CHAPTER II SCIENCE AND RELIGION

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61 God and the World,62 Monotheism or Polytheism,32 Ionia and the West. THE spirit of the Ionians in Asia was as we have seen thoroughly secular and so far as we. can judge the Milesians wholly ignored traditional beliefs Their use of the term god for the primary. substance and the innumerable worlds had no religious significance 1 It was different in the Aegean. islands which had been the home of the Ionians long before the Anatolian coasts were open to. colonisation and where there were many memories of a remote past These seem to have centred. round the sanctuary of Delos and the fragments of Pherekydes who belonged to the neighbouring. island of Syros read like belated utterances of an earlier age 2 No doubt it was also different in the. Chalkidian and Ionian colonies of the West which were founded at a time when Hesiod and his. followers still held unchallenged authority, Now Pythagoras and Xenophanes the most striking figures of the generation that saw the. Greek cities in Asia become subject to Persia were both Ionians but both spent the greater part of. their lives in the West There it was no longer possible to ignore religion especially when reinforced by. the revival that now swept over the Greek world Henceforth the leaders of enlightenment must either. seek to reform and deepen traditional religion like Pythagoras or oppose it openly like Xenophanes. 33 The Delian Religion, The revival was not however a mere recrudescence of the old Aegean religion but was. profoundly influenced by the diffusion of certain ideas originating in what was then the far North The. temple legend of Delos is certainly ancient and it connects the worship of Apollo with the. Hyperboreans who were thought of as living on the banks of the Danube 3 The holy things wrapped. in straw which were passed on from people to people till they reached Delos by way of the head of. the Adriatic Dodona and the Malian Gulf 4 bear witness to a real connexion between the Danubian. and Aegean civilisations at an early date and it is natural to associate this with the coming of the. Achaians The stories of Abaris the Hyperborean5 and Aristeas of Prokonnesos6 belong to the same. religious movement and prove that it was based on a view of the soul which was new so far as we can. see in the Aegean Now the connexion of Pythagoras with Delos is well attested and it is certain that. he founded his society in cities which gloried in the Achaian name If the Delian religion was really. Achaian we have a clue to certain things in the life of Pythagoras which are otherwise puzzling We. shall come back to these later 7,34 Orphicism, It was not however in its Delian form that the northern religion had most influence In Thrace. it had attached itself to the wild worship of Dionysos and was associated with the name of Orpheus In. this religion the new beliefs were mainly based on the phenomenon of ecstasy stepping. out It was supposed that it was only when out of the body that the soul revealed its true nature It. was not merely a feeble double of the self as in Homer but a fallen god which might be restored to its. high estate by a system of purifications and sacraments In this form the new. religion made an immediate appeal to all sorts and conditions of men who could not find satisfaction in. the worship of the secularised anthropomorphic gods of the poets and the state religions. The Orphic religion had two features which were new in Greece It looked to a written. revelation as the source of religious authority and its adherents were organised in communities based. not on any real or supposed tie of blood but on voluntary adhesion and initiation Most of the Orphic. literature that has come down to us is of late date and uncertain origin but the thin gold plates with. Orphic verses inscribed on them discovered at Thourioi and Petelia take us back to a time when. Orphicism was still a living creed 8 From them we learn that it had some striking resemblances to the. beliefs prevalent in India about the same time though it is really impossible to assume any Indian. influence in Greece at this date 9 In any case the main purpose of the Orphic observances and rites was. to release the soul from the wheel of birth that is from reincarnation in animal or vegetable forms. The soul so released became once more a god and enjoyed everlasting bliss. 35 Philosophy as a Way of Life, The chief reason for taking account of the Orphic communities here is that their organisation.
seems to have suggested the idea that philosophy is above all a way of life In Ionia as we have seen. meant something like curiosity and from that use of it the common Athenian sense of. culture as we find it in Isokrates seems to have been derived On the other hand wherever we can. trace the influence of Pythagoras the word has a far deeper meaning Philosophy is itself a. purification and a way of escape from the wheel That is the idea so nobly expressed in the Phaedo. which is manifestly inspired by Pythagorean doctrine 10 This way of regarding philosophy is henceforth. characteristic of the best Greek thought Aristotle is as much influenced by it as any one as we may see. from the Tenth Book of the Ethics and as we should see still more clearly if we possessed his. in its entirety 11 There was a danger that this attitude should degenerate into mere. quietism and other worldliness a danger Plato saw and sought to avert It was he that insisted on. philosophers taking their turn to descend once more into the Cave to help their former fellow. prisoners 12 If the other view ultimately prevailed that was hardly the fault of the philosophers. 36 Relation of Religion and Philosophy, Science then became a religion and to that extent it is true that philosophy was influenced by. religion It would be wrong however to suppose that even now philosophy took over any particular. doctrines from religion The religious revival implied we have seen a new view of the soul and we. might expect to find that it profoundly influenced the teaching of philosophers on that subject The. remarkable thing is that this did not happen Even the Pythagoreans and Empedokles who took part in. the religious movement themselves held views about the soul which flatly contradicted the beliefs. implied in their religious practices 13 There is no room for an immortal soul in any philosophy of this. period as we shall see Sokrates was the first philosopher to assert the doctrine on rational grounds 14. and it is significant that Plato represents him as only half serious in appealing to the Orphics for. confirmation of his own teaching 15, The reason is that ancient religion was not a body of doctrine Nothing was required but that. the ritual should be performed correctly and in a proper frame of mind the worshipper was free to give. any explanation of it he pleased It might be as exalted as that of Pindar and Sophokles or as debased as. that of the itinerant mystery mongers described in Plato s Republic The initiated said Aristotle are. not supposed to learn anything but to be affected in a certain way and put into a certain frame of. mind 16 That is why the religious revival could inspire philosophy with a new spirit but could not at. first graft new doctrines on it,I PYTHAGORAS OF SAMOS. 37 Character of the Tradition, It is not easy to give any account of Pythagoras that can claim to be regarded as historical The. earliest reference to him indeed is practically a contemporary one Some verses are quoted from. Xenophanes in which we are told that Pythagoras once heard a dog howling and appealed to its master. not to beat it as he recognised the voice of a departed friend 17 From this we know that he taught the. doctrine of transmigration Herakleitos in the next generation speaks of his having carried scientific. investigation further than any one though he made use of it for purposes of imposture 18. Later though still within the century Herodotos19 speaks of him as not the weakest scientific man. among the Hellenes and he says he had been told by the Greeks of the Hellespont that the. legendary Scythian Salmoxis had been a slave of Pythagoras at Samos He does not believe that for he. knew Salmoxis lived many years before Pythagoras The story however is evidence that Pythagoras. was well known in the fifth century both as a scientific man and as a preacher of immortality That. takes us some way, Plato was deeply interested in Pythagoreanism but he is curiously reserved about Pythagoras.
