Early Christian Writings
Title: Tertullian: A Treatise on the Soul
Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol III. (Apologetic. Part.I)
Τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω. The Nicene Council
Original Source: CCEL ANF03 IX.
Related Link: earlychristianwritings.com
Translated by: Dr. Peter Holmes, D.D., F.R.A.S.
By: Tertullianus, Quintus Septimius
Published: 197-220 A.D.
(PDF File Size: xx mb) xx pages
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It is Not to the Philosophers that We Resort for Information About the Soul But to God.
181 Having discussed with Hermogenes the single point of the origin of the soul, so far as his assumption led me, that the soul consisted rather in an adaptation of matter than of the inspiration of God, I now turn to the other questions incidental to the subject; and (in my treatment of these) I shall evidently have mostly to contend with the philosophers. In the very prison of Socrates they skirmished about the state of the soul. I have my doubts at once whether the time was an opportune one for their (great) master—(to say nothing of the place), although that perhaps does not much matter.
For what could the soul of Socrates then contemplate with clearness and serenity? The sacred ship had returned (from Delos), the hemlock draft to which he had been condemned had been drunk, death was now present before him: (his mind) was, as one may suppose, naturally excited at every emotion; or if nature had lost her influence, it must have been deprived of all power of thought. Or let it have been as placid and tranquil so you please, inflexible, in spite of the claims of natural duty, at the tears of her who was so soon to be his widow, and at the sight of his thenceforward orphan children, yet his soul must have been moved even by its very efforts to suppress emotion; and his constancy itself must have been shaken, as he struggled against the disturbance of the excitement around him.
Besides, what other thoughts could any man entertain who had been unjustly condemned to die, but such as should solace him for the injury done to him? Especially would this be the case with that glorious creature, the philosopher, to whom injurious treatment would not suggest a craving for consolation, but rather the feeling of resentment and indignation. Accordingly, after his sentence, when his wife came to him with her effeminate cry, O Socrates, you are unjustly condemned! he seemed already to find joy in answering, Would you then wish me justly condemned? It is therefore not to be wondered at, if even in his prison, from a desire to break the foul hands of Anytus and Melitus, he, in the face of death itself, asserts the immortality of the soul by a strong assumption such as was wanted to frustrate the wrong (they had inflicted upon him).
So that all the wisdom of Socrates, at that moment, proceeded from the affectation of an assumed composure, rather than the firm conviction of ascertained truth. For by whom has truth ever been discovered without God? By whom has God ever been found without Christ? By whom has Christ ever been explored without the Holy Spirit? By whom has the Holy Spirit ever been attained without the mysterious gift of faith? Socrates, as none can doubt, was actuated by a different spirit. For they say that a demon clave to him from his boyhood—the very worst teacher certainly, 182 notwithstanding the high place assigned to it by poets and philosophers—even next to, (nay, along with) the gods themselves. The teachings of the power of Christ had not yet been given—(that power) which alone can confute this most pernicious influence of evil that has nothing good in it, but is rather the author of all error, and the seducer from all truth.
Now if Socrates was pronounced the wisest of men by the oracle of the Pythian demon, which, you may be sure, neatly managed the business for his friend, of how much greater dignity and constancy is the assertion of the Christian wisdom, before the very breath of which the whole host of demons is scattered! This wisdom of the school of heaven frankly and without reserve denies the gods of this world, and shows no such inconsistency as to order a “cock to be sacrificed to Æsculapius:” no new gods and demons does it introduce, but expels the old ones; it corrupts not youth, but instructs them in all goodness and moderation; and so it bears the unjust condemnation not of one city only, but of all the world, in the cause of that truth which incurs indeed the greater hatred in proportion to its fulness: so that it tastes death not out of a (poisoned) cup almost in the way of jollity; but it exhausts it in every kind of bitter cruelty, on gibbets and in holocausts.
Meanwhile, in the still gloomier prison of the world amongst your Cebeses and Phædos, in every investigation concerning (man’s) soul, it directs its inquiry according to the rules of God. At all events, you can show us no more powerful expounder of the soul than the Author thereof. From God you may learn about that which you hold of God; but from none else will you get this knowledge, if you get it not from God. For who is to reveal that which God has hidden? To that quarter must we resort in our inquiries whence we are most safe even in deriving our ignorance. For it is really better for us not to know a thing, because He has not revealed it to us, than to know it according to man’s wisdom, because he has been bold enough to assume it.
The Christian Has Sure and Simple Knowledge Concerning the Subject Before Us.
Of course we shall not deny that philosophers have sometimes thought the same things as ourselves. The testimony of truth is the issue thereof. It sometimes happens even in a storm, when the boundaries of sky and sea are lost in confusion, that some harbour is stumbled on (by the labouring ship) by some happy chance; and sometimes in the very shades of night, through blind luck alone, one finds access to a spot, or egress from it.
In nature, however, most conclusions are suggested, as it were, by that common intelligence wherewith God has been pleased to endow the soul of man. This intelligence has been caught up by philosophy, and, with the view of glorifying her own art, has been inflated (it is not to be wondered at that I use this language) with straining after that facility of language which is practised in the building up and pulling down of everything, and which has greater aptitude for persuading men by speaking than by teaching.
She assigns to things their forms and conditions; sometimes makes them common and public, sometimes appropriates them to private use; on certainties she capriciously stamps the character of uncertainty; she appeals to precedents, as if all things are capable of being compared together; she describes all things by rule and definition, allotting diverse properties even to similar objects; she attributes nothing to the divine permission, but assumes as her principles the laws of nature.
I could bear with her pretensions, if only she were herself true to nature, and would prove to me that she had a mastery over nature as being associated with its creation. She thought, no doubt, that she was deriving her mysteries from sacred sources, as men deem them, because in ancient times most authors were supposed to be (I will not say godlike, but) actually gods: as, for instance, the Egyptian Mercury, to whom Plato paid very great deference; and the Phrygian Silenus, to whom Midas lent his long ears, when the shepherds brought him to him; and Hermotimus, to whom the good people of Clazomenæ built a temple after his death; and Orpheus; and Musæus; and Pherecydes, the master of Pythagoras.
But why need we care, since these philosophers have also made their attacks upon those writings which are condemned by us under the title of apocryphal, certain as we are that nothing ought to be received which does not agree with the true system of prophecy, which has arisen in this present age; because we do not forget that there have been false prophets, and long previous to them fallen spirits, which have instructed the entire tone and aspect of the world with cunning knowledge of this (philosophic) cast? It 183 is, indeed, not incredible that any man who is in quest of wisdom may have gone so far, as a matter of curiosity, as to consult the very prophets; (but be this as it may), if you take the philosophers, you would find in them more diversity than agreement, since even in their agreement their diversity is discoverable.
Whatever things are true in their systems, and agreeable to prophetic wisdom, they either recommend as emanating from some other source, or else perversely apply in some other sense. This process is attended with very great detriment to the truth, when they pretend that it is either helped by falsehood, or else that falsehood derives support from it. The following circumstance must needs have set ourselves and the philosophers by the ears, especially in this present matter, that they sometimes clothe sentiments which are common to both sides, in arguments which are peculiar to themselves, but contrary in some points to our rule and standard of faith; and at other times defend opinions which are especially their own, with arguments which both sides acknowledge to be valid, and occasionally conformable to their system of belief.
The truth has, at this rate, been well-nigh excluded by the philosophers, through the poisons with which they have infected it; and thus, if we regard both the modes of coalition which we have now mentioned, and which are equally hostile to the truth, we feel the urgent necessity of freeing, on the one hand, the sentiments held by us in common with them from the arguments of the philosophers, and of separating, on the other hand, the arguments which both parties employ from the opinions of the same philosophers. And this we may do by recalling all questions to God’s inspired standard, with the obvious exception of such simple cases as being free from the entanglement of any preconceived conceits, one may fairly admit on mere human testimony; because plain evidence of this sort we must sometimes borrow from opponents, when our opponents have nothing to gain from it.
Now I am not unaware what a vast mass of literature the philosophers have accumulated concerning the subject before us, in their own commentaries thereon—what various schools of principles there are, what conflicts of opinion, what prolific sources of questions, what perplexing methods of solution. Moreover, I have looked into Medical Science also, the sister (as they say) of Philosophy, which claims as her function to cure the body, and thereby to have a special acquaintance with the soul. From this circumstance she has great differences with her sister, pretending as the latter does to know more about the soul, through the more obvious treatment, as it were, of her in her domicile of the body. But never mind all this contention between them for preeminence! For extending their several researches on the soul, Philosophy, on the one hand, has enjoyed the full scope of her genius; while Medicine, on the other hand, has possessed the stringent demands of her art and practice.
Wide are men’s inquiries into uncertainties; wider still are their disputes about conjectures. However great the difficulty of adducing proofs, the labour of producing conviction is not one whit less; so that the gloomy Heraclitus was quite right, when, observing the thick darkness which obscured the researches of the inquirers about the soul, and wearied with their interminable questions, he declared that he had certainly not explored the limits of the soul, although he had traversed every road in her domains. To the Christian, however, but few words are necessary for the clear understanding of the whole subject. But in the few words there always arises certainty to him; nor is he permitted to give his inquiries a wider range than is compatible with their solution; for “endless questions” the apostle forbids. It must, however, be added, that no solution may be found by any man, but such as is learned from God; and that which is learned of God is the sum and substance of the whole thing.
The Soul’s Origin Defined Out of the Simple Words of Scripture.
Would to God that no “heresies had been ever necessary, in order that they which are approved may be made manifest!” We should then be never required to try our strength in contests about the soul with philosophers, those patriarchs of heretics, as they may be fairly called. The apostle, so far back as his own time, foresaw, indeed, that philosophy would do violent injury to the truth. This admonition about false philosophy he was induced to offer after he had been at Athens, had become acquainted with that loquacious city, and had there had a taste of its huckstering wiseacres and talkers.
In like manner is the treatment of the soul according to the sophistical doctrines of men which “mix their wine with water.” Some of them deny the immortality of the soul; others affirm that it is immortal, and something more. Some raise disputes about its substance; others about 184 its form; others, again, respecting each of its several faculties. One school of philosophers derives its state from various sources, while another ascribes its departure to different destinations. The various schools reflect the character of their masters, according as they have received their impressions from the dignity of Plato, or the vigour of Zeno, or the equanimity of Aristotle, or the stupidity of Epicurus, or the sadness of Heraclitus, or the madness of Empedocles.
The fault, I suppose, of the divine doctrine lies in its springing from Judæa rather than from Greece. Christ made a mistake, too, in sending forth fishermen to preach, rather than the sophist. Whatever noxious vapours, accordingly, exhaled from philosophy, obscure the clear and wholesome atmosphere of truth, it will be for Christians to clear away, both by shattering to pieces the arguments which are drawn from the principles of things—I mean those of the philosophers—and by opposing to them the maxims of heavenly wisdom—that is, such as are revealed by the Lord; in order that both the pitfalls wherewith philosophy captivates the heathen may be removed, and the means employed by heresy to shake the faith of Christians may be repressed.
We have already decided one point in our controversy with Hermogenes, as we said at the beginning of this treatise, when we claimed the soul to be formed by the breathing of God, and not out of matter. We relied even there on the clear direction of the inspired statement which informs us how that “the Lord God breathed on man’s face the breath of life, so that man became a living soul” —by that inspiration of God, of course. On this point, therefore, nothing further need be investigated or advanced by us. It has its own treatise, and its own heretic. I shall regard it as my introduction to the other branches of the subject.
In Opposition to Plato, the Soul Was Created and Originated at Birth.
After settling the origin of the soul, its condition or state comes up next. For when we acknowledge that the soul originates in the breath of God, it follows that we attribute a beginning to it. This Plato, indeed, refuses to assign to it, for he will have the soul to be unborn and unmade. We, however, from the very fact of its having had a beginning, as well as from the nature thereof, teach that it had both birth and creation. And when we ascribe both birth and creation to it, we have made no mistake: for being born, indeed, is one thing, and being made is another,—the former being the term which is best suited to living beings.
When distinctions, however, have places and times of their own, they occasionally possess also reciprocity of application among themselves. Thus, the being made admits of being taken in the sense of being brought forth; inasmuch as everything which receives being or existence, in any way whatever, is in fact generated. For the maker may really be called the parent of the thing that is made: in this sense Plato also uses the phraseology. So far, therefore, as concerns our belief in the souls being made or born, the opinion of the philosopher is overthrown by the authority of prophecy even.
Probable View of the Stoics, that the Soul Has a Corporeal Nature.
Suppose one summons a Eubulus to his assistance, and a Critolaus, and a Zenocrates, and on this occasion Plato’s friend Aristotle. They may very possibly hold themselves ready for stripping the soul of its corporeity, unless they happen to see other philosophers opposed to them in their purpose—and this, too, in greater numbers—asserting for the soul a corporeal nature. Now I am not referring merely to those who mould the soul out of manifest bodily substances, as Hipparchus and Heraclitus (do) out of fire; as Hippon and Thales (do) out of water; as Empedocles and Critias (do) out of blood; as Epicurus (does) out of atoms, since even atoms by their coherence form corporeal masses; as Critolaus and his Peripatetics (do) out of a certain indescribable quintessence, if that may be called a body which rather includes and embraces bodily substances;—but I call on the Stoics also to help me, who, while declaring almost in our own terms that the soul is a spiritual essence (inasmuch as breath and spirit are in their nature very near akin to each other), will yet have no difficulty in persuading (us) that the soul is a corporeal substance.
Indeed, Zeno, defining the soul to be a spirit generated with (the body,) constructs his argument in this 185 way: That substance which by its departure causes the living being to die is a corporeal one. Now it is by the departure of the spirit, which is generated with (the body,) that the living being dies; therefore the spirit which is generated with (the body) is a corporeal substance. But this spirit which is generated with (the body) is the soul: it follows, then, that the soul is a corporeal substance. Cleanthes, too, will have it that family likeness passes from parents to their children not merely in bodily features, but in characteristics of the soul; as if it were out of a mirror of (a man’s) manners, and faculties, and affections, that bodily likeness and unlikeness are caught and reflected by the soul also. It is therefore as being corporeal that it is susceptible of likeness and unlikeness.
Again, there is nothing in common between things corporeal and things incorporeal as to their susceptibility. But the soul certainly sympathizes with the body, and shares in its pain, whenever it is injured by bruises, and wounds, and sores: the body, too, suffers with the soul, and is united with it (whenever it is afflicted with anxiety, distress, or love) in the loss of vigour which its companion sustains, whose shame and fear it testifies by its own blushes and paleness.
The soul, therefore, is (proved to be) corporeal from this inter-communion of susceptibility. Chrysippus also joins hands in fellowship with Cleanthes when he lays it down that it is not at all possible for things which are endued with body to be separated from things which have not body; because they have no such relation as mutual contact or coherence. Accordingly Lucretius says:
“Tangere enim et tangi nisi corpus nulla potest res.”
“For nothing but body is capable of touching or of being touched.”
(Such severance, however, is quite natural between the soul and the body); for when the body is deserted by the soul, it is overcome by death. The soul, therefore, is endued with a body; for if it were not corporeal, it could not desert the body.
The Arguments of the Platonists for the Soul’s Incorporeality, Opposed, Perhaps Frivolously.
These conclusions the Platonists disturb more by subtilty than by truth. Every body, they say, has necessarily either an animate nature or an inanimate one. If it has the inanimate nature, it receives motion externally to itself; if the animate one, internally. Now the soul receives motion neither externally nor internally: not externally, since it has not the inanimate nature; nor internally, because it is itself rather the giver of motion to the body.
It evidently, then, is not a bodily substance, inasmuch as it receives motion neither way, according to the nature and law of corporeal substances. Now, what first surprises us here, is the unsuitableness of a definition which appeals to objects which have no affinity with the soul. For it is impossible for the soul to be called either an animate body or an inanimate one, inasmuch as it is the soul itself which makes the body either animate, if it be present to it, or else inanimate, if it be absent from it. That, therefore, which produces a result, cannot itself be the result, so as to be entitled to the designation of an animate thing or an inanimate one.
The soul is so called in respect of its own substance. If, then, that which is the soul admits not of being called an animate body or an inanimate one, how can it challenge comparison with the nature and law of animate and inanimate bodies? Furthermore, since it is characteristic of a body to be moved externally by something else, and as we have already shown that the soul receives motion from some other thing when it is swayed (from the outside, of course, by something else) by prophetic influence or by madness, therefore I must be right in regarding that as bodily substance which, according to the examples we have quoted, is moved by some other object from without.
Now, if to receive motion from some other thing is characteristic of a body, how much more is it so to impart motion to something else! But the soul moves the body, all whose efforts are apparent externally, and from without. It is the soul which gives motion to the feet for walking, and to the hands for touching, and to the eyes for sight, and to the tongue for speech—a sort of internal image which moves and animates the surface. Whence could accrue such power to the soul, if it were incorporeal? How could an unsubstantial thing propel solid objects? But in what way do the senses in man seem to be divisible into the corporeal and the intellectual classes? They tell us that the qualities of things corporeal, such as earth and fire, are indicated by the bodily senses—of touch and sight; whilst (the qualities) of incorporeal things—for instance, benevolence and malignity—are discovered by the intellectual 186 faculties.
And from this (they deduce what is to them) the manifest conclusion, that the soul is incorporeal, its properties being comprehended by the perception not of bodily organs, but of intellectual faculties. Well, (I shall be much surprised) if I do not at once cut away the very ground on which their argument stands. For I show them how incorporeal things are commonly submitted to the bodily senses—sound, for instance, to the organ of hearing; colour, to the organ of sight; smell, to the olfactory organ. And, just as in these instances, the soul likewise has its contact with the body; not to say that the incorporeal objects are reported to us through the bodily organs, for the express reason that they come into contact with the said organs. Inasmuch, then, as it is evident that even incorporeal objects are embraced and comprehended by corporeal ones, why should not the soul, which is corporeal, be equally comprehended and understood by incorporeal faculties? It is thus certain that their argument fails.
Among their more conspicuous arguments will be found this, that in their judgment every bodily substance is nourished by bodily substances; whereas the soul, as being an incorporeal essence, is nourished by incorporeal aliments—for instance, by the studies of wisdom. But even this ground has no stability in it, since Soranus, who is a most accomplished authority in medical science, affords us as answer, when he asserts that the soul is even nourished by corporeal aliments; that in fact it is, when failing and weak, actually refreshed oftentimes by food. Indeed, when deprived of all food, does not the soul entirely remove from the body? Soranus, then, after discoursing about the soul in the amplest manner, filling four volumes with his dissertations, and after weighing well all the opinions of the philosophers, defends the corporeality of the soul, although in the process he has robbed it of its immortality.
For to all men it is not given to believe the truth which Christians are privileged to hold. As, therefore, Soranus has shown us from facts that the soul is nourished by corporeal aliments, let the philosopher (adopt a similar mode of proof, and) show that it is sustained by an incorporeal food. But the fact is, that no one has even been able to quench this man’s doubts and difficulties about the condition of the soul with the honey-water of Plato’s subtle eloquence, nor to surfeit them with the crumbs from the minute nostrums of Aristotle. But what is to become of the souls of all those robust barbarians, which have had no nurture of philosopher’s lore indeed, and yet are strong in untaught practical wisdom, and which although very starvelings in philosophy, without your Athenian academies and porches, and even the prison of Socrates, do yet contrive to live?
For it is not the soul’s actual substance which is benefited by the aliment of learned study, but only its conduct and discipline; such ailment contributing nothing to increase its bulk, but only to enhance its grace. It is, moreover, a happy circumstance that the Stoics affirm that even the arts have corporeality; since at the rate the soul too must be corporeal, since it is commonly supposed to be nourished by the arts. Such, however, is the enormous preoccupation of the philosophic mind, that it is generally unable to see straight before it. Hence (the story of) Thales falling into the well. It very commonly, too, through not understanding even its own opinions, suspects a failure of its own health. Hence (the story of) Chrysippus and the hellebore. Some such hallucination, I take it, must have occurred to him, when he asserted that two bodies could not possibly be contained in one: he must have kept out of mind and sight the case of those pregnant women who, day after day, bear not one body, but even two and three at a time, within the embrace of a single womb.
One finds likewise, in the records of the civil law, the instance of a certain Greek woman who gave birth to a quint of children, the mother of all these at one parturition, the manifold parent of a single brood, the prolific produce from a single womb, who, guarded by so many bodies—I had almost said, a people—was herself no less then the sixth person! The whole creation testifies how that those bodies which are naturally destined to issue from bodies, are already (included) in that from which they proceed. Now that which proceeds from some other thing must needs be second to it. Nothing, however, proceeds out of another thing except by the process of generation; but then they are two (things).
The Soul’s Corporeality Demonstrated Out of the Gospels.
So far as the philosophers are concerned, we have said enough. As for our own teachers, indeed, our reference to them is ex abundanti—a surplusage of authority: in the Gospel itself they will be found to have the clearest evidence for the corporeal nature of the soul. In hell the soul of a certain man is in torment, punished in flames, suffering 187 excruciating thirst, and imploring from the finger of a happier soul, for his tongue, the solace of a drop of water. Do you suppose that this end of the blessed poor man and the miserable rich man is only imaginary? Then why the name of Lazarus in this narrative, if the circumstance is not in (the category of) a real occurrence?
But even if it is to be regarded as imaginary, it will still be a testimony to truth and reality. For unless the soul possessed corporeality, the image of a soul could not possibly contain a finger of a bodily substance; nor would the Scripture feign a statement about the limbs of a body, if these had no existence. But what is that which is removed to Hades after the separation of the body; which is there detained; which is reserved until the day of judgment; to which Christ also, on dying, descended? I imagine it is the souls of the patriarchs. But wherefore (all this), if the soul is nothing in its subterranean abode?
For nothing it certainly is, if it is not a bodily substance. For whatever is incorporeal is incapable of being kept and guarded in any way; it is also exempt from either punishment or refreshment. That must be a body, by which punishment and refreshment can be experienced. Of this I shall treat more fully in a more fitting place. Therefore, whatever amount of punishment or refreshment the soul tastes in Hades, in its prison or lodging, in the fire or in Abraham’s bosom, it gives proof thereby of its own corporeality. For an incorporeal thing suffers nothing, not having that which makes it capable of suffering; else, if it has such capacity, it must be a bodily substance. For in as far as every corporeal thing is capable of suffering, in so far is that which is capable of suffering also corporeal.
Other Platonist Arguments Considered.
Besides, it would be a harsh and absurd proceeding to exempt anything from the class of corporeal beings, on the ground that it is not exactly like the other constituents of that class. And where individual creatures possess various properties, does not this variety in works of the same class indicate the greatness of the Creator, in making them at the same time different and yet like, amicable yet rivals? Indeed, the philosophers themselves agree in saying that the universe consists of harmonious oppositions, according to Empedocles’ (theory of) friendship and enmity.
Thus, then, although corporeal essences are opposed to incorporeal ones, they yet differ from each other in such sort as to amplify their species by their variety, without changing their genus, remaining all alike corporeal; contributing to God’s glory in their manifold existence by reason of their variety; so various, by reason of their differences; so diverse, in that some of them possess one kind of perception, others another; some feeding on one kind of aliment, others on another; some, again, possessing visibility, while others are invisible; some being weighty, others light. They are in the habit of saying that the soul must be pronounced incorporeal on this account, because the bodies of the dead, after its departure from them, become heavier, whereas they ought to be lighter, being deprived of the weight of a body—since the soul is a bodily substance.
But what, says Soranus (in answer to this argument), if men should deny that the sea is a bodily substance, because a ship out of the water becomes a heavy and motionless mass? How much truer and stronger, then, is the soul’s corporeal essence, which carries about the body, which eventually assumes so great a weight with the nimblest motion! Again, even if the soul is invisible, it is only in strict accordance with the condition of its own corporeality, and suitably to the property of its own essence, as well as to the nature of even those beings to which its destiny made it to be invisible.
The eyes of the owl cannot endure the sun, whilst the eagle is so well able to face his glory, that the noble character of its young is determined by the unblinking strength of their gaze; while the eaglet, which turns away its eye from the sun’s ray, is expelled from the nest as a degenerate creature! So true is it, therefore, than to one eye an object is invisible, which may be quite plainly seen by another,—without implying any incorporeality in that which is not endued with an equally strong power (of vision). The sun is indeed a bodily substance, because it is (composed of) fire; the object, however, which the eaglet at once admits the existence of, the owl denies, without any prejudice, nevertheless, to the testimony of the eagle. There is the selfsame difference in respect of the soul’s corporeality, which is (perhaps) invisible to the flesh, but perfectly visible to the spirit. Thus John, being “in the Spirit” of God, beheld plainly the souls of the martyrs. 188
Particulars of the Alleged Communication to a Montanist Sister.
When we aver that the soul has a body of a quality and kind peculiar to itself, in this special condition of it we shall be already supplied with a decision respecting all the other accidents of its corporeity; how that they belong to it, because we have shown it to be a body, but that even they have a quality peculiar to themselves, proportioned to the special nature of the body (to which they belong); or else, if any accidents (of a body) are remarkable in this instance for their absence, then this, too, results from the peculiarity of the condition of the soul’s corporeity, from which are absent sundry qualities which are present to all other corporeal beings. And yet, notwithstanding all this, we shall not be at all inconsistent if we declare that the more usual characteristics of a body, such as invariably accrue to the corporeal condition, belong also to the soul—such as form and limitation; and that triad of dimensions —I mean length, and breadth and height—by which philosophers gauge all bodies.
