Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Re-Casting Ancient Philosophy

For Parts One and Two, see:

Was Sirach in the King’s Blazing Fiery Furnace?


Part Three: Zoroaster


I began by identifying Sirach as the young Azariah of the fiery furnace episode of Daniel 3, and then went on to enlarge that identification (basically around the name Seraiah) to include Ezra; Baruch (his supposed brother, Seraiah); and the Seraiah of Nehemiah 11:11.

I concluded:

There is a good thread in all this:

Ezra scribe and priest; Baruch (Seraiah) scribe and lover of wisdom; Seraiah chief of prophecy; Seraiah supervisor of House of God; Azariah the wise youth and prayer leader; Sirach scribe and seeker of wisdom from youth.

And, given “Arabic-Christian legends identify Baruch with Zoroasterthe famous seer of Persia”, I said that I would in this Part Three consider our composite wise scribe now as this Zoroaster, with firebeing the common element.

But I also want to embark on another idea in this context: namely, “The Zoroastrian origins of Greek philosophy”, as according to an article entitled:


The Beginnings of Greek Philosophy

which will, in my revised context, mean more specifically the Jewish (Baruchian) origins of Greek Philosophy.

Now this is right in accordance with my theory (based in part upon part clues left by the Church Fathers) that the earliest philosophers whom one meets in any standard History of Ancient Philosophy - the so-called ‘Ionian Greeks’,beginning with Thales - were in fact Hebrews/Israelites (later Jews).

Upon Thales, one of the so-called ‘seven sages of antiquity’, is bestowed the honorific title,“First Philosopher”. He, supposedly an Ionian Greek, that is, from western Asia, was actually, as I have argued elsewhere, the great biblical Patriarch Joseph, distorted by Greek legends. The name ‘Thales’ is likely a corruption of Joseph’s name in Egypt, Ptah-(hotep), the wise and legendary Old Kingdom scribe who, like Joseph, lived to be 110. He is also the genius, Imhotep, builder of the famous Step Pyramid of Saqqara: what we have considered to be a material icon of his father Jacob’s dream of a staircase unto heaven (Genesis 28:12).

Mark Glouberman has ironically, in“Jacob’s Ladder. Personality and Autonomy in the Hebrew Scriptures”, exalted the supposed rational triumph of the ‘Greek’ Thales, “Western rationality’s trademark mastery over the natural world”, over the “earlier [religious] mode of thought” of the Hebrews. “… Thales forecast the bumper crop by observing climatic regularities, not by interpreting dreams of lean kine and fat, nor by deciphering the writing on the wall …”.Glouberman calls this a “Hellenic Götterdämmerung” (Mentalities/ Mentalités,13, 1-2, 1998, p. 9).

So my view is quite the opposite of what our western education has told us.

And let us now read of the type of indoctrination according to which we have thus been ‘educated’, that wrongfully gives all the credit to the Greeks. Alistair Sinclair, in his book What is Philosophy? An Introduction (Dunedin Academic Press Ltd., 2008), has regurgitated the typically Western-biased view of the origins of philosophy so familiar to us:

P. 15 Philosophy as a western phenomenon

The great philosophers were all western philosophers because philosophy developed as a distinct subject in ancient Greek culture. The word ‘philosophy’ was popularized by Pythagoras but it was Plato who delineated the role of the philosopher and distinguished it from the role of the sophist.

….Philosophy is essentially a western phenomenon because of the individualistic nature of the great philosophers. Each of them is one of a kind. Eastern thinkers in contrast tended to be more embedded in the prevailing religion and culture in which they had lived. They were more like cult figures than individualists obstinately ploughing their own fields.

Moreover, classical Greek philosophy in particular applied reason to the material world in a way that is not found in the speculative systems of India, the mysticism of Taoism, or the gentlemanly precepts of Confucianism. The ancient Greeks believed that reason was an essential feature of human beings and not just the prerogative of philosophers. It was fashionable among the Greeks to be lovers of truth who were possessed with a passion for knowledge of all kinds. Otherwise, they would have had no lasting interest in philosophers or their offerings. Such singlemindedness in the pursuit of philosophy has been a particular characteristic of western culture. It was not found anywhere else in the world until recent times.


P. 22 Pythagoras (c. 570-500 BCE)

The name of Pythagoras outshines that of any other early Greek philosophers, and rightly so since the whole science of mathematics originates in his work and that of his successors. He was reputedly born on Samos and his interest in mathematics may have been stimulated by early visits to Babylonia and Egypt ….

Certainly he brought to the study of mathematics something of an oriental adoration.

P. 33

‘The European philosophical traditions consist of a series of footnotes to Plato’ …so said [Professor] A.N. Whitehead.

[End of quotes]

So much propaganda in the space of so few pages! Yet I submit that virtually none of this is true. That the whole received history of ancient philosophy needs to be re-written along the lines that the Church Fathers had glimpsed, as having originated from the Israelites. That re-casting of ancient philosophy I hope to advance further here, by focusing on other ‘Ionians’, but especially upon whom I would call the Zoroastrian (that is, Jewish) ‘Ionian Greek’, Heraclitus of Ephesus.

And this brings me to another important Patristic contribution so relevant to my reconstruction of Sirach: the view of Saint Clement of Alexandria, that Sirach had influenced Heraclitus:

John Chrysostom’s use of the Book of Sirach

in his homilies on the New Testament

Chris de Wet

The golden age of Greek patristic literature, that is, the fourth and fifth centuries, are no exception as far as the popularity of Sirach. Besides John Chrysostom, nearly all of the most prominent authors of this period cite from Sirach, including, inter alia, Clement of Alexandria … Ambrose … and Augustine…. Clement of Alexandria even believed that Sirach had influenced the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (Strom. 2.5; Bright 1999:1064). Sirach was also popular with authors such as Tertullian, Origen and Cyprian. Jerome, however, rejected the canonical status of Sirach. The first full commentary on Sirach was only completed in the ninth century by Rabanus Maurus (Bright 1999:1064).

Chronologically, this is an extraordinary statement by Saint Clement, considering that Sirach would be located centuries after Heraclitus. But, according to my reconstruction of Sirach, as a contemporary of the prophet Daniel, then Heraclitus as a C6th BC sage would be quite in order. I believe in fact that the fire wise (purified) Sirach (Baruch) was an exact contemporary of Heraclitus, who I suggest was just the pale Greek version of the Jewish scribe.

Heraclitus seems to be one of the most substantial of the early philosophers. With Thales set by me as the Patriarch Joseph son of Jacob, I had looked in the past to establish Heraclitus next. Which of the Israelite sages was especially connected with fire? The prophet Elijah initially sprang to mind (some might consider Moses and the Burning Bush and Mount Sinai all afire), with his calling down of fire; his ascent in a fiery chariot; and even Sirach’s own famous description of the prophet (48:1):

Then Elijah the prophet rose up like fire, and his word burned like a torch.

But it now appears that I was looking too early, and that my composite Sirach, the man in the fiery furnace, is the best candidate for Heraclitus. The former was, appropriately, a full-on sage.

Moreover, it seems that there is a common mystical element to be considered, contrary to Glouberman’s mistaken view of “Western rationality’s trademark mastery over the natural world”, over the “earlier [religious] mode of thought” of the Hebrews. For studies more astute than Glouberman’s and those of his same opinion, the majority, would indicate that some of these ancient philosophers - so limited by those cramped commentators of history to merely natural philosophyand the elements (earth fire water, etc.) - were actually men of great wisdom and enlightenment, religious and mystical. For a deeper understanding of this, I suggest one read for instance:

Heraclitus and the Work of Awakening

A Dissertation Presented


Nicolas Elias Leon Ruiz

In his Abstract, Ruiz well explains why commentators have invariably found Heraclitus to be an ‘obscure’ thinker:

…. Heraclitus is universally regarded as one of the fathers of western philosophy.

However, the characterization of the nature of his contribution varies widely. To some he is an early example of rational, empirical, scientific inquiry into the physical world. To others he was primarily a brilliantly innovative metaphysician. Still others prefer to see him as the distant ancestor of the great German dialecticians of the 19thcentury. In the 20th century, certain existential phenomenologists all but claimed him as one of their own.

Behind all of this stands a fundamental set of assumptions that is never questioned. Whatever else may be the case, we know that Heraclitus was, essentially, a rational human being like ourselves. He was a philosopher, concerned with explanation and exposition. He was a thinker, and his fragments encapsulate his thought.

It is because of this that Heraclitus has been completely misunderstood. We have no idea of who and what he was. We do not understand what he was saying. Perhaps the greatest irony is that Heraclitus himself, at the very outset of what he wrote, explicitly predicted that this would happen.

Everyone who writes about Heraclitus will make at least passing reference to his legendary obscurity. Some will talk about the oracular character of his writing. A few go so far as to say that his thought bears the traces of revelation, his expression, of prophecy. This is as far as it goes. The problem is that this rather metaphorical way of talking about Heraclitus misses the point entirely. His writing was not just “obscure,” it was esoteric.

Heraclitus did not merely employ an oracular mode of expression: he was an oracle. What he said was a revelation and he was its prophet. Heraclitus was far from the early rationalist or primitive scientist he has been made out to be. He was what we today would call a mystic.

[End of quote]

This would not be surprising if here we are actually dealing with, as according to my reconstruction, a Zadokite priest and seeker of Wisdom from his youth. And that would help to explain why, as we shall read below (emphasis added): “In dealing with pre-Socratic thought, A N Marlow tells us we find ourselves in an atmosphere more akin to that of the Orient than to that of the West”.

To facilitate this document, I shall use the above-mentioned Internet article, Judaism: The Beginnings of Greek Philosophy(indented below to facilitate reading) as a kind of template, noting where I agree with it and where I disagree (and why).

Let us commence, moving from Zoroaster to Heraclitus.

Biography of Zoroaster

Geographically, the following I now think is all to be re-cast as the Jewish Exile to Babylonia and Persia (west to east), with occasional returning back (east to west) as ambassadors of the eastern potentates. The dates for Zoroaster and the Exile accord quite well:

Zoroaster is said to have travelled to Anatolia, the Asian peninsula south of the Black sea that is now Turkey, but in the seventh century BC was Ionian Greek in the West, Lydian in the centre and bordered Assyria in the east, with Persia beyond. If this is more than mere legend, it offers the possibility of a direct Zoroastrian influence on the Greek philosophy of the Ionians, like Pythagoras of Samos and Thales of Miletus. In dealing with pre-Socratic thought, A N Marlow tells us we find ourselves in an atmosphere more akin to that of the Orient than to that of the West. An indirect influence seems certain.

Pythagoras was said to have learnt from the Magi of Babylon, and the Neo-Pythagoreans’doctrines of immortality and dualism owed much to Magian belief.

Daniel and his young colleagues, including our Zoroaster, became the Magi of Babylon.

Plato mentions Zoroaster in Alcibiades, describing him as a son of Oromazdes—the God Ormuzd. Since Persian tradition says Zoroaster travelled both to India and China, an influence of Persian religion on Buddhism and Chinese philosophies is also likely. These suggestions are not to disparage the marvellous inventiveness of the Greeks, the Indians or the Chinese, but the remarkable blossoming of religious and philosophical sentiment from the sixth century BC might have had a common seed, and that seed might have been Persia, in the center of all these astonishing changes, and the base of Zoroaster, who preceded the other great men of the time.

A complication is that the earliest Greek myths seem to have been similar to those of the Hindus as well as some of the Persian myths. How did Indian influence reach Greece so early? All of these peoples were Indo-European, and so the Hindu pantheon has affinities with that of the early Greeks, since both are derived from a common source. So it is often difficult to decide where the true points of contact are, but at this date contact with Persians rather than the Indians seems more likely. Radhakrishnan writes that agreements between the myths of the Greeks and the Indians indicate that:

The two peoples must have been in contact at some early period, but neither possessed any recollection of those times and they met as strangers within the Persian Empire.

King Ahasuerus of Persia of the Book of Esther, who fell heavily under Jewish influence, also ruled India. “Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even to Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:) (Esther 1 :1).

The emergence of the Persians must have stimulated interest in Anatolia in northern legends. The Ionian Greeks were stimulated by Persian cosmology to think on a cosmic scale and a timeless scale. They began to see morals and nature as the strife between opposites, and the qualities of air, earth, fire and water began to be seen as “elements,” though the term itself is a later invention. As F H Smith pointed out, the apeiron (the Boundless) of Anaximander is, in Hindu, the Nameless and Formless, called aditi, the “unlimited”, in the Rig Veda. Moreover, this aditi is ordered by the immanent rita(law, order), later called dharma, the Persian arta or asha(Truth), just as in Anaximander an immanent dike, Justice, ensures that all things eventually return to the apeiron whence they came:

From which all things take their rise, and by necessity they are destroyed into these, for all things render just atonement to one another for their injustice according to the due ordering of time.

Indian Dharma,Egyptian Ma’at and Greek Logos are akin to Hebrew Hokmah (Wisdom) and Dabar (Word). See our: http://easterncivilisationamaic.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/egyptian-maat-akin-to-hebrew-hokmah.html

Recall Jeremiah 23:29 “Is not my word [Dabar] like a fire [Aysh]? says the LORD”.

הֲלוֹא כֹה דְבָרִי כָּאֵשׁ, נְאֻם-יְהוָה

After the time of Alexander, the way lay so open to Oriental influence and parallels with India become more frequent and less remarkable.

The very next statement is typical of textbook philosophical ‘wisdom’, though outrageous:

Philosophy is peculiarly Greek, but the lines of thought of many early Greek philosophers seem to emerge from the new cosmology of Zoroaster.

So why, may I ask, is “Philosophy … peculiarly Greek” if its origins are not apparently Greek?

Zoroaster’s remarkable new ideas stimulated the philosophic mind of men who sought to do better than their enemies. The investigator has to remember, though, that most of the Persian works of Zoroaster’s school have been destroyed, so many connexions are irrecoverable, and the apparently clear links between Hindu thought and the pre-Socratic Greeks might simply be reflecting the lost common ground in Persian thought.

The original material is of course preserved in the Hebrew Bible (Baruch, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel and Sirach, for instance)

Westerners have never been happy even to consider that the glory of Greece owed anything to anybody,

And herein lies the whole problem.

let alone Persians who are thoroughly disliked now that they are run by mad mullahs. But the Persians and the Greeks had the same origins, as did the Indians, and in 500 BC probably did not seem much different from each other, though subsequent breeding with the indigenous stock doubtless led to differences in appearance and outlook. So, any debt of Greeks, Chinese or Indians to the Persians has not been adequately explored, simply for reasons of prejudice.

Certainly, something happened, and the most evident thing that did was the emergence of the Persians from obscurity. Some scholars such as M West, (Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient, Oxford, 1971) have had something to say about the Greek debt to Persia but most ignore it. It was accompanied by a birth of knowledge throughout the world as it was then known. For anyone that might want to begin the study, here is a little background history for comparison with Zoroastrianism.

At last, someone who begins to make a bit of sense. Congratulations to M. West. Though Jews were not influenced by Zoroastrianism as he says, rather Zoroastrianism was Jewish wisdom as it became filtered into and through Persia.

M L West seems irritated by the no-marks who can never allow any non-Greek or non-Jewish influence on our civilisation, but truthfully both Greeks and Jews were themselves profoundly influenced by Zoroastrianism. So, first introductory essays on the Logos of Philo and Time that will establish some of the themes.

The Logos of Philo

Asha (Arta) and Vohu Manah of the Avesta are in some ways like the Logos of Philo, so, in Victorian times, some scholars thought the Gathashad been influenced by Philo. The idea of the Logos “arose from the observed regularity of natural phenomena, the rising, course decline and disappearance of the sun and other heavenly bodies, the succession of the seasons, etc,”according to Rev L H Mills. Religious services had to copy the regularity of the heavens and seasons—in their rhythm—lest the gods be offended. Herodotus and his successors, Hermippus and Theopompus, report a stage of Mazda worship more fixed and liturgized than such lore as even we find in parts of the later Avesta, suggesting its antiquity even then.

Asha—Truth or Order—

[Hebrew Hokmah]

might be regarded as the rhythm of Nature and so is quite like the Logos of Philo, a creative aspect of God. Vohu Manah is Good Thought, which might be more loosely translated as Benevolence or Grace. Asha and Vohu Manah in some ways represent the same ideas but as applied universally (Asha) and individually (Vohu Manah). In this sense, Asha has the meaning, socially or communally, of “Justice” while Vohu Manah means personal “Love”—or rather “Kindness,” because it is not sexual.

The basis of the accusation of dependence of the Gathas on Philo is that some parts of the Avesta, and works like the Denkartwere late enough to have had Platonic influences, but others such as the Gathasare plainly earlier than Plato, from language and from the poetic form, and could not have had any such influence, even interpolated. Greek philosophy was taken into Persia only in 533 AD by Simplicius and his school. The Denkartwas written in the Moslem period. Rev L H Mills proved any dependence of the Gathason Philo was absurd and chronologically unsound, so that any influence that existed was the other way round. So, indeed most scholars have found.

The Egyptians too had a divine order, according to Frankfort. Maat is…

…a divine order, established at the time of creation. It is manifest in nature in the normalcy of phenomena, it is manifest in society as justice, and it is manifest in an individual’s life as truth.

Henri Frankfort, Ancient Egyptian Religion: An Interpretation

The Egyptian texts say the king’s throne was “founded on Maat”, and each coronation was a renewal of the cosmos, a victory of order over chaos. Through his edicts as ruler, and by enforcing justice and piety among the people, the king kept Egypt conforming with cosmic order and helped maintain it. Yet Egypt, in its formative period, was greatly influenced by the parallel civilization in Asia by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Scarab seals were based on cylinder seals from Ur. The fantastic menagerie of strange animals came from Sumeria but were modified to suit the imagination of Egyptians. Foreign ideas came into Egypt but were Egyptianized, and the process was completed in respect of Sumerian influence by the end of the Egyptian first dynasty. Maat and the annual celebration of God’s victory over chaos seem to have been taken into Egypt from Asia, perhaps by early Iranian invaders.

The Hebrew Concept of Wisdom

This ancient concept was absorbed by Heraclitus, whose name may derive from our Sirach (Baruch/Berechiah), our Zoroaster – Sirach also known as Siracides (Berechiah = Heraclitus?).

Heraclitus’s supposed home of Ephesus might be a confusion with St. John the Evangelist (perhaps the prototype of the Jewish Philo), who had lived at Ephesus, and whose exposition of the Logos has often been compared with Heraclitus’s view of that concept. For:

Heraclitus might have introduced the concept of the Logos, derived from the Persian idea of “Asha” or cosmic order,

The Persians would actually have got this second hand.

Aish (esh) is the Hebrew word for fire.

See also Wisdom of Sirach, chapters 1, 24, and Baruch 3, 4:1-4.

Sirach IV -- 24:1-25:12 – In Praise of Wisdom


Wisdom in Israel
Wisdom is of cosmic significance and has a special link to Jews
Here it is identified with the Jewish law
Wisdom appeals to men to follow her

and Parmenides spoke of trusting only the Logos or “Reason,” as opposed to the senses or imagination.

The idea of “Reason” as inherent in Nature was dear to Heraclitus. For Heraclitus,“Fire,” also “Asha,” was the eternal substance …. He was also inspired in seeing movement as being constant—the process of “becoming”.

He did not consider the Logos as active or conscious. His Logos is the eternal law of motion, eternally splitting apart and pulling together. By strife alone, life becomes possible—disease makes health valued, there is no peace without war. All of it is plainly traceable to Zoroastrianism. Stories of the two antagonistic divinities of the Persian religion must have stimulated Heraclitus’s thought of a world moved by conflict. In Zoroastrianism, conflict is utterly at the centre of life—time and movement only begin with the Evil Creation. Before that perfection meant stasis.

Sirach 37

17-18 The mind concerns itself with four things: these are good and evil, life and death.


Moving on in Greek philosophy, Empedocles appears, also with a dualistic system, influenced by Heraclitus or perhaps by Zoroastrianism directly. The causes of motion were the two principles of “Love” and “Hate,” Love being the uniting principle and Hate the dividing one.

Sirach 1:

13 The Lord hates every kind of vice; you cannot love it and still fear him.

Anaxagoras introduces the idea of “Endless Time” from Zoroastrianism where it was called“Zruvani Akarani.”

Sirach 1:

2 Who can count the sand of the sea, the drops of rain, or the days of endless time?

For him,“Nous” stirred matter into motion, “Nous” being another name for Logos. Plato came early under the influence of Heraclitus through his pupil, Cratylus. Plato took to this Nous and had one that was transcendental and therefore a god, and one that was in nature as a World Soul. Nous was Reason and conflicted with Necessity (Matter) in yet another form of dualism. Nous, Logos and Logisticon were all the same thing, a sort of universal Reason.

The Stoics, like Heraclitus, believed in no conscious, finger poking, personal gods, because they took Order or the Logos as being god—the law of all things in the universe. It was a law, so could not whimsically stir its index finger in the proper order of the world, like the Jewish and Christian god. It was a law of the universe not a transcendental being looking into the world.

…. Instead, the Logos, having appeared in John’s gospel, became so important for Christians that they began to redefine history:

Those who live according to or with the Logos are Christians, even if they were thought atheists, and such were Socrates, Heraclitus and the like among the Greeks.

Justin Martyr Apologies

These ancient Jewish sages ‘were Christians’ inasmuch as they were true followers of Moses and his Law, and this same Moses wrote of Jesus (John 5:46). Thus they would have, like the Apostles, followed Jesus had they known Him.

It was the Zoroastrians [Jews] who led the Greeks to consider the infinite “beyond the visible sky” that led to science, and the transcendentalism of Platonism. Greek philosophy began, not on the Greek archipelago which remained primitive for another century, but in Asia, near or in the Persian empire. ….

From the Jews comes salvation (John 4:22), but from the Jews also comes philosophy, the love of wisdom:

Baruch 4:1 Wisdom is the book of God's commandments, the Law that will last forever. All who hold onto her will live, but those who abandon her will die.s references:
    Sirach 24:23 Wisdom is the Law, the Law which Moses commanded us to keep, the covenant of God Most High, the inheritance of the synagogues of Israel.

Baruch (Zoroaster) was Sirach (Siracides) was Heraclitus.

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