In this post we present and analyze nine quotes from the ancient Greek Philosopher Cleobulus, one of the so-called ‘seven sages’.
1. μέτρον άριστον ( = keeping the measure is the best)
(NovoScriptorium: man must avoid extremes, as this generates further extremes. Instead, measure reproduces measure. And this is reflected at all social levels, starting, of course, from the individual)
2. εύ το σώμα έχειν καί την ψυχήν ( = keep your body and soul in good shape)
(NovoScriptorium: as every other genuine philosopher, Cleobulus believes in the existence of the soul. As an integral part of the human being, it must be in a healthy condition, just as the body must be. Through the following quotes it becomes apparent what Cleobulus suggests as ‘health’)
3. φιλήκοον είναι καί μη πολύλαλον ( = love listening rather than talking a lot)
4. γλώσσαν εύφημον κεκτήσθαι ( = speak with decency)
(NovoScriptorium: gab is condemned by Cleobulus, as is the use of improper language. Why? certainly for the benefit of the soul. Gab is an indication of great selfishness, pride and vanity, especially when people have a tendency to avoid/deny listening to other people. Philosophically and Theologically speaking, there appears to be no greater disaster for the soul than pride. As for the profound use of language, it may affect both our brain and thinking as well as the soul itself, not to mention, of course, the impact that the quality of our speech has on our fellow human beings. The words we use shape our way of thinking; if we use ‘sly’ words, ‘sly’ will be our thinking and vice versa. The soul tends to form itself according to what man sees, hears, etc, so it is not possible to cultivate a soul towards Good when the offered images, actions, sounds, etc, are “evil”. Obviously, it is also impossible when our speech and, consequently, our way of thinking are ‘sly’)
5. αρετής οικείον, κακίας αλλότριον ( = be familiar with virtue and be stranger from evil)
6. αδικίαν μισείν, ευσέβειαν φυλάσειν ( = hate injustice and guard piety / be pious)
7. ηδονής κρατείν ( = have abstinence/self-restraint in pleasure or, rule over pleasure/control pleasure)
(NovoScriptorium: the philosopher asks us to become familiar with Virtue and to become strangers to Evil. But what does ‘Virtue’ mean? As we have discussed elsewhere, this notion includes godliness, piety, righteousness, friendship, temperance, prudence, wisdom, measure, etc. This is important and necessary primarily for the cultivation of the soul towards Good. Clearly, there are effects on the body as well. For example, a man who is rashly surrendered to various pleasures puts himself in great physical hazards, with immediate or long-term consequences. Equally proven, the insatiable hunt of pleasure has clear and measurable effects on the mental and soul state of man. Finally, as we have explained elsewhere, the sensual/voluptuous attitude of living is detrimental to both the individual and the society)
8. βίαι μηδέν πράττειν ( = do not do anything by force)
(NovoScriptorium: violence can never be desirable by the true philosopher. The notion of Freedom is evaluated particularly high in the Philosophical rating scale. And rightly so.
Freedom of Will is a gift to Man from the Creator Himself, who did not make us ‘robots’ but rather gave us both the mind and the logical soul to make our own choices. God, because of Love, does not violate Man’s Freedom ever; how can we then tolerate the violation of a human being’s Freedom by another human being? Violation of one’s Freedom constitutes violation of a Divine Law.
In a more ‘earthy’ approach, instead of a Philosophical/Theological one, let us imagine of the majority of people in a Society violently pursuing to impose themselves on every other. Obviously, no Society could ever stand like this.
Of course the message of non-violence is much wider. For example, it directly implies that imposing ideas, beliefs, ways, etc. is not the correct educational method.
For the sake of accuracy, we must say that there is also another translation for the word ‘βία‘, meaning ‘rush’. That would offer us a completely different analysis of the same quote. Shortly, that we should not act with rush in life. In other words, that we should give the necessary time to each and every thing – obviously to obtain the best possible result, after well-calculated actions)
9. έχθρας διαλύειν ( = dissolve the enmities)
(NovoScriptorium: Cleobulus suggests the avoidance of any enmity; moreover, he urges for its dissolution, even if it was already born. Why? because ‘νεῖκος (the dividing force)’, ‘quarrel’, ‘enmity’, are detrimental to Man on every level.
Above and first of all, Man must dissolve his inner enmities, because it is from these that enmity springs up and shows towards other people. External behaviour always reflects our inner world.
Then each Man should try to dissolve the enmities that emerge just around him, e.g. in his Family.
And, of course, there should also be an effort by the organized Polity, primarily through Education and Persuasion, to dissolve social enmities, as they can be proved totally destructive.
The opposite of ‘enmity’ (νεῖκος) is φιλότης. Φιλότης can be explained as ‘the connecting -or binding- force’, ‘friendship’, but also as ‘love’. Therefore, the message ‘dissolve the enmities’ can be also read as ‘seek for love/friendship/ways to unite’.
So, Man must cultivate the unifier’s mood and always try to represent a factor of cohesion and consistency. He must also try to ‘love’ instead of ‘hate’.
In our opinion, Cleobulus’ general message is Philosophical, Theological and Social at the same time)
Research-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos