Timaeus on Why the Universe Must Be a Sphere, pace Pythagoreanism

“TIMAEUS: Why did the Creator make the world?…He was good, and therefore not jealous, and being free from jealousy he desired that all things should be like himself. Wherefore he set in order the visible world, which he found in disorder. Now he who is the best could only create the fairest; and reflecting that of visible things the intelligent is superior to the unintelligent, he put intelligence in soul and soul in body, and framed the universe to be the best and fairest work in the order of nature, and the world became a living soul through the providence of God.

In the likeness of what animal was the world made?—that is the third question…The form of the perfect animal was a whole, and contained all intelligible beings, and the visible animal, made after the pattern of this, included all visible creatures.

Are there many worlds or one only?—that is the fourth question…One only. For if in the original there had been more than one they would have been the parts of a third, which would have been the true pattern of the world; and therefore there is, and will ever be, but one created world. Now that which is created is of necessity corporeal and visible and tangible,—visible and therefore made of fire,—tangible and therefore solid and made of earth. But two terms must be united by a third, which is a mean between them; and had the earth been a surface only, one mean would have sufficed, but two means are required to unite solid bodies. And as the world was composed of solids, between the elements of fire and earth God placed two other elements of air and water, and arranged them in a continuous proportion—

fire:air::air:water, and air:water::water:earth,

and so put together a visible and palpable heaven, having harmony and friendship in the union of the four elements; and being at unity with itself it was indissoluble except by the hand of the framer. Each of the elements was taken into the universe whole and entire; for he considered that the animal should be perfect and one, leaving no remnants out of which another animal could be created, and should also be free from old age and disease, which are produced by the action of external forces. And as he was to contain all things, he was made in the all-containing form of a sphere, round as from a lathe and every way equidistant from the centre, as was natural and suitable to him. He was finished and smooth, having neither eyes nor ears, for there was nothing without him which he could see or hear; and he had no need to carry food to his mouth, nor was there air for him to breathe; and he did not require hands, for there was nothing of which he could take hold, nor feet, with which to walk. All that he did was done rationally in and by himself, and he moved in a circle turning within himself, which is the most intellectual of motions; but the other six motions were wanting to him; wherefore the universe had no feet or legs.”

TIMAEUS by Plato Translated by Benjamin Jowett, Introduction, Section 1


I am very familiar with this construction for it was the construction of my Philosophical master, a Christian Platonist, Gordon Clark, when I was still a Christian.  The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark, Vol 1, ed. John Robbins, A Christian View of Men and Things, (Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2005), pg. 224-225 – VII Philosophy of Knowledge- A Theistic World:

“Is all this any more than the assertion that there is an eternal, immutable Mind, a Supreme Reason, a personal, living, God? The truth or propositions that may be known are the thoughts of God, the eternal thought of God. And insofar as man knows anything he is in contact with God’s mind. Since, further, God’s mind is God we may legitimately borrow the figurative language, of not the precise meaning, of the mystics and say, we have a vision of God…The world of physics drops into the secondary position of stage scenery, and instead of picturing little hard pellets, the Christian view emphasizes a world of spirits or persons, or minds. The Apostle Paul said that in God we all live and move and have our being…God is the ‘place’ of Spirits…The Divine Mind …encloses or surrounds all others penetrates them completely…There is some affinity between this view of the world and contemporary Personalism in that the basic categories are mental and that personality and history are emphasized above the corporeal and mechanical but the differences transcend the superficial similarity. The Christian view differs from the various forms of Personalism in refusing to equate the physical world with the eternal consciousness of God. But more especially it differs in its concept of the Person who ‘includes’ all others and of his relation to them…The other persons are brought into being by fiat; they are completely and in every respect dependent on God but God is completely and in every respect independent of them.”

The correction I have received since leaving the Christian Church is that I am energized by the breath of life, not that I am essentially a spark of divinity. Thus, should Pal’s words be understood and not in the Pantheist structure Clark and Timaeus are proposing.


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