 123, trans. George Rawlinson in 1910, found in the 1997 Everyman's Library/Alfred A. Knopf edition on p. 188)
Iæroklís of Alexandria: Excerpts from his commentary on the Golden Verses (Chrysa Epe)
Iæroklís (Hierocles; Gr. Ίεροκλῆς. 4th Century CE) of Alexandria was a student of Ploutarkhos (Plutarch; Gr. Πλούταρχος) of Athens (not the famous author of the Parallel Lives) and a Neoplatonist in a line through Iámvlikhos (Iamblichus; Gr. Ἰάμβλιχος). He is assumed to have lived and taught in the Fifth Century CE.  He "argued for a harmony between Plato, Orpheus, Homer and the Chaldean Oracles." 
The commentary on verses 70 and 71 
And when, after having divested thyself of thy mortal body, thou arrivest in the most pure Ether, thou shalt be a God, immortal, incorruptible, and death shall have no more dominion over thee.
Behold the most glorious end of all our labors! Behold, as Plato says, the glorious combat and the great hope that is proposed to us! Behold the most perfect fruit of Philosophy! This is the greatest work, the most excellent achievement of the Art of Love, that mysterious Art which raises all souls to Divine Goods and establishes them therein and delivers them from afflictions here below, as from the obscure dungeon of mortal life. It exalts to the Celestial Splendors and places in the Islands of the Blest all who have walked in the ways which the foregoing rules have taught them. For them and them alone is reserved the inestimable reward of deification, it not being permitted for any to be adopted into the rank of the Gods, but for him alone who has acquired for his soul virtue and truth, and for his spiritual chariot, purity.
.......What shall he be, then, who is arrived there? He shall be what these Verses promise him, an Immortal God. He shall be rendered like the Immortal Gods of whom we have spoken in the beginning of this treatise, an Immortal God, I say, but not by nature. For how can it be that he who since a certain time only has made any progress in virtue, and whose deification has had a beginning, should become equal to the Gods who have been Gods from all eternity? This is impossible. Therefore, to make this exception and to mark this difference, the Poet, after he had said Thou shalt be a God, adds, immortal, incorruptible, and death shall have no more dominion overt thee, thereby intimating that it is a deification which proceeds only from our being divested of what is mortal and is not a privilege annexed to our nature and to our Essence, but to which we arrive little by little and by degrees." 
NOTES TO HIEROCLES OF ALEXANDRIA:
 Source: Hierocles of Alexandria by Hermann Sadun Schibli, 2002; found here in the 2004 Oxford Univ. Press edition beginning on p. 3.
 The Golden Chain edited by Algis Uždavinys, 2004, World Wisdom, p. 177.
 The excerpts of Iæroklís were translated by N. Rowe from the French translation by André Dacier, published in 1907, as found in The Golden Chain edited by Algis Uždavinys, 2004, World Wisdom, pp.185-6.
 This paragraph demonstrates Iæroklís' concept of the evolution, progress of the soul.
Iámvlikhos (Iamblichus; Gr. Ἰάμβλιχος. 245 CE– 325 CE) was a Neoplatonist philosopher, a student of Porphýrios (Porphyry; Gr. Πορφύριος) with whom he had a dispute over the practice of Thæouryía (Theurgy; Gr. Θεουργία). He was much indebted to Pythagóras (Gr. Πυθαγόρας) and is credited with re-affirming the Platonic view of the divinity of matter, in contrast to the teachings of Plotínos (Plotinus; Gr. Πλωτῖνος) which broke from the Platonic tradition on this subject.
On previous lives of Pythagóras and his associates:
"Pythagoras used to make the very best possible approach to men by teaching them what would prepare them to learn the truth in other matters. For by the clearest and surest indications he would remind many of his intimates of the former life lived by their soul before it was bound to their body. He would demonstrate by indubitable arguments that he had once been Euphorbus, son of Panthus, conqueror of Patroclus.
"....What Pythagoras, however, wished to indicate by all these particulars was that he knew the former lives he had lived, which enabled him to originate his providential attention to others, in which he reminded them of their former existences."
(Iámvlikhos [Iamblichus; Gr. Ἰάμβλιχος] Life of Pythagoras 14, trans. Thomas Taylor in 1818; found here in The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library compiled by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie in 1920, 1988 Phanes Press edition, p.71)
Kallímakhos (Callimachus; Gr. Καλλίμαχος. 305–240 BCE) of Kyríni (Cyrene; Gr. Κυρήνη), of the Alexandrian School
The Deification of Arsinóë (ΕΚΘΕΩΣΙΣ ΑΡΣΙΝΟΗΣ)
"Let the God  lead --- for without them  I (cannot) sing --- . . . Apollo to show the way . . . I could . . . stepping in accord with his hand  . . . O bride  , already up under the stars of the Wain, . . . snatched away (by the Dioscuri), you were speeding past the (full) moon . . . loud laments . . . one voice (said this) . . . Queen (Arsinoë) has gone . . . having suffered what, was (our star) quenched? . . . and over-flowing grief taught . . . the great husband  for his wife . . . to light fires as an offering (?) . . . " 
NOTES TO THE POEM:
 Apollo 
 The Muses and Apollo 
 The Muses dancing and singing with Apollo are here visualized by the poet as described in the Introduction to Hesiod's Theogony (II. 1 ff.). 
 The queen (ed. Arsinóë), or rather the soul of the queen, is imagined here as snatched away by the Dioscuri and travelling beside the full moon under the stars of the Wain. 
 The king, Ptolemy II Philadelphos. 
 This fragment and all it's accompanying notes are quoted from: Callimachus - Aetia, Iambi, Hecale, and Other Fragments; edited and translated by C. A. Trypanis, 1958; found here in the 2004 Loeb/Harvard edition, LCL 421on p. 165)
Mytholoyía: Stories Concerning Deification
In Hellenic Mytholoyía (Mythology; Gr. μυθολογία), there are numerous stories of deification. The most familiar are likely the Apotheosis of Iraklís (Herakles; Gr. Ἡρακλῆς) and the "death" of Asklipiós (Asclepius; Gr. Ἀσκληπιός) by a thunderbolt of Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς). When a God "kills," he is deifying. Similarly, intercourse with a God is a great transformation. Both killing and intercourse are transformations.
Some other examples would be the stories of Ariádni (Ariadne; Gr. Ἀριάδνη), Aristaios (Gr. Ἀρισταῖος), the Dióskouri (Gr. Διόσκουροι), Ganymídis (Ganymede; Gr. Γανυμήδης), Ǽlli (Helle; Gr. Ἕλλη), Lefkothǽa (Leukothea; Gr. Λευκοθέα), Phaǽthohn (Phaeton; Gr. Φαέθων), and Triptólæmos (Triptolemus; Gr. Τριπτόλεμος).
Pafsanías (Pausanias; Gr. Παυσανίας. 110-180 CE), the ancient geographer, believed the deification of mortals ceased after the Age of the Heroes: "For the men of those days, because of their righteousness and piety, were guests of the Gods, eating at the same boar; the good were openly honored by the Gods, and sinners were openly visited with their wrath. Nay, in those days men were changed to Gods, who down to the present day have honors paid to them--Aristaeus, Britomartis of Crete, Heracles the son of Alcmena, Amphiaraus the son of Oicles, and besides these Polydeuces and Castor. So one might believe that Lycaon was turned into a beast, and Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus, into a stone. But at the present time, when sin has grown to such a height and has been spreading over every land and every city, no longer do men turn into Gods, except in the the flattering words addressed to despots, and the wrath of the Gods is reserved until the sinners have departed to the next world." (Pausanias Description of Greece, Book VIII Arcadia, II.4-5; trans. W.H.S. Jones, 1933; found here in the 1960 Loeb/Heineman/Harvard edition on p. 353 of vol.III)
PíndarosPíndaros (Pindar; Gr. Πίνδαρος. 522–443 BCE) was one of the canonical nine lyric poets of ancient Greece.
Dirges Fragment 133:
"The spirits of just men made perfect
But, as for those from whom Persephone shall exact the penalty of their pristine woe, in the ninth year she once more restoreth their souls to the upper sun-light; and from these come into being august monarchs, and men who are swift in strength and supreme in wisdom; and, for all future time, men call them sainted heroes." (Pindar Dirges 133 (98), trans. Sir J. E. Sandys in 1915; found here in the 1968 Loeb/Heineman/Harvard edition  of The Odes of Pindar on p. 593)
PlátohnPlátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων. 428-347 BCE), the student of Sohkrátis (Socrates; Gr. Σωκράτης. 470-399 BCE) the philosopher, is one our main sources for the ancient belief in the immortality of the soul and reincarnation.