He only mentions him once by name in all his writings and all we are told then is that he won the. affections of his followers in an unusual degree by teaching them a way of. life which was still called Pythagorean 20 Even the Pythagoreans are only once mentioned by name in. the passage where Sokrates is made to say that they regard music and astronomy as sister sciences 21 On. the other hand Plato tells us a good deal about men whom we know from other sources to have been. Pythagoreans but he avoids the name For all he says we should only have been able to guess that. Echekrates and Philolaos belonged to the school Usually Pythagorean views are given anonymously as. those of ingenious persons or the like and we are not even told expressly that Timaios. the Lokrian into whose mouth Plato has placed an unmistakably Pythagorean cosmology belonged to. the society We are left to infer it from the fact that he comes from Italy Aristotle imitates his master s. reserve in this matter The name of Pythagoras occurs only twice in the genuine works that have come. down to us In one place we are told that Alkmaion was a young man in the old age of Pythagoras 22. and the other is a quotation from Alkidamas to the effect that the men of Italy honoured. Pythagoras 23 Aristotle is not so shy of the word Pythagorean as Plato but he uses it in a curious. way He says such things as the men of Italy who are called Pythagoreans 24 and he usually refers to. particular doctrines as those of some of the Pythagoreans It looks as if there was some doubt in the. fourth century as to who the genuine Pythagoreans were We shall see why as we go on. Aristotle also wrote a special treatise on the Pythagoreans which has not come down to us but. from which quotations are found in later writers These are of great value as they have to do with the. religious side of Pythagoreanism, The only other ancient authorities on Pythagoras were Aristoxenos of Taras Dikaiarchos of. Messene and Timaios of Tauromenion who all had special opportunities of knowing something about. him The account of the Pythagorean Order in the Life of Pythagoras by Iamblichos is based mainly on. Timaios 25 who was no doubt an uncritical historian but who had access to information about Italy and. Sicily which makes his testimony very valuable when it can be recovered Aristoxenos had been. personally acquainted with the last generation of the Pythagorean society at Phleious It is evident. however that he wished to represent Pythagoras simply as a man of science and was anxious to refute. the idea that he was a religious teacher In the same way Dikaiarchos tried to make out that Pythagoras. was simply a statesman and reformer 26, When we come to the Lives of Pythagoras by Porphyry Iamblichos and Diogenes Laertios 27. we find ourselves once more in the region of the miraculous They are based on authorities of a very. suspicious character 28 and the result is a mass of incredible fiction It would be quite wrong however. to ignore the miraculous elements in the legend of Pythagoras for some of the most striking miracles. are quoted from Aristotle s work on the Pythagoreans29 and from the Tripod of Andron of Ephesos 30. both of which belong to the fourth century B C and cannot have been influenced by Neopythagorean. fancies The fact is that the oldest and the latest accounts agree in representing Pythagoras as a wonder. worker but for some reason an attempt was made in the fourth century to save his memory from that. imputation This helps to account for the cautious references of Plato and Aristotle but its full. significance will only appear later,38 Life of Pythagoras. We may be said to know for certain that Pythagoras passed his early manhood at Samos and. was the son of Mnesarchos 31 and he flourished we are told in the reign of Polykrates 532 B C 32. This date cannot be far wrong for Herakleitos already speaks of him in the past tense 33. The extensive travels attributed to Pythagoras by late writers are of course apocryphal Even. the statement that he visited Egypt though far from improbable if we consider the close relations. between Polykrates of Samos and Amasis rests on no sufficient authority 34 Herodotos it is true. observes that the Egyptians agreed in certain practices with the rules called Orphic and Bacchic which. are really Egyptian and with the Pythagoreans 35 but this does not imply that the Pythagoreans derived. these directly from Egypt He says also that the belief in transmigration came from Egypt though. certain Greeks both at an earlier and a later date had passed it off as their own He refuses however. to give their names so he can hardly be referring to Pythagoras 36 Nor does it matter for the Egyptians. did not believe in transmigration at all and Herodotos was deceived by the priests or the symbolism of. the monuments, Aristoxenos said that Pythagoras left Samos in order to escape from the tyranny of Polykrates 37. It was at Kroton a city which had long been in friendly r. CHAPTER II SCIENCE AND RELIGION 32 IoniaandtheWest 33 TheDelianReligion 34 Orphicism 35 PhilosophyasaWayofLife 36 RelationofReligionandPhilosophy

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