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Chapter IX.—Basilides Adopts the Aristotelian Doctrine of “Nonentity.”

Since, therefore, “nothing” existed,—(I mean) not matter, nor substance, nor what is insubstantial, nor is absolute, nor composite,817817    This emendation is made by Abbe Cruice. The ms. has “incomposite,” an obviously untenable reading. (nor conceivable, nor inconceivable, (nor what is sensible,) nor devoid of senses, nor man, nor angel, nor a god, nor, in short, any of those objects that have names, or are apprehended by sense, or that are cognised by intellect, but (are) thus (cognised), even with greater minuteness, still, when all things are absolutely removed,—(since, I say, “nothing” existed,) God, “non-existent,”—whom Aristotle styles “conception of conception,” but these (Basilidians) “non-existent,”—inconceivably, insensibly, indeterminately, involuntarily, impassively, (and) unactuated by desire, willed to create a world. Now I employ, he says, the expression “willed” for the purpose of signifying (that he did so) involuntarily, and inconceivably, and insensibly. And by the expression “world” I do not mean that which was subsequently formed according to breadth and division, and which stood apart; nay, (far from this,) for (I mean) the germ of a world.  The germ, however, of the world had all things in itself. Just as the grain of mustard comprises all things simultaneously, holding them (collected) together within the very smallest (compass), viz., roots, stem, branches, leaves, and innumerable gains which are produced from the plant, (as) seeds again of other plants, and 104frequently of others (still), that are produced (from them). In this way, “non-existent” God made the world out of nonentities, casting and depositing some one Seed that contained in itself a conglomeration of the germs of the world.  But in order that I may render more clear what it is those (heretics) affirm, (I shall mention the following illustration of theirs.)  As an egg of some variegated and particoloured bird,—for instance the peacock, or some other (bird) still more manifold and particoloured,—being one in reality, contains in itself numerous forms of manifold, and particoloured, and much compounded substances; so, he says, the nonexistent seed of the world, which has been deposited by the non-existent God, constitutes at the same time the germ of a multitude of forms and a multitude of substances.


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