Saturday, 19 October 2013

360 BC, Timaeus, Plato.

The part of the soul which is the seat of courage, passion and ambition [the gods] located... between midriff and neck; there it would be well-placed to listen to the commands of reason and combine with it in forcibly restraining the appetites when they refused to obey the word of command from the citadel.

The appetite for food and drink and other natural needs of the body they located between the midriff and the region of the navel...; and they secured appetite there like a wild beast, which must be fed with the rest of us if mortals were to exist at all. And they put it in this position in order that it might continue to feed at its stall, but be as far as possible from the seat of deliberation, and cause the least possible noise and disturbance, so leaving the highest part of us to deliberate quietly about the welfare of each and all. [...] When the mind wants to cause fear, it makes use of the liver's native bitterness and plays a stern and threatening role, quickly infusing the whole organ with bitterness and giving it a bilious colour... . By contrast, gentle thought from the mind produce images of the opposite kind, which will neither produce nor have connection with anything of a contrary nature to their own, and so bring relief from bitterness, using the organ's innate sweetness to render it straight and smooth and free, and making the part of the soul that lives in the region of the liver cheerful and gentle, and able to spend the night quietly in divination and dreams, as reason and understanding are beyond it. For our makers remembered that their father had ordered them to make mortal creatures as perfect as possible, and so did their best even with this base part of us and gave it the power of prophecy so that it might have some apprehension of truth. And clear enough evidence that god gave this power to man's irrational part is to be found in our incapacity for inspired and true prophecy when in our right minds; we only achieve it when the power of our understanding is inhibited in sleep, or when we are in an abnormal condition owing to disease or divine inspiration. 

Everything that has life has every right to be called a living thing; and ['trees, plants and seeds'] have the third sort of soul, which we have located between midriff and the navel, and which is without belief or reason or understanding but has appetite and a sense of pleasure and pain. It is always entirely passive; its formation has not allowed it to perceive and reflect on its own nature, by revolving in and about itself... . So it is a creature with a life of its own.

...the gods produced sexual love, constructing in us and in women a living creature itself instinct with life. [...] So a man's genitals are naturally disobedient and self-willed, like a creature that will not listen to reason, and will do anything in their mad lust for possession. Much the same is true of the matrix or womb in women, which is a living creature within them which longs to bear children. And if it is left unfertilized long beyond the normal time, it causes extreme unrest, strays about the body, blocks the channels of the breath and causes in consequence acute distress and disorders of all kinds. This goes on until the woman's longing and the man's desire meet and pick the fruit from the tree, as it were, sowing the ploughland of the womb with seeds as yet unformed and too small to be seen, which take shape and grow big within until they are born into the light of day as a complete living creature.

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