The man who took the boldest step to making the underlying substrata of the world a god was
Xenophanes, a Pythagorean of the sixth century. In
known statement he attacked all anthropomorphic conceptions of gods.
Mortals imagine that the gods are begotten, and that the gods wear clothes like their own, and
have voice (or language) and form like the voice and form of mortals... but if oxen and
horses or lions had hands or could draw and do the work with their hands that men do,
horses would have drawn the form of gods like horses, and oxen gods like oxen, and they
would represent the bodies of the gods as just like their own forms.
He expressed explicitly what had been evolving for the past century or so, an idea that was to
find fertile ground two centuries later in Aristotle, and a millennia later in the Theology of St.
Thomas Aquinas. The idea that the underlying substrata is not a substance, or a material, it was
pure causation. This, he said, was developed through reasoning. "The gods have not revealed
all things to mortals from the beginning, but by searching out, in the course of time, that which is
better." His final conclusion is straight forward and clear.
Pythagorus worshiped the one, but he
contrasted it with the many, the changing. For Xenophanes the changing many faded into a mere
world of phenomena. The many gods of the past became mere appearances, mere phenomena of
nature. His One God belonged to truth and reality. Xenophanes glorified his One God by
removing from it all unworthy attributes. However, it is not the kind of God the moderns
imagine. His God was a pure abstraction.
Ethiopians make their gods sub-nosed and black; Thracians make theirs blue-eyed and
red-haired. ..There is One God, greatest among gods and men, not like mortals in form or in
thought. . . The One God is all sight, and is all thought , and is all hearing. . . But the One God
without effort brandishes all things by the thought of his mind. . . The One God abides ever in
the same, never moving; nor is it fitting that he travel now in this direction, now in that.