North Brabant Travel on 1 The connexion of these theories with popular belief may be illustrated from Plato’s Phaedo, where Kebes mentions the fears of the ordinary man that the soul may not be immortal, but that when a man dies and it leaves his body it goes forth like breath or smoke and is scattered, gone, vanished, and no longer exists anywhere Socrates rallies him and Simmias for being influenced by the fear that children have, lest it be true that when the soul leaves the body the wind blows it away and scatters it, especially if one happens to die not on a calm day but in a gale!2 The connexion of the soul with air and wind was evidently not thought by everyone to be a bar to its immortality, and it is interesting to see the same idea put forward by two schools of thought so far apart as the atomists and the Orphics, the one purely scientific, denying the existence of a purpose in nature and any interference by divine powers in human life, denying above all things the possibility of an immortal soul, and the other preaching a mystical form of religion, of which the immortality of the soul, and the striving after its union with the divine, formed the very heart and core. One would have thought they could have nothing in common, yet we are told, again on the authority of Aristotle, that the account in the Orphic verses, as they are called, says that the soul comes in from space as we breathe, borne by the winds.3 Euripides in the Frogs is made to pray to Aither on whom I pasture, and there is little doubt that the same attempt to convert philosophical speculation into religious faith is behind the prayer which he puts into the mouth of Hecuba in his own play of the Troades: 0 thou who at once art prop and stay of the Earth and broodest over it, whosoever thou art, hard to divine or know Zeus, be thou compelling force of nature or the mind of man, to thee I pray. For treading thy noiseless way thou leadest aright all the things of mortals.1 To this utterance Menelaus not unnaturally replies: What is this? Strange prayers dost thou fashion to the gods. That which props the earth below2 and is over it as well, which is at the same time the directing force in nature (as Diogenes of Apollonia said) and identical with the reason in man, and whose path is noiseless what is it but Air, which has for a Euripides usurped the name and dignity of Zeus? The promotion of Air to the position of highest among the gods is more directly vouched for by Philemon, a poet of the New Comedy contemporary with Menander: 1 am he from whom none can hide, in any act which he may do, or be about to do, or have done in the past, be he god or man. Air is my name, but one might also call me Zeus. North Brabant Travel 2016.
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