On the Gods and the World

By Platonis Sallustius...

I. What the Disciple should be; and concerning Common Conceptions.

Those who wish to hear about the Gods should have been well guided from childhood, and not habituated to foolish beliefs. The should also have good and sensible dispositions, that they may properly attend to the teaching.

They ought also to know the Common Conceptions, which are those to which all men agree to as soon as they are asked. For instance: That all God is good, free from passion and change; for whatever suffers from change does so for the worse or the better: if for the worse, it is made bad; if for the better, it must have been bad at first.

II. That God is Unchanging, Unbegotten,
Eternal, Incorporeal, and not in space.

Let the disciple be thus, and let the teachings be of the following sort. The essences of the Gods came into existence (for that which always is never comes into existance; and that which exists forever possesses Primary Force, and by nature suffers nothing.): neither do they consist of bodies; for even in bodies the powers are incorporeal. Neither are they contained in space; for that is a property of bodies. Neither are they separate from the First Cause nor from one another, just as thoughts are not separate from Mind nor acts of knowledge from the Soul.

III. Concerning Myths; That they are Divine and Why.

We may well inquire then, why the ancients forsook these doctrines and made use of myths. The first benefit from myths is that we have to search and do not have our minds idle.

That the Myths are divine can be seen from those who have used them. Myths have been used by inspired poets, by the best of Philosophers, by those who established the Mysteries, and by the Gods Themselves in oracles. But why the Myths are divine is the duty of Philosophy to inquire. Since all existing things rejoice in that which is like them and reject that which is unlike, the stories about the Gods ought to be like the Gods, so that they both may be worthy of the divine essence and make the Gods well disposed of those who speak of them: which could only be done by the means of Myths.

Now the Myths represent the Gods Themselves and the goodness of the Gods - subject always to the distinction between the Speakable and the Unspeakable [the Unutterable], the Revealed and the Unrevealed, the clearly seen and the hidden. Since, just as the Gods have made the goods of sense common to all, but those of intellect only to the wise, so the Myths state the existance of Gods to all, but who and what they are only to Those who can understand.

They also represent the activities of the Gods. for one may call the World a Myth, in which bodies and things are visible, but souls and minds hidden. Besides, to wish to teach the whole truth about the Gods to all produces contempt in the foolish, because they cannot understand, and have a lack of zeal in the Good; whereas to conceal the Truth by myths prevents the contempt of fools, and compels the good to practice philosophy. [[Sallustius didn't get this quite right. We simply have more experience with Fools than he had. Fools show contempt for wisdom, hidden or not, while showing a great deal of zeal their ignorance.]]

But, why have they put into the Myths stories of adultery, robbery, father-binding, and all the other absurdities ? Isn't that perhaps a thing worthy of admiration, done so that by means of the visible absurdities the Soul may immediately feel that the Words are veils [to a Higher Truth] and believe the the Truth to be a Mystery?

IV. There are Five Species of Myth.

Myths are:
  • Theological
  • Physical
  • Psychic
  • material
  • some mixed
  • The Theological are those myths which use no bodily form but contemplate the very essences of the Gods: e.g. Kronos swallowing his children. Since god is intellectual, and all intellect returns to itself, this myth expresses in allegory the essence of God.

    Myths may be regarded physically when they expess the activities of the Gods in the World [Cosmos]. e.g.: people before now have regarded Kronos as Time, and callng the divisions of Time his sons say that the sons are swallowed by the father. [[Note: "Now" is circa 350 CE. Ed.]]

    The psychic way is to regard the activities of the soul itself: the Soul's acts of thought, though they pass on to other objects, neverthless remain inside their begetters. The material and last is that which the Egyptians have mostly used, owing to their ignorance; believing material objects actually to be Gods, and so calling them: e.g. They call the Earth Isis, moisture Osirus, heat Typhon, or again, water Kronos, the fruits of the Earth Adonis, and wine Dionysus.

    To say that these objects are sacred to the Gods, like various herbs and stones and animals, is possible to sensible men, but to say that they are gods is the notions of madmen -- except, perhaps in the sense in which both the orb of the sun and the ray which comes from it are colloquially called "the Sun".

    [[ The Egyptians believed that the Sun (Osirus)is both the god, the corn which comes from him, and the real ball of gas and its rays - metaphors. The NP and Xian view says that both Sun and its rays are effects and symbols of the True Spiritual Sun (Son) which lies behind or above it. SS]]

    The mixed kind of myth may be seen in many instances: .e.g. They say that in a banquet of the Gods, Discord[ia] threw down the Golden Apple [Keristas]; the goddesses contended for it and were sent by Zeus to Paris to be judged; Paris saw Aphrodite to be [the most] beautiful and gave her the apple. Here the banquet signifies the hypercosmic powers of the Gods; that is why they are all together. the Golden Apple is the World [Cosmos], which being formed out of opposites, is naturally said to be 'thrown by Discord[ia]'. The different Gods bestow different gifts upon the World and are thus said to contend for the Apple; and the Soul, which lives according to Sense (for that is what Paris is) seeing only beauty, and not the other Powers in the World, declares that the apple belongs to Aphrodite.

    Theological Myths suit philosophers; physical and psychic myths, poets; and the mixed myths, religious initiations, since every initiation aims at uniting us with the Worlds and the Gods.

    To take another myth, they say that the Mother of the Gods seeing Attis laying by the river Gallus fell in love with him, took him, and crowned him with her cap of stars, and thereafter kept him with her. He fell in love with a Nymph and left the Mother to live with her. For this, the Mother of the gods made Attis go mad and cut off his genital organs and leave them with the Nymph, and then return and dwell with Her.

    Now the Mother of the Gods is the principle that generates life; that is why she is called Mother. Attis is the creator of all things which are born and die; that is why he is said to have been found by the river Gallus. For Gallus signifies the Galaxy, or Milky Way, the point at which body subject to passion begins. Now, as the Primary Gods make perfect the secondary, the Mother love Attis and gives him celestial powers. That is what the cap means. Attis loves a nymph: the nymphs preside over generation, since all that is generated is 'fluid'. But, since the process of generation must be stopped somewhere, and not allowed to generate something worse that 'the worst', the Creator who makes these things casts away his generative powers into the Creation and is joined to the Gods again. Now, these things never happened, but always are. Mind sees all things at once, by Reason (or Speech) expresses some first and others after. Thus, as the myth is in accord with the Cosmos, we for that reason keep a festival imitating the Cosmos, for how [else] could we attain [the] Higher Order ?

    At first we find ourselves, having fallen from Heaven and living with the Nymph, are in despondency, and abstain from corn and all rich and unclean food, for both are hostile to the soul. Then comes the cutting of the tree and the fast as though we also are cutting off the further process[es] of generation. After that the feeding on milk, as though we were being born again; after which come rejoicings and garlands and, as it were, a Return up to the Gods.

    The season of the ritual is evidence to the truth of these explanations. the rites are performed abut the Vernal Equinox, when the fruits of the earth are ceasing to be produced, and the day is becoming longer that night, which applies well to Spirits rising higher. (At least, the other Equinox is in mythology, the time of the Rape of Kore, which is the descent of the souls.)

    May these explanations of the Myths find favor in the eyes of the Gods Themselves, and the souls of those who wrote the Myths.


    Section 2

    To The 'Rap