Wednesday, May 23, 2007

(7) Cosmology of the Ancient Stoa

The word "cosmology" is defined as the science of the origin
and development of the universe. In modern times we think
of the Big Bang, of Particle Physics, and AstroPhysics--all
assisted by cutting-edge technology--when we consider
the origin of the universe. However, more than two millennia
back in time, the ancient Greek philosophers were not privy
to the theoretics and the technology so familiar to us today.

Stoics nonetheless inherited a cosmic tradition, handed down
by Greek mythology. For example, "the analogy between
living beings and parts of the cosmos [was] extremely ancient
in Greece and antedates all written records." Indeed, the
analogy between microcosm and macrocosm can be traced
back as far as the sixth century b.c.e.
Ohio State University Press, 1977, p.63.]

Ancient Greek physics consisted of air, fire, water, and earth.
Consequently, Stoic philosophers forged their cosmology
within this context. Also, early on in Greek philosophy
"the idea became popular that the cosmos as a whole is a
single living being."
[Ibid, p. 63.]

Even more specifically, early Stoic philosophers stressed
a cosmic-biological character when it came to the universe.
For example, the early Stoics believed that the cosmos
originated out of the "fire of the conflagration." And as Zeno
reportedly put, the fire is "as it were a seed of the future
cosmos, possessing the *Logoi* (Reason) of all things."

Eventually this primeval fire changes into water. Out of this
comes the concept that body and soul are as two distinct
entities. As Hahm put: "Clearly the water is body and fire
is soul."

Continuing with biological terms, the Stoics refer to seed
in terms of sperm, which was wet, watery. As put, "as the
seed is embraced in the seminal fluid, so also this (i.e. god),
being a *spermatikos logos* of the cosmos is left behind--
making the matter adapted to himself for the genesis of the
next things..."
[Ibid, p. 60.]

In time Stoic physics moved into more sophisticated terms
when it came to discussing the cosmos. They considered
*Pneuma* (Spirit) as an all-pervasive intelligent force that
mixes with "shapeless and passive matter" and "imbues it
with all its qualities."
[S. Sambursky, PHYSICS OF THE STOICS, MacMillan
Company, 1959, p. 18.]

The Stoics also referred to *heimarmene*, an orderly succession
of cause and effect. To quote: "Heimarmene is the natural
order of the Whole by which from eternity one thing follows
another...[and] embodied in the definition of heimarmene
follows its meaning as *Logos* (Eternal Reason), as the divine
order and law, by which the cosmos is administered."
[Ibid, p. 58.]

Essentially this idea of Eternal Reason--the *Logos*--is about
an intelligently designed Fire that structures matter in accordance
with it's plan. Hence, out of a "shapeless and passive matter'
the Stoics endowed the cosmos with Intelligence and Reason
via the workings of the Fire of the Spirit, the *Pneuma.*

In due course the Stoics addressed the existence of human
beings in this Living Cosmos. They considered Man as a
microcosm to the macrocosm. Referring back to the Pneuma,
the Stoic philosopher Chrysippus considered that "the cosmos
is permeated and given life by the Pneuma, the same...makes a
man a living, organic whole." Hence, the Stoic emphasis on
the microcosm vis-a-vis the macrocosm!