Although this conception of the soul belonged to an ancient tradition expressed already in Orphism, the thesis of Anaximenes that conceived air as the physical substrate of the human soul was considered the first theory of antiquity on the human psyche in science and philosophy.
A similar version is that of Heraclitus, who maintained, around the year 500 BC, that soul was composed of 'igneous ether' (no simple air) and it was this 'igneous ether' what filled the soul and also all the sky. Sky and soul were, for this philosopher, a single matter, a matter that was psychic and celestial at a time. Then the soul of human and the universe, made of the same, behave according to very similar principles.
For Heraclitus 'logos' of the world is produced by the 'igneous ether' or 'fire'. According to him, in nature there is opposition and continuous confrontation between opposing elements, but there is also an underlying order in the becoming of things, though not always it is quite obvious to us. The world, due to 'logos of igneous ether', is a kosmos and not chaos; the 'fire' is the natural process that sorts and organizes everything, says the philosopher.
Human life must adapt to this natural order of becoming things, to this resulting 'logos', by wisdom. Since this is the 'logos' which governs the world, true knowledge can not consist in anything else than its understanding, and there can be no greater motivation and satisfaction that progress oneself in this regard and get positively accommodated to becoming reality.
Reason and 'logos of igneous ether' are the same, because the universe is arranged according to a plan that makes all things, seemingly different, keep organized and really be one, which the human intellect intended to capture continuously and instinctively. The 'logos' is what explains the existence of such a consistency that allows things, in plural and even contrary appearance, be actually linked in a coherent complex, human themselves are also a part of which.
For Heraclitus everything is constantly changing, everything flows, according to an order, yes, but which is not explicit but is veiled: "Some even say no that some things move and some not, but all are in constant motion, although this fact is beyond our sensory perception" (Aristotle, Physics 3 253 b 9).
"Different waters flow over those entering the same rivers. Spread and meet... meet and separate... they are coming and going." (fr 12 Arius Didymus, ap Eusebium, PE, XV 20;. fr 91 Plutarch, E 18, 392 B). Everything flows, but the senses usually inform us of plural and superficial manifestations of the varying things misleadingly: "Bad witnesses are the eyes and ears for men who do not understand their language." (fr 107, Sextus Empiricus, Adversus Mathematicos VII 126). Understanding is what captures the 'logos', what everything have in common, the order that is in the evolution of kosmos, behind the sensible.
Not everybody come to grasp the world order, only somebody. Heraclitus calls barbarians ("barbarian souls") to those who are not able to understand and interpret adequately the language of the senses and are deluded by the superficial manifestations thereof. "...Must be followed what is common, but although the Logos is common most people live as having a particular intelligence" (fr 2 Sextus Empiricus, Adv math VII 133). Thus, there is a unique order-logos-language common to all people, a single intelligence which is not specific but all-encompassing, one true understanding that unifies all, that is not made of simple ideas created by the individuals, but it is the actual constituent of things, the primary cosmic element (the 'fire'), which is the world's intelligence while human intelligence.
Intelligence is not individual, but coincides with the "intelligence of the world ', with the understanding and apprehension of 'universal logos'. People is intelligent if is able to understand the worldly order, if his mind is able to apprehend and reflect simply the actual order of the world as it is given, that is, the natural relations of things, which is common to all things. Therefore, men can not have private, individual, personal intelligences, because there is only one common intelligence ('logos') to all nature and to all people, corresponding to the 'igneous ether' that 'moves' everything .
Human reason has to be a derivation of universal reason, a kind of organ of perception of universal logos, superior to all others senses, which, unlike them, does not deceive us continuously, quite the contrary. This is the 'sense of reason' which orders for us all elements of the universe. Traditional bodily senses only perceive things that happen and vary constantly, they are not able to perceive what is invariable behind the apparent, that is, the truth and the reason.
All science being guided exclusively by the sensory is necessarily false. Only through higher sense which is the human reason people can perceive the true, the eternal and permanent in perpetual flow of things, which does not change, which is the logos itself, the process of change itself.
For Heraclitus fire is the constant source of change processes. The logos of 'fire' is the order and the extent of continuous change imposed by the evolution of everything that happens in nature, with its regularities and irregularities. The 'fire' controls the matter, all matter in the cosmos, the strongest and the most ethereal, everything that exists, also the soul.
We must understand that we recognize the 'fire' as a highly dynamic process of ethereal element that the air is, which Anaximenes referred to as the constituent of the universe and the soul, as discussed in a previous post. The fire, in fact, is very hot air or 'igneous ether'. Indeed instead of the term "fire" Heraclitus often used "igneous ether", referring to the warm and subtle air flowing into the upper region of the sky (which, according to tradition, is identified with God and with the soul):
"The ancients assigned sky and upper region to the gods because they believed it was the only immortal area." (Aristotle, De Caelo B 1, 284 to 11.)
"Ether received their souls and earth their bodies ." (Inscription Graecae Y 945, 6; Athens, V century before Christ.)
"What we call hot seems to be immortal, what apprehends all things, what heareth, sees and knows all things, both present and future. His most part, then, when everything came into confusion, went toward superior revolution and I think is what the ancients called ether." (Hippocrates, De carnibus 2.)
Heraclitus thinks that the future of all beings on earth, especially man but also institutions that man has created, is intimately linked to the natural world surrounding and that is inevitably affected by the movements of hot ether that comes from the upper regions of the sky. What man created or participated is sensitive to human behavior and to mood and the 'igneous ether' variations, in a natural way. And he affirms that wisdom consists precisely in being aware of this fact, to understand how the entire world operates (although he admits that the unique thing that can achieve this goal in an absolute way is God, because the logos of the ether is a manifestation of God, or God Himself, and He is the one that is contained and fully understands himself). God is the absolute wisdom. Man and human institutions can not be understood outside the natural world (or God, therefore) but all things, even those that are a creation of man, indeed, are natural and are governed by the same laws of logos or common intelligence.
For Heraclitus the soul is the igneous ether governing body and mind of men. The human mind has a direct relationship with the soul-ether, such for Anaximenes had in the soul-air. Comes to be basically the same. The soul like ether or air has a "unattainable limits", moves dynamically throughout the universe, enters everywhere, penetrates all things and moves freely through all parts of body, and does so "according to its needs”.
The action of ether or air expands and acts on everything, but remains veiled to our conscious understanding; it has its own internal 'needs' that are so deep in some aspects that are not intelligible to us: "You do not get to find the limits of the soul in your way, not even through all the ways: as profound dimension it has." (Fr 45, Diogenes Laertius, IX 7.)
Different authors made their own interpretations of how empirically happens physical 'contact' of soul-ether with the logos of fire. Sextus says that, according to Heraclitus, we simply inhale the logos of igneous ether with air, which gives us the intelligence and place order and organizes what the senses capture; and that during sleep, he adds, the contact of the soul with the igneous logos remains exclusively through breathing, in a primary mode, being the senses 'closed'. Breathing this divine reason (logos) we become intelligent. We forget worldly things while we sleep, but we recover our senses again when awaken, he says. Being the channels of perception closed during sleep, our mind is separated from its links with the surrounding, retaining its unique linkage through breathing, like a kind of 'root' (Sextus Empiricus, Adv math VII 129). He adds that, while we sleep, not being so intense inhalation as when one is awake, the soul would be in an intermediate state between life and death, which is what characterizes sleep, apart from the separation of the senses.
Chalcidius, meanwhile, attributes to Heraclitus the consideration that the soul would only contact with cosmic reason precisely during sleep, being free of the senses and their interruptions, in a Platonic type of interpretation.
According Aetius souls are fed by internal and external exhalations: Internal ones come from the blood and other body fluids, while external would be those that are absorbed through the breath...
Breathing is the common denominator of Heraclitus and Anaxímenes: We breathe air, pneuma, the breath. The action of 'igneous ether', even if it comes from outside sky, reaches us in contact with air, enters our minds by breathing, and is through breathing that preserves, develops and renews our soul; as conserves, develops and renews 'the spirits and gods' that populate the world, because they are, in fact, the same that our psyche: they live there.
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