The Golden Verses of Pythagoras, by Fabre d'Olivet, , at sacred-texts.com
It seems that Lysis, foreseeing the wrong inductions that would be drawn from what he had said, and as if he had a presentiment that one would not fail to generalize the influence of Necessity upon the actions of men, may have wished beforehand to oppose himself to the destructive dogma of fatality, by establishing the empire of the Will over the passions. This is in the doctrine of Pythagoras the real foundation of the liberty of man: for, according to this philosopher, no one is free, only he who knows how to master himself, c and the yoke of the passions is much heavier and more difficult to throw off than that of the most cruel tyrants. Pythagoras, however, did not, according to Hierocles, prescribe destroying the passions, as the Stoics taught in late times; but only to watch over them and repress excess in them, because all excess is vicious. d He regarded the passions as useful to man, and although produced in principle by Necessity, and given by an irresistible destiny, as nevertheless submissive in their use to the free power of the Will. Plato had well realized this truth and had forcibly indicated it in many passages of his works: one finds it chiefly in the second dialogue of Hippias, where this philosopher shows, evidently without seeming to have the design, that man good or bad, virtuous or criminal, truthful or false, is only such by the power of his will, and that the passion which carries him to virtue or to vice, to truth or falsehood, is nothing in itself; so that no man is bad, only by the faculty which he has of being good; nor good, only by the faculty which he has of being bad.
But has man the faculty of being good or bad at his pleasure, and is he not irresistibly drawn toward vice or virtue? This is a question which has tried all the great thinkers of the earth, and which according to circumstances has caused storms of more or less violence. It is necessary, however, to give close attention to one thing, which is, that before the establishment of Christianity and the admission of original sin as fundamental dogma of religion, no founder of sect, no celebrated philosopher had positively denied the free will, nor had taught ostensibly that man may be necessarily determined to Evil or to Good and predestined from all time to vice or virtue, to wickedness or eternal happiness. It is indeed true that this cruel fatality seemed often to follow from their principles as an inevitable consequence, and that their adversaries reproached them with it; but. nearly all rejected it as an insult, or a false interpretation of their system. The first who gave place to this accusation, in ancient times, was a certain Moschus, a Phnician philosopher, who, according to Strabo, lived before the epoch in which the war of Troy is said to have taken place, that is to say, about twelve or thirteen centuries before our era. a This philosopher detaching himself from the theosophical doctrine, the only one known at that time, and having sought the reason of things in the things themselves, can be considered as the real founder of Natural Philosophy: he was the first who made abstraction from the Divinity, and from the intelligence, and assumed that the Universe existing by itself was composed of indivisible particles, which, endowed with figures and diverse movements, produced by their fortuitous combinations an infinite series of beings, generating, destroying, and renewing themselves unceasingly. These particles, which the Greeks named atoms, b on account of their indivisibility, constituted the
particular system which still bears this name. Leucippus, Democritus, and Epicurus adopted it, adding to it their own ideas; and Lucretius having naturalized it among the Romans, favoured its passage down to these modern times, when the greater part of our philosophers have done nothing but renovate it under other forms. a Assuredly there is no system whence the fatal necessity of all things issues more inevitably than from that of atoms; also it is certain that Democritus was accused of admitting a compulsory destiny, b although, like Leibnitz, he admitted to each atom an animated and sentient nature. c It is not known if he replied to this accusation; but there are certain proofs that Epicurus, who had less right than he to reject it, since he regarded atoms as absolutely inanimate, d rejected it nevertheless, and not wishing to admit a dogma subversive of all morals, he declared himself against it, and taught the liberty of man. e
A singular thing is, that this fatality which appears attached to the system of atoms, whence the materialist promoters, true to their principle, banished the influence of Divine Providence, f followed still more naturally from the opposed system, wherein the spiritualist philosophers admitted this Providence to the full extent of its power. According to this last system, a sole and same spiritual substance filled the Universe, and by its diverse modifications produced there all the phenomena by which the senses are affected. Parmenides, Melissus, and Zeno of Elea, who adopted it, sustained it with great success: they asserted that matter was only pure illusion, that there is nothing in things, that bodies and all their variations are only pure
appearances, and that therefore nothing really exists outside of spirit. a Zeno of Elea particularly, who denied the existence of movement, brought against this existence some objections very difficult to remove. b The Stoic philosophers became more or less strongly attached to this opinion. Chrysippus, one of the firmest pillars of the Porch, taught that God is the soul of the world, and the world, the universal extension of that soul. He said that by Jupiter, should be understood, the eternal law, the fatal necessity, the immutable truth of all future things. c Now, it is evident that if, in accordance with the energetic expression of Seneca; this unique principle of the Universe has ordained once to obey always its own command, d the Stoics were not able to escape from the reproach that was directed toward them, of admitting the most absolute fatality, since the soul of man being, according to them, only a portion of the Divinity, its actions could have no other cause than God Himself who had willed them. e Nevertheless Chrysippus rejected the reproach in the same manner as did Epicurus; he always sustained the liberty of man, notwithstanding the irresistible force that he admitted in the unique Cause f; and what seemed a manifest contradiction, he taught that the soul sins only by the impulse of its own will, and therefore that the blame of its errors should not be put upon destiny. g
But it suffices to reflect a moment upon the nature of the principles set down by Epicurus, by Chrysippus, and
by all those who have preceded them or followed them in their divergent opinions, to see that the inferences drawn by their adversaries were just, and that they could not refute them without contradicting themselves. a Every time that one has claimed to found the Universe upon the existence of a sole material or spiritual nature, and to make proceed from this sole nature the explanation of all phenomena, one has become exposed and always will be, to insurmountable difficulties. It is always in asking what the origin of Good and Evil is, that all the systems of this sort have been irresistibly overthrown, from Moschus, Leucippus, and Epicurus, down to Spinoza and Leibnitz; from Parmenides, Zeno of Elea, and Chrysippus, down to Berkeley and Kant. For, let there be no misunderstanding, the solution of the problem concerning free will depends upon preliminary knowledge of the origin of evil, so that one cannot reply plainly to this question: Whence comes Evil? Neither can one reply to this one: Is man free? And that one be not still further deceived here, the knowledge of the origin of evil, if it has been acquired, has never been openly divulged: it has been profoundly buried with that of the Unity of God in the ancient mysteries and has never emerged except enveloped in a triple veil. The initiates imposed upon themselves a rigid silence concerning what they called the sufferings of God b: his death, his descent into the infernal regions, and his resurrection. c They knew that the serpent was, in general, the symbol of evil, and that it was under this form that the Python had fought with and been slain by Apollo. d The theosophists have not made a public dogma of the Unity of God, precisely on
account of the explanation that it would be necessary to give to the origin of good and evil; for without this explanation, the dogma in itself would have been incomprehensible. Moses realized it perfectly, and in the plan which he had conceived of striking the people whose legislator he was, with a character as extraordinary as indelible, by founding his cult upon the publicity of a dogma hidden, until that time in the depths of the sanctuaries and reserved for the initiates alone, he did not hesitate to divulge what he knew pertaining to the creation of the world and the origin of evil. It is true that the manner in which he gave it, under a simplicity and apparent clarity, concealed a profundity and obscurity almost unfathomable; but the form which he gave to this formidable mystery sufficed to support, in the opinion of the vulgar, the Unity of God and this was all that he wished to do.
