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The makers of Hellas: a critical inquiry into the philosophy and religion of ancient Greece online

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To sum up. — In the first proof, Plato reasons from the circle of life. In
the second, from the Divine intuitions of the soul, its power to "recollect," i.e.
perceive, the Divine. In the third he infers from the nature of the soul, that
it is a simple non-composite, invisible essence, able to hold communion with
the immortal, to rule the mortal and hence akin to the Divine. In the fourth
he proves that to whatever it comes it is the bearer of life, and hence that it
cannot admit or receive its opposite death.

To this grand chain must now be added the argument from the Pha^drus
(245 0. et seq.) of the soul as the self -moving — an argument re-stated again in
the Laus (x. 894 0. et seq.).

The Soul Immortal because Self-moving".— The whole soul, says

Plato, is immortal, for that which is ever in motion is immortal, but that
which moves another, and is moved by another, in ceasing to move, ceases to
live. Only that which is self-moving — in that it does not forsake itself —
never ceases to move, and is also the fountain and beginning of motion to all
other things that move.

Now the beginning is unbegotten, for all that is must of necessity be
begotten from a beginning ; but the beginning itself is begotten of nothing,
for if it were begotten of anything, it would not be a beginning.

And since it is unbegotten, it is of necessity imperishable. For if the
beginning were destroyed, it could neither itself ever be begotten of anything,
nor anything else of it, for all things must come from the beginning.

Therefore, the beginning of motion is the self -moving, and this can neither
be destroyed nor begotten, otherwise all heaven and the whole creation must
collapse and stand still, and never again have motion or birth.

And if the immortality of the self -moving is proved, no one who maintains
that self-motion is the very essence of the soul need be ashamed. For every
body moved from without is soul-less (a-psychon), but that which is moved
from within, of itself, is in-dwelt of sou] {em-psychon) — and such is the nature
of the soul. And if this be true — that nothing is self-moving except the soul —
then, of necessity, must not the soul be unbegotten and undying ? Touching
immortality itself, he concludes, this suffices.

May we not look upon the whole argument of the Hellene as a most noble
commentary on the declaration of the Hebrew, that the Lord God breathed
into man the breath of life, and man became a living soul — immortal, im-
perishable, self-moving, self-determining, able to hold communion with the
Divine, because itself an emanation from the Divine source of life — of
movement, mind, power?

Practical Conclusions. — His philosophical reasoning Plato follows up
with the intensely practical conclusion : If these things are so, what manner of
men ought we to be? {PJisedo, 107 B., 0.). If the soul is indeed immortal, it
is not for the present time which we call ''life" alone that care should be
taken, but for the whole, ^ and the danger which a man runs by neglecting this
appears to be awful. For if death were a release from everything, then the
wicked would be gainers by it, for when they die they would be freed not only
^ Cf. the passage from the Republic, p. 580,



DEATH AND IMMORTALITY 609

from the body, but, with the soul, from their own wickedness. But now, since
it is clear that the soul is immortal, since it is clear (as he says in the Republic,
610 E.) that the soul cannot be destroyed either by evil in itself or evil coming
upon it from without — then it is equally clear that there can be no other way
of escape or salvation from evil except by becoming as good and wise as pos-
sible. For the soul arrives in the other world possessed of nothing but her
education and nurture, and these, he says, may bring to the departed at the
beginning of its new career the greatest benefit or the reverse.

The World- Order. — It is the thought that the man takes his character
with him — that as he is, — that as he has made himself so he will arrive in the
other world— which gives such grandeur to the philosophy of Plato. He is
pleading earnestly for certain convictions and a certain course of conduct, be-
cause they have reference not to this little span of life, but to the great whole
which we call eternity. And thinking of this life in its relation to eternity,
he looks on and contemplates that magnificent world-order of which every soul,
however insignificant, necessarily forms part, since it is immortal. It cannot
be stamped out of existence, but must have its connection with the world-
order, so that on its conformity or nonconformity to that will depend the
great liereafter.

