Bibliotherapy

Georgios Gemistos Plethon – About the Two Natures in Man

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Medieval miniature of the philosopher and mystagogue George Gemistos Plethon.

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Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA is an excerpt from ‘The Book of Laws’ by George Gemistos Plethon. Book III. CHAPITRE XLIII. — Épinomis or Conclusion. An August 2, 2019 English translation by Via-HYGEIA from the French translation of A. Pellissier.

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‘…Happiness is the supreme and common goal all Men seek; even though not everyone seeks it through the same lifestyle. Where to seek it, with which behavior do we reach it, this is what we have shown in detail, with ideas, propositions that are neither weak nor debatable, but that are grounded on three fundamental axioms. The first is that the principle of all things, this supreme God, who in the tongue of our fathers was called Jupiter, who is infinitely good, not lacking any perfection to be the greatest possible. The second is that there must be a relationship between the essences and their generative mode. The third, finally, that the deeds of the different beings must have a certain relationship with their essences, and the essences with their deeds.

Once these principles firmly established, the first one reveals to us, besides other important truths, that the universe is co-existing eternally with Jupiter, that this wonderful whole will stay forever unchangeable in its state, steady in the form that was originally given. In fact, it would be unthinkable that a God that is the very essence of the greatest good possible, would not produce its labors and would do no good; as what is the most excellent good must necessarily make, as much as possible, other beings participate to this good; and if it does it well, if it produces its labors, it cannot do it in half, nor produce a labor that is below its might, or becoming less perfect than the possible better. Because it is obvious that if Jupiter would change anything to the established order, he would render the whole inferior to what it is, either already now or later. In fact, if a tiny part of the whole is changed, whether it doesn’t have the habit to change or whether it changes otherwise than usual, it is impossible, due to that, that the whole does not also change its shape; because it is impossible that the same shape maintains itself, while all of the parts do not stay in the same state.

The second principle sheds some light on the constitution of divine things. Because the essence of all beings is shared in three orders: first of all, nature always itself and essentially immutable; then nature that is perpetual but submitted to change in time; finally mortal nature. As it needs for each essence a proper generation, consistent with its nature, we assign the first creation to the principle of all things, Jupiter. The second order of creations to Neptune, who is the first in the order of substances, and who is being helped in all of his labors by some of his legitimate siblings. Finally, the third order of creation to the first of his illegitimate sons, Saturn, and to the sun, the mightiest of Neptune’s son; both being assisted in this labor, Saturn by his illegitimate siblings like him, and the Sun by all of his legitimate siblings, called planets because of the irregularity of their course.

The third principle unveils the nature of Man, which is that he is composed of two natures, one animal and mortal and the other immortal and alike that of the gods. Because obviously Man accomplishes deeds some time worthy of the beast, and sometime alike those of the gods, we must assign necessarily to those two sorts of deeds a proper substance that is in relation with them. Some human deeds are alike those of the Gods, they are obviously the most important. In fact, one cannot say that for the Gods there is a more important occupation than the contemplation of beings, of which the main action is the intuition of Jupiter: Therefore, Man can obviously participate to this contemplation of the beings, he even participates to Jupiter’s intuition, last limit the Gods themselves can reach. Man, in deed, needs a similar substance to that of the Gods themselves, that can produce similar effects to those they produce, and finally that is immortal, because the substance of the Gods is immortal. In deed, how to, compare what has a limited and imperfect might of being with what has an infinite and limitless one? Therefore, is it in the fulfillment of deeds that are worthy to his kinship with the Gods, that we come to show, after a few famous Masters, Man his happiness; the aim of this book being to make those who listen to our lessons as much happy that it is possible to a human being to be.

That Man is a combination of two natures, this truth we will demonstrate it with another principle also undeniable, which is there is no being who by itself goes towards its destruction; all, on the contrary, strive to maintain and protect, as much as it depends on them, their lives. This principle established, when we see some people giving themselves death, we understand better that it is not the mortal part of our being that kills itself, but this is the act of another and better part that cannot die with the body, and of which it is not submitted like all the mortal species that are submitted to the body they are attached and unable to survive when they die. Because if this part of the body was depending of the body, it would not resist it nor to this excess of violence (suicide) nor to anything else lesser. But, having a proper essence and that survives by itself, when it has decided that the common life with the mortal part would not be useful anymore (That it pondered well or not, does not matter), it kills this body as being foreign and, like that, frees itself from a companion it feels cumbersome and unpleasant.

This blend of two natures, one mortal and one immortal, in Man, we think it was made so following the orders of Jupiter in regard of the universal harmony, by the Gods that have created us. They wanted that these two elements of all things, the mortal essence and the immortal essence, unite in the human nature that is placed in between them. In fact, in order to be complete and thorough, the universe was to contain these two elements, the mortal and the immortal, brought and ‘welded’ together. This is why, instead of being torn and divided, it forms a system truly whole. Because, as many things very different between themselves can unite thanks to their common limits, also the mortal essence and the immortal essence unite in the human nature that serves to both of them as limit. If, in Man, the mortal part would stay always united to the immortal part it would become itself immortal, made so by the constant union with the immortal nature and Man would not be, as he should be, the limit between the two natures, he would qualify into the class (level) of the Gods. If, on the other hand, the immortal nature would unite for an instant with the mortal nature to abandon it the rest of the time, it would be the end of this union of the two natures that would not be a permanent link between the mortal element and the immortal one, but a passing union, of which the mortal element taken away would be immediately dissolved and would also dissolve the general harmony. There is only one thing left to say, it is that the union of the two natures exists partially, temporarily, and each time the body is destroyed, they return back both into their respective independence, which is forever renewed in all eternity.’

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Original French

here

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Latest May 2022

English Translation

of the ‘Book of Laws’

by John Opsopaus

here

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