* The transmigrating Ens. l. 584. The perpetual circulation of matter in the growth and dissolution of vegetable and animal bodies seems to have given Pythagoras his idea of the metempsycosis or transmigration of spirit; which was afterwards dressed out or ridiculed in variety of amusing fables. Other philosophers have supposed, that there are two different materials or essences, which fill the universe. One of these, which has the power of commencing or producing motion, is called spirit; the other, which has the power of receiving and of communicating motion, but not of beginning it, is called matter. The former of these is supposed to be diffused through all space, filling up the interstices of the suns and planets, and constituting the gravitations of the sidereal bodies, the attractions of chemistry, with the spirit of vegetation, and of animation. The latter occupies comparatively but small space, constituting the solid parts of the suns and planets, and their atmospheres. Hence these philosophers have supposed, that both matter and spirit are equally immortal and unperishable; and that on the dissolution of vegetable or animal organization, the matter returns to the general mass of matter; and the spirit to the general mass of spirit, to enter again into new combinations, according to the original idea of Pythagoras.
The small apparent quantity of matter that exists in the universe compared to that of spirit, and the short time in which the recrements of animal or vegetable bodies become again vivified in the forms of vegetable mucor or microscopic insects, seems to have given rise to another curious fable of antiquity. That Jupiter threw down a large handful of souls upon the earth, and left them to scramble for the few bodies which were to be had.
[ return to text ]