The Greek view of life - PDF book by Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson

The Greek view of life

The Greek view of life

Excerpt from the introduction:

In approaching the subject of the religion of the Greeks it is necessary to dismiss at the outset many of the associations which we are naturally inclined to connect with that word. What we commonly have in our mind when we speak of religion is a definite set of doctrines, of a more or less metaphysical character, formulated in creed and supported by an organization distinct from the state.

 And the first thing we have to learn about the religion of the Greeks is that it included nothing of the kind. There was no church, there was no creed, there were no articles. Priests there were, but they were merely public officials, appointed to perform certain religious rites. 

The distinction between cleric and layman, as we know it, did not exist; the distinction between poetry and dogma did not exist; and whatever the religion of the Greeks may have been, one thing, at any rate, is clear, that it was something very different from all that we are in the habit of associating with the word. 

What, then, was it ? It is easy to reply that it was the worship of those gods of Zeus, Apollo, Athene, and the rest with whose names and histories every- one is familiar. But the difficulty is to realize what was implied in the worship of these gods; to understand that the mythology which we regard merely as a collection of fables was to the Greeks actually true; or at least that to nine Greeks out of ten it would never occur that it might be false might be, as we say, mere stories. 

So that though no doubt the histories of the gods were in part the inventions of the poets, yet the poets would conceive themselves to be merely putting into form what they and everyone believed to be essentially true. But such a belief implies a fundamental distinction between the conception, or rather, perhaps, the feeling of the Greeks about the world, and our own. And it is this feeling that we want to understand when we ask ourselves the question, what did a belief in the gods really mean to the ancient Greeks? To answer it fully and satisfactorily is perhaps impossible. But some attempt must be made, and it may help us in our quest if we endeavour to imagine the kind of questionings and doubts which the conception of the gods would set at rest.

Greek Religion as Interpretation of Nature When we try to conceive the state of mind of primitive man, the first thing that occurs to us is the bewilderment and terror he must have felt in the presence of the powers of nature. Naked, houseless, weaponless, he is at the mercy, every hour, of this immense and incalculable Something so alien and so hostile to himself. As fire it burns, as the water it drowns, as tempest it harries and destroys; benignant it may be at times, in warm sunshine and calm, but the kindness is brief and treacherous. 

Anyhow, whatever its mood, it has to be met and dealt with. By its help, or, if not, in the teeth of its resistance, every step in advance must be won; every hour, every minute, it is there to be reckoned with. What is it then, this persistent, obscure, unnameable Thing? What is it ? The question haunts the mind; it will not be put aside; and the Greek at last, like other men under similar conditions, only with a lucidity and precision peculiar to himself, makes the reply, 

 It is something like myself." Every power of nature he presumes to be a spiritual being, impersonating the sky as Zeus, the earth as Demeter, the sea as Poseidon; from generation to generation, under his shaping hands, the figures multiply and define themselves; character and story crystallize about what at first were little more than names; till at last, from the womb of the dark enigma that haunted him in the beginning, there emerges into the charming light of a world of ideal grace a pantheon of fair and concrete personalities. Nature has become a company of spirits; every cave and fountain is haunted by a nymph; in the ocean dwell the Nereids, in the mountain the Oread, the Dryad in the wood; and everywhere, in groves and marshes, on the pastures or the rocky heights, floating in the current of the streams or traversing untrodden snows, in the day at the chase and as evening closes in solitude fingering his flute, seen and heard by shepherds, alone or with his dancing train, is to be met the horned and goat-footed, the sunny- smiling Pan.


Chapter I
The Greek View of Religion - . - - i
1. Introductory ----- i
2. Greek Religion an Interpretation of Nature - 2
3. Greek Religion an Interpretation of the Human
Passions - - - - -.8
4. Greek Religion the Foundation of Society - 9
5. Religious Festivals - - - - 12
6. The Greek Conception of the Relation of Man
to the Gods - - - - - 15
7. Divination, Omens, Oracles - - - 18
8. Sacrifice and Atonement - - - - 21
9. Guilt and Punishment - - - - 24
10. Mysticism - - - - - - 27
11. The Greek View of Death and a Future Life - 32
12. Critical and Sceptical Opinion in Greece - 40
13. Ethical Criticism - - - - - ( 4S
14. Transition to Monotheism - - - 50
15. Metaphysical Criticism - - - - 53
16. Metaphysical Reconstruction Plato - - 59
17. Summary - - - - - - 62
The Greek View of the State - - - 67
1. The Greek State a City " - - - 67
2. The Relation of the State to the Citizen - - 68
3. The Greek View of Law - - - - 72
4. Artisans and Slaves - - - "74
5. The Greek State Primarily Military, not Industrial -..---
6. Forms of Government in the Greek State
7. Faction and Anarchy _ . . .
8. Property and the Communistic Ideal
9. Sparta .--...
10. Athens -.--..
11. Sceptical Criticism of the Basis of the State
12. Summary ------
The Greek View of the Individual -
1. The Greek View of Manual Labour and Trade -
2. Appreciation of External Goods -
3. Appreciation of Physical Qualities
4. Greek Athletics -----
. 5. Greek Ethics Identification of the Esthetic
and Ethical Points of View
6. The Greek View of Pleasure
7. Illustrations Ischomachus; Socrates -
8. The Greek View of Woman
9. Protests against the Common View of Women -
10. Friendship ------
11. Summary - - - - -
The Greek View of Art - -.
1. Greek Art an Expression of National Life
2. Identification of the Esthetic and Ethical
Points of View -----
3. Sculpture and Painting . . -.
4. Music and the Dance . . -.
5. Poetry ------
6. Tragedy ------
7. Comedy ------
8. Summary ------ 
Author: Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson
Publication date:1915
Publisher Garden city, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & co

Download The Greek view of life  PDF ebook - 11.9 MB 
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