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Heraclitus

HeraclitusKathleen Freeman, the classical scholar who specializes in pre-Socratic thought says, “The influence of Heraclitus on all subsequent philosophy cannot be over-estimated.” Since philosophy is the love of wisdom, what present importance can there be for the philosopher of fire who flourished in Greece about 500 B.C.?

For the most part, almost nothing reliable is known about Heraclitus except that he was of noble origin; was born about 540 B.C. in Ephesus; and was the author of oracular wisdom, of which we have somewhat more than a hundred authentic fragments. Let us listen to the voice of the ancient sage and ask ourselves if he may not have discovered and revealed some of the deathless principles of power which undergird our daily lives. Consider some of his fragments of fire that variously affirm that power is perpetual:

This world, which is the same for all, no gods or human beings have made; but it ever was, is now, and ever shall be an ever-living Fire, with measures of it kindling, and measures going out.

All things are an exchange for fire and fire for all things, even as wares for gold and gold for wares.

Fire lives in the death of air, and air lives in the death of fire; water lives in the death of earth, earth in that of water.

You cannot step twice into the same river, for fresh waters are everflowing in upon you.

Homer was wrong in saying, “Would that strife might perish from among gods and men. ” He did not see that he was praying for the destruction of the universe; for, if his prayer were heard, all things would pass away.

All things come into being and pass away through strife.

In the circumference of a circle, the beginning and the end are one.

The way up and the way down is one and the same.

Mortals are immortals, and immortals are mortals, the one living in the others’ death and dying in the others’ life.

God is Day and Night, Winter and Summer, War and Peace, Surfeit and Hunger.

Heraclitus always keeps coming back to one point: opposing forces can work in unison, so that the most beautiful harmony arises from things that are different. Everything which occurs involves opposites, and in these very opposites unity perpetually renews itself. Unity is the central fact of our being in becoming.

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