From Chapter III., Herakleitos of Ephesos
75. Life and Death
Further, just as summer and winter are one, and necessarily reproduce one another by their "opposite
tension," so do life and death. They, too, are one, we are told; and so are youth and age (fr. 78). It
follows that the soul will be now living and now dead; that it will only turn to fire or water, as the case
may be, to recommence once more its unceasing upward and downward path. The soul that has died
from excess of moisture sinks down to earth; but from the earth comes water, and from water is once
more exhaled a soul (fr. 68). So, too, we are told (fr. 67)
that gods and men are really one. They live
each others' life, and die each others' death. Those mortals that die the fiery death become immortal,73
they become the guardians of the quick and the dead (fr. 123);74
and those immortals become mortal in
their turn. Everything is the death of something else (fr. 64). The living and the dead are always changing
places (fr. 78), like the pieces on a child's draught-board (fr. 79), and this applies not only to the souls
that have become water, but to those that have become fire and are now guardian spirits. The real
weariness is continuance in the same state (fr. 82), and the real rest is change (fr. 83). Rest in any other
sense is tantamount to dissolution (fr. 84);75
So they too are born once more. Herakleitos estimated the
duration of the cycle which preserves the balance of life and death as thirty years, the shortest time in
which a man may become a grandfather (frs. 87-89).76
73. The word is used for its paradoxical effect. Strictly speaking, they are all mortal from one point of view and immortal from another.
74. Those who fall in battle apparently share the same lot (fr. 102). Rohde, Psyche (II. pp. 148 sqq.), refused to admit that Herakleitos believed the soul survived death. Strictly speaking, it is no doubt an inconsistency; but I believe, with Zeller and Diels, that it is one of a kind we may well admit. The first argument which Plato uses to establish the doctrine of immortality in the Phaedo is just the Herakleitean parallelism of life and death with sleeping and waking.
75. These fragments are quoted by Plotinos, Iamblichos, and Noumenios in this connexion (R.P. 46 c), and it does not seem possible to hold, with Rohde, that they had no grounds for so interpreting them. They knew the context and we do not.
76. Plut. Def. orac. 415 d, ἔτη τριάκοντα ποιοῦσι τὴν γενεὰν καθ' Ἡράκλειτον, ἐν ᾧ χρόνῳ γεννῶντα παρέχει τὸν ἐξ αὑτοῦ γεγεννημένον ὁ γεννήσας Philo, fr. Harris, p. 20, δυνατὸν ἐν τριακοστῷ ἔτει αὖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον πάππον γενέσθαι κτλ. Censorinus, De die nat. 17. 2, "hoc enim tempus (triaginta annos) genean vocari Herakleitos auctor est, quia orbis aetatis in eo sit spatio: orbem autem vocat aetatis, dum natura ab sementi humana ad sementim revertitur." The words orbis aetatis seem to mean αἰῶνος κύκλος, "the circle of life." If so, we may compare the Orphic κύκλος γενέσεως.
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