Theological views of Thales from Miletos

In this article we briefly present and originally analyze 8 excerpts from the teachings of Thales from Miletos. 


Diogenes Laertius delivers, among others, the following teachings of Thales:

1. Ancient Greek: “πρεσβύτατον των όντων θεός. Αγένητον γαρ”

English: “The oldest of beings is God, because he is unborn”

2. Ancient Greek: “κόσμος. Ποίημα γαρ θεού”

English: “The most beautiful of all is Cosmos, because it’s God’s creation”

3. Ancient Greek: “Τι το θείον, “το μήτε αρχήν έχον μήτε τελευτήν” ”

English: “what is divine? (he was asked) ‘that which has nor beginning nor end’ (he answered)”

4. Ancient Greek: “τις αυτόν, ει λήθοι θεούς άνθρωπος αδικών (απήντησε: ) “αλλ’ ουδέ διανοούμενος” έφη”

English: “Somebody asked him if anyone doing wrong (or ‘something unjust’) can hide from the gods. ‘Not even if he thinks of it’, he answered.”

(NovoScriptorium: God for Thales is ‘unborn’, without ‘beginning and end’. He is not only ‘omnipresent’ but ‘heart knower’, too – as He knows even the thoughts of people. Cosmos -i.e. the Universe- is beautiful, and it is a creation of God. Interestingly, Orthodox Christianity believes the same)

5. Ancient Greek: “Ερωτηθείς τι δύσκολον, έφη “το εαυτόν γνώναι” ”

English: “When he was asked ‘what is difficult?’ he answered: ‘to know thyself’ ”

6. Ancient Greek: “Τι δε εύκολον, “το άλλωι υποθέσθαι” ”

English: “and what is easy? ‘to consult the other’ ”

(NovoScriptorium: Self-knowledge in depth, true self-knowledge, is one of the most important aims of the Orthodox Christian, even more important for those who progress in Nepsis. What happens ‘outside ourselves’ is, indeed, much easier. We can very easily consult others to do things we do not keep them ourselves! And above that, to take pride in this, or show off about knowledge, ways, etc. It is very easy to judge and condemn outside us. This is, clearly, what the Philosopher refers to here. Again, we notice very interesting parallels between genuine Philosophy and Orthodox Christianity. Our reader may be interested to read more on Nepsis here)

7. Ancient Greek: “Τις ευδαίμων, “ο το μεν σώμα υγιής, την δε ψυχήν εύπορος, την δε φύσιν ευπαίδευτος” ”

English: “who is the happy man? (he was asked). ‘the one who has health in body, wealth in soul and has a well trained nature” (the word ‘φύση‘ which we translated as ‘nature’ according to the Liddell & Scott Lexicon means ‘the intellect and the natural forces of man’)”

8. Ancient Greek: “Μη την όψιν καλλωπίζεσθαι, αλλά τοίς επιτηδεύμασιν είναι καλόν”

English: “It is good not to take care of our external smartening up but of our ‘επιτηδεύματα’ (according to Liddell & Scott Lexiconεπιτηδεύματα‘ means ‘our works, occupations, actions, habits’)”

(NovoScriptorium: Evidently, Thales rejects the materialistic-hedonistic stance of life. External smartening up is a sample of selfishness, vanity, vainglory and it is definitely associated with the passion of sensuality/hedonism. If our habits are ‘on the surface’, we should not expect our life to be ‘substantial’. The Philosopher proposes the exactly opposite. Apart from health, which is always desirable and necessary for all people, he seeks ‘wealth of soul‘ and ‘well trained nature‘. Before anything else, we notice that Thales believes in the existence of the soul. He considers as happiness the ‘wealthy’ soul. Not accidentally, this is in direct conjuction with the ‘well trained nature’. If an intellect/mind and body hasn’t entered the process of Paideusis-Ascesis, increasing soul’s wealth is rendered impossible.

From all the above teachings of Thales comes out a reasonable final conclusion: man must live with constant ‘memory of God’ – as God is not only creator and governor of all, but observes even the smallest and deepest thought of man- cultivating his soul, seeking to achieve deep and true self-knowledge, through continuous Ascesis, in body and mind, while avoiding bad, surface, non substantial habits, and replacing them constantly with the habit of good, prudent and virtuous thinking, speaking and doing. Interestingly, Orthodox Christianity believes the same)

 Research-Analysis for NovoScritorium: Isidoros Aggelos

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