Friday, May 3, 2013
Godlike: Stoic Terminology
Needleman and Piazza's The Essential Marcus Aurelius distinguishes the Stoic conception of God from the Christian God (although there are perhaps more similarities in conception than are shared with a pagan god or gods). In the end, it is important to remember that the ancient Stoics were pagans, and believed in many gods, although they had a strong Unitarian streak, declaring all divine things to share in a single divine nature, so that the gods and even the divine "sparks" within us are all of a single kind. They go on to examine the term "godlike" (translating the Greek term theoeidēs), saying that "the Stoic ideal is to live a life that is closer to that of the gods. This notion is based on the idea that we all have a divine 'spark' inside us, which gives us all superhuman, or divine potential. To be merely human is to deny the divine part of ourselves, whereas to tend and cultivate the divine element of ourselves is to be truly human. This theory is most likely influenced by Plato, who says in his dialogue Theaetetus that the best way of like is to be as godlike as possible."