Temples and gods

Heraclitus had a few words to say about his fellow Ephesians’ attitudes to the gods.

καὶ τοῖς ἀγάλμασι δὲ τουτέοισιν εὔχονται, ὁκοῖον εἴ τις τοῖς δόμοισι λεσχηνεύοιτο, οὔ τι γινώσκων θεοὺς οὐδ’ ἥρωας οἵτινές εἰσι

And they pray to these images as if they were prattling to houses not knowing who gods and heroes are.

Heraclitus fragments 5 (Bywater edition)

There are several letters that are supposedly written by Heraclitus and although obviously false they do expand and elaborate on his ideas. In the fourth letter, Heraclitus has supposedly been accused of writing his name on an altar thus making himself a god. He says he was writing Heracles not Heraclitus and anyway the Ephesians did not know what Gods are.

Ποὺ δ’ἐστὶν ὀ θεὀς; ἐν τοῖς ναοῖς ἀποκεκλεισμένος; Εὐσεβεῖς γε οἵ έν σκότει τὸν θεὸν ἰδρύετε. ἄνθρωπος λοιδορίαν ποεῖται, λίθινος εἲ λέγοιτο, θεὸς  δὲ ἀληθεύεται, ᾦ τοῦτο ἐφυμνούμενον, ἐκ κρημνῶν γεννᾶται.

Where is God? Shut up in the temples? You are really pious putting God in darkness. A man would make a fuss if he was called stony but can a god be truthfully described of whom it is said he was born of crags.

Heraclitus letters 4

This got me thinking that all religions have holy places or objects. If God is everywhere then surely there cannot be places that are more holy than others. Every religion has its purifiers – Heraclitus for the ancients and Plato who wanted to cut out any myth that put gods in a bad light, the iconoclasts and puritans for the Christians and so on for every other religion. But even the most extreme of purifiers would leave some holy place or object where god dwells more than others. Which as I said doesn’t make sense if god is everywhere.

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