The Greeks

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The Greeks – National Geographic / PBS

They were an extraordinary people born of white rock and blue sea. They invented democracy, distilled logic and reason, wrote plays to plumb the deepest recesses of the soul, and captured the perfection of the human form in athletics and art. Quite simply, the Greeks created our world.

• The Greeks Home Page on PBS

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Introduction

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Episode 1 – Cavemen To Kings

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Episode 2 – The Good Strife

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Episode 3 – Chasing Greatness

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One of the earliest recorded near-death experiences…

The Myth of Er (423 – 347 BC)
According to Socrates from Plato’s Republic

The Myth of Er is a legend that concludes Plato’s Republic. The story includes an account of the cosmos and the afterlife that greatly influenced religious, philosophical, and scientific thought for many centuries.

The story begins as a man named Er dies in a battle. When the bodies of those who died in the battle are collected, ten days after his death, Er’s body remains undecomposed. Two days later, he revives on his funeral-pyre and tells others of his journey in the afterlife, including an account of reincarnation and the celestial spheres of the astral plane. The tale includes the idea that moral people are rewarded and immoral people punished after death.

Although called the Myth of Er, the word “myth” means “word, speech, account”, rather than the modern meaning. The word is used at the end when Socrates explains that because Er did not drink the waters of Lethe, the account (mythos in Greek) was preserved for us.

With many other souls as his companions, Er had come across an awe-inspiring place with four openings — two into and out of the sky and two into and out of the ground. Judges sat between these openings and ordered the souls which path to follow: the good were guided into the path into the sky, the immoral were directed below. But when Er approached the judges, he was told to remain, listening and observing in order to report his experience to humankind.

Meanwhile from the other opening in the sky, clean souls floated down, recounting beautiful sights and wondrous feelings. Those returning from underground appeared dirty, haggard, and tired, crying in despair when recounting their awful experiences, as each was required to pay a tenfold penalty for all the wicked deeds committed when alive. There were some, however, who could not be released from underground. Murderers, tyrants and other non-political criminals were doomed to remain by the exit of the underground, unable to escape.

After seven days in the meadow, the souls and Er were required to travel farther. After four days they reached a place where they could see a shaft of rainbow light brighter than any they had seen before. After another day’s travel they reached it. This was the Spindle of Necessity. Several women, including Lady Necessity, her daughters, and the Sirens were present. The souls — except for Er — were then organized into rows and were each given a lottery token.

Then, in the order in which their lottery tokens were chosen, each soul was required to come forward to choose his or her next life. Er recalled the first one to choose a new life: a man who had not known the terrors of the underground but had been rewarded in the sky, hastily chose a powerful dictatorship. Upon further inspection he realized that, among other atrocities, he was destined to eat his own children. Er observed that this was often the case of those who had been through the path in the sky, whereas those who had been punished often chose a better life. Many preferred a life different from their previous experience. Animals chose human lives while humans often chose the apparently easier lives of animals.

After this, each soul was assigned a guardian spirit to help him or her through their life. They passed under the throne of Lady Necessity, then traveled to the Plane of Oblivion, where the River of Forgetfulness (River Lethe) flowed. Each soul was required to drink some of the water, in varying quantities; again, Er only watched. As they drank, each soul forgot everything. As they lay down at night to sleep each soul was lifted up into the night in various directions for rebirth, completing their journey. Er remembered nothing of the journey back to his body. He opened his eyes to find himself lying on the funeral pyre early in the morning, able to recall his journey through the afterlife.

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Related Links:

Plato’s Near-Death Experience Testimony About The Soldier Named Er
Wikipedia On The Myth Of Er
Historical & Cross-Cultural Near-Death Experiences
Hellish & Distressing Near-Death Experiences

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