The Golden Verses of Pythagoras, by Fabre d'Olivet, , at sacred-texts.com
Here is the proof of what I said just now, that Pythagoras recognized two motives of human actions, the first, issuing from a constrained nature, called Necessity; the second emanating from a free nature, called Power, and both dependent upon an implied primordial law. This doctrine
was that of the ancient Egyptians, among whom Pythagoras had imbibed it. "Man is mortal with reference to the body," they said, "but he is immortal with reference to the soul which constitutes essential man. As immortal he has authority over all things; but relative to the material and mortal part of himself, he is subject to destiny." a
One can see by these few words that the ancient sages did not give to Destiny the universal influence that certain philosophers and particularly the Stoics gave to it later on; but they considered it only as exercising its empire over matter. It is necessary to believe that since the followers of the Porch had defined it as a chain of causes, by virtue of which the past has taken place, the present exists, and the future is to be realized b; or still better, as the rule of the law by which the Universe is governed c; one must believe, I say, that these philosophers confounded Destiny with Providence, and did not distinguish the effect from its cause, since these definitions conform only with the fundamental law of which destiny is but an emanation. This confusion of words had to produce and in fact did produce, among the Stoics, an inversion of ideas which was the most unfortunate result d; for, as they established, according to their system, a chain of good and evil that nothing could either alter or break, one easily inferred that the Universe being subject to the attraction of a blind fatality, all actions are here necessarily determined in advance, forced, and thereafter indifferent in themselves; so that good and evil, virtue and vice, are vain words, things whose existence is purