The Golden Verses of Pythagoras, by Fabre d'Olivet, , at sacred-texts.com
Pythagoras considered the Universe as an animated All, whose members were the divine Intelligences, each ranked according to its perfections, in its proper sphere. a He it was who first designated this All, by the Greek word Kosmos, in order to express the beauty, order, and regularity which reigned there b; the Latins translated this word by Mundus, from which has come the French word monde. It is from Unity considered as principle of the world, that the name Universe which we give to it is derived. Pythagoras
establishes Unity as the principle of all things and said that from this Unity sprang an infinite Duality. a The essence of this Unity, and the manner in which the Duality that emanated from it was finally brought back again, were the most profound mysteries of his doctrine; the subject sacred to the faith of his disciples and the fundamental points which were forbidden them to reveal. Their explanation was never made in writing; those who appeared worthy of learning them were content to be taught them by word of mouth. b When one was forced, by the concatenation of ideas, to mention them in the books of the sect, symbols and ciphers were used, and the language of Numbers employed; and these books, all obscure as they were, were still concealed with the greatest care; by all manner of means they were guarded against falling into profane hands. c I cannot enter into the discussion of the famous symbol of Pythagoras, one and two, without exceeding very much the limits that I have set down in these examinations d; let it suffice for me to say, that as he designated God by 1, and Matter by 2, he expressed the Universe by the number 12, which results in the union of the other two. This number is formed by the multiplication of 3 by 4: that is to say, that this philosopher conceived the Universal world as composed of three particular worlds, which, being linked one with the other by means of the four elementary modifications, were developed in twelve concentric spheres. e The ineffable Being which filled these
twelve spheres without being understood by any one, was God. Pythagoras gave to It, truth for soul and light for body. a The Intelligence which peopled the three worlds were, firstly, the immortal gods properly so-called; secondly, the glorified heroes; thirdly, the terrestrial demons. The immortal gods, direct emanations of the uncreated Being and manifestation of Its infinite faculties, were thus named because they could not depart from the divine lifethat is, they could never fall away from their Father into oblivion, wandering in the darkness of ignorance and of impiety; whereas the souls of men, which produced, according to their degree of purity, glorified heroes and terrestrial demons, were able to depart sometimes from the divine life by voluntary drawing away from God; because the death of the intellectual essence, according to Pythagoras and imitated in this by Plato, was only ignorance and impiety. b It must be observed that in my translation I have not rendered the Greek word δαίμονες by the word demons, but by that of spirits, on account of the evil meaning that Christianity has attached to it, as I explained in a preceding note. c
This application of the number 12 to the Universe is not at all an arbitrary invention of Pythagoras; it was common to the Chaldeans, to the Egyptians from whom he had received it, and to the principal peoples of the earth d: it gave rise to the institution of the zodiac, whose division into twelve asterisms has been found everywhere existent from time immemorial. e The distinction of the three worlds and their development into a number, more or less great, of concentric spheres inhabited by intelligences of
different degrees of purity, were also known before Pythagoras, who in this only spread the doctrine which he had received at Tyre, at Memphis, and at Babylon. a This doctrine was that of the Indians. One finds still today among the Burmans, the division of all the created beings established in three classes, each of which contains a certain number of species, from the material beings to the spiritual, from the sentient to the intelligible. b The Brahmans, who count fifteen spheres in the universe, c appear to unite the three primordial worlds with the twelve concentric spheres which result from their development. Zoroaster, who admitted the dogma of the three worlds, limited the inferior world to the vortex of the moon. There, according to him, the empire of evil and of matter comes to an end. d This idea thus conceived has been general; it was that of all the ancient philosophers e; and what is very remarkable, is that it has been adopted by the Christian theosophists who certainly were not sufficiently learned to act through imitation. f The followers of Basil, those of Valentine, and all the gnostics have imbibed from this source the system of emanations which has enjoyed such a great renown in the school of Alexandria. According to this system, the Absolute Unity, or God, was conceived as the spiritual Soul of the Universe, the Principle of existence, the Light
of lights; it was believed that this creative Unity, inaccessible to the understanding even, produced by emanation a diffusion of light which, proceeding from the centre to the circumference, losing insensibly its splendour and its purity in proportion as it receded from its source, ended by being absorbed in the confines of darkness; so that its divergent rays, becoming less and less spiritual and, moreover, repulsed by the darkness, were condensed in commingling with it, and, taking a material shape, formed all the kinds of beings that the world contains. Thus was admitted, between the Supreme Being and man, an incalculable chain of intermediary beings whose perfections decreased proportionably with their alienation from the Creative Principle. All the philosophers and all the sectarians who admired this spiritual hierarchy considered, under the relations peculiar to them, the different beings of which it was composed. The Persian magians who saw there genii, more or less perfect, gave them names relative to their perfections, and later made use of these same names to evoke them: from this came the Persian magic, which the Jews, having received by tradition during their captivity in Babylon, called Kabbala. a This magic became mixed with astrology among the Chaldeans, who regarded the stars as animated beings belonging to the universal chain of divine emanations; in Egypt, it became linked with the mysteries of Nature, and was enclosed in the sanctuaries, where it was taught by the priests under the safeguard of symbols and hieroglyphics. Pythagoras, in conceiving this spiritual hierarchy as a geometrical progression, considered the beings which compose it under harmonious relations, and based, by analogy, the laws of the universe upon those of music. He called the movement of the celestial spheres, harmony, and made use of numbers to express the faculties of different beings, their relations and their influences. Hierocles mentions
a sacred book attributed to this philosopher, in which he called the divinity, the Number of numbers. a Plato, who, some centuries later, regarded these same beings as ideas and types, sought to penetrate their nature and to subjugate them by dialectics and the force of thought. Synesius, who united the doctrine of Pythagoras to that of Plato, sometimes called God, the Number of numbers, and sometimes the Idea of ideas. b The gnostics gave to the intermediary beings the name of Eons. c This name, which signifies, in Egyptian, a principle of the will, being developed by an inherent, plastic faculty, is applied in Greek to a term of infinite duration. d One finds in Hermes Trismegistus the origin of this change of meaning. This ancient sage remarks that the two faculties, the two virtues of God, are the understanding and the soul, and that the two virtues of the Eon are perpetuity and immortality. The essence of God, he said again, is the good and the beautiful, beatitude and wisdom; the essence of Eon, is being always the same. e But, not content with assimilating beings of the celestial hierarchy to ideas, to numbers, or to the plastic principle of the will, there were philosophers who preferred to designate them by the name of Words. Plutarch said on one occasion that words, ideas, and divine emanations reside in heaven and in the stars. f Philo gives in more than one instance the name of word to angels; and Clement of Alexandria relates that the Valentinians
often called their Eons thus. a According to Beausobre, the philosophers and theologians, seeking for terms in which to express incorporeal substances, designated them by some one of their attributes or by some one of their operations, naming them Spirits, on account of the subtlety of their substance; Intelligences, on account of the thought; Words, on account of the reason; Angels, on account of their services; Eons, on account of their manner of subsisting, always equal, without change and without alteration. b Pythagoras called them Gods, Heroes, Demons, c relative to their respective elevation and the harmonious position of the three worlds which they inhabit. This cosmogonic ternary joined with Creative Unity, constitutes the famous Quaternary, or Sacred Tetrad, the subject of which will be taken up further on.
132:a Hiérocl., Aur. Carm., v. i.
132:b The Greek word κόσμος expresses a thing put in order, arranged according to a fixed and regular principle. Its primitive root is in the Phnician אוש (aôsh) a principle Being, the fire. The Latin word mundus renders the Greek sense very imperfectly. It signifies exactly, that which is made neat and clean by means of water. Its nearest root is unda, and its remotest root is found in the Phnician אוד (aôd), an emanation, a vapour, a source. One can see, according to this etymology, that the Greeks drew the idea of order and beauty from fire, and the Latins from water.
133:a Diogen. Laërt., l. viii., I25; Plutar., De Decret. philos., ii., c. 6; Sext. Empir., Adv. Math., x., § 249; Stob., Eccl. phys., p. 468.
133:b Plutar., In Numa.
133:c Jambl., Vitâ Pythag., c. 28, 32 et 35.
133:d Er, δύο. The symbol of Fo-Hi, so celebrated among the Chinese, is the same and is expressed by a whole line 1, and a broken line 2. I shall make myself better understood upon this subject, in speaking as I intend to do upon music and upon what the ancients understood by the language of Numbers.
133:e Vitâ Pythag.; Phot., Bibl. Codex, 259.
134:a Vie de Pythag. par Dacier.
134:b Hiérocl., Aurea Carmin., v. 1.
134:c Ci-devant, p. 81.
134:d Timée de Locres, ch. 3; Edit. de Batteux, § 8; Diod. Sicul., l. ii., p. 83; Herod., l. ii., c. 4; Hyde, De vet. Pers. Relig., c. 19; Plato, In Tim., In Phæd., In Legib., etc.
134:e Bailly, Hist. de lAstr. anc., l. iii., § 10.
135:a Pythagoras, at an early age, was taken to Tyre by Mnesarchus, his father, in order to study there the doctrine of the Phnicians; later he visited Egypt, Arabia, and Babylon, in which last city he remained twelve years. It was while there that he had frequent conferences concerning the principle of things with a very learned magian whom Porphyry names Zabratos; Plutarch, Zaratas; and Theodoret, Zaradas. (Porphyr., Vitâ Pythag.) Plutarch is inclined to believe that this magian is the same as Zardusht, or Zoroaster, and the chronology is not here entirely contrary. (Plutar., De Procreat. anim.; Hyde, De Relig. vet. Pers., c. 24, o. 309 et c. 31, p. 379.)
135:b Asiat. Research., t. vi., p. 174.
135:c Holwells, Histor. Interest. Events, ch. iv., § 5.
135:d Beausobre, Hist. du Manich., t. i., p. 164.
135:e Macrob., Somn. Scip., l. i., c. ii.
135:f Böhme, Les Six Points, ch. 2.
136:a The word קבל signifies, in Hebrew, Arabic, and Chaldean, that which is anterior, that which one receives from the ancients by tradition.
137:a Aurea Carm., v. 48.
137:b Synes, Hymn., iii., v. 174; Hymn., iv., v. 68.
137:c Beausobre, list. du Manich., t. i., p. 572.
137:d The word Eon, in Greek Αἰών, is derived from the Egyptian or Phnician אי (aï), a principle of will, a central point of development, and יון (ion), the generative faculty. This last word has signified, in a restricted sense, a dove, and has been the symbol of Venus. It is the famous Yoni of the Indians and even the Yn of the Chinese: that is to say, the plastic nature of the Universe. From there, the name of Ionia, given to Greece.
137:e Herm. Trismég., c. 11.
137:f Plutar. cité par le père Petau. Notes in Synes, p. 42.