Friday, September 26, 2014


Pleasure in Religious Observance

Plutarch, That Epicurus Actually Makes a Pleasant Life Impossible 21 = Moralia 1101 D-E (tr. Benedict Einarson and Phillip H. De Lacy):
On the other hand the attitude toward God that we find in the ignorant but not greatly wicked majority of mankind contains no doubt along with the sense of reverence and honour an element of tremulous fear (and from this we get our term for superstition); but outweighing this a thousand times is the element of cheerful hope, of exultant joy, and whether in prayer or in thanksgiving of ascribing every furtherance of felicity to the gods. [E] This is proved by the strongest kind of evidence: no visit delights us more than a visit to a temple; no occasion than a holy day; no act or spectacle than what we see and what we do ourselves in matters that involve the gods, whether we celebrate a ritual or take part in a choral dance or attend a sacrifice or ceremony of initiation. For on these occasions our mind is not plunged in anxiety or cowed and depressed, as we should expect it to be in the company of tyrants or dispensers of gruesome punishments. No, wherever it believes and conceives most firmly that the god is present, there more than anywhere else it puts away all feelings of pain, of fear and of worry, and gives itself up so far to pleasure that it indulges in a playful and merry inebriation.

ἡ δὲ τῶν πολλῶν καὶ ἀμαθῶν καὶ οὐ πάνυ μοχθηρῶν διάθεσις πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ἔχει μὲν ἀμέλει τῷ σεβομένῳ καὶ τιμῶντι μεμιγμένον τινὰ σφυγμὸν καὶ φόβον, ᾗ καὶ δεισιδαιμονία κέκληται, τούτου δὲ μυριάκις πλεῖόν ἐστὶ καὶ μεῖζον αὐτῇ τὸ εὔελπι καὶ περιχαρὲς καὶ πᾶσαν εὐπραξίας ὄνησιν ὡς ἐκ θεῶν οὖσαν εὐχόμενον καὶ δεχόμενον. [E] δῆλον δὲ τεκμηρίοις τοῖς μεγίστοις· οὔτε γὰρ διατριβαὶ τῶν ἐν ἱεροῖς οὔτε καιροὶ τῶν ἑορτασμῶν οὔτε πράξεις οὔτ᾽ ὄψεις εὐφραίνουσιν ἕτεραι μᾶλλον ὧν ὁρῶμεν ἢ δρῶμεν αὐτοὶ περὶ τοὺς θεούς, ὀργιάζοντες ἢ χορεύοντες ἢ θυσίαις παρόντες ἢ τελεταῖς. οὐ γὰρ ὡς τυράννοις τισὶν ἢ δεινοῖς κολασταῖς ὁμιλοῦσα τηνικαῦτα ἡ ψυχὴ περίλυπός ἐστι καὶ ταπεινὴ καὶ δύσθυμος, ὅπερ εἰκὸς ἦν· ἀλλ᾽ ὅπου μάλιστα δοξάζει καὶ διανοεῖται παρεῖναι τὸν θεόν, ἐκεῖ μάλιστα λύπας καὶ φόβους καὶ τὸ φροντίζειν ἀπωσαμένη τῷ ἡδομένῳ μέχρι μέθης καὶ παιδιᾶς καὶ γέλωτος ἀφίησιν ἑαυτήν.

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