laws (books 7 - 12)
for the sake of the whole, directing his effort towards the common
good, executing the part for the sake of the whole, and not the
whole for the sake of the part. And you are annoyed because you are
ignorant how what is best for you happens to you and to the
universe, as far as the laws of the common creation admit. Now, as the
soul combining first with one body and then with another undergoes all
sorts of changes, either of herself, or through the influence of
another soul, all that remains to the player of the game is that he
should shift the pieces; sending the better nature to the better
place, and the worse to the worse, and so assigning to them their
Cle. In what way do you mean?
Ath. In a way which may be supposed to make the care of all things
easy to the Gods. If any one were to form or fashion all things
without any regard to the whole-if, for example, he formed a living
element of water out of fire, instead of forming many things out of
one or one out of many in regular order attaining to a first or second
or third birth, the transmutation would have been infinite; but now
the ruler of the world has a wonderfully easy task.
Cle. How so?
Ath. I will explain:-When the king saw that our actions had life,
and that there was much virtue in them and much vice, and that the
soul and body, although not, like the Gods of popular opinion,
eternal, yet having once come into existence, were indestructible (for
if either of them had been destroyed, there would have been no
generation of living beings); and when he observed that the good of
the soul was ever by nature designed to profit men, and the evil to
harm them-he, seeing all this, contrived so to place each of the parts
that their position might in the easiest and best manner procure the
victory of good and the defeat of evil in the whole. And he
contrived a general plan by which a thing of a certain nature found
a certain seat and room. But the formation of qualities he left to the
wills of individuals. For every one of us is made pretty much what
he is by the bent of his desires and the nature of his soul.
Cle. Yes, that is probably true.
Ath. Then all things which have a soul change, and possess in
themselves a principle of change, and in changing move according to
law and to the order of destiny: natures which have undergone a lesser
change move less and on the earth's surface, but those which have
suffered more change and have become more criminal sink into the
abyss, that is to say, into Hades and other places in the world below,
of which the very names terrify men, and which they picture to
themselves as in a dream, both while alive and when released from
the body. And whenever the soul receives more of good or evil from her
own energy and the strong influence of others-when she has communion
with divine virtue and becomes divine, she is carried into another and
better place, which is perfect in holiness; but when she has communion
with evil, then she also changes the Place of her life.
This is the justice of the Gods who inhabit Olympus.
O youth or young man, who fancy that you are neglected by the Gods,
know that if you become worse you shall go to the worse souls, or if
better to the better, and in every succession of life and death you
will do and suffer what like may fitly suffer at the hands of like.
This is the justice of heaven, which neither you nor any other
unfortunate will ever glory in escaping, and which the ordaining
powers have specially ordained; take good heed thereof, for it will be
sure to take heed of you. If you say:-I am small and will creep into
the depths of the earth, or I am high and will fly up to heaven, you
are not so small or so high but that you shall pay the fitting
penalty, either here or in the world below or in some still more
savage place whither you shall be conveyed. This is also the
explanation of the fate of those whom you saw, who had done unholy and