Politeia (The Republic; Gr. Πολιτεία) on reincarnation:
THE MYTH OF ER: 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 of the afterlife.
"When Er and the spirits arrived, their duty was to go at once to Lachesis (ed. one of Moirai [Gr. Μοῖραι], 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, X.617d-621b, translated by Benjamin Jowett in 1892, found here in the 1937 Random House edition of The Dialogues of Plato, Vol. I, on pp. 875-878)
Mǽnohn (Meno; Gr. Μένων) on reincarnation:
Sohkrátis (Socrates; Gr. Σωκράτης): "Some of them were priests and priestesses, who had studied how they might be able to give a reason of their profession: there have been poets also, who spoke of these things by inspiration, like Pindar, and many others who were inspired. And they say--mark, now, and see whether their words are true--they say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time has an end, which is termed dying and at another time is born again, but is never destroyed. And the moral is, that a man ought to live always in perfect holiness. 'For in the ninth year Persephone sends the souls of those from whom she has received the penalty of ancient crime back again from beneath into the light of the sun above, and these are they who become noble kings and mighty men and great in wisdom and are called saintly heroes in after ages.' The soul, then, as being immortal, and having been born again many times, and having seen all things that exist, whether in this world or in the world below, has knowledge of them all; and it is no wonder that she should be able to call to remembrance all that she ever knew about virtue,..." (Plato's Meno, 81a-b, translated by Benjamin Jowett in 1892, found here in the 1937 Random House edition of The Dialogues of Plato, Vol. I, on p. 360)
Phaidohn (Phaedo; Gr. Φαίδων) on reincarnation:
"Suppose we consider the question whether the souls of men after death are or are not in the world below. There comes into my mind an ancient doctrine which affirms that they go from hence into the other world, and returning hither, are born again from the dead." (Plato's Phaedo, 70c, translated by Benjamin Jowett in 1892, found here in the 1937 Random House edition of The Dialogues of Plato, Vol. I, on p. 453)
Thæaititos (Theaetetus; Gr. Θεαίτητος) on becoming God-like:
"Evils, Theodorus, can never pass away; for there must always remain something which is antagonistic to good. Having no place among the Gods in heaven, of necessity they hover around the mortal nature, and this earthly sphere. Wherefore we ought to fly away from earth to heaven as quickly as we can; and to fly away is to become like God, as far as this is possible: and to become like him, is to become holy, just, and wise." (Plato's Theaetetus, 176a-b, translated by Benjamin Jowett, Macmillan 1892, found here in the Random House 1937 edition of The Dialogues of Plato on p. 178)
Plotínos Plotínos (Plotinus; Gr. Πλωτῖνος. 204-270 CE) was a Neoplatonic philosopher of late antiquity who had tremendous influence, not only in the ancient religion, but extending to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
"Since it is here that evils are, and 'they must necessarily haunt this region,' and the soul wants to escape from evils, we must escape from her. What, then, is this escape? 'Being made like God,' Plato says [ed. Thæaititos 176]. 'And we become godlike 'if we become righteous and holy with the help of wisdom,' and are altogether in virtue. If then it is virtue which makes us like, it presumably makes us like a being possessing virtue. Then what God would that be? Would it be the one that appears to be particularly characterised by the possession of virtue, that is, the soul of the universe and its ruling principle, in which there is a wonderful wisdom? It is reasonable to suppose that we should become like this principle, as we are here in its universe." (Plotinus' Ennead I.2.1, trans. A.H. Armstrong, 1966, found in the 1995 Loeb/Harvard edition LCL 440 on p. 127.)
Ploutarkhos (Plutarch; Gr. Πλούταρχος. 45-120 CE) was a Middle-Platonist philosopher and a priest of Apollo at Delphi. He is likely most famous for his parallel biographies of famous Greek and Roman personages. Ploutarkhos also wrote many essays on a wide variety of subjects.
"This (ed. regarding an apparition of Romulus had by Julius Proculus) is like some of the Greek fables of Aristeas the Proconnesian, and Cleomedes the Astypalaean; for they say Aristeas died in a fuller's workshop, and his friends coming to look for him, found his body vanished; and that some presently after, coming from abroad, said they met him travelling towards Croton. And that Cleomedes, being an extraordinarily strong and gigantic man, but also wild and mad, committed many desperate freaks; and at last, in a school-house, striking a pillar that sustained the roof with his fist, broke it in the middle, so that the house fell and destroyed the children in it; and being pursued, he fled into a great chest, and, shutting to the lid, held it so fast, that many men, with their united strength, could not force it open; afterwards, breaking the chest to pieces, they found no man in it alive or dead; in astonishment at which, they sent to consult the oracle at Delphi; to whom the prophetess made this answer,-
'Of all the heroes, Cleomede is last.'
They say, too, the body of Alcmena, as they were carrying her to her grave, vanished, and a stone was found lying on the bier. And many such improbabilities do your fabulous writers relate, deifying creatures naturally mortal; for though altogether to disown a divine nature in human virtue were impious and base, so again, to mix heaven with earth is ridiculous. Let us believe with Pindar, that---
'All human bodies yield to Death's decree,
The soul survives to all eternity.'
For that alone is derived from the Gods, thence comes, and thither returns; not with the body, but when most disengaged and separated from it, and when most entirely pure and clean and free from the flesh: for the most perfect soul, says Heraclitus, is a dry light, which flies out of the body as lightning breaks from a cloud; but that which is clogged and surfeited with body is like gross and humid incense, slow to kindle and ascend. We must not, therefore, contrary to nature, send the bodies, too, of good men to heaven; but we must really believe that, according to their divine nature and law, their virtue and their souls are translated out of men into heroes, out of heroes into demi-gods, out of demi-gods, after passing, as in the rite of initiation, through a final cleansing and sanctification, and so freeing themselves from all that pertains to mortality and sense, are thus, not by human decree, but really and according to right reason, elevated into Gods admitted thus to the greatest and most blessed perfection." (Plutarch's Life of Romulus, 28:4-8, trans. Dryden, 1683; we are using the 1992 Random House/Modern Library edition, Plutarch's Lives, where this quotation may be found in Vol.I, pp. 47-48)
Porphýrios (Porphyry; Gr. Πορφύριος. 234-305 CE) was a Neoplatonic philosopher of late antiquity, the student of Plotínos (Plotinus; Gr. Πλωτῖνος) who edited the Ænnæádæs (Enneads; Gr. Ἐννεάδες). Porphýrios wrote much of his own, including a biography of his teacher.
On the Life of Plotínos:
22. "...Now Apollo (ed. the Pythian Oracle) was asked by Amelius where the soul of Plotinus had gone... Listen to the oracle that he gave to Plotinus' circle:
'...Daemon, once a man, but now attaining the more divine lot of daemons, since you have loosed the bond of human necessity, and in the vigour of your spirit have swum from the roaring billows of the bodily frame towards the shore of a peaceful headland, in your haste to set going the well-turned course of a pure soul far away from the mob of sinners. There the light of God shines forth, there are the righteous in purity, far off from unrighteous sin. And even then, as you leapt to escape from beneath the bitter wave of this blood-gorged life with its noisome swirls, in the very midst of the wave and the sudden billow, the nearby goal was frequently revealed to you by the blessed ones. Often, as the shafts of your mind were set loose to run in veering paths by their own impulses, the immortal ones set them straight and raised them up to the spheres in their deathless course, sending a frequent ray of light to enable your eyes to see through the maudlin gloom. Nor did sweet sleep ever take hold of your eyelids, but, pulling the heavy bolt of mist from your eyelids, you in your eddying course beheld things many and fair, which no-one could have seen easily among those who were after wisdom.
But now that you have put off the tabernacle, and have left the tomb of your daemonic soul, you have already entered the daemonic band that exhales winds of delight, where friendship is, where there is desire to please the eyes; you are full of pure gladness and are constantly being filled with immortal currents from the Gods, the source of the loves' enticements, of sweet breath and tranquil air. There dwell Minos and Rhadamanthus, brothers of the great Zeus's golden race, there the just Aeacus, there Plato, that divine and powerful man, there glorious Pythagoras, and all those who have set going the dance of immortal love, all those whose lot it was to share a common race with the happiest of daemons, where the heart has joy in festive gladness. O blessed one, what a great number of contests you endured, you who now follow the saintly daemons, wearing a crest of doughty lives!
Muses, let us put an end to our chant and the winding circle of the dance for Plotinus in his jubilation. This much, for my part, has my golden lyre to say of his good fortune.' " (Porphyry On the Life of Plotinus, translated by Mark Edwards, 2000, Liverpool University Press, pp. 40-44)
Próklos (Proclus; Gr. Πρόκλος. 412-485 CE), the Neoplatonist, was one of the last great philosophers in late antiquity from the Greek tradition.
"Thus, my friend, when someone actualizes what really is the most divine activity of the soul, and entrusts himself only to the 'flower of the intellect' and brings himself to rest not only from the external motions, but also from the internal, he will become a God as far as this is possible for a soul, and will know only in the way the Gods know everything in an ineffable manner, each according to their proper one." (Proclus On Providence 32., translated by Carlos Steel, Cornel University Press 2007, p. 56)
The great mathematician and philosopher, Pythagóras of Sámos (Greek: Ὁ Πυθαγόρας ὁ Σάμιος), is in a direct line from Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς). Pythagóras, like Sohkrátis (Socrates; Gr. Σωκράτης), did not write anything, but there is a body of literature composed by his disciples.
Concerning reincarnation, Pythagóras, and the advancement of the soul:
According to F.E. Peter, the word palingenesía is more ancient than metempsychosis. Prof. Peters remarks in his entry for palingenesía:
"That Pythagoras held such a doctrine is attested by his contemporary Xenophanes (fr.7), and there is the later, more dubious testimony (D.L. VIII, 4-5) that he remembered four of his own previous reincarnations. That the quality of the reincarnations is tied to an ethical scale is clear from Orphism and from Empedocles (frs. 115, 117, 127, 146, 147). Plato has heard of this doctrine (Meno 81a) and in Phaedo 70c-72e he incorporates it into his proofs for the immortality of the soul, and, in a more Orphic context, in Phaedrus 249a and Tim. 42b-c, where the successive rebirths are tied to moral purity. Its most elaborate presentation is in the Myth of Er in Rep. 614b-621b. For Herodotus' mistaken notion as to its origins see Hist. II, 123.
The philosophical presuppositions of palingenesía are closely linked with the nature and separability of the soul, see psyche (ed., elsewhere in the text of F.E. Peter's Greek Philosophical Terms); its epistemological use may be seen in anamnesis (q.v.), and some of its religious aspects in kathodos." (Greek Philosophical Terms by F.E. Peters, 1967, New York Univ. Press on p. 151)
On reincarnation and Pythagóras:
"They say, too, that he (ed. Pythagóras; Gr. Πυθαγόρας) was the first person who asserted that the soul went a necessary circle, being changed about and confined at different times in different bodies." (Dioyǽnis Laǽrtios [Diogenes Laertius; Gr. Διογένης Λαέρτιος] Lives of Eminent Philosophers Book VIII Pythagoras Chapter XII, trans. C. D. Yonge in 1853, Henry G. Bohn Publ. pp. 343-4)
From The Golden Verses of Pythagóras verses 60-70 translated by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie in The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, 1920; found here in the 1987 Phanes Press edition on pp. 164-165.
"Father Zeus, O free them all from sufferings so great,
Or show unto each the Genius, who is their guide!
Yet, do not fear, for the mortals are divine by race,
To whom holy Nature everything will reveal and demonstrate;
Whereof if you have received, so keep what I teach you;
Healing your soul, you shall remain insured from manifold evil,
Avoid foods forbidden; reflect that this contributes to the cleanliness
And redemption of your soul. Consider all things well:
Let reason, the gift divine, be thy highest guide;
Then should you be separated from the body, and soar in the aether,
You will be imperishable, a divinity, a mortal no more."
The same passage in the translation by Florence M. Firth of the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, 1904:
"61. Oh! Jupiter, our Father! if Thou would'st deliver men from all the evils that oppress them,
62. Show them of what dæmon they make use.
63. But take courage; the race of man is divine.
64. Sacred nature reveals to them the most hidden mysteries.
65. If she impart to thee her secrets, thou wilt easily perform all the things which I have ordained thee.
66. And by the healing of thy soul, thou wilt deliver it from all evils, from all afflictions.
67. But abstain thou from the meats, which we have forbidden in the purifications and in the deliverance of the soul;
68. Make a just distinction of them, and examine all things well.
69. Leaving thyself always to be guided and directed by the understanding that comes from above, and that ought to hold the reins.
70. And when, after having divested thyself of thy mortal body, thou arrivest at the most pure Æther,
71. Thou shalt be a God, immortal, incorruptible, and Death shall have no more dominion over thee."
The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.
Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.
How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.
The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia, Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς).
PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. 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 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.
The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology..
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