Friday, November 28, 2008
APOLLONIUS OF TYANA
Apollonius of Tyana was the most famous philosopher of the Græco-Roman world of the first century, and devoted the major part of his long life to the purification of the many cults of the Empire and to the instruction of the ministers and priests of its religions. With the exception of the Christ no more interesting personage appears upon the stage of Western history in these early years.
Apollonius lived in the first century of our era, He was an enthusiastic admirer of the wisdom of India, It is not, however, to be thought that Apollonius set out to make a propaganda of Indian philosophy in the same way that the ordinary missionary sets forth to preach his conception of the Gospel. By no means; Apollonius seems to have endeavoured to help his hearers, whoever they might be, in the way best suited to each of them. He did not begin by telling them that what they believed was utterly false and soul-destroying, and that their eternal welfare depended upon their instantly adopting his own special scheme of salvation; he simply endeavoured to purge and further explain what they already believed and practised.
When they were crossing the great mountains into India a conversation is said to have taken place between Apollonius and Damis, which presents us with a good instance of how our philosopher ever used the incidents of the day to inculcate the higher lessons of life. The question was concerning the "below" and "above." Yesterday, said Damis, we were below in the valley; to-day we are above, high on the mountains, not far distant from heaven. So this is what you mean by "below" and "above," said Apollonius gently. Why, of course, impatiently retorted Damis, if I am in my right mind; what need of such useless questions? And have you acquired a greater knowledge of the divine nature by being nearer heaven on the tops of the mountains? continued his master. Do you think that those who observe the heaven from the mountain heights are any nearer the understanding of things? Truth to tell, replied Damis, somewhat crestfallen, I did think I should come down wiser, for I've been up a higher mountain than any of them, but I fear I know no more than before I ascended it.
Nor do other men, replied Apollonius; "such observations make them see the heavens more blue, the stars more large, and the sun rise from the night, things known to those who tend the sheep and goats; but how God doth take thought for human kind, and how He doth find pleasure in their service, and what is virtue, righteousness, and common-sense, that neither Athos will reveal to those who scale his summit nor yet Olympus who stirs the poet's wonder, unless it be the soul perceive them; for should the soul when pure and unalloyed essay such heights, I swear to thee, she wings her flight far far beyond this lofty Caucasus"