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On The Heavens   



this motion, being perfect, contains those imperfect motions which

have a limit and a goal, having itself no beginning or end, but

unceasing through the infinity of time, and of other movements, to

some the cause of their beginning, to others offering the goal. The

ancients gave to the Gods the heaven or upper place, as being alone

immortal; and our present argument testifies that it is indestructible

and ungenerated. Further, it is unaffected by any mortal discomfort,

and, in addition, effortless; for it needs no constraining necessity

to keep it to its path, and prevent it from moving with some other

movement more natural to itself. Such a constrained movement would

necessarily involve effort the more so, the more eternal it were-and

would be inconsistent with perfection. Hence we must not believe the

old tale which says that the world needs some Atlas to keep it

safe-a tale composed, it would seem, by men who, like later

thinkers, conceived of all the upper bodies as earthy and endowed with

weight, and therefore supported it in their fabulous way upon

animate necessity. We must no more believe that than follow Empedocles

when he says that the world, by being whirled round, received a

movement quick enough to overpower its own downward tendency, and thus

has been kept from destruction all this time. Nor, again, is it

conceivable that it should persist eternally by the necessitation of a

soul. For a soul could not live in such conditions painlessly or

happily, since the movement involves constraint, being imposed on

the first body, whose natural motion is different, and imposed

continuously. It must therefore be uneasy and devoid of all rational

satisfaction; for it could not even, like the soul of mortal

animals, take recreation in the bodily relaxation of sleep. An Ixion's

lot must needs possess it, without end or respite. If then, as we

said, the view already stated of the first motion is a possible one,

it is not only more appropriate so to conceive of its eternity, but

also on this hypothesis alone are we able to advance a theory

consistent with popular divinations of the divine nature. But of

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