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Pagan Origin of Partialist Doctrines by Pitrat

Virgil believed that our death is not annihilation


or Transmigration of the Souls._

THE rulers of nations, and the authors of the initiations, had a profound knowledge of the human nature, and of the genius of the people. From the fact that an ox, unaware of his strength, yields to the leading hand of a child, so they knew that would they let the masses ignore their power, they could easily control them, mould their opinions, habits, and morals. Also aware of the terror that death impressed upon their minds, and knowing that it is an infirmity of man's nature, when uncultivated by philosophy, to fear more a distant and indefinite, but unavoidable misery beyond the grave, than the most excruciating tortures on earth, they found in those prejudices of the people a sure means to lead and rule them. Therefore they endeavored to make them believe that those who would transgress the laws, or would commit some other crimes, should be punished by the gods immortal in the future life.

They had to invent the nature of that punishment, and as there were many degrees of wickedness, they had to admit, also, various degrees in the punishment. To more easily and more surely make the people believe their invention, they thought it was wise to make the punishment, and its degrees, coincide with the then universally established religion, which was but one, though there were many systems of theology. That religion was the one we have examined in the first chapter of this work,

and which consisted in the belief that nature was an uncreated but animated being, whose vast body comprised the earth, the sun, the planets, and the stars, to which one great soul impressed motion and life; and that those principal parts, or members, of the body of the universe were animated by emanations or irradiations of the great soul of the universe, or nature.

This pantheistic doctrine was materialist; for it supposed that the great soul of the universe was the purest substance of the fire ether, and thereby man's soul was of the same nature. It was the belief even of the famous philosopher Pythagoras, and of his disciples. All animals, according to Servius, the commentator of Virgil, draw their flesh from the earth, their humors from water, their breath from the air, and their soul from the breath of the Deity. Thus the bees have a small portion of the Deity. Our soul is like a drop of water which is not annihilated, whether it evaporates in the air, or condenses and falls again in rain, or rolls into the sea to add its littleness to the massy waters. When we die our life melts, reenters into the great soul of the universe, and the remains of our body mix again with the elements of the air.

Virgil believed that our death is not annihilation, but that it is a separation of two sorts of matters, the one thereof remains here below, and the other reunites to the sacred fire of the stars, as soon as the matter of which our soul is composed has reacquired all the purity of the subtle matter, from which it had emanated, _aurae simplicis ignem_. Nothing, Servius says, is lost in the great whole, and in the pure fire which constitutes the substance of the soul. Virgil says of the souls: _igneus est ollis vigor, et coelestis origo_; that they are formed of the active fire that shines in the heaven, and that they return thither when they are separated from the body by death.

The same doctrine we find in the dream of Scipio: "It is from there," he says, speaking of the regions of the fixed stars, "that the souls descended, thereto they shall return; they were emanated from those eternal fires we name stars. What ye call death is but a return to true life; the body is but a prison, in which the soul is momentarily chained. Death breaks her ties, and restores her to liberty, and to her true state of existence."

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