Now it is the essence of theosophy to be dogmatic, and that of natural philosophy to be skeptical; the theosophist speaks by faith, the physicist speaks by reason; the doctrine of the one excludes the discussion that the system of the other admits and even necessitates. Up to that time, theosophy dominating upon the earth had taught the influence of the will, and the tradition which was preserved in it among all the nations of the earth during an incalculable succession of centuries gave it the force of demonstration. Among the Indians, Krishna; among the Persians, Zoroaster; in China, Kong-Tse; in Egypt, Thoth; among the Greeks, Orpheus; even Odin, among the Scandinavians; everywhere the lawgivers of the people had linked the liberty of man with the consoling dogma of Divine Providence. a The peoples
accustomed to worship in polytheism the Divine Infinity and not its Unity, did not find it strange to be guided, protected, and watched over on the one side, whereas they remained, on the other, free in their movements; and they did not trouble themselves to find the source of good and evil since they saw it in the objects of their cult, in these same gods, the greater part of whom being neither essentially good nor essentially bad were reputed to inspire in them the virtues or the vices which, gathered freely by them, rendered them worthy of recompense or chastisement. a But when Natural Philosophy appeared, the face of things was changed. The natural philosophers, substituting the observation of nature and experience for mental contemplation and the inspiration of theosophists, thought that they could make sentient what was intelligible, and promised to prove by fact and reasoning whatever up to that time had had only proofs of sentiment and analogy. They brought to light the great mystery of Universal Unity, and transforming this Intellectual Unity into corporal substance placed it in water, b in infinite space, c in the air, d in the fire, e whence they draw in turn the essential and formal existence of all things. The one, attached to the school of Ionia, established as fundamental maxim, that there is but one principle of all; and the other, attached to that of Elea,
started from this axiom that nothing is made from nothing. a The former sought the how, and the latter the why of things; and all were united in saying that there is no effect without cause. Their different systems, based upon the principles of reasoning which seemed incontestable, and supported by a series of imposing conclusions, had, at first, a prodigious success; but this éclat paled considerably when soon the disciples of Pythagoras, and a little later those of Socrates and Plato, having received from their masters the theosophical tradition, stopped these sophistical physicists in the midst of their triumphs, and, asking them the cause of physical and of moral evil, proved to them that they knew nothing of it; and that, in whatever fashion they might deduce it by their system, they could not avoid establishing an absolute fatality, destructive to the liberty of man, which by depriving it of morality of actions, by confounding vice and virtue, ignorance and wisdom, made of the Universe no more than a frightful chaos. In vain these had thrust back the reproach and claimed that the inference was false; their adversaries pursuing them on their own ground cried out to them: If the principle that you admit is good, whence comes it that men are wicked and miserable? b If this unique principle is bad, whence emerge goodness and virtue? c If nature is the expression of this sole principle, how is it not constant and why does its government sow goodness and evil? d The materialists had recourse vainly to a certain deviation in atoms, e and the spiritualists, to a certain adjuvant cause quite similar to efficacious grace f; the theosophists would never have renounced them if they
had not enclosed them in a syllogistic circle, by making them admit, sometimes that the unique and all-powerful Principle cannot think of everything, a sometimes that vice is useful and that without it there would be no virtue b; paradoxes of which they had no trouble demonstrating the absurdity and the revolting inferences. c
