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Plutarch – The Vision of Aridæus 06



Type of spiritual experience

A description of the experience


Then Thespesius, after taking another journey as great as the former one, seemed to see in the distance a huge basin, with streams flowing into it: one whiter than the foam of the sea or snow; another like the purple which the rainbow sends forth; while others were tinged with other colours, each at a distance having its own splendour.

But when they came closer, the basin itself (the surroundings disappearing and the colours growing fainter) lost its varied colouring and retained only a white brilliance. And he saw three beings (daimones) seated together, forming a triangle one with the other, mixing the streams in definite proportions.

Thespesius’ soul-guide thereupon informed him that Orpheus had advanced as far as this when he went in search of the soul of his wife, but, through not remembering correctly, had spread an erroneous report that the Oracle at Delphi was shared by Apollo and Night, whereas Apollo had nothing to do with Night.

"But that which you see," he said, "is the common oracle of Night and Sel‘ n‘ , which eventuates nowhere on the earth in one particular seat, but meanders in every direction manwards in visions and images. It is from this that dreams, after being mixed, as you see, spread abroad a mixture of the simple and true with the complex and fallacious.

"As for the Oracle of Apollo," he continued, "you have not seen it, nor will you be able to do so, for the stern-cable of your soul does not give or slacken further upwards, but drags it down through being made fast to the body."

At the same time his guide brought him closer and tried to show him the light which streamed from the Tripod, as he explained, through the Bosom of Themis and rested upon Parnassus.

But though he longed to see, he could not because of the dazzling nature of the light. As he passed, however, he caught a woman’s high voice in rhythmic verse prophesying--among other things apparently the time of his own death.

His genius (daimÇn) told him that this was the voice of the Sibyl, who sings of things to come as she circles in the face of the Moon. He would therefore have liked to hear more, but was driven in the opposite direction by the Moon’s impetus, as in the eddies of a whirlpool. So he heard but little, but that little contained a prophecy about Mount Vesuvius and the destruction of Dicæarcheia by fire, and a scrap about the reigning Emperor, which ran:

"Being good, by sickness will he leave his throne."

The source of the experience

Aridæus of Soli

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image


Observation contributed by: Francis Keeble