« Prev Marcion; His Dualism; Derives His System from… Next »

Chapter XVII.—Marcion; His Dualism; Derives His System from Empedocles; Sketch of the Doctrine of Empedocles.

But Marcion,860860    See [vol. i. p. 352, this series]; Irenæus i. 27; [vol. iii., this series especially p. 257], Tertullian, Adv. Marc., and Præscript., xxx.; Epiphanius, Hær., xlii.; Theodoret, Hær. Fab., i. 24; Eusebius., Hist. Ecclesiast., v. 13, 16; and St. Augustine, Hær., xxii. a native of Pontus, far more frantic than these (heretics), omitting the majority of the tenets of the greater number (of speculators), (and) advancing into a doctrine still more unabashed, supposed (the existence of) two originating causes of the universe, alleging one of them to be a certain good (principle), but the other an evil one. And himself imagining that he was introducing some novel (opinion), founded a school full of folly, and attended by men of a sensual mode of life, inasmuch as he himself was one of lustful propensities.861861    Or, “quarrelsome,” or, “frantic.” This (heretic) having thought that the multitude would forget that he did not happen to be a disciple of Christ, but of Empedocles,862862    Hippolytus’ discussion respecting the heresy of Marcion is chiefly interesting from the light which it throws on the philosophy of Empedocles. who was far anterior to himself, framed and formed the same opinions,—namely, that there are two causes of the universe, discord and friendship. For what does Empedocles say respecting the plan of the world? Even though we have previously spoken (on this subject), yet even now also, for the purpose, at all events, of comparing the heresy of this plagiarist (with its source), we shall not be silent.

This (philosopher) affirms that all the elements out of which the world consists and derives its being, are six: two of them material, (viz.,) earth and water; and two of them instruments by which material objects are arranged and altered, (viz.,) fire and air; and two of them, by means of the instruments, operating upon matter and fashioning it, viz., discord and friendship. (Empedocles) expresses himself somehow thus:—

“The four roots of all things hear thou first:

Brilliant Jove, and life-giving Juno and Aidoneus,

And Nestis, who with tears bedews the mortal font.”863863    These are lines 55–57 in Karsten’s edition of a collection of the Empedoclean verses.

Jupiter is fire, and life-giving Juno earth, which produces fruits for the support of existence; and Aidoneus air, because although through him we behold all things, yet himself alone we do not see. But Nestis is water, for this is a sole vehicle of (food), and thus becomes a cause of sustenance to all those that are being nourished; (but) this of itself is not able to afford nutriment to those that are being nourished. For if it did possess the power of affording nutriment, animal life, he says, could never be destroyed by famine, inasmuch as water is always superabundant in the world. For this reason he denominates Nestis water, because, (though indirectly) being a cause of nutriment, it is not (of itself) competent to afford nutriment to those things that are being nourished. These, therefore—to delineate them as by way of outline—are the principles that comprise (Empedocles’) entire theory of the world: (viz.,) water and earth, out of which (proceed) generated entities; fire and spirit, (which are) instruments and efficient (causes), but discord and friendship, which are (principles) artistically fabricating (the universe). And friendship is a certain peace, and unanimity, and love, whose entire effort is, that there should be one finished and complete world.  Discord, however, invariably separates that one (world), and subdivides it, or makes many things out of one. Therefore discord is of the entire creation a cause which he styles “oulomenon,” that is, destructive.  For it is the concern of this (discord), that throughout every age the creation itself should continue to preserve its existing condition. And ruinous discord has been (thus) a fabricator and an efficient cause of the production of all generated entities; whereas friendship (is the cause) of the eduction, and alteration, and restoration of existing things into one system. And in regard of these (causes), Empedocles asserts that they are two immortal and unbegotten principles, and such as have not as yet received an originating cause of existence. (Empedocles) somewhere or other (expresses himself) in the following manner:—

“For if both once it was, and will be; never, I think,

Will be the age eternal void of both of these.”864864    These are lines 110, 111, in Stein’s edition of Empedocles.

(But) what are these (two)? Discord and Friendship; for they did not begin to come into being, but pre-existed and always will exist, because, from the fact of their being unbegotten, they are not able to undergo corruption. But fire, (and water,) and earth, and air, are (entities) that perish and revive. For when these generated (bodies), by reason of Discord, cease to exist, Friendship, laying hold on them, brings them forward, and attaches and associates them 111herself with the universe. (And this takes place) in order that the Universe may continue one, being always ordered by Friendship in a manner one and the same, and with (uninterrupted) uniformity.

When, however, Friendship makes unity out of plurality, and associates with unity separated entities, Discord, again, forcibly severs them from unity, and makes them many, that is, fire, water, earth, air, (as well as) the animals and plants produced from these, and whatever portions of the world we observe. And in regard of the form of the world, what sort it is, (as) arranged by Friendship, (Empedocles) expresses himself in the following terms:—

“For not from back two arms arise,

Not feet, not nimble knees, not genital groin,

But a globe it was, and equal to itself it is.”865865    Lines 360–362 (ed. Karst.).

An operation of this description Friendship maintains, and makes (one) most beautiful form of the world out of plurality. Discord, however, the cause of the arrangement of each of the parts (of the universe), forcibly severs and makes many things out of that one (form). And this is what Empedocles affirms respecting his own generation:—

“Of these I also am from God a wandering exile.”866866    Line 7 (Karsten), 381 (Stein).

That is, (Empedocles) denominates as God the unity and unification of that (one form) in which (the world) existed antecedent to the separation and production (introduced) by Discord among the majority of those things (that subsisted) in accordance with the disposition (effected) by Discord. For Empedocles affirms Discord to be a furious, and perturbed, and unstable Demiurge, (thus) denominating Discord the creator of the world. For this constitutes the condemnation and necessity of souls which Discord forcibly severs from unity, and (which it) fashions and operates upon, (according to Empedocles,) who expresses himself after some such mode as, the following:—

“Who perjury piles on sin,

While demons gain a life prolonged;”867867    Line 4 (Karsten), 372, 373 (Stein).

meaning by demons long-lived souls, because they are immortal, and live for lengthened ages:—

“For thrice ten thousand years banished from bliss;”868868    Line 5 (Karsten), 374 (Stein).

denominating as blissful, those that have been collected by Friendship from the majority of entities into the process of unification (arising out) of the intelligible world.  He asserts that those are exiles, and that

“In lapse of time all sorts of mortal men are born,

Changing the irksome ways of life.”869869    Line 6 (Karsten), 375, 376 (Stein).

He asserts the irksome ways to be the alterations and transfigurations of souls into (successive) bodies. This is what he says:—

“Changing the irksome ways of life.”

For souls “change,” body after body being altered, and punished by Discord, and not permitted to continue in the one (frame), but that the souls are involved in all descriptions of punishment by Discord being changed from body to body. He says:—

“Æthereal force to ocean drives the souls,

And ocean spurts them forth on earth’s expanse,

And earth on beams of blazing sun, who flings

(The souls) on æther’s depths, and each from each

(A spirit) takes, and all with hatred burn.”870870    Lines 16–19 (Karsten), 377–380(Stein).

This is the punishment which the Demiurge inflicts, just as some brazier moulding (a piece of) iron, and dipping it successively from fire into water. For fire is the æther whence the Demiurge transfers the souls into the sea; and land is the earth: whence he uses the words, from water into earth, and from earth into air. This is what (Empedocles) says:—

“And earth on beams

Of blazing sun, who flings (the souls)

On æther’s depths, and each from each

A (spirit) takes, and all with hatred burn.”

The souls, then, thus detested, and tormented, and punished in this world, are, according to Empedocles, collected by Friendship as being a certain good (power), and (one) that pities the groaning of these, and the disorderly and wicked device of furious Discord. And (likewise Friendship is) eager, and toils to lead forth little by little the souls from the world, and to domesticate them with unity, in order that all things, being conducted by herself, may attain unto unification. Therefore on account of such an arrangement on the part of destructive Discord of this divided world, Empedocles admonishes his disciples to abstain from all sorts of animal food. For he asserts that the bodies of animals are such as feed on the habitations of punished souls. And he teaches those who are hearers of such doctrines (as his), to refrain from intercourse with women. (And he issues this precept) in order that (his disciples) may not co-operate with and assist those works which Discord fabricates, always dissolving and forcibly severing the work of Friendship. Empedocles asserts that this is the greatest law of the management of the universe, expressing himself somehow thus:—

“There’s something swayed by Fate, the ancient,

Endless law of gods, and sealed by potent oaths.”871871    Lines 1, 2 (Karsten), 369, 370 (Stein).

He thus calls Fate the alteration from unity into plurality, according to Discord, and from plu112rality into unity, according to Friendship. And, as I stated, (Empedocles asserts) that there are four perishable gods, (viz.,) fire, water, earth, (and) air. (He maintains,) however, that there are two (gods) which are immortal, unbegotten, (and) continually hostile one to the other, (namely) Discord and Friendship. And (he asserts) that Discord always is guilty of injustice and covetousness, and forcible abduction of the things of Friendship, and of appropriation of them to itself. (He alleges,) however, that Friendship, inasmuch as it is always and invariably a certain good (power), and intent on union, recalls and brings towards (itself), and reduces to unity, the parts of the universe that have been forcibly severed, and tormented, and punished in the creation by the Demiurge. Some such system of philosophy as the foregoing is advanced for us by Empedocles concerning the generation of the world, and its destruction, and its constitution, as one consisting of what is good and bad. And he says that there is likewise a certain third power which is cognised by intellect, and that this can be understood from these, (viz., Discord and Friendship,) expressing himself somehow thus:—

“For if, ’neath hearts of oak, these truths you fix,

And view them kindly in meditations pure,

Each one of these, in lapse of time, will haunt you,

And many others, sprung of these, descend.

For into every habit these will grow, as Nature prompts;

But if for other things you sigh, which, countless, linger

Undisguised ’mid men, and blunt the edge of care,

As years roll on they’ll leave you fleetly,

Since they yearn to reach their own beloved race;

For know that all possess perception and a share of mind.”872872    The text of these verses, as given by Hippolytus, is obviously corrupt, and therefore obscure. Schneidewin has furnished an emended copy of them (Philol., vi. 166), which the translator has mostly adopted. (See Stein’s edition of the Empedoclean Verses, line 222 et seq.)

« Prev Marcion; His Dualism; Derives His System from… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection