The Golden Verses of Pythagoras, by Fabre d'Olivet, , at sacred-texts.com
Be just: injustice has often easy triumphs; but what remains after death of the riches that it has procured?
[paragraph continues] Nothing but the bitter remembrance of their loss, and the nakedness of a shameful vice uncovered and reduced to impotency.
I have proceeded rapidly in the explanation of the foregoing lines, because the morals which they contain, founded upon the proofs of sentiment, are not susceptible of receiving others. I do not know if this simple reflection has already been made, but in any case it ought to draw with it one more complicated, and serve to find the reason for the surprising harmony which reigns, and which has always reigned, among all the peoples of the earth upon the subject of morals. Man has been allowed to disagree upon subjects of reasoning and opinion, to differ .in a thousand ways in those of taste, to dispute upon the forms of cult, the dogmas of teachings, the bases of science, to build an infinity of psychological and physical systems; but Man has never been able, without belying his own conscience, to deny the truth and universality of morals. Temperance, prudence, courage, and justice, have always been considered as virtues, and avarice, folly, cowardice, and injustice, as vices; and this, without the least discussion. Never has any legislator said that it was necessary to be a bad son, a bad friend, a bad citizen, envious, ungrateful, perjured. The men most beset with these vices have always hated them in others, have concealed them at home, and their very hypocrisy has been a new homage rendered to morals.
If certain sectarians, blinded by a false zeal and furthermore systematically ignorant and intolerant, have circulated that the cults differing from theirs lacked morals, or received impure ones, it is because they either misunderstood the true principles of morals, or they calumniated them; principles are the same everywhere; only their application is more or less rigid and their consequences are more or less well applied in accordance with the times, the places, and the men. The Christians extol, and with reason, the purity and the sanctity of their morals; but if it must be told them
with frankness they have nothing in their sacred books that cannot be found as forcibly expressed in the sacred books of other nations, and often even, in the opinion of impartial travellers, one has seen it much better practised. For example, the beautiful maxim touching upon the pardon of offences a is found complete in the Zend-Avesta. It is written: "O God! greater than all that which is great! if a man provoke you by his thoughts, by his speech, or by his actions, if he humbles himself before you, pardon him; even so, if a man provoke me by his thoughts by his speech or by his actions may I pardon him." b One finds in the same book, the precept on charity, such as is practised among the Mussulmans, and that of agriculture placed in the rank of virtues, as among the Chinese. "The King whom you love, what desire you that he shall do, Ormuzd? Do you desire that, like unto you, he shall nourish the poor?" c "The purest point of the law is to sow the land. He who sows the grain and does it with purity is as great before me as he who celebrates ten thousand adorations. . . ." d "Render the earth fertile, cover it with flowers and with fruits; multiply the springs in the places where there is no grass." e This same maxim of the pardon of offences and those which decree to return good for evil, and to do unto others what we would that they should do unto us, is found in many of the Oriental writings. One reads in the distichs of Hafiz this beautiful passage:
Learn of the sea-shell to love thine enemy, and to fill with pearls the hand thrust out to harm thee. Be not less generous than the hard rock; make resplendent with precious stones, the arm which rends thy side. Mark thou yonder tree assailed by a shower of stones; upon those who throw them it lets fall only delicious fruits or perfumed flowers. The voice of all nature calls aloud to us: shall man be the only one refusing to heal the
hand which is wounded in striking him? To bless the one who offends him? a
The evangelical precept paraphrased by Hafiz is found in substance in a discourse of Lysias; it is clearly expressed by Thales and Pittacus; Kong-Tse taught it in the same words as Jesus; finally one finds in the Arya, written more than three centuries before our era, these lines which seem made expressly to inculcate the maxim and depict the death of the righteous man:
The duty of a good man, even at the moment of his destruction, consists not only in forgiving but even in a desire of benefiting his destroyer; as the Sandal-tree, in the instant of its overthrow sheds perfume on the ax which fells; and he would triumph in repeating the verse of Sadi who represents a return of good for good as a slight reciprocity, but says to the virtuous man, "confer benefits on him who has injured thee." b
Interrogate the peoples from the Boreal pole to the extremities of Asia, and ask them what they think of virtue: they will respond to you, as Zeno, that it is all that is good and beautiful; the Scandinavians, disciples of Odin, will show you the Hâvamâl, sublime discourse of their ancient legislator, wherein hospitality, charity, justice, and courage are expressly commended to them c: You will know by tradition that the Celts had the sacred verses of their Druids, wherein piety, justice, and valour were celebrated as national virtues d; you will see in the books preserved
under the name of Hermes a that the Egyptians followed the same idea regarding morals as the Indians their ancient preceptors; and these ideas, preserved still in the Dharma-Shastra, b will strike you in the Kings of the Chinese. It is there, in those sacred books whose origin is lost in the night of time, c that you will find at their source the most sublime maxims of Fo-Hi, Krishna, Thoth, Zoroaster, Pythagoras, Socrates, and Jesus. Morals, I repeat, are everywhere the same; therefore it is not upon its written principles that one should judge of the perfection of the cult, as has been done without reflection, but upon their practical application. This application, whence results the national spirit, depends upon the purity of the religious dogmas upon the sublimity of the mysteries, and upon their more or less great affinity with the Universal Truth which is the soul, apparent or hidden, of all religion.
165:a Evang. St. Math., ch. 18.
165:b Vendidad Sadé, p. 89.
165:c 34e hâ, p. 174.
165:d 3e fargard., p. 284.
165:e Jeshts Sadès, p. 151.
166:a Hafiz, cité par les auteurs Des Recherches asiatiques, t. iv., p. 167.
166:b L' Arya, cité comme ci-dessus:
166:c Edda Island; Hâvamâl.
166:d Diogen. Laërt., In Prm., p. 5.
167:a Pmander et Asclepius.
167:b This is the vast collection of Brahmanic morals. One finds there many of the lines repeated word for word in the Sepher of Moses.
167:c In them, antiquity goes back three thousand years before our era. There is mention of an eclipse of the sun, verified for the year 2155 B.C.