On the Gods and The World

By Platonis Sallustius...


XVII. That the World is by nature Eternal

We have shown above that the Gods will not destroy the world. It remains to show that its nature is indestructable.

Everything that is destroyed is either destroyed by itself or by something else. If the world is destroyed by itself, then fire must needs burn itself, and water dry itself. If destroyed by something else, it must be either by a body or by something incorporeal; which is impossible, for incorporeal things preserve bodies - for instance, nature and soul - nothing is destroyed by a cause whose nature it is to preserve them. If it is destroyed by some body, then it must be either by those which exist or by others.

If by those which exist: then either those moving in a straight line must be destroyed by those that revolve, or vice versa. By those that revolve [orbit] have no destructive nature; else why do we never see anything destroyed from that cause ? Nor can those which are moving straight touch the others; else why have they not been able to to so yet ?

Neither can those that move straight be destroyed by one another: for the destruction of one is the creation of another; and that is not to be destroyed, but to change.

If the World is to be destroyed by other bodies than these, then it is impossible to say where such bodies are, or whence they are to arise. [[the Universe isn't this neat and tidy..]]

Again, everything destroyed is destroyed either in form or matter. (Form is the shape of a thing, and matter is the body.) Now, if the form is destroyed and the matter remains, we see other things come into being. If matter is destroyed, how is it that the supply has not failed in all these years. [[ Matter can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can be converted to energy. ]]

If when matter is destroyed and other matter takes its place, then new matter must come either from something that is, or from something that is not.If from that which is, as long as that which is always remains. But if that which is is destroyed, then such a theory means that not the only the World, but everything in the Universe is destroyed. [[ This was a fear some scientists had about the A-Bomb: If it destroyed matter, would the chain reaction end? It doesn't (end)]]

If matter comes from that which is not: in the first place, it is impossible for anything to come from that which is not[nothing]; but suppose it to happen ~ matter arose from that which is not; therefore, as long as there are things which are not then, matter will always exist. For it I presume that there can never be an end to things which are not. [[which doesn't exist :-> ]]

If they say that that matter will become formless: in the first place, why does this happen to the world as a whole, when it does not happen to any part ? Secondly, by this hypothesis they don't destroy the being of bodies, but only their beauty.

Further, everything destroyed is either resolved into the elements from which it came, or else vanishes into not-being. If things are resolved into the elements from which they came, then there will be others; else how did they come into being at all? If that which is is to depart into not-being, then what prevents that happening to God himself ? (Which is absurd) Or if God's power prevents that, it is not a mark of power to be able to save nothing but oneself. It is equally impossible for that which is to come out of nothing and to depart into nothing.

If the World is destroyed, it must needs either be destroyed according to Nature, or against Nature, and the latter is impossible; for that which is against Nature cannot be stronger than Nature. If according to Nature, then there must then be another Nature which changes the first Nature of the World, which does not appear.

Anything that is naturally destructible we can ourselves destroy. But, no one has ever changed or destroyed the round body of the World. The elements, though they can be changed, cannot be destroyed. Yet, everything destructible is changed by time and grows old, but the world through all these years has remained utterly unchanged [[ in the aggregate ]].

Having said so much for the help of those who feel the need of very strong demonstrations, I pray the World himself to be gracious to me.

XVIII. Why there are rejections of God, and that God is not injured.

Nor need the fact that rejections of God have taken place in certain parts of the earth, and will often take place hereafter, disturb the mind of the wise: both because these things do not affect the Gods, just as we saw that worship did not benefit them; and because the soul, being of middle essence, cannot be always right; and because the whole world cannot enjoy the providence of the Gods equally, but some parts may partake of it eternally, some at certain times, some in the primal manner, and some in the secondary. Just as the head enjoys all the senses, but the rest of the body only one.

For this reason, it seems, those who ordained Festivals, also ordained Forbidden days, in which some temples lay idle, some were shut, some had their adornment removed, in expiation of the weakness of our nature.

It is not unlikely, too, that the rejection of God is a kind of punishment: we may well believe that those who knew the gods and neglected them in one life, may in another life be deprived of the knowledge of Them altogether; also those who have worshipped their own kings as gods have deserved as their punishment to lose all knowledge of God.

XIX. Why sinners are not punished at once

There is no need to be surprised if neither these sins or yet others bring immediate punishment upon sinners. For it is not only Spirits who punish the soul, but the Soul Brings itself to judgement: and also, there is need of human virtue. If punishment followed instantly upon sin, then men would act justly from fear, and have no virtue.

Souls are punished when they have gone forth from the body, some wandering among us, some going to the hot or cold places of the earth, some harassed by Spirits. Under all circumstances they suffer with the irrational part of their nature, with which they also sinned. For its sake, [that it may continue to exist and satisfy justice] there exists a shadowy body which is seen about graves, especially the graves of those who led evil lives.

XX. On Transmigration of Souls, and how souls are said to migrate into brute beasts

If the transmigration of a soul takes place into a Rational being, it simply becomes the soul of that body. However, if a soul migrates into a brute beast, then it follows the body outside, as a guardian spirit [angel] follows a man. For instance, there could never be a rational soul in an [[totally]] irrational being.

The transmigration of souls can be proved from the congenital afflictions of persons. For, why are some born blind, others paralytic, and other with some sickness in the soul itself ? Again, this is the natural duty of Souls to do their work in the body; are we to suppose that when once they leave the body the spend all Eternity in idleness ??

Again, if the souls did not again enter into bodies, then they must either be infinite in number, or God must constantly be making new ones. But, there is nothing infinite in the world; for in a finite whole there cannot be an infinite part. Neither can others be made; for everything in which something new goes on being created must be imperfect. And the World, being made by a perfect author, ought naturally to be perfect. [[ The argument for reincarnation is a classic one. Remember, in Neo-Platonism, the Soul is Eternal, and continual creation of Eternal things would badly crowd our space ]]

XXI. That the Good are happy, both living and dead.

Souls that have lived in Virtue are in general happy, and when separated from the irrational part of their nature, and made clean from all matter, have communion with the Gods, and join them in the governing of the whole World. Yet, even if none of this happiness fell to their lot, then virtue itself, and the joy and glory of Virture, and the life that is subject to no grief and no Master are enough to make happy those who have set themselves to live according to Virture and have achieved it. {{FINIS}}


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