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Echoes of the Past

The utterances of Socrates, full of beauty, wisdom and truth, are as fresh and inspiring after twenty-four centuries as though only spoken yesterday. These echoes of a distant past linger in the memory, and, reverberating again and again, compel the attention, and impress themselves upon the mind as only words of truth can. Righteousness, goodness, virtue, truth, these are the only things worth living for, these comprise the only true wisdom; such is the teaching of Socrates. With nearly all the great moral and religious teachers who have succeeded him, Socrates taught and practiced the principle of non-resistance to evil. Of this he said: "We may not repay wrong with wrong, nor do harm to any man, no matter what we may have suffered from him;" and with true prophetic intuition: "I know that only a few men hold or ever will hold this opinion."

It is better to suffer wrong than to do a wrong; and the evil-doer, though possessed of infinite wealth and power, must inevitably be miserable. Socrates, though all the world be against him, will maintain this to be a truth—yes, and he will go a step further—the evil-doer who escapes the law, and lives on in his wickedness, is a more miserable man than he who suffers the penalty of his crimes; and though the tyrant or murderer may avoid his earthly judges, as a sick child avoids the doctor, still he carries about with him an incurable cancer in his soul. For his own part, Socrates would heap coals of fire upon the head of his enemy by letting him escape punishment.

To the fearful, and alas! their name is legion, his words fall as the dew upon the parched ground, reviving, soothing, and strengthening. To these he says: "Know this of a truth—that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death." And again: "A man should be of good cheer about his soul, if in his life he has let the pleasures and adornments of the body be, thinking that they are not his; and that they will do him not good, but harm; and has instead earnestly pursued the pleasures of learning, and has adorned his soul, not in another's, but in her own adornment, which is temperance, and justice, and courage, and freedom and truth, and so awaits his journey to the other world in readiness to set forth whenever fate calls him."

Of virtue we read: "I tell you that virtue does not come from wealth, but that wealth and every other good, whether public or private, which men have, come from virtue." "We ought to leave nothing undone that we may obtain virtue and wisdom in this life. Noble is the prize and great the hope."

Again: "We must not think so much of what the many say of us, but rather of what the one who has understanding about justice and injustice, and of what Truth will say of us."

"Are you not ashamed of caring so much for the making of money, and for reputation and honor."

Concerning death and immortality he says: "Death is the happy release of the soul from the body. In this life our highest and purest thoughts are distracted by cares and lusts and diseases inherent in the flesh. He is wisest who keeps himself pure till the hour when the Deity Himself is pleased to release him. Then shall the foolishness of the flesh be purged away, and we shall be pure, and hold converse with other pure souls, and recognize the pure light everywhere, which is none other than the light of Truth. Hence, the wise man leaves with joy a world where his higher nature is trammeled by evil and impurity; and his whole life is but a preparation for death, or rather an initiation into the mysteries of the unseen world."

A prayer of Socrates, which one instinctively feels is the natural and spontaneous utterance of a soul at peace with everything, is touching in its beauty, sublimity and comprehensiveness: "Grant me to be beautiful in soul and all that I possess of outward things to be at peace with them within. Teach me to think wisdom the only riches. And give me so much wealth, and so much only, as a good and holy man can manage and enjoy."

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Thomas W. Allen

  • Brother of author James Allen
  • Not much else is known about him. If you have information about this author to share, please contact me.
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