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E. R. Dodds – “God’s in his Heaven, all’s wrong with the world.”

August 31, 2014

“I suppose that, broadly speaking, religion grows out of man’s relationship to his total environment, morals out of his relation to his fellowmen. But sooner or later in most cultures there comes a time of suffering when most people refuse to be content with Achilles’ view, the view that ‘God’s in his Heaven, all’s wrong with the world.’ Man projects into the cosmos his own nascent demand for social justice; and when from the outer spaces the magnified echo of his own voice returns to him, promising punishment for the guilty, he draws from it courage and reassurance…

In the Archaic Age the mills of God ground so slowly that their movement was practically imperceptible save to the eye of faith. In order to sustain the belief that they moved at all, it was necessary to get rid of the natural time-limit set by death. If you looked beyond that limit, you could say one (or both) of two things: you could say that the successful sinner would be punished in his descendants, or you could say that he would pay his debt personally in another life.”

 

(from The Greeks and the Irrational [1951])

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