Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
118. Perception 120. Date

From Chapter V., Empedokles of Akragas

119. Theology and Religion
The theoretical theology of Empedokles reminds us of Xenophanes, his practical religious teaching of Pythagoras and the Orphics. We are told in the earlier part of the poem that certain "gods" are composed of the elements; and that therefore though they "live long lives" they must pass away (fr. 21). The elements and the Sphere are also called gods, but that is in quite another sense of the word, and the elements do not pass away.

If, we turn to the religious teaching of the Purifications,we find that everything turns on the doctrine of transmigration. On the general significance of this enough has been said above (§ 42); the details given by Empedokles are peculiar. According to a decree of Necessity, "daimons" who have sinned are forced to wander from their home in heaven for three times ten thousand seasons (fr. 115). He himself is such an exiled divinity, and has fallen from his high estate because he put his trust in raving Strife. The four elements toss him from one to the other with loathing; and so he has not only been a human being and a plant, but even a fish. The only way to purify oneself from the taint of original sin is by the cultivation of ceremonial holiness, by purifications, and abstinence from animal flesh. For the animals are our kinsmen (fr. 137), and it is parricide to lay hands on them. In all this there are certain points of contact with the cosmology. We have the "mighty oath" (fr. 115; cf. fr. 30), the four elements, Hate as the source of original sin, and Kypris as queen in the Golden Age (fr. 128). But these points are not fundamental, and the cosmological system of Empedokles leaves no room for an immortal soul, which is presupposed by the Purifications. All through this period, there seems to have been a gulf between men's religious beliefs, if they had any, and their cosmological views. The few points of contact we have mentioned may have been enough to hide this from Empedokles himself.








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