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Anaximenes of Miletus - Apeiron and the arche



Type of Spiritual Experience


The Greeks had a number of names for the energy of the universe.

Apeiron is a Greek word meaning unlimited or infinite.  It was key to the philosophy developed by Anaximander in about the 6th century BC. The Greek philosophers of the time were trying to discover a first principle – the arche – the stuff from which everything else is made.  From apeiron is derived all form and function.  Anaximander also conceived of it as something which is endless and limitless.  It has no substance,  but it is the ‘stuff’ from which all things are born and to which all things will return. Both Aristotle and Augustine built on these ideas later, as did Pythagoras and Anaxagoras.

Anaximenes  of Miletus was a Greek Pre-Socratic philosopher active in the latter half of the 6th century BC.   He was a contemporary of Anaximander.

Anaximenes gave the name pneuma to the energy from which all things came and to which they would all eventually return. His definition was identical to that of the Chinese Tao, Qi, and so on.  Incorrectly translated subsequently as simply ‘air’ Anaximenes proposed an entirely ‘metaphysical’ hypothesis -  in effect all the terms he used described nothing physically visible

He used the simile of how ‘pneuma ’ condenses to become mist/air and then water [function] and then further condenses to become ‘earth’[form].  Thus the pneuma is used to create form and function.  Destruction or dissolution is the reverse process, form [earth] becomes function [water then mist/air] and finally fire.  These, are not substances but layers of vibrational energy.

The term Pneuma was also used by the Stoic philosophers.

A description of the experience

The Ophr.  Fr 2 ap. Simplic Phys 24

Among those who say that the first principle is one and mobile and boundless is to be reckoned Anaximander of Miletus, the son of Praxiades, the successor and follower of Thales.  He said that ‘the boundless’ was the first principle and element of the things that we are, being the first to make  use of this term in describing the first principle …that from which things take their origin, into that again they pass away, as destiny orders.

The source of the experience

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