Damascius on First Principles
Damascius was born at Damascus in Syria about 480 AD and died probably about 550 AD. He was educated at first at Alexandria and was a pupil of the sophist Theon, under whom he became an accomplished rhetorician. But he was soon attracted by the "divine mathematics" and profound speculations of the Platonic and Aristotelian philosophies and gave up the study of oratory in order to attend the lectures of Ammonius, the son of Hermeias. Having learnt all that he could from Ammonius, he went to Athens where Marinus, Isidorus and Zenodotus upheld the Platonic tradition amid increasing difficulties. These Athenian philosophers lived together in a community in order to prosecute the study of philosophy in all its branches. The energy and ardour of Damascius were such that when Isidorus and Zenodotus had successively retired from the scholarchship or headship of the school Damascius was chosen as their successor. He was thus the last outward link of the "golden chain" of the Platonic succession before the Dark Ages, for in 529 AD the Emperor Justinian promulgated an edict ordering the schools of philosophy to be closed, while a few years later their property was confiscated. "The fall of philosophy," says Thomas Taylor, "was naturally succeeded by the darkness of delusion and ignorance; by the spirit of wild fanaticism and intolerant zeal; by the loss of courage and virtue; and by the final dissolution of the empire of the world."
Damascius with six other philosophers retired from Athens to Persia at the invitation of King Chosroes, surnamed Noushirvan or "generous soul". After a few years, however, perhaps because of the jealousy of the Magi at the Persian court, they decided to return. Chosroes unwillingly allowed them to go and, in a special treaty of peace with Justinian, stipulated that they should be allowed perfect religious freedom.
Damascius was a man of much learning, great intellectual power, and unblemished moral character. Unfortunately, many of his works have perished, among them Commentaries on the Timaeus, Phaedo and First Alcibiades and Treatises on Time, Space, Nwmber and Miracles. The "Doubts and Solutions concerning the First Principles" is his only complete surviving work.
A translation of its opening chapters was published in the November-December issue of the Bibliotheca Platonica for 1889, edited by the late Professor T.M. Johnson.
The treatise "On First Principles" is of a most profound and abstruse nature, and, like other more recondite writings of the ancient philosophers, has been blamed as mere metaphysical subtlety by superficial critics who have failed to penetrate its depths. But Damascius in this work is attempting to express in human language the ineffable, and time after time the argument outstrips as it were the bounds of verbal expression and loses itself in that which is beyond words.
The depth and grandeur of the Platonic conceptions concerning the First Principle of all things can be measured to some extent by their theological teachings concerning the Gods, or the Emanations and Irradiations of The One.
In many religions the highest aspect of Deity which is worshipped is that of God as Creator. But in the Pythagorean and Platonic theology the creative aspect of God is not contemplated as the first.
In the Timaeus Plato unfolds the teaching that the Demiurgus, the Creator of the Cosmos, fashions it in the likeness of an eternal paradigm or pattern. This pattern is Intelligible Reality, the totality of that which possesses real Being.
Thus the Demiurgus, or Creator Lord, is the Divine Intellect or Mind, the Third Logos Who eternally contemplates the First Logos or The Logos of Being, and fashions the sensible world in the likeness of the intelligible, reproducing in manifestation the Being of the First Logos, the Father; the Life of the Second Logos, the Great Mother; together with the Intellect or Mind which is of His own essence.
The highest choir of deities or emanations from The One are therefore the Intelligible or Noetic Gods who are characterized by Being, and the First Being is the First Manifestation of The One, the Firstborn Light from Light.
But beyond even the Intelligible Gods is The One.
That which is The One, and the "measure of all things", is not only exempt from bodies, and mundane concerns, but likewise from intelligibles themselves; since He is the venerable principle of beings, the measure of intelligibles, ingenerable (unborn), eternal, and alone, possessing absolute dominion, and Himself manifesting Himself." (Clinius the Pythagorean)
It is because of the very transcendence of The One that such appellations as obscurity, without illumination, and darkness were given by the Pythagoreans to unity. The Egyptians, too, spoke of the First Principle as a thrice-unknown darkness. These and similar names signify that to the human intelligence the dazzling radiance of the super-essential light is so blinding that nothing can be clearly seen.
