Monday, February 20, 2012

"It is not by teaching but by nature that humanity possesses its knowledge of the Divine."

"The traditions of our ancestors, and those which we possess coeval with time itself, no arguments can overthrow, not even if wisdom has been attained by consummate intellect."
[Euripides, Bakkhai, lines 201-203, ca. 400 BC]

"There are Gods, for the knowledge of them is self-evident."
[Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus, ca. 270 BC]

"The historians of the various nations have given us their accounts -- accounts, it goes without saying, that offer us a very one-sided version of their national religions, and a biased view of the religions of surrounding peoples. The prophets of the Jews and their great hero, Moses, wrote the history of their people in a way designed to favor their beliefs. The Egyptian view of the Jews, not surprisingly, is quite different. Yet behind these views, these national prejudices, is an ancient logos that has existed from the beginning -- a logos, so it is said, maintained by the wisest men of all nations and cities. This logos has been held not only by the sages among the Jews, but by the wise men of the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Indians, Persians, Odrysians, Samothracians, and Eleusians. The Galactophagi of Homer, the Druids of Gaul, and even the Getae (for example) believe logoi very close to those believed by the Jews -- indeed, before the Jews. Linus, Musaeus, Orpheus, Pherecydes, Zoroaster the Persian, and Pythagoras understood these logoi, and their opinions were recorded in books which are still to be consulted."
[Celsus, Alethes Logos, Hoffman translation/reconstruction, p. 55, ca. 150 AD]

"The Christians ignore the good offices of the Dioscori, of Herakles, Asclepios and of Dionysus, and say that these are not Gods because they were humans in the first place. Yet they profess belief in a phantom god who appeared only to members of his little club, and then, so it seems, merely as a kind of ghost."
[Alethes Logos, p. 71, ca. 150 AD]

"An innate knowledge of the Gods is coexistent with our very essense; and this knowledge is superior to all judgment and deliberate choice, and subsists prior to reason and demonstration. It is also counited from the beginning with its proper cause, and is consubsistent with the essential tendency of the soul to The Good. If, indeed, it be requisite to speak the truth, the contact with Divinity is not knowledge. For knowledge is in a certain respect separated [from its object] by otherness. But prior to the knowledge, which as one thing knows another, is the uniform connexion with Divinity, and which is suspended from the Gods, is spontaneous and inspeparable from Them. Hence it is not proper to grant this, as if it might not be granted, nor to admit it as ambiguous (for it is always unically established in energy); nor are we worthy thus to explore it, as if we had sufficient authority to approve or reject it. For we are comprehended in it, or rather we are filled by it, and we possess that very think which we are in knowing the Gods."
[Iamblichus, On the Mysteries (Taylor 2004) p. 23, ca. 315 AD]

"It is not by teaching but by nature that humanity possesses its knowledge of the Divine, as can be shown by the common yearning for the Divine that exists in everyone everywhere -- individuals, communities, nations. Without having it taught us, all of us have come to believe in some sort of Divinity, even though it is difficult for all to know what Divinity truly is and far from easy for those who do know to explain it to the rest."
[Julian, Against the Galileans (Hoffman 2004) p. 93, ca. 360 AD]

"If long passage of time lends validity to religious observances, we ought to keep faith with so many centuries, we ought to follow our forefathers who followed their forefathers and were blessed in so doing.... let me continue to practice my ancient ceremonies, for I do not regret them. Let me live in my own way, for I am free."
[Symmachus, Relatio 3, ca. 390 AD]