Physics in Images

5 10 2008

These concepts were traditional in Platonism.  It was considered that the mysteries of Eleusis and, more generally, the ceremonies of the cult and the form of the statues, as well as the decorations and symbols on these statues, had been chosen by sages, in the most distant antiquity, with regard to the cosmos.  This Platonic idea first appears in Varro, who affirms that the ancient sages chose the form of the statues of the gods and their attributes so that, when they are contemplated with the eyes of the body, we can see the World Soul and its parts, which are the genuine gods.  Then at a later stage, for instance in Plotinus, we find the idea that the sages of yesteryear, wishing to enjoy the presence of the gods, saw, when they contemplated the nature of the All, that the Soul could be present everywhere, and that it was easy for all things to receive it, as long as they fashioned some object which, by means of sympathy, was capable for receiving a part thereof.  Here again, the paticular gods appear as emanations of the Soul of the All, and statues of the gods ensure the gods’ presence, insofar as something in these statues is in sympathy with the Soul of the All.  In the text by Porphyry, where mention is made of the occultation of nature according to Heraclitus, the gods and the World Soul are just as closely linked, and traditional religion is physics in images. 

-Pierre Hadot, The Veil of Isis: An Essay on the History of the Idea of Nature
Read the rest of this entry »