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Section 1

1. Many times it has happened: Lifted out of the body into myself; becoming external to all other things and self-encentered; beholding a marvellous beauty; then, more than ever, assured of community with the loftiest order; enacting the noblest life, acquiring identity with the divine; stationing within It by having attained that activity; poised above whatsoever within the Intellectual is less than the Supreme: yet, there comes the moment of descent from intellection to reasoning, and after that sojourn in the divine, I ask myself how it happens that I can now be descending, and how did the soul ever enter into my body, the soul which, even within the body, is the high thing it has shown itself to be.

Heraclitus, who urges the examination of this matter, tells of compulsory alternation from contrary to contrary, speaks of ascent and descent, says that "change reposes," and that "it is weariness to keep toiling at the same things and always beginning again"; but he seems to teach by metaphor, not concerning himself about making his doctrine clear to us, probably with the idea that it is for us to seek within ourselves as he sought for himself and found.

Empedocles- where he says that it is law for faulty souls to descend to this sphere, and that he himself was here because he turned a deserter, wandered from God, in slavery to a raving discord- reveals neither more nor less than Pythagoras and his school seem to me to convey on this as on many other matters; but in his case, versification has some part in the obscurity.

We have to fall back on the illustrious Plato, who uttered many noble sayings about the soul, and has in many places dwelt upon its entry into body so that we may well hope to get some light from him.

What do we learn from this philosopher?

We will not find him so consistent throughout that it is easy to discover his mind.

Everywhere, no doubt, he expresses contempt for all that is of sense, blames the commerce of the soul with body as an enchainment, an entombment, and upholds as a great truth the saying of the Mysteries that the soul is here a prisoner. In the Cavern of Plato and in the Cave of Empedocles, I discern this universe, where the breaking of the fetters and the ascent from the depths are figures of the wayfaring toward the Intellectual Realm.

In the Phaedrus he makes a failing of the wings the cause of the entry to this realm: and there are Periods which send back the soul after it has risen; there are judgements and lots and fates and necessities driving other souls down to this order.

In all these explanations, he finds guilt in the arrival of the soul at body, But treating, in the Timaeus, of our universe he exalts the kosmos and entitles it a blessed god, and holds that the soul was given by the goodness of the creator to the end that the total of things might be possessed of intellect, for thus intellectual it was planned to be, and thus it cannot be except through soul. There is a reason, then, why the soul of this All should be sent into it from God: in the same way the soul of each single one of us is sent, that the universe may be complete; it was necessary that all beings of the Intellectual should be tallied by just so many forms of living creatures here in the realm of sense.

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