Browse Designs
Plato's Timaeus

Plato's Timaeus

    Mystic Realms   Texts    Plato's Timaeus

Write to the Russian embassies around the world and tell them that what they have done is wrong  -


by Plato

Translated by Benjamin Jowett

Section 1.

Socrates begins the Timaeus with a summary of the Republic. He lightly
touches upon a few points,--the division of labour and distribution of the
citizens into classes, the double nature and training of the guardians, the
community of property and of women and children. But he makes no mention
of the second education, or of the government of philosophers.

And now he desires to see the ideal State set in motion; he would like to
know how she behaved in some great struggle. But he is unable to invent
such a narrative himself; and he is afraid that the poets are equally
incapable; for, although he pretends to have nothing to say against them,
he remarks that they are a tribe of imitators, who can only describe what
they have seen. And he fears that the Sophists, who are plentifully
supplied with graces of speech, in their erratic way of life having never
had a city or house of their own, may through want of experience err in
their conception of philosophers and statesmen. 'And therefore to you I
turn, Timaeus, citizen of Locris, who are at once a philosopher and a
statesman, and to you, Critias, whom all Athenians know to be similarly
accomplished, and to Hermocrates, who is also fitted by nature and
education to share in our discourse.' HERMOCRATES: 'We will do our best,
and have been already preparing; for on our way home, Critias told us of an
ancient tradition, which I wish, Critias, that you would repeat to
Socrates.' 'I will, if Timaeus approves.' 'I approve.' Listen then,
Socrates, to a tale of Solon's, who, being the friend of Dropidas my great-
grandfather, told it to my grandfather Critias, and he told me. The
narrative related to ancient famous actions of the Athenian people, and to
one especially, which I will rehearse in honour of you and of the goddess.
Critias when he told this tale of the olden time, was ninety years old, I
being not more than ten. The occasion of the rehearsal was the day of the
Apaturia called the Registration of Youth, at which our parents gave prizes
for recitation. Some poems of Solon were recited by the boys. They had
not at that time gone out of fashion, and the recital of them led some one
to say, perhaps in compliment to Critias, that Solon was not only the
wisest of men but also the best of poets. The old man brightened up at
hearing this, and said: Had Solon only had the leisure which was required
to complete the famous legend which he brought with him from Egypt he would
have been as distinguished as Homer and Hesiod. 'And what was the subject
of the poem?' said the person who made the remark. The subject was a very
noble one; he described the most famous action in which the Athenian people
were ever engaged. But the memory of their exploits has passed away owing
to the lapse of time and the extinction of the actors. 'Tell us,' said the
other, 'the whole story, and where Solon heard the story.' He replied--
There is at the head of the Egyptian Delta, where the river Nile divides, a
city and district called Sais; the city was the birthplace of King Amasis,
and is under the protection of the goddess Neith or Athene. The citizens
have a friendly feeling towards the Athenians, believing themselves to be
related to them. Hither came Solon, and was received with honour; and here
he first learnt, by conversing with the Egyptian priests, how ignorant he
and his countrymen were of antiquity. Perceiving this, and with the view
of eliciting information from them, he told them the tales of Phoroneus and
Niobe, and also of Deucalion and Pyrrha, and he endeavoured to count the
generations which had since passed. Thereupon an aged priest said to him:
'O Solon, Solon, you Hellenes are ever young, and there is no old man who
is a Hellene.' 'What do you mean?' he asked. 'In mind,' replied the
priest, 'I mean to say that you are children; there is no opinion or
tradition of knowledge among you which is white with age; and I will tell
you why. Like the rest of mankind you have suffered from convulsions of
nature, which are chiefly brought about by the two great agencies of fire
and water. The former is symbolized in the Hellenic tale of young Phaethon
who drove his father's horses the wrong way, and having burnt up the earth
was himself burnt up by a thunderbolt. For there occurs at long intervals
a derangement of the heavenly bodies, and then the earth is destroyed by
fire. At such times, and when fire is the agent, those who dwell by rivers
or on the seashore are safer than those who dwell upon high and dry places,
who in their turn are safer when the danger is from water. Now the Nile is
our saviour from fire, and as there is little rain in Egypt, we are not
harmed by water; whereas in other countries, when a deluge comes, the
inhabitants are swept by the rivers into the sea. The memorials which your
own and other nations have once had of the famous actions of mankind perish
in the waters at certain periods; and the rude survivors in the mountains
begin again, knowing nothing of the world before the flood. But in Egypt
the traditions of our own and other lands are by us registered for ever in
our temples. The genealogies which you have recited to us out of your own
annals, Solon, are a mere children's story. For in the first place, you
remember one deluge only, and there were many of them, and you know nothing
of that fairest and noblest race of which you are a seed or remnant. The
memory of them was lost, because there was no written voice among you. For
in the times before the great flood Athens was the greatest and best of
cities and did the noblest deeds and had the best constitution of any under
the face of heaven.' Solon marvelled, and desired to be informed of the
particulars. 'You are welcome to hear them,' said the priest, 'both for
your own sake and for that of the city, and above all for the sake of the
goddess who is the common foundress of both our cities. Nine thousand
years have elapsed since she founded yours, and eight thousand since she
founded ours, as our annals record. Many laws exist among us which are the
counterpart of yours as they were in the olden time. I will briefly
describe them to you, and you shall read the account of them at your
leisure in the sacred registers. In the first place, there was a caste of
priests among the ancient Athenians, and another of artisans; also castes
of shepherds, hunters, and husbandmen, and lastly of warriors, who, like
the warriors of Egypt, were separated from the rest, and carried shields
and spears, a custom which the goddess first taught you, and then the
Asiatics, and we among Asiatics first received from her. Observe again,
what care the law took in the pursuit of wisdom, searching out the deep
things of the world, and applying them to the use of man. The spot of
earth which the goddess chose had the best of climates, and produced the
wisest men; in no other was she herself, the philosopher and warrior
goddess, so likely to have votaries. And there you dwelt as became the
children of the gods, excelling all men in virtue, and many famous actions
are recorded of you. The most famous of them all was the overthrow of the
island of Atlantis. This great island lay over against the Pillars of
Heracles, in extent greater than Libya and Asia put together, and was the
passage to other islands and to a great ocean of which the Mediterranean
sea was only the harbour; and within the Pillars the empire of Atlantis
reached in Europe to Tyrrhenia and in Libya to Egypt. This mighty power
was arrayed against Egypt and Hellas and all the countries bordering on the
Mediterranean. Then your city did bravely, and won renown over the whole
earth. For at the peril of her own existence, and when the other Hellenes
had deserted her, she repelled the invader, and of her own accord gave
liberty to all the nations within the Pillars. A little while afterwards
there were great earthquakes and floods, and your warrior race all sank
into the earth; and the great island of Atlantis also disappeared in the
sea. This is the explanation of the shallows which are found in that part
of the Atlantic ocean.'

Such was the tale, Socrates, which Critias heard from Solon; and I noticed
when listening to you yesterday, how close the resemblance was between your
city and citizens and the ancient Athenian State. But I would not speak at
the time, because I wanted to refresh my memory. I had heard the old man
when I was a child, and though I could not remember the whole of our
yesterday's discourse, I was able to recall every word of this, which is
branded into my mind; and I am prepared, Socrates, to rehearse to you the
entire narrative. The imaginary State which you were describing may be
identified with the reality of Solon, and our antediluvian ancestors may be
your citizens. 'That is excellent, Critias, and very appropriate to a
Panathenaic festival; the truth of the story is a great advantage.' Then
now let me explain to you the order of our entertainment; first, Timaeus,
who is a natural philosopher, will speak of the origin of the world, going
down to the creation of man, and then I shall receive the men whom he has
created, and some of whom will have been educated by you, and introduce
them to you as the lost Athenian citizens of whom the Egyptian record
spoke. As the law of Solon prescribes, we will bring them into court and
acknowledge their claims to citizenship. 'I see,' replied Socrates, 'that
I shall be well entertained; and do you, Timaeus, offer up a prayer and

TIMAEUS: All men who have any right feeling, at the beginning of any
enterprise, call upon the Gods; and he who is about to speak of the origin
of the universe has a special need of their aid. May my words be
acceptable to them, and may I speak in the manner which will be most
intelligible to you and will best express my own meaning!

First, I must distinguish between that which always is and never becomes
and which is apprehended by reason and reflection, and that which always
becomes and never is and is conceived by opinion with the help of sense.
All that becomes and is created is the work of a cause, and that is fair
which the artificer makes after an eternal pattern, but whatever is
fashioned after a created pattern is not fair. Is the world created or
uncreated?--that is the first question. Created, I reply, being visible
and tangible and having a body, and therefore sensible; and if sensible,
then created; and if created, made by a cause, and the cause is the
ineffable father of all things, who had before him an eternal archetype.
For to imagine that the archetype was created would be blasphemy, seeing
that the world is the noblest of creations, and God is the best of causes.
And the world being thus created according to the eternal pattern is the
copy of something; and we may assume that words are akin to the matter of
which they speak. What is spoken of the unchanging or intelligible must be
certain and true; but what is spoken of the created image can only be
probable; being is to becoming what truth is to belief. And amid the
variety of opinions which have arisen about God and the nature of the world
we must be content to take probability for our rule, considering that I,
who am the speaker, and you, who are the judges, are only men; to
probability we may attain but no further.

SOCRATES: Excellent, Timaeus, I like your manner of approaching the

TIMAEUS: Why did the Creator make the world?...He was good, and therefore
not jealous, and being free from jealousy he desired that all things should
be like himself. Wherefore he set in order the visible world, which he
found in disorder. Now he who is the best could only create the fairest;
and reflecting that of visible things the intelligent is superior to the
unintelligent, he put intelligence in soul and soul in body, and framed the
universe to be the best and fairest work in the order of nature, and the
world became a living soul through the providence of God.

In the likeness of what animal was the world made?--that is the third
question...The form of the perfect animal was a whole, and contained all
intelligible beings, and the visible animal, made after the pattern of
this, included all visible creatures.

Are there many worlds or one only?--that is the fourth question...One only.
For if in the original there had been more than one they would have been
the parts of a third, which would have been the true pattern of the world;
and therefore there is, and will ever be, but one created world. Now that
which is created is of necessity corporeal and visible and tangible,--
visible and therefore made of fire,--tangible and therefore solid and made
of earth. But two terms must be united by a third, which is a mean between
them; and had the earth been a surface only, one mean would have sufficed,
but two means are required to unite solid bodies. And as the world was
composed of solids, between the elements of fire and earth God placed two
other elements of air and water, and arranged them in a continuous

fire:air::air:water, and air:water::water:earth,

and so put together a visible and palpable heaven, having harmony and
friendship in the union of the four elements; and being at unity with
itself it was indissoluble except by the hand of the framer. Each of the
elements was taken into the universe whole and entire; for he considered
that the animal should be perfect and one, leaving no remnants out of which
another animal could be created, and should also be free from old age and
disease, which are produced by the action of external forces. And as he
was to contain all things, he was made in the all-containing form of a
sphere, round as from a lathe and every way equidistant from the centre, as
was natural and suitable to him. He was finished and smooth, having
neither eyes nor ears, for there was nothing without him which he could see
or hear; and he had no need to carry food to his mouth, nor was there air
for him to breathe; and he did not require hands, for there was nothing of
which he could take hold, nor feet, with which to walk. All that he did
was done rationally in and by himself, and he moved in a circle turning
within himself, which is the most intellectual of motions; but the other
six motions were wanting to him; wherefore the universe had no feet or

And so the thought of God made a God in the image of a perfect body, having
intercourse with himself and needing no other, but in every part harmonious
and self-contained and truly blessed. The soul was first made by him--the
elder to rule the younger; not in the order in which our wayward fancy has
led us to describe them, but the soul first and afterwards the body. God
took of the unchangeable and indivisible and also of the divisible and
corporeal, and out of the two he made a third nature, essence, which was in
a mean between them, and partook of the same and the other, the intractable
nature of the other being compressed into the same. Having made a compound
of all the three, he proceeded to divide the entire mass into portions
related to one another in the ratios of 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 8, 27, and proceeded
to fill up the double and triple intervals thus--

- over 1, 4/3, 3/2, - over 2, 8/3, 3, - over 4, 16/3, 6, - over 8:
- over 1, 3/2, 2, - over 3, 9/2, 6, - over 9, 27/2, 18, - over 27;

in which double series of numbers are two kinds of means; the one exceeds
and is exceeded by equal parts of the extremes, e.g. 1, 4/3, 2; the other
kind of mean is one which is equidistant from the extremes--2, 4, 6. In
this manner there were formed intervals of thirds, 3:2, of fourths, 4:3,
and of ninths, 9:8. And next he filled up the intervals of a fourth with
ninths, leaving a remnant which is in the ratio of 256:243. The entire
compound was divided by him lengthways into two parts, which he united at
the centre like the letter X, and bent into an inner and outer circle or
sphere, cutting one another again at a point over against the point at
which they cross. The outer circle or sphere was named the sphere of the
same--the inner, the sphere of the other or diverse; and the one revolved
horizontally to the right, the other diagonally to the left. To the sphere
of the same which was undivided he gave dominion, but the sphere of the
other or diverse was distributed into seven unequal orbits, having
intervals in ratios of twos and threes, three of either sort, and he bade
the orbits move in opposite directions to one another--three of them, the
Sun, Mercury, Venus, with equal swiftness, and the remaining four--the
Moon, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, with unequal swiftness to the three and to one
another, but all in due proportion.

When the Creator had made the soul he made the body within her; and the
soul interfused everywhere from the centre to the circumference of heaven,
herself turning in herself, began a divine life of rational and everlasting
motion. The body of heaven is visible, but the soul is invisible, and
partakes of reason and harmony, and is the best of creations, being the
work of the best. And being composed of the same, the other, and the
essence, these three, and also divided and bound in harmonical proportion,
and revolving within herself--the soul when touching anything which has
essence, whether divided or undivided, is stirred to utter the sameness or
diversity of that and some other thing, and to tell how and when and where
individuals are affected or related, whether in the world of change or of
essence. When reason is in the neighbourhood of sense, and the circle of
the other or diverse is moving truly, then arise true opinions and beliefs;
when reason is in the sphere of thought, and the circle of the same runs
smoothly, then intelligence is perfected.

When the Father who begat the world saw the image which he had made of the
Eternal Gods moving and living, he rejoiced; and in his joy resolved, since
the archetype was eternal, to make the creature eternal as far as this was
possible. Wherefore he made an image of eternity which is time, having an
uniform motion according to number, parted into months and days and years,
and also having greater divisions of past, present, and future. These all
apply to becoming in time, and have no meaning in relation to the eternal
nature, which ever is and never was or will be; for the unchangeable is
never older or younger, and when we say that he 'was' or 'will be,' we are
mistaken, for these words are applicable only to becoming, and not to true
being; and equally wrong are we in saying that what has become IS become
and that what becomes IS becoming, and that the non-existent IS non-
existent...These are the forms of time which imitate eternity and move in a
circle measured by number.

Thus was time made in the image of the eternal nature; and it was created
together with the heavens, in order that if they were dissolved, it might
perish with them. And God made the sun and moon and five other wanderers,
as they are called, seven in all, and to each of them he gave a body moving
in an orbit, being one of the seven orbits into which the circle of the
other was divided. He put the moon in the orbit which was nearest to the
earth, the sun in that next, the morning star and Mercury in the orbits
which move opposite to the sun but with equal swiftness--this being the
reason why they overtake and are overtaken by one another. All these
bodies became living creatures, and learnt their appointed tasks, and began
to move, the nearer more swiftly, the remoter more slowly, according to the
diagonal movement of the other. And since this was controlled by the
movement of the same, the seven planets in their courses appeared to
describe spirals; and that appeared fastest which was slowest, and that
which overtook others appeared to be overtaken by them. And God lighted a
fire in the second orbit from the earth which is called the sun, to give
light over the whole heaven, and to teach intelligent beings that knowledge
of number which is derived from the revolution of the same. Thus arose day
and night, which are the periods of the most intelligent nature; a month is
created by the revolution of the moon, a year by that of the sun. Other
periods of wonderful length and complexity are not observed by men in
general; there is moreover a cycle or perfect year at the completion of
which they all meet and coincide...To this end the stars came into being,
that the created heaven might imitate the eternal nature.

Thus far the universal animal was made in the divine image, but the other
animals were not as yet included in him. And God created them according to
the patterns or species of them which existed in the divine original.
There are four of them: one of gods, another of birds, a third of fishes,
and a fourth of animals. The gods were made in the form of a circle, which
is the most perfect figure and the figure of the universe. They were
created chiefly of fire, that they might be bright, and were made to know
and follow the best, and to be scattered over the heavens, of which they
were to be the glory. Two kinds of motion were assigned to them--first,
the revolution in the same and around the same, in peaceful unchanging
thought of the same; and to this was added a forward motion which was under
the control of the same. Thus then the fixed stars were created, being
divine and eternal animals, revolving on the same spot, and the wandering
stars, in their courses, were created in the manner already described. The
earth, which is our nurse, clinging around the pole extended through the
universe, he made to be the guardian and artificer of night and day, first
and eldest of gods that are in the interior of heaven. Vain would be the
labour of telling all the figures of them, moving as in dance, and their
juxta-positions and approximations, and when and where and behind what
other stars they appear to disappear--to tell of all this without looking
at a plan of them would be labour in vain.

The knowledge of the other gods is beyond us, and we can only accept the
traditions of the ancients, who were the children of the gods, as they
said; for surely they must have known their own ancestors. Although they
give no proof, we must believe them as is customary. They tell us that
Oceanus and Tethys were the children of Earth and Heaven; that Phoreys,
Cronos, and Rhea came in the next generation, and were followed by Zeus and
Here, whose brothers and children are known to everybody.

When all of them, both those who show themselves in the sky, and those who
retire from view, had come into being, the Creator addressed them thus:--
'Gods, sons of gods, my works, if I will, are indissoluble. That which is
bound may be dissolved, but only an evil being would dissolve that which is
harmonious and happy. And although you are not immortal you shall not die,
for I will hold you together. Hear me, then:--Three tribes of mortal
beings have still to be created, but if created by me they would be like
gods. Do ye therefore make them; I will implant in them the seed of
immortality, and you shall weave together the mortal and immortal, and
provide food for them, and receive them again in death.' Thus he spake,
and poured the remains of the elements into the cup in which he had mingled
the soul of the universe. They were no longer pure as before, but diluted;
and the mixture he distributed into souls equal in number to the stars, and
assigned each to a star--then having mounted them, as in a chariot, he
showed them the nature of the universe, and told them of their future birth
and human lot. They were to be sown in the planets, and out of them was to
come forth the most religious of animals, which would hereafter be called
man. The souls were to be implanted in bodies, which were in a perpetual
flux, whence, he said, would arise, first, sensation; secondly, love, which
is a mixture of pleasure and pain; thirdly, fear and anger, and the
opposite affections: and if they conquered these, they would live
righteously, but if they were conquered by them, unrighteously. He who
lived well would return to his native star, and would there have a blessed
existence; but, if he lived ill, he would pass into the nature of a woman,
and if he did not then alter his evil ways, into the likeness of some
animal, until the reason which was in him reasserted her sway over the
elements of fire, air, earth, water, which had engrossed her, and he
regained his first and better nature. Having given this law to his
creatures, that he might be guiltless of their future evil, he sowed them,
some in the earth, some in the moon, and some in the other planets; and he
ordered the younger gods to frame human bodies for them and to make the
necessary additions to them, and to avert from them all but self-inflicted

Having given these commands, the Creator remained in his own nature. And
his children, receiving from him the immortal principle, borrowed from the
world portions of earth, air, fire, water, hereafter to be returned, which
they fastened together, not with the adamantine bonds which bound
themselves, but by little invisible pegs, making each separate body out of
all the elements, subject to influx and efflux, and containing the courses
of the soul. These swelling and surging as in a river moved irregularly
and irrationally in all the six possible ways, forwards, backwards, right,
left, up and down. But violent as were the internal and alimentary fluids,
the tide became still more violent when the body came into contact with
flaming fire, or the solid earth, or gliding waters, or the stormy wind;
the motions produced by these impulses pass through the body to the soul
and have the name of sensations. Uniting with the ever-flowing current,
they shake the courses of the soul, stopping the revolution of the same and
twisting in all sorts of ways the nature of the other, and the harmonical
ratios of twos and threes and the mean terms which connect them, until the
circles are bent and disordered and their motion becomes irregular. You
may imagine a position of the body in which the head is resting upon the
ground, and the legs are in the air, and the top is bottom and the left
right. And something similar happens when the disordered motions of the
soul come into contact with any external thing; they say the same or the
other in a manner which is the very opposite of the truth, and they are
false and foolish, and have no guiding principle in them. And when
external impressions enter in, they are really conquered, though they seem
to conquer.

By reason of these affections the soul is at first without intelligence,
but as time goes on the stream of nutriment abates, and the courses of the
soul regain their proper motion, and apprehend the same and the other
rightly, and become rational. The soul of him who has education is whole
and perfect and escapes the worst disease, but, if a man's education be
neglected, he walks lamely through life and returns good for nothing to the
world below. This, however, is an after-stage--at present, we are only
concerned with the creation of the body and soul.

The two divine courses were encased by the gods in a sphere which is called
the head, and is the god and lord of us. And to this they gave the body to
be a vehicle, and the members to be instruments, having the power of
flexion and extension. Such was the origin of legs and arms. In the next
place, the gods gave a forward motion to the human body, because the front
part of man was the more honourable and had authority. And they put in a
face in which they inserted organs to minister in all things to the
providence of the soul. They first contrived the eyes, into which they
conveyed a light akin to the light of day, making it flow through the
pupils. When the light of the eye is surrounded by the light of day, then
like falls upon like, and they unite and form one body which conveys to the
soul the motions of visible objects. But when the visual ray goes forth
into the darkness, then unlike falls upon unlike--the eye no longer sees,
and we go to sleep. The fire or light, when kept in by the eyelids,
equalizes the inward motions, and there is rest accompanied by few dreams;
only when the greater motions remain they engender in us corresponding
visions of the night. And now we shall be able to understand the nature of
reflections in mirrors. The fires from within and from without meet about
the smooth and bright surface of the mirror; and because they meet in a
manner contrary to the usual mode, the right and left sides of the object
are transposed. In a concave mirror the top and bottom are inverted, but
this is no transposition.

These are the second causes which God used as his ministers in fashioning
the world. They are thought by many to be the prime causes, but they are
not so; for they are destitute of mind and reason, and the lover of mind
will not allow that there are any prime causes other than the rational and
invisible ones--these he investigates first, and afterwards the causes of
things which are moved by others, and which work by chance and without
order. Of the second or concurrent causes of sight I have already spoken,
and I will now speak of the higher purpose of God in giving us eyes. Sight
is the source of the greatest benefits to us; for if our eyes had never
seen the sun, stars, and heavens, the words which we have spoken would not
have been uttered. The sight of them and their revolutions has given us
the knowledge of number and time, the power of enquiry, and philosophy,
which is the great blessing of human life; not to speak of the lesser
benefits which even the vulgar can appreciate. God gave us the faculty of
sight that we might behold the order of the heavens and create a
corresponding order in our own erring minds. To the like end the gifts of
speech and hearing were bestowed upon us; not for the sake of irrational
pleasure, but in order that we might harmonize the courses of the soul by
sympathy with the harmony of sound, and cure ourselves of our irregular and
graceless ways.

Thus far we have spoken of the works of mind; and there are other works
done from necessity, which we must now place beside them; for the creation
is made up of both, mind persuading necessity as far as possible to work
out good. Before the heavens there existed fire, air, water, earth, which
we suppose men to know, though no one has explained their nature, and we
erroneously maintain them to be the letters or elements of the whole,
although they cannot reasonably be compared even to syllables or first
compounds. I am not now speaking of the first principles of things,
because I cannot discover them by our present mode of enquiry. But as I
observed the rule of probability at first, I will begin anew, seeking by
the grace of God to observe it still.

In our former discussion I distinguished two kinds of being--the unchanging
or invisible, and the visible or changing. But now a third kind is
required, which I shall call the receptacle or nurse of generation. There
is a difficulty in arriving at an exact notion of this third kind, because
the four elements themselves are of inexact natures and easily pass into
one another, and are too transient to be detained by any one name;
wherefore we are compelled to speak of water or fire, not as substances,
but as qualities. They may be compared to images made of gold, which are
continually assuming new forms. Somebody asks what they are; if you do not
know, the safest answer is to reply that they are gold. In like manner
there is a universal nature out of which all things are made, and which is
like none of them; but they enter into and pass out of her, and are made
after patterns of the true in a wonderful and inexplicable manner. The
containing principle may be likened to a mother, the source or spring to a
father, the intermediate nature to a child; and we may also remark that the
matter which receives every variety of form must be formless, like the
inodorous liquids which are prepared to receive scents, or the smooth and
soft materials on which figures are impressed. In the same way space or
matter is neither earth nor fire nor air nor water, but an invisible and
formless being which receives all things, and in an incomprehensible manner
partakes of the intelligible. But we may say, speaking generally, that
fire is that part of this nature which is inflamed, water that which is
moistened, and the like.

Let me ask a question in which a great principle is involved: Is there an
essence of fire and the other elements, or are there only fires visible to
sense? I answer in a word: If mind is one thing and true opinion another,
then there are self-existent essences; but if mind is the same with
opinion, then the visible and corporeal is most real. But they are not the
same, and they have a different origin and nature. The one comes to us by
instruction, the other by persuasion, the one is rational, the other is
irrational; the one is movable by persuasion, the other immovable; the one
is possessed by every man, the other by the gods and by very few men. And
we must acknowledge that as there are two kinds of knowledge, so there are
two kinds of being corresponding to them; the one uncreated,
indestructible, immovable, which is seen by intelligence only; the other
created, which is always becoming in place and vanishing out of place, and
is apprehended by opinion and sense. There is also a third nature--that of
space, which is indestructible, and is perceived by a kind of spurious
reason without the help of sense. This is presented to us in a dreamy
manner, and yet is said to be necessary, for we say that all things must be
somewhere in space. For they are the images of other things and must
therefore have a separate existence and exist in something (i.e. in space).
But true reason assures us that while two things (i.e. the idea and the
image) are different they cannot inhere in one another, so as to be one and
two at the same time.

To sum up: Being and generation and space, these three, existed before the
heavens, and the nurse or vessel of generation, moistened by water and
inflamed by fire, and taking the forms of air and earth, assumed various
shapes. By the motion of the vessel, the elements were divided, and like
grain winnowed by fans, the close and heavy particles settled in one place,
the light and airy ones in another. At first they were without reason and
measure, and had only certain faint traces of themselves, until God
fashioned them by figure and number. In this, as in every other part of
creation, I suppose God to have made things, as far as was possible, fair
and good, out of things not fair and good.

And now I will explain to you the generation of the world by a method with
which your scientific training will have made you familiar. Fire, air,
earth, and water are bodies and therefore solids, and solids are contained
in planes, and plane rectilinear figures are made up of triangles. Of
triangles there are two kinds; one having the opposite sides equal
(isosceles), the other with unequal sides (scalene). These we may fairly
assume to be the original elements of fire and the other bodies; what
principles are prior to these God only knows, and he of men whom God loves.
Next, we must determine what are the four most beautiful figures which are
unlike one another and yet sometimes capable of resolution into one
another...Of the two kinds of triangles the equal-sided has but one form,
the unequal-sided has an infinite variety of forms; and there is none more
beautiful than that which forms the half of an equilateral triangle. Let
us then choose two triangles; one, the isosceles, the other, that form of
scalene which has the square of the longer side three times as great as the
square of the lesser side; and affirm that, out of these, fire and the
other elements have been constructed.

I was wrong in imagining that all the four elements could be generated into
and out of one another. For as they are formed, three of them from the
triangle which has the sides unequal, the fourth from the triangle which
has equal sides, three can be resolved into one another, but the fourth
cannot be resolved into them nor they into it. So much for their passage
into one another: I must now speak of their construction. From the
triangle of which the hypotenuse is twice the lesser side the three first
regular solids are formed--first, the equilateral pyramid or tetrahedron;
secondly, the octahedron; thirdly, the icosahedron; and from the isosceles
triangle is formed the cube. And there is a fifth figure (which is made
out of twelve pentagons), the dodecahedron--this God used as a model for
the twelvefold division of the Zodiac.

Let us now assign the geometrical forms to their respective elements. The
cube is the most stable of them because resting on a quadrangular plane
surface, and composed of isosceles triangles. To the earth then, which is
the most stable of bodies and the most easily modelled of them, may be
assigned the form of a cube; and the remaining forms to the other
elements,--to fire the pyramid, to air the octahedron, and to water the
icosahedron,--according to their degrees of lightness or heaviness or
power, or want of power, of penetration. The single particles of any of
the elements are not seen by reason of their smallness; they only become
visible when collected. The ratios of their motions, numbers, and other
properties, are ordered by the God, who harmonized them as far as necessity

The probable conclusion is as follows:--Earth, when dissolved by the more
penetrating element of fire, whether acting immediately or through the
medium of air or water, is decomposed but not transformed. Water, when
divided by fire or air, becomes one part fire, and two parts air. A volume
of air divided becomes two of fire. On the other hand, when condensed, two
volumes of fire make a volume of air; and two and a half parts of air
condense into one of water. Any element which is fastened upon by fire is
cut by the sharpness of the triangles, until at length, coalescing with the
fire, it is at rest; for similars are not affected by similars. When two
kinds of bodies quarrel with one another, then the tendency to
decomposition continues until the smaller either escapes to its kindred
element or becomes one with its conqueror. And this tendency in bodies to
condense or escape is a source of motion...Where there is motion there must
be a mover, and where there is a mover there must be something to move.
These cannot exist in what is uniform, and therefore motion is due to want
of uniformity. But then why, when things are divided after their kinds, do
they not cease from motion? The answer is, that the circular motion of all
things compresses them, and as 'nature abhors a vacuum,' the finer and more
subtle particles of the lighter elements, such as fire and air, are thrust
into the interstices of the larger, each of them penetrating according to
their rarity, and thus all the elements are on their way up and down
everywhere and always into their own places. Hence there is a principle of
inequality, and therefore of motion, in all time.

In the next place, we may observe that there are different kinds of fire--
(1) flame, (2) light that burns not, (3) the red heat of the embers of
fire. And there are varieties of air, as for example, the pure aether, the
opaque mist, and other nameless forms. Water, again, is of two kinds,
liquid and fusile. The liquid is composed of small and unequal particles,
the fusile of large and uniform particles and is more solid, but
nevertheless melts at the approach of fire, and then spreads upon the
earth. When the substance cools, the fire passes into the air, which is
displaced, and forces together and condenses the liquid mass. This process
is called cooling and congealment. Of the fusile kinds the fairest and
heaviest is gold; this is hardened by filtration through rock, and is of a
bright yellow colour. A shoot of gold which is darker and denser than the
rest is called adamant. Another kind is called copper, which is harder and
yet lighter because the interstices are larger than in gold. There is
mingled with it a fine and small portion of earth which comes out in the
form of rust. These are a few of the conjectures which philosophy forms,
when, leaving the eternal nature, she turns for innocent recreation to
consider the truths of generation.

Water which is mingled with fire is called liquid because it rolls upon the
earth, and soft because its bases give way. This becomes more equable when
separated from fire and air, and then congeals into hail or ice, or the
looser forms of hoar frost or snow. There are other waters which are
called juices and are distilled through plants. Of these we may mention,
first, wine, which warms the soul as well as the body; secondly, oily
substances, as for example, oil or pitch; thirdly, honey, which relaxes the
contracted parts of the mouth and so produces sweetness; fourthly,
vegetable acid, which is frothy and has a burning quality and dissolves the
flesh. Of the kinds of earth, that which is filtered through water passes
into stone; the water is broken up by the earth and escapes in the form of
air--this in turn presses upon the mass of earth, and the earth, compressed
into an indissoluble union with the remaining water, becomes rock. Rock,
when it is made up of equal particles, is fair and transparent, but the
reverse when of unequal. Earth is converted into pottery when the watery
part is suddenly drawn away; or if moisture remains, the earth, when fused
by fire, becomes, on cooling, a stone of a black colour. When the earth is
finer and of a briny nature then two half-solid bodies are formed by
separating the water,--soda and salt. The strong compounds of earth and
water are not soluble by water, but only by fire. Earth itself, when not
consolidated, is dissolved by water; when consolidated, by fire only. The
cohesion of water, when strong, is dissolved by fire only; when weak,
either by air or fire, the former entering the interstices, the latter
penetrating even the triangles. Air when strongly condensed is
indissoluble by any power which does not reach the triangles, and even when
not strongly condensed is only resolved by fire. Compounds of earth and
water are unaffected by water while the water occupies the interstices in
them, but begin to liquefy when fire enters into the interstices of the
water. They are of two kinds, some of them, like glass, having more earth,
others, like wax, having more water in them.

Having considered objects of sense, we now pass on to sensation. But we
cannot explain sensation without explaining the nature of flesh and of the
mortal soul; and as we cannot treat of both together, in order that we may
proceed at once to the sensations we must assume the existence of body and

What makes fire burn? The fineness of the sides, the sharpness of the
angles, the smallness of the particles, the quickness of the motion.
Moreover, the pyramid, which is the figure of fire, is more cutting than
any other. The feeling of cold is produced by the larger particles of
moisture outside the body trying to eject the smaller ones in the body
which they compress. The struggle which arises between elements thus
unnaturally brought together causes shivering. That is hard to which the
flesh yields, and soft which yields to the flesh, and these two terms are
also relative to one another. The yielding matter is that which has the
slenderest base, whereas that which has a rectangular base is compact and
repellent. Light and heavy are wrongly explained with reference to a lower
and higher in place. For in the universe, which is a sphere, there is no
opposition of above or below, and that which is to us above would be below
to a man standing at the antipodes. The greater or less difficulty in
detaching any element from its like is the real cause of heaviness or of
lightness. If you draw the earth into the dissimilar air, the particles of
earth cling to their native element, and you more easily detach a small
portion than a large. There would be the same difficulty in moving any of
the upper elements towards the lower. The smooth and the rough are
severally produced by the union of evenness with compactness, and of
hardness with inequality.

Pleasure and pain are the most important of the affections common to the
whole body. According to our general doctrine of sensation, parts of the
body which are easily moved readily transmit the motion to the mind; but
parts which are not easily moved have no effect upon the patient. The
bones and hair are of the latter kind, sight and hearing of the former.
Ordinary affections are neither pleasant nor painful. The impressions of
sight afford an example of these, and are neither violent nor sudden. But
sudden replenishments of the body cause pleasure, and sudden disturbances,
as for example cuttings and burnings, have the opposite effect.

From sensations common to the whole body, we proceed to those of particular
parts. The affections of the tongue appear to be caused by contraction and
dilation, but they have more of roughness or smoothness than is found in
other affections. Earthy particles, entering into the small veins of the
tongue which reach to the heart, when they melt into and dry up the little
veins are astringent if they are rough; or if not so rough, they are only
harsh, and if excessively abstergent, like potash and soda, bitter.
Purgatives of a weaker sort are called salt and, having no bitterness, are
rather agreeable. Inflammatory bodies, which by their lightness are
carried up into the head, cutting all that comes in their way, are termed
pungent. But when these are refined by putrefaction, and enter the narrow
veins of the tongue, and meet there particles of earth and air, two kinds
of globules are formed--one of earthy and impure liquid, which boils and
ferments, the other of pure and transparent water, which are called
bubbles; of all these affections the cause is termed acid. When, on the
other hand, the composition of the deliquescent particles is congenial to
the tongue, and disposes the parts according to their nature, this remedial
power in them is called sweet.

Smells are not divided into kinds; all of them are transitional, and arise
out of the decomposition of one element into another, for the simple air or
water is without smell. They are vapours or mists, thinner than water and
thicker than air: and hence in drawing in the breath, when there is an
obstruction, the air passes, but there is no smell. They have no names,
but are distinguished as pleasant and unpleasant, and their influence
extends over the whole region from the head to the navel.

Hearing is the effect of a stroke which is transmitted through the ears by
means of the air, brain, and blood to the soul, beginning at the head and
extending to the liver. The sound which moves swiftly is acute; that which
moves slowly is grave; that which is uniform is smooth, and the opposite is
harsh. Loudness depends on the quantity of the sound. Of the harmony of
sounds I will hereafter speak.

Colours are flames which emanate from all bodies, having particles
corresponding to the sense of sight. Some of the particles are less and
some larger, and some are equal to the parts of the sight. The equal
particles appear transparent; the larger contract, and the lesser dilate
the sight. White is produced by the dilation, black by the contraction, of
the particles of sight. There is also a swifter motion of another sort of
fire which forces a way through the passages of the eyes, and elicits from
them a union of fire and water which we call tears. The inner fire flashes
forth, and the outer finds a way in and is extinguished in the moisture,
and all sorts of colours are generated by the mixture. This affection is
termed by us dazzling, and the object which produces it is called bright.
There is yet another sort of fire which mingles with the moisture of the
eye without flashing, and produces a colour like blood--to this we give the
name of red. A bright element mingling with red and white produces a
colour which we call auburn. The law of proportion, however, according to
which compound colours are formed, cannot be determined scientifically or
even probably. Red, when mingled with black and white, gives a purple hue,
which becomes umber when the colours are burnt and there is a larger
admixture of black. Flame-colour is a mixture of auburn and dun; dun of
white and black; yellow of white and auburn. White and bright meeting, and
falling upon a full black, become dark blue; dark blue mingling with white
becomes a light blue; the union of flame-colour and black makes leek-green.
There is no difficulty in seeing how other colours are probably composed.
But he who should attempt to test the truth of this by experiment, would
forget the difference of the human and divine nature. God only is able to
compound and resolve substances; such experiments are impossible to man.

These are the elements of necessity which the Creator received in the world
of generation when he made the all-sufficient and perfect creature, using
the secondary causes as his ministers, but himself fashioning the good in
all things. For there are two sorts of causes, the one divine, the other
necessary; and we should seek to discover the divine above all, and, for
their sake, the necessary, because without them the higher cannot be
attained by us.

Having now before us the causes out of which the rest of our discourse is
to be framed, let us go back to the point at which we began, and add a fair
ending to our tale. As I said at first, all things were originally a chaos
in which there was no order or proportion. The elements of this chaos were
arranged by the Creator, and out of them he made the world. Of the divine
he himself was the author, but he committed to his offspring the creation
of the mortal. From him they received the immortal soul, but themselves
made the body to be its vehicle, and constructed within another soul which
was mortal, and subject to terrible affections--pleasure, the inciter of
evil; pain, which deters from good; rashness and fear, foolish counsellors;
anger hard to be appeased; hope easily led astray. These they mingled with
irrational sense and all-daring love according to necessary laws and so
framed man. And, fearing to pollute the divine element, they gave the
mortal soul a separate habitation in the breast, parted off from the head
by a narrow isthmus. And as in a house the women's apartments are divided
from the men's, the cavity of the thorax was divided into two parts, a
higher and a lower. The higher of the two, which is the seat of courage
and anger, lies nearer to the head, between the midriff and the neck, and
assists reason in restraining the desires. The heart is the house of guard
in which all the veins meet, and through them reason sends her commands to
the extremity of her kingdom. When the passions are in revolt, or danger
approaches from without, then the heart beats and swells; and the creating
powers, knowing this, implanted in the body the soft and bloodless
substance of the lung, having a porous and springy nature like a sponge,
and being kept cool by drink and air which enters through the trachea.

The part of the soul which desires meat and drink was placed between the
midriff and navel, where they made a sort of manger; and here they bound it
down, like a wild animal, away from the council-chamber, and leaving the
better principle undisturbed to advise quietly for the good of the whole.
For the Creator knew that the belly would not listen to reason, and was
under the power of idols and fancies. Wherefore he framed the liver to
connect with the lower nature, contriving that it should be compact, and
bright, and sweet, and also bitter and smooth, in order that the power of
thought which originates in the mind might there be reflected, terrifying
the belly with the elements of bitterness and gall, and a suffusion of
bilious colours when the liver is contracted, and causing pain and misery
by twisting out of its place the lobe and closing up the vessels and gates.
And the converse happens when some gentle inspiration coming from
intelligence mirrors the opposite fancies, giving rest and sweetness and
freedom, and at night, moderation and peace accompanied with prophetic
insight, when reason and sense are asleep. For the authors of our being,
in obedience to their Father's will and in order to make men as good as
they could, gave to the liver the power of divination, which is never
active when men are awake or in health; but when they are under the
influence of some disorder or enthusiasm then they receive intimations,
which have to be interpreted by others who are called prophets, but should
rather be called interpreters of prophecy; after death these intimations
become unintelligible. The spleen which is situated in the neighbourhood,
on the left side, keeps the liver bright and clean, as a napkin does a
mirror, and the evacuations of the liver are received into it; and being a
hollow tissue it is for a time swollen with these impurities, but when the
body is purged it returns to its natural size.

The truth concerning the soul can only be established by the word of God.
Still, we may venture to assert what is probable both concerning soul and

The creative powers were aware of our tendency to excess. And so when they
made the belly to be a receptacle for food, in order that men might not
perish by insatiable gluttony, they formed the convolutions of the
intestines, in this way retarding the passage of food through the body,
lest mankind should be absorbed in eating and drinking, and the whole race
become impervious to divine philosophy.

The creation of bones and flesh was on this wise. The foundation of these
is the marrow which binds together body and soul, and the marrow is made
out of such of the primary triangles as are adapted by their perfection to
produce all the four elements. These God took and mingled them in due
proportion, making as many kinds of marrow as there were hereafter to be
kinds of souls. The receptacle of the divine soul he made round, and
called that portion of the marrow brain, intending that the vessel
containing this substance should be the head. The remaining part he
divided into long and round figures, and to these as to anchors, fastening
the mortal soul, he proceeded to make the rest of the body, first forming
for both parts a covering of bone. The bone was formed by sifting pure
smooth earth and wetting it with marrow. It was then thrust alternately
into fire and water, and thus rendered insoluble by either. Of bone he
made a globe which he placed around the brain, leaving a narrow opening,
and around the marrow of the neck and spine he formed the vertebrae, like
hinges, which extended from the head through the whole of the trunk. And
as the bone was brittle and liable to mortify and destroy the marrow by too
great rigidity and susceptibility to heat and cold, he contrived sinews and
flesh--the first to give flexibility, the second to guard against heat and
cold, and to be a protection against falls, containing a warm moisture,
which in summer exudes and cools the body, and in winter is a defence
against cold. Having this in view, the Creator mingled earth with fire and
water and mixed with them a ferment of acid and salt, so as to form pulpy
flesh. But the sinews he made of a mixture of bone and unfermented flesh,
giving them a mean nature between the two, and a yellow colour. Hence they
were more glutinous than flesh, but softer than bone. The bones which have
most of the living soul within them he covered with the thinnest film of
flesh, those which have least of it, he lodged deeper. At the joints he
diminished the flesh in order not to impede the flexure of the limbs, and
also to avoid clogging the perceptions of the mind. About the thighs and
arms, which have no sense because there is little soul in the marrow, and
about the inner bones, he laid the flesh thicker. For where the flesh is
thicker there is less feeling, except in certain parts which the Creator
has made solely of flesh, as for example, the tongue. Had the combination
of solid bone and thick flesh been consistent with acute perceptions, the
Creator would have given man a sinewy and fleshy head, and then he would
have lived twice as long. But our creators were of opinion that a shorter
life which was better was preferable to a longer which was worse, and
therefore they covered the head with thin bone, and placed the sinews at
the extremity of the head round the neck, and fastened the jawbones to them
below the face. And they framed the mouth, having teeth and tongue and
lips, with a view to the necessary and the good; for food is a necessity,
and the river of speech is the best of rivers. Still, the head could not
be left a bare globe of bone on account of the extremes of heat and cold,
nor be allowed to become dull and senseless by an overgrowth of flesh.
Wherefore it was covered by a peel or skin which met and grew by the help
of the cerebral humour. The diversity of the sutures was caused by the
struggle of the food against the courses of the soul. The skin of the head
was pierced by fire, and out of the punctures came forth a moisture, part
liquid, and part of a skinny nature, which was hardened by the pressure of
the external cold and became hair. And God gave hair to the head of man to
be a light covering, so that it might not interfere with his perceptions.
Nails were formed by combining sinew, skin, and bone, and were made by the
creators with a view to the future when, as they knew, women and other
animals who would require them would be framed out of man.

The gods also mingled natures akin to that of man with other forms and
perceptions. Thus trees and plants were created, which were originally
wild and have been adapted by cultivation to our use. They partake of that
third kind of life which is seated between the midriff and the navel, and
is altogether passive and incapable of reflection.

When the creators had furnished all these natures for our sustenance, they
cut channels through our bodies as in a garden, watering them with a
perennial stream. Two were cut down the back, along the back bone, where
the skin and flesh meet, one on the right and the other on the left, having
the marrow of generation between them. In the next place, they divided the
veins about the head and interlaced them with each other in order that they
might form an additional link between the head and the body, and that the
sensations from both sides might be diffused throughout the body. In the
third place, they contrived the passage of liquids, which may be explained
in this way:--Finer bodies retain coarser, but not the coarser the finer,
and the belly is capable of retaining food, but not fire and air. God
therefore formed a network of fire and air to irrigate the veins, having
within it two lesser nets, and stretched cords reaching from both the
lesser nets to the extremity of the outer net. The inner parts of the net
were made by him of fire, the lesser nets and their cavities of air. The
two latter he made to pass into the mouth; the one ascending by the air-
pipes from the lungs, the other by the side of the air-pipes from the
belly. The entrance to the first he divided into two parts, both of which
he made to meet at the channels of the nose, that when the mouth was closed
the passage connected with it might still be fed with air. The cavity of
the network he spread around the hollows of the body, making the entire
receptacle to flow into and out of the lesser nets and the lesser nets into
and out of it, while the outer net found a way into and out of the pores of
the body, and the internal heat followed the air to and fro. These, as we
affirm, are the phenomena of respiration. And all this process takes place
in order that the body may be watered and cooled and nourished, and the
meat and drink digested and liquefied and carried into the veins.

The causes of respiration have now to be considered. The exhalation of the
breath through the mouth and nostrils displaces the external air, and at
the same time leaves a vacuum into which through the pores the air which is
displaced enters. Also the vacuum which is made when the air is exhaled
through the pores is filled up by the inhalation of breath through the
mouth and nostrils. The explanation of this double phenomenon is as
follows:--Elements move towards their natural places. Now as every animal
has within him a fountain of fire, the air which is inhaled through the
mouth and nostrils, on coming into contact with this, is heated; and when
heated, in accordance with the law of attraction, it escapes by the way it
entered toward the place of fire. On leaving the body it is cooled and
drives round the air which it displaces through the pores into the empty
lungs. This again is in turn heated by the internal fire and escapes, as
it entered, through the pores.

The phenomena of medical cupping-glasses, of swallowing, and of the hurling
of bodies, are to be explained on a similar principle; as also sounds,
which are sometimes discordant on account of the inequality of them, and
again harmonious by reason of equality. The slower sounds reaching the
swifter, when they begin to pause, by degrees assimilate with them: whence
arises a pleasure which even the unwise feel, and which to the wise becomes
a higher sense of delight, being an imitation of divine harmony in mortal
motions. Streams flow, lightnings play, amber and the magnet attract, not
by reason of attraction, but because 'nature abhors a vacuum,' and because
things, when compounded or dissolved, move different ways, each to its own

I will now return to the phenomena of respiration. The fire, entering the
belly, minces the food, and as it escapes, fills the veins by drawing after
it the divided portions, and thus the streams of nutriment are diffused
through the body. The fruits or herbs which are our daily sustenance take
all sorts of colours when intermixed, but the colour of red or fire
predominates, and hence the liquid which we call blood is red, being the
nurturing principle of the body, whence all parts are watered and empty
places filled.

The process of repletion and depletion is produced by the attraction of
like to like, after the manner of the universal motion. The external
elements by their attraction are always diminishing the substance of the
body: the particles of blood, too, formed out of the newly digested food,
are attracted towards kindred elements within the body and so fill up the
void. When more is taken away than flows in, then we decay; and when less,
we grow and increase.

The young of every animal has the triangles new and closely locked
together, and yet the entire frame is soft and delicate, being newly made
of marrow and nurtured on milk. These triangles are sharper than those
which enter the body from without in the shape of food, and therefore they
cut them up. But as life advances, the triangles wear out and are no
longer able to assimilate food; and at length, when the bonds which unite
the triangles of the marrow become undone, they in turn unloose the bonds
of the soul; and if the release be according to nature, she then flies away
with joy. For the death which is natural is pleasant, but that which is
caused by violence is painful.

Every one may understand the origin of diseases. They may be occasioned by
the disarrangement or disproportion of the elements out of which the body
is framed. This is the origin of many of them, but the worst of all owe
their severity to the following causes: There is a natural order in the
human frame according to which the flesh and sinews are made of blood, the
sinews out of the fibres, and the flesh out of the congealed substance
which is formed by separation from the fibres. The glutinous matter which
comes away from the sinews and the flesh, not only binds the flesh to the
bones, but nourishes the bones and waters the marrow. When these processes
take place in regular order the body is in health.

But when the flesh wastes and returns into the veins there is discoloured
blood as well as air in the veins, having acid and salt qualities, from
which is generated every sort of phlegm and bile. All things go the wrong
way and cease to give nourishment to the body, no longer preserving their
natural courses, but at war with themselves and destructive to the
constitution of the body. The oldest part of the flesh which is hard to
decompose blackens from long burning, and from being corroded grows bitter,
and as the bitter element refines away, becomes acid. When tinged with
blood the bitter substance has a red colour, and this when mixed with black
takes the hue of grass; or again, the bitter substance has an auburn
colour, when new flesh is decomposed by the internal flame. To all which
phenomena some physician or philosopher who was able to see the one in many
has given the name of bile. The various kinds of bile have names answering
to their colours. Lymph or serum is of two kinds: first, the whey of
blood, which is gentle; secondly, the secretion of dark and bitter bile,
which, when mingled under the influence of heat with salt, is malignant and
is called acid phlegm. There is also white phlegm, formed by the
decomposition of young and tender flesh, and covered with little bubbles,
separately invisible, but becoming visible when collected. The water of
tears and perspiration and similar substances is also the watery part of
fresh phlegm. All these humours become sources of disease when the blood
is replenished in irregular ways and not by food or drink. The danger,
however, is not so great when the foundation remains, for then there is a
possibility of recovery. But when the substance which unites the flesh and
bones is diseased, and is no longer renewed from the muscles and sinews,
and instead of being oily and smooth and glutinous becomes rough and salt
and dry, then the fleshy parts fall away and leave the sinews bare and full
of brine, and the flesh gets back again into the circulation of the blood,
and makes the previously mentioned disorders still greater. There are
other and worse diseases which are prior to these; as when the bone through
the density of the flesh does not receive sufficient air, and becomes
stagnant and gangrened, and crumbling away passes into the food, and the
food into the flesh, and the flesh returns again into the blood. Worst of
all and most fatal is the disease of the marrow, by which the whole course
of the body is reversed. There is a third class of diseases which are
produced, some by wind and some by phlegm and some by bile. When the lung,
which is the steward of the air, is obstructed, by rheums, and in one part
no air, and in another too much, enters in, then the parts which are
unrefreshed by air corrode, and other parts are distorted by the excess of
air; and in this manner painful diseases are produced. The most painful
are caused by wind generated within the body, which gets about the great
sinews of the shoulders--these are termed tetanus. The cure of them is
difficult, and in most cases they are relieved only by fever. White
phlegm, which is dangerous if kept in, by reason of the air bubbles, is not
equally dangerous if able to escape through the pores, although it
variegates the body, generating divers kinds of leprosies. If, when
mingled with black bile, it disturbs the courses of the head in sleep,
there is not so much danger; but if it assails those who are awake, then
the attack is far more dangerous, and is called epilepsy or the sacred
disease. Acid and salt phlegm is the source of catarrh.

