Heraclites ( or: Heraclitus ) – The Fragments

(a). Everything flows and nothing abides; everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.

(b) Homer was wrong in saying, "Would that strife might perish from amongst gods and men." For if that were to occur, then all things would cease to exist.

(c) Soul is the vaporization out of which everything else is composed; moreover it is the least corporeal of things and is in ceaseless flux, for the moving world can only be known by what is in motion.

(d) Human nature is not rational; there is intelligence only in what encompasses him.

(e) [When visitors unexpectedly found Heraclites warming himself by the cooking fire:] Here, too, are gods.

1. Although this Logos is eternally valid, yet men are unable to understand it — not only before hearing it, but even after they have heard it for the first time. That is to say, although all things come to pass in accordance with this Logos, men seem to be quite without any experience of it — at least if they are judged in the light of such words and deeds as I am here setting forth. My own method is to distinguish each thing according to its nature, and to specify how it behaves; other men, on the contrary, are as neglectful of what they do when awake as they are when asleep.

2. We should let ourselves be guided by what is common to all. Yet, although the Logos is common to all, most men live as if each of them had a private intelligence of his own.

3. The sun is the breadth of a man's foot.

5. They pray to images , much as if they were to talk to houses; for they do not know what gods and heroes are. When defiled they purify themselves with blood, as though one who had stepped into filth were to wash himself with filth. If any of his fellowmen should perceive him acting in such a way, they would regard him as mad.

6. The sun is new each day.

7. If all existing things were smoke, it is by smell that we would distinguish them.

8. Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony.

9. Donkeys would prefer hay to gold.

10. The bones connected by joints are at once a unitary whole and not a unitary whole. To be in agreement is to differ; the concordant is the discordant. From out of all the many particulars comes oneness, and out of oneness come all the many particulars.

11. Every beast is driven to pasture by a blow.

12. You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters and yet others go ever flowing on.

[12] Souls are vaporized from what is moist.

14. Night-walkers, magicians, bacchantes, revelers, and participants in the mysteries! What are regarded as mysteries among men are unholy rituals.

15. Their processions and their phallic hymns would be disgraceful exhibitions were it not that they are done in honor of Dionysus. But Dionysus, in whose honor they rave and hold revels, is the same as Hades.

16. How can anyone hide from that which never sets?

17. Most people do not take heed of the things they encounter, nor do they grasp them even when they have learned about them, although they think they do.

18. Unless you expect the unexpected you will never find [truth], for it is hard to discover and hard to attain.

20. After birth men have the wish to live and to accept their dooms; then they leave behind them children to become dooms in their turn.

21. Whatever we see when awake is death; when asleep, dreams.

22. Seekers after gold dig up much earth and find little

23. Men would not have known the name of justice if these things had not occurred.

24. Gods and men honor those slain in battle.

25. Greater dooms win greater destinies.

26. As in the nighttime a man kindles for himself a light, so when a living man lies down in death with his vision extinguished he attaches himself to the state of death; even as one who has been awake lies down with his vision extinguished and attaches himself to the state of sleep.

27. There await men after death such things they neither expect nor have any conception of.

28. Justice will overtake fabricators of lies and false witnesses.

[28. Even those who are most in repute know and maintain only what is reputed.]

29. The best of men choose one thing in preference to all else, immortal glory in preference to mortal good; whereas the masses simply glut themselves like cattle.

30. This universe, which is the same for all, has not been made by any god or man, but it always has been, is, and will be — an ever-living fire, kindling itself by regular measures and going out by regular measures.

31. The transformations of fire: first, sea; and of sea, the resultant amount is the same as there had been before sea became hardened into earth. When earth has melted into sea, the resultant amount is the same as there had been before sea became hardened into earth.

32. Wisdom is one and unique; it is unwilling and yet willing to be called by the name of Zeus.

33. Law involves obeying the counsel of one.

34. Fools, although they hear, are like the deaf: to them the adage applies that when present they are absent.

35. Men who love wisdom should acquaint themselves with a great many particulars.

36. It is death to souls to become water, and it is death to water to become earth. Conversely, water comes into existence out of earth, and souls out of water.

37. Pigs wash in mud, and domestic fowls in dust or ashes.

40. Much learning does not teach understanding, otherwise it would have taught Hesiod and Pythagoras, Xenophanes and Hectaeus.

41. Wisdom is one — to know the intelligence by which all things are steered through all things.

42. Homer deserves to be thrown out of the contests and flogged, and Archilochus too.

43. To extinguish hubris is more needful than to extinguish a fire.

44. The people should fight for their law as for their city wall.

45. You could not discover the limits of soul, even if you traveled by every path in order to do so; such is the depth of its meaning.

46. Bigotry is the sacred disease.

47. Let us not make arbitrary conjectures about the greatest matters.

48. The name of the bow is life, but its work is death.

49. To me one man is worth ten thousand if he is first-rate.

49a. Into the same rivers we step and do not step.

50. Listening not to me but to the Logos, it is wise to acknowledge that all things are one.

51. People do not understand how that which is at variance with itself agrees with itself. There is an harmony in the bending back, as in the cases of the bow and the lyre.

52. Time is a child moving counters in a game; the royal power is a child's.

53. War is both father and king of all; some he has shown forth as gods and others as men, some he has made slaves and others free.

54. The hidden harmony is better than the obvious.

55. The things of which there can be sight, hearing, and learning — these are what I especially prize.

56. Men are deceived in their knowledge of things that are manifest, even as Homer was who was the wisest of all the Greeks. For he was even deceived by boys killing lice when they said to him: "What we have seen and grasped, these we leave behind; whereas what we have not seen and grasped, these we carry away."

57. Hesiod, whom so many accept as their wise teacher, did not even understand the nature of day and night; for they are one.

58. Doctors cut, burn, and torture the sick, and then demand of them an undeserved fee for such services.

59. For the wool-carders the straight and the winding way are one and the same.

60. The way up and the way down are one and the same.

61. Sea water is at once very pure and very foul: it is drinkable and healthful for fishes, but undrinkable and deadly for men.

62. Immortals become mortals, mortals become immortals; they live in each other's death and die in each other's life.

63. They arise into wakefulness and become guardians of the living and the dead.

64. The thunderbolt pilots all things.

65. [ The phases of fire are ] craving and satiety.

66. Fire in its advance will catch all things by surprise and judge them.

67. God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, satiety and want. But he undergoes transformations, just as **** when mixed with a fragrance is named according to the particular aroma which it gives off.

72. Although intimately connected with the Logos, men keep setting themselves against it.

73. One should not act or speak as if he were asleep.

75. Even sleepers are workers and collaborators in what goes on in the universe.

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

77. Souls take pleasure in becoming moist.

78. Human nature has no real understanding; only the divine nature has it.

79. A man is regarded as childish by a spirit just as a boy is by a man.

80. It should be understood that war is the common condition, that strife is justice, and that all things come to pass through the compulsion of strife.

82, 83. The handsomest ape is ugly compared with humankind; the wisest man appears as an ape when compared with a god — in wisdom in beauty, and in all other ways.

84a. It is in changing that things find repose.

84b. It is weariness to keep toiling at the same things as that one becomes ruled by them.

85. It is hard to fight against impulsive desire; whatever it wants it will buy at the cost of the soul.

86. What is divine escapes men's notice because of their incredulity.

87. A foolish man is a-flutter at every word.

88. It is one and the same thing to be living and dead, awake or asleep, young or old. The former aspect in each case becomes the latter, and the latter becomes the former, by sudden unexpected reversal.

89. The waking have one world in common, whereas each sleeper turns away to a private world of his own.

90. There is exchange of all things for fire and of fire for all things, as there is of wares for gold and of gold for wares.

[91]. You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters and yet others go ever flowing on.]

91. It throws apart and then brings together again; it advances and retires.

92. The Sibyl with raving mouth utters solemn, unadorned, unlovely words, but she reaches out over a thousand years with her voice because of the god within her.

93. The lord whose oracle is at Delphi neither speaks nor conceals, but gives signs.

94. The sun will not overstep his measures; if he were to do so, the Erinyes, handmaids of justice, would seek him out [for punishment].

95. Although it is better to hide our ignorance, this is hard to do when we relax over wine.

96. Corpses are more fit to be thrown out than dung.

97. Dogs bark at a person whom they do not know.

98. In Hades souls perceive by smelling.

99. If there were no sun, the other stars would not suffice to prevent its being night.

100. All things come in their due season.

101. I have searched myself.

101a. Eyes are more accurate witnesses than ears.

102. To God all things are beautiful, good, and right; men, on the other hand, deem some things right and others wrong.

103. In the circumference of the circle the beginning and the end are common.

104. What sort of mind or intelligence have they? They believe popular folktales and follow the crowd as their teachers, ignoring the adage that the many are bad, the good are few.

106. Hesiod distinguishes good days and evil days, not knowing that every day is like every other.

107. Eyes and ears are bad witnesses to men having barbarian souls.

108. Of those whose discourses I have heard there is not one who attains to the realization that wisdom stands apart from all else.

110. It would not be better if things happened to men just as they wish.

111. It is by disease that health is pleasant, by evil that good is pleasant, by hunger satiety, by weariness rest.

112. To be temperate is the greatest virtue. Wisdom consists in speaking and acting the truth, giving heed to the nature of things.

113. Thinking is common to all.

114. Men should speak with rational awareness and thereby hold on strongly to that which is shared in common — as a city holds on to its law, and even more strongly. For all human laws are nourished by the one divine law, which prevails as far as it wishes, suffices for all things, and yet is something more than they.

115. Soul has its own inner laws of growth.

116. It pertains to all men to know themselves and to be temperate.

117. A drunken man has to be led by a boy, whom he follows stumbling and not knowing whither he goes, for his soul is moist.

118. A dry soul is wisest and best. [The best and wisest soul is a dry beam of light.]

119. A man's character is his guardian divinity.

120. The boundary line of evening and morning is the Bear; and opposite the Bear is the boundary of bright Zeus.

121. The Ephesians had better go hang themselves, every man of them, and leave their city to be governed by youngsters, for they have banished Hermadorus, the finest man among them, declaring: "Let us not have anyone among us who excels the rest; if there should be such a one, let him go and live elsewhere."

123. Nature [physis] loves to hide.

124. The fairest universe is but a heap of rubbish piled up at random.

125. Even the sacred barley drink separates when it is not stirred.

125a. May you have plenty of wealth, you men of Ephesus, in order that you may be punished for your evil ways!

126. Cool things become warm, the warm grows cool; the moist dries, the parched becomes moist.

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