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ANF05. Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novatian, Appendix
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Chapter XXI.—The Brachmans; Their Mode of Life; Ideas of Deity; Different Sorts Of; Their Ethical Notions.

But there is also with the Indians a sect composed of those philosophizing among the Brachmans. They spend a contented existence, abstain both from living creatures and all cooked food, being satisfied with fruits; and not gathering these from the trees, but carrying off those that have fallen to the earth. They subsist upon them, drinking the water of the river Tazabena.136136    This is a mistake in the manuscript for Ganges, according to Roeper. But they pass their life naked, affirming that the body has been constituted a covering to the soul by the Deity. These affirm that God is light, not such as one sees, nor such as the sun and fire; but to them the Deity is discourse, not that which finds expression in articulate sounds, but that of the knowledge through which the secret mysteries of nature137137    Or, “knowledge.” (See Clemens Alexandrinus, Strom., i., xv., lxxii.; Eusebius, Præparat. Evang., ix. 6.) are perceived by the wise. And this light which they say is discourse, their god, they assert that the Brachmans only know on account of their alone rejecting all vanity of opinion which is the soul’s ultimate covering.138138    Athenæus (Deipn., book ix.) ascribes this opinion to Plato, who, he tells us, “asserted that the soul was so constituted, that it should reject its last covering, that of vanity.” These despise death, and always in their own peculiar language139139    Or, “they name light their god;” or, “they celebrate in their own peculiar language God, whom they name,” etc. call God by the name which we have mentioned previously, and they send up hymns (to him). But neither are there women among them, nor do they beget children. But they who aim at a life similar to these, after they have crossed over to the country on the opposite side of the river, continue to reside there, returning no more; and these also are called Brachmans. But they do not pass their life similarly, for there are also in the place women, of whom those that dwell there are born, and in turn beget children. And this discourse which140140    The text here would seem rather confused. The above translation agrees with Cruice’s and Schneidewin’s Latin version. I have doubts about its correctness, however, and would render it thus:  “…enveloped in a body extrinsic to the divine essence, just as if one wore a sheepskin covering; but that his body, on being divested of this (covering), would appear visible to the naked eye.” Or, “This discourse whom they name God they affirm to be incorporeal, but enveloped in a body outside himself (or his own body) (just as if one carried a covering of sheepskin to have it seen); but having stripped off the body in which he is enveloped, that he no longer appears visible to the naked eye.”  (Roeper.) I am not very confident that this exactly conveys the meaning of Roeper’s somewhat obscure Greek paraphrase. they name God they assert to be corporeal, and enveloped in a body outside himself, just as if one were wearing a sheep’s skin, but that on divesting himself of body that he would appear clear to the eye. But the Brachmans say that there is a conflict in the body that surrounds them, (and they consider that the body is for them full of conflicts);141141    The parenthetical words Roeper considers introduced into the text from a marginal note. in opposition to which, as if marshalled for battle against enemies, they contend, as we have already explained. And they say that all men are captive to their own congenital struggles, viz., sensuality and inchastity, gluttony, anger, joy, sorrow, concupiscence, and such like. And he who has reared a trophy over these, alone goes to God; wherefore the Brachmans deify Dandamis, to whom Alexander the Macedonian paid a visit, as one who had proved victorious in the bodily conflict. But they bear down on Calanus as having profanely withdrawn from their philosophy. But the Brachmans, putting off the body, like fishes jumping out of water into the pure air, behold the sun.


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