Inflammations originate in bile, which is sometimes relieved by boils and
swellings, but when detained, and above all when mingled with pure blood,
generates many inflammatory disorders, disturbing the position of the
fibres which are scattered about in the blood in order to maintain the
balance of rare and dense which is necessary to its regular circulation.
If the bile, which is only stale blood, or liquefied flesh, comes in little
by little, it is congealed by the fibres and produces internal cold and
shuddering. But when it enters with more of a flood it overcomes the
fibres by its heat and reaches the spinal marrow, and burning up the cables
of the soul sets her free from the body. When on the other hand the body,
though wasted, still holds out, then the bile is expelled, like an exile
from a factious state, causing associating diarrhoeas and dysenteries and
similar disorders. The body which is diseased from the effects of fire is
in a continual fever; when air is the agent, the fever is quotidian; when
water, the fever intermits a day; when earth, which is the most sluggish
element, the fever intermits three days and is with difficulty shaken off.

Of mental disorders there are two sorts, one madness, the other ignorance,
and they may be justly attributed to disease. Excessive pleasures or pains
are among the greatest diseases, and deprive men of their senses. When the
seed about the spinal marrow is too abundant, the body has too great
pleasures and pains; and during a great part of his life he who is the
subject of them is more or less mad. He is often thought bad, but this is
a mistake; for the truth is that the intemperance of lust is due to the
fluidity of the marrow produced by the loose consistency of the bones. And
this is true of vice in general, which is commonly regarded as disgraceful,
whereas it is really involuntary and arises from a bad habit of the body
and evil education. In like manner the soul is often made vicious by the
influence of bodily pain; the briny phlegm and other bitter and bilious
humours wander over the body and find no exit, but are compressed within,
and mingle their own vapours with the motions of the soul, and are carried
to the three places of the soul, creating infinite varieties of trouble and
melancholy, of rashness and cowardice, of forgetfulness and stupidity.
When men are in this evil plight of body, and evil forms of government and
evil discourses are superadded, and there is no education to save them,
they are corrupted through two causes; but of neither of them are they
really the authors. For the planters are to blame rather than the plants,
the educators and not the educated. Still, we should endeavour to attain
virtue and avoid vice; but this is part of another subject.

Enough of disease--I have now to speak of the means by which the mind and
body are to be preserved, a higher theme than the other. The good is the
beautiful, and the beautiful is the symmetrical, and there is no greater or
fairer symmetry than that of body and soul, as the contrary is the greatest
of deformities. A leg or an arm too long or too short is at once ugly and
unserviceable, and the same is true if body and soul are disproportionate.
For a strong and impassioned soul may 'fret the pigmy body to decay,' and
so produce convulsions and other evils. The violence of controversy, or
the earnestness of enquiry, will often generate inflammations and rheums
which are not understood, or assigned to their true cause by the professors
of medicine. And in like manner the body may be too much for the soul,
darkening the reason, and quickening the animal desires. The only security
is to preserve the balance of the two, and to this end the mathematician or
philosopher must practise gymnastics, and the gymnast must cultivate music.
The parts of the body too must be treated in the same way--they should
receive their appropriate exercise. For the body is set in motion when it
is heated and cooled by the elements which enter in, or is dried up and
moistened by external things; and, if given up to these processes when at
rest, it is liable to destruction. But the natural motion, as in the
world, so also in the human frame, produces harmony and divides hostile
powers. The best exercise is the spontaneous motion of the body, as in
gymnastics, because most akin to the motion of mind; not so good is the
motion of which the source is in another, as in sailing or riding; least
good when the body is at rest and the motion is in parts only, which is a
species of motion imparted by physic. This should only be resorted to by
men of sense in extreme cases; lesser diseases are not to be irritated by
medicine. For every disease is akin to the living being and has an
appointed term, just as life has, which depends on the form of the
triangles, and cannot be protracted when they are worn out. And he who,
instead of accepting his destiny, endeavours to prolong his life by
medicine, is likely to multiply and magnify his diseases. Regimen and not
medicine is the true cure, when a man has time at his disposal.

Enough of the nature of man and of the body, and of training and education.
The subject is a great one and cannot be adequately treated as an appendage
to another. To sum up all in a word: there are three kinds of soul
located within us, and any one of them, if remaining inactive, becomes very
weak; if exercised, very strong. Wherefore we should duly train and
exercise all three kinds.

The divine soul God lodged in the head, to raise us, like plants which are
not of earthly origin, to our kindred; for the head is nearest to heaven.
He who is intent upon the gratification of his desires and cherishes the
mortal soul, has all his ideas mortal, and is himself mortal in the truest
sense. But he who seeks after knowledge and exercises the divine part of
himself in godly and immortal thoughts, attains to truth and immortality,
as far as is possible to man, and also to happiness, while he is training
up within him the divine principle and indwelling power of order. There is
only one way in which one person can benefit another; and that is by
assigning to him his proper nurture and motion. To the motions of the soul
answer the motions of the universe, and by the study of these the
individual is restored to his original nature.

Thus we have finished the discussion of the universe, which, according to
our original intention, has now been brought down to the creation of man.
Completeness seems to require that something should be briefly said about
other animals: first of women, who are probably degenerate and cowardly
men. And when they degenerated, the gods implanted in men the desire of
union with them, creating in man one animate substance and in woman another
in the following manner:--The outlet for liquids they connected with the
living principle of the spinal marrow, which the man has the desire to emit
into the fruitful womb of the woman; this is like a fertile field in which
the seed is quickened and matured, and at last brought to light. When this
desire is unsatisfied the man is over-mastered by the power of the
generative organs, and the woman is subjected to disorders from the
obstruction of the passages of the breath, until the two meet and pluck the
fruit of the tree.

The race of birds was created out of innocent, light-minded men, who
thought to pursue the study of the heavens by sight; these were transformed
into birds, and grew feathers instead of hair. The race of wild animals
were men who had no philosophy, and never looked up to heaven or used the
courses of the head, but followed only the influences of passion.
Naturally they turned to their kindred earth, and put their forelegs to the
ground, and their heads were crushed into strange oblong forms. Some of
them have four feet, and some of them more than four,--the latter, who are
the more senseless, drawing closer to their native element; the most
senseless of all have no limbs and trail their whole body on the ground.
The fourth kind are the inhabitants of the waters; these are made out of
the most senseless and ignorant and impure of men, whom God placed in the
uttermost parts of the world in return for their utter ignorance, and
caused them to respire water instead of the pure element of air. Such are
the laws by which animals pass into one another.

And so the world received animals, mortal and immortal, and was fulfilled
with them, and became a visible God, comprehending the visible, made in the
image of the Intellectual, being the one perfect only-begotten heaven.





Authentic Medieval Swords & Armor


Browse Designs



Join the biggest crew ever to save the whales

Lundy, Isle of Avalon Site Design & Contents Les Still 1998-2013 Motorpsycho Realms   Contact