Take a survey of all the nations of the world, peruse all the books that you please, and you will find the liberty of man, the free will of his actions, the influence of his will over his passions, only in the theosophical tradition. Wherever you see physical or metaphysical systems, doctrines of whatever kind they may be, founded upon a sole principle of the material or spiritual Universe, you can conclude boldly that absolute fatality results from it and that their authors find themselves in need of making two things one: or of explaining the origin of good and evil, which is impossible; or of establishing the free will a priori, which is a manifest contradiction of their reasonings. If you care to penetrate into metaphysical depths, examine this decisive point upon this matter. Moses founded his cult upon the Unity of God and he explained the origin of evil; but he found himself forced by the very nature of this formidable mystery to envelop his explanation with such a veil, that it remained impenetrable for all those who had not received the traditional revelation; so that the liberty of man existed in his cult only by favour of theosophical tradition, and that it became weaker and disappeared entirely from it with this same tradition, the two opposed sects of the Pharisees and Sadducees which divided the cult prove this. d The
former, attached to the tradition and allegorizing the text of the Sepher, a admitted the free will b; the others, on the contrary, rejecting it and following the literal meaning, established an irresistible destiny to which all was subjected. The most orthodox Hebrews, and those even who passed as seers or prophets of the nation, had no difficulty in attributing to God the cause of Evil. c They were obviously authorized by the history of the downfall of the first man, and by the dogma of original sin, which they took according to the meaning attached to it by the vulgar. It also happened, after the establishment of Christianity and of Islamism, that this dogma, received by both cults in all its extent and in all its literal obscurity, has necessarily drawn with it predestination, which is, in other words, only the fatality of the ancients. Mohammed, more enthusiast than learned, and stronger in imagination than in reasoning, has not hesitated a moment, admitting it as an inevitable result of the Unity of God, which he announced after Moses. d It is true that a few Christian doctors, when they have
been capable of perceiving the inferences in it have denied this predestination, and have wished, either by allegorizing the dogma of original sin, as Origen, or rejecting it wholly, as Pelagius, to establish the free will and the power of the will; but it is easy to see, in reading the history of the church, that the most rigid Christians, such as Saint Augustine and the ecclesiastical authority itself, have always upheld predestination as proceeding necessarily from the divine Prescience and from the All-Powerful, without which there is no Unity. The length of this examination forces me to suspend the proofs that I was going to give regarding this last assertion; but further on I will return to it.
151:c Axiômes de Pythagore conservés par Stobée, Serm. 6.
151:d Hiérocl., Aur. carm., v. 10 et 11.
152:a Strab., l. xvi., p. 512; Sext. Empir., Adv. Mathem., p. 367.
152:b Atom, in Greek ἄτομος, is formed from the word τόμος, a part, to which is joined the a privative.
153:a Huet, Cens. Phil. Cartesian., c. 8, p. 213. If one carefully examines the systems of Descartes, Leibnitz, and Newton, one will see that, after all, they are reduced either to atoms, or to inherent forces which move them.
153:b Cicér., de Fato, c. 77.
153:c August., Epist., 56.
153:d August., Epist., 56.
153:e Cicér., de Nat. Deor., l. i., c. 19; Quæst. Acad., l. iv., c. 13; de Fato, c. 9.
153:f Diog. Laërt., l. x., §123; Cicér., de Nat. Deor., l. i., c. 30.
154:a Senec., Epist., 88; Sext. Empir., Adv. Math., l. vii., c. 2; Arist., Métaphys., l. iii., c. 4.
154:b Arist., Physic., l. vi., c. 9; voyez Bayle, Dict. crit., art. ZENON, rem. F.
154:c Cicér., de Natur. Deor., l. i., c 15.
154:d Semel jussit, semper paret, Seneca has said. "The laws which God has prescribed for Himself," he adds, "He will never revoke, because they have been dictated by His own perfections; and that the same plan, the same design having pleased Him once, pleases Him eternally" (Senec., Præf. ad Quæst. nat.).
154:e Cicer., De Fato, cap. 17.
154:f Cicer., ibid., c. 9.
154:g Aul. Gell., l. vi., c. 2.
155:a Cicer., De Nat. Deor., l. i., c. 9; Plutar., De repug. Stoïc.; Diogenian. Apud.; Euseb., Præp. Evang., l. vi., c. 8.
155:b Herodot., Euterp., §171; Julian Firm., De Error, prof., p. 45.
155:c Meurs., Græc. Feriat., l. i.; Plutar., In Alcibiad.; Porphyr., De Abst., l. § 36; Euseb., Præp. Evang., l. i., c. 1; Schol. Apoll., l. i., v. 917; Pausan., Corinth, p. 73.
155:d Porphyr., Vitâ Pythag., p. 10.
156:a The doctrine of Krishna is found especially recorded in the Bhaghavad Gita, one of the Pouranas most esteemed by the Brahmans; in the Zend-Avesta and in the Boun-Dehesh, that of Zoroaster. The Chinese have the Tchun-Tsieou of Kong-Tse, historic monument raised to the glory of Providence; in the Pmander and Æsculapius, the ideas of Thoth. The book of Synesius upon Providence contains the dogmas of the Mysteries. Finally one p. 157 can consult in the course of the Edda, the sublime discourse of Odin, entitled Havamâl. The basis of all these works is the same.
157:a This, as I observed in my Second Examination, should be understood only by the vulgar. The savant and the initiate easily restored to Unity this infinity of gods, and understood or sought the origin of evil, without the knowledge of which, divine Unity is inexplicable.
157:b Talès, cité par Platon, De Republ., l. x.; Aristot., Metaph., l. iii.; Cicer., Acad. Quæst., iv., c. 37.
157:c Anaximandre, cité par Aristot., Phys., l. i.; Sext. Empir., Pyrr., iii.
157:d Anaximène, cité par Arist., Metaph., l. i., c. 3; Plutar., De Placit. Phil., i., 3.
157:e Héraclite, cité par Platon, Theætet.; Arist., Metaph., l. i., c. 6; Sext. Empir., Adv. Math., l. vii.
158:a De Gérando, Hist. des Syst. de Phil., t. iii., p. 283; Arist., Metaph., l. i., c. 6; Diog. Laërt., l. ix., c. 19.
158:b Cicer., De Nat. Deor., l. i., c. 9.
158:c Boët, De Consol., l. i., prosa 4.
158:d Plutar., Adv. Stoïc., p. 1075.
158:e Cicer., De Fato, c. 10; Lucret., l. ii., v. 216, 251, 284.
158:f Cicer., De Fato, c. 9 et 17; Diogenian., Apud.; Euseb., Præp. Evan., l. vi., c. 8.
159:a Cicer., De Natur. Deor., l. iii., c. 38 et 39.
159:b Aul. Gell., l. vi., c. 1.
159:c Plutar., Adv. Stoïc.
159:d The name given to the sect of the Pharisees signifies, in general, that which is enlightened, illumined, glorified, illustrious. It is derived from the root אור (aor), the light, governed by the article פח (phe), which expresses the emphasis; thence פאר (phær), an aureola, a tiara, and פרתמים (pharethmim), men illustrious, sublime. The name given to the sect of the Sadducees is derived from the word שד (shad) which, expressing all diffusion, p. 160 all propagation, is applied to productive nature in general, and in particular to a mammal, its symbol among the Egyptians; it signifies properly the Physicists, or the Naturalists.
160:a The original name of the Book of Moses is ספר (sepher); the name of the Bible, that we attribute to it, is derived from the Greek Βίβλος, adopted by the so-called translators of the Septuagint.
160:b Joseph., Antiq., l. xii., c. 22; l. xiii., c. 9 et 23; l. xvii., c. 3; Budd, Introd. ad Phil. Hebr.; Basnage, Histoire des Juifs, t. i.
160:c This is founded upon a great number of passages, of which it will suffice to cite the following. One finds in Amos, ch. iii., v. 6: "Shall there be evil in a city which the Lord hath not done?" And in Ezekiel, ch. xxi., v. 3: "And say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I come against thee, and I will draw forth my sword out of its sheath, and will cut off in thee the just, and the wicked . . . against all flesh, from the south even to the north. . . . That all flesh may know that I the Lord have drawn my sword."
160:d Mohammed said of himself, that he possessed no heavenly treasures, that he was ignorant of the mysteries, that he could say nothing of the essence of the soul (Koran, ch. 6 and 17); and as he admitted the literal text of the Sepher, he could not do otherwise than announce predestination. "God," he said, "holds in his hands the keys of the future. He alone knows it. . . p. 161 The nations know not how to retard or to hasten the moment of their downfall" (Koran, ch. 6 and 23).