The Golden Verses of Pythagoras, by Fabre d'Olivet, , at sacred-texts.com
Lysis shows in these lines what are the greatest obstacles to the happiness of man. They are the passions: not the passions in themselves, but the evil effects that they produce by the disordered movement that the understanding allows them to take. It is to this that the attention must be directed so that one should not fall into the error of the Stoics. Pythagoras, as I have said, did not command his disciples to destroy their passions, but to moderate their ardour, and to guide them well. "The passions," said this philosopher, "are given to be aids to reason; it is necessary that they be its servants and not its masters." This is a truth that the Platonists and even the Peripatetics have recognized, by the evidence of Hierocles. c Thus Pythagoras regarded the passions as instruments of which the understanding makes use in raising the intellectual edifice. A man utterly deprived of them would resemble a mass inert and immovable in the course of life; it is true that he might be able not to become depraved, but then he could not enjoy his noblest advantage, which is perfectibility. Reason is established in the understanding to hold sway over the passions; it must
command them with absolute sovereignty, and make them tend towards the end that wisdom indicates. If it should not recognize the laws that intelligence gives it, and if, presumptuously, it wishes, instead of acting according to given principles, to lay down principles itself, it falls into excess, and makes man superstitious or skeptic, fanatic or atheist; if, on the contrary, it receives laws from the passions that it ought to rule, and if weak it allows itself to be subjugated by them, it falls into error and renders man stupid or mad, brutish in vice, or audacious in crime. There are no true reasonings except those admitted by wisdom; the false reasonings must be considered as the cries of an insensate soul, given over to the movements of an anarchical reason which the passions confuse and blind. a
Pythagoras considered man as holding the mean between things intellectual and sentient, the lowest of the superior beings and the highest of the inferior, free to move either toward the heights or the depths, by means of his passions, which bring into action the ascending or descending movement that his will possesses with potentiality; sometimes being united with the immortals and, through his return to virtue, recovering the lot which is his own, and other times plunging again into mortal kind and through transgression of the divine laws finding himself fallen from his dignity! b This opinion, which had been that of all the sages who had preceded Pythagoras, has been that of all the sages who have followed him, even of those among the Christian theosophists whose religious prejudices have removed them farthest from his doctrine. I shall not stop to give the proofs of its antiquity; they are to be found everywhere, and would be superfluous. Thomas Burnet, having vainly sought for the origin without being able to discover it, decided that it was necessary that it should descend from heaven. c It is
certain that one can only with difficulty explain how a man without erudition, like Boehme, never having received this opinion from anyone, has been able to explain it so clearly. "When one sees man existing," says this theosophist, "one can say: Here all Eternity is manifested in one image." a
The abode of this being is an intermediate point between heaven and hell, love and anger; that, of the things to which he is attached, becomes his kind. . . . If he inclines toward the celestial nature, he assumes a celestial form, and the human form becomes infernal if he inclines toward hell; for as the mind is, so is the body. In whatever way the mind projects itself, it shadows forth its body with a similar form and a similar source. b
It is upon this principle, which one finds still everywhere diversely expressed, that the dogma of the transmigration of souls is founded. This dogma, explained in the ancient mysteries, c and received by all peoples, d has been to such an extent disfigured in what the moderns have called Metempsychosis, that it would be necessary to exceed considerably the limits of these Examinations in order to give an explanation which could be understood. Later I will endeavour to expose my sentiment upon this mystery, when I treat of Theurgy and other occult sciences to which it is allied.
260:a Hiérol., In Præm.
260:c Ut suprà, v. 10 et 11.
261:a Ut suprà, v. 22. et 24.
261:b Ut suprà, v. 54 et 55.
261:c Burnet, Archæolog., l. i., c. 14.
262:a De la Triple Vie de lHomme, ch. vi., § 53.
262:b Ibid., ch. v., § 56.
262:c Prod., In Tim., l. v., p. 330; Plethon, Schol. ad. Oracl. magic. Zoroast.
262:d March., Chron. Can., p. 258; Beausob., Hist. du Manich., t. ii., p. 495; Huet. Origenian, l. ii., q. 6.