Plato - An Account of the Afterlife I from the end of Plato’s Republic CHAPTER XL 613 E‘END THE REWARDS 0F}USTICE AFTER DEATH THE MYTH OF ER

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–6. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 2
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 4
Background image of page 5

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 6
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: An Account of the Afterlife I from the end of Plato’s Republic CHAPTER XL 613, E‘END} THE REWARDS 0F }USTICE AFTER DEATH. THE MYTH OF ER Several other dialogues (Gorgias, Phaedo, Phaedrus) descrihe the fate of the soul lye/ore hirth and after death in the poetical imagery of myth, since no certain knowledge is attainable, hut Plato he licved that the indestructilvle soul must reap the consequences of zts tails are horrowed from dramatic representations or tableaux Vivants shown to initiates in Orphic and other .Mysteries,1 Features common to Plato’s myths and to Empedocles’ religious poem, Pindar’s Dir‘ges, Orphic amulets found in graves, and Virgil’s sixth Aeneid, point to a common source, which may have heen an Orphic apocalypse, a Descent of Orpheus to Hades. They include the divine origin of the soul; its fall to he incarnated in a cycle of births as a penalty for former sins; the guardian genius; the judgement after death; the torments of the unjust and the happi— ness of the just in the millennial intervals hetween incarnations; the hope of final deliverance for the purified; and certain topo- graphical features: the lvleadow (prohahly adapted from the Homeric [Meadow of fisphodel); the two lVays to right and left; the waters of Lethe (or of Unmindfulness, Ameles) and of Memory. A new feature, interpolated hy Plato, is the vision of the struc- ture of the universe, in which the ‘pattern set up in the heavens’ (592 B, p. 320) is revealed to the souls hefore they choose a new life. Plato’s universe is spherical, At the circumference the fixed stars revolve in 24 hours from East to West, with a motion which carries with it all the contents of the world. Within the sphere are (r) the seven planets, including Sun and Moon, which all have also a contrary motion from W’ est to East along the Zodiac. Their speeds difier. The Moon finishes its course in a month; the Sun, Venus, and .Mercury in a year; while Afars, limiter, and Saturn have an additional motion (’counter—revolution,’ 617 B) which slows them down so that Mars tahes nearly 2 years, lupiter ahout 12, and Saturn nearly 30. (2) The Earth at the centre rotates daily on its axis (which is also the axis of the universe) so as exactly to counteract the daily rotation in the opposite sense of the whole universe, with the result that the earth is at rest in ahsolute space, 1 Gilbert Murray, ‘The Conception of Another Life,’ Edin. Rev., 1914, reprinted in Stoic, Christian and Humanist, 1940. A learned and sober account of Orphism will be found in W. K. C. Guthrie’s Orpheus and Greek Religion, 1935. Dieterich’s Neliyia contains a study of the eschatological myths. 350 CHAPTER XL [IL 613 while the heavenly hodies revolve round it. (This interpretation of Plato’s astronomy is explained and defended in F. hf. Cornforcl, Plato’s Cosmology, 1937.) What the souls actaally see in their vision is not the universe itself, hat a model,1 a primitive orrery in a form roughly resemm hling a spindle, with its shaft round which at the lower end is fastened a solid hemispherical whorl. In the orrerr the shaft rep— resents the axis of the universe and the whorl consists of 8 hollow concentric hemispheres, fitted into one another ‘lilie a nest of howls,’ and capahle of moving separately. It is as if the zipper halaes of 8 concentric spheres had been cut away so that the internal ‘worhs’ might he seen. The rims of the howls appear as forming a continuous flat snrface; they represent the equator of the sphere of fixed stars and, inside that, the orbits of the 7 planets. The souls see the Spindle resting on the knees of Necessity. The whole mech— anism is turned lay the Fates, Clotho (the Spinner), Lachesis (She who allots), and Atropos (the Inflexihle). Sirens sing eight notes at consonant intervals forming the structure of a scale (harmonia), which represents the Pythagorean ‘mnsic of the spheres.’ All this imagery is, of course, mythical anal symholic. The un- clerlying doctrine is that in human life there is an element of ne— cessity or chance, hat also an element of free choice, which mahes as, and not Heaven, responsihle for the gooa’ and coil in our lives. SUCH then, l wcnt on, are the prizes, rewards, and gifts that the just man may expect at the hands of gods and men in his life— time, in addition to those other blessings which come simply from being just. Yes, the rewards are splendid and sure. These, however, are as nothing, in number or in greatness, when compared with the recompense awaiting the just and the unjust after death. This must now be told, in order that each may be paid in full what the argument shows to be his due. 1 So I. A. Stewart, Myths of Plato; 165: ‘a vision within the larger vision of the Whole Myth of Er.’ It appears that there were no diagrams in Plato’s MSS.; so he sometimes helps the reader so imagine a complicated structure by reference to a x. 614.] THE MYTH OF ER 351 Go on; there are not many things l would sooner hear about. My story will not be like Odysseus’ tale to Alcinous;1 but its hcro was a valiant man, Er, the son of Armcnius, a native of Pam— phylia, who was killed in battle. Vthn the dead were taken up for burial ten days later, his body alone was found undecayed. They carried him home, and two days afterwards were going to bury him, when he came to life again as he lay on the funeral pyrc. He then told what he: had seen in the other world. He said that, when the soul had left his body, he journeyed with many others until they came to a marvellous place, where there were two openings side by side in the earth, and opposite them two others in the sky above. Between them sat Judges,2 who, after each sentence given, bade the just take the way to the right upwards through the sky, first binding on them in front tokens signifying the judgement passed upon them. The unjust were commanded to take the downward road to the left, and these bore evidence of all their deeds fastened on their backs. When Er himself drew near, they told him that he was to carry tidings of the other world to mankind, and he must now listen and ob- serve all that went on in that place. Accordingly he saw the souls which had been judged departing by one of the openings in the sky and one of those in the earth 5 while at the other two openings souls were coming up out of the earth travel—stained and dusty, or down from the sky clean andbright. Each company, as if they had come on a long journey, seemed glad to turn aside into the Meadow, where they encampcd like pilgrims at a festival. Greet. lings passed between acquaintances, and as either party questioned the other of what had befallcn them, some wept as they sorrow— fully recounted all that they had seen and sullcrcd on their journey familiar object, such as the fish—trap in Timaeas 78 3. But here, of course, the Spindle is also symbolic. lOdysseus’ recital of his adventures to Alcinous, King of Phaeacia, fills four books 02? the Odyssey, including Odysseus’ voyage to the realm of the dead, which Plato would reject as a misleading picture of the after—life. It became proverbial for a long story. 2111 the myth of the Judgement of. the Dead in the Gorgias, 523 E, Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Acacus give judgement ‘in the Meadow at the parting of the two ways, one to the Islands of the Blast, the other to Tartarus.‘ 352; CHAVTER XL [X. 514 under the earth, which. ha i lasted a thousand years; while others spoke of the joys heaven and sights of inconceivable beauty; There was much, Glaucon, that would take too long to tell; but. the sum, he said, was this. For every wrong done to any man sin-s nets had in due course. paid the penalty ten times over, that is to say, once in each hundred years, such being the span of human life, in order that the punishment for every offence might be ten fold. Thus, all who have been guilty of bringing many to death or slavery by betraying their country or their comrades i, arms, or have taken part in any other iniquity, suffer tenfold torments for each crime; while deeds of kindness and a lust and sinless life are rewarded in the same measure. Concerning infants who die at birth or live but a short time he had more to say, not worthy of mention.2 The wages earned by honouring the gods and parents, or by dishonouring them and by doing murder, were even greater, He was standing by when one spirit asked another, ‘W here is Ardiaeus the Great?’ This Ardiaeus had been despot in some city of Pam— phylia just a tho‘usand years before, and, among many other Wicked deeds, he was said to have killed his old father and his elder brother. The answer was: ‘He has not come back hither, nor will he ever come. This was one of the terrible sights we saw. When our sufferings were ended and we were near the mouth, ready to pass upwards, suddenly we saw Ardiaeus and others with him. Most of them were despots, but there were some private perw sons who had been great sinners. They thought that at last they were going to mount upwards, but the mouth would not admit them; it bellowed whenever one whose wickedness was incurable or who had not paid the penalty in full tried to go up? Then cer« tain fierce and fieryrlooking men, who stood by and knew what 1 This figure, probably taken from some Orp‘uic or Pythagorean source, is repeated by Virgil, Aeneid, vi. 748. 2This suggests that a limbo for infants was a feature of the Or'phic apocalypse. It appears in Aeneid vi. 426 if, discussed by Cumont, After—Life in Roman Paganism, 128 ff. , 350 in Virgil, Georgia iv. 493, a roar is heard when Orpheus, returning from Hades with Eurydice, looks back, and Eurytlice vanishes. “as...” .. ....,.W.-m.,‘ x. 6:5] THE. Mer or ER 353 the sound meant, seized some and carried them away; but Ardiaeus and others they hound hand and foot and neck and flinging them down flayed them. They dragged them along the wayside, carding their flesh like wool with thorns and telling all who passed by Why this was done to them and that they were being taken to be cast into Tartarus. ‘N e had gone through many terrors of every sort, but none so great as the fear each man felt lest the sound should come as he went up ; and when it was not heard, his joy was great.’ Such were the judgements and penalties, and the blessings re— ceived were in corresponding measure. Now when each company had spent seven days in the Meadow, on the eighth they had to rise up and journey on. And on the fourth day afterwards they came to a place whence they could see a straight shaft of light, like a pillar, stretching from above throughout heaven and earth, more like the rainbow than any— thing else, but brighter and purer. To this they came after a day’s journey, and there, at the middle of the light, they saw stretching from heaven the extremities of its chains; for this light binds the heavens, holding together all the revolving firmament, like the un— dergirths of a ship of war.l And from the extremities stretched the Spindle of Necessity, by means of which all the circles revolve. The shaft of the Spindle and the hook were of adamant, and the whorl partly of adamant and partly of other substances. The whorl was of this fashion. In shape it was like an ordinary whorl; but from Er’s account we must imagine it as a large whorl with the inside completely scooped out, and within it a second smaller whorl, and a third and a fourth and four more, fitting into one another like a nest of bowls. For there were in all eight whorls, set one within another, with their rims showing above as circles and making up the contin~ uous surface of a single whorl round the shaft, which pierces right through the centre of the eighth. The circle forming the rim of the 1Undergirths were ropes or braces used, either as fixtures or as temporary ex— pedients, to strengthen a ship’s hull. Acts xxvii. 17: ‘they used helps, undergirding the ship.‘ It is disputed whether the bond holding the universe together is simply the straight axial shaft or a circular band of light, suggested by the Milky Way, girdling the heaven of Fixed Stars. 334 CHAPTER [s. 616 1 1' first and outermost whorl (Fixed Stilts: is the broadest; next its breadth is the sixth (Venus); then th , fourth (Mars); then the eighth (Moon) ; then the seventh Sun) '5 their: the fifth {lilercury}; then the third (lupiter); and the second (Saturn) is narrowest of all. The rim of the largest whorl (Fixed Star?l was Spangled; the seventh (Sun) brightest; the eighth Moon, coloured, by the re« flected light of the seventh; the second and fifth (Saturn, Mercury) like each other and yellower; the third {lupiter} whitest; the fourth (ll/liars) somewhat ruddy; the sixth {Venus} second in whiteness. The Spindle revolved as whole with one motion; but, vithiu the Whole as it turned, the seven. infitif circles revolved slowly iii the opposite direction; and of these the eighth (Moon) moved most swiftly; second in speed and all moving together, the seventh, sixth, and fifth (Sun, Venus, lvlercury}; next in speed moved the fourth (Mars) with what appeared to them to he a counter—revolum tiori;2 next the third {lupiter}, and slowest of all the second (Saturn). The Spindle turned on the knees of Necessity. Upon each of its circles stood a Siren, who was carried round with its movement, (7)». uttering a siuklle sound on one note, so that all the eight made up the coucords of a single scale.3 Round about, at equal distances, 1 The breadth of the rims is most simply explained as standing for the supposed distances of the orbits from each other. Thus the breadth of the outermost rim would he the distance between the Fixed Stars and Saturn. The names of the planets are given in the Epinomis, which was either Plato’s latest work or composed by an immediate pupil: Aphrodite (Venus), Hermes (Mercury), Ares (Mars), Zeus (lurk tcr), Kronos (Saturn). It is there implied that the Greeks took these names from. the Syrians, substituting for Syrian gods the Greek gods identified with them. 21 understand this motion to he a sell‘inouon of the three outer planets, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, slowing down the “cont ty motion’ shared by all the planets, so that these three fall farther and further behind the Sun—Verius—Mercur" group and appear to be moving in the opposite sense with a ‘countermvolution,’ though really movng more slowly in the some sense. See Plato"; Cosmology, 88. 3Aristotlc, (f5 ale/o ii. 9: ‘lt seems to some thinkers [Pytlmrzoreansl that bodies so great must inevitably produce a sound by their movement: even bodies on s e earth do so . . . and as for the sun and the moon, and the stars, so many in nurnv her and enormous in size, all moving at a. tremendous speed, i: is incredible that they should fail to produce :1 noise of surpass .D loudness. Taking this as their hypothesis, and also that the speeds of' the stars, judged by their distances, are in the ratios of the musical consouarices, they atlirm that the sound of the stars as they revolve is concordant. To meet the difficulty that none of us is aware of this l t 3 l 3, . E l l ,3 l i il l l , mama—WM.) -.._,.,..m.,.l. 5..., x. 617] THE MYTH or ER 355 were seated, each on a throne, the three daughters of Necessity, the Fates, rohed in White with garlands on their heads, Lachesis, Clothe, and Atropos, chanting to the Sirens’ music, Lachesis of things past, Clotho of the present, and Atropos of things to come. And from time to time Clothe lays her right hand on the outer rim of the Spindle and helps to turn it, while Atropos turns the inner circles likewise with her left, and. Lachesis with either hand takes hold of inner and outer alternately. The souls, as soon as they came, were required to go before Lachesis. AD. interpreter first marshalled them in order; and then, having taken from the lap of Lschesis a number of lots and sam‘ ples of lives, he mounted on a high platform and said: ‘The word of Lachesis, maiden daughter of Necessity. Souls of a day, here shall begin a new round of earthly life, to end in death. No guardian spirit will cast lots for you,1 but you shall choose your own destiny. Let him to whom the first lot falls choose first a life to which he will be bound of necessity. But Virtue owns no master: as a man honours or dishonours her, so shall he have more of her or less. The blame is his who chooses; Heaven is blame— less.’2 With these words the interpreter scattered the lots among them all. Each tool; up the lot which tell at his feet and showed what number he had drawn; only Er himself was forbidden to take one. Then the interpreter laid on the ground before them the sample. lives, many more than the persons there. They were of every sort: liVes of all living creatures, as well as of all conditions 7 of lien. Among them were lives of despots, some continuing in power to the end, others ruined in mid course and ending in povm sound, they account for it by saying that the sound is with us right from birth and has thus no contrasting silence to show it up; for voice and silence are perceived by contrast with each other, and so all mankind is undergoing an experience like that of a coppersmith, who becomes by long habit indifferent to the din around him‘ (trans. W. K. C. Guthrie). Aristotle refutes this theory. 1The.idea that the daemon (guardian spirit, genius, personified destiny) has an individual allotted to it as its portion appears in Lysias, Epitap/zim 78, Theocritus iv. 40, and Plato’s F/zzzcdo (myth) 107 D. 2These last words ‘hecame a kind of rallyingvcry among the champions of the freedom of the will in the early Christian era’ (Adam). They are inscribed on a bust of Plato of the first century 13.0. found at Tibur. 356 CHAPTER XL {re 6113 erty, exile, or beggary. There were lives of men renowned for beauty oi form and for strength and prowess, or for distinguished birth and ancestry; also lives of unknown men; and of women likewise. All these Qualities were variously combined with one an« other and with wealth or poverty, health or sickness, or inter“ mediate conditions; but in none of these lives was there anything to determine the condition of the soul, because the soul must needs change its character accordingr as it chooses one life or another. Here, it seems, my dear Glaucon, a man’s whole fortunes are at stake. On this account each one of us should lay aside all other learning, to study only how he may discover one who can give him the knowledge enabling him to distinguish the good life from the evil, and always and everywhere to choose the best within his reach, taking into account all these qualities we have mentioned and how, separately or in combination, they affect the goodness of life. Thus he will seek to understand what is the effect, for good or evil, of beauty combined with wealth or with poverty and with this or that condition of the. soul, or oi any combination of high or low birth, public or private station, strength or weakness, quick— ness of wit or slowness, and any other qualities of mind, native or acquired; until, as the outcome of all these calculations, he is able to choose between the worse and the better life with reference to the constitution of the soul, calling a life worse or better accord— ing as it leads to the soul becoming more unjust or more just. All else he will leave out of account; for, as we have seen, this is the supreme choice for a man, both while he lives and after death. Ac— cordingly, when he goes into the house of death he should hold this faith like adamant, that there too he may not be dazzled by wealth and such—like evils, {ling hin‘isell into the life of a despot or other evil~doer, to worlc irrernediable harm and suffer yet worse things himself, but may know how to choose always the middle course that avoids both extremes, not only in this life, so far as he may, but in every future existence; for there lies the greatest happiness {or man. To return to toe report of the messenger from the other world, The Interpreter then saidzl‘Even for the last corner, it he choose with discretion, there is left in store a life with which, if he will a. fire} THE MYTH OP ER 357 live strenuously, he may be content and not unhappy, Let not the first be heedless in his choice, nor the last he disheartened.’ After these words, he who had drawn the first lot at once seized upon the most absolute despotism he could find. In his thoughtless greed he was not careful to examine the life he chose at every point, and he did not see the many evils it contained and that he was fated to devour his own children; but when he had time to look more closely, re began to beat his breast and bewail his choice, for- getting the warning proclaimed by the Interpreter; for he laid the blame on fortune, the decrees of the gods, anything rather than himself. He was one of those who had come down from heaven, having spent his former life in a well—ordered commonwealth and become virtuous from habit without pursuing wisdom. It might indeed be said that not the least part of those who were caught in this way were of the company which had come from heaven, be— cause they were not disciplined by suffering; whereas most of those who had come up out of the earth, having suffered themselves and seen others suffer, were not hasty in making their choice. For this reason, and. also because of the chance of the lot, most of the souls changed from a good life to an evil, or from an evil life to a good. Yet, if upon every return to earthly life a man seeks wisdom with his whole heart, and if the lot so fall that he is not among the last to choose, then this report gives good hope that he will not only be happy here, but will journey to the other world and back again hither, not by the rough road underground, but by the smooth path through the heavens. it was indeed, said Er, a sight worth seeing, how the souls sev- erally chose their liveswa sight to move pity and laughter and as- tonishment; for the choice was mostly governed by the habits of their former life. He saw one soul choosing the life of a swan; this had once been the soul of Orpheus, which so hated all woman— lilDCl because of his death at their hands that it would not con— sent to be born of woman.l And he saw the soul of ’llhamyras2 1 Orpheus was torn in pieces by the Maenads, the women-worshippers of Diony— sus. zAnother singer, who was deprived of sight and of the gift of song for chal- lenging the Moses to a contest. 358 CHAPTER XL [1%. 620 talte the life of a nightingale, anrl a swan choose to be changeé into a man, and other musical creatures (lo the same. The soul which drew the twentieth lot tool: a lion’s lite; this had been Ajax, the son of ’l‘elanion, who shrank from being born as a man, re— membering the judgement concerning the arms of Aclailles.1 After him came the soul of Agameinnoof who also listed mankincl bed cause of his surl'erings aurl tool: in exchange tl‘?€ life of an eagle. Atalanta’s3 soul drew a lot about half—way tnrougli. She toolr the life of an athlete, which she could not pass over when she saw the great honours he would win... Alter her he saw tilt? soul of Epeiusf son of l’atiopeus, Passing into the form of a craftswoman; anti far oil, among the last, the bullooo 'llliersites" soul clothing itself in tile body of an ape. it so happened that the last choice of all fell to the soul of Odysseus, whose ambition was so abated by memory of his former labours that he went about for a long time looking for a life of quiet obscurity. When at last he founcl it lying some— where neglected by all the rest, he chose it gladly, saying that he would have done the same if his lot had come first. Other souls in like manner passed from beasts into men and into one another, the unjust changing into the wild creatures, the just into the tame, in every sort of combination. Now when all the souls harl chosen their lives, they went in the order of their lots to Lacliesis; and she gave each into the charge of the guardian genius lie- liarl chosen, to escort him through life and fulfil his clioice. The genius lerl the soul first to Clotlio, uncler her hand as it turned the whirling Spindle, thus ratifying the portion which the man had chosen when his lot was cast. Ariel, after touch— ing her, he lecl it next to the spinning of Atropos, thus making the thread of destiny irreversible. Thence, without looking back, he passed unrler the throne of Necessity. And when he and all the 1Aftcr Achilles' death a contest between Ajax and Odysseus for his arms enriecl in the defeat and suicide of Ajax. The first mention is in Odyrrey xi. 543, where [lie soul of Ajax, summoned from Hades, will not speak to Odysseus. 2The conqueror of Troy, rnurtlered by his Wife Clytemnesira on his return home. aAtalanta's suitors load to race with her for her hand and were killed if de- leatetl. Milaniou won by dropping three golden apples given him by Aphrodite, which Atalanta paused to pick up. ’3‘ Maker or the wooden horse in which the Greek chieftairis entered Troy. . A... m...m;._.-i.- a. 620] THE. MYTH or ER 359 rest load passecl beyonrl the throne, they journeyed together to the Plain of Lethe through terrible stilling heat; for the plain is bare of trees ancl of all plants that grow on the earth. When evening came, they cricampecl beside the River of Unminclfulness, whose water no vessel can holtl. All are requirecl to drink a certain meas ure of this water, and some have not the wisdom to save them from drinking more. Every man as he drinks forgets everything. Vflieu they had fallen asleep, at midnight there was thunder and an earthquake, and in, a moment they were carried up, this way anti that, to their birth, like shooting stars. Er himself was not al~ lowecl to drink of the water. How and; by what means he came back to the body he knew not; but suddenly he opened his eyes and found himself lying on the funeral pyre at dawn. And so, Glaucon, tlte tale was savecl from perishing; and if we will listen, it may save us, and all will be well when we cross the river of Lethe. Also we shall not defile our souls; but, if you will believe with me that the soul is immortal and able to endure all good and ill, we shall keep always to the upward way and in all things pursue justice with the laelp of wisdom. Then we shall be at peace with l—eaveu and with ourselves, both during our sow journ here ancl when, like victors in the Games collecting gifts from their friends, we receive the prize of justice; and so, not here only, but in the journey of a thousand years of which I have told you, we shall fare well. all stodtttousi! ...
View Full Document

This note was uploaded on 04/21/2009 for the course CLASSICS 40 taught by Professor Erickson during the Winter '07 term at UCSB.

Page1 / 6

Plato - An Account of the Afterlife I from the end of Plato’s Republic CHAPTER XL 613 E‘END THE REWARDS 0F}USTICE AFTER DEATH THE MYTH OF ER

This preview shows document pages 1 - 6. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online