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The Apeiron is the arche, the origin of the universe, its ground and a substratum from which everything originates and into which everything returns. Everything in the universe is generated and everything reaches its end, but the Apeiron always was and always will be. It is the ultimate origin of everything because it is unoriginated because it cannot be reduced to anything more basic, more fundamental, and more lasting than itself. There are causal chains in the universe, but the links in these chains have only intermediate importance; although one element of the chain has – causally – another element of the chain as its origin, the latter element is not an ultimate origin of the former because it has a temporary existence and its origin can eventually by traced to the Apeiron. In this, the term arche, which meant der zeitliche Ursprung in traditional mythology, enriches its meaning by becoming der zeitlose Grund.30

The Apeiron is everlasting (ἀίδɩον) and ageless (ἀγήρων), and it encompasses all the worlds (Hippolytus, Ref. 1.6.1 = A11). It governs (κυβερᾶν) all things, and, in Aristotle’s words, “it is divine (τò θεῖον) because it is immortal (ἀθάνατον) and indestructible (ἀνώλεθρον)” (Physics 203b11–14 = A15). The Apeiron is divine because it has attributes of divinity. Someone, or something, which is immortal and has a control over all things, must be the supreme divinity, not just a mythical god that is constantly in danger of clashing with other gods, must be the god on whom everything depends, even the very existence of the universe and the existence of other gods if they are allowed to exist. Divinity of the Apeiron is not an additional attribute, but the Apeiron’s essence, its nature. The Apeiron is the god; the Apeiron is another denomination of the divinity of this god used to convey its essence, which is its infinity – infinity of its existence and its power.31

That the Apeiron encompasses everything means that it is outside the fiery wheels of the heavens and extends infinitely in space. The universe created from the stuffs separated from the Apeiron are limited in time and space, but the matrix of the universe, the Apeiron itself, is unlimited both spatially and temporally. The Apeiron always existed and always will exist; it is everywhere outside the heavens. The Apeiron is thus very firmly seated in the spatio-temporal framework.32

Deriving the universe from the divine Apeiron would be far from satisfactory if the Apeiron were defined only statically as the unlimitedness from which the universe emerges and no attempt were made to explain the mechanisms of the universe.


30 Alexander von Varga, Geschichtliche Einführung in die Grundbegriffe der Philosophie (Munich: UNI-Druck, 1977), p. 2; see also Heinz Ambronn, Apeiron-eon-kenon: Zum Arché-Begriff bei den Vorsokratikern (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1996), p. 49.

31 When Anaximander says “that the Boundless ‘encompasses all things and governs all things’, he is satisfying the loftiest demands which religious thought has required of divinity from time immemorial;” the Apeiron “is the sole complete realization of the Divine as such, without beginning and without end,” Werner Jaeger, The theology of the early Greek philosophers (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1947), pp. 31, 33. The use of the term τò θεῖον is considered to indicate that Anaximander was the first to abstract the general concept of divinity from ὁ θεος, pp. 31, 203–206; cf. Gerald F. Else, ‘God and gods in early Greek thought’, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 90 (1949), p. 35.

32 This framework was not abandoned to move “into a new dimension,” as conjectured by Paul Seligman, The Apeiron of Anaximander (London: The Athlone Press, 1962), p. 145.


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