"He is the God of all Gods, the unity of all unities, and above the first adyta; He is more ineffable than all silence, and more unknown than all essence; He is the Holy among the holies and is concealed among the Intelligible Gods." (Proclus' Theology of Plato)
But although the Absolute One in His ineffable nature is beyond the reach of human thought, yet, paradoxically, the mind of man can ascend in mystical contemplation ever higher and higher and thereby attain an ever closer union with Him. When such intuitions regarding the nature of the Absolute are expressed in the language of theological speculation, the results will appear paradoxical, since because the One It self is beyond all pairs of opposites it is only through balancing, as it were, certain logical oppositions that a conception of It can be made effable to the mind.
Thus there are two main methods of approach in Mystical Theology, the Via Affiminativa and the Via Negativa.
The Via Affirmativa or method of affirmation proceeds by stating what The One is in relation to what the finite is not, while the Via Negativa proceeds by denying of The One all finite and limitative attributes.
Negations, when applied to The One, are not privative but signify that It entirely transcends whatever is attributed. They may also signify that in some manner that which is denied of The One proceeds from It and is dependent on it.
Thus by a series of negations it is possible to ascend to the highest conception of deity of which the human intelligence is capable, and having reached this point to leap upward as it were to those immense depths of Godhead where even the "intellectual words" of the mind are silent because the knower is one with the known.
The following are examples of the dialectic use of the Via Negativa -
i The One is not the All.
For the idea or concept of "all", by its very nature, implies plurality and division, a separation of elements or aspects either in actuality or in thought. Moreover, the All must be contemplated either as sensible or intelligible, or as partly sensible and partly intelligible. But in none of these cases can The One be The All, since if the All is sensible, it will be characterized by the local separation of its elements, while if it is intelligible there will still be the distinction of those intelligible elements which go to make up its intelligible allness. Lastly, if it is partly intelligible and partly sensible this at once introduces a duality inconsistent with the nature of The One.
ii The One is not the Whole.
For the concept of "whole" implies the possession of parts, or at least such a relation as that of centre and circumference or middle and extremities. This is true even if the whole postulated be the intelligible whole, for this totality implies a possibility of the division of its extent, even though it be an intellectual division. But The One is entirely beyond even the possibility of division.
iii The One is not Being
Being or Essence subsists through the union of the two principles bound and infinity, which are referred to by Socrates in the Philebus. Of these bound is the cause of union, wholeness and the communion of beings, while infinity is the cause of division, prolific production and progression into infinity. These two, bound and infinity, are the root principles of the primal Duad and are reflected in all orders to the very outermost. In the manifested world the principle of form corresponds to bound while matter corresponds to infinity.
Being itself, therefore, or the One Being, subsists from the union of bound and infinity. It must also possess the one since otherwise there could be no union of bound with infinity.
But since Being Itself is thus three-fold it follows that The One is not Being.
Moreover if The One were equated to Being, it would be necessary to equate multitude to non-being as the antithesis in each case. But multitude or plurality is superior to non-being. Therefore The One is beyond Being.
Thus it follows that The One is beyond Being, transcends the Whole, and cannot, strictly speaking, be identified with the All; though all these three - Being, the Whole, and the All - proceed from It and are dependent upon It.
Damascius in his treatise attempts to ascend yet higher for he asks the question: "Is it possible that there is something beyond The One"?
We must understand by this inquiry not that the philosopher postulates something beyond the Absolute Itself but that there may be something beyond even the conception of The One. In these investigations we obtain glimpses of those heights and depths which the most exalted energies of dialectic reveal to the consciousness.