" This is the aim for which we should live," he says in the Gorgias (507 D.
et seq.). " To this we should direct all our striving, both our own and that of
the state — so to act that righteousness and wisdom may be with us, and bring us
to happiness — not leading the lives of pirates, giving the rein to passion, and
endeavouring to serve it — an endless, aimless misery. For one who lives thus is
loved neither by God nor man — with such an one it is impossible to have inter-
course or friendship. For wise men say that heaven and earth and gods and
men are bound together by mutual intercourse (/i'oz?20wm = fellowship, com-
munion) and by friendship, and good order and wisdom, and justice ; and the
great whole, by reason of this, they call the Kosmos, the World-Order — not
disorder or licence. Hence he whose soul is undisciplined is shut out, by this
very fact, from communion with God.

The Judgement. — Inseparably connected with the world-order is the idea
of a future judgment, or sifting, when the good will be openly recognised and
take their place as a natural and necessary part of the world-harmony — when
also the evil will be unveiled, and either submitted to the purification which
will rid them of all that is alien to that harmony, or if they be past remedy —
rejected altogether.

This judgment, this sifting is simply the working out of that great natural
law set forth by Plato as we have seen at the beginning of his argument in the
Phaedo : —

" It can never be in accordance with Divine law," he says, " that the im-
pure should reach or touch the pure."

The pure cannot receive its opposite.

The sifting, purifying process is therefore necessary. The judgment is a
great natural law. With its awfulness Plato is profoundly impressed. In the
Laws (959), he deprecates any immoderate or ostentatious display at the burial
of the dead, and the reason which he gives is one that we ourselves may well
ponder. The soul of the deceased, he says, has gone to i-eceive judgment ; it has
gone to fulfil its destiny. Of what avail, he seems to imply, are all our earthly
honours, when we know not whether the soul, stripped of its earthly trappings,
is honourable or dishonourable in the sight of the Judge ? This thought he
works out in that one of his " myths " of the future life, which speaks most
directly to us — the picture of the judgment in the Gorgias.

2 Q



6io PLATO— THE IDEA OF GOD

Plato gives throughout his works several striking pictures of the other
world — in the Meno, the Phmdo, the Republic, we have brilliant and glowing
attempts to describe that which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, but like all
such attempts they fail, and for obvious reasons. Neither the poetry nor the
ingenious reasoning which pervade them can save these descriptions from fall-
ing into the category of the mythical. It is otherwise with the most " true
myth " of the Gorgias. Based on one of the deepest truths of human nature,
the conception is so profoundly significant that the word "mythos" seems
utterly out of place in regard to it, and this Plato himself appears to have felt,
for he prefaces it by saying that he is going to relate what his listeners would
probably call a " myth," but what he himself would call true, " for," he says,
" what I am about to tell you, I mean as true " {Gorgias, 523). This " true "
myth, then, relates to the judgment passed upon the soul after death.

" No one," says Plato {Gorgias, 522 E.), " who is not unreasonable and un-
manly fears death itself. He fears unrighteousness ; since of all evils the worst
is for the soul to arrive in Hades laden with iniquity." Why ? The " myth "
shall show.

Both in the time of Kronus (the Golden Age) and now, he continues, if a
man has lived justly and piously he passes at once to the isles of the blessed,
where he lives in happiness and free from evils ; but if he has lived unjustly
and without God, he goes to the prison house of punishment — Tartarus. For-
merly this judgment was held by the living on the living — that is, each man
was judged while yet in the body, on the day appointed for him to die. And
so it fell out that the sentences passed were not always just. Plutus, the ruler
of Tartarus, and those who had the oversight of the isles of the blest, both
complained to Zeus that the wrong souls were sent to them. Zeus declared
the cause of this to be, that the souls were judged while yet clad upon by the
flesh. " Those," said he, "who had evil souls were clothed in beautiful bodies,
of good birth, and wealthy, and when sentence was given many witnesses came
forward to testify that they had lived good lives. The judges, therefore, were
confused — and the more so, inasmuch as they themselves were also covered, for
before their own soul hung, like a curtain, eyes, ears, and body."

So Zeus resolved that all this must be altered — the souls of men should
henceforth be judged after death, and the judges themselves should be of those
who had also passed out of the body — his own sons, ^acus, Rhadamanthys,
and Minos. Judges and judged must alike be unclothed ; soul must behold
soul, bereft of its kinsfolk, and leaving behind it all its earthly embellish-
ments, in order that the judgment might be just.

