Metempsychosis (Greek : μετεμψύχωσις), in philosophy, refers to transmigration of the soul, especially its reincarnation after death. Generally, the term is derived from the context of ancient Greek philosophy, and has been recontextualised by modern philosophers such as Arthur Schopenhauer and Kurt Gödel; otherwise, the term "transmigration" is more appropriate. The word plays a prominent role in James Joyce's Ulysses and is also associated with Nietzsche. Another term sometimes used synonymously is palingenesis.
It is unclear how the doctrine of metempsychosis arose in Greece. It is easiest to assume that earlier ideas which had never been extinguished were utilized for religious and philosophic purposes. The Orphic religion, which held it, first appeared in Thrace upon the semi-barbarous north-eastern frontier. Orpheus, its legendary founder, is said to have taught that soul and body are united by a compact unequally binding on either; the soul is divine, immortal and aspires to freedom, while the body holds it in fetters as a prisoner. Death dissolves this compact, but only to re-imprison the liberated soul after a short time: for the wheel of birth revolves inexorably. Thus the soul continues its journey, alternating between a separate unrestrained existence and fresh reincarnation, round the wide circle of necessity, as the companion of many bodies of men and animals." To these unfortunate prisoners Orpheus proclaims the message of liberation, that they stand in need of the grace of redeeming gods and of Dionysus in particular, and calls them to turn to the Gods by ascetic piety of life and self-purification: the purer their lives the higher will be their next reincarnation, until the soul has completed the spiral ascent of destiny to live forever as a God from whom it comes. Such was the teaching of Orphism which appeared in Greece about the 6th century BCE, organized itself into private and public mysteries at Eleusis and elsewhere, and produced a copious literature.
The earliest Greek thinker with whom metempsychosis is connected is Pherecydes of Syros, [ citation needed ] Legend has it that Zalmoxis and Pythagoras taught metempsychosis in 600 BC that was possibly sourced from Indian monks.but Pythagoras, who is said to have been his pupil, is its first famous philosophic exponent. Pythagoras is not believed to have invented the doctrine or to have imported it from Egypt. Instead he made his reputation by bringing the Orphic doctrine from North-Eastern Hellas to Magna Graecia, and creating societies for its diffusion.
The real weight and importance of metempsychosis in Western tradition is due to its adoption by Plato.[ citation needed ] In the eschatological myth which closes the Republic he tells the myth how Er, the son of Armenius, miraculously returned to life on the twelfth day after death and recounted the secrets of the other world. After death, he said, he went with others to the place of Judgment and saw the souls returning from heaven, and proceeded with them to a place where they chose new lives, human and animal. He saw the soul of Orpheus changing into a swan, Thamyras becoming a nightingale, musical birds choosing to be men, the soul of Atalanta choosing the honours of an athlete. Men were seen passing into animals and wild and tame animals changing into each other. After their choice the souls drank of Lethe and then shot away like stars to their birth. There are myths and theories to the same effect in other dialogues, the Phaedrus, Meno, Phaedo, Timaeus and Laws. [ citation needed ] In Plato's view the number of souls was fixed; birth therefore is never the creation of a soul, but only a transmigration from one body to another. Plato's acceptance of the doctrine is characteristic of his sympathy with popular beliefs and desire to incorporate them in a purified form into his system. [ citation needed ] The extent of Plato's belief in metempsychosis has been debated by some scholars in modern times. Marsilio Ficino (Platonic Theology 17.3–4), for one, argued that Plato's references to metempsychosis were intended allegorically.
In later Greek literature the doctrine appears from time to time; it is mentioned in a fragment of Menander (the Inspired Woman) and satirized by Lucian (Gallus 18 seq.). In Roman literature it is found as early as Ennius,who in his Calabrian home must have been familiar with the Greek teachings which had descended to his times from the cities of Magna Graecia. In a lost passage of his Annals, a Roman history in verse, Ennius told how he had seen Homer in a dream, who had assured him that the same soul which had animated both the poets had once belonged to a peacock. Persius in one of his satires (vi. 9) laughs at Ennius for this: it is referred to also by Lucretius (i. 124) and by Horace (Epist. II. i. 52). Virgil works the idea into his account of the Underworld in the sixth book of the Aeneid (vv. 724 sqq.). It persists in antiquity down to the latest classic thinkers, Plotinus and the other Neoplatonists.
Metempsychosis was a part of Catharism in Occitania in the 12th century.
Created in the early 15th century, the Rosicrucianist movement also conveyed an occult doctrine of metempsychosis.
"Metempsychosis" is the title of a longer work by the metaphysical poet John Donne, written in 1601.The poem, also known as the Infinitati Sacrum, consists of two parts, the "Epistle" and "The Progress of the Soule". In the first line of the latter part, Donne writes that he "sing[s] of the progresse of a deathlesse soule".
Metempsychosis is a prominent theme in Edgar Allan Poe's 1832 short story "Metzengerstein".Poe returns to metempsychosis again in "Morella" (1835) and "The Oval Portrait" (1842).
Metempsychosis is referred to prominently in the concluding paragraph of Chapter 98, "Stowing Down and Clearing Up", of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick .
Metempsychosis is mentioned as the religion of choice by the minor character Princess Darya Alexandrovna Oblonsky in Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina .
Herbert Giles uses the term metempsychosis in his translation of the butterfly dream from the Zhuangzi (Chinese :《莊子》). The use of this term is contested by Hans Georg Möller (de), though, who claims that a better translation is "the changing of things".
Metempsychosis is a recurring theme in James Joyce's modernist novel Ulysses (1922).In Joycean fashion, the word famously appears in Leopold Bloom's inner monologue, recalling how his wife, Molly Bloom, apparently mispronounced it earlier that day as "met him pike hoses."
In Thomas Pynchon's 1963 premiere novel V. , metempsychosis is mentioned in reference to the book "The Search for Bridey Murphy" by Morey Bernstein, and also later in chapter eight.
Metempsychosis is referenced in Don DeLillo's 1982 novel The Names.
In David Foster Wallace's 1996 novel Infinite Jest , the name of the character Madame Psychosis is an intentional malapropism of metempsychosis.
Guy de Maupassant's story "Le docteur Héraclius Gloss" (1875) is a fable about metempsychosis.
In Marcel Proust's famous first paragraph from In Search of Lost Time , the narrator compares his separation from the subject of a book to the process of metempsychosis.
In Robert Montgomery Bird's fiction novel Sheppard Lee Written by Himself (1836) the protagonist is a serial identity thief by way of metempsychosis.
The eponymous Archy of Don Marquis's archy and mehitabel poems is a cockroach with the transmigrated soul of a human vers libre poet.
In The Discovery of Heaven , a novel by Harry Mulisch, a "thin man with a short black beard" asks for books on metempsychosis, and then explains "I mean the transmigration of souls."
Quintus Ennius was a writer and poet who lived during the Roman Republic. He is often considered the father of Roman poetry. He was born in Rudiae, formerly a small town located near modern Lecce in the heel of Italy, and could speak Oscan as well as Latin and Greek. Although only fragments of his works survive, his influence in Latin literature was significant, particularly in his use of Greek literary models.
Pythagoras of Samos was an ancient Ionian Greek philosopher and the eponymous founder of Pythagoreanism. His political and religious teachings were well known in Magna Graecia and influenced the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and, through them, Western philosophy. Knowledge of his life is clouded by legend, but he appears to have been the son of Mnesarchus, a gem-engraver on the island of Samos. Modern scholars disagree regarding Pythagoras's education and influences, but they do agree that, around 530 BC, he travelled to Croton in southern Italy, where he founded a school in which initiates were sworn to secrecy and lived a communal, ascetic lifestyle. This lifestyle entailed a number of dietary prohibitions, traditionally said to have included vegetarianism, although modern scholars doubt that he ever advocated for complete vegetarianism.
Reincarnation, also known as rebirth or transmigration, is the philosophical or religious concept that the non-physical essence of a living being begins a new life in a different physical form or body after biological death. Resurrection is a similar process hypothesized by some religions, in which a soul comes back to life in the same body. In most beliefs involving reincarnation, the soul is seen as immortal and the only thing that becomes perishable is the body. Upon death, the soul becomes transmigrated into a new infant to live again. The term transmigration means passing of soul from another body to another after-death.
In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Zagreus was sometimes identified with a god worshiped by the followers of Orphism, the "first Dionysus", a son of Zeus and Persephone, who was dismembered by the Titans and reborn. However, in the earliest mention of Zagreus, he is paired with Gaia and called the "highest" god, though perhaps only in reference to the gods of the underworld. Aeschylus, however, links Zagreus with Hades, possibly as Hades' son, or as Hades himself. Noting "Hades' identity as Zeus' katachthonios alter ego", Timothy Gantz thought it "likely" that Zagreus, perhaps originally the son of Hades and Persephone, later merged with the Orphic Dionysus, the son of Zeus and Persephone.
Zalmoxis is a divinity of the Getae and Dacians, mentioned by Herodotus in his Histories Book IV, 93–96, written before 425 BC.
Pluto is the ruler of the underworld in classical mythology. The earlier name for the god was Hades, which became more common as the name of the underworld itself. In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Pluto represents a more positive concept of the god who presides over the afterlife. Ploutōn was frequently conflated with Ploutos, the Greek god of wealth, because mineral wealth was found underground, and because as a chthonic god Pluto ruled the deep earth that contained the seeds necessary for a bountiful harvest. The name Ploutōn came into widespread usage with the Eleusinian Mysteries, in which Pluto was venerated as both a stern ruler and a loving husband to Persephone. The couple received souls in the afterlife and are invoked together in religious inscriptions, being referred to as Plouton and as Kore respectively.
Plato, in his dialogue Phaedrus, uses the Chariot Allegory to explain his view of the human soul. He does this in the dialogue through the character of Socrates, who uses it in a discussion of the merit of Love as "divine madness".
Pythagoreanism originated in the 6th century BC, based on the teachings and beliefs held by Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans. Pythagoras established the first Pythagorean community in Crotone, Italy. Early Pythagorean communities spread throughout Magna Graecia.
Thomas Taylor was an English translator and Neoplatonist, the first to translate into English the complete works of Aristotle and of Plato, as well as the Orphic fragments.
Neopythagoreanism was a school of Hellenistic philosophy which revived Pythagorean doctrines. Neopythagoreanism was influenced by middle Platonism and in turn influenced neoplatonism. It originated in the 1st century BCE and flourished during the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. The 1911 Britannica describes neopythagoreanism as "a link in the chain between the old and the new" within Hellenistic philosophy. Central to neopythagorean thought was the concept of a soul and its inherent desire for a unio mystica with the divine.
Syrianus was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, and head of Plato's Academy in Athens, succeeding his teacher Plutarch of Athens in 431/432. He is important as the teacher of Proclus, and, like Plutarch and Proclus, as a commentator on Plato and Aristotle. His best-known extant work is a commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle. He is said to have written also on the De Caelo and the De Interpretatione of Aristotle and on Plato's Timaeus.
Orphism is the name given to a set of religious beliefs and practices originating in the ancient Greek and Hellenistic world, as well as from the Thracians, associated with literature ascribed to the mythical poet Orpheus, who descended into the Greek underworld and returned. Orphics revered Dionysus and Persephone. Orphism has been described as a reform of the earlier Dionysian religion, involving a re-interpretation or re-reading of the myth of Dionysus and a re-ordering of Hesiod's Theogony, based in part on pre-Socratic philosophy.
Numenius of Apamea was a Greek philosopher, who lived in Apamea in Syria and Rome, and flourished during the latter half of the 2nd century AD. He was a Neopythagorean and forerunner of the Neoplatonists.
Palingenesis is a concept of rebirth or re-creation, used in various contexts in philosophy, theology, politics, and biology. Its meaning stems from Greek palin, meaning 'again', and genesis, meaning 'birth'.
Thracian religion includes the religious practices of the Thracians. Little is known about their mythology and rituals, but some of their gods are depicted in statuary or described in Greek sources.
Divine judgment means the judgment of God or other supreme beings within a religion.
Reincarnation is regularly mentioned in feature films, books, and popular music. The similar concept of transmigration has been used frequently to the point of cliché in the sense of people "switching bodies," in which the identity of a character transfers to another's body, either unilaterally or by exchange, or to an animal or object. This concept has been used many times in various films, particularly in Indian cinema and television.
Totenpass is a German term sometimes used for inscribed tablets or metal leaves found in burials primarily of those presumed to be initiates into Orphic, Dionysiac, and some ancient Egyptian and Semitic religions. The term may be understood in English as a "passport for the dead". The so-called Orphic gold tablets are perhaps the best-known example.
Orpheus is a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion.
Plato's theory of soul, drawing on the words of his teacher Socrates, considered the psyche (ψυχή) to be the essence of a person, being that which decides how people behave. He considered this essence to be an incorporeal, eternal occupant of our being. Plato said that even after death, the soul exists and is able to think. He believed that as bodies die, the soul is continually reborn (metempsychosis) in subsequent bodies. The Platonic soul consists of three parts which are located in different regions of the body: