Tree of Life Lessons
Level 1 Lesson 7
In the 4th century BC, the Greek philosopher Democritus was called the founder of the atomic theory. His teaching was a philosophy most likely received from the Cosmic Mind. He had also spent much time studying in Egypt.
It was a Rosicrucian, John Dalton, who published the laws and conclusions of this same theory in 1805 AD, and whom scientists accredit with bringing it to a scientific basis.
Democritus was considered crazy, and Hippocrates was sent to cure him; yet, he was also known as the "laughing philosopher".
In his system, he developed still further the mechanical or atomic theory of his master, Leucippus. Thus, he explained the origin of the world by the eternal motion of an infinite number of invisible and indivisible bodies--atoms-謡hich differ from one another in form, position and arrangement, and are alternately separated and combined by their motions in infinite space. In this way, the universe was formed覧 fortuitously覧without the interposition of a First Cause.
Although denying the presence of design in nature, he admitted that of Law. He called the common notion of chance a cover of human ignorance覧the refuge of those who are too idle to think.
The eternal existence of atoms (of matter in general) he inferred from the consideration that time could be conceived only as eternal and without beginning. In the atoms, he distinguished figure, size, gravity, and impenetrability.
Fire consists of active globules (according to him) and spreads like a light envelope around the earth. Soul consists覧in as far as it is a moving power覧of the finest tire atoms, but since it is acquainted with the other elements, and anything can be known only by its equal, it must be composed in part also from the other elements. Knowledge by sense is due to contact with atoms emanating from the sensed objects through the mediation of the organs of sense. Direct contact and mediated by the organs of sense gives rise to "trueborn" knowledge.
The continuation of the Soul after death was denied by Democritus, who divided it into two parts: the rational part, which has its seat in the breast, and the sensual part, which is diffused through the whole body. Both constitute only one substance.
He applied his atomic theory, also, to natural philosophy and astronomy. Even the gods he considered to have risen from atoms and to be perishable like the rest of things existing.
In his ethical philosophy, Democritus considered the acquisition of peace of mind as the highest aim of existence. The purest joy and the truest happiness are only the fruit of the higher mental activity exerted in the endeavor to understand the nature of things--of the peace of mind rising from good actions and of a clear conscience.
World Religions Contents