Monday, March 25, 2013

The Epistles of Heraclitus V-VI

V. "Heraclitus to Amphidamas

... If my body should become waterlogged before I heal it, it will sink into its fated spot. My soul, however, will not sink, but, since it is something immortal, it will fly up on high. Celestial dwellings will receive me...

In my disease, I have become somewhat gentler, because I do not encounter men, but am ill all by myself. Perhaps my soul is already prophesying its release from this prison and as it peeps out of this quivering body, it recalls its ancestral lands. When it comes from there, it donned a body--this dead thing, which others believe to be alive--flowing with phlegms, bile, pus, and blood, held firm by nerves, bones and flesh. If our emotions did not rationalize the punishment, would we not long ago have left behind the body and exited from it?"

VI. "To the same person,

... Amphidamas, these men [Heraclitus' doctors] and impiously, since they pretend to skills which they do not possess; they treat matters which they do not understand, and kill men in the name of medical science. Thereby they do injustice both to nature and to science.

It is certainly shameful to admit ignorance. It is even more shameful to profess knowledge when one does not have it. Why do they find pleasure in lying? Is it in order to obtain money by their deceit? It would be better for them to beg for it. For then they would at least be pitied, but, as it is, they are hated because they commit harm and lie. The other arts are simpler and hence are easily tested, but the more complex ones are difficult to examine.

So many men in the city have come to me! Not one of them is a physician, but all are cheats and quacks... They do not know that God heals the great bodies in the cosmos, that he equalizes their imbalance, unifies what is broken up, hastens to compress what has slipped apart, gathers what is dispersed, brightens what is dark, confines what has been carried off, pursues what escapes, illuminates the darkness with light, imposes limit on the boundless, gives form to the formless, and fills with vision that which is insensate. He penetrates all being, harmonizing, molding, dissolving, hardening, liquefying. He melts what is dry into something wet and constitutes it in a liquid state. He makes incense go up in smoke, and thickens the flaccid air. He continuously impels some things down from above, and settles others from below. This is therapy/healing for an all cosmos. I shall imitate this in myself and to the others I bid farewell."


Translated by Harold W. Attridge in "First-Century Cynicism in the Epistles of Heraclitus."

Read more of Heraclitus letters:

<-| I-IV |-| V-VI |-| VII |->

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