What now remains but for us to give the soul a figure? Plato refuses to do this, as if it endangered the soul’s immortality. For everything which has figure is, according to him, compound, and composed of parts; whereas the soul is immortal; and being immortal, it is therefore indissoluble; and being indissoluble, it is figure-less: for if, on the contrary, it had figure, it would be of a composite and structural formation. He, however, in some other manner frames for the soul an effigy of intellectual forms, beautiful for its just symmetry and tuitions of philosophy, but misshapen by some contrary qualities. As for ourselves, indeed, we inscribe on the soul the lineaments of corporeity, not simply from the assurance which reasoning has taught us of its corporeal nature, but also from the firm conviction which divine grace impresses on us by revelation.
For, seeing that we acknowledge spiritual charismata, or gifts, we too have merited the attainment of the prophetic gift, although coming after John (the Baptist). We have now amongst us a sister whose lot it has been to be favoured with sundry gifts of revelation, which she experiences in the Spirit by ecstatic vision amidst the sacred rites of the Lord’s day in the church: she converses with angels, and sometimes even with the Lord; she both sees and hears mysterious communications; some men’s hearts she understands, and to them who are in need she distributes remedies. Whether it be in the reading of Scriptures, or in the chanting of psalms, or in the preaching of sermons, or in the offering up of prayers, in all these religious services matter and opportunity are afforded to her of seeing visions.
It may possibly have happened to us, whilst this sister of ours was rapt in the Spirit, that we had discoursed in some ineffable way about the soul. After the people are dismissed at the conclusion of the sacred services, she is in the regular habit of reporting to us whatever things she may have seen in vision (for all her communications are examined with the most scrupulous care, in order that their truth may be probed).
“Amongst other things,” says she, “there has been shown to me a soul in bodily shape, and a spirit has been in the habit of appearing to me; not, however, a void and empty illusion, but such as would offer itself to be even grasped by the hand, soft and transparent and of an etherial colour, and in form resembling that of a human being in every respect.” This was her vision, and for her witness there was God; and the apostle most assuredly foretold that there were to be “spiritual gifts” in the church.
Now, can you refuse to believe this, even if indubitable evidence on every point is forthcoming for your conviction? Since, then, the soul is a corporeal substance, no doubt it possesses qualities such as those which we have just mentioned, amongst them the property of colour, which is inherent in every bodily substance. Now what colour would you attribute to the soul but an etherial transparent one?
Not that its substance is actually the ether or air (although this was the opinion of Ænesidemus and Anaximenes, and I suppose of Heraclitus also, as some say of him), nor transparent light (although Heraclides of Pontus held it to be so). “Thunder-stones,” indeed, are not of igneous substance, because they shine with ruddy redness; nor are beryls composed of aqueous matter, because they are of a pure wavy whiteness.
How many things also besides these are there which their colour would associate in the same class, but which nature keeps widely apart! Since, however, everything which is very attenuated and transparent 189 bears a strong resemblance to the air, such would be the case with the soul, since in its material nature it is wind and breath, (or spirit); whence it is that the belief of its corporeal quality is endangered, in consequence of the extreme tenuity and subtilty of its essence. Likewise, as regards the figure of the human soul from your own conception, you can well imagine that it is none other than the human form; indeed, none other than the shape of that body which each individual soul animates and moves about. This we may at once be induced to admit from contemplating man’s original formation.
For only carefully consider, after God hath breathed upon the face of man the breath of life, and man had consequently become a living soul, surely that breath must have passed through the face at once into the interior structure, and have spread itself throughout all the spaces of the body; and as soon as by the divine inspiration it had become condensed, it must have impressed itself on each internal feature, which the condensation had filled in, and so have been, as it were, congealed in shape, (or stereotyped). Hence, by this densifying process, there arose a fixing of the soul’s corporeity; and by the impression its figure was formed and moulded.
This is the inner man, different from the outer, but yet one in the twofold condition. It, too, has eyes and ears of its own, by means of which Paul must have heard and seen the Lord; it has, moreover all the other members of the body by the help of which it effects all processes of thinking and all activity in dreams. Thus it happens that the rich man in hell has a tongue and poor (Lazarus) a finger and Abraham a bosom. By these features also the souls of the martyrs under the altar are distinguished and known. The soul indeed which in the beginning was associated with Adam’s body, which grew with its growth and was moulded after its form proved to be the germ both of the entire substance (of the human soul) and of that (part of) creation.
The Simple Nature of the Soul is Asserted with Plato. The Identity of Spirit and Soul.
It is essential to a firm faith to declare with Plato that the soul is simple; in other words uniform and uncompounded; simply that is to say in respect of its substance. Never mind men’s artificial views and theories, and away with the fabrications of heresy! Some maintain that there is within the soul a natural substance—the spirit—which is different from it: as if to have life—the function of the soul—were one thing; and to emit breath—the alleged function of the spirit—were another thing. Now it is not in all animals that these two functions are found; for there are many which only live but do not breathe in that they do not possess the organs of respiration—lungs and windpipes.
But of what use is it, in an examination of the soul of man, to borrow proofs from a gnat or an ant, when the great Creator in His divine arrangements has allotted to every animal organs of vitality suited to its own disposition and nature, so that we ought not to catch at any conjectures from comparisons of this sort? Man, indeed, although organically furnished with lungs and windpipes, will not on that account be proved to breathe by one process, and to live by another; nor can the ant, although defective in these organs, be on that account said to be without respiration, as if it lived and that was all.
For by whom has so clear an insight into the works of God been really attained, as to entitle him to assume that these organic resources are wanting to any living thing? There is that Herophilus, the well-known surgeon, or (as I may almost call him) butcher, who cut up no end of persons, in order to investigate the secrets of nature, who ruthlessly handled human creatures to discover (their form and make): I have my doubts whether he succeeded in clearly exploring all the internal parts of their structure, since death itself changes and disturbs the natural functions of life, especially when the death is not a natural one, but such as must cause irregularity and error amidst the very processes of dissection.
Philosophers have affirmed it to be a certain fact, that gnats, and ants, and moths have no pulmonary or arterial organs. Well, then, tell me, you curious and elaborate investigator of these mysteries, have they eyes for seeing withal? But yet they proceed to whatever point they wish, and they both shun and aim at various objects by processes of sight: point out their eyes to me, show me their pupils. Moths also gnaw and eat: demonstrate to me their mandibles, reveal their jaw-teeth. Then, again, gnats hum and buzz, nor even in the dark are they unable to find their way to our ears: point out to me, then, not only the noisy tube, but the stinging lance of 190 that mouth of theirs.
Take any living thing whatever, be it the tiniest you can find, it must needs be fed and sustained by some food or other: show me, then, their organs for taking into their system, digesting, and ejecting food. What must we say, therefore? If it is by such instruments that life is maintained, these instrumental means must of course exist in all things which are to live, even though they are not apparent to the eye or to the apprehension by reason of their minuteness. You can more readily believe this, if you remember that God manifests His creative greatness quite as much in small objects as in the very largest.
If, however, you suppose that God’s wisdom has no capacity for forming such infinitesimal corpuscles, you can still recognise His greatness, in that He has furnished even to the smallest animals the functions of life, although in the absence of the suitable organs,—securing to them the power of sight, even without eyes; of eating, even without teeth; and of digestion, even without stomachs. Some animals also have the ability to move forward without feet, as serpents, by a gliding motion; or as worms, by vertical efforts; or as snails and slugs, by their slimy crawl. Why should you not then believe that respiration likewise may be effected without the bellows of the lungs, and without arterial canals?
You would thus supply yourself with a strong proof that the spirit or breath is an adjunct of the human soul, for the very reason that some creatures lack breath, and that they lack it because they are not furnished with organs of respiration. You think it possible for a thing to live without breath; then why not suppose that a thing might breathe without lungs? Pray, tell me, what is it to breathe? I suppose it means to emit breath from yourself. What is it not to live? I suppose it means not to emit breath from yourself. This is the answer which I should have to make, if “to breathe” is not the same thing as “to live.”
It must, however, be characteristic of a dead man not to respire: to respire, therefore, is the characteristic of a living man. But to respire is likewise the characteristic of a breathing man: therefore also to breathe is the characteristic of a living man. Now, if both one and the other could possibly have been accomplished without the soul, to breathe might not be a function of the soul, but merely to live. But indeed to live is to breathe, and to breathe is to live. Therefore this entire process, both of breathing and living, belongs to that to which living belongs—that is, to the soul. Well, then, since you separate the spirit (or breath) and the soul, separate their operations also.
Let both of them accomplish some act apart from one another—the soul apart, the spirit apart. Let the soul live without the spirit; let the spirit breathe without the soul. Let one of them quit men’s bodies, let the other remain; let death and life meet and agree. If indeed the soul and the spirit are two, they may be divided; and thus, by the separation of the one which departs from the one which remains, there would accrue the union and meeting together of life and of death. But such a union never will accrue: therefore they are not two, and they cannot be divided; but divided they might have been, if they had been (two).
Still two things may surely coalesce in growth. But the two in question never will coalesce, since to live is one thing, and to breathe is another. Substances are distinguished by their operations. How much firmer ground have you for believing that the soul and the spirit are but one, since you assign to them no difference; so that the soul is itself the spirit, respiration being the function of that of which life also is!
But what if you insist on supposing that the day is one thing, and the light, which is incidental to the day, is another thing, whereas day is only the light itself? There must, of course, be also different kinds of light, as (appears) from the ministry of fires. So likewise will there be different sorts of spirits, according as they emanate from God or from the devil. Whenever, indeed, the question is about soul and spirit, the soul will be (understood to be) itself the spirit, just as the day is the light itself. For a thing is itself identical with that by means of which itself exists.
Spirit—A Term Expressive of an Operation of the Soul, Not of Its Nature. To Be Carefully Distinguished from the Spirit of God.
But the nature of my present inquiry obliges me to call the soul spirit or breath, because to breathe is ascribed to another substance. We, however, claim this (operation) for the soul, which we acknowledge to be an indivisible simple substance, and therefore we must call it spirit in a definitive sense—not because of its condition, but of its action; not in respect of its nature, but of its operation; because it respires, and not because it is spirit in any especial sense. For to blow or breathe is to respire. So that we are driven to 191 describe, by (the term which indicates this respiration—that is to say) spirit—the soul which we hold to be, by the propriety of its action, breath.
Moreover, we properly and especially insist on calling it breath (or spirit), in opposition to Hermogenes, who derives the soul from matter instead of from the afflatus or breath of God. He, to be sure, goes flatly against the testimony of Scripture, and with this view converts breath into spirit, because he cannot believe that the (creature on which was breathed the) Spirit of God fell into sin, and then into condemnation; and therefore he would conclude that the soul came from matter rather than from the Spirit or breath of God. For this reason, we on our side even from that passage, maintain the soul to be breath and not the spirit, in the scriptural and distinctive sense of the spirit; and here it is with regret that we apply the term spirit at all in the lower sense, in consequence of the identical action of respiring and breathing. In that passage, the only question is about the natural substance; to respire being an act of nature.
I would not tarry a moment longer on this point, were it not for those heretics who introduce into the soul some spiritual germ which passes my comprehension: (they make it to have been) conferred upon the soul by the secret liberality of her mother Sophia (Wisdom), without the knowledge of the Creator. But (Holy) Scripture, which has a better knowledge of the soul’s Maker, or rather God, has told us nothing more than that God breathed on man’s face the breath of life, and that man became a living soul, by means of which he was both to live and breathe; at the same time making a sufficiently clear distinction between the spirit and the soul, in such passages as the following, wherein God Himself declares: “My Spirit went forth from me, and I made the breath of each. And the breath of my Spirit became soul.” And again: “He giveth breath unto the people that are on the earth, and Spirit to them that walk thereon.”
First of all there comes the (natural) soul, that is to say, the breath, to the people that are on the earth,—in other words, to those who act carnally in the flesh; then afterwards comes the Spirit to those who walk thereon,—that is, who subdue the works of the flesh; because the apostle also says, that “that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, (or in possession of the natural soul,) and afterward that which is spiritual.” For, inasmuch as Adam straightway predicted that “great mystery of Christ and the church,” when he said, “This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they two shall become one flesh,” he experienced the influence of the Spirit.
For there fell upon him that ecstasy, which is the Holy Ghost’s operative virtue of prophecy. And even the evil spirit too is an influence which comes upon a man. Indeed, the Spirit of God not more really “turned Saul into another man,” that is to say, into a prophet, when “people said one to another, What is this which is come to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” than did the evil spirit afterwards turn him into another man—in other words, into an apostate. Judas likewise was for a long time reckoned among the elect (apostles), and was even appointed to the office of their treasurer; he was not yet the traitor, although he was become fraudulent; but afterwards the devil entered into him. Consequently, as the spirit neither of God nor of the devil is naturally planted with a man’s soul at his birth, this soul must evidently exist apart and alone, previous to the accession to it of either spirit: if thus apart and alone, it must also be simple and uncompounded as regards its substance; and therefore it cannot respire from any other cause than from the actual condition of its own substance.
Difference Between the Mind and the Soul, and the Relation Between Them.
In like manner the mind also, or animus, which the Greeks designate ΝΟΥΣ, is taken by us in no other sense than as indicating that faculty or apparatus which is inherent and implanted in the soul, and naturally proper to it, whereby it acts, whereby it acquires knowledge, and by the possession of which it is capable of a spontaneity of motion within itself, and of thus appearing to be impelled by the mind, as if it were another substance, as is maintained by those who determine the soul to be the moving principle of the universe —the god of Socrates, Valentinus’ “only-begotten” of his father Bythus, and his mother Sige. How confused is the opinion of Anaxagoras!
For, having imagined the mind to be 192 the initiating principle of all things, and suspending on its axis the balance of the universe; affirming, moreover, that the mind is a simple principle, unmixed, and incapable of admixture, he mainly on this very consideration separates it from all amalgamation with the soul; and yet in another passage he actually incorporates it with the soul. This (inconsistency) Aristotle has also observed: but whether he meant his criticism to be constructive, and to fill up a system of his own, rather than destructive of the principles of others, I am hardly able to decide. As for himself, indeed, although he postpones his definition of the mind, yet he begins by mentioning, as one of the two natural constituents of the mind, that divine principle which he conjectures to be impassible, or incapable of emotion, and thereby removes from all association with the soul.
For whereas it is evident that the soul is susceptible of those emotions which it falls to it naturally to suffer, it must needs suffer either by the mind or with the mind. Now if the soul is by nature associated with the mind, it is impossible to draw the conclusion that the mind is impassible; or again, if the soul suffers not either by the mind or with the mind, it cannot possibly have a natural association with the mind, with which it suffers nothing, and which suffers nothing itself. Moreover, if the soul suffers nothing by the mind and with the mind, it will experience no sensation, nor will it acquire any knowledge, nor will it undergo any emotion through the agency of the mind, as they maintain it will.
For Aristotle makes even the senses passions, or states of emotion. And rightly too. For to exercise the senses is to suffer emotion, because to suffer is to feel. In like manner, to acquire knowledge is to exercise the senses; and to undergo emotion is to exercise the senses; and the whole of this is a state of suffering. But we see that the soul experiences nothing of these things, in such a manner as that the mind also is affected by the emotion, by which, indeed, and with which, all is effected. It follows, therefore, that the mind is capable of admixture, in opposition to Anaxagoras; and passible or susceptible of emotion, contrary to the opinion of Aristotle.
Besides, if a separate condition between the soul and mind is to be admitted, so that they be two things in substance, then of one of them, emotion and sensation, and every sort of taste, and all action and motion, will be the characteristics; whilst of the other the natural condition will be calm, and repose, and stupor. There is therefore no alternative: either the mind must be useless and void, or the soul. But if these affections may certainly be all of them ascribed to both, then in that case the two will be one and the same, and Democritus will carry his point when he suppresses all distinction between the two. The question will arise how two can be one—whether by the confusion of two substances, or by the disposition of one? We, however, affirm that the mind coalesces with the soul,—not indeed as being distinct from it in substance, but as being its natural function and agent.
The Soul’s Supremacy.
It next remains to examine where lies the supremacy; in other words, which of the two is superior to the other, so that with which the supremacy clearly lies shall be the essentially superior substance; whilst that over which this essentially superior substance shall have authority shall be considered as the natural functionary of the superior substance. Now who will hesitate to ascribe this entire authority to the soul, from the name of which the whole man has received his own designation in common phraseology? How many souls, says the rich man, do I maintain? not how many minds.
The pilot’s desire, also, is to rescue so many souls from shipwreck, not so many minds; the labourer, too, in his work, and the soldier on the field of battle, affirms that he lays down his soul (or life), not his mind. Which of the two has its perils or its vows and wishes more frequently on men’s lips—the mind or the soul? Which of the two are dying persons, said to have to do with the mind or the soul? In short, philosophers themselves, and medical men, even when it is their purpose to discourse about the mind, do in every instance inscribe on their title-page and table of contents, “De Anima” (“A treatise on the soul”).
And that you may also have God’s voucher on the subject, it is the soul which He addresses; it is the soul which He exhorts and counsels, to turn the mind and intellect to Him. It is the soul which Christ came to save; it is the soul which He threatens to destroy in hell; it is the soul (or life) which He forbids being made too much of; it is His soul, too (or life), which the good Shepherd Himself lays down for His sheep. It is to the soul, therefore, that you ascribe the supremacy; in it also you possess that union of substance, of which you perceive the mind to be the 193 instrument, not the ruling power.
The Soul Variously Divided by the Philosophers; This Division is Not a Material Dissection.
Being thus single, simple, and entire in itself, it is as incapable of being composed and put together from external constituents, as it is of being divided in and of itself, inasmuch as it is indissoluble. For if it had been possible to construct it and to destroy it, it would no longer be immortal. Since, however, it is not mortal, it is also incapable of dissolution and division. Now, to be divided means to be dissolved, and to be dissolved means to die. Yet (philosophers) have divided the soul into parts: Plato, for instance, into two; Zeno into three; Panætius, into five or six; Soranus, into seven; Chrysippus, into as many as eight; and Apollophanes, into as many as nine; whilst certain of the Stoics have found as many as twelve parts in the soul.
Posidonius makes even two more than these: he starts with two leading faculties of the soul,—the directing faculty, which they designate ἡγεμονικόν; and the rational faculty, which they call λογικόν,—and ultimately subdivided these into seventeen parts. Thus variously is the soul dissected by the different schools. Such divisions, however, ought not to be regarded so much as parts of the soul, as powers, or faculties, or operations thereof, even as Aristotle himself has regarded some of them as being. For they are not portions or organic parts of the soul’s substance, but functions of the soul—such as those of motion, of action, of thought, and whatsoever others they divide in this manner; such, likewise, as the five senses themselves, so well known to all—seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling.
Now, although they have allotted to the whole of these respectively certain parts of the body as their special domiciles, it does not from that circumstance follow that a like distribution will be suitable to the sections of the soul; for even the body itself would not admit of such a partition as they would have the soul undergo. But of the whole number of the limbs one body is made up, so that the arrangement is rather a concretion than a division. Look at that very wonderful piece of organic mechanism by Archimedes,—I mean his hydraulic organ, with its many limbs, parts, bands, passages for the notes, outlets for their sounds, combinations for their harmony, and the array of its pipes; but yet the whole of these details constitute only one instrument.
In like manner the wind, which breathes throughout this organ at the impulse of the hydraulic engine, is not divided into separate portions from the fact of its dispersion through the instrument to make it play: it is whole and entire in its substance, although divided in its operation. This example is not remote from (the illustration) of Strato, and Ænesidemus, and Heraclitus: for these philosophers maintain the unity of the soul, as diffused over the entire body, and yet in every part the same.
Precisely like the wind blown in the pipes throughout the organ, the soul displays its energies in various ways by means of the senses, being not indeed divided, but rather distributed in natural order. Now, under what designations these energies are to be known, and by what divisions of themselves they are to be classified, and to what special offices and functions in the body they are to be severally confined, the physicians and the philosophers must consider and decide: for ourselves, a few remarks only will be proper.
The Soul’s Vitality and Intelligence. Its Character and Seat in Man.
In the first place, (we must determine) whether there be in the soul some supreme principle of vitality and intelligence which they call “the ruling power of the soul”—τὸ ἡγεμονικόν for if this be not admitted, the whole condition of the soul is put in jeopardy. Indeed, those men who say that there is no such directing faculty, have begun by supposing that the soul itself is simply a nonentity. One Dicæarchus, a Messenian, and amongst the medical profession Andreas and Asclepiades, have thus destroyed the (soul’s) directing power, by actually placing in the mind the senses, for which they claim the ruling faculty.
Asclepiades rides rough-shod over us with even this argument, that very many animals, after losing those parts of their body in which the soul’s principle of vitality and sensation is thought mainly to exist, still retain life in a considerable degree, as well as sensation: as in the case of flies, and wasps, and locusts, when you have cut off their heads; and of she-goats, and tortoises, and eels, when you have pulled out their hearts. (He concludes), therefore, that there is no especial principle or power of the soul; for if there were, the soul’s vigour and strength could not continue when it was removed with its domiciles (or corporeal 194 organs).
However, Dicæarchus has several authorities against him—and philosophers too—Plato, Strato, Epicurus, Democritus, Empedocles, Socrates, Aristotle; whilst in opposition to Andreas and Asclepiades (may be placed their brother) physicians Herophilus, Erasistratus, Diocles, Hippocrates, and Soranus himself; and better than all others, there are our Christian authorities. We are taught by God concerning both these questions—viz. that there is a ruling power in the soul, and that it is enshrined in one particular recess of the body.
For, when one reads of God as being “the searcher and witness of the heart;” when His prophet is reproved by His discovering to him the secrets of the heart; when God Himself anticipates in His people the thoughts of their heart, “Why think ye evil in your hearts?” when David prays “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” and Paul declares, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness,” and John says, “By his own heart is each man condemned;” when, lastly, “he who looketh on a woman so as to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart,” —then both points are cleared fully up, that there is a directing faculty of the soul, with which the purpose of God may agree; in other words, a supreme principle of intelligence and vitality (for where there is intelligence, there must be vitality), and that it resides in that most precious part of our body to which God especially looks: so that you must not suppose, with Heraclitus, that this sovereign faculty of which we are treating is moved by some external force; nor with Moschion, that it floats about through the whole body; nor with Plato, that it is enclosed in the head; nor with Zenophanes, that it culminates in the crown of the head; nor that it reposes in the brain, according to the opinion of Hippocrates; nor around the basis of the brain, as Herophilus thought; nor in the membranes thereof, as Strato and Erasistratus said; nor in the space between the eyebrows, as Strato the physician held; nor within the enclosure of the breast, according to Epicurus: but rather, as the Egyptians have always taught, especially such of them as were accounted the expounders of sacred truths; in accordance, too, with that verse of Orpheus or Empedocles:
“Namque homini sanguis circumcordialis est sensus.”
“Man has his (supreme) sensation in the blood around his heart.”
Even Protagoras likewise, and Apollodorus, and Chrysippus, entertain this same view, so that (our friend) Asclepiades may go in quest of his goats bleating without a heart, and hunt his flies without their heads; and let all those (worthies), too, who have predetermined the character of the human soul from the condition of brute animals, be quite sure that it is themselves rather who are alive in a heartless and brainless state.
The Soul’s Parts. Elements of the Rational Soul.
That position of Plato’s is also quite in keeping with the faith, in which he divides the soul into two parts—the rational and the irrational. To this definition we take no exception, except that we would not ascribe this twofold distinction to the nature (of the soul). It is the rational element which we must believe to be its natural condition, impressed upon it from its very first creation by its Author, who is Himself essentially rational. For how should that be other than rational, which God produced on His own prompting; nay more, which He expressly sent forth by His own afflatus or breath?
The irrational element, however, we must understand to have accrued later, as having proceeded from the instigation of the serpent—the very achievement of (the first) transgression—which thenceforward became inherent in the soul, and grew with its growth, assuming the manner by this time of a natural development, happening as it did immediately at the beginning of nature. But, inasmuch as the same Plato speaks of the rational element only as existing in the soul of God Himself, if we were to ascribe the irrational element likewise to the nature which our soul has received from God, then the irrational element will be equally derived from God, as being a natural production, because God is the author of nature.
Now from the devil proceeds the incentive to sin. All sin, however, is irrational: therefore the irrational proceeds from the devil, from whom sin proceeds; and it is extraneous to God, to whom also the irrational is an alien principle. The diversity, then, between these two elements arises from the 195 difference of their authors. When, therefore, Plato reserves the rational element (of the soul) to God alone, and subdivides it into two departments: the irascible, which they call θυμικόν, and the concupiscible, which they designate by the term ἐπιθυμητικόν (in such a way as to make the first common to us and lions, and the second shared between ourselves and flies, whilst the rational element is confined to us and God)—I see that this point will have to be treated by us, owing to the facts which we find operating also in Christ. For you may behold this triad of qualities in the Lord.
