Heraclitus, the Cosmic Fire, and Universal Flux

Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does many things. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (early 2021).

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16 Responses

  1. Mike Schilling says:

    21. “You cannot step in the same river twice.”

    This has always been regarded as metaphorical, but its status as a simple (if prescient) statement of fact regarding the Cuyahoga is made clear by the recently decoded:

    21A. “because the first time, both of your feet were burned off.”Report

  2. Andrew says:

    /This stuff really turns my crank./

    mine too.Report

  3. Bob Cheeks says:

    Excellent Rufus F!
    Heraclitus (B86): “Through lack of faith (apistie) the divine escapes being known.”
    Voegelin on Xenophanes: “…and only when the one God is understood in his formless transcendence as the same God of every man will the nature of every man be understood as the same by virtue of the sameness of his relation to the transcendent divinity.”
    And so, Voegelin argues, the truth of man and God are bound together, it is one. But man is required to “open his psyche” to that truth, his existence then becomes “open,” through the “periagoge,” the turning around/away from the untruth of human existence.
    Voegelin tells us that this period, the Axial Age (800-500 BCE), marks a time in the history of man that he refers to as a “leap in being,” because while the Greeks were analyzing the “nous” the Israelites were involved in pneumatic revelations as were a number of other religious and philosophical movements around the world.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      As I understand it, at least philosophically, it’s partly opening one’s psyche and partly asking repeatedly for it to be opened from without- for the veils to be removed from perception. McLuhan once said the only way to come to the Church was on one’s knees, which I think gets at the same idea.

      I agree it’s a pretty fascinating body of literature from that period. It’s hard for me to tell if it was just such a highly charged period, or if the time before involved even more searching, but without being written down. The earliest writings, however, are somewhat rudimentary on these points. But, I agree with the sense that this time is exciting because we can watch humans begin asking for the veils to be removed from the numinous.Report

  4. Paul B says:

    Do I detect an emerging pattern? Sappho as Zen koan, now Heraclitus as crypto-Buddhist…

    But be careful about taking Heraclitus’ statement about the river to mean “everything is constantly in flux.” This might be overstating his views under the influence of a later Platonic framework, as Kirk Raven & Schofield discuss in “The Presocratic Philosophers” (which by the way is an excellent general source if you’re not using it already).Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Paul B says:

      No, you don’t need to. I just linked to that video about Buddhism because I thought people might find it interesting- it wasn’t an endorsement. Also, when I compared Sappho fragments to koans, I was speaking poetically- such as comparing a tree to an umbrella. Just saying they’re similar, but not talking about intent.

      Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll get that book if the library has it. I’d read a wee bit of Heraclitus a while ago, but otherwise pretty much came to the pre-Socratics last week. So general guides would be a great help.Report

      • Paul B in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Oh I was just making an observation, not assuming any grand pronouncement on your part. But then again, it’s not like ancient Greek and Indian traditions were totally distinct: both Homeric and Sanskrit epics of course come from the same Indo-European roots, and Alexander the Greek brought a fascinating Greco-Buddhist syncretism in his wake. Between those points, though, it’s pretty silly to press any similarities we find as more than coincidental.

        And the KRS book is really awesome–I get more use out of it now than pretty much any Greek text on my shelf. It’s got every fragment you could possibly want from proto-philosophical mythology to materialist contemporaries of Plato, in both Greek and English, plus commentary that’s scholarly but still accessible. I definitely recommend checking it out before discussing Parmenides (to which I look forward!).Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to Paul B says:

          Yeah, I was a bit surprised in Herodotus to see so much knowledge about India. Also, I find the time after Alexander- pretty much the entire Hellenistic era- to be extremely interesting.

          Thanks for the recommendation. I’m going to go see how much of that book Google books will reveal to me and then drive down to my library when I have a chance. I’ve been using the translation by Leonardo Taran, which has some interesting essays attached and good explanations of how he translated various phrases.Report

  5. Paul B says:

    I think you mean you used Taran for Parmenides. Did he also edit Heraclitus or did you use something else?Report

    • Paul B in reply to Paul B says:

      Sorry, that was supposed to be a reply to Rufus at 7:41.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Paul B says:

        Yeah, I mean that’s where I read the translations of Parmenides and I’m hoping to supplement him with the book you recommended. I used Philip Wheelwright for Heraclitus, although it’s a fairly old translation. Ideally, of course, I’d like to read these writers in Greek, but I’ve only just started learning it. I’ve mostly been working on learning Latin and I think I can now read those texts (very slowly) when we get to that time period, but I still need to find a good text on reading classical Greek.Report