Tree of Life – Level 1, Lesson 7: Democritus
The Greek philosopher Democritus of the 4th Century before Christ 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 A.D., 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 atomical 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, which 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, fortuitously, 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, 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, according to him, of active globules, and spreads, like a light envelope, round the earth. The soul consists, insofar as it is a moving power, of the finest fire-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 meditation 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: into 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 atomical 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 arising from good actions and of a clear conscience.