On the Gods and The World

By Platonis Sallustius...

The Origin of Evil things; and That There is no Positive Evil

The Gods being good and making all things, how do evils exist in the world? Or perhaps it is better first to state the fact that; the Gods being good and making all things, that there is no positive evil. it only comes by the absence of good; just as darkness itself does not exist, but only comes about by the absence of light.

If Evil [positively] exists it must exist either in Gods, or minds, or souls or in bodies. It does not exist in any god, for all God is good. If any one speaks of a 'bad mind' he means a mind without Mind. If a bad soul, then he makes the Soul inferior to the body, for no body in [and of] itself, is evil. If he says that Evil is made up of soul and body together, then it is absurd that separately they should not be evil, but joined they should create evil. [[ Metaphysics isn't chemistry ]]

The Bad 'ol Debbil Suppose it is said that there are evil spirits:- if they have their power from the Gods then they cannot be evil; and if their Source is elsewhere, then the Gods do not make all things. If they do not make all things, then either they wish to and cannot, or they can and do not wish to; neither of which is consisant with the idea of God. We may see, therefore, that there is no positive evil in the World. [[ Therefore, the idea of a Bad Ol' Debbil - A Supernatural Cause of Evil, and the Bane of Xians everywhere, is a thought-form without positive existance ! ]]

It is in the activities of men that the evils appear, and then [it's] not [the condition] of all men, nor [is it] always. As to these: if all men sinned for the sake of evil, the Nature itself would be evil, However: If the adulterer thinks his adultery bad, but his pleasure good; the murderer thinks the murder bad, but the money he gets by it good; and the man who does evil to an enemy thinks that to do Evil is bad, but to punish an enemy good; and if the soul commits all its sins in that way, then the evils are done for the sake of goodness. (In the same way, because in a given place light does not exist, there comes darkness, which has no positive existance. The soul sins, therefore, because while aiming at the good, it makes mistakes about the Good, because it is not Primary Essence. We see many things done by the Gods to prevent it from making mistakes and to heal it when it has made them. Arts and Sciences, curses and prayers. sacrifices and initiations, laws and constitutions, judgements and punishments, all came into existence for the sake of preventing souls from sinning; and when they are gone forth from the body, then [the] gods and spirits cleanse them of their sins. [[ Sounds a lot like Xtianity, doesn't it? ;-> ]]

How things eternal are said to 'be made'

Concerning the Gods and the World and human things, this account will suffice for those of you who are not able to go throught the whole course of Philosophy, but yet have not souls beyond help.

It remains to explain how these objects were never made and are never separated one from another, since I've said above that the secondary substances were "made" by the first.

Everything made is made either be art or by a physical process or according to some power [in accordance with an indwelling virtue or quality]. Now in art or nature, the maker needs to exist prior to the made: but the maker, according to power, constitutes the made absolutely together with itself, since its power is inseparable from it; as the sun makes light, fire makes heat, and cold makes snow [etc].

Now, if the Gods make the world by Art, then they do not make it Be, they make it to be such that it is. For all art makes the form of the object. What therefore makes it to Be ?

If by a physical process, how in that case can the Maker help but give a part of himself to the made ? As the Gods are incorporeal, then the World ought to be incorporeal too. If it were argued that the Gods were bodies, then where would the power of incorporeal things come from ? If we were to admit it, then it would follow that when the World decays, its maker must be decaying too, if he is a Maker by physical process.

If the Gods make the world neither by Art nor physical process, then the only process left is they make it by Power. Everything so made subsists togther with that which possesses the power. Neither can things so made be destroyed, except the power of the maker be taken away. [[ For instance, energy is neither created nor destroyed, but it can be transformed ]]: so that Those who believe in the destruction of the world, either deny the existance of the Gods; or while admitting to the God's existance, deny God's power.

Therefore, he who makes all things by his own power makes all things subsist together with himself. since his power is the greatest power, he must be the maker not only of men and animals, but of Gods and spirits as well. As the further removed the First God is from our nature, then the more Powers there must be between us and Him [[/Her]]. For all things are very far apart and have many [[an infinite]] intermediate points between them.

XIV. In What Sense, though the Gods never Change,
they are said to be made Angry and Appeased

If anyone thinks the doctrine of the unchangeableness of the Gods is reasonable and true, and then wonders how it is that they rejoice in the good, reject the bad, are angry withsinners, and become propitious when appeased; the answer is asfollows: God does not rejoice - for that which rejoices also grieves; nor is he angered - for to be angered is a passion; nor is he appeased by gifts- for if he were, he would be conquered by pleasure.

It is impious to suppose that the Divine is affected for good or ill by human things. The Gods are always good and always do good and never harm, being always in the same state and like themselves. The truth simply is that when we are good we are joined to the Gods by our likeness to them; when bad, we are separated from them by our unlikeness. When we live according to virtue we cling to the Gods, and when we become evil we make the Gods our enemies - not because they are angered against us, but because our sins prevent the Light of the Gods from shining upon us and put us in communion with the spirits of punishment. If by prayer and sacrifice we find forgiveness of sin, we do not appease or change the Gods, but by what we do, and by turning [back] towards the Divine we heal our badness and so enjoy again the Goodness of the Gods. To say that God turns away from the evil is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind.

[[ The idea that Pagans accept the concept of sin is utterly shocking to Xtians ... and to most modern (Neo)Pagans ! ]]

XV. Why we give worship to the Gods when they need nothing.

This answers the question about sacrifices and other rites performed to the Gods. The Divine itself is without needs, and the worship is paid for our own benefit. The providence of the Gods reaches everywhere and needs only some congruity for its reception. All congruity comes about be representation and likeness; for which reason the temples are made in the representation of Heaven; the Altar, of Earth; the images, of life (that is why they are made like living things); the prayers, of the element of thought; the mystic letters, of the unspeakabLe celestial forces; the herbs and stones of matter; and the sacrifical animals of the irrational life in us.

From these things the Gods gain nothing; what gain could there be to God ? It is we who gain some by communion with them.

XVI. Concerning sacrifices and other worships,
that we benefit man by them, but not the Gods

I think it well to add some remarks abut sacrifices. In the first place, since we have received everything from the Gods, and it is right to pay the giver some tithe of his gifts, we pay such a tithe of possessions in votive offerings, of bodies in gifts of hair and adornment, and of life in sacrifices. Then secondly, prayers without sacrifices are only words, with sacrifices they are live words; the Word gives meaning to the life, while the life animates the word. Thirdly, the happiness of every object is its own perfection; and perfection for each is communion with its own cause. For this reason we pray for communion with the Gods, Since, therefore, the first life is the life of the Gods, but human life is also life of a kind, and human life wishes for communion with divine life, therefore a mean term is needed. For things very far apart cannot have communion without a mean term, and the mean term must be like the things joined; therefore the mean term beween Life and life must be life. That is why men sacrifice animals; only the rich do so now, but in the old days everybody did, and that not indiscriminately, but giving the suitable offering to each god together with a great deal of other worship. Enough of this subject !


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