The Goodness of the Gods (Η Ἀγαθότης τόν Θεῶν)
Is the Kózmos (Κόσμος) good? Is the Kózmos evil? At its most fundamental level, the Kózmos 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 false concepts of reality which could be defined as delusion or ignorance. A sentient being who has erroneous views of reality has the potential to act based on such views. 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 symbolically represented 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.
The Gods are in harmony with nature. Their understanding reflects this harmony, as well as their action in the Kósmos. As darkness symbolizes ignorance and delusion, light symbolizes wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Thus, the Gods enlighten the universe with their wisdom and understanding. There is nothing dark or evil in them. Evil is small thinking involving great ignorance; it is the absence of something. The Gods are highly evolved beings whose thinking is vast, enlightened, and full, the exact opposite of evil. Their vision is accurate and based on a great progression of the soul. Because of the qualities of the Gods...harmony with nature, wisdom and knowledge, and many other surpassing virtues...because of these, the Gods are defined as Good.
THE GODS ARE GOOD
DIOGǼNIS LAǼRTIOS (Diogenes Laertius, Διογένης Λαέρτιος), relating the views of the school of Zínôn (Zeno, Ζήνων):
"They also say that God is an animal immortal, rational, perfect, and intellectual in his happiness, unsusceptible of any kind of evil, having a foreknowledge of the world and of all that is in the world; however, that he has not the figure of a man; and that he is the creator of the universe, and as it were, the Father of all things in common, and that a portion of him pervades everything...."
(Βίοι καὶ γνῶμαι τῶν ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ εὐδοκιμησάντων Διογένους Λαερτίου Book 7 Ζήνων Section 72, trans. C. D. Yonge, 1828 [R.D. Hicks numbers this passage 7.147]).
IÁMVLIKHOS (Iamblichus, Ἰάμβλιχος):
"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."
(Ιαμβλίχου Χαλκιδέως περί βίου Πυθαγορικού λόγος 18, trans. Thomas Taylor)
Πάντα γὰρ ἀνθρώποισι Θεοῦ πέλει ἀγλαὰ δῶρα· εἴτ΄ ἀγαθόν τι πέφυκε καὶ ὄλβιον͵ εἴ τι φέριστον, εἴ τι ἐραστόν͵ πᾶσι Θεοῦ καλὰ δῶρα τέτυκται. (Didymus, De Trinitate, III, 28; P. G., 39, 945 c-d)
“For all beautiful gifts come to mankind from God; accordingly, he has brought forth something good and happy, whether it be something excellent, or something lovely. Beautiful gifts from God are made ready for all.’ ” (trans. by the author)
PLÁTÔN (Plato, Πλάτων):
"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."
(Θεαίτητος Πλάτωνος 176, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892)
"Let me tell you then why the creator made this world of generation. He was good (ed. Plátohn's exact words: agathós 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."
(Τίμαιος Πλάτωνος 29d-e, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892)
"Then God, if he be good (ed. the text again is using the word agathós, 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."
(Πολιτεία Πλάτωνος 2.379, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892)
"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."
(Νόμοι Πλάτωνος 7.792e, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892)
PLÍTHOHN (Plethon; Gr. Πλήθων):
Νόμοι μὲν δή, οὕς ὡς μάλιστα πρὸς τῶν ἀεὶ θείων ἀνδρῶν γενομένων παρειλήφαμεν, οἵδε εἰσί· Θεοὺς εἶναι σύμπασαν τὴν κρείττω τε καὶ μακαριωτέραν ἢ κατ' ἄνθρωπον φύσιν, οὕς δὴ καὶ ἀνθρώπων τῇ ἀγαθῶν τῶν σφετέρων περιουσίᾳ προνοεῖν, κακοῦ μὲν οὐδ' ὁτουοῦν οὐδενός, τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἁπάντων αὐτοὺς ὄντας τοὺς αἰτίους, εἱμαρμένη τε ἀμεταστρόφῳ καὶ ἀπαρατρέπτῳ τὸ ἀεὶ βέλτιστον ἐκ τῶν ἐνόντων ἑκάστοις ἀπονέμοντας. Εἶναί τε αὐτοὺς πλείους μέν, οὐ τοὺς αὐτοὺς δὲ θεότητι. Ἀλλὰ μέγιστον μὲν καὶ ἐξαίρετον ἕνα αὐτῶν, τῶν βασιλέα Δία, τῶν γε ἄλλων τῇ τε ἀξίᾳ καὶ φύσει ἀμηχάνῳ ὅσῳ διαΙφέροντα,
"The laws most certainly binding, those very ones which we received from a continuous progression of men who always become divine, these (laws) have been: that the Gods are altogether mighty and happy and thus producing man. Verily, it is they who do good for men and provide from their own plenitude. Indeed, they are never the source of anything evil, but are responsible for all which is good. While fate is unalterable and not able to be perverted, they always portion out the best to each. But indeed, are we ourselves complete? Not ourselves but divinity (is). But in truth the greatest and most exalted one of these (is) Zefs the king, (exalted over) those others by both the value and difference of their inexplicable great nature." (trans. by the author)
(Νόμοι Συγγραφή Πλήθωνος Γεμιστού Εʹ)
PRÓKLOS (Proclus, Πρόκλος):
"The first argument by which we make clear that the cosmos is everlasting is taken from the goodness of the creator. For no persuasion is firmer than the demonstration from [this] fact: the all resembles that [paradigm] by virtue of which reality came to [it], and from which its being is. That [resemblance] follows since the coming to be of the all is due to goodness alone. Hence [goodness] produces [the all], because it is inconceivable to say that his making is due to [anything] other than goodness, while not [at the same time saying that] he is sometimes good and sometimes not good. Thus [goodness] was always a cause for the being of the cosmos, because the coming into being of the cosmos was congruent with the being of the maker. For we do not find anything which in any way could have only made the world because it is good and yet not to be making it eternally while it is eternally good."
(De Aeternitate Mundi Πρόκλου, opening of Argument I, as published in On the Eternity of the World - De Aeternitate Mundi - Proclus by Helen S. Lang and A. D. Macro; Argument I translated from the Arabic by Jon McGinnis, Univ. of California Press [Berkeley - Los Angeles - London], 2001, where this quotation may be found on p. 157. This work, found only as quotations in a refutation by Ioánnis o Philóponos [Ἰωάννης ὁ Φιλόπονος, 490-570 CE] of the Proklos' text, is also known as Eighteen Arguments in Favor of the Eternity of the World Against the Christians, as designated by the scholar Laurence Jay Rosán in The Philosophy of Proclus: The Final Phase of Ancient Thought, 1949, where this reference can be found on , p. 42, the text has been re-published by Prometheus Trust [Wiltshire UK] in 2009.)
from The Theology of Plátôn of Próklos
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 (ed. essential nature) 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 (ed. responsive to the excellence of virtue) 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 (ed. underlying substance) 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." (first paragraph only)
(Περὶ τῆς κατὰ Πλάτωνα θεολογίας Πρόκλου Book 1, Chapters 16 and 17, trans. Thomas Taylor, 1816. )
THE GODS ARE NOT THE SOURCE OF OUR MISERY:
IÆROKLÍS (Hierocles, Ίεροκλῆς):
"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,
----that mortals blame the Gods
as if they were the causes of their evils!
----though not from fate,
But for their crimes they suffer woe!
(Ὀδύσσεια Ὁμήρου 1.32-34)
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." (Ίεροκλῆς The Ethical Fragments of Hierocles 1, trans. Thomas Taylor, 1822)
ÓMIROS (Homer, Ὅμηρος):
Zeus speaking to assembled Gods:
"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.
(Ὀδύσσεια Ὁμήρου 1.37-52; trans. by Alexander Pope,1725-26)
PLÁTÔN (Plato, Ρλάτων):
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?
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?
(Πολιτεία Πλάτωνος 10.612e-613a, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892)
Socrates: "...no God is the enemy of man."
(Θεαίτητος Πλάτωνος 151.d, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892)
ed. 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:
"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."
(Πολιτεία Πλάτωνος 10.617-622, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892)
PLOUTARKHOS (Plutarch, Πλούταρχος) Ploutarkhos (46-120 CE) is most famous for his biographies of famous Greeks and Romans, and also for his immense collection of essays called The Morals, but what is not so well known of him is that he was a priest of Apóllôn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων) at the God's greatest sanctuary and the naval of the world, Dælphí (Delphi, Δελφοί), which gives him an authority concerning the Gods which must be considered.
Ploutarkhos believes that it is preferable to be an atheist than to think that the Gods are evil:
"Why, for my part, I should prefer that men should say about me that I have never been born at all, and that there is no Plutarch, rather than that they should say 'Plutarch is an inconstant fickle person, quick-tempered, vindictive over little accidents, pained at trifles.' "
(Ἠθικὰ Πλουτάρχου· 14. Περὶ δεισιδαιμονίας [On Superstition, De superstitione) Section 10, 169f-170, trans. Frank Cole Babbitt, 1928.)
"11. Is it, then, an unholy thing to speak meanly of the Gods, but not unholy to have a mean opinion of them? Or does the opinion of him who speaks malignly make his utterance improper? It is a fact that we hold up malign speaking as a sign of animosity, and those who speak ill of us we regard as enemies, since we feel that they must also think ill of us. You see what kind of thoughts the superstitious have about the Gods: they assume that the Gods are rash, faithless, fickle, vengeful, cruel, and easily offended; and, as a result, the superstitious man is bound to hate and fear the Gods. Why not, since he thinks that the worst of his ills are due to them, and will be due to them in the future? As he hates and fears the Gods, he is an enemy to them. And yet, though he dreads them, he worships them and sacrifices to them and besieges their shrines; and this is nothing surprising; for it is equally true that men give welcome to despots, and pay court to them, and erect golden statues in their honour, but in their hearts they hate them..."
(Ἠθικὰ Πλουτάρχου· 14. Περὶ δεισιδαιμονίας [On Superstition, De superstitione) Section 11, 170d-e, trans. Frank Cole Babbitt, 1928)
"...the ridiculous actions and emotions of superstition, its words and gestures, magic charms and spells, rushing about and beating of drums, impure purifications and dirty sanctifications, barbarous and outlandish penances and mortifications at the shrines---all these give occasion to some to say that it were better there should be no Gods at all than Gods who accept with pleasure such forms of worship, and are so overbearing, so petty, and so easily offended.
"13. Would it not then have been better for those Gauls and Scythians to have had absolutely no conception, no vision, no tradition, regarding the Gods, than to believe in the existence of Gods who take delight in the blood of human sacrifice and hold this to be the most perfect offering and holy rite?"
(Ἠθικὰ Πλουτάρχου· 14. Περὶ δεισιδαιμονίας [On Superstition, De superstitione) Section 12 & 13, 171b-c, trans. Frank Cole Babbitt)
THE GODS REWARD GOODNESS:
PLÁTÔN (Plato, Ρλάτων):
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."
(Πολιτεία Πλάτωνος 10.613, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892)
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..."
(Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους Πλάτωνος 41, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892)
"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?
(Πολιτεία Πλάτωνος 10.613, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892.)
MISUNDERSTANDINGS REGARDING THE GODS
Plátôn and others warned about being misled by depictions of the Gods in the writings of ancient times. The mythology contains enormous richness and truth, but it must be understood that these truths are hidden in the stories. If the keys to the mythology are not understood correctly, the reader may come to false conclusions about the behavior of deities.
DIOGǼNIS LAǼRTIOS (Diogenes Laertius, Διογένης Λαέρτιος):
"The same authority tells us, as I have already mentioned, that he received his doctrines from Themistoclea, at Delphi. And Hieronymus says, that when he descended to the shades below, he saw the soul of Hesiod bound to a brazen pillar, and gnashing its teeth; and that of Homer suspended from a tree, and snakes around it, as a punishment for the things that they said of the Gods."
(Βίοι καὶ γνῶμαι τῶν ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ εὐδοκιμησάντων Διογένους Λαερτίου Book 8 Pythagóras, chapter XIX, trans. by C. D. Yonge, 1828 [R.D. Hicks numbers this passage 8.21])
THE GOODS AND THE ILLS: ALL the Goods were once driven out by the Ills from that common share which they each had in the affairs of mankind; for the Ills by reason of their numbers had prevailed to possess the earth. The Goods wafted themselves to heaven and asked for a righteous vengeance on their persecutors. They entreated Jupiter that they might no longer be associated with the Ills, as they had nothing in common and could not live together, but were engaged in unceasing warfare; and that an indissoluble law might be laid down for their future protection. Jupiter granted their request and decreed that henceforth the Ills should visit the earth in company with each other, but that the Goods should one by one enter the habitations of men. Hence it arises that Ills abound, for they come not one by one, but in troops, and by no means singly: while the Goods proceed from Jupiter, and are given, not alike to all, but singly, and separately; and one by one to those who are able to discern them.
(Aesop's Fables, trans. George Fyler Townsend, 1871)
This logo 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 are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kosmogonic 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 Apóllôn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς).
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