The discursive energies of the mind are inseparable from duality, since the mind, by the very act of segregating the idea of The One, tacitly assumes some kind of distinction between this idea and itself. Is there then no way beyond this duality to union with The One? It is this way which the great philosophic mystics are perpetually attempting to make plain. But in the last stages of such an ascent there can be no clear-cut landmarks; the mystic, having ascended to the utmost boundary of intellectual contemplation, must plunge into the glorious nothingness," the super-essential radiance of the Divine Darkness, where the Soul with her eyes all but closed beholds the vision of The One and The Good and, in contemplating, becomes one with It.
"Let us now therefore, if ever," says Proclus, "abandon multiform knowledge, exterminate from ourselves all the variety of life, and in perfect quiet approach near to the cause of all things. For this purpose let not only opinion and imagination be at rest, nor the passions alone which impede the impulse which leads us up to the first, be at peace; but let the air be still and the universe itself be tranquil. And let all things extend us with tranquil power to communion with the ineffable. Let us also, standing there, having transcended the intelligible (if we contain anything of this kind) and with nearly closed eyes adoring as it were the rising sun, since it is not lawful for any being whatever intently to behold him - let us survey the Sun whence the light of the Intelligible Gods proceeds, emerging, as the poets say, from the bosom of the ocean; and again from this divine tranquillity descending into intellect, and from intellect, employing the reasonings of the soul, let us relate to ourselves what the natures are from which, in this progression, we shall consider the first God as exempt.'' (Theology of Plato)
Plato's Parmenides, to which Proclus here refers, is a wonderful example of the theological method of negation. Thomas Taylor, in his introduction to this dialogue, gives a warning as to how this metaphysical method is liable to be misused when philosophical speculation is divorced from true religion.
"The intention of the first hypothesis (of the Parmenides)" he says, "is to absolve that which is simply one from all the properties and conditions of the unities of the Gods and by this absolving to signify the procession of all things from thence. But our intention in pursuing these mysteries is no other than by the logical energies of our reason to arrive at the simple intellection of beings , and by these to excite the divine one resident in the depths of our essence, or rather which presides over our essence , that we may perceive the simple and incomprehensible One. For after, through discursive energies and intellections, we have properly denied of the first principle of all conditions peculiar to beings, there will be some danger, lest, deceived by imagination after numerous negations, we should think we have arrived, either at nothing, or at something slender and vain, indeterminate, formless, and confused; unless we are careful in proportion as we advance in negations, to excite by a certain affection of love the divine vigour of our unity; trusting that by this means we may enjoy divine unity, when we have dismissed the motion of reason and the multiplicity of intelligence, and tend through unity alone to The One Itself, and through love to the Supreme and Ineffable Good."
DOUBTS AND SOLUTIONS CONCERNING THE FIRST PRINCIPLES
I. Are we to say that the One Principle of all things is beyond the all, or is someone of the all, and as it were a summit of the things proceeding from it? And shall we say that all things are with it, or posterior to it and derived from it? If indeed anyone were to assert this, how could anything be outside the all? For that from which nothing is absent is clearly all. But the principle is absent (*because it is not one of the things derived from it - Ed) . It must follow therefore that all things are not only posterior to the principle but distinct from it.
Moreover, the all must be a certain definite number of things; for things infinite could not possibly be all. Nothing then, it seems, can be outside the all. For allness (the predication of " all ") is a certain boundary and enclosure in which the principle is the upper boundary, but that which is the last procession from the principle is the lower boundary. The all then has these boundaries. But the principle is still co-ordinated with the things which proceed from the principle, for it is said to be, and is, the principle of them. So, too, the cause is co-ordinated with its effects, and that which is first with the things posterior to it. And since in all these there is one co-ordination of many things we call these things "all." So the principle is among the all, and in general we mean by "all" absolutely everything which we can conceive in any way whatsoever. Moreover, we can conceive of the principle and therefore we are accustomed to speak of all the city as the ruler and the ruled, and all the race as the progenitor and his descendants. But if all things are together with the principle (the principle would be one of the all and) the principle of this all would not be anything, since the principle is included in the all. And so the one co-ordination of all things which we speak of as "all will be without a principle, and without a cause, unless we go on to infinity. But it is necessary that everything should either be a principle or produced from a principle. All things therefore are either the principle or from the principle. But if this latter is the case, the principle will not be together with the all but outside the all, just as the principle is distinct from the things that proceed from it. But if the former is true, what is that which proceeds from the all as from a principle and is outside the all and below it, as the effect of the all; for the conception of the all omits absolutely nothing. The all therefore is neither the principle nor from the principle.
Moreover, are not all things contemplated together with multitude and a certain distinction? Indeed, we cannot conceive the all without these. How then has a certain separation and multitude immediately appeared? Are not all things everywhere accompanied by separation and multitude, and is not the summit of the many the One, but that of the separated elements the united monad? And is not the One even more simple than the monad? In the first place every monad is number, though as yet subsisting in contracted union; the monad is thus also all things. In the second place the One is not a certain thing of the many; for if it were would it not give completion to the many like each other unit of it? But as numerous as are the many according to a certain division, so numerous will be that one prior to the division, according to the totally indivisible. For it is not one as being the smallest, as Speusippus seems to have asserted, but one as engulfing all things. For by its own simplicity it dissolves all things and makes the all one. Hence all things proceed from it because it is all things and itself prior to all things. Just as the united is all things prior to their separation so the One is all things prior to the many. But if we unfold our conception of all things completely we shall not describe "all " in the same manner, but in a mode at least threefold - unically, unitedly, and with multiplication.* (Note: Unically as subsisting potentially and causally in the monad; unitedly as subsisting as the elements constituting a united wholeness; and with multiplication as distinct and separate elements.) All things, therefore, are from the One and with reference to the One, as we are accustomed to say. If then we speak of "all" in the usual way and mean the things which subsist in multitude and separation, we must establish as principles of these the united and in a still greater degree the One; but if we include these also in our conception of all, and include them with the rest of the things which constitute the all because of their habitude and co-ordination with these, as we said before - then our argument will have to seek for another principle prior to all things, a principle which it is no longer proper to conceive as all (in any way) nor to co-arrange it with the things proceeding from it.
For if anyone should say that the One, even though it is all things which exist or subsist in any manner whatever, is yet also one prior to all such things and is rather one than all - for it is one in itself, but all as being the cause of all things and according to its co-arrangement with them, in fact that it is all secondarily but primarily the One-if anyone should assert this he will attribute the first duplicity (predication of two-foldness) to the One itself, and we who are dividing it shall become characterized by two-foldness and even multiplicity in respect to its simplicity. For it, because it is one, is all in the simplest possible manner. But even though someone should assert this, yet the Principle of all things must be completely exempt from all these things, from the most simple " allness " and even from the simplicity which absorbs all things, such as that of the One.
II. Our soul then divines that the Principle of all things which are conceived in any way whatever is entirely beyond all, nor is it co-arranged with them. We must not therefore speak of It as a principle, nor first, nor prior to all, nor beyond all. Indeed, we can hardly celebrate It as all, nor yet as conceivable or even to be guessed at. For whatever we may conceive or think about is either some one thing of the all - and this is nearer to the truth - or when it is thoroughly purified (by the abstraction of accidentals) it is itself the all and this even though we should ascend to the ultimate simplicity, analysing and purifying and being ourselves purified, and arrive at the most universal of all things, the uttermost circumference not only of beings but also of non-beings. For of beings the united and that which is completely indivisible is the ultimate. For every being is made from a mixture of elements (bound and infinity) and the One is simply the highest of the many. For we cannot conceive anything more simple than the One., that which is altogether one and one alone. Even if we speak of It as "principle" and "cause" and "first" and "simplest", these attributes and all others are already there, implied in that single name of the One. But we, because we are unable to comprehend It are divided from It by the very act of attributing our own divided conceptions to It, unless we reject even these, because multitude is not adapted to the One.
Does it then follow that the One is neither to be known nor to be named? For if so, It would be, in respect of this, many. Or are these things in It according to its nature as the One? For the nature of the One is all-receiving or rather all-producing. And there is nothing of which "the one" (oneness) cannot be predicated. Because of this, all things are as it were unfolded from It, and It is truly "cause" and "first", "end itself", utterly the ultimate and highest boundary of all things, and the one nature of the many - not that which is in them from It but that which , before they are is generative of that which is in them, the indivisible summit of all things whatsoever, the mightiest circumference of all things which in any respect are called wholes.
But if the One is the cause of all things and the container of them all, what ascent is there for us beyond this? For it cannot be that we strive in vain and stretch upwards towards that which is nothing. For that which is not even one, is more truly nothing. How then can it be possible that there is something even beyond the One, since the many require nothing else besides the One? Hence the One alone is cause of the many, and hence also the One is entirely the cause, since the cause of the many must be the One alone. For it cannot be nothing (for nothing is the cause of nothing), nor can it be the many themselves. For the many in so far as they are many are unco-ordinated and in no way one cause. But if the many are causes, they cannot be causes of each other, because of their lack of co-ordination and because this would make the relationship revolve in a circle (because the same thing would be both cause and effect). Each thing then would be the cause of itself and there will be no cause of the many. It is therefore necessary that the One should be the cause of the many and also the cause of the co-ordination which is to be found in them. For their co-ordination and their union with each other is a certain agreement.
III. If therefore anyone being in doubt about
these matters should say that the One is sufficient as a principle and
should adduce as a crowning argument the fact that as we can have no conception
nor conjecture more simple than that of the One, how can we form a
conjecture of something beyond our highest conjecture and conception, we must
forgive him for his doubt. For such a speculation it seems is unapproachable and
impossible. But nevertheless, beginning from things which are more known to us
we must accustom the ineffable parturitions which are in us to the ineffable - I
know not how to express it- the ineffable co-sensation* of this sublime truth. (*Damascius uses the word
"co-sensation" because that energy of the soul which is at the summit
of intuition or noesis, can only be compared analogically to the direct contact
or sensation of the physical senses at the other end of the scale.)
For as in things here that which is unconfined and unparticipable is in every respect more honourable than that which subsists as a habitude, and that which is beyond co-ordination than the co-ordinated; for example, the theoretic than the political life, and Kronos** than the Demiurgus, being than form, and the One than the many, of which the One is the principle, so too that which transcends causes and things caused, principles and things which are subject to principles, and everything of this kind, cannot be posited in any co-ordination or habitude, so as to be manifest in speech. (**Kronos is the Divine Static Intellect eternally contemplating the the Intelligible which He Himself contains. Zeus, the Demiurgus, is the Active Demiurgic Intellect which brings into existence the manifested world after the pattern of its intelligible archetype or paradigm. The contemplative or theoretic life is more honourable than the active or political life because it is prior to it, since knowledge must everywhere precede action.)
Since, too, the One is established by nature prior to the many, that which is most simple to the things which are more composite in any way whatsoever, and that which is most universally comprehensive to the things which are included within it, this first thing is, if you are willing so to speak, beyond all opposing predicates even of such a (metaphysical) nature as these, for it is not only beyond the antithesis of mutually co-ordinate things but also that which arises from that which is first and that which is posterior to the first.
-Translated by the Editors of The Shrine of Wisdom.
(To be continued)
THE COUNSEL GIVEN BY CATTWG, THE WISE, TO TALIESIN, CHIEF OF BARDS, WHEN HE WAS HIS SCHOLAR.
Think before thou speakest:
First, what thou shalt speak;
Second, why thou shouldest speak;
Third, to whom thou mayest have to speak;
Fourth, about whom thou art to speak;
Fifth, what will come from what thou mayest speak;
Sixth, what may be the benefit from what thou shalt speak;
Seventh, who may be listening to what thou shalt speak.
Put thy word on thy fingers' ends before thou speakest it, and turn it these seven ways before thou speakest it, and there will never come any harm from what thou shalt say.
APHORISMS OF CATTWG
There are four original vices: first, anger; second, lust; third, laziness; fourth, fear.
Where one or the other of these may be, there will be found every other evil to spring; for out of them forcibly grow all other evils in mind and action.
* * *
Silence is the mother of all discretion.
Patience is the mother of all wisdom
Wit is the mother of all knowledge.
Order is the mother of all investigation.
Necessity is the mother of every act.
Virtue is the mother of all happiness.
Exertion is the mother of every excellence.
Genius is the mother of all poetry.
Consideration is the mother of all understanding.
Inconsideration is the mother of every fault.
Use is the mother of every mastery.
Fortitude is the mother of every victory.
Conscience is the mother of all morality.
Love is the mother of all piety.
THE MYTH OF
with suggested interpretations
Narcissus was the son of the River-god Cephissus and the Nymph Liriope. He was a very beautiful youth, but his heart was cold as stone and he was untouched by love. Narcissus had many lovers, but none could make him love them in return. Some in despair put an end to their lives, calling upon the Gods to avenge them.
There was a certain Oread or Mountain-nymph by name Echo who, when Zeus was playing with the other nymphs, would distract Queen Hera's attention by talking to her incessantly. But Hera discovered her deception and changed her into an echo, a being with no control over its tongue, neither able to speak before anybody else has spoken nor to be silent when they have done so. In this state Echo fell desperately in love with Narcissus, but as her love was not returned, she pined away in grief so that in the end nothing remained of her but her voice.
But the Gods had heard the the prayers of those lovers whom Narcissus had scorned. Great Nemesis, who gives to all beings their due, caused him to see his own face reflected in a pool, whereupon Narcissus fell in love with his own image, and because he could never approach near to it, gradually perished for love of himself and was changed into the flower which bears his name.
Or, as other accounts relate, in stretching downward in the endeavour to embrace his reflection, he fell into the pool and was drowned.
Yet another version is that he had a beloved twin sister, Diogeneia (daughter of Zeus) who died. Narcissus, seeing his reflection in the pool, imagined it to be the face of his lost sister and pined away and died.
The commonly accepted derivation of the word Narcissus connects it with the Greek word narké, meaning numbness or deadness. It is from this word that "narcotic" is derived. The narcissus plant has certain narcotic properties and its scent was supposed to cause oblivion.
Another derivation might be traced from the root na-, from which the adjective naros, 'flowing' is derived, and kissa, meaning a false longing or desire for something strange. Both these derivations are suggestive.
Cephissus, the son of Pontus
and Thalassa, is a God of a flowing river and the son of two deities of
the Ocean. Thus his name signifies the gliding nature of the streams which
perpetually flow into the Sea of Generation. The worship of Cephissus was
connected with that of Pan and the Nymphs and also Achelous,the divinity of
potable (i.e. drinking) water.
Liriope means literally "having the face of a white lily", and signifies the beauty which perpetually floats, as it were, on the waters of generation.
Echo is connected with the word échos, meaning a ringing sound or reverberation. The fact that Echo is a mountain-nymph indicates her connection with Hera, Queen of the Air. After Echo's death her bones are said to have become stones.
So profound are the ancient myths that they
admit in most cases of many different interpretations, perfectly consistent with
each other, but referring to different aspects of reality. Thus the Myth of
Narcissus and Echo might be considered from:
(i) the divine standpoint, as symbolizing the relation of certain divine principles;
(ii) the ethical or human standpoint, as symbolizing certain experiences of the soul, and
(iii) the cosmic standpoint, as expressing in mythical language certain natural phenomena.
(i) When the myth is interpreted as signifying the interaction of divine principles, Narcissus may be regarded as that aspect of Divine Beauty which is reflected and merged in the sea of generation. This beauty is impassive and "cold" because it is in its own nature serene and unchanging, but when it reflects itself, its image becomes snared by the changing sea or pool of physical manifestation. Moreover, as everything in manifestation is changing, this beauty is perpetually dying away and being renewed.
Echo symbolizes the principle which still further reflects or echoes the effects of the manifestation of Narcissus. Thus, when Narcissus speaks Echo answers but when Echo attempts to approach nearer to Narcissus he flees away.
The effect of the action of the principle of Beauty on matter is to invest it with form. But everything which results from the union of form with matter continually gives out vibrations. Thus, Echo is the principle which reproduces the vibrations in other media and continually repeats the "words" of Narcissus.
(ii) When the myth is interpreted from the standpoint of the human soul Narcissus signifies the desire of the soul for manifestation. The soul sees its its image reflected in the waters of generation and stooping to embrace apparent beauty, abandons its true home and becomes plunged in the flowing streams of transiency. The connection between this myth and that of Persephone is apparent here, for it was when Persephone plucked the flower of the narcissus that Pluto carried her away. The narcotic properties of the flower may be compared with the River of Forgetfulness of which the soul drinks on her descent, as the Platonic myths tell.
The soul's descent is caused, in a certain sense, by her own self-love, because she identifies herself with a tiny portion of the universe instead of with the whole. Hence, so long as she strives to embrace her image, she continues to sink beneath the waves.
Echo is like the inherent tendency in matter to attain to the perfection of form. Hence Echo is always in love with Narcissus, for the true beauty of the soul remains inherent in her, although it may become obscured by her inordinations. But the physical body cannot hold the soul for ever, for the soul has another destiny, a body celestial, eternal in the heavens. At some time Narcissus must find his twin sister Diogeneia.
Or from another point of view, Echo might be regarded as the desire to possess purely physical beauty; a desire which is for ever unsatisfied since beauty is only reflected in material things and real beauty which alone can permanently satisfy the soul is of a spiritual nature. The soul can only enjoy physical beauty to the full when she is no longer violently attached to it for its own sake, and can see it as an expression and a symbol of something beyond itself.
(iii) Besides the obvious physical explanation of the re-echoing of sounds, the myth might be interpreted in a more fundamental manner as a symbolical description of natural phenomena. Narcissus, as the ideal form submerged in matter, is loved by Echo, or that which results from the production of any sound. Every form when united to matter may be said to emit a sound, and physical objects give out sounds when they are rubbed or struck. But, besides the waves of sound caused by the vibrations of the air, there are also more subtle vibrations through which all forms are reflected in etheric or akashic material. These reflections or echoes of the form may be said to love the form itself, because their very existence depends upon it, and unless they are renewed by receiving the vibrations proceeding from it, they dwindle away.
Zeus, in His Mundane aspect, gives form to everything in generation while His queen Hera gives life and motion to the forms created by Zeus. When in the myths Hera is described as opposing Zeus or punishing the powers that assist Him, this signifies merely that the divided and conflicting motions of the physical world provide the opposition through which the inherent powers of forms are actualized. Thus, Zeus playing with the Nymphs, symbolizes the divine creative energies active in the realms of generation, while the changing of Echo into a voice that merely repeats may be interpreted as signifying that while the highest aspect of sound is the Creative Word that brings all things into being, its last aspect is that of the note or vibration that all things give out and which is caught and as it were re-echoed by the aether.
Thinking and Willing are Eternal, they never began to be. Nothing can think or will now, in which there was not Will and Thought from all Eternity. (William Law)
* * *
The Destiny of Man
God hath suited every creature He hath made with a convenient good to which it tends, and in the obtainment of which it rests and is satisfied. . . Now in this is the excellency of man, that he is made capable of a communion with his Maker, and, because capable of it, is unsatisfied without it; the soul, being cut out (so to speak) to that largeness, cannot be filled with less. (S. T. Coleridge)