2.26.2009

How to Learn the Higher Education

At the center of Empedocles' teaching, in the middle of his poem, "On Nature," there is a very important paragraph. Here are eight different translations; I'm most interested in the lines that I've highlighted in red:

1. For if thou shalt fix them in all thy close-knit mind and watch over them graciously with pure attention, all these things shall surely be thine for ever, and many others shalt thou possess from them. For these themselves shall cause each to grow into its own character, whatever is the nature1 of each. But if thou shalt reach out for things of another sort, as is the manner of men, there exist countless evils to blunt your studious thoughts; soon these latter shall cease to live as time goes on, desiring as they do to arrive at the longed-for generation of themselves. For know that all things have understanding and their share of intelligence. (Source)

2. For if, supported on thy steadfast mind, thou wilt contemplate these things with good intent and faultless care, then shalt thou have all these things in abundance throughout thy life, and thou shalt gain many others from them. For these things grow of themselves into thy heart, where is each man's true nature. But if thou strivest after things of another kind, as it is the way with men that ten thousand sorry matters blunt their careful thoughts, soon will these things desert thee when the time comes round; for they long to return once more to their own kind; for know that all things have wisdom and a share of thought. (Source)

3. For if reliant on a spirit firm,
With inclination and endeavor pure,
Thou wilt behold them, all these things shall be
Forever thine, for service, and besides
Thereof full many another shalt thou gain;
For of themselves into that core they grow
Of each man's nature, where his essence lies.
But if for others thou wilt look and reach—
Such empty treasures, myriad and vile,
As men be after, which forevermore
Blunt soul and keen desire—O then shall these
Most swiftly leave thee as the seasons roll;
For all their yearning is a quick return
Unto their own primeval stock. For know:
All things have fixed intent and share of thought.
(Source)

4. For if, thrusting them deep down in your crowded thinking organs,
You gaze on them in kindly fashion, with pure meditation,
Absolutely all these things will be with you throughout your life,
And from these you will acquire many others
; for these things themselves
Will expand to form each character, according to the growth [nature] of each.
But if you reach out for different things, such as
The ten thousand wretched things which are among men and blunt their meditations,
Truly they will abandon you quickly, as time circles round,
Desiring to arrive at their own dear kind [literally, “birth” or “generation”]
For know that all have thought and a share of understanding.
(Source)

5. Thou wilt behold them, all these things shall be
Forever thine, for service, and besides
Thereof full many another shalt thou gain;
For of themselves into that core they grow
Of each man s nature, where his essence lies.
But if for others thou wilt look and reach
Such empty treasures, myriad and vile,
As men be after, which forevermore
Blunt soul and keen desire O then shall these
Most swiftly leave thee as the seasons roll;
For all their yearning is a quick return
Unto their own primeval stock. For know:
All things have fixed intent and share of thought.
(Source)

6. If you push them firmly under your crowded thoughts, and contemplate them favourably with unsullied and constant attention, assuredly all these will be with you through life, and you will gain much else from them, for of themselves they will cause each thing to grow into the character, according to the nature of each. But if you yourself shall reach out for the countless trivialities which come among men and dull their meditations, straightaway these will leave you as the time comes round, longing to reach their own familiar kind; for know that all things have consciousness and a share of intelligence. (Source)

7. If you press them (these truths?) deep into your firm mind, and contemplate them with good will and a studious care that is pure, these things will all assuredly remain with you throughout your life; and you will obtain many other things from them; for these things of themselves cause each (element) to increase in the character, according to the way of each man's nature. But if you intend to grasp after different things such as dwell among men in countless numbers and blunt their thoughts, miserable (trifles), certainly these things will quickly desert you in the course of time, longing to return to their own original kind. For all things, be assured, have intelligence and a portion of Thought. (Source)

8. If you press them down underneath your dense-packed diaphragm and oversee them with good will and with pure attention to the work, they will all without the slightest exception stay with you for as long as you live. And, from them, you will come to possess many other things. For they grow, each according to its own inner disposition, in whatever way their nature dictates. But if you reach out instead after other kinds of things--after the ten thousand worthless things that exist among humans, blunting their cares--then you can be sure they will only too gladly leave you with the circling of time, longing to return to their own dear kind. For you need to know that everything has intelligence and a share of awareness. (Source: Peter Kingsley's Reality, pg. 520-521)

In the poem, Empedocles is speaking to a young person who is applying to be his student. Empedocles is telling the student how he must receive the teachings -- the gist of it seems to be that the student must learn the teachings at a level deeper than mind (Kingsley insists that the word diaphragm is exactly corresponding to the original)... and then "tend to" the words as if they are seeds in soil.

Empedocles' demands may seem unreasonable, but I know of no better way to receive spiritual teaching than the way he seems to be describing--not critically, but like a farmer, patient for his crop to grow.

1 comment:

cpfriscia said...

awesome! Long live Empedocles!!!....
His thoughts and ideas are awesome!
Could use your thoughts at Thinktank Evolution