|"The upward-downward path: they go on simultaneously and instantaneously and result in hidden harmony." -Heraclitus|
The concept of a Cosmos held together by two forces and organized by a third underlies Greek thought. The sanctuary at Delphi, situated 2,000 feet above sea level overlooking the Pleistos Valley, site of the sanctuary of Apollo and Dionysus, home of the Pythian Games, and the Oracle "Pythia" is a splendid example. Apollo became the main deity when, according to Homer, "He killed the fearsome dragon Python, piercing it with his darts". When Dionysus arrived in Greece from the east he also was honored there for three months, while Apollo reside in the country of the Hyperboreans.
Delphi was also known as the center of the cosmos; the Omphalos, a carved symbol represented the "navel of the world", i.e. the axis mundi connecting the earth with heaven. Delphi was a model of the Greek mind and the Greek cosmos. Two forces revolving about the yearly calendar about the central axis of the cosmos. Apollo was honored for nine months and Dionysus for three. Dionysus, the god of viticulture died in the winter and was reborn in the spring. His rebirth was celebrated by his followers at Delphi.Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy said that Apollo represents harmony, progress, clarity and logic, whereas Dionysus represents disorder, intoxication, emotion and ecstasy. Nietzsche used these two forces because, for him, the world of mind and order on one side, and passion and chaos on the other formed principles that were fundamental to Greek culture. *
|Omphalos in the museum at Delphi. The stone navel was originally mounted on a bronze tripod supported by three dancers, at the top of a column.|
While the Triadic forces in religion are represented by Delphi, the philosophical manifestation can be traced to the Pre-Socratic thinkers, especially Heraclitus. He characterized all existing entities by pairs of contrary properties, whereby no entity may ever occupy a single state at a single time. This, along with his statement that "all entities come to be in accordance with this Logos" has been the subject of numerous interpretations. But the resemblance to triad of Delphi is striking.
Heraclitus, Fragment 8 says: "opposites move back and forth, the one to the other: from out of themselves the gather themselves." The conflict of the opposites is a gathering, rooted in togetherness, it is logos. People must "follow the common" and not live having "their own judgement." He distinguishes between human laws and divine law. By "God" Heraclitus does not mean the Judeo-Christian version of a single God as primum mobile of all things, God as Creator, but the divine as opposed the human, the immortal as opposed to the mortal, the cyclical as opposed to the transient. For Heraclitus it was more accurate to speak of the Divine and not of God.
He removed the human sense of justice from his concept of God; i.e., humanity is not the image of God: "To God all things are fair and good and just, but people hold some things wrong and some right." God's custom has wisdom but human custom does not, and yet both humans and God are childish (inexperienced): "human opinions are children's toys" and "Eternity is a child moving counters in a game; the kingly power is a child's."
Wisdom is "to know the thought by which all things are steered through all things", which must not imply that people are or can be wise. Only Zeus is wise. To some degree then Heraclitus seems to be in the mystic's position of urging people to follow God's plan without much of an idea what that may be. In fact there is a note of despair: "The fairest universe is but a heap of rubbish poured out at random".
The idea that all things come to pass in accordance with the Logos and the Logos is common, is expressed in two famous fragments:
This Logos holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it, both before hearing it and when they have first heard it. For though all things come to be in accordance with this Logos, humans are like the inexperienced when they experience such words and deeds as I set out, distinguishing each in accordance with its nature and saying how it is. But other people fail to notice what they do when awake, just as they forget what they do while asleep.
Cratylus brought Heraclitus' philosophy to Athens, where Plato heard it. Plato seems to have used Heraclitus' theory as a model for the sensible world, as he used Parmenides’ theory for the intelligible world. Both Plato and Aristotle viewed Heraclitus as violating the law of non-contradiction, and propounding a false theory of knowledge based on a radical flux. Aristotle also treated him as a coherent material monist who posited fire as an ultimate principle.
John identifies Jesus as the Logos. In Greek thought at that time the logos for the Hellenist world meant the principle of cosmic reason. In this sense, it was similar to the Hebrew concept of Wisdom, God's intimate helper in creation. The Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo merged these two themes when he described the Logos as God's creator of and mediator with the material world. The evangelist adapted Philo's description of the Logos, applying it to Jesus, the incarnation of the Logos, rather than a representative of the Logos.
Philo distinguished between logos prophorikos ("the uttered word") and the logos endiathetos ("the word remaining within"). Early translators from Greek, such as Jerome in the 4th century, were frustrated by the inadequacy of any single Latin word to convey the Logos expressed in the Book of John. The Vulgate Bible usage of in principio erat verbum was thus constrained to use the (perhaps inadequate) noun verbum for "word", but later translations had the advantage of nouns such as le mot in French. Reformation translators took another approach. Martin Luther rejected Zeitwort (verb) in favor of Wort (word), for instance, although later commentators repeatedly turned to a more dynamic use involving "living word" as felt by Jerome and Augustine. Moreover, Hegel was also in this tradition.
There seems little doubt that the concept of Jesus as the logos had its origins in Greek thought and was honed by Philo to fit the Jewish tradition.
*According to Freud's triadic model of the psyche, the id is the primitive and instinctual part of the mind that contains sexual and aggressive drives and hidden memories, the super-ego operates as a moral conscience; and the ego is the realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego.