According to Cicero, the Stoics believed that the universe consisted of a kind of “scala naturae.” The four elements, water, air, earth and fire, were all material forces. the top of the scala consisted of “aether.” This element houses heavenly bodies and heaven itself, including the stars, moon and sun. This element produces both perception and intelligence. Cicero believed that the heavenly bodies were themselves sentient. Indeed, they were gods. The aether was understood as a kind of fire. This fire, however, was unlike ordinary fire. For Cicero, rather than being destructive, the aethereal fire produces life in creatures. It produces growth in general. This fire was understood to spread downward towards the earth in the form of pneuma. It is by means of this that it produces perception and intelligence.
This aethereal pneuma produces “soul” or “psyche” in humans, as well as “reason” or “logos.” It liewise prduces “nous” or “mind.” This fire also produces unity in both organic and inorganic obects. Organic objects have a nature or “pbysis” whereas inorganic objects have “states.” In both cases, as noted, it holds everything together.
“This self-identical element, energy, or power dynamis),42 which holds together the whole world and everything in it and sustains it and directs its individual life is—viewed as a material entity—the Stoic pneuma; viewed more comprehensively as a structuring (but still material) feature of the world, it is Stoic ‘Nature’ as a whole (pbysis); and viewed more specifically as an intelligent (but still material) power, it is the Stoic God.”
The human being, as noted, consists of a body or “soma,” a soul or “psyche” and the “nous,” which is the highest power of the soul. For Philo, this Stoic “nous” is given only to humans, among mortal creatures. Nous and psyche are distinguished between “tonos” or tension. The tension of the pneuma is so intense in the nous that it pervades all of creation. Tension exists in humans that produces intelligence.
The Stoics and the Platonists both believed that the soul is separated from the body at the point of death, and can go on to exist independently of it. This is different from the Epicureans, who believed that the soul perished after death. The virtuous would endure the deaths of their bodies up to a point and the souls of the non-virtuous dissipate. The “soul” referred to the reasoning homunculus, so to speak. It was “tied to the pneuma…and also had been ‘blended’ in the living body with that body’s ‘cohesive and vegetative (soul) pneuma’, that is, with the body’s hexis and physis”(Engberg-Pedersen, 2010).
Eventually the world is consumed “into” God at a period during which everything is fire. God, understood as wholly immanent, then creates the universe anew. Instead of being separated from the body, during the period of the individual’s physical death, the pneuma, which is the soul of the world, everything creates itself anew.
Engberg-Pedersen, Troels (2010-03-18). Cosmology and Self in the Apostle Paul: The Material Spirit (p. 20). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.