Pythagoras' service to the worldby Iamblichus
Pythagoras believed that:
- our first attention should be put on the senses.
- human manners and passions are remedied through certain melodies and rhythms
- This is similar to us perceiving beautiful shapes or hearing beautiful rhythms and melodies
Pythagoras also devised medicines to repress and expel the diseases both of bodies and souls.
He arranged and adapted for his disciples the “apparatus” and “contrectations” which were divinely contrived mixtures of certain diatonic, chromatic, and euharmonic melodies. These led him easily transfer and circularly lead the irrational passions of the soul, clandestine formed, into a contrary direction.
- sorrow and angers
- absurd emulation
- all-various desires and appetites
He corrected each of these by the rule of virtue, attempering them through appropriate melodies, as through certain salutary medicines.
In the evening, when his disciples were retiring to sleep, he used these to:
- liberate them from diurnal perturbations and tumults and
- purify their intellectual power from the influxive and effluxive waves of a bodily nature
He rendered their sleep quiet, and their dreams pleasing and prophetic.
After waking up, he freed them from nocturnal heaviness, relaxation and torpor, through peculiar songs and modulations produced by playing the lyre or through singing.
Pythagoras did not do this solely through instruments or his voice, but through a certain ineffable divinity.
- He extended his ears and fixed his intellect in the sublime symphonies of the world.
- He alone heard and understood the universal harmony and consonance of the spheres, and the stars that are moved through them.
- These produced a fuller and more intense melody than anything effected by mortal sounds.
- This melody also was the result of dissimilar and variously differing sounds, celerities, magnitudes, and intervals, arranged with reference to each other in a certain most musical ratio. These produced a most gentle, and variously beautiful motion and convolution.
He was irrigated with this melody.
- He had his intellect well-arranged and exercisedthrough it.
- He determined to show the images of these things to his disciples as much as possible, especially producing an imitation of them through instruments, and through his voice.
Of all the inhabitants of the earth, only he could understand and hear the mundane sounds. This skill came from a natural root and fountain.
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.
For example, we are unable to look directly at the sun. But we do so indirectly through its reflection in:
- still water
- melted pitch or
- darkly-splendid mirror
These spare our eyes by allowing a representation of a repercussive light, though less intense than its archetype.
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:
He used music to adapt souls.
But another purification of the dianoetic part, 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, he ordered them to:
- abstain from wine
- be sparing in their food
- sleep little
- have a natural hostility towards glory, wealth, and the like
- have an unfeigned reverence of those to whom reverence is due
- have a genuine similitude and benevolence to those of the same age with themselves
- have an attention and incitation towards their juniors, free from all envy
- have respect to the amity also which subsists in all things towards all
- have respect for:
- the Gods through piety and scientific theory
- the dogmas towards each other
- the soul towards the body universally
- the rational towards the irrational part
- philosophy and the theory pertaining to it
- men to each other
- citizens, through sound legislation
- foreigners, through a correct physiology
- husband to wife
- brothers and kindred, through unperverted communion
- certain irrational animals through justice
- physical connexion and association
- the pacification and conciliation of the body which is of itself mortal, and of its latent contrary powers
- health, and a diet and temperance conformable to this
Pythagoras was an inventor and legislator.
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.