Ancient Greek Philosophy; as relevant today as it was centuries past

During the early period of the Greek empire Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 – 475 BCE) made significant contributions to emerging philosophical thought. Although his predecessors focused on the unchanging nature of the universe (the essence of matter) Heraclitus brought to light its ever changing aspect.

Heraclitus believed that change was a fundamental part to the universe. He had said, “You cannot step into the same river twice, for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you.” And no doubt some of his views were born from his early childhood realization that he to would die one day, “in sixty years or less.”

To Heraclitus the universe was in constant motion, as in “The Music of the Spheres.” He was a naturalist and believed that all things were administrated via logic. In another time and place he could have easily been labeled a teacher of Taoist beliefs (re: creation & destruction).

Heraclitus of Ephesus

I hope that you will enjoy the following translation (by I. Bywater) of some of his thoughts and ideas…

It is wise to hearken, not to me, but to my Word, and to confess that all things are one.

Though this Word is true evermore, yet men are as unable to understand it when they hear it for the first time as before they have heard it at all. For, though all things come to pass in accordance with this Word, men seem as if they had no experience of them, when they make trial of words and deeds such as I set forth, dividing each thing according to its kind and showing how it truly is. But other men know not what they are doing when awake, even as they forget what they do in sleep.

Fools when they do hear are like the deaf: of them does the saying bear witness that they are absent when present.

Eyes and ears are bad witnesses to men if they have souls that understand not their language.

The many do not take heed of such things as those they meet with, nor do they mark them when they are taught, though they think they do.

Knowing not how to listen nor how to speak.

If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it; for it is hard to be sought out and difficult.

Those who seek for gold dig up much earth and find a little.

Nature loves to hide.

The lord whose is the oracle at Delphoi neither utters nor hides his meaning, but shows it by a sign.

The things that can be seen, heard, and learned are what I prize the most.

The eyes are more exact witnesses than the ears.

Pythagoras, son of Mnesarchos, practised scientific inquiry beyond all other men, and making a selection of these writings, claimed for his own wisdom what was but a knowledge of many things and an imposture.

Of all whose discourses I have heard, there is not one who attains to understanding that wisdom is apart from all.

Wisdom is one thing. It is to know the thought by which all things are steered through all things.

This world, which is the same for all, no one of gods or men has made; but it was ever, is now, and ever shall be an ever-living Fire, with measures of it kindling, and measures going out.

The transformations of Fire are, first of all, sea; and half of the sea is earth, half whirlwind.

All things are an exchange for Fire, and Fire for all things, even as wares for gold and gold for wares.

Lunar craters Heraclitus and Licetus

( Heraclitus & Licetus A pair of craters located in the southern highlands region of the Moon. Heraclitus is 55 miles across, has a central crest and large crater (Heraclitus D) near the top of this image giving it the appearence of a ladybug. Licetus, located below Heraclitus is 45 miles in diameter.)

How can one hide from that which never sets?

If there were no sun it would be night, for all the other stars could do.

The sun is new every day.

God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger; but he takes various shapes, just as fire, hen it is mingled with spices, is named according to the savour of each.

If all things were turned to smoke, the nostrils would distinguish them.

Cold things become warm, and what is warm cools; what is wet dries, and the parched is moistened.

It scatters and it gathers; it advances and retires.

You cannot step twice into the same rivers; for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you.

War is the father of all and the king of all; and some he has made gods and some men, some bond and some free.

Men do not know how what is at variance agrees with itself. It is an attunement of opposite tensions, like that of the bow and the lyre.

It is the opposite which is good for us.

The hidden attunement is better than the open.

Let us not conjecture at random about the greatest things.

Men that love wisdom must be acquainted with very many things indeed.

The straight and the crooked path of the fuller’s comb is one and the same.

Asses would rather have straw than gold.

Oxen are happy when they find bitter vetches to eat.

The sea is the purest and the impurest water. Fish can drink it, and it is good for them; to men it is undrinkable and destructive.

Swine wash in the mire, and barnyard fowls in dust.

Good and ill are one.

Couples are things whole and things not whole, what is drawn together and what is drawn asunder, the harmonious and the discordant. The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one.

Men would not have known the name of justice if these things were not.

To God all things are fair and good and right, but men hold some things wrong and some right.

We must know that war is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being and pass away (?) through strife.

All the things we see when awake are death, even as all we see in slumber are sleep.

The wise is one only. It is unwilling and willing to be called by the name of Zeus.

The bow is called life but its work is death.

Mortals are immortals and immortals are mortals, the one living the others’ death and dying the others’ life.

For it is death to souls to become water, and death to water to become earth. But water comes from earth; and from water, soul

The way up and the way down is one and the same.

In the circumference of a circle the beginning and end are common.

You will not find the boundaries of soul by travelling in any direction, so deep is the measure of it.

Man kindles a light for himself in the night-time, when he has died but is alive. The sleeper, whose vision has been put out, lights up from the dead; he that is awake lights up from the sleeping.

And it is the same thing in us that is quick and dead, awake and asleep, young and old; the former are shifted and become the latter, and the latter in turn are shifted and become the former.

Time is a child playing draughts, the kingly power is a child’s.

I have sought for myself.

We step and do not step into the same rivers; we are and are not.

It is a weariness to labour for the same masters and be ruled by them.

It rests by changing.

When they are born, they wish to live and to meet with their dooms—or rather to rest—and they leave children behind them to meet with their dooms in turn.

A man may be a grandfather in thirty years.

Those who are asleep are fellow-workers (in what goes on in the world).

Thought is common to all.

Those who speak with understanding must hold fast to what is common to all as a city holds fast to its law, and even more strongly. For all human laws are fed by the one divine law. It prevails as much as it will, and suffices for all things with something to spare.

So we must follow the common, yet though my Word is common, the many live as if they had a wisdom of their own.

The waking have one common world, but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own.

The way of man has no wisdom, but that of God has.

Man is called a baby by God, even as a child by a man.

Wantonness needs putting out, even more than a house on fire.

It is not good for men to get all they wish to get. It is sickness that makes health pleasant; evil, good; hunger, plenty; weariness, rest.

It is hard to fight with one’s heart’s desire. Whatever it wishes to get, it purchases at the cost of soul.

It is best to hide folly; but it is hard in times of relaxation, over our cups.

Dogs bark at every one they do not know.

The wise man is not known because of men’s want of belief.

The fool is fluttered at every word.

The most esteemed of them knows but fancies, and holds fast to them, yet of a truth justice shall overtake the artificers of lies and the false witnesses.

One day is like any other.

Man’s character is his fate.

There awaits men when they die such things as they look not for nor dream of.

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Meditation develops both the analytical and philosophical qualities of mind.  Spend a few minutes each day with eyes closed delving into the source of thought, absolute bliss consciousness.

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