View Full Version : Parmenides: On Nature

01-03-2009, 01:20 PM
This is a Phoenix-thread (http://forum.alchemyforums.com/showthread.php?t=7) from the old site (http://alchemy-forums.forumotion.com/forum.htm).

I've found an interesting text that I would like to share. I've edited it and placed it here in a more normal reading structure, but if you want to experience the text in verse then go here (http://philoctetes.free.fr/parmenides.pdf). Also I have placed in bold parts I find particularly interesting.

Parmenides: On Nature
1. The steeds that bear me carried me as far as ever my heart desired, since they brought me and set me on the renowned way of the goddess, who with her own hands conducts the man who knows through all things. On what way was I borne along; for on it did the wise steeds carry me, drawing my car, and maidens showed the way. And the axle, glowing in the socket – for it was urged round by the whirling wheels at each end - gave forth a sound as of a pipe, when the daughters of the Sun, hasting to convey me into the light, threw back their veils from off their faces and left the abode of Night.

There are the gates of the ways of Night and Day, fitted above with a lintel and below with a threshold of stone. They themselves, high in the air, are closed by mighty doors, and Avenging Justice keeps the keys that open them. Her did the maidens entreat with gentle words and skilfully persuade to unfasten without demur the bolted bars from the gates. Then, when the doors were thrown back, they disclosed a wide opening, when their brazen hinges swung backwards in the sockets fastened with rivets and nails. Straight through them, on the broad way, did the maidens guide the horses and the car, and the goddess greeted me kindly, and took my right hand in hers, and spake to me these words:
-Welcome, noble youth, that comest to my abode on the car that bears thee tended by immortal charioteers! It is no ill chance, but justice and right that has sent thee forth to travel on this way. Far, indeed, does it lie from the beaten track of men! Meet it is that thou shouldst learn all things, as well the unshaken heart of persuasive truth, as the opinions of mortals in which is no true belief at all. Yet none the less shalt thou learn of these things also, since thou must judge approvedly of the things that seem to men as thou goest through all things in thy journey.

2. Come now, I will tell thee - and do thou hearken to my saying and carry it away - the only two ways of search that can be thought of. The first, namely, that It is, and that it is impossible for anything not to be, is the way of conviction, for truth is its companion. The other, namely, that It is not, and that something must needs not be, - that, I tell thee, is a wholly untrustworthy path. For you cannot know what is not - that is impossible – nor utter it;

3. For it is the same thing that can be thought and that can be.

6. It needs must be that what can be thought and spoken of is; for it is possible for it to be, and it is not possible for, what is nothing to be. This is what I bid thee ponder. I hold thee back from this first way of inquiry, and from this other also, upon which mortals knowing naught wander in two minds; for hesitation guides the wandering thought in their breasts, so that they are borne along stupefied like men deaf and blind. Undiscerning crowds, in whose eyes the same thing and not the same is and is not, and all things travel in opposite directions!

7. For this shall never be proved, that the things that are not are; and do thou restrain thy thought from this way of inquiry. Nor let habit force thee to cast a wandering eye upon this devious track, or to turn thither thy resounding ear or thy tongue; but do thou judge the subtle refutation of their discourse uttered by me.

8. One path only is left for us to speak of, namely, that It is. In it are very many tokens that what is, is uncreated and indestructible, alone, complete, immovable and without end. Nor was it ever, nor will it be; for now it is, all at once, a continuous one. For what kind of origin for it. will you look for ? In what way and from what source could it have drawn its increase ? I shall not let thee say nor think that it came from what is not; for it can neither be thought nor uttered that what is not is. And, if it came from nothing, what need could have made it arise later rather than sooner ? Therefore must it either be altogether or be not at all. Nor will the force of truth suffer aught to arise besides itself from that which in any way is. Wherefore, Justice does not loose her fetters and let anything come into being or pass away, but holds it fast.
“Is it or is it not ?” Surely it is adjudged, as it needs must be, that we are to set aside the one way as unthinkable and nameless (for it is no true way), and that the other path is real and true. How, then, can what is be going to be in the future ?

Or how could it come into being ? If it came into being, it is not; nor is it if it is going to be in the future. Thus is becoming extinguished and passing away not to be heard of Nor is it divisible, since it is all alike, and there is no more of it in one place than in another, to hinder it from holding together, nor less of it, but everything is full of what is.

Wherefore all holds together; for what is; is in contact with what is. Moreover, it is immovable in the bonds of mighty chains, without beginning and without end; since coming into being and passing away have been driven afar, and true belief has cast them away. It is the same, and it rests in the self-same place, abiding in itself.

And thus it remaineth constant in its place; for hard necessity keeps it in the bonds of the limit that holds it fast on every side. Wherefore it is not permitted to what is to be infinite; for it is in need of nothing; while, if it were infinite, it would stand in need of everything. It is the same thing that can be thought and for the sake of which the thought exists; for you cannot find thought without something that is, to which it is betrothed. And there is not, and never shall be, any time other, than that which is present, since fate has chained it so as to be whole and immovable. Wherefore all these things are but the names which mortals have given, believing them, to be true – coming into being and passing away, being and not being, change of place and alteration of bright colour.

Where, then, it has its farthest boundary, it is complete on every side, equally poised from the centre in every direction, like the mass of a rounded sphere; for it cannot be greater or smaller in one place than in another. For there is nothing which is not that could keep it from reaching out equally, nor is it possible that there should be more of what is in this place and less in that, since it is all inviolable. For, since it is equal in all directions, it is equally confined within limits.

Here shall I close my trustworthy speech and thought about the truth. Henceforward learn the opinions of mortals, giving ear to the deceptive ordering of my words. Mortals have settled in their minds to speak of two forms, one of which they should have left out, and that is where they go astray from the truth.

They have assigned an opposite substance to each, and marks distinct from one another. To the one they allot the fire of heaven, light, thin, in every direction the same as itself, but not the same as the other. The other is opposite to it, dark night, a compact and heavy body.

Of these I tell thee the whole arrangement as it seems to men, in order that no mortal may surpass thee in knowledge.

9. Now that all things have been named light and night; and the things which belong to the power of each have been assigned to these things and to those, everything is full at once of light and dark night, both equal, since neither has aught to do with the other.

10. And thou shalt know the origin of all the things on high, and all the signs in the sky, and the resplendent works of the glowing sun’s clear torch, and whence they arose. And thou shalt learn likewise of the wandering deeds of the round-faced moon, and of her origin. Thou shalt know, too, the heavens that surround us, whence they arose, and how Necessity took them and bound them to keep the limits of the stars . . .

11. How the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the sky that is common to all, and the Milky Way, and the outermost Olympos, and the burning might of the stars arose.

12. The narrower circles are filled with unmixed fire, and those surrounding them with night, and in the midst of these rushes their portion of fire. In the midst of these circles is the divinity that directs the course of all things; for she rules over all painful birth and all begetting, driving the female to the embrace of the male, and the male to that of the female.

13. First of all the gods she contrived Eros.

14. Shining by night with borrowed light, wandering round the earth.

15. Always straining her eyes to the beams of the sun.

17. On the right boys; on the left girls.

19. Thus, according to men’s opinions, did things comp into being, and thus they are now. In time (they think) they will grow up and pass away. To each of these things men have assigned a fixed name.
Some resources:
Lecture Notes (http://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/parm1.htm)
Various Translations (http://parmenides.com/about_parmenides/ParmenidesPoem.html?page=12)
Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parmenides)

Thank you Deviadah that is a very interesting text, quite profound. Now I always prefer to read the original, it's like eye candy to me, as I have an acquired taste for reading thick boring books...

I checked first the last line, which I found quite funny (as you know, if it's funny, I think it's worth mentioning first, though there is much else serious to say about this one)

17. On the right boys; on the left girls.

I thought you had altered it from the original but it is in the .pdf, that is quite funny....true, but funny...all that comes to mind is my highschool bathroom and the door on the left was for girls...
Glad you liked it!

Oh, those crazy Greeks... how could they have fallen so far? But that applies to all nations I guess...

...there is much else serious to say about this oneThen you should!

I have not yet digested it completely myself, since I posted it the same day that I discovered it. This part, though, is important I think:
In the midst of these circles is the divinity that directs the course of all things; for she rules over all painful birth and all begetting, driving the female to the embrace of the male, and the male to that of the female.
This reminds me of the Sacred Marriage, or the Chemical Wedding... two become one and all that!

In the Gospel of Thomas it says:
When you make the two one, and when you make the inside as the outside, and the outside as the inside, and the upper side as the lower; and when you make the male and the female into a single one, that the male be not male and the female female; when you make eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then shall you enter [the kingdom].