Heraclitus for the dead, for the asleep, for the common men and the philosophers.

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A human touches on (kindles) a light in the night, when his eyesight is extinguished. Living, he touches on dead in sleep; in waking, he touches on sleeping.

It is about one of the most widely discussed extracts. The inability to interpret it properly, lead numerous scholars to suggest different amendments for the original text of Klement, which merely contributed to the understanding of it, as the “proof-readers” confessed (Marcovich p. 244). Therefore, we are going to attempt to analyse the current form of the extract, based on the Cosmos theory of Heraclitus.

What is the sleep for Heraclitus?

In the first part, the sleeping experience is described as a temporary death of consciousness, where the vision of the sleeper fades, which means loses his self consciousness.

In his sleep, a light is turned on, the light of the dream, which does not dissipate the darkness of the night consciousness though, as opposed to the belief of the adherents of the “oracular dreams,” the effacement of the vision (deactivated aspects) does not lead to a more complete “vision,” but to the loss of the contact with the outer word and the subsequent withdrawal of the sleepy to an area , totally subjective, where he does not have even the consciousness of his identity.

Death and sleep in common

In the second part, human life is described as an alternation of two states: sleep and alertness. What do these two have in common? During sleep, Heraclitus tells us, a man touches death, i.e. approaches the state of death by acquiring the immobility and the un-consciousness of the dead, but without identifying with him (proof of the latter is the existence of his dream, that is, the faint light that does not exist in the dead).

When he is awake again, he touches the sleeping person, i.e. approaches the state of sleep, since his perception of the world is fragmented and subjective like the sleepy person, without again identifying with him (since the latter has no contact with the outside world, which is perceived by the senses).

In both cases, man approaches the subsequent lower degree of consciousness. We would say he reaches for him, without reaching him. In other words, if the degree of consciousness of the dead is 0, of the one who is asleep is 1, of the awake only in the senses (of the common man) 2, and of the awake in the senses and mind (i.e. the philosopher) 3, then the asleep is, in contrast to the common awake, as the dead to the asleep, and the awake to the philosopher as the asleep is to the awake.

The system 0-1-2

The life of man is in a constant rotation of states 1 and 2, until he reaches state 0, while the philosopher, through mind and reason, has managed to rise to state 3, and this gives meaning to his life. (Although death awaits him too), since he lives and is able to understand the law of the sequence of opposites and the endless flow that governs the whole 0-1-2 system and thus all cosmic phenomena.


“the path up and down are one and the same.”


Kostas Deroukakis
Love to search, to try, to give, to learn. Knowledge, is the road for this achievement
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