Pythagoras' service to the world

September 22, 2015

Conceiving, however, that the first attention which should be paid to men, is that which takes place through the senses; as when some one perceives beautiful figures and forms, or hears beautiful rythms and melodies, he established that to be the first erudition which subsists through music, and also through certain melodies and rythms, from which the remedies of human manners and passions are obtained, together with those harmonies of the powers of the soul which it possessed from the first.

He likewise devised medicines calculated to repress and expel the diseases both of bodies and souls.

By Jupiter that which deserves to be mentioned above all these particulars is this, that he arranged and adapted for his disciples what are called apparatus and contrectations, divinely contriving mixtures of certain diatonic, chromatic, and euharmonic melodies, through which he easily transferred and circularly led the passions of the soul into a contrary direction, when they had recently and in an irrational and clandestine manner been formed; such as sorrow, rage, and pity, absurd emulation and fear, all-various desires, angers, and appetites, pride, supineness, and vehemence. For he corrected each of these by the rule of virtue, attempering them through appropriate melodies, as 44 through certain salutary medicines.

In the evening, likewise, when his disciples were retiring to sleep, he liberated them by these means from diurnal perturbations and tumults, and purified their intellective power from the influxive and effluxive waves of a corporeal nature; rendered their sleep quiet, and their dreams pleasing and prophetic. But when they again rose from their bed, he freed them from nocturnal heaviness, relaxation and torpor, through certain peculiar songs and modulations, produced either by simply striking the lyre, or employing the voice. Pythagoras, however, did not procure for himself a thing of this kind through instruments or the voice, but employing a certain ineffable divinity, and which it is difficult to apprehend, he extended his ears, and fixed his intellect in the sublime symphonies of the world, he alone hearing and understanding, as it appears, the universal harmony and consonance of the spheres, and the stars that are moved through them, and which produce a fuller and more intense melody than any thing effected by mortal sounds.[17] This melody also was the result of 45 dissimilar and variously differing sounds, celerities, magnitudes, and intervals, arranged with reference 46 to each other in a certain most musical ratio, and thus producing a most gentle, and at the same time variously beautiful motion and convolution. Being therefore irrigated as it were with this melody, having the reason of his intellect well arranged through it, and as I may say, exercised, he determined to exhibit certain images of these things to his disciples as much as possible, especially producing an imitation of them through instruments, and through the mere voice alone.

He conceived that by him alone, of all the inhabitants of the earth, the mundane sounds were understood and heard, and this from a natural fountain itself and root.

He therefore thought himself worthy:

  • to be taught
  • to learn something about the celestial orbs
  • to be assimilated to them by desire and imitation, as being the only one on the earth adapted to this by the conformation of his body, through the dæmoniacal power that inspired him.

But he apprehended that other men should be satisfied in looking to him, and the gifts he possessed, and in being benefited and corrected through images and examples, in consequence of their inability to comprehend truly the first and genuine archetypes of things. Just, indeed, as to those who are incapable of looking intently at the sun, through the transcendent splendor of his rays, we contrive to exhibit the eclipses of that luminary, either in the profundity of still water, or through melted pitch, or through some darkly-splendid mirror; sparing the imbecility of their eyes, and devising a method of representing a certain repercussive light, though less intense than its archetype, to those who are delighted with a thing of this kind. Empedocles also appears to have obscurely signified this about Pythagoras, and the illustrious and divinely-gifted conformation of his body above that of other men, when he says:

“There was a man among them [i. e. among the Pythagoreans] who was transcendent in knowledge, who possessed the most ample stores of intellectual wealth, and who was in the most eminent degree the adjutor of the works of the wise. For when he extended all the powers of his intellect, he easily 48 beheld every thing, as far as to ten or twenty ages of the human race.”

For the words transcendent, and he beheld every thing, and the wealth of intellect, and the like, especially exhibit the illustrious nature of the conformation of his mind and body, and its superior accuracy in seeing, and hearing, and in intellectual perception.

Chapter 16

This adaptation therefore of souls was procured by him through music. But another purification of the dianoetic part,[18] and at the same time of the whole soul, through all-various studies, was effected by him as follows= He conceived generally that labor should be employed about disciplines and studies, and ordained like a legislator, trials of the most various nature, punishments, and restraints by fire and sword, for innate intemperance, and an inexhaustible avidity of possessing; which he who is depraved can neither suffer nor sustain. Besides these things also, he ordered his familiars to abstain from all animals, and farther still from certain foods, which are hostile to the reasoning power, and impede its genuine energies.

He likewise enjoined them continence of speech, and perfect silence, exercising them for many years in the subjugation of the tongue, and in a strenuous and assiduous investigation and resumption of the most difficult theorems. Hence also, he ordered them to abstain from wine, to be sparing in their food, to sleep little, and to have an unstudied contempt of, and hostility to glory, wealth, and the like= to have an unfeigned reverence of those to whom reverence is due, a genuine similitude and benevolence to those of the same age with themselves, and an attention and incitation towards their juniors, free from all envy. With respect to the amity also which subsists in all things towards all, whether it be that of Gods towards men through piety and scientific theory, or of dogmas towards each other, or universally of the soul towards the body, and of the rational towards the irrational part, through philosophy, and the theory pertaining to it; or whether it be that of men to each other, of citizens indeed through sound legislation, but of strangers through a correct physiology; or of the husband to the wife, or of brothers and kindred, through unperverted communion; or whether, in short, it be of all things towards all, and still farther, of certain irrational animals through justice, and a physical connexion and association; or whether it be the pacification and conciliation of the body which is of itself mortal, and of its latent contrary powers, through health, and a diet and temperance conformable to this, in 50 imitation of the salubrious condition of the mundane elements;—of the appellation of all these, which are summarily comprehended in one and the same name, that of friendship, Pythagoras is acknowledged to have been the inventor and legislator. And, in short, he was the cause to his disciples of the most appropriate converse with the Gods, both when they were awake and when asleep; a thing which never takes place in a soul disturbed by anger, or pain, or pleasure, or, by Jupiter, by any other base desire, or defiled by ignorance, which is more unholy and noxious than all these. By all these inventions, therefore, he divinely healed and purified the soul, resuscitated and saved its divine part, and conducted to the intelligible its divine eye, which, as Plato says, is better worth saving than ten thousand corporeal eyes; for by looking through this alone, when it is strengthened and clarified by appropriate aids, the truth pertaining to all beings is perceived. Referring therefore to this, Pythagoras purified the dianoetic power of the soul. Such also was the form with him of erudition, and these were the things to which he directed his view.

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