"This is what I have heard and believe to be true," says Plato, " and from
it I deduce the following : Death — so it seems to me — is nothing but the
separation of two things, the body and the soul, from one another. When
they are sundered, each of them will show itself pretty well as it was while the
man lived, the body its nature, and the visible marks both of the care bestowed
and the impressions made upon it. Thus, for instance, if a man while alive had
a large body — either by nature, or by abundance of food, or both — his corpse
is large after death, and stout, if he were stout during life, and so on. And if
he had cultivated long hair, the corpse also has long hair. And again, if he
had been a rogue, and bore traces of ugly blows on his body from the scourge,
or other wounds, these after death are still to be seen. And if during life his
limbs had been broken or distorted, this also would be manifest after death.
In a word, in whatever condition the body was while alive, so will it be, either
wholly or for the most part, for some time after death."

The Unveiling" of the Soul. — And certainly the same seems to me to be



DEATH AND IMMORTALITY 6ii

the case with the soul. Everything is visible on the soul when she is stripped
bare of the body — both her natural quality and the impressions made on her
by the pursuits of the man during his life. When the souls arrive before the
judge ... he causes them to pass before him and beholds each one, without
knowing whose it is. Sometimes he chances upon that of the great king or of
some other king or ruler and perceives that there is nothing sound in it, but
that the soul is severely scourged and covered with wounds caused by the false
oaths and injustice which during life the man had stamped upon it — and all
crooked, through lies and false pretensions, and in no way straight, because it
had grown up without truth — and all misshapen and deformed, by reason of
unbridled luxury and insolence and want of self-control in its doings. Seeing
all this, he sends it in shame and disgrace straightway to the prison, where it
is to undergo the punishment meet for it.

The Efficacy of Punishment. — There comes to every one, however, who
suffers a punishment justly laid upon him by another, one of two things —
either he becomes better and profits by it, or he serves as an example to others,
that they, seeing what he suffers, may fear and become better. There are
some who derive benefit from the enduring of a penalty laid on them by gods
and men — those who have committed faults which are curable ; nevertheless,
this benefit accrues to them through pains and suffering, here as well as in
Hades, for in no other way can they be freed from their unrighteousness.

But again, there are those who are unjust in the last degree, and through
these unjust acts have become incurable — these become the warning examples.
They themselves can never be benefited, seeing that they are incurable ; but
they are of use to others who see them enduring for all time, on account of
their sins, the greatest and most grievous and fearful suffering, simply placed
as examples in the prison house of Hades, to be a spectacle and a warning to
the unrighteous who shall henceforth arrive there. . . .

Thus the judge, knowing nothing about the particular soul under inspec-
tion, neither whose it is nor of what descent, seeing only that it is bad, sends
it to Tartarus, first having made a mark upon it as to whether it is curable or
incurable.

The Beautiful Soul. — But sometimes he sees a soul that had lived piously
and had followed after truth — that of a mere private citizen or some other, but
specially, I maintain, of a philosopher, a lover of wisdom, who had looked to
himself and not meddled with the affairs and intrigues of men — this soul he
admires and sends it to the isles of the blessed.

Conclusion. — " So I," concludes the Platonic Socrates, in whose mouth,
most fittingly, the myth is placed, " being convinced of these things, look to
this — how I may show the judge my soul in the soundest possible condition.
Therefore, renouncing the honours which most men seek after, and directing
my eyes towards the truth, I will endeavour to live, in reality, as nobly as I
can, and when death comes, so to die. And I exhort all other men, so far as
I can, to enter upon this life and this contest, ^ which I hold to be far before
any other contest upon earth."

How I may show the judge my soul in the soundest possible condition. — Have
we not here again an anticipation of St. Paul (2 Cor. v. 9-10): "Wherefore
we labour " ( philotimoumetha = strive eagerly), says the apostle, " that, whether
in the body or out of the body, we may be well-pleasing to Him. For we must
all appear before the Judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive
the things done in his body, according to that he hath done {epraxen =
practised), whether it be good or bad."

1 Ago7va — 2in allusion to the games.



6i2 PLATO— THE IDEA OF GOD

Plato, too, like St. Paul {ibid. v. ii), knowing this "terror" of the Lord,
sought to persuade men. " I exhort all men to enter upon this contest," he
says, " so to live, that when their souls shall be unclothed and appear in all
their nakedness, there may be seen in them no crookedness or distortion, no
blemish or scar, no ' spot or wrinkle or any such thing,' but that each soul may
be presented to the judge shining gloriously in its own proper jewels — those
jewels which he enumerates in the Phsedo (1J4 E.)— the jewels of wisdom and
righteousness, of manliness, of freedom, and of truth."

Jesus Christ alone has demonstrated the truth of that concerning which
Plato was most fully persuaded. To Him alone the bourne whence no other
traveller has ever returned set no bounds. He has the keys of Death and
Hades. He alone has brought life and immortality to light. Yet it is not too
much to say — for the passages quoted have proved it — that Plato, with no
actual proof before him, believed in the certainty of a future life with the
most absolute and intense conviction, with an enthusiasm which puts to the
blush the apathy of professing Christians ! He will not even allow mourning
for the dead. Death is not a thing to be mourned over or feared ; it is the
very consummation of all that a true lover of wisdom desires — the moment for
which he longs, when he shall have thrown off this mortal body and escaped
like a prisoner from the prison-house to be — with God. This is Plato's view
of death.

THE IDEAL RULER

It is, however, when we turn to Plato that we find the fullest repre-
sentation of the ideal ruler — the ruler as he ought to be — in the ideal state.
And in the first place let us note, that although Plato's ideal is a republic, in
which all are brethren, yet that there are to be rulers in the strict sense of the
word, rulers armed with authority. Yet these I'ulers are not to be kings —
they are to have the milder title of guardiaris (phy lakes). And although Christ
never repudiated the title of king — King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is
expressly said to be — yet His relation to His subjects is something very
different. "I have called you friends," He says, and as above, "I am the
Good Shepherd," " I lay down my life for the sheep," so that Plato's chosen
title of guardian applies just as well to Christ as does Homer's favourite de-
scription — shepherd. He not only leads but guards — i.e. defends the sheep.

What, then, in Plato's estimation, are the qualities of the guardian — the
ruler of the people kalokagathos, truly noble and good ? If we turn to the
Second Book of the Republic, we shall find there a description of the quali-
ties essential in those who are to be selected for the office. They are as
follows : —

The ideal guardian of the state must possess two opposite sets of qualities
— two temperaments by nature opposed — those of the defender and the legis-
lator, counsellor, or ruler proper.^ The last named he sums up in the philo-
sopher, or lover of wisdom — no peace can there be for the world until the
philosopher bears rule {Rep., v. 473 C).

Will such a ruler or such a state ever be found ? Not at present on
earth — but one such ruler and one such state is quite enough, he says {ibid.
502 A., B.).

I. The guardian must be quick to see the enemy, and swift to pursue him,
when seen — consequently, he must be courageous — must possess that certain

1 One cannot but think that Plato is summing up and idealising the two opposite race-
characteristics of the greatest peoples of Greece — lonians and Dorians.



THE IDEAL RULER 613

8omething which will make him absolutely fearless and unconquerable. In a
word, he must be manly (andreios).

2. Then, secondly, he must be high-spirited; nay, even passionate {thy-
moeides) (capable of a hot outburst on occasion, either of indignation or of zeal —
for without this mental quality, mere bodily courage will not avail much).

3. But these high-spirited courageous people are apt to be fierce — {ayrioi —
savage) — with one another, and the other citizens. We must, therefore, have
a third quality, and that is gentleness. It is absolutely indispensable that our
guardian shall not only be high-spirited but gentle (j)raos), a word one of whose
significations, " tamed," is significant enough.

4. For our fourth quality, we have an illustration or type, which is homely
indeed. Nevertheless if we are to follow Plato we must not pick and choose,
but give his notions truthfully as we find them. If our guardian is to be high-
spirited and yet gentle— on the defensive against the foe, mild towards friends
— he must have the power of discernment, of knowing who are his friends
and who are not. Here Plato's illustration is the faithful guardian of the
house, the watch-dog, at once the most high-spirited and the gentlest of the
animals — who is on guard and fierce towards strangers, simply because he
does not know them, and gentle towards those of the household because he does
know th^m. This characteristic of the dog (as watcher of the house) Plato
regards as most noteworthy, and it must be found also in the faithful watcher
of the city. He must be able to distinguish between friend and foe.

5. Then, finally, Plato adds to the foregoing characteristics one which, in
his opinion, represents the sum of human virtues — the true guardian, he says,
must be a " philosopher." We shall inquire presently what Plato meant in
very truth by this term " philosopher " — so dear to him. Meanwhile, let us
hear his conclusion as to the qualities necessary in the ruler : —

" He who would be a good and noble guardian of the city " (the true
kalokagathos), must, he says, "be by nature a philosopher — a lover of wisdom,
and knowledge, and gentle — as well as high-spirited, swift, and strong."

1. Manliness. — [This paragraph is wanting in the MS. — Ed.]

2. High-spirited. — Was Jesus Christ "high-spirited"? Can we with truth
apply such an epithet to Him ? Can we venture to say of the Man of Sorrows
that He was a "Man of Spirit"? Yea, verily, why not? Was He then in-
capable of a sudden flash of anger or of generous indignation ? If so, He was
incapable of acting in reality as Guardian either of the truth or of the interests
of others, for as Plato himself tells us farther on (Rep. iv. 441), " spirit is the
auxiliary of reason." Reason by itself is necessarily cold and slow in action —
it needs the glow and impetus of spirit to quicken it into warmth and zeal.
In fact, is it not true that the nobler the nature, the more "high-spirited" it
is ? Wherefore, let us ask : Did He who in all things was made like unto His
brethren — yet without sin — possess His share of spirit ? Let His biographers
testify. Hear what they note concerning Him before His healing of the man
with the withered arm on the Sabbath day — " He looked round on them ivith
anger, being grieved at the hardness of their hearts" — the momentary flash
revealed His Divine scorn of their narrow-mindedness which was as visible to
the bystanders as is the lightning that flashes out from an apparently serene
sky. Or again, hear His own words, chronicled for our learning. Do they not
breathe the very concentration of passion : " Scribes and Pharisees, whited
sepulchres — hypocrites — ye generation of vipers — ye that devour widows'
houses and for a pretence make long prayers — how can ye escape the dam-
nation of hell ? " Ask those who listened to Jesus Christ whether He was
wanting either in the capacity for indignation or in passionate devotion to a



6 14 PLATO— THE IDEA OF GOD

cause? Of whom are the simple words recorded : " And His disciples remem-
bered that it was written : 'The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up.' " And
the occasion of the " remembrance " — when the Peasant of Galilee, armed
indeed with the scourge of small cords which He had made for Himself, but
armed still more with the fire of a righteous indignation burning in His eyes,
overturned the tables of the money-changers, and drove out the traffickers from
the courts of the temple of God. Hear again His own words : " It is written,
My house shall be called the House of Prayer, but ye have made it a den of
thieves."

Does not the "high spirit" of Jesus Christ differ from the same quality
in ourselves merely in the occasions on which it was manifested ? JVe keep our
high spirit in reserve to defend ourselves and our rights — He kept His in re-
serve to defend the cause of truth and justice — to protect the unfortunate, the
weak, and those who had no helper.

3. Gentleness. — Ah ! Here is a characteristic which by a wondrous intuition
Plato has guessed at as necessary in the Ruler. Guessed at, we repeat, for is
not the whole spirit of the rule of antiquity built up on the opposite quality —
on sternness?

Few, indeed, are the instances on record in which a ruler could afford to
lay aside, even for a day, the emblems of authority — the sceptre and the scourge
— and exchange them for the olive-branch. " The kings of the Gentiles exer-
cise authority upon them, and they who do so are called benefactors," says
Jesus Christ to His disciples, " but it shall not be so among you." Why not?
" For I, your Master^ am among you as He that serveth." And, in fact, so
completely does this aspect of the character of Jesus Christ, His ^^raotTites, His
gentleness and meekness. His beneficence, fill our minds, that it has almost
overshadowed and eclipsed the other — the sterner and regal side. And yet it
is undoubtedly the combination of the two in perfect balance that made His



Online LibraryE. E G.The makers of Hellas: a critical inquiry into the philosophy and religion of ancient Greece → online text (page 97 of 112)