Lucretius Today Podcast Episode 66 – The End of All Things (But Not Of the Universe Itself!)

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Welcome to Episode Sixty-Six of Lucretius Today.I am your host Cassius, and together with my panelists from the forum, we’ll walk you through the six books of Lucretius’ poem, and discuss how Epicurean philosophy can apply to you today. We encourage you to study Epicurus for yourself, and we suggest the best place to start is the book, “Epicurus and His Philosophy” by Canadian professor Norman DeWitt.

For anyone who is not familiar with our podcast, please check back to Episode One for a discussion of our goals and our ground rules. If you have any question about that, please be sure to contact us at for more information. In this Episode 66 we continue our discussion of Book 5 with Don reading today’s text, starting with approximately Latin Line 91:

Browne 1743

And what remains but now, as the order of my design requires, to convince, by proper reasons, that this world is formed of mortal seeds; that it began to be, and must have an end; and to show how the seeds of matter were united and disposed to produce the Earth, the Heavens, the Sea, the Stars, the Sun and Moon; and then what creatures sprung from the Earth, and what never had a being, and how the human race, with various language, began to give names to things, and to converse together. And by what means that dread of deities above first crept into the heart, which preserves the holy things throughout the world – the Temples, the Lakes, Groves, Altars, and Images of the gods. Besides, I shall explain the course of the sun and moon, and by what over-ruling force Nature directs their motions; lest you should suppose these luminaries travel their constant stages freely and of their own accord between Heaven and Earth, and by their kind influence promote the growth of fruits and the whole animal creation; or conceive that they are rolled about by the will of the gods. For those who well know that the gods live a life of ease, if they should wonder by what power the world is carried on, especially in the things they see over their heads in the Heavens above, they relapse again into their old superstition; they raise over themselves a set of cruel tyrants, who the wretches fancy can do all things, because they know nothing of what can or what cannot be, or by what means a finite power is fixed to every being, and a boundary immovable which it cannot pass.

And therefore, to keep you no longer in suspense in what I promised, take a view in the first place of the seas, the Earth, and the Heavens; this triple nature, these three bodies, my Memmius, these beings of so different a frame, three so wonderfully formed, one Day shall put an end to; and the whole mass and fabric of the world, that has stood for many ages, shall tumble to pieces. I know how this, this future ruin of Heaven and Earth, seems strange and surprising to your apprehensions, and how difficult it is to convince you of the truth of it. This is a common case, when you offer a subject to the ear it has been unused to, and which you cannot discover with your eyes, nor feel with your hands, the ways by which knowledge and belief generally find a passage to the breast, and affect the mind. I’ll go on, however. The very nature of the things perhaps will give a credit to my words, and you may soon see the whole fabric of the world shaken grievously by terrible convulsions; but the commanding power of Chance remove that day far from us! And let reason, rather than the thing itself, convince us that all things dissolved by the last dreadful crack will fall to ruin.

But before I attempt to teach these truths, more sacred and much more worthy of belief than what the Pythoness delivers from the Tripod and Laurel of Apollo, I shall first offer some encouragements against your fears, lest, being under the check of religion, you should by chance imagine that the Earth, the Sun, the Heavens, the Sea, the Stars, the Moon, being animated by a Spirit diffused throughout the whole, were a Deity, and would remain forever; and consequently, that all those deserve justly the same punishment as the rebel giants, for their impiety, who by their arguments would assault and break down the walls of the world, and would extinguish the sun (the bright luminary of the sky) and pronounce a sentence of dissolution upon things in their own nature immortal. And yet these things are so far from having anything of divinity about them, and so unworthy of being ranked in the number of the gods, that they may be thought rather to give us a notion of something as remote from sense and vital motion as possible;

For we are not to imagine that the Powers, mind and Soul, can be united with all sorts of bodies. As there are no trees in the sky, no clouds can be in the deep sea, nor can fish live in the fields, nor can there be blood in wood, or moisture in stones. The soul therefore cannot come into being alone, without the body, nor can she exist separately, without the nerves and the blood. If this could be, the powers of the soul you would feel sometimes in the head or shoulders, or even in the very bottom of the feet, or in any other part of the body, and so you would perceive it diffusing itself through the whole body. As water poured into a vessel first covers one part, and then spreads over the whole. Since therefore there is a proper and determinate place in the body for the mind and soul to be and increase in, we have the more reason to deny that they can continue or be born without it, or that the form of life can reside in rotten clods of earth, or in the fire of the sun, or in the water, or in the lofty regions of the sky. These therefore are so far from being endued with a divine understanding that they are incapable even of being animated with common life.