There was the rational element, by which He taught, by which He discoursed, by which He prepared the way of salvation; there was moreover indignation in Him, by which He inveighed against the scribes and the Pharisees; and there was the principle of desire, by which He so earnestly desired to eat the Passover with His disciples. In our own cases, accordingly, the irascible and the concupiscible elements of our soul must not invariably be put to the account of the irrational (nature), since we are sure that in our Lord these elements operated in entire accordance with reason. God will be angry, with perfect reason, with all who deserve His wrath; and with reason, too, will God desire whatever objects and claims are worthy of Himself.
For He will show indignation against the evil man, and for the good man will He desire salvation. To ourselves even does the apostle allow the concupiscible quality. “If any man,” says he, “desireth the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” Now, by saying “a good work,” he shows us that the desire is a reasonable one. He permits us likewise to feel indignation. How should he not, when he himself experiences the same? “I would,” says he, “that they were even cut off which trouble you.” In perfect agreement with reason was that indignation which resulted from his desire to maintain discipline and order.
When, however, he says, “We were formerly the children of wrath,” he censures an irrational irascibility, such as proceeds not from that nature which is the production of God, but from that which the devil brought in, who is himself styled the lord or “master” of his own class, “Ye cannot serve two masters,” and has the actual designation of “father:” “Ye are of your father the devil.” So that you need not be afraid to ascribe to him the mastery and dominion over that second, later, and deteriorated nature (of which we have been speaking), when you read of him as “the sewer of tares,” and the nocturnal spoiler of the crop of corn.
The Fidelity of the Senses, Impugned by Plato, Vindicated by Christ Himself.
Then, again, when we encounter the question (as to the veracity of those five senses which we learn with our alphabet; since from this source even there arises some support for our heretics. They are the faculties of seeing, and hearing, and smelling, and tasting, and touching. The fidelity of these senses is impugned with too much severity by the Platonists, and according to some by Heraclitus also, and Diocles, and Empedocles; at any rate, Plato, in the Timæus, declares the operations of the senses to be irrational, and vitiated by our opinions or beliefs.
Deception is imputed to the sight, because it asserts that oars, when immersed in the water, are inclined or bent, notwithstanding the certainty that they are straight; because, again, it is quite sure that that distant tower with its really quadrangular contour is round; because also it will discredit the fact of the truly parallel fabric of yonder porch or arcade, by supposing it to be narrower and narrower towards its end; and because it will join with the sea the sky which hangs at so great a height above it.
In the same way, our hearing is charged with fallacy: we think, for instance, that that is a noise in the sky which is nothing else than the rumbling of a carriage; or, if you prefer it the other way, when the thunder rolled at a distance, we were quite sure that it was a carriage which made the noise. Thus, too, are our faculties of smell and taste at fault, because the selfsame perfumes and wines lose their value after we have used them awhile. On the same principle our touch is censured, when the identical pavement which seemed rough to the hands is felt by the feet to be smooth enough; and in the baths a stream of warm water is pronounced to be quite hot at first, and beautifully temperate afterwards.
Thus, according to them, our senses deceive us, when all the while we are (the cause of the discrepancies, by) changing our opinions. The Stoics are more moderate in their views; for they do not 196 load with the obloquy of deception every one of the senses, and at all times. The Epicureans, again, show still greater consistency, in maintaining that all the senses are equally true in their testimony, and always so—only in a different way. It is not our organs of sensation that are at fault, but our opinion. The senses only experience sensation, they do not exercise opinion; it is the soul that opines. They separated opinion from the senses, and sensation from the soul. Well, but whence comes opinion, if not from the senses? Indeed, unless the eye had descried a round shape in that tower, it could have had no idea that it possessed roundness.
Again, whence arises sensation if not from the soul? For if the soul had no body, it would have no sensation. Accordingly, sensation comes from the soul, and opinion from sensation; and the whole (process) is the soul. But further, it may well be insisted on that there is a something which causes the discrepancy between the report of the senses and the reality of the facts. Now, since it is possible, (as we have seen), for phenomena to be reported which exist not in the objects, why should it not be equally possible for phenomena to be reported which are caused not by the senses, but by reasons and conditions which intervene, in the very nature of the case? If so, it will be only right that they should be duly recognised. The truth is, that it was the water which was the cause of the oar seeming to be inclined or bent: out of the water, it was perfectly straight in appearance (as well as in fact).
The delicacy of the substance or medium which forms a mirror by means of its luminosity, according as it is struck or shaken, by the vibration actually destroys the appearance of the straightness of a right line. In like manner, the condition of the open space which fills up the interval between it and us, necessarily causes the true shape of the tower to escape our notice; for the uniform density of the surrounding air covering its angles with a similar light obliterates their outlines.
So, again, the equal breadth of the arcade is sharpened or narrowed off towards its termination, until its aspect, becoming more and more contracted under its prolonged roof, comes to a vanishing point in the direction of its farthest distance. So the sky blends itself with the sea, the vision becoming spent at last, which had maintained duly the boundaries of the two elements, so long as its vigorous glance lasted. As for the (alleged cases of deceptive) hearing, what else could produce the illusion but the similarity of the sounds?
And if the perfume afterwards was less strong to the smell, and the wine more flat to the taste, and the water not so hot to the touch, their original strength was after all found in the whole of them pretty well unimpaired. In the matter, however, of the roughness and smoothness of the pavement, it was only natural and right that limbs like the hands and the feet, so different in tenderness and callousness, should have different impressions. In this way, then, there cannot occur an illusion in our senses without an adequate cause.
Now if special causes, (such as we have indicated,) mislead our senses and (through our senses) our opinions also, then we must no longer ascribe the deception to the senses, which follow the specific causes of the illusion, nor to the opinions we form; for these are occasioned and controlled by our senses, which only follow the causes. Persons who are afflicted with madness or insanity, mistake one object for another. Orestes in his sister sees his mother; Ajax sees Ulysses in the slaughtered herd; Athamas and Agave descry wild beasts in their children.
Now is it their eyes or their phrenzy which you must blame for so vast a fallacy? All things taste bitter, in the redundancy of their bile, to those who have the jaundice. Is it their taste which you will charge with the physical prevarication, or their ill state of health? All the senses, therefore, are disordered occasionally, or imposed upon, but only in such a way as to be quite free of any fault in their own natural functions. But further still, not even against the specific causes and conditions themselves must we lay an indictment of deception. For, since these physical aberrations happen for stated reasons, the reasons do not deserve to be regarded as deceptions.
Whatever ought to occur in a certain manner is not a deception. If, then, even these circumstantial causes must be acquitted of all censure and blame, how much more should we free from reproach the senses, over which the said causes exercise a liberal sway! Hence we are bound most certainly to claim for the senses truth, and fidelity, and integrity, seeing that they never render any other account of their impressions than is enjoined on them by the specific causes or conditions which in all cases produce that discrepancy which appears between the report of the senses and the reality of the objects.
What mean you, then, O most insolent Academy? You overthrow the entire condition of human life; you disturb the whole order of nature; you obscure the good providence of God Himself: for the senses of man which God has appointed over all His works, that we might understand, inhabit, dispense, and enjoy them, (you reproach) as fallacious and treacherous tyrants! But is it not from these that all creation receives our services? Is it not by 197 their means that a second form is impressed even upon the world?—so many arts, so many industrious resources, so many pursuits, such business, such offices, such commerce, such remedies, counsels, consolations, modes, civilizations, and accomplishments of life! All these things have produced the very relish and savour of human existence; whilst by these senses of man, he alone of all animated nature has the distinction of being a rational animal, with a capacity for intelligence and knowledge—nay, an ability to form the Academy itself!
But Plato, in order to disparage the testimony of the senses, in the Phædrus denies (in the person of Socrates) his own ability to know even himself, according to the injunction of the Delphic oracle; and in the Theætetus he deprives himself of the faculties of knowledge and sensation; and again, in the Phædrus he postpones till after death the posthumous knowledge, as he calls it, of the truth; and yet for all he went on playing the philosopher even before he died.
We may not, I say, we may not call into question the truth of the (poor vilified) senses, lest we should even in Christ Himself, bring doubt upon the truth of their sensation; lest perchance it should be said that He did not really “behold Satan as lightning fall from heaven;” that He did not really hear the Father’s voice testifying of Himself; or that He was deceived in touching Peter’s wife’s mother; or that the fragrance of the ointment which He afterwards smelled was different from that which He accepted for His burial; and that the taste of the wine was different from that which He consecrated in memory of His blood.
On this false principle it was that Marcion actually chose to believe that He was a phantom, denying to Him the reality of a perfect body. Now, not even to His apostles was His nature ever a matter of deception. He was truly both seen and heard upon the mount; true and real was the draught of that wine at the marriage of (Cana in) Galilee; true and real also was the touch of the then believing Thomas. Read the testimony of John: “That which we have seen, which we have heard, which we have looked upon with our eyes, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.” False, of course, and deceptive must have been that testimony, if the witness of our eyes, and ears, and hands be by nature a lie.
Plato Suggested Certain Errors to the Gnostics. Functions of the Soul.
I turn now to the department of our intellectual faculties, such as Plato has handed it over to the heretics, distinct from our bodily functions, having obtained the knowledge of them before death. He asks in the Phædo, What, then, (do you think) concerning the actual possession of knowledge? Will the body be a hindrance to it or not, if one shall admit it as an associate in the search after knowledge? I have a similar question to ask: Have the faculties of their sight and hearing any truth and reality for human beings or not? Is it not the case, that even the poets are always muttering against us, that we can never hear or see anything for certain?
He remembered, no doubt, what Epicharmus the comic poet had said: “It is the mind which sees, the mind that hears—all else is blind and deaf.” To the same purport he says again, that man is the wisest whose mental power is the clearest; who never applies the sense of sight, nor adds to his mind the help of any such faculty, but employs the intellect itself in unmixed serenity when he indulges in contemplation for the purpose of acquiring an unalloyed insight into the nature of things; divorcing himself with all his might from his eyes and ears and (as one must express himself) from the whole of his body, on the ground of its disturbing the soul, and not allowing it to possess either truth or wisdom, whenever it is brought into communication with it.
We see, then, that in opposition to the bodily senses another faculty is provided of a much more serviceable character, even the powers of the soul, which produce an understanding of that truth whose realities are not palpable nor open to the bodily senses, but are very remote from men’s everyday knowledge, lying in secret—in the heights above, and in the presence of God Himself. For Plato maintains that there are certain invisible substances, incorporeal, celestial, divine, and eternal, which they call ideas, that is to say, (archetypal) forms, which are the patterns and causes of those objects of nature which are manifest to us, and lie under our corporeal senses: the former, (according to Plato,) are the actual verities, and the latter the images 198 and likenesses of them.
Well, now, are there not here gleams of the heretical principles of the Gnostics and the Valentinians? It is from this philosophy that they eagerly adopt the difference between the bodily senses and the intellectual faculties,—a distinction which they actually apply to the parable of the ten virgins: making the five foolish virgins to symbolize the five bodily senses, seeing that these are so silly and so easy to be deceived; and the wise virgin to express the meaning of the intellectual faculties, which are so wise as to attain to that mysterious and supernal truth, which is placed in the pleroma. (Here, then, we have) the mystic original of the ideas of these heretics.
For in this philosophy lie both their Æons and their genealogies. Thus, too, do they divide sensation, both into the intellectual powers from their spiritual seed, and the sensuous faculties from the animal, which cannot by any means comprehend spiritual things. From the former germ spring invisible things; from the latter, visible things which are grovelling and temporary, and which are obvious to the senses, placed as they are in palpable forms. It is because of these views that we have in a former passage stated as a preliminary fact, that the mind is nothing else than an apparatus or instrument of the soul, and that the spirit is no other faculty, separate from the soul, but is the soul itself exercised in respiration; although that influence which either God on the one hand, or the devil on the other, has breathed upon it, must be regarded in the light of an additional element.
And now, with respect to the difference between the intellectual powers and the sensuous faculties, we only admit it so far as the natural diversity between them requires of us. (There is, of course, a difference) between things corporeal and things spiritual, between visible and invisible beings, between objects which are manifest to the view and those which are hidden from it; because the one class are attributed to sensation, and the other to the intellect. But yet both the one and the other must be regarded as inherent in the soul, and as obedient to it, seeing that it embraces bodily objects by means of the body, in exactly the same way that it conceives incorporeal objects by help of the mind, except that it is even exercising sensation when it is employing the intellect. For is it not true, that to employ the senses is to use the intellect? And to employ the intellect amounts to a use of the senses?
What indeed can sensation be, but the understanding of that which is the object of the sensation? And what can the intellect or understanding be, but the seeing of that which is the object understood? Why adopt such excruciating means of torturing simple knowledge and crucifying the truth? Who can show me the sense which does not understand the object of its sensation, or the intellect which perceives not the object which it understands, in so clear a way as to prove to me that the one can do without the other? If corporeal things are the objects of sense, and incorporeal ones objects of the intellect, it is the classes of the objects which are different, not the domicile or abode of sense and intellect; in other words, not the soul (anima) and the mind (animus). By what, in short, are corporeal things perceived?
If it is by the soul, then the mind is a sensuous faculty, and not merely an intellectual power; for whilst it understands, it also perceives, because without the perception there is no understanding. If, however, corporeal things are perceived by the soul, then it follows that the soul’s power is an intellectual one, and not merely a sensuous faculty; for while it perceives it also understands, because without understanding there is no perceiving. And then, again, by what are incorporeal things understood? If it is by the mind, where will be the soul? If it is by the soul, where will be the mind? For things which differ ought to be mutually absent from each other, when they are occupied in their respective functions and duties. It must be your opinion, indeed, that the mind is absent from the soul on certain occasions; for (you suppose) that we are so made and constituted as not to know that we have seen or heard something, on the hypothesis that the mind was absent at the time.
I must therefore maintain that the very soul itself neither saw nor heard, since it was at the given moment absent with its active power—that is to say, the mind. The truth is, that whenever a man is out of his mind, it is his soul that is demented—not because the mind is absent, but because it is a fellow-sufferer (with the soul) at the time. Indeed, it is the soul which is principally affected by casualties of such a kind. Whence is this fact confirmed? It is confirmed from the following consideration: that after the soul’s departure, the mind is no 199 longer found in a man: it always follows the soul; nor does it at last remain behind it alone, after death. Now, since it follows the soul, it is also indissolubly attached to it; just as the understanding is attached to the soul, which is followed by the mind, with which the understanding is indissolubly connected.
Granted now that the understanding is superior to the senses, and a better discoverer of mysteries, what matters it, so long as it is only a peculiar faculty of the soul, just as the senses themselves are? It does not at all affect my argument, unless the understanding were held to be superior to the senses, for the purpose of deducing from the allegation of such superiority its separate condition likewise. After thus combating their alleged difference, I have also to refute this question of superiority, previous to my approaching the belief (which heresy propounds) in a superior god. On this point, however, of a (superior) god, we shall have to measure swords with the heretics on their own ground. Our present subject concerns the soul, and the point is to prevent the insidious ascription of a superiority to the intellect or understanding.
Now, although the objects which are touched by the intellect are of a higher nature, since they are spiritual, than those which are embraced by the senses, since these are corporeal, it will still be only a superiority in the objects—as of lofty ones contrasted with humble—not in the faculties of the intellect against the senses. For how can the intellect be superior to the senses, when it is these which educate it for the discovery of various truths?
It is a fact, that these truths are learned by means of palpable forms; in other words, invisible things are discovered by the help of visible ones, even as the apostle tells us in his epistle: “For the invisible things of Him are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made;” and as Plato too might inform our heretics: “The things which appear are the image of the things which are concealed from view,” whence it must needs follow that this world is by all means an image of some other: so that the intellect evidently uses the senses for its own guidance, and authority, and mainstay; and without the senses truth could not be attained.
How, then, can a thing be superior to that which is instrumental to its existence, which is also indispensable to it, and to whose help it owes everything which it acquires? Two conclusions therefore follow from what we have said:
(1) That the intellect is not to be preferred above the senses, on the (supposed) ground that the agent through which a thing exists is inferior to the thing itself; and
(2) that the intellect must not be separated from the senses, since the instrument by which a thing’s existence is sustained is associated with the thing itself.
The Intellect Coeval with the Soul in the Human Being. An Example from Aristotle Converted into Evidence Favourable to These Views.
Nor must we fail to notice those writers who deprive the soul of the intellect even for a short period of time. They do this in order to prepare the way of introducing the intellect—and the mind also—at a subsequent time of life, even at the time when intelligence appears in a man. They maintain that the stage of infancy is supported by the soul alone, simply to promote vitality, without any intention of acquiring knowledge also, because not all things have knowledge which possess life.
Trees, for instance, to quote Aristotle’s example, have vitality, but have not knowledge; and with him agrees every one who gives a share to all animated beings of the animal substance, which, according to our view, exists in man alone as his special property,—not because it is the work of God, which all other creatures are likewise, but because it is the breath of God, which this (human soul) alone is, which we say is born with the full equipment of its proper faculties.
Well, let them meet us with the example of the trees: we will accept their challenge, (nor shall we find in it any detriment to our own argument;) for it is an undoubted fact, that whilst trees are yet but twigs and sprouts, and before they even reach the sapling stage, there is in them their own proper faculty of life, as soon as they spring out of their native beds. But then, as time goes on, the vigour of the tree slowly advances, as it grows and hardens into its woody trunk, until its mature age completes the condition which nature destines for it.
Else what resources would trees possess in due course for the inoculation of grafts, and the formation of leaves, and the swelling of their buds, and the graceful shedding of their blossom, and the softening of their sap, were there not in them the quiet growth of the full provision of their nature, and the distribution of this life over all their branches for the accomplishment of their maturity?
Trees, therefore, have ability or knowledge; and they derive it from whence they also 200 derive vitality—that is, from the one source of vitality and knowledge which is peculiar to their nature, and that from the infancy which they, too, begin with. For I observe that even the vine, although yet tender and immature, still understands its own natural business, and strives to cling to some support, that, leaning on it, and lacing through it, it may so attain its growth.
Indeed, without waiting for the husbandman’s training, without an espalier, without a prop, whatever its tendrils catch, it will fondly cling to, and embrace with really greater tenacity and force by its own inclination than by your volition. It longs and hastens to be secure. Take also ivy-plants, never mind how young: I observe their attempts from the very first to grasp objects above them, and outrunning everything else, to hang on to the highest thing, preferring as they do to spread over walls with their leafy web and woof rather than creep on the ground and be trodden under by every foot that likes to crush them.
On the other hand, in the case of such trees as receive injury from contact with a building, how do they hang off as they grow and avoid what injures them! You can see that their branches were naturally meant to take the opposite direction, and can very well understand the vital instincts of such a tree from its avoidance of the wall. It is contented (if it be only a little shrub) with its own insignificant destiny, which it has in its foreseeing instinct thoroughly been aware of from its infancy, only it still fears even a ruined building. On my side, then, why should I not contend for these wise and sagacious natures of trees?
Let them have vitality, as the philosophers permit it; but let them have knowledge too, although the philosophers disavow it. Even the infancy of a log, then, may have an intellect (suitable to it): how much more may that of a human being, whose soul (which may be compared with the nascent sprout of a tree) has been derived from Adam as its root, and has been propagated amongst his posterity by means of woman, to whom it has been entrusted for transmission, and thus has sprouted into life with all its natural apparatus, both of intellect and of sense!
I am much mistaken if the human person, even from his infancy, when he saluted life with his infant cries, does not testify to his actual possession of the faculties of sensation and intellect by the fact of his birth, vindicating at one and the same time the use of all his senses—that of seeing by the light, that of hearing by sounds, that of taste by liquids, that of smell by the air, that of touch by the ground.
This earliest voice of infancy, then, is the first effort of the senses, and the initial impulse of mental perceptions. There is also the further fact, that some persons understand this plaintive cry of the infant to be an augury of affliction in the prospect of our tearful life, whereby from the very moment of birth (the soul) has to be regarded as endued with prescience, much more with intelligence. Accordingly by this intuition the babe knows his mother, discerns the nurse, and even recognises the waiting-maid; refusing the breast of another woman, and the cradle that is not his own, and longing only for the arms to which he is accustomed.
Now from what source does he acquire this discernment of novelty and custom, if not from instinctive knowledge? How does it happen that he is irritated and quieted, if not by help of his initial intellect? It would be very strange indeed that infancy were naturally so lively, if it had not mental power; and naturally so capable of impression and affection, if it had no intellect. But (we hold the contrary): for Christ, by “accepting praise out of the mouth of babes and sucklings,” has declared that neither childhood nor infancy is without sensibility, —the former of which states, when meeting Him with approving shouts, proved its ability to offer Him testimony; while the other, by being slaughtered, for His sake of course, knew what violence meant.
The Soul, as to Its Nature Uniform, But Its Faculties Variously Developed. Varieties Only Accidental.
And here, therefore, we draw our conclusion, that all the natural properties of the soul are inherent in it as parts of its substance; and that they grow and develope along with it, from the very moment of its own origin at birth. Just as Seneca says, whom we so often find on our side: “There are implanted within us the seeds of all the arts and periods of life. And God, our Master, secretly produces our mental dispositions;” that is, from the germs which are implanted and hidden in us by means of infancy, and these are the intellect: for from these our natural dispositions are evolved.
Now, even the seeds of plants have, one form in each kind, but their development varies: some open and expand in a 201 healthy and perfect state, while others either improve or degenerate, owing to the conditions of weather and soil, and from the appliance of labour and care; also from the course of the seasons, and from the occurrence of casual circumstances. In like manner, the soul may well be uniform in its seminal origin, although multiform by the process of nativity. And here local influences, too, must be taken into account.
It has been said that dull and brutish persons are born at Thebes; and the most accomplished in wisdom and speech at Athens, where in the district of Colythus children speak—such is the precocity of their tongue—before they are a month old. Indeed, Plato himself tells us, in the Timæus, that Minerva, when preparing to found her great city, only regarded the nature of the country which gave promise of mental dispositions of this kind; whence he himself in The Laws instructs Megillus and Clinias to be careful in their selection of a site for building a city.
Empedocles, however, places the cause of a subtle or an obtuse intellect in the quality of the blood, from which he derives progress and perfection in learning and science. The subject of national peculiarities has grown by this time into proverbial notoriety. Comic poets deride the Phrygians for their cowardice; Sallust reproaches the Moors for their levity, and the Dalmatians for their cruelty; even the apostle brands the Cretans as “liars.” Very likely, too, something must be set down to the score of bodily condition and the state of the health. Stoutness hinders knowledge, but a spare form stimulates it; paralysis prostrates the mind, a decline preserves it.
How much more will those accidental circumstances have to be noticed, which, in addition to the state of one’s body or one’s health, tend to sharpen or to dull the intellect! It is sharpened by learned pursuits, by the sciences, the arts, by experimental knowledge, business habits, and studies; it is blunted by ignorance, idle habits, inactivity, lust, inexperience, listlessness, and vicious pursuits. Then, besides these influences, there must perhaps be added the supreme powers.
Now these are the supreme powers: according to our (Christian) notions, they are the Lord God and His adversary the devil; but according to men’s general opinion about providence, they are fate and necessity; and about fortune, it is man’s freedom of will. Even the philosophers allow these distinctions; whilst on our part we have already undertaken to treat of them, on the principles of the (Christian) faith, in a separate work. It is evident how great must be the influences which so variously affect the one nature of the soul, since they are commonly regarded as separate “natures.”
Still they are not different species, but casual incidents of one nature and substance—even of that which God conferred on Adam, and made the mould of all (subsequent ones). Casual incidents will they always remain, but never will they become specific differences. However great, too, at present is the variety of men’s maunders, it was not so in Adam, the founder of their race. But all these discordances ought to have existed in him as the fountainhead, and thence to have descended to us in an unimpaired variety, if the variety had been due to nature.
As Free-Will Actuates an Individual So May His Character Change.
Now, if the soul possessed this uniform and simple nature from the beginning in Adam, previous to so many mental dispositions (being developed out of it), it is not rendered multiform by such various development, nor by the triple form predicated of it in “the Valentinian trinity” (that we may still keep the condemnation of that heresy in view), for not even this nature is discoverable in Adam. What had he that was spiritual? Is it because he prophetically declared “the great mystery of Christ and the church?” “This is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and he shall cleave unto his wife; and they two shall be one flesh.” But this (gift of prophecy) only came on him afterwards, when God infused into him the ecstasy, or spiritual quality, in which prophecy consists. If, again, the evil of sin was developed in him, this must not be accounted as a natural disposition: it was rather produced by the instigation of the (old) serpent as far from being incidental to his nature as it was from being material in him, for we have already excluded belief in “Matter.”
Now, if neither the spiritual element, nor what the heretics call the material element, was properly inherent in him (since, if he had been created out of matter, the germ of evil must have been an integral part of his constitution), it remains that the one only original element of his nature was 202 what is called the animal (the principle of vitality, the soul), which we maintain to be simple and uniform in its condition.
Concerning this, it remains for us to inquire whether, as being called natural, it ought to be deemed subject to change. (The heretics whom we have referred to) deny that nature is susceptible of any change, in order that they may be able to establish and settle their threefold theory, or “trinity,” in all its characteristics as to the several natures, because “a good tree cannot produce evil fruit, nor a corrupt tree good fruit; and nobody gathers figs of thorns, nor grapes of brambles.”
If so, then “God will not be able any longer to raise up from the stones children unto Abraham; nor to make a generation of vipers bring forth fruits of repentance.” And if so, the apostle too was in error when he said in his epistle, “Ye were at one time darkness, (but now are ye light in the Lord:)” and, “We also were by nature children of wrath;” and, “Such were some of you, but ye are washed.”
The statements, however, of holy Scripture will never be discordant with truth. A corrupt tree will never yield good fruit, unless the better nature be grafted into it; nor will a good tree produce evil fruit, except by the same process of cultivation. Stones also will become children of Abraham, if educated in Abraham’s faith; and a generation of vipers will bring forth the fruits of penitence, if they reject the poison of their malignant nature.
This will be the power of the grace of God, more potent indeed than nature, exercising its sway over the faculty that underlies itself within us—even the freedom of our will, which is described as αὐτεξούσιος (of independent authority); and inasmuch as this faculty is itself also natural and mutable, in whatsoever direction it turns, it inclines of its own nature.
Now, that there does exist within us naturally this independent authority (τὸ αὐτεξούσιον ), we have already shown in opposition both to Marcion and to Hermogenes. If, then, the natural condition has to be submitted to a definition, it must be determined to be twofold—there being the category of the born and the unborn, the made and not-made. Now that which has received its constitution by being made or by being born, is by nature capable of being changed, for it can be both born again and re-made; whereas that which is not-made and unborn will remain for ever immoveable.
Since, however, this state is suited to God alone, as the only Being who is unborn and not-made (and therefore immortal and unchangeable), it is absolutely certain that the nature of all other existences which are born and created is subject to modification and change; so that if the threefold state is to be ascribed to the soul, it must be supposed to arise from the mutability of its accidental circumstances, and not from the appointment of nature.
Recapitulation. Definition of the Soul.
Hermogenes has already heard from us what are the other natural faculties of the soul, as well as their vindication and proof; whence it may be seen that the soul is rather the offspring of God than of matter. The names of these faculties shall here be simply repeated, that they may not seem to be forgotten and passed out of sight. We have assigned, then, to the soul both that freedom of the will which we just now mentioned, and its dominion over the works of nature, and its occasional gift of divination, independently of that endowment of prophecy which accrues to it expressly from the grace of God. We shall therefore now quit this subject of the soul’s disposition, in order to set out fully in order its various qualities.
The soul, then, we define to be sprung from the breath of God, immortal, possessing body, having form, simple in its substance, intelligent in its own nature, developing its power in various ways, free in its determinations, subject to be changes of accident, in its faculties mutable, rational, supreme, endued with an instinct of presentiment, evolved out of one (archetypal soul). It remains for us now to consider how it is developed out of this one original source; in other words, whence, and when, and how it is produced.
The Opinions of Sundry Heretics Which Originate Ultimately with Plato.
203 Some suppose that they came down from heaven, with as firm a belief as they are apt to entertain, when they indulge in the prospect of an undoubted return thither. Saturninus, the disciple of Menander, who belonged to Simon’s sect, introduced this opinion: he affirmed that man was made by angels. A futile, imperfect creation at first, weak and unable to stand, he crawled upon the ground like a worm, because he wanted the strength to maintain an erect posture; but afterwards having, by the compassion of the Supreme Power (in whose image, which had not been fully understood, he was clumsily formed), obtained a slender spark of life, this roused and righted his imperfect form, and animated it with a higher vitality, and provided for its return, on its relinquishment of life, to its original principle.
Carpocrates, indeed, claims for himself so extreme an amount of the supernal qualities, that his disciples set their own souls at once on an equality with Christ (not to mention the apostles); and sometimes, when it suits their fancy, even give them the superiority—deeming them, forsooth, to have partaken of that sublime virtue which looks down upon the principalities that govern this world. Apelles tells us that our souls were enticed by earthly baits down from their super-celestial abodes by a fiery angel, Israel’s God and ours, who then enclosed them firmly within our sinful flesh.
The hive of Valentinus fortifies the soul with the germ of Sophia, or Wisdom; by means of which germ they recognise, in the images of visible objects, the stories and Milesian fables of their own Æons. I am sorry from my heart that Plato has been the caterer to all these heretics. For in the Phædo he imagines that souls wander from this world to that, and thence back again hither; whilst in the Timæus he supposes that the children of God, to whom had been assigned the production of mortal creatures, having taken for the soul the germ of immortality, congealed around it a mortal body,—thereby indicating that this world is the figure of some other.
Now, to procure belief in all this—that the soul had formerly lived with God in the heavens above, sharing His ideas with Him, and afterwards came down to live with us on earth, and whilst here recollects the eternal patterns of things which it had learnt before—he elaborated his new formula, μαθήσεις ἀναμνήσεις, which means that “learning is reminiscence;” implying that the souls which come to us from thence forget the things amongst which they formerly lived, but that they afterwards recall them, instructed by the objects they see around them. Forasmuch, therefore, as the doctrines which the heretics borrow from Plato are cunningly defended by this kind of argument, I shall sufficiently refute the heretics if I overthrow the argument of Plato.
Plato’s Inconsistency. He Supposes the Soul Self-Existent, Yet Capable of Forgetting What Passed in a Previous State.
In the first place, I cannot allow that the soul is capable of a failure of memory; because he has conceded to it so large an amount of divine quality as to put it on a par with God. He makes it unborn, which single attribute I might apply as a sufficient attestation of its perfect divinity; he then adds that the soul is immortal, incorruptible, incorporeal—since he believed God to be the same—invisible, incapable of delineation, uniform, supreme, rational, and intellectual.
What more could he attribute to the soul, if he wanted to call it God? We, however, who allow no appendage to God (in the sense of equality), by this very fact reckon the soul as very far below God: for we suppose it to be born, and hereby to possess something of a diluted divinity and an attenuated felicity, as the breath (of God), though not His spirit; and although immortal, as this is an attribute of divinity, yet for all that passible, since this is an incident of a born condition, and consequently from the first capable of deviation from perfection and right, and by consequence susceptible of a failure in memory.
This point I have discussed sufficiently with Hermogenes. But it may be further observed, that if the soul is to merit being accounted a god, by reason of all its qualities being equal to the attributes of God, it must then be subject to no passion, and therefore to no loss of memory; for this defect of oblivion is as great an injury to that of which you predicate it, as memory is the glory thereof, which Plato himself deems the very safeguard of the senses and intellectual faculties, and which Cicero has designated the treasury of all the sciences.
Now we need not raise the doubt whether so divine a faculty as the soul was capable of losing memory: the question rather is, whether it is able to recover afresh that which it has lost. I could not decide whether that, which ought to have lost memory, if it once incurred the loss, would be powerful enough to recollect itself.
Both alternatives, 204 indeed, will agree very well with my soul, but not with Plato’s. In the second place, my objection to him will stand thus: (Plato,) do you endow the soul with a natural competency for understanding those well-known ideas of yours? Certainly I do, will be your answer. Well, now, no one will concede to you that the knowledge, (which you say is) the gift of nature, of the natural sciences can fail. But the knowledge of the sciences fails; the knowledge of the various fields of learning and of the arts of life fails; and so perhaps the knowledge of the faculties and affections of our minds fails, although they seem to be inherent in our nature, but really are not so: because, as we have already said, they are affected by accidents of place, of manners and customs, of bodily condition, of the state of man’s health—by the influences of the Supreme Powers, and the changes of man’s free-will.
Now the instinctive knowledge of natural objects never fails, not even in the brute creation. The lion, no doubt, will forget his ferocity, if surrounded by the softening influence of training; he may become, with his beautiful mane, the plaything of some Queen Berenice, and lick her cheeks with his tongue. A wild beast may lay aside his habits, but his natural instincts will not be forgotten. He will not forget his proper food, nor his natural resources, nor his natural alarms; and should the queen offer him fishes or cakes, he will wish for flesh; and if, when he is ill, any antidote be prepared for him, he will still require the ape; and should no hunting-spear be presented against him, he will yet dread the crow of the cock.
In like manner with man, who is perhaps the most forgetful of all creatures, the knowledge of everything natural to him will remain ineradicably fixed in him,—but this alone, as being alone a natural instinct. He will never forget to eat when he is hungry; or to drink when he is thirsty; or to use his eyes when he wants to see; or his ears, to hear; or his nose, to smell; or his mouth, to taste; or his hand, to touch. These are, to be sure, the senses, which philosophy depreciates by her preference for the intellectual faculties. But if the natural knowledge of the sensuous faculties is permanent, how happens it that the knowledge of the intellectual faculties fails, to which the superiority is ascribed? Whence, now, arises that power of forgetfulness itself which precedes recollection? From long lapse of time, he says.
But this is a shortsighted answer. Length of time cannot be incidental to that which, according to him, is unborn, and which therefore must be deemed most certainly eternal. For that which is eternal, on the ground of its being unborn, since it admits neither of beginning nor end of time, is subject to no temporal criterion. And that which time does not measure, undergoes no change in consequence of time; nor is long lapse of time at all influential over it. If time is a cause of oblivion, why, from the time of the soul’s entrance into the body, does memory fail, as if thenceforth the soul were to be affected by time? for the soul, being undoubtedly prior to the body, was of course not irrespective of time. Is it, indeed, immediately on the soul’s entrance into the body that oblivion takes place, or some time afterwards?
If immediately, where will be the long lapse of the time which is as yet inadmissible in the hypothesis? Take, for instance, the case of the infant. If some time afterwards, will not the soul, during the interval previous to the moment of oblivion, still exercise its powers of memory? And how comes it to pass that the soul subsequently forgets, and then afterwards again remembers? How long, too, must the lapse of the time be regarded as having been, during which the oblivion oppressed the soul? The whole course of one’s life, I apprehend, will be insufficient to efface the memory of an age which endured so long before the soul’s assumption of the body. But then, again, Plato throws the blame upon the body, as if it were at all credible that a born substance could extinguish the power of one that is unborn.
There exist, however, among bodies a great many differences, by reason of their rationality, their bulk, their condition, their age, and their health. Will there then be supposed to exist similar differences in obliviousness? Oblivion, however, is uniform and identical. Therefore bodily peculiarity, with its manifold varieties, will not become the cause of an effect which is an invariable one. There are likewise, according to Plato’s own testimony, many proofs to show that the soul has a divining faculty, as we have already advanced against Hermogenes. But there is not a man living, who does not himself feel his soul possessed with a presage and augury of some omen, danger, or joy.
Now, if the body is not prejudicial to divination, it will not, I suppose, be injurious to memory. One thing is certain, that souls in the same body both forget and remember. If any corporeal condition engenders forgetfulness, how will it admit the opposite state of recollection? Because recollection, after forgetfulness, is actually the resurrection of the memory. Now, how should not that which is hostile to the memory at first, be also prejudicial to it in the second instance? Lastly, 205 who have better memories than little children, with their fresh, unworn souls, not yet immersed in domestic and public cares, but devoted only to those studies the acquirement of which is itself a reminiscence?
Why, indeed, do we not all of us recollect in an equal degree, since we are equal in our forgetfulness? But this is true only of philosophers! But not even of the whole of them. Amongst so many nations, in so great a crowd of sages, Plato, to be sure, is the only man who has combined the oblivion and the recollection of ideas. Now, since this main argument of his by no means keeps its ground, it follows that its entire superstructure must fall with it, namely, that souls are supposed to be unborn, and to live in the heavenly regions, and to be instructed in the divine mysteries thereof; moreover, that they descend to this earth, and here recall to memory their previous existence, for the purpose, of course, of supplying to our heretics the fitting materials for their systems.
Tertullian Refutes, Physiologically, the Notion that the Soul is Introduced After Birth.
I shall now return to the cause of this digression, in order that I may explain how all souls are derived from one, when and where and in what manner they are produced. Now, touching this subject, it matters not whether the question be started by the philosopher, by the heretic, or by the crowd. Those who profess the truth care nothing about their opponents, especially such of them as begin by maintaining that the soul is not conceived in the womb, nor is formed and produced at the time that the flesh is moulded, but is impressed from without upon the infant before his complete vitality, but after the process of parturition.
They say, moreover, that the human seed having been duly deposited ex concubiterin the womb, and having been by natural impulse quickened, it becomes condensed into the mere substance of the flesh, which is in due time born, warm from the furnace of the womb, and then released from its heat. (This flesh) resembles the case of hot iron, which is in that state plunged into cold water; for, being smitten by the cold air (into which it is born), it at once receives the power of animation, and utters vocal sound. This view is entertained by the Stoics, along with Ænesidemus, and occasionally by Plato himself, when he tells us that the soul, being quite a separate formation, originating elsewhere and externally to the womb, is inhaled when the new-born infant first draws breath, and by and by exhaled with the man’s latest breath.
We shall see whether this view of his is merely fictitious. Even the medical profession has not lacked its Hicesius, to prove a traitor both to nature and his own calling. These gentlemen, I suppose, were too modest to come to terms with women on the mysteries of childbirth, so well known to the latter. But how much more is there for them to blush at, when in the end they have the women to refute them, instead of commending them.
Now, in such a question as this, no one can be so useful a teacher, judge, or witness, as the sex itself which is so intimately concerned. Give us your testimony, then, ye mothers, whether yet pregnant, or after delivery (let barren women and men keep silence),—the truth of your own nature is in question, the reality of your own suffering is the point to be decided. (Tell us, then,) whether you feel in the embryo within you any vital force other than your own, with which your bowels tremble, your sides shake, your entire womb throbs, and the burden which oppresses you constantly changes its position? Are these movements a joy to you, and a positive removal of anxiety, as making you confident that your infant both possesses vitality and enjoys it?
Or, should his restlessness cease, your first fear would be for him; and he would be aware of it within you, since he is disturbed at the novel sound; and you would crave for injurious diet, or would even loathe your food—all on his account; and then you and he, (in the closeness of your sympathy,) would share together your common ailments—so far that with your contusions and bruises would he actually become marked,—whilst within you, and even on the selfsame parts of the body, taking to himself thus peremptorily the injuries of his mother! Now, whenever a livid hue and redness are incidents of the blood, the blood will not be without the vital principle, or soul; or when disease attacks the soul or vitality, (it becomes a proof of its real existence, since) there is no disease where there is no soul or principle of life.
Again, inasmuch as sustenance by food, and the want thereof, growth and decay, fear and motion, are conditions of the soul or life, he who experiences them must be alive. And, so, he at last ceases to live, who ceases to experience them. And thus 206 by and by infants are still-born; but how so, unless they had life? For how could any die, who had not previously lived?
But sometimes by a cruel necessity, whilst yet in the womb, an infant is put to death, when lying awry in the orifice of the womb he impedes parturition, and kills his mother, if he is not to die himself. Accordingly, among surgeons’ tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all, and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade, by means of which the limbs within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fœtus is extracted by a violent delivery.
There is also (another instrument in the shape of) a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: they give it, from its infanticide function, the name of ἐμβρυοσφάκτης , the slayer of the infant, which was of course alive. Such apparatus was possessed both by Hippocrates, and Asclepiades, and Erasistratus, and Herophilus, that dissector of even adults, and the milder Soranus himself, who all knew well enough that a living being had been conceived, and pitied this most luckless infant state, which had first to be put to death, to escape being tortured alive. Of the necessity of such harsh treatment I have no doubt even Hicesius was convinced, although he imported their soul into infants after birth from the stroke of the frigid air, because the very term for soul, forsooth, in Greek answered to such a refrigeration!
Well, then, have the barbarian and Roman nations received souls by some other process, (I wonder;) for they have called the soul by another name than ψυχή? How many nations are there who commence life under the broiling sun of the torrid zone, scorching their skin into its swarthy hue? Whence do they get their souls, with no frosty air to help them? I say not a word of those well-warmed bed-rooms, and all that apparatus of heat which ladies in childbirth so greatly need, when a breath of cold air might endanger their life. But in the very bath almost a babe will slip into life, and at once his cry is heard! If, however, a good frosty air is to the soul so indispensable a treasure, then beyond the German and the Scythian tribes, and the Alpine and the Argæan heights, nobody ought ever to be born!
But the fact really is, that population is greater within the temperate regions of the East and the West, and men’s minds are sharper; whilst there is not a Sarmatian whose wits are not dull and humdrum. The minds of men, too, would grow keener by reason of the cold, if their souls came into being amidst nipping frosts; for as the substance is, so must be its active power. Now, after these preliminary statements, we may also refer to the case of those who, having been cut out of their mother’s womb, have breathed and retained life—your Bacchuses and Scipios.
If, however, there be any one who, like Plato, supposes that two souls cannot, more than two bodies could, co-exist in the same individual, I, on the contrary, could show him not merely the co-existence of two souls in one person, as also of two bodies in the same womb, but likewise the combination of many other things in natural connection with the soul—for instance, of demoniacal possession; and that not of one only, as in the case of Socrates’ own demon; but of seven spirits as in the case of the Magdalene; and of a legion in number, as in the Gadarene.
Now one soul is naturally more susceptible of conjunction with another soul, by reason of the identity of their substance, than an evil spirit is, owing to their diverse natures. But when the same philosopher, in the sixth book of The Laws, warns us to beware lest a vitiation of seed should infuse a soil into both body and soul from an illicit or debased concubinage, I hardly know whether he is more inconsistent with himself in respect of one of his previous statements, or of that which he had just made.
For he here shows us that the soul proceeds from human seed (and warns us to be on our guard about it), not, (as he had said before,) from the first breath of the new-born child. Pray, whence comes it that from similarity of soul we resemble our parents in disposition, according to the testimony of Cleanthes, if we are not produced from this seed of the soul? Why, too, used the old astrologers to cast a man’s nativity from his first conception, if his soul also draws not its origin from that moment? To this (nativity) likewise belongs the inbreathing of the soul, whatever that is.
Scripture Alone Offers Clear Knowledge on the Questions We Have Been Controverting.
Now there is no end to the uncertainty and irregularity of human opinion, until we come to the limits which God has prescribed. I shall at last retire within our own lines and 207 firmly hold my ground there, for the purpose of proving to the Christian (the soundness of) my answers to the Philosophers and the Physicians. Brother (in Christ), on your own foundation build up your faith. Consider the wombs of the most sainted women instinct with the life within them, and their babes which not only breathed therein, but were even endowed with prophetic intuition. See how the bowels of Rebecca are disquieted, though her child-bearing is as yet remote, and there is no impulse of (vital) air.
Behold, a twin offspring chafes within the mother’s womb, although she has no sign as yet of the twofold nation. Possibly we might have regarded as a prodigy the contention of this infant progeny, which struggled before it lived, which had animosity previous to animation, if it had simply disturbed the mother by its restlessness within her. But when her womb opens, and the number of her offspring is seen, and their presaged condition known, we have presented to us a proof not merely of the (separate) souls of the infants, but of their hostile struggles too. He who was the first to be born was threatened with detention by him who was anticipated in birth, who was not yet fully brought forth, but whose hand only had been born.
Now if he actually imbibed life, and received his soul, in Platonic style, at his first breath; or else, after the Stoic rule, had the earliest taste of animation on touching the frosty air; what was the other about, who was so eagerly looked for, who was still detained within the womb, and was trying to detain (the other) outside? I suppose he had not yet breathed when he seized his brother’s heel; and was still warm with his mother’s warmth, when he so strongly wished to be the first to quit the womb. What an infant! so emulous, so strong, and already so contentious; and all this, I suppose, because even now full of life! Consider, again, those extraordinary conceptions, which were more wonderful still, of the barren woman and the virgin: these women would only be able to produce imperfect offspring against the course of nature, from the very fact that one of them was too old to bear seed, and the other was pure from the contact of man.
If there was to be bearing at all in the case, it was only fitting that they should be born without a soul, (as the philosopher would say,) who had been irregularly conceived. However, even these have life, each of them in his mother’s womb. Elizabeth exults with joy, (for) John had leaped in her womb; Mary magnifies the Lord, (for) Christ had instigated her within. The mothers recognise each their own offspring, being moreover each recognised by their infants, which were therefore of course alive, and were not souls merely, but spirits also. Accordingly you read the word of God which was spoken to Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee.” Since God forms us in the womb, He also breathes upon us, as He also did at the first creation, when “the Lord God formed man, and breathed into him the breath of life.” Nor could God have known man in the womb, except in his entire nature: “And before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee.” Well, was it then a dead body at that early stage? Certainly not. For “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
Soul and Body Conceived, Formed and Perfected in Element Simultaneously.
How, then, is a living being conceived? Is the substance of both body and soul formed together at one and the same time? Or does one of them precede the other in natural formation? We indeed maintain that both are conceived, and formed, and perfectly simultaneously, as well as born together; and that not a moment’s interval occurs in their conception, so that, a prior place can be assigned to either. Judge, in fact, of the incidents of man’s earliest existence by those which occur to him at the very last. As death is defined to be nothing else than the separation of body and soul, life, which is the opposite of death, is susceptible of no other definition than the conjunction of body and soul.
If the severance happens at one and the same time to both substances by means of death, so the law of their combination ought to assure us that it occurs simultaneously to the two substances by means of life. Now we allow that life begins with conception, because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does. Thus, then, the processes which act together to produce separation by death, also combine in a simultaneous action to produce life. If we 208 assign priority to (the formation of) one of the natures, and a subsequent time to the other, we shall have further to determine the precise times of the semination, according to the condition and rank of each. And that being so, what time shall we give to the seed of the body, and what to the seed of the soul?
Besides, if different periods are to be assigned to the seminations then arising out of this difference in time, we shall also have different substances. For although we shall allow that there are two kinds of seed—that of the body and that of the soul—we still declare that they are inseparable, and therefore contemporaneous and simultaneous in origin. Now let no one take offence or feel ashamed at an interpretation of the processes of nature which is rendered necessary (by the defence of the truth). Nature should be to us an object of reverence, not of blushes. It is lust, not natural usage, which has brought shame on the intercourse of the sexes. It is the excess, not the normal state, which is immodest and unchaste: the normal condition has received a blessing from God, and is blest by Him: “Be fruitful, and multiply, (and replenish the earth.)” Excess, however, has He cursed, in adulteries, and wantonness, and chambering.
Well, now, in this usual function of the sexes which brings together the male and the female in their common intercourse, we know that both the soul and the flesh discharge a duty together: the soul supplies desire, the flesh contributes the gratification of it; the soul furnishes the instigation, the flesh affords the realization. The entire man being excited by the one effort of both natures, his seminal substance is discharged, deriving its fluidity from the body, and its warmth from the soul. Now if the soul in Greek is a word which is synonymous with cold, how does it come to pass that the body grows cold after the soul has quitted it?
Indeed (if I run the risk of offending modesty even, in my desire to prove the truth), I cannot help asking, whether we do not, in that very heat of extreme gratification when the generative fluid is ejected, feel that somewhat of our soul has gone from us? And do we not experience a faintness and prostration along with a dimness of sight? This, then, must be the soul-producing seed, which arises at once from the out-drip of the soul, just as that fluid is the body-producing seed which proceeds from the drainage of the flesh. Most true are the examples of the first creation. Adam’s flesh was formed of clay.
Now what is clay but an excellent moisture, whence should spring the generating fluid? From the breath of God first came the soul. But what else is the breath of God than the vapour of the spirit, whence should spring that which we breathe out through the generative fluid? Forasmuch, therefore, as these two different and separate substances, the clay and the breath, combined at the first creation in forming the individual man, they then both amalgamated and mixed their proper seminal rudiments in one, and ever afterwards communicated to the human race the normal mode of its propagation, so that even now the two substances, although diverse from each other, flow forth simultaneously in a united channel; and finding their way together into their appointed seed-plot, they fertilize with their combined vigour the human fruit out of their respective natures.
And inherent in this human product is his own seed, according to the process which has been ordained for every creature endowed with the functions of generation. Accordingly from the one (primeval) man comes the entire outflow and redundance of men’s souls—nature proving herself true to the commandment of God, “Be fruitful, and multiply.” For in the very preamble of this one production, “Let us make man,” man’s whole posterity was declared and described in a plural phrase, “Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,” etc. And no wonder: in the seed lies the promise and earnest of the crop.
The Pythagorean Doctrine of Transmigration Sketched and Censured.
What, then, by this time means that ancient saying, mentioned by Plato, concerning the reciprocal migration of souls; how they remove hence and go thither, and then return hither and pass through life, and then again depart from this life, and afterwards become alive from the dead? Some will have it that this is a saying of Pythagoras; Albinus supposes it to be a divine announcement, perhaps of the Egyptian Mercury. But there is no divine saying, except of the one true God, by whom the prophets, and the apostles, and Christ Himself declared their grand message.
More ancient than Saturn a good deal (by some nine hundred years or so), and even than his grandchildren, is Moses; and he is certainly much more divine, recounting and tracing out, as he does, the course of the human race from the very beginning of the world, indicating the several births (of the fathers of 209 mankind) according to their names and their epochs; giving thus plain proof of the divine character of his work, from its divine authority and word. If, indeed, the sophist of Samos is Plato’s authority for the eternally revolving migration of souls out of a constant alternation of the dead and the living states, then no doubt did the famous Pythagoras, however excellent in other respects, for the purpose of fabricating such an opinion as this, rely on a falsehood, which was not only shameful, but also hazardous. Consider it, you that are ignorant of it, and believe with us.
He feigns death, he conceals himself underground, he condemns himself to that endurance for some seven years, during which he learns from his mother, who was his sole accomplice and attendant, what he was to relate for the belief of the world concerning those who had died since his seclusion; and when he thought that he had succeeded in reducing the frame of his body to the horrid appearance of a dead old man, he comes forth from the place of his concealment and deceit, and pretends to have returned from the dead. Who would hesitate about believing that the man, whom he had supposed to have died, was come back again to life? especially after hearing from him facts about the recently dead, which he evidently could only have discovered in Hades itself! Thus, that men are made alive after death, is rather an old statement.
But what if it be rather a recent one also? The truth does not desire antiquity, nor does falsehood shun novelty. This notable saying I hold to be plainly false, though ennobled by antiquity. How should that not be false, which depends for its evidence on a falsehood?—How can I help believing Pythagoras to be a deceiver, who practises deceit to win my belief? How will he convince me that, before he was Pythagoras, he had been Æthalides, and Euphorbus, and the fisherman Pyrrhus, and Hermotimus, to make us believe that men live again after they have died, when he actually perjured himself afterwards as Pythagoras.
In proportion as it would be easier for me to believe that he had returned once to life in his own person, than so often in the person of this man and that, in the same degree has he deceived me in things which are too hard to be credited, because he has played the impostor in matters which might be readily believed. Well, but he recognised the shield of Euphorbus, which had been formerly consecrated at Delphi, and claimed it as his own, and proved his claim by signs which were generally unknown. Now, look again at his subterranean lurking-place, and believe his story, if you can.
For, as to the man who devised such a tricksty scheme, to the injury of his health, fraudulently wasting his life, and torturing it for seven years underground, amidst hunger, idleness, and darkness—with a profound disgust for the mighty sky—what reckless effort would he not make, what curious contrivance would he not attempt, to arrive at the discovery of this famous shield? Suppose now, that he found it in some of those hidden researches; suppose that he recovered some slight breath of report which survived the now obsolete tradition; suppose him to have come to the knowledge of it by an inspection which he had bribed the beadle to let him have,—we know very well what are the resources of magic skill for exploring hidden secrets: there are the catabolic spirits, which floor their victims; and the paredral spirits, which are ever at their side to haunt them; and the pythonic spirits, which entrance them by their divination and ventriloquistic arts.
For was it not likely that Pherecydes also, the master of our Pythagoras, used to divine, or I would rather say rave and dream, by such arts and contrivances as these? Might not the self-same demon have been in him, who, whilst in Euphorbus, transacted deeds of blood? But lastly, why is it that the man, who proved himself to have been Euphorbus by the evidence of the shield, did not also recognise any of his former Trojan comrades? For they, too, must by this time have recovered life, since men were rising again from the dead.
The Pythagorean Doctrine Refuted by Its Own First Principle, that Living Men are Formed from the Dead.
It is indeed, manifest that dead men are formed from living ones; but it does not follow from that, that living men are formed from dead ones. For from the beginning the living came first in the order of things, and therefore also from the beginning the dead came afterwards in order. But these proceeded from no other source except from the living. The living had their origin in any other source (you please) than in the dead; whilst the dead had no source whence to derive their beginning, except from the living. If, then, from the very 210 first the living came not from the dead, why should they afterwards (be said to) come from the dead?
Had that original source, whatever it was, come to an end? Was the form or law thereof a matter for regret? Then why was it preserved in the case of the dead? Does it not follow that, because the dead came from the living at the first, therefore they always came from the living? For either the law which obtained at the beginning must have continued in both of its relations, or else it must have changed in both; so that, if it had become necessary for the living afterwards to proceed from the dead, it would be necessary, in like manner, for the dead also not to proceed from the living. For if a faithful adherence to the institution was not meant to be perpetuated in each respect, then contraries cannot in due alternation continue to be re-formed from contraries.
We, too, will on our side adduce against you certain contraries, of the born and the unborn, of vision and blindness, of youth and old age, of wisdom and folly. Now it does not follow that the unborn proceeds from the born, on the ground that a contrary issues from a contrary; nor, again, that vision proceeds from blindness, because blindness happens to vision; nor, again, that youth revives from old age, because after youth comes the decrepitude of senility; nor that folly is born with its obtuseness from wisdom, because wisdom may possibly be sometimes sharpened out of folly.
Albinus has some fears for his (master and friend) Plato in these points, and labours with much ingenuity to distinguish different kinds of contraries; as if these instances did not as absolutely partake of the nature of contrariety as those which are expounded by him to illustrate his great master’s principle—I mean, life and death. Nor is it, for the matter of that, true that life is restored out of death, because it happens that death succeeds life.
Further Refutation of the Pythagorean Theory. The State of Contemporary Civilisation.
But what must we say in reply to what follows? For, in the first place, if the living come from the dead, just as the dead proceed from the living, then there must always remain unchanged one and the selfsame number of mankind, even the number which originally introduced (human) life. The living preceded the dead, afterwards the dead issued from the living, and then again the living from the dead. Now, since this process was evermore going on with the same persons, therefore they, issuing from the same, must always have remained in number the same. For they who emerged (into life) could never have become more nor fewer than they who disappeared (in death).
We find, however, in the records of the Antiquities of Man, that the human race has progressed with a gradual growth of population, either occupying different portions of the earth as aborigines, or as nomad tribes, or as exiles, or as conquerors—as the Scythians in Parthia, the Temenidæ in Peloponnesus, the Athenians in Asia, the Phrygians in Italy, and the Phœnicians in Africa; or by the more ordinary methods of migration, which they call ἀποικίαι or colonies, for the purpose of throwing off redundant population, disgorging into other abodes their overcrowded masses.
The aborigines remain still in their old settlements, and have also enriched other districts with loans of even larger populations. Surely it is obvious enough, if one looks at the whole world, that it is becoming daily better cultivated and more fully peopled than anciently. All places are now accessible, all are well known, all open to commerce; most pleasant farms have obliterated all traces of what were once dreary and dangerous wastes; cultivated fields have subdued forests; flocks and herds have expelled wild beasts; sandy deserts are sown; rocks are planted; marshes are drained; and where once were hardly solitary cottages, there are now large cities. No longer are (savage) islands dreaded, nor their rocky shores feared; everywhere are houses, and inhabitants, and settled government, and civilized life.
What most frequently meets our view (and occasions complaint), is our teeming population: our numbers are burdensome to the world, which can hardly supply us from its natural elements; our wants grow more and more keen, and our complaints more bitter in all mouths, whilst Nature fails in affording us her usual sustenance. In very deed, pestilence, and famine, and wars, and earthquakes have to be regarded as a remedy for nations, as the means of pruning the luxuriance of the human race; and yet, when the hatchet has once felled large masses of men, the world has hitherto never once been alarmed at the sight of a restitution of its dead coming back to life after their millennial exile.
But such a spectacle would have become quite obvious by the balance of mortal loss and 211 vital recovery, if it were true that the dead came back again to life. Why, however, is it after a thousand years, and not at the moment, that this return from death is to take place, when, supposing that the loss is not at once supplied, there must be a risk of an utter extinction, as the failure precedes the compensation? Indeed, this furlough of our present life would be quite disproportioned to the period of a thousand years; so much briefer is it, and on that account so much more easily is its torch extinguished than rekindled. Inasmuch, then, as the period which, on the hypothesis we have discussed, ought to intervene, if the living are to be formed from the dead, has not actually occurred, it will follow that we must not believe that men come back to life from the dead (in the way surmised in this philosophy).
Further Exposure of Transmigration, Its Inextricable Embarrassment.
Again, if this recovery of life from the dead take place at all, individuals must of course resume their own individuality. Therefore the souls which animated each several body must needs have returned separately to their several bodies. Now, whenever two, or three, or five souls are re-enclosed (as they constantly are) in one womb, it will not amount in such cases to life from the dead, because there is not the separate restitution which individuals ought to have; although at this rate, (no doubt,) the law of the primeval creation is signally kept, by the production still of several souls out of only one! Then, again, if souls depart at different ages of human life, how is it that they come back again at one uniform age?
For all men are imbued with an infant soul at their birth. But how happens it that a man who dies in old age returns to life as an infant? If the soul, whilst disembodied, decreases thus by retrogression of its age, how much more reasonable would it be, that it should resume its life with a richer progress in all attainments of life after the lapse of a thousand years! At all events, it should return with the age it had attained at its death, that it might resume the precise life which it had relinquished. But even if, at this rate, they should reappear the same evermore in their revolving cycles, it would be proper for them to bring back with them, if not the selfsame forms of body, at least their original peculiarities of character, taste, and disposition, because it would be hardly possible for them to be regarded as the same, if they were deficient in those characteristics by means of which their identity should be proved.
(You, however, meet me with this question): How can you possibly know, you ask, whether all is not a secret process? may not the work of a thousand years take from you the power of recognition, since they return unknown to you? But I am quite certain that such is not the case, for you yourself present Pythagoras to me as (the restored) Euphorbus. Now look at Euphorbus: he was evidently possessed of a military and warlike soul, as is proved by the very renown of the sacred shields. As for Pythagoras, however, he was such a recluse, and so unwarlike, that he shrank from the military exploits of which Greece was then so full, and preferred to devote himself, in the quiet retreat of Italy, to the study of geometry, and astrology, and music—the very opposite to Euphorbus in taste and disposition.
Then, again, the Pyrrhus (whom he represented) spent his time in catching fish; but Pythagoras, on the contrary, would never touch fish, abstaining from even the taste of them as from animal food. Moreover, Æthalides and Hermotimus had included the bean amongst the common esculents at meals, while Pythagoras taught his disciples not even to pass through a plot which was cultivated with beans. I ask, then, how the same souls are resumed, which can offer no proof of their identity, either by their disposition, or habits, or living? And now, after all, (we find that) only four souls are mentioned as recovering life out of all the multitudes of Greece.
But limiting ourselves merely to Greece, as if no transmigrations of souls and resumptions of bodies occurred, and that every day, in every nation, and amongst all ages, ranks, and sexes, how is it that Pythagoras alone experiences these changes into one personality and another? Why should not I too undergo them? Or if it be a privilege monopolized by philosophers—and Greek philosophers only, as if Scythians and Indians had no philosophers—how is it that Epicurus had no recollection that he had been once another man, nor Chrysippus, nor Zeno, nor indeed Plato himself, whom we might perhaps have supposed to have been Nestor, from his honeyed eloquence?
Empedocles Increased the Absurdity of Pythagoras by Developing the Posthumous Change of Men into Various Animals.
But the fact is, Empedocles, who used to dream that he was a god, and on that account, I suppose, disdained to have it thought that he had ever before been merely some 212 hero, declares in so many words: “I once was Thamnus, and a fish.” Why not rather a melon, seeing that he was such a fool; or a cameleon, for his inflated brag? It was, no doubt, as a fish (and a queer one too!) that he escaped the corruption of some obscure grave, when he preferred being roasted by a plunge into Ætna; after which accomplishment there was an end for ever to his μετενσωμάτωσις or putting himself into another body—(fit only now for) a light dish after the roast-meat.
At this point, therefore, we must likewise contend against that still more monstrous presumption, that in the course of the transmigration beasts pass from human beings, and human beings from beasts. Let (Empedocles’) Thamnuses alone. Our slight notice of them in passing will be quite enough: (to dwell on them longer will inconvenience us,) lest we should be obliged to have recourse to raillery and laughter instead of serious instruction. Now our position is this: that the human soul cannot by any means at all be transferred to beasts, even when they are supposed to originate, according to the philosophers, out of the substances of the elements.
Now let us suppose that the soul is either fire, or water, or blood, or spirit, or air, or light; we must not forget that all the animals in their several kinds have properties which are opposed to the respective elements. There are the cold animals which are opposed to fire—water-snakes, lizards, salamanders, and what things soever are produced out of the rival element of water. In like manner, those creatures are opposite to water which are in their nature dry and sapless; indeed, locusts, butterflies, and chameleons rejoice in droughts. So, again, such creatures are opposed to blood which have none of its purple hue, such as snails, worms, and most of the fishy tribes. Then opposed to spirit are those creatures which seem to have no respiration, being unfurnished with lungs and windpipes, such as gnats, ants, moths, and minute things of this sort.
Opposed, moreover, to air are those creatures which always live under ground and under water, and never imbibe air—things of which you are more acquainted with the existence than with the names. Then opposed to light are those things which are either wholly blind, or possess eyes for the darkness only, such as moles, bats, and owls. These examples (have I adduced), that I might illustrate my subject from clear and palpable natures. But even if I could take in my hand the “atoms” of Epicurus, or if my eye could see the “numbers” of Pythagoras, or if my foot could stumble against the “ideas” of Plato, or if I could lay hold of the “entelechies” of Aristotle, the chances would be, that even in these (impalpable) classes I should find such animals as I must oppose to one another on the ground of their contrariety.
For I maintain that, of whichsoever of the before-mentioned natures the human soul is composed, it would not have been possible for it to pass for new forms into animals so contrary to each of the separate natures, and to bestow an origin by its passage on those beings, from which it would have to be excluded and rejected rather than to be admitted and received, by reason of that original contrariety which we have supposed it to possess, and which commits the bodily substance receiving it to an interminable strife; and then again by reason of the subsequent contrariety, which results from the development inseparable from each several nature.
Now it is on quite different conditions that the soul of man has had assigned to it (in individual bodies) its abode, and aliment, and order, and sensation, and affection, and sexual intercourse, and procreation of children; also (on different conditions has it, in individual bodies, received especial) dispositions, as well as duties to fulfil, likings, dislikes, vices, desires, pleasures, maladies, remedies—in short, its own modes of living, its own outlets of death. How, then, shall that (human) soul which cleaves to the earth, and is unable without alarm to survey any great height, or any considerable depth, and which is also fatigued if it mounts many steps, and is suffocated if it is submerged in a fish-pond,—(how, I say, shall a soul which is beset with such weaknesses) mount up at some future stage into the air in an eagle, or plunge into the sea in an eel?
How, again, shall it, after being nourished with generous and delicate as well as exquisite viands, feed deliberately on, I will not say husks, but even on thorns, and the wild fare of bitter leaves, and beasts of the dung-hill, and poisonous worms, if it has to migrate into a goat or into a quail?—nay, it may be, feed on carrion, even on human corpses in some bear or lion? But how indeed (shall it stoop to this), when it remembers its own (nature and dignity)? In the same way, you may submit all other instances to this criterion of incongruity, and so save us from lingering over the distinct consideration of each of them in turn. Now, whatever may be the measure and whatever the mode of the human 213 soul, (the question is forced upon us,) what it will do in far larger animals, or in very diminutive ones?
It must needs be, that every individual body of whatever size is filled up by the soul, and that the soul is entirely covered by the body. How, therefore, shall a man’s soul fill an elephant? How, likewise, shall it be contracted within a gnat? If it be so enormously extended or contracted, it will no doubt be exposed to peril. And this induces me to ask another question: If the soul is by no means capable of this kind of migration into animals, which are not fitted for its reception, either by the habits of their bodies or the other laws of their being, will it then undergo a change according to the properties of various animals, and be adapted to their life, notwithstanding its contrariety to human life—having, in fact, become contrary to its human self by reason of its utter change?
Now the truth is, if it undergoes such a transformation, and loses what it once was, the human soul will not be what it was; and if it ceases to be its former self, the metensomatosis, or adaptation of some other body, comes to nought, and is not of course to be ascribed to the soul which will cease to exist, on the supposition of its complete change. For only then can a soul be said to experience this process of the metensomatosis, when it undergoes it by remaining unchanged in its own (primitive) condition. Since, therefore, the soul does not admit of change, lest it should cease to retain its identity; and yet is unable to remain unchanged in its original state, because it fails then to receive contrary (bodies),—I still want to know some credible reason to justify such a transformation as we are discussing.
For although some men are compared to the beasts because of their character, disposition, and pursuits (since even God says, “Man is like the beasts that perish”), it does not on this account follow that rapacious persons become kites, lewd persons dogs, ill-tempered ones panthers, good men sheep, talkative ones swallows, and chaste men doves, as if the selfsame substance of the soul everywhere repeated its own nature in the properties of the animals (into which it passed). Besides, a substance is one thing, and the nature of that substance is another thing; inasmuch as the substance is the special property of one given thing, whereas the nature thereof may possibly belong to many things.
Take an example or two. A stone or a piece of iron is the substance: the hardness of the stone and the iron is the nature of the substance. Their hardness combines objects by a common quality; their substances keep them separate. Then, again, there is softness in wool, and softness in a feather: their natural qualities are alike, (and put them on a par;) their substantial qualities are not alike, (and keep them distinct.)
Thus, if a man likewise be designated a wild beast or a harmless one, there is not for all that an identity of soul. Now the similarity of nature is even then observed, when dissimilarity of substance is most conspicuous: for, by the very fact of your judging that a man resembles a beast, you confess that their soul is not identical; for you say that they resemble each other, not that they are the same. This is also the meaning of the word of God (which we have just quoted): it likens man to the beasts in nature, but not in substance. Besides, God would not have actually made such a comment as this concerning man, if He had known him to be in substance only bestial.
The Judicial Retribution of These Migrations Refuted with Raillery.
Forasmuch as this doctrine is vindicated even on the principle of judicial retribution, on the pretence that the souls of men obtain as their partners the kind of animals which are suited to their life and deserts,—as if they ought to be, according to their several characters, either slain in criminals destined to execution, or reduced to hard work in menials, or fatigued and wearied in labourers, or foully disgraced in the unclean; or, again, on the same principle, reserved for honour, and love, and care, and attentive regard in characters most eminent in rank and virtue, usefulness, and tender sensibility,—I must here also remark, that if souls undergo a transformation, they will actually not be able to accomplish and experience the destinies which they shall deserve; and the aim and purpose of judicial recompense will be brought to nought, as there will be wanting the sense and consciousness of merit and retribution.
And there must be this want of consciousness, if souls lose their condition; and there must ensue this loss, if they do not continue in one stay. But even if they should have permanency enough to remain unchanged until the judgment,—a point which Mercurius Ægyptius recognised, when he said that the soul, after its separation from the body, was not dissipated back into the soul of the universe, but retained permanently its distinct individuality, “in order that it might render,” to use his own words, “an account to the Father of those things which it has done in the body;” —(even supposing all this, I say,) I still want to examine the justice, the solemnity, the majesty, and the dignity of this 214 reputed judgment of God, and see whether human judgment has not too elevated a throne in it—exaggerated in both directions, in its office both of punishments and rewards, too severe in dealing out its vengeance, and too lavish in bestowing its favour.
What do you suppose will become of the soul of the murderer? (It will animate), I suppose, some cattle destined for the slaughter-house and the shambles, that it may itself be killed, even as it has killed; and be itself flayed, since it has fleeced others; and be itself used for food, since it has cast to the wild beasts the ill-fated victims whom it once slew in woods and lonely roads. Now, if such be the judicial retribution which it is to receive, is not such a soul likely to find more of consolation than of punishment, in the fact that it receives its coup de grâce from the hands of most expert practitioners—is buried with condiments served in the most piquant styles of an Apicius or a Lurco, is introduced to the tables of your exquisite Ciceros, is brought up on the most splendid dishes of a Sylla, finds its obsequies in a banquet, is devoured by respectable (mouths) on a par with itself, rather than by kites and wolves, so that all may see how it has got a man’s body for its tomb, and has risen again after returning to its own kindred race—exulting in the face of human judgments, if it has experienced them?
For these barbarous sentences of death consign to various wild beasts, which are selected and trained even against their nature for their horrible office the criminal who has committed murder, even while yet alive; nay, hindered from too easily dying, by a contrivance which retards his last moment in order to aggravate his punishment. But even if his soul should have anticipated by its departure the sword’s last stroke, his body at all events must not escape the weapon: retribution for his own crime is yet exacted by stabbing his throat and stomach, and piercing his side. After that he is flung into the fire, that his very grave may be cheated. In no other way, indeed, is a sepulture allowed him.
Not that any great care, after all, is bestowed on his pyre, so that other animals light upon his remains. At any rate, no mercy is shown to his bones, no indulgence to his ashes, which must be punished with exposure and nakedness. The vengeance which is inflicted among men upon the homicide is really as great as that which is imposed by nature. Who would not prefer the justice of the world, which, as the apostle himself testifies, “beareth not the sword in vain,” and which is an institute of religion when it severely avenges in defence of human life? When we contemplate, too, the penalties awarded to other crimes—gibbets, and holocausts, and sacks, and harpoons, and precipices—who would not think it better to receive his sentence in the courts of Pythagoras and Empedocles? For even the wretches whom they will send into the bodies of asses and mules to be punished by drudgery and slavery, how will they congratulate themselves on the mild labour of the mill and the water-wheel, when they recollect the mines, and the convict-gangs, and the public works, and even the prisons and black-holes, terrible in their idle, do-nothing routine?
Then, again, in the case of those who, after a course of integrity, have surrendered their life to the Judge, I likewise look for rewards, but I rather discover punishments. To be sure, it must be a handsome gain for good men to be restored to life in any animals whatsoever! Homer, so dreamt Ennius, remembered that he was once a peacock; however, I cannot for my part believe poets, even when wide awake. A peacock, no doubt, is a very pretty bird, pluming itself, at will, on its splendid feathers; but then its wings do not make amends for its voice, which is harsh and unpleasant; and there is nothing that poets like better than a good song. His transformation, therefore, into a peacock was to Homer a penalty, not an honour. The world’s remuneration will bring him a much greater joy, when it lauds him as the father of the liberal sciences; and he will prefer the ornaments of his fame to the graces of his tail!
But never mind! let poets migrate into peacocks, or into swans, if you like, especially as swans have a respectable voice: in what animal will you invest that righteous hero Æacus? In what beast will you clothe the chaste and excellent Dido? What bird shall fall to the lot of Patience? what animal to the lot of Holiness? what fish to that of Innocence? Now all creatures are the servants of man; all are his subjects, all his dependants. If by and by he is to become one of these creatures, he is by such a change debased and degraded, he to whom, for his virtues, images, statues, and titles are freely awarded as public honours and distinguished privileges, he to whom the senate and the people vote even sacrifices! Oh, what judicial sentences for gods to pronounce, as men’s recompense after death!
They are more mendacious than any human judgments; they are contemptible as punishments, disgusting as rewards; such as the worst of men could never fear, nor the best desire; such indeed, as criminals will aspire to, rather than saints,—the former, that 215 they may escape more speedily the world’s stern sentence,—the latter that they may more tardily incur it. How well, (forsooth), O ye philosophers do you teach us, and how usefully do you advise us, that after death rewards and punishments fall with lighter weight! whereas, if any judgment awaits souls at all, it ought rather to be supposed that it will be heavier at the conclusion of life than in the conduct thereof, since nothing is more complete than that which comes at the very last—nothing, moreover, is more complete than that which is especially divine.
Accordingly, God’s judgment will be more full and complete, because it will be pronounced at the very last, in an eternal irrevocable sentence, both of punishment and of consolation, (on men whose) souls are not to transmigrate into beasts, but are to return into their own proper bodies. And all this once for all, and on “that day, too, of which the Father only knoweth;” (only knoweth,) in order that by her trembling expectation faith may make full trial of her anxious sincerity, keeping her gaze ever fixed on that day, in her perpetual ignorance of it, daily fearing that for which she yet daily hopes.
These Vagaries Stimulated Some Profane Corruptions of Christianity. The Profanity of Simon Magus Condemned.
No tenet, indeed, under cover of any heresy has as yet burst upon us, embodying any such extravagant fiction as that the souls of human beings pass into the bodies of wild beasts; but yet we have deemed it necessary to attack and refute this conceit, as a consistent sequel to the preceding opinions, in order that Homer in the peacock might be got rid of as effectually as Pythagoras in Euphorbus; and in order that, by the demolition of the metempsychosis and metensomatosis by the same blow, the ground might be cut away which has furnished no inconsiderable support to our heretics.
There is the (infamous) Simon of Samaria in the Acts of the Apostles, who chaffered for the Holy Ghost: after his condemnation by Him, and a vain remorse that he and his money must perish together, he applied his energies to the destruction of the truth, as if to console himself with revenge. Besides the support with which his own magic arts furnished him, he had recourse to imposture, and purchased a Tyrian woman of the name of Helen out of a brothel, with the same money which he had offered for the Holy Spirit,—a traffic worthy of the wretched man.
He actually feigned himself to be the Supreme Father, and further pretended that the woman was his own primary conception, wherewith he had purposed the creation of the angels and the archangels; that after she was possessed of this purpose she sprang forth from the Father and descended to the lower spaces, and there anticipating the Father’s design had produced the angelic powers, which knew nothing of the Father, the Creator of this world; that she was detained a prisoner by these from a (rebellious) motive very like her own, lest after her departure from them they should appear to be the offspring of another being; and that, after being on this account exposed to every insult, to prevent her leaving them anywhere after her dishonour, she was degraded even to the form of man, to be confined, as it were, in the bonds of the flesh.
Having during many ages wallowed about in one female shape and another, she became the notorious Helen who was so ruinous to Priam, and afterwards to the eyes of Stesichorus, whom, she blinded in revenge for his lampoons, and then restored to sight to reward him for his eulogies. After wandering about in this way from body to body, she, in her final disgrace, turned out a viler Helen still as a professional prostitute. This wench, therefore, was the lost sheep, upon whom the Supreme Father, even Simon, descended, who, after he had recovered her and brought her back—whether on his shoulders or loins I cannot tell—cast an eye on the salvation of man, in order to gratify his spleen by liberating them from the angelic powers.
Moreover, to deceive these he also himself assumed a visible shape; and feigning the appearance of a man amongst men, he acted the part of the Son in Judea, and of the Father in Samaria. O hapless Helen, what a hard fate is yours between the poets and the heretics, who have blackened your fame sometimes with adultery, sometimes with prostitution! Only her rescue from Troy is a more glorious affair than her extrication from the brothel.
There were a thousand ships to remove her from Troy; a thousand pence were probably more than enough to withdraw her from the stews. Fie on you, Simon, to be so tardy in seeking her out, and so inconstant in ransoming her! How different from Menelaus! As soon as he has lost her, he goes in pursuit of her; she is no sooner ravished than he begins his search; after a ten years’ conflict he boldly rescues her: there is no lurking, no deceiving, no cavilling. I am really afraid that he was a much better “Father,” who laboured so much more vigilantly, bravely, and 216 perseveringly, about the recovery of his Helen.
The Opinions of Carpocrates, Another Offset from the Pythagorean Dogmas, Stated and Confuted.
However, it is not for you alone, (Simon), that the transmigration philosophy has fabricated this story. Carpocrates also makes equally good use of it, who was a magician and a fornicator like yourself, only he had not a Helen. And why should he not? since he asserted that souls are reinvested with bodies, in order to ensure the overthrow by all means of divine and human truth. For, (according to his miserable doctrine,) this life became consummated to no man until all those blemishes which are held to disfigure it have been fully displayed in its conduct; because there is nothing which is accounted evil by nature, but simply as men think of it. The transmigration of human souls, therefore, into any kind of heterogeneous bodies, he thought by all means indispensable, whenever any depravity whatever had not been fully perpetrated in the early stage of life’s passage.
Evil deeds (one may be sure) appertain to life. Moreover, as often as the soul has fallen short as a defaulter in sin, it has to be recalled to existence, until it “pays the utmost farthing,” thrust out from time to time into the prison of the body. To this effect does he tamper with the whole of that allegory of the Lord which is extremely clear and simple in its meaning, and ought to be from the first understood in its plain and natural sense.
Thus our “adversary” (therein mentioned) is the heathen man, who is walking with us along the same road of life which is common to him and ourselves. Now “we must needs go out of the world,” if it be not allowed us to have conversation with them. He bids us, therefore, show a kindly disposition to such a man. “Love your enemies,” says He, “pray for them that curse you,” lest such a man in any transaction of business be irritated by any unjust conduct of yours, and “deliver thee to the judge” of his own (nation), and you be thrown into prison, and be detained in its close and narrow cell until you have liquidated all your debt against him.
Then, again, should you be disposed to apply the term “adversary” to the devil, you are advised by the (Lord’s) injunction, “while you are in the way with him,” to make even with him such a compact as may be deemed compatible with the requirements of your true faith. Now the compact you have made respecting him is to renounce him, and his pomp, and his angels. Such is your agreement in this matter.
Now the friendly understanding you will have to carry out must arise from your observance of the compact: you must never think of getting back any of the things which you have abjured, and have restored to him, lest he should summon you as a fraudulent man, and a transgressor of your agreement, before God the Judge (for in this light do we read of him, in another passage, as “the accuser of the brethren,” or saints, where reference is made to the actual practice of legal prosecution); and lest this Judge deliver you over to the angel who is to execute the sentence, and he commit you to the prison of hell, out of which there will be no dismissal until the smallest even of your delinquencies be paid off in the period before the resurrection.
What can be a more fitting sense than this? What a truer interpretation? If, however, according to Carpocrates, the soul is bound to the commission of all sorts of crime and evil conduct, what must we from his system understand to be its “adversary” and foe? I suppose it must be that better mind which shall compel it by force to the performance of some act of virtue, that it may be driven from body to body, until it be found in none a debtor to the claims of a virtuous life.
This means, that a good tree is known by its bad fruit—in other words, that the doctrine of truth is understood from the worst possible precepts. I apprehend that heretics of this school seize with especial avidity the example of Elias, whom they assume to have been so reproduced in John (the Baptist) as to make our Lord’s statement sponsor for their theory of transmigration, when He said, “Elias is come already, and they knew him not;” and again, in another passage, “And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.”
Well, then, was it really in a Pythagorean sense that the Jews approached John with the inquiry, “Art thou Elias?” and not rather in the sense of the divine prediction, “Behold, I will send you Elijah” the Tisbite? The fact, however, is, that their metempsychosis, or transmigration theory, signifies the recall of the soul which had 217 died long before, and its return to some other body. But Elias is to come again, not after quitting life (in the way of dying), but after his translation (or removal without dying); not for the purpose of being restored to the body, from which he had not departed, but for the purpose of revisiting the world from which he was translated; not by way of resuming a life which he had laid aside, but of fulfilling prophecy,—really and truly the same man, both in respect of his name and designation, as well as of his unchanged humanity.
How, therefore could John be Elias? You have your answer in the angel’s announcement: “And he shall go before the people,” says he, “in the spirit and power of Elias”—not (observe) in his soul and his body. These substances are, in fact, the natural property of each individual; whilst “the spirit and power” are bestowed as external gifts by the grace of God and so may be transferred to another person according to the purpose and will of the Almighty, as was anciently the case with respect to the spirit of Moses.
The Main Points of Our Author’s Subject. On the Sexes of the Human Race.
For the discussion of these questions we abandoned, if I remember rightly, ground to which we must now return. We had established the position that the soul is seminally placed in man, and by human agency, and that its seed from the very beginning is uniform, as is that of the soul also, to the race of man; (and this we settled) owing to the rival opinions of the philosophers and the heretics, and that ancient saying mentioned by Plato (to which we referred above). We now pursue in their order the points which follow from them. The soul, being sown in the womb at the same time as the body, receives likewise along with it its sex; and this indeed so simultaneously, that neither of the two substances can be alone regarded as the cause of the sex.
Now, if in the semination of these substances any interval were admissible in their conception, in such wise that either the flesh or the soul should be the first to be conceived, one might then ascribe an especial sex to one of the substances, owing to the difference in the time of the impregnations, so that either the flesh would impress its sex upon the soul, or the soul upon the sex; even as Apelles (the heretic, not the painter) gives the priority over their bodies to the souls of men and women, as he had been taught by Philumena, and in consequence makes the flesh, as the later, receive its sex from the soul.
They also who make the soul supervene after birth on the flesh predetermine, of course, the sex of the previously formed soul to be male or female, according to (the sex of) the flesh. But the truth is, the seminations of the two substances are inseparable in point of time, and their effusion is also one and the same, in consequence of which a community of gender is secured to them; so that the course of nature, whatever that be, shall draw the line (for the distinct sexes).
Certainly in this view we have an attestation of the method of the first two formations, when the male was moulded and tempered in a completer way, for Adam was first formed; and the woman came far behind him, for Eve was the later formed. So that her flesh was for a long time without specific form (such as she afterwards assumed when taken out of Adam’s side); but she was even then herself a living being, because I should regard her at that time in soul as even a portion of Adam. Besides, God’s afflatus would have animated her too, if there had not been in the woman a transmission from Adam of his soul also as well as of his flesh.
On the Formation and State of the Embryo. Its Relation with the Subject of This Treatise.
Now the entire process of sowing, forming, and completing the human embryo in the womb is no doubt regulated by some power, which ministers herein to the will of God, whatever may be the method which it is appointed to employ. Even the superstition of Rome, by carefully attending to these points, imagined the goddess Alemona to nourish the fœtus in the womb; as well as (the goddesses) Nona and Decima, called after the most critical months of gestation; and Partula, to manage and direct parturition; and Lucina, to bring the child to the birth and light of day. We, on our part, believe the angels to officiate herein for God. The embryo therefore becomes a human being in the womb from the moment that its form is completed.
The law of Moses, indeed, punishes with due penalties the man who shall cause abortion, inasmuch as there exists already the rudiment of a human being, which has imputed to it even now the condition of life and death, since it is already liable to the issues of both, although, by living still in the mother, it for the most part shares its 218 own state with the mother. I must also say something about the period of the soul’s birth, that I may omit nothing incidental in the whole process. A mature and regular birth takes place, as a general rule, at the commencement of the tenth month. They who theorize respecting numbers, honour the number ten as the parent of all the others, and as imparting perfection to the human nativity.
For my own part, I prefer viewing this measure of time in reference to God, as if implying that the ten months rather initiated man into the ten commandments; so that the numerical estimate of the time needed to consummate our natural birth should correspond to the numerical classification of the rules of our regenerate life. But inasmuch as birth is also completed with the seventh month, I more readily recognize in this number than in the eighth the honour of a numerical agreement with the sabbatical period; so that the month in which God’s image is sometimes produced in a human birth, shall in its number tally with the day on which God’s creation was completed and hallowed.
Human nativity has sometimes been allowed to be premature, and yet to occur in fit and perfect accordance with an hebdomad or sevenfold number, as an auspice of our resurrection, and rest, and kingdom. The ogdoad, or eightfold number, therefore, is not concerned in our formation; for in the time it represents there will be no more marriage. We have already demonstrated the conjunction of the body and the soul, from the concretion of their very seminations to the complete formation of the fœtus. We now maintain their conjunction likewise from the birth onwards; in the first place, because they both grow together, only each in a different manner suited to the diversity of their nature—the flesh in magnitude, the soul in intelligence—the flesh in material condition, the soul in sensibility.
We are, however, forbidden to suppose that the soul increases in substance, lest it should be said also to be capable of diminution in substance, and so its extinction even should be believed to be possible; but its inherent power, in which are contained all its natural peculiarities, as originally implanted in its being, is gradually developed along with the flesh, without impairing the germinal basis of the substance, which it received when breathed at first into man. Take a certain quantity of gold or of silver—a rough mass as yet: it has indeed a compact condition, and one that is more compressed at the moment than it will be; yet it contains within its contour what is throughout a mass of gold or of silver.
When this mass is afterwards extended by beating it into leaf, it becomes larger than it was before by the elongation of the original mass, but not by any addition thereto, because it is extended in space, not increased in bulk; although in a way it is even increased when it is extended: for it may be increased in form, but not in state. Then, again, the sheen of the gold or the silver, which when the metal was any in block was inherent in it no doubt really, but yet only obscurely, shines out in developed lustre. Afterwards various modifications of shape accrue, according to the feasibility in the material which makes it yield to the manipulation of the artisan, who yet adds nothing to the condition of the mass but its configuration. In like manner, the growth and developments of the soul are to be estimated, not as enlarging its substance, but as calling forth its powers.
On the Growth of the Soul. Its Maturity Coincident with the Maturity of the Flesh in Man.
Now we have already laid down the principle, that all the natural properties of the soul which relate to sense and intelligence are inherent in its very substance, and spring from its native constitution, but that they advance by a gradual growth through the stages of life and develope themselves in different ways by accidental circumstances, according to men’s means and arts, their manners and customs their local situations, and the influences of the Supreme Powers; but in pursuance of that aspect of the association of body and soul which we have now to consider, we maintain that the puberty of the soul coincides with that of the body, and that they attain both together to this full growth at about the fourteenth year of life, speaking generally,—the former by the suggestion of the senses, and the latter by the growth of the bodily members; and (we fix on this age) not because, as Asclepiades supposes, reflection then begins, nor because the civil laws date the commencement of the real business of life from this period, but because this was the appointed order from the very first.
For as Adam and Eve felt that they must cover their nakedness after their knowledge of good and evil so we profess to have the same discernment of 219 good and evil from the time that we experience the same sensation of shame. Now from the before-mentioned age (of fourteen years) sex is suffused and clothed with an especial sensibility, and concupiscence employs the ministry of the eye, and communicates its pleasure to another, and understands the natural relations between male and female, and wears the fig-tree apron to cover the shame which it still excites, and drives man out of the paradise of innocence and chastity, and in its wild pruriency falls upon sins and unnatural incentives to delinquency; for its impulse has by this time surpassed the appointment of nature, and springs from its vicious abuse.
But the strictly natural concupiscence is simply confined to the desire of those aliments which God at the beginning conferred upon man. “Of every tree of the garden” He says, “ye shall freely eat;” and then again to the generation which followed next after the flood He enlarged the grant: “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; behold, as the green herb have I given you all these things,” —where He has regard rather to the body than to the soul, although it be in the interest of the soul also. For we must remove all occasion from the caviller, who, because the soul apparently wants ailments, would insist on the soul’s being from this circumstance deemed mortal, since it is sustained by meat and drink and after a time loses its rigour when they are withheld, and on their complete removal ultimately droops and dies.
Now the point we must keep in view is not merely which particular faculty it is which desires these (aliments), but also for what end; and even if it be for its own sake, still the question remains, Why this desire, and when felt, and how long? Then again there is the consideration, that it is one thing to desire by natural instinct, and another thing to desire through necessity; one thing to desire as a property of being, another thing to desire for a special object. The soul, therefore, will desire meat and drink—for itself indeed, because of a special necessity; for the flesh, however, from the nature of its properties.
For the flesh is no doubt the house of the soul, and the soul is the temporary inhabitant of the flesh. The desire, then, of the lodger will arise from the temporary cause and the special necessity which his very designation suggests,—with a view to benefit and improve the place of his temporary abode, while sojourning in it; not with the view, certainly, of being himself the foundation of the house, or himself its walls, or himself its support and roof, but simply and solely with the view of being accommodated and housed, since he could not receive such accommodation except in a sound and well-built house. (Now, applying this imagery to the soul,) if it be not provided with this accommodation, it will not be in its power to quit its dwelling-place, and for want of fit and proper resources, to depart safe and sound, in possession, too, of its own supports, and the aliments which belong to its own proper condition,—namely immortality, rationality, sensibility, intelligence, and freedom of the will.
The Evil Spirit Has Marred the Purity of the Soul from the Very Birth.
All these endowments of the soul which are bestowed on it at birth are still obscured and depraved by the malignant being who, in the beginning, regarded them with envious eye, so that they are never seen in their spontaneous action, nor are they administered as they ought to be. For to what individual of the human race will not the evil spirit cleave, ready to entrap their souls from the very portal of their birth, at which he is invited to be present in all those superstitious processes which accompany childbearing?
Thus it comes to pass that all men are brought to the birth with idolatry for the midwife, whilst the very wombs that bear them, still bound with the fillets that have been wreathed before the idols, declare their offspring to be consecrated to demons: for in parturition they invoke the aid of Lucina and Diana; for a whole week a table is spread in honour of Juno; on the last day the fates of the horoscope are invoked; and then the infant’s first step on the ground is sacred to the goddess Statina.
After this does any one fail to devote to idolatrous service the entire head of his son, or to take out a hair, or to shave off the whole with a razor, or to bind it up for an offering, or seal it for sacred use—in behalf of the clan, of the ancestry, or for public devotion? On this principle of early possession it was that Socrates, while yet a boy, was found by the spirit of the demon. Thus, too, is it that to all persons their genii are assigned, which is only another name for demons. Hence in no case (I mean of the heathen, of course) is there any nativity which is pure of idolatrous superstition.
It was from this circumstance that the apostle said, that when either of the parents was sanctified, the children were holy; and this as much by the prerogative of the (Christian) seed as by 220 the discipline of the institution (by baptism, and Christian education). “Else,” says he, “were the children unclean” by birth: as if he meant us to understand that the children of believers were designed for holiness, and thereby for salvation; in order that he might by the pledge of such a hope give his support to matrimony, which he had determined to maintain in its integrity. Besides, he had certainly not forgotten what the Lord had so definitively stated: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God;” in other words, he cannot be holy.
The Body of Man Only Ancillary to the Soul in the Commission of Evil.
Every soul, then, by reason of its birth, has its nature in Adam until it is born again in Christ; moreover, it is unclean all the while that it remains without this regeneration; and because unclean, it is actively sinful, and suffuses even the flesh (by reason of their conjunction) with its own shame. Now although the flesh is sinful, and we are forbidden to walk in accordance with it, and its works are condemned as lusting against the spirit, and men on its account are censured as carnal, yet the flesh has not such ignominy on its own account. For it is not of itself that it thinks anything or feels anything for the purpose of advising or commanding sin. How should it, indeed? It is only a ministering thing, and its ministration is not like that of a servant or familiar friend—animated and human beings; but rather that of a vessel, or something of that kind: it is body, not soul.
Now a cup may minister to a thirsty man; and yet, if the thirsty man will not apply the cup to his mouth, the cup will yield no ministering service. Therefore the differentia, or distinguishing property, of man by no means lies in his earthy element; nor is the flesh the human person, as being some faculty of his soul, and a personal quality; but it is a thing of quite a different substance and different condition, although annexed to the soul as a chattel or as an instrument for the offices of life. Accordingly the flesh is blamed in the Scriptures, because nothing is done by the soul without the flesh in operations of concupiscence, appetite, drunkenness, cruelty, idolatry, and other works of the flesh,—operations, I mean, which are not confined to sensations, but result in effects.
The emotions of sin, indeed, when not resulting in effects, are usually imputed to the soul: “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after, hath already in his heart committed adultery with her.” But what has the flesh alone, without the soul, ever done in operations of virtue, righteousness, endurance, or chastity? What absurdity, however, it is to attribute sin and crime to that substance to which you do not assign any good actions or character of its own!
Now the party which aids in the commission of a crime is brought to trial, only in such a way that the principal offender who actually committed the crime may bear the weight of the penalty, although the abettor too does not escape indictment. Greater is the odium which falls on the principal, when his officials are punished through his fault. He is beaten with more stripes who instigates and orders the crime, whilst at the same time he who obeys such an evil command is not acquitted.
Notwithstanding the Depravity of Man’s Soul by Original Sin, There is Yet Left a Basis Whereon Divine Grace Can Work for Its Recovery by Spiritual Regeneration.
There is, then, besides the evil which supervenes on the soul from the intervention of the evil spirit, an antecedent, and in a certain sense natural, evil which arises from its corrupt origin. For, as we have said before, the corruption of our nature is another nature having a god and father of its own, namely the author of (that) corruption. Still there is a portion of good in the soul, of that original, divine, and genuine good, which is its proper nature.
For that which is derived from God is rather obscured than extinguished. It can be obscured, indeed, because it is not God; extinguished, however, it cannot be, because it comes from God. As therefore light, when intercepted by an opaque body, still remains, although it is not apparent, by reason of the interposition of so dense a body; so likewise the good in the soul, being weighed down by the evil, is, owing to the obscuring character thereof, either not seen at all, its light being wholly hidden, or else only a stray beam is there visible where it struggles through by an accidental outlet.
Thus some men are very bad, and some very good; but yet the souls of all form but one genus: even in the worst there is something good, and in the best there is something bad. For God alone is without 221 sin; and the only man without sin is Christ, since Christ is also God. Thus the divinity of the soul bursts forth in prophetic forecasts in consequence of its primeval good; and being conscious of its origin, it bears testimony to God (its author) in exclamations such as: Good God! God knows! and Good-bye! Just as no soul is without sin, so neither is any soul without seeds of good.
Therefore, when the soul embraces the faith, being renewed in its second birth by water and the power from above, then the veil of its former corruption being taken away, it beholds the light in all its brightness. It is also taken up (in its second birth) by the Holy Spirit, just as in its first birth it is embraced by the unholy spirit. The flesh follows the soul now wedded to the Spirit, as a part of the bridal portion—no longer the servant of the soul, but of the Spirit. O happy marriage, if in it there is committed no violation of the nuptial vow!
Sleep, the Mirror of Death, as Introductory to the Consideration of Death.
It now remains (that we discuss the subject) of death, in order that our subject-matter may terminate where the soul itself completes it; although Epicurus, indeed, in his pretty widely known doctrine, has asserted that death does not appertain to us. That, says he, which is dissolved lacks sensation; and that which is without sensation is nothing to us. Well, but it is not actually death which suffers dissolution and lacks sensation, but the human person who experiences death. Yet even he has admitted suffering to be incidental to the being to whom action belongs. Now, if it is in man to suffer death, which dissolves the body and destroys the senses, how absurd to say that so great a susceptibility belongs not to man! With much greater precision does Seneca say: “After death all comes to an end, even (death) itself.”
From which position of his it must needs follow that death will appertain to its own self, since itself comes to an end; and much more to man, in the ending of whom amongst the “all,” itself also ends. Death, (says Epicurus) belongs not to us; then at that rate, life belongs not to us. For certainly, if that which causes our dissolution have no relation to us, that also which compacts and composes us must be unconnected with us.
If the deprivation of our sensation be nothing to us, neither can the acquisition of sensation have anything to do with us. The fact, however, is, he who destroys the very soul, (as Epicurus does), cannot help destroying death also. As for ourselves, indeed, (Christians as we are), we must treat of death just as we should of the posthumous life and of some other province of the soul, (assuming) that we at all events belong to death, if it does not pertain to us. And on the same principle, even sleep, which is the very mirror of death, is not alien from our subject-matter.
Sleep a Natural Function as Shown by Other Considerations, and by the Testimony of Scripture.
Let us therefore first discuss the question of sleep, and afterwards in what way the soul encounters death. Now sleep is certainly not a supernatural thing, as some philosophers will have it be, when they suppose it to be the result of causes which appear to be above nature. The Stoics affirm sleep to be “a temporary suspension of the activity of the senses;” the Epicureans define it as an intermission of the animal spirit; Anaxagoras and Xenophanes as a weariness of the same; Empedocles and Parmenides as a cooling down thereof; Strato as a separation of the (soul’s) connatural spirit; Democritus as the soul’s indigence; Aristotle as the interruption of the heat around the heart.
As for myself, I can safely say that I have never slept in such a way as to discover even a single one of these conditions. Indeed, we cannot possibly believe that sleep is a weariness; it is rather the opposite, for it undoubtedly removes weariness, and a person is refreshed by sleep instead of being fatigued. Besides, sleep is not always the result of fatigue; and even when it is, the fatigue continues no longer. Nor can I allow that sleep is a cooling or decaying of the animal heat, for our bodies derive warmth from sleep in such a way that the regular dispersion of the food by means of sleep could not so easily go on if there were too much heat to accelerate it unduly, or cold to retard it, if sleep had the alleged refrigerating influence.
There is also the further fact that perspiration indicates an over-heated digestion; and digestion is predicated of us as a process of concoction, which is an operation concerned with heat and not with cold. In like manner, the immortality of the soul precludes belief in the theory that sleep is an intermission of the animal spirit, or an indigence of the spirit, or a separation of the (soul’s) connatural spirit. The soul perishes if it undergoes diminution or intermission. Our only resource, indeed, is to agree with the Stoics, by 222 determining the soul to be a temporary suspension of the activity of the senses, procuring rest for the body only, not for the soul also.
For the soul, as being always in motion, and always active, never succumbs to rest,—a condition which is alien to immortality: for nothing immortal admits any end to its operation; but sleep is an end of operation. It is indeed on the body, which is subject to mortality, and on the body alone, that sleep graciously bestows a cessation from work. He, therefore, who shall doubt whether sleep is a natural function, has the dialectical experts calling in question the whole difference between things natural and supernatural—so that what things he supposed to be beyond nature he may, (if he likes,) be safe in assigning to nature, which indeed has made such a disposition of things, that they may seemingly be accounted as beyond it; and so, of course, all things are natural or none are natural, (as occasion requires.)
With us (Christians), however, only that can receive a hearing which is suggested by contemplating God, the Author of all the things which we are now discussing. For we believe that nature, if it is anything, is a reasonable work of God. Now reason presides over sleep; for sleep is so fit for man, so useful, so necessary, that were it not for it, not a soul could provide agency for recruiting the body, for restoring its energies, for ensuring its health, for supplying suspension from work and remedy against labour, and for the legitimate enjoyment of which day departs, and night provides an ordinance by taking from all objects their very colour. Since, then, sleep is indispensable to our life, and health, and succour, there can be nothing pertaining to it which is not reasonable, and which is not natural.
Hence it is that physicians banish beyond the gateway of nature everything which is contrary to what is vital, healthful, and helpful to nature; for those maladies which are inimical to sleep—maladies of the mind and of the stomach—they have decided to be contrariant to nature, and by such decision have determined as its corollary that sleep is perfectly natural. Moreover, when they declare that sleep is not natural in the lethargic state, they derive their conclusion from the fact that it is natural when it is in its due and regular exercise. For every natural state is impaired either by defect or by excess, whilst it is maintained by its proper measure and amount.
That, therefore, will be natural in its condition which may be rendered non-natural by defect or by excess. Well, now, what if you were to remove eating and drinking from the conditions of nature? if in them lies the chief incentive to sleep. It is certain that, from the very beginning of his nature, man was impressed with these instincts (of sleep). If you receive your instruction from God, (you will find) that the fountain of the human race, Adam, had a taste of drowsiness before having a draught of repose; slept before he laboured, or even before he ate, nay, even before he spoke; in order that men may see that sleep is a natural feature and function, and one which has actually precedence over all the natural faculties.
From this primary instance also we are led to trace even then the image of death in sleep. For as Adam was a figure of Christ, Adam’s sleep shadowed out the death of Christ, who was to sleep a mortal slumber, that from the wound inflicted on His side might, in like manner (as Eve was formed), be typified the church, the true mother of the living. This is why sleep is so salutary, so rational, and is actually formed into the model of that death which is general and common to the race of man. God, indeed, has willed (and it may be said in passing that He has, generally, in His dispensations brought nothing to pass without such types and shadows) to set before us, in a manner more fully and completely than Plato’s example, by daily recurrence the outlines of man’s state, especially concerning the beginning and the termination thereof; thus stretching out the hand to help our faith more readily by types and parables, not in words only, but also in things.
He accordingly sets before your view the human body stricken by the friendly power of slumber, prostrated by the kindly necessity of repose immoveable in position, just as it lay previous to life, and just as it will lie after life is past: there it lies as an attestation of its form when first moulded, and of its condition when at last buried—awaiting the soul in both stages, in the former previous to its bestowal, in the latter after its recent withdrawal. Meanwhile the soul is circumstanced in such a manner as to seem to be elsewhere active, learning to bear future absence by a dissembling of its presence for the moment. We shall soon know the case of Hermotimus.
But yet it dreams in the interval. Whence then its dreams? The fact is, it cannot rest or be idle altogether, nor does it confine to the still hours of sleep the nature of its immortality. It proves itself to possess a constant motion; it travels over land and sea, it trades, it is excited, it labours, it 223 plays, it grieves, it rejoices, it follows pursuits lawful and unlawful; it shows what very great power it has even without the body, how well equipped it is with members of its own, although betraying at the same time the need it has of impressing on some body its activity again. Accordingly, when the body shakes off its slumber, it asserts before your eye the resurrection of the dead by its own resumption of its natural functions. Such, therefore, must be both the natural reason and the reasonable nature of sleep. If you only regard it as the image of death, you initiate faith, you nourish hope, you learn both how to die and how to live, you learn watchfulness, even while you sleep.
The Story of Hermotimus, and the Sleeplessness of the Emperor Nero. No Separation of the Soul from the Body Until Death.
With regard to the case of Hermotimus, they say that he used to be deprived of his soul in his sleep, as if it wandered away from his body like a person on a holiday trip. His wife betrayed the strange peculiarity. His enemies, finding him asleep, burnt his body, as if it were a corpse: when his soul returned too late, it appropriated (I suppose) to itself the guilt of the murder. However the good citizens of Clazomenæ consoled poor Hermotimus with a temple, into which no woman ever enters, because of the infamy of this wife. Now why this story? In order that, since the vulgar belief so readily holds sleep to be the separation of the soul from the body, credulity should not be encouraged by this case of Hermotimus.
It must certainly have been a much heavier sort of slumber: one would presume it was the nightmare, or perhaps that diseased languor which Soranus suggests in opposition to the nightmare, or else some such malady as that which the fable has fastened upon Epimenides, who slept on some fifty years or so. Suetonius, however, informs us that Nero never dreamt, and Theopompus says the same thing about Thrasymedes; but Nero at the close of his life did with some difficulty dream after some excessive alarm.
What indeed would be said, if the case of Hermotimus were believed to be such that the repose of his soul was a state of actual idleness during sleep, and a positive separation from his body? You may conjecture it to be anything but such a licence of the soul as admits of flights away from the body without death, and that by continual recurrence, as if habitual to its state and constitution.
If indeed such a thing were told me to have happened at any time to the soul—resembling a total eclipse of the sun or the moon—I should verily suppose that the occurrence had been caused by God’s own interposition, for it would not be unreasonable for a man to receive admonition from the Divine Being either in the way of warning or of alarm, as by a flash of lightning, or by a sudden stroke of death; only it would be much the more natural conclusion to believe that this process should be by a dream, because if it must be supposed to be, (as the hypothesis we are resisting assumes it to be,) not a dream, the occurrence ought rather to happen to a man whilst he is wide awake.
Dreams, an Incidental Effect of the Soul’s Activity. Ecstasy.
We are bound to expound at this point what is the opinion of Christians respecting dreams, as incidents of sleep, and as no slight or trifling excitements of the soul, which we have declared to be always occupied and active owing to its perpetual movement, which again is a proof and evidence of its divine quality and immortality. When, therefore, rest accrues to human bodies, it being their own especial comfort, the soul, disdaining a repose which is not natural to it, never rests; and since it receives no help from the limbs of the body, it uses its own. Imagine a gladiator without his instruments or arms, and a charioteer without his team, but still gesticulating the entire course and exertion of their respective employments: there is the fight, there is the struggle; but the effort is a vain one.
Nevertheless the whole procedure seems to be gone through, although it evidently has not been really effected. There is the act, but not the effect. This power we call ecstasy, in which the sensuous soul stands out of itself, in a way which even resembles madness. Thus in the very beginning sleep was inaugurated by ecstasy: “And God sent an ecstasy upon Adam, and he slept.” The sleep came on his body to cause it to rest, but the ecstasy fell on his soul to remove rest: from that very circumstance it still happens ordinarily (and from the order results the nature of the case) that sleep is combined with ecstasy. In fact, with what real feeling, and anxiety, and suffering do we experience joy, and sorrow, and alarm in our dreams! Whereas we should not be moved by any such emotions, by what would be the merest fantasies of course, if when we dream we were masters of ourselves, (unaffected by ecstasy.)
In these dreams, indeed, good actions are useless, and crimes harmless; 224 for we shall no more be condemned for visionary acts of sin, than we shall be crowned for imaginary martyrdom. But how, you will ask, can the soul remember its dreams, when it is said to be without any mastery over its own operations? This memory must be an especial gift of the ecstatic condition of which we are treating, since it arises not from any failure of healthy action, but entirely from natural process; nor does it expel mental function—it withdraws it for a time. It is one thing to shake, it is another thing to move; one thing to destroy, another thing to agitate.
That, therefore, which memory supplies betokens soundness of mind; and that which a sound mind ecstatically experiences whilst the memory remains unchecked, is a kind of madness. We are accordingly not said to be mad, but to dream, in that state; to be in the full possession also of our mental faculties, if we are at any time. For although the power to exercise these faculties may be dimmed in us, it is still not extinguished; except that it may seem to be itself absent at the very time that the ecstasy is energizing in us in its special manner, in such wise as to bring before us images of a sound mind and of wisdom, even as it does those of aberration.
Diversity of Dreams and Visions. Epicurus Thought Lightly of Them, Though Generally Most Highly Valued. Instances of Dreams.
We now find ourselves constrained to express an opinion about the character of the dreams by which the soul is excited. And when shall we arrive at the subject of death? And on such a question I would say, When God shall permit: that admits of no long delay which must needs happen at all events. Epicurus has given it as his opinion that dreams are altogether vain things; (but he says this) when liberating the Deity from all sort of care, and dissolving the entire order of the world, and giving to all things the aspect of merest chance, casual in their issues, fortuitous in their nature. Well, now, if such be the nature of things, there must be some chance even for truth, because it is impossible for it to be the only thing to be exempted from the fortune which is due to all things.
Homer has assigned two gates to dreams, —the horny one of truth, the ivory one of error and delusion. For, they say, it is possible to see through horn, whereas ivory is untransparent. Aristotle, while expressing his opinion that dreams are in most cases untrue, yet acknowledges that there is some truth in them. The people of Telmessus will not admit that dreams are in any case unmeaning, but they blame their own weakness when unable to conjecture their signification.
Now, who is such a stranger to human experience as not sometimes to have perceived some truth in dreams? I shall force a blush from Epicurus, if I only glance at some few of the more remarkable instances. Herodotus relates how that Astyages, king of the Medes, saw in a dream issuing from the womb of his virgin daughter a flood which inundated Asia; and again, in the year which followed her marriage, he saw a vine growing out from the same part of her person, which overspread the whole of Asia.
The same story is told prior to Herodotus by Charon of Lampsacus. Now they who interpreted these visions did not deceive the mother when they destined her son for so great an enterprise, for Cyrus both inundated and overspread Asia. Philip of Macedon, before he became a father, had seen imprinted on the pudenda of his consort Olympias the form of a small ring, with a lion as a seal. He had concluded that an offspring from her was out of the question (I suppose because the lion only becomes once a father), when Aristodemus or Aristophon happened to conjecture that nothing of an unmeaning or empty import lay under that seal, but that a son of very illustrious character was portended.
They who know anything of Alexander recognise in him the lion of that small ring. Ephorus writes to this effect. Again, Heraclides has told us, that a certain woman of Himera beheld in a dream Dionysius’ tyranny over Sicily. Euphorion has publicly recorded as a fact, that, previous to giving birth to Seleucus, his mother Laodice foresaw that he was destined for the empire of Asia. I find again from Strabo, that it was owing to a dream that even Mithridates took possession of Pontus; and I further learn from Callisthenes that it was from the indication of a dream that Baraliris the Illyrian stretched his dominion from the Molossi to the frontiers of Macedon.
The Romans, too, were acquainted with dreams of this kind. From a dream Marcus Tullius (Cicero) had learnt how that one, who was yet only a little boy, and in a private station, who was also plain Julius Octavius, and personally unknown to (Cicero) himself, was the destined Augustus, and the suppressor and destroyer of (Rome’s) civil discords. This is recorded in the Commentaries of Vitellius. But visions of this prophetic kind were not 225 confined to predictions of supreme power; for they indicated perils also, and catastrophes: as, for instance, when Cæsar was absent from the battle of Philippi through illness, and thereby escaped the sword of Brutus and Cassius, and then although he expected to encounter greater danger still from the enemy in the field, he quitted his tent for it, in obedience to a vision of Artorius, and so escaped (the capture by the enemy, who shortly after took possession of the tent); as, again, when the daughter of Polycrates of Samos foresaw the crucifixion which awaited him from the anointing of the sun and the bath of Jupiter.
So likewise in sleep revelations are made of high honours and eminent talents; remedies are also discovered, thefts brought to light, and treasures indicated. Thus Cicero’s eminence, whilst he was still a little boy, was foreseen by his nurse. The swan from the breast of Socrates soothing men, is his disciple Plato. The boxer Leonymus is cured by Achilles in his dreams. Sophocles the tragic poet discovers, as he was dreaming, the golden crown, which had been lost from the citadel of Athens. Neoptolemus the tragic actor, through intimations in his sleep from Ajax himself, saves from destruction the hero’s tomb on the Rhoetean shore before Troy; and as he removes the decayed stones, he returns enriched with gold.
How many commentators and chroniclers vouch for this phenomenon? There are Artemon, Antiphon, Strato, Philochorus, Epicharmus, Serapion, Cratippus, and Dionysius of Rhodes, and Hermippus—the entire literature of the age. I shall only laugh at all, if indeed I ought to laugh at the man who fancied that he was going to persuade us that Saturn dreamt before anybody else; which we can only believe if Aristotle, (who would fain help us to such an opinion,) lived prior to any other person. Pray forgive me for laughing. Epicharmus, indeed, as well as Philochorus the Athenian, assigned the very highest place among divinations to dreams.
The whole world is full of oracles of this description: there are the oracles of Amphiaraus at Oropus, of Amphilochus at Mallus, of Sarpedon in the Troad, of Trophonius in Bœotia, of Mopsus in Cilicia, of Hermione in Macedon, of Pasiphäe in Laconia. Then, again, there are others, which with their original foundations, rites, and historians, together with the entire literature of dreams, Hermippus of Berytus in five portly volumes will give you all the account of, even to satiety. But the Stoics are very fond of saying that God, in His most watchful providence over every institution, gave us dreams amongst other preservatives of the arts and sciences of divination, as the especial support of the natural oracle.
So much for the dreams to which credit has to be ascribed even by ourselves, although we must interpret them in another sense. As for all other oracles, at which no one ever dreams, what else must we declare concerning them, than that they are the diabolical contrivance of those spirits who even at that time dwelt in the eminent persons themselves, or aimed at reviving the memory of them as the mere stage of their evil purposes, going so far as to counterfeit a divine power under their shape and form, and, with equal persistence in evil, deceiving men by their very boons of remedies, warnings, and forecasts,—the only effect of which was to injure their victims the more they helped them; while the means whereby they rendered the help withdrew them from all search after the true God, by insinuating into their minds ideas of the false one? And of course so pernicious an influence as this is not shut up nor limited within the boundaries of shrines and temples: it roams abroad, it flies through the air, and all the while is free and unchecked. So that nobody can doubt that our very homes lie open to these diabolical spirits, who beset their human prey with their fantasies not only in their chapels but also in their chambers.
Dreams Variously Classified. Some are God-Sent, as the Dreams of Nebuchadnezzar; Others Simply Products of Nature.
We declare, then, that dreams are inflicted on us mainly by demons, although they sometimes turn out true and favourable to us. When, however, with the deliberate aim after evil, of which we have just spoken, they assume a flattering and captivating style, they show themselves proportionately vain, and deceitful, and obscure, and wanton, and impure. And no wonder that the images partake of the character of the realities. But from God—who has promised, indeed, “to pour out the grace of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh, and has ordained that His servants and His handmaids should see visions as well as utter prophecies” —must all those visions be regarded as emanating, which may be compared to the actual grace of God, as being honest, holy, prophetic, inspired, instructive, inviting to virtue, the bountiful nature of which causes them to overflow even to the profane, since 226 God, with grand impartiality, “sends His showers and sunshine on the just and on the unjust.”
It was, indeed by an inspiration from God that Nebuchadnezzar dreamt his dreams; and almost the greater part of mankind get their knowledge of God from dreams. Thus it is that, as the mercy of God super-abounds to the heathen, so the temptation of the evil one encounters the saints, from whom he never withdraws his malignant efforts to steal over them as best he may in their very sleep, if unable to assault them when they are awake. The third class of dreams will consist of those which the soul itself apparently creates for itself from an intense application to special circumstances.
Now, inasmuch as the soul cannot dream of its own accord (for even Epicharmus is of this opinion), how can it become to itself the cause of any vision? Then must this class of dreams be abandoned to the action of nature, reserving for the soul, even when in the ecstatic condition, the power of enduring whatever incidents befall it? Those, moreover, which evidently proceed neither from God, nor from diabolical inspiration, nor from the soul, being beyond the reach as well of ordinary expectation, usual interpretation, or the possibility of being intelligibly related, will have to be ascribed in a separate category to what is purely and simply the ecstatic state and its peculiar conditions.
Causes and Circumstances of Dreams. What Best Contributes to Efficient Dreaming.
They say that dreams are more sure and clear when they happen towards the end of the night, because then the vigour of the soul emerges, and heavy sleep departs. As to the seasons of the year, dreams are calmer in spring, since summer relaxes, and winter somehow hardens, the soul; while autumn, which in other respects is trying to health, is apt to enervate the soul by the lusciousness of its fruits. Then, again, as regards the position of one’s body during sleep, one ought not to lie on his back, nor on his right side, nor so as to wrench his intestines, as if their cavity were reversely stretched: a palpitation of the heart would ensue, or else a pressure on the liver would produce a painful disturbance of the mind.
But however this be, I take it that it all amounts to ingenious conjecture rather than certain proof (although the author of the conjecture be no less a man than Plato); and possibly all may be no other than the result of chance. But, generally speaking, dreams will be under control of a man’s will, if they be capable of direction at all; for we must not examine what opinion on the one hand, and superstition on the other, have to prescribe for the treatment of dreams, in the matter of distinguishing and modifying different sorts of food.
As for the superstition, we have an instance when fasting is prescribed for such persons as mean to submit to the sleep which is necessary for receiving the oracle, in order that such abstinence may produce the required purity; while we find an instance of the opinion when the disciples of Pythagoras, in order to attain the same end, reject the bean as an aliment which would load the stomach, and produce indigestion.
But the three brethren, who were the companions of Daniel, being content with pulse alone, to escape the contamination of the royal dishes, received from God, besides other wisdom, the gift especially of penetrating and explaining the sense of dreams. For my own part, I hardly know whether fasting would not simply make me dream so profoundly, that I should not be aware whether I had in fact dreamt at all. Well, then, you ask, has not sobriety something to do in this matter? Certainly it is as much concerned in this as it is in the entire subject: if it contributes some good service to superstition, much more does it to religion.
For even demons require such discipline from their dreamers as a gratification to their divinity, because they know that it is acceptable to God, since Daniel (to quote him again) “ate no pleasant bread” for the space of three weeks. This abstinence, however, he used in order to please God by humiliation, and not for the purpose of producing a sensibility and wisdom for his soul previous to receiving communication by dreams and visions, as if it were not rather to effect such action in an ecstatic state. This sobriety, then, (in which our question arises,) will have nothing to do with exciting ecstasy, but will rather serve to recommend its being wrought by God.
No Soul Naturally Exempt from Dreams.
As for those persons who suppose that infants do not dream, on the ground that all the functions of the soul throughout life are accomplished according to the capacity of age, they ought to observe attentively their tremors, and nods, and bright smiles as they sleep, and from such facts understand that they are the emotions of their soul as it dreams, 227 which so readily escape to the surface through the delicate tenderness of their infantine body.
The fact, however, that the African nation of the Atlantes are said to pass through the night in a deep lethargic sleep, brings down on them the censure that something is wrong in the constitution of their soul. Now either report, which is occasionally calumnious against barbarians, deceived Herodotus, or else a large force of demons of this sort domineers in those barbarous regions. Since, indeed, Aristotle remarks of a certain hero of Sardinia that he used to withhold the power of visions and dreams from such as resorted to his shrine for inspiration, it must lie at the will and caprice of the demons to take away as well as to confer the faculty of dreams; and from this circumstance may have arisen the remarkable fact (which we have mentioned) of Nero and Thrasymedes only dreaming so late in life. We, however, derive dreams from God.
Why, then, did not the Atlantes receive the dreaming faculty from God, because there is really no nation which is now a stranger to God, since the gospel flashes its glorious light through the world to the ends of the earth? Could it then be that rumour deceived Aristotle, or is this caprice still the way of demons? (Let us take any view of the case), only do not let it be imagined that any soul is by its natural constitution exempt from dreams.
The Absurd Opinion of Epicurus and the Profane Conceits of the Heretic Menander on Death, Even Enoch and Elijah Reserved for Death.
We have by this time said enough about sleep, the mirror and image of death; and likewise about the occupations of sleep, even dreams. Let us now go on to consider the cause of our departure hence—that is, the appointment and course of death—because we must not leave even it unquestioned and unexamined, although it is itself the very end of all questions and investigations.
According to the general sentiment of the human race, we declare death to be “the debt of nature.” So much has been settled by the voice of God; such is the contract with everything which is born: so that even from this the frigid conceit of Epicurus is refuted, who says that no such debt is due from us; and not only so, but the insane opinion of the Samaritan heretic Menander is also rejected, who will have it that death has not only nothing to do with his disciples, but in fact never reaches them.
He pretends to have received such a commission from the secret power of One above, that all who partake of his baptism become immortal, incorruptible and instantaneously invested with resurrection-life. We read, no doubt, of very many wonderful kinds of waters: how, for instance, the vinous quality of the stream intoxicates people who drink of the Lyncestis; how at Colophon the waters of an oracle-inspiring fountain affect men with madness; how Alexander was killed by the poisonous water from Mount Nonacris in Arcadia. Then, again, there was in Judea before the time of Christ a pool of medicinal virtue.
It is well known how the poet has commemorated the marshy Styx as preserving men from death; although Thetis had, in spite of the preservative, to lament her son. And for the matter of that, were Menander himself to take a plunge into this famous Styx, he would certainly have to die after all; for you must come to the Styx, placed as it is by all accounts in the regions of the dead.
Well, but what and where are those blessed and charming waters which not even John Baptist ever used in his preministrations, nor Christ after him ever revealed to His disciples? What was this wondrous bath of Menander? He is a comical fellow, I ween. But why (was such a font) so seldom in request, so obscure, one to which so very few ever resorted for their cleansing?
I really see something to suspect in so rare an occurrence of a sacrament to which is attached so very much security and safety, and which dispenses with the ordinary law of dying even in the service of God Himself, when, on the contrary, all nations have “to ascend to the mount of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob,” who demands of His saints in martyrdom that death which He exacted even of His Christ. No one will ascribe to magic such influence as shall exempt from death, or which shall refresh and vivify life, like the vine by the renewal of its condition. Such power was not accorded to the great Medea herself—over a human being at any rate, if allowed her over a silly sheep.
Enoch no doubt was translated, and so was Elijah; nor did they experience death: it was postponed, (and only postponed,) most certainly: they are reserved for the suffering of death, that by their blood they may extinguish 228 Antichrist. Even John underwent death, although concerning him there had prevailed an ungrounded expectation that he would remain alive until the coming of the Lord. Heresies, indeed, for the most part spring hurriedly into existence, from examples furnished by ourselves: they procure their defensive armour from the very place which they attack.
The whole question resolves itself, in short, into this challenge: Where are to be found the men whom Menander himself has baptized? whom he has plunged into his Styx? Let them come forth and stand before us—those apostles of his whom he has made immortal? Let my (doubting) Thomas see them, let him hear them, let him handle them—and he is convinced.
Death Entirely Separates the Soul from the Body.
But the operation of death is plain and obvious: it is the separation of body and soul. Some, however, in reference to the soul’s immortality, on which they have so feeble a hold through not being taught of God, maintain it with such beggarly arguments, that they would fain have it supposed that certain souls cleave to the body even after death. It is indeed in this sense that Plato, although he despatches at once to heaven such souls as he pleases, yet in his Republic exhibits to us the corpse of an unburied person, which was preserved a long time without corruption, by reason of the soul remaining, as he says, unseparated from the body.
To the same purport also Democritus remarks on the growth for a considerable while of the human nails and hair in the grave. Now, it is quite possible that the nature of the atmosphere tended to the preservation of the above-mentioned corpse. What if the air were particularly dry, and the ground of a saline nature? What, too, if the substance of the body itself were unusually dry and arid? What, moreover, if the mode of the death had already eliminated from the corpse all corrupting matter? As for the nails, since they are the commencement of the nerves, they may well seem to be prolonged, owing to the nerves themselves being relaxed and extended, and to be protruded more and more as the flesh fails.
The hair, again, is nourished from the brain, which would cause it endure for a long time as its secret aliment and defence. Indeed, in the case of living persons themselves, the whole head of hair is copious or scanty in proportion to the exuberance of the brain. You have medical men (to attest the fact). But not a particle of the soul can possibly remain in the body, which is itself destined to disappear when time shall have abolished the entire scene on which the body has played its part. And yet even this partial survival of the soul finds a place in the opinions of some men; and on this account they will not have the body consumed at its funeral by fire, because they would spare the small residue of the soul.
There is, however, another way of accounting for this pious treatment, not as if it meant to favour the relics of the soul, but as if it would avert a cruel custom in the interest even of the body; since, being human, it is itself undeserving of an end which is also inflicted upon murderers. The truth is, the soul is indivisible, because it is immortal; (and this fact) compels us to believe that death itself is an indivisible process, accruing indivisibly to the soul, not indeed because it is immortal, but because it is indivisible. Death, however, would have to be divided in its operation, if the soul were divisible into particles, any one of which has to be reserved for a later stage of death.
At this rate, a part of death will have to stay behind for a portion of the soul. I am not ignorant that some vestige of this opinion still exists. I have found it out from one of my own people. I am acquainted with the case of a woman, the daughter of Christian parents, who in the very flower of her age and beauty slept peacefully (in Jesus), after a singularly happy though brief married life. Before they laid her in her grave, and when the priest began the appointed office, at the very first breath of his prayer she withdrew her hands from her side, placed them in an attitude of devotion, and after the holy service was concluded restored them to their lateral position.
Then, again, there is that well-known story among our own people, that a body voluntarily made way in a certain cemetery, to afford room for another body to be placed near to it. If, as is the case, similar stories are told amongst the heathen, (we can only conclude that) God everywhere manifests signs of His own power—to His own people for their comfort, to strangers for a testimony unto them. I would indeed much rather suppose that a portent of this kind happened from the direct agency of God than from any relics of the soul: for if there were a residue of these, they would be certain to move the other limbs; and even if they moved the hands, this still would not have been for the purpose of a prayer.
Nor would the corpse have been simply content to have made way for its neighbour: it would, besides, have benefited its own self also by the change of its position. But from whatever cause 229 proceeded these phenomena, which you must put down amongst signs and portents, it is impossible that they should regulate nature. Death, if it once falls short of totality in operation, is not death. If any fraction of the soul remain, it makes a living state. Death will no more mix with life, than will night with day.
All Kinds of Death a Violence to Nature, Arising from Sin.—Sin an Intrusion Upon Nature as God Created It.
Such, then, is the work of death—the separation of the soul from the body. Putting out of the question fates and fortuitous circumstances, it has been, according to men’s views, distinguished in a twofold form—the ordinary and the extraordinary. The ordinary they ascribe to nature, exercising its quiet influence in the case of each individual decease; the extraordinary is said to be contrary to nature, happening in every violent death.
As for our own views, indeed, we know what was man’s origin, and we boldly assert and persistently maintain that death happens not by way of natural consequence to man, but owing to a fault and defect which is not itself natural; although it is easy enough, no doubt, to apply the term natural to faults and circumstances which seem to have been (though from the emergence of an external cause) inseparable to us from our very birth.
If man had been directly appointed to die as the condition of his creation, then of course death must be imputed to nature. Now, that he was not thus appointed to die, is proved by the very law which made his condition depend on a warning, and death result from man’s arbitrary choice. Indeed, if he had not sinned, he certainly would not have died. That cannot be nature which happens by the exercise of volition after an alternative has been proposed to it, and not by necessity—the result of an inflexible and unalterable condition. Consequently, although death has various issues, inasmuch as its causes are manifold, we cannot say that the easiest death is so gentle as not to happen by violence (to our nature).
The very law which produces death, simple though it be, is yet violence. How can it be otherwise, when so close a companionship of soul and body, so inseparable a growth together from their very conception of two sister substances, is sundered and divided? For although a man may breathe his last for joy, like the Spartan Chilon, while embracing his son who had just conquered in the Olympic games; or for glory, like the Athenian Clidemus, while receiving a crown of gold for the excellence of his historical writings; or in a dream, like Plato; or in a fit of laughter, like Publius Crassus,—yet death is much too violent, coming as it does upon us by strange and alien means, expelling the soul by a method all its own, calling on us to die at a moment when one might live a jocund life in joy and honour, in peace and pleasure.
That is still a violence to ships: although far away from the Capharean rocks, assailed by no storms, without a billow to shatter them, with favouring gale, in gliding course, with merry crews, they founder amidst entire security, suddenly, owing to some internal shock. Not dissimilar are the shipwrecks of life,—the issues of even a tranquil death. It matters not whether the vessel of the human body goes with unbroken timbers or shattered with storms, if the navigation of the soul be overthrown.
The Entire Soul Being Indivisible Remains to the Last Act of Vitality; Never Partially or Fractionally Withdrawn from the Body.
But where at last will the soul have to lodge, when it is bare and divested of the body? We must certainly not hesitate to follow it thither, in the order of our inquiry. We must, however, first of all fully state what belongs to the topic before us, in order that no one, because we have mentioned the various issues of death, may expect from us a special description of these, which ought rather to be left to medical men, who are the proper judges of the incidents which appertain to death, or its causes, and the actual conditions of the human body. Of course, with the view of preserving the truth of the soul’s immortality, whilst treating this topic, I shall have, on mentioning death, to introduce phrases about dissolution of such a purport as seems to intimate that the soul escapes by degrees, and piece by piece; for it withdraws (from the body) with all the circumstances of a decline, seeming to suffer consumption, and suggests to us the idea of being annihilated by the slow process of its departure.
But the entire reason of this phenomenon is in the body, and arises from the body. For whatever be the kind of death (which operates on man), it undoubtedly produces the destruction either of the matter, or of the region, or of the passages of vitality: of the matter, such as the gall and the blood; of the region, such as the heart and the liver; of the passages, such as the veins and the arteries. Inasmuch, then, as 230 these parts of the body are severally devastated by an injury proper to each of them, even to the very last ruin and annulling of the vital powers—in other words, of the ends, the sites, and the functions of nature—it must needs come to pass, amidst the gradual decay of its instruments, domiciles, and spaces, that the soul also itself, being driven to abandon each successive part, assumes the appearance of being lessened to nothing; in some such manner as a charioteer is assumed to have himself failed, when his horses, through fatigue, withdraw from him their energies.
But this assumption applies only to the circumstances of the despoiled person, not to any real condition of suffering. Likewise the body’s charioteer, the animal spirit, fails on account of the failure of its vehicle, not of itself—abandoning its work, but not its vigour—languishing in operation, but not in essential condition—bankrupt in solvency, not in substance—because ceasing to put in an appearance, but not ceasing to exist. Thus every rapid death—such as a decapitation, or a breaking of the neck, which opens at once a vast outlet for the soul; or a sudden ruin, which at a stroke crushes every vital action, like that inner ruin apoplexy—retards not the soul’s escape, nor painfully separates its departure into successive moments. Where, however, the death is a lingering one, the soul abandons its position in the way in which it is itself abandoned.
And yet it is not by this process severed in fractions: it is slowly drawn out; and whilst thus extracted, it causes the last remnant to seem to be but a part of itself. No portion, however, must be deemed separable, because it is the last; nor, because it is a small one, must it be regarded as susceptible of dissolution. Accordant with a series is its end, and the middle is prolonged to the extremes; and the remnants cohere to the mass, and are waited for, but never abandoned by it.
And I will even venture to say, that the last of a whole is the whole; because while it is less, and the latest, it yet belongs to the whole, and completes it. Hence, indeed, many times it happens that the soul in its actual separation is more powerfully agitated with a more anxious gaze, and a quickened loquacity; whilst from the loftier and freer position in which it is now placed, it enunciates, by means of its last remnant still lingering in the flesh, what it sees, what it hears, and what it is beginning to know.
In Platonic phrase, indeed, the body is a prison, but in the apostle’s it is “the temple of God,” because it is in Christ. Still, (as must be admitted,) by reason of its enclosure it obstructs and obscures the soul, and sullies it by the concretion of the flesh; whence it happens that the light which illumines objects comes in upon the soul in a more confused manner, as if through a window of horn. Undoubtedly, when the soul, by the power of death, is released from its concretion with the flesh, it is by the very release cleansed and purified: it is, moreover, certain that it escapes from the veil of the flesh into open space, to its clear, and pure, and intrinsic light; and then finds itself enjoying its enfranchisement from matter, and by virtue of its liberty it recovers its divinity, as one who awakes out of sleep passes from images to verities. Then it tells out what it sees; then it exults or it fears, according as it finds what lodging is prepared for it, as soon as it sees the very angel’s face, that arraigner of souls, the Mercury of the poets.
Whither Does the Soul Retire When It Quits the Body? Opinions of Philosophers All More or Less Absurd. The Hades of Plato.
To the question, therefore, whither the soul is withdrawn, we now give an answer. Almost all the philosophers, who hold the soul’s immortality, notwithstanding their special views on the subject, still claim for it this (eternal condition), as Pythagoras, and Empedocles, and Plato, and as they who indulge it with some delay from the time of its quitting the flesh to the conflagration of all things, and as the Stoics, who place only their own souls, that is, the souls of the wise, in the mansions above. Plato, it is true, does not allow this destination to all the souls, indiscriminately, of even all the philosophers, but only of those who have cultivated their philosophy out of love to boys.
So great is the privilege which impurity obtains at the hands of philosophers! In his system, then, the souls of the wise are carried up on high into the ether: according to Arius, into the air; according to the Stoics, into the moon. I wonder, indeed, that they abandon to the earth the souls of the unwise, when they affirm that even these are instructed by the wise, so much their superiors. For where is the school where they can have been instructed in the vast space which divides them?
By what means can the pupil-souls have resorted to their teachers, when they are parted from each other by so distant an interval? What profit, too, can any instruction afford them at all in their posthumous state, when they are on the brink of perdition by the universal 231 fire? All other souls they thrust down to Hades, which Plato, in his Phædo, describes as the bosom of the earth, where all the filth of the world accumulates, settles, and exhales, and where every separate draught of air only renders denser still the impurities of the seething mass.
The Christian Idea of the Position of Hades; The Blessedness of Paradise Immediately After Death. The Privilege of the Martyrs.
By ourselves the lower regions (of Hades) are not supposed to be a bare cavity, nor some subterranean sewer of the world, but a vast deep space in the interior of the earth, and a concealed recess in its very bowels; inasmuch as we read that Christ in His death spent three days in the heart of the earth, that is, in the secret inner recess which is hidden in the earth, and enclosed by the earth, and superimposed on the abysmal depths which lie still lower down. Now although Christ is God, yet, being also man, “He died according to the Scriptures,” and “according to the same Scriptures was buried.”
With the same law of His being He fully complied, by remaining in Hades in the form and condition of a dead man; nor did He ascend into the heights of heaven before descending into the lower parts of the earth, that He might there make the patriarchs and prophets partakers of Himself. (This being the case), you must suppose Hades to be a subterranean region, and keep at arm’s length those who are too proud to believe that the souls of the faithful deserve a place in the lower regions. These persons, who are “servants above their Lord, and disciples above their Master,” would no doubt spurn to receive the comfort of the resurrection, if they must expect it in Abraham’s bosom.
But it was for this purpose, say they, that Christ descended into hell, that we might not ourselves have to descend thither. Well, then, what difference is there between heathens and Christians, if the same prison awaits them all when dead? How, indeed, shall the soul mount up to heaven, where Christ is already sitting at the Father’s right hand, when as yet the archangel’s trumpet has not been heard by the command of God, —when as yet those whom the coming of the Lord is to find on the earth, have not been caught up into the air to meet Him at His coming, in company with the dead in Christ, who shall be the first to arise?
To no one is heaven opened; the earth is still safe for him, I would not say it is shut against him. When the world, indeed, shall pass away, then the kingdom of heaven shall be opened. Shall we then have to sleep high up in ether, with the boy-loving worthies of Plato; or in the air with Arius; or around the moon with the Endymions of the Stoics? No, but in Paradise, you tell me, whither already the patriarchs and prophets have removed from Hades in the retinue of the Lord’s resurrection. How is it, then, that the region of Paradise, which as revealed to John in the Spirit lay under the altar, displays no other souls as in it besides the souls of the martyrs?
How is it that the most heroic martyr Perpetua on the day of her passion saw only her fellow-martyrs there, in the revelation which she received of Paradise, if it were not that the sword which guarded the entrance permitted none to go in thereat, except those who had died in Christ and not in Adam? A new death for God, even the extraordinary one for Christ, is admitted into the reception-room of mortality, specially altered and adapted to receive the new-comer.
Observe, then, the difference between a heathen and a Christian in their death: if you have to lay down your life for God, as the Comforter counsels, it is not in gentle fevers and on soft beds, but in the sharp pains of martyrdom: you must take up the cross and bear it after your Master, as He has Himself instructed you. The sole key to unlock Paradise is your own life’s blood. You have a treatise by us, (on Paradise), in which we have established the position that every soul is detained in safe keeping in Hades until the day of the Lord.
Refutation of the Homeric View of the Soul’s Detention from Hades Owing to the Body’s Being Unburied. That Souls Prematurely Separated from the Body Had to Wait for Admission into Hades Also Refuted.
There arises the question, whether this takes place immediately after the soul’s departure from the body; whether some souls are detained for special reasons in the 232 meantime here on earth; and whether it is permitted them of their own accord, or by the intervention of authority, to be removed from Hades at some subsequent time?
Even such opinions as these are not by any means lacking persons to advance them with confidence. It was believed that the unburied dead were not admitted into the infernal regions before they had received a proper sepulture; as in the case of Homer’s Patroclus, who earnestly asks for a burial of Achilles in a dream, on the ground that he could not enter Hades through any other portal, since the souls of the sepulchred dead kept thrusting him away.
We know that Homer exhibited more than a poetic licence here; he had in view the rights of the dead. Proportioned, indeed, to his care for the just honours of the tomb, was his censure of that delay of burial which was injurious to souls. (It was also his purpose to add a warning), that no man should, by detaining in his house the corpse of a friend, only expose himself, along with the deceased, to increased injury and trouble, by the irregularity of the consolation which he nourishes with pain and grief. He has accordingly kept a twofold object in view in picturing the complaints of an unburied soul: he wished to maintain honour to the dead by promptly attending to their funeral, as well as to moderate the feelings of grief which their memory excited.
But, after all, how vain is it to suppose that the soul could bear the rites and requirements of the body, or carry any of them away to the infernal regions! And how much vainer still is it, if injury be supposed to accrue to the soul from that neglect of burial which it ought to receive rather as a favour! For surely the soul which had no willingness to die might well prefer as tardy a removal to Hades as possible. It will love the undutiful heir, by whose means it still enjoys the light. If, however, it is certain that injury accrues to the soul from a tardy interment of the body—and the gist of the injury lies in the neglect of the burial—it is yet in the highest degree unfair, that that should receive all the injury to which the faulty delay could not possibly be imputed, for of course all the fault rests on the nearest relations of the dead.
They also say that those souls which are taken away by a premature death wander about hither and thither until they have completed the residue of the years which they would have lived through, had it not been for their untimely fate. Now either their days are appointed to all men severally, and if so appointed, I cannot suppose them capable of being shortened; or if, notwithstanding such appointment, they may be shortened by the will of God, or some other powerful influence, then (I say) such shortening is of no validity, if they still may be accomplished in some other way. If, on the other hand, they are not appointed, there cannot be any residue to be fulfilled for unappointed periods.
I have another remark to make. Suppose it be an infant that dies yet hanging on the breast; or it may be an immature boy; or it may be, once more, a youth arrived at puberty: suppose, moreover, that the life in each case ought to have reached full eighty years, how is it possible that the soul of either could spend the whole of the shortened years here on earth after losing the body by death? One’s age cannot be passed without one’s body, it being by help of the body that the period of life has its duties and labours transacted. Let our own people, moreover, bear this in mind, that souls are to receive back at the resurrection the self-same bodies in which they died.
Therefore our bodies must be expected to resume the same conditions and the same ages, for it is these particulars which impart to bodies their especial modes. By what means, then, can the soul of an infant so spend on earth its residue of years, that it should be able at the resurrection to assume the state of an octogenarian, although it had barely lived a month? Or if it shall be necessary that the appointed days of life be fulfilled here on earth, must the same course of life in all its vicissitudes, which has been itself ordained to accompany the appointed days, be also passed through by the soul along with the days?
Must it employ itself in school studies in its passage from infancy to boyhood; play the soldier in the excitement and vigour of youth and earlier manhood; and encounter serious and judicial responsibilities in the graver years between ripe manhood and old age? Must it ply trade for profit, turn up the soil with hoe and plough, go to sea, bring actions at law, get married, toil and labour, undergo illnesses, and whatever casualties of weal and woe await it in the lapse of years?
Well, but how are all these transactions to be managed without one’s body? Life (spent) without life? But (you will tell me) the destined period in question is to be bare of all incident whatever, only to be accomplished by merely elapsing. What, then, is to prevent its being fulfilled in Hades, where there is absolutely no use to which you can apply it? We therefore maintain that every soul, whatever be its age on quitting the body, remains unchanged in the same, until the time shall come when the promised perfection shall be realized in a 233 state duly tempered to the measure of the peerless angels.
Hence those souls must be accounted as passing an exile in Hades, which people are apt to regard as carried off by violence, especially by cruel tortures, such as those of the cross, and the axe, and the sword, and the lion; but we do not account those to be violent deaths which justice awards, that avenger of violence. So then, you will say, it is all the wicked souls that are banished in Hades. (Not quite so fast, is my answer.)
I must compel you to determine (what you mean by Hades), which of its two regions, the region of the good or of the bad. If you mean the bad, (all I can say is, that) even now the souls of the wicked deserve to be consigned to those abodes; if you mean the good why should you judge to be unworthy of such a resting-place the souls of infants and of virgins, and those which, by reason of their condition in life were pure and innocent?
Magic and Sorcery Only Apparent in Their Effects. God Alone Can Raise the Dead.
It is either a very fine thing to be detained in these infernal regions with the Aori, or souls which were prematurely hurried away; or else a very bad thing indeed to be there associated with the Biaeothanati, who suffered violent deaths. I may be permitted to use the actual words and terms with which magic rings again, that inventor of all these odd opinions—with its Ostanes, and Typhon, and Dardanus, and Damigeron, and Nectabis, and Berenice.
There is a well-known popular bit of writing, which undertakes to summon up from the abode of Hades the souls which have actually slept out their full age, and had passed away by an honourable death, and had even been buried with full rites and proper ceremony. What after this shall we say about magic? Say, to be sure, what almost everybody says of it—that it is an imposture.
But it is not we Christians only whose notice this system of imposture does not escape. We, it is true, have discovered these spirits of evil, not, to be sure, by a complicity with them, but by a certain knowledge which is hostile to them; nor is it by any procedure which is attractive to them, but by a power which subjugates them that we handle (their wretched system)—that manifold pest of the mind of man, that artificer of all error, that destroyer of our salvation and our soul at one swoop.
In this way, even by magic, which is indeed only a second idolatry, wherein they pretend that after death they become demons, just as they were supposed in the first and literal idolatry to become gods (and why not? since the gods are but dead things), the before-mentioned Aori Biaeothanati are actually invoked,—and not unfairly, if one grounds his faith on this principle, that it is clearly credible for those souls to be beyond all others addicted to violence and wrong, which with violence and wrong have been hurried away by a cruel and premature death and which would have a keen appetite for reprisals. Under cover, however, of these souls, demons operate, especially such as used to dwell in them when they were in life, and who had driven them, in fact, to the fate which had at last carried them off.
For, as we have already suggested, there is hardly a human being who is unattended by a demon; and it is well known to many, that premature and violent deaths, which men ascribe to accidents, are in fact brought about by demons. This imposture of the evil spirit lying concealed in the persons of the dead, we are able, if I mistake not, to prove by actual facts, when in cases of exorcism (the evil spirit) affirms himself sometimes to be one of the relatives of the person possessed by him, sometimes a gladiator or a bestiarius, and sometimes even a god; always making it one of his chief cares to extinguish the very truth which we are proclaiming, that men may not readily believe that all souls remove to Hades, and that they may overthrow faith in the resurrection and the judgment.
And yet for all that, the demon, after trying to circumvent the bystanders, is vanquished by the pressure of divine grace, and sorely against his will confesses all the truth. So also in that other kind of magic, which is supposed to bring up from Hades the souls now resting there, and to exhibit them to public view, there is no other expedient of imposture ever resorted to which operates more powerfully. Of course, why a phantom becomes visible, is because a body is also attached to it; and it is no difficult matter to delude the external vision of a man whose mental eye it is so easy to blind.
The serpents which emerged from the magicians’ rods, certainly appeared to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians as bodily substances. It is true that the verity of Moses swallowed up their lying deceit. Many 234 attempts were also wrought against the apostles by the sorcerers Simon and Elymas, but the blindness which struck (them) was no enchanter’s trick. What novelty is there in the effort of an unclean spirit to counterfeit the truth? At this very time, even, the heretical dupes of this same Simon (Magus) are so much elated by the extravagant pretensions of their art, that they undertake to bring up from Hades the souls of the prophets themselves.
And I suppose that they can do so under cover of a lying wonder. For, indeed, it was no less than this that was anciently permitted to the Pythonic (or ventriloquistic) spirit —even to represent the soul of Samuel, when Saul consulted the dead, after (losing the living) God. God forbid, however, that we should suppose that the soul of any saint, much less of a prophet, can be dragged out of (its resting-place in Hades) by a demon. We know that “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” —much more into a man of light—and that at last he will “show himself to be even God,” and will exhibit “great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, he shall deceive the very elect.” He hardly hesitated on the before-mentioned occasion to affirm himself to be a prophet of God, and especially to Saul, in whom he was then actually dwelling.
You must not imagine that he who produced the phantom was one, and he who consulted it was another; but that it was one and the same spirit, both in the sorceress and in the apostate (king), which easily pretended an apparition of that which it had already prepared them to believe as real—(even the spirit) through whose evil influence Saul’s heart was fixed where his treasure was, and where certainly God was not.
Therefore it came about, that he saw him through whose aid he believed that he was going to see, because he believed him through whose help he saw. But we are met with the objection, that in visions of the night dead persons are not unfrequently seen, and that for a set purpose. For instance, the Nasamones consult private oracles by frequent and lengthened visits to the sepulchres of their relatives, as one may find in Heraclides, or Nymphodorus, or Herodotus; and the Celts, for the same purpose, stay away all night at the tombs of their brave chieftains, as Nicander affirms.
Well, we admit apparitions of dead persons in dreams to be not more really true than those of living persons; but we apply the same estimate to all alike—to the dead and to the living, and indeed to all the phenomena which are seen. Now things are not true because they appear to be so, but because they are fully proved to be so. The truth of dreams is declared from the realization, not the aspect. Moreover, the fact that Hades is not in any case opened for (the escape of) any soul, has been firmly established by the Lord in the person of Abraham, in His representation of the poor man at rest and the rich man in torment. No one, (he said,) could possibly be despatched from those abodes to report to us how matters went in the nether regions,—a purpose which, (if any could be,) might have been allowable on such an occasion, to persuade a belief in Moses and the prophets.
The power of God has, no doubt, sometimes recalled men’s souls to their bodies, as a proof of His own transcendent rights; but there must never be, because of this fact, any agreement supposed to be possible between the divine faith and the arrogant pretensions of sorcerers, and the imposture of dreams, and the licence of poets. But yet in all cases of a true resurrection, when the power of God recalls souls to their bodies, either by the agency of prophets, or of Christ, or of apostles, a complete presumption is afforded us, by the solid, palpable, and ascertained reality (of the revived body), that its true form must be such as to compel one’s belief of the fraudulence of every incorporeal apparition of dead persons.
Conclusion. Points Postponed. All Souls are Kept in Hades Until the Resurrection, Anticipating Their Ultimate Misery or Bliss.
All souls, therefore, are shut up within Hades: do you admit this? (It is true, whether) you say yes or no: moreover, there are already experienced there punishments and consolations; and there you have a poor man and a rich. And now, having postponed some stray questions for this part of my work, I will notice them in this suitable place, and then come to a close. Why, then, cannot you suppose that the soul undergoes punishment and consolation in Hades in the interval, while it awaits its alternative of judgment, in a certain anticipation either of gloom or of glory? You reply:
Because in the judgment of God its matter ought to be sure and safe, nor should there be any inkling beforehand of 235 the award of His sentence; and also because (the soul) ought to be covered first by its vestment of the restored flesh, which, as the partner of its actions, should be also a sharer in its recompense. What, then, is to take place in that interval? Shall we sleep? But souls do not sleep even when men are alive: it is indeed the business of bodies to sleep, to which also belongs death itself, no less than its mirror and counterfeit sleep. Or will you have it, that nothing is there done whither the whole human race is attracted, and whither all man’s expectation is postponed for safe keeping?
Do you think this state is a foretaste of judgment, or its actual commencement? a premature encroachment on it, or the first course in its full ministration? Now really, would it not be the highest possible injustice, even in Hades, if all were to be still well with the guilty even there, and not well with the righteous even yet?
What, would you have hope be still more confused after death? would you have it mock us still more with uncertain expectation? or shall it now become a review of past life, and an arranging of judgment, with the inevitable feeling of a trembling fear? But, again, must the soul always tarry for the body, in order to experience sorrow or joy? Is it not sufficient, even of itself, to suffer both one and the other of these sensations? How often, without any pain to the body, is the soul alone tortured by ill-temper, and anger, and fatigue, and very often unconsciously, even to itself?
How often, too, on the other hand, amidst bodily suffering, does the soul seek out for itself some furtive joy, and withdraw for the moment from the body’s importunate society? I am mistaken if the soul is not in the habit, indeed, solitary and alone, of rejoicing and glorifying over the very tortures of the body. Look for instance, at the soul of Mutius Scævola as he melts his right hand over the fire; look also at Zeno’s, as the torments of Dionysius pass over it. The bites of wild beasts are a glory to young heroes, as on Cyrus were the scars of the bear. Full well, then, does the soul even in Hades know how to joy and to sorrow even without the body; since when in the flesh it feels pain when it likes, though the body is unhurt; and when it likes it feels joy though the body is in pain.
Now if such sensations occur at its will during life, how much rather may they not happen after death by the judicial appointment of God! Moreover, the soul executes not all its operations with the ministration of the flesh; for the judgment of God pursues even simple cogitations and the merest volitions. “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
Therefore, even for this cause it is most fitting that the soul, without at all waiting for the flesh, should be punished for what it has done without the partnership of the flesh. So, on the same principle, in return for the pious and kindly thoughts in which it shared not the help of the flesh, shall it without the flesh receive its consolation. Nay more, even in matters done through the flesh the soul is the first to conceive them, the first to arrange them, the first to authorize them, the first to precipitate them into acts.
And even if it is sometimes unwilling to act, it is still the first to treat the object which it means to effect by help of the body. In no case, indeed, can an accomplished fact be prior to the mental conception thereof. It is therefore quite in keeping with this order of things, that that part of our nature should be the first to have the recompense and reward to which they are due on account of its priority. In short, inasmuch as we understand “the prison” pointed out in the Gospel to be Hades, and as we also interpret “the uttermost farthing” to mean the very smallest offence which has to be recompensed there before the resurrection, no one will hesitate to believe that the soul undergoes in Hades some compensatory discipline, without prejudice to the full process of the resurrection, when the recompense will be administered through the flesh besides.
This point the Paraclete has also pressed home on our attention in most frequent admonitions, whenever any of us has admitted the force of His words from a knowledge of His promised spiritual disclosures. And now at last having, as I believe, encountered every human opinion concerning the soul, and tried its character by the teaching of (our holy faith,) we have satisfied the curiosity which is simply a reasonable and necessary one. As for that which is extravagant and idle, there will evermore be as great a defect in its information, as there has been exaggeration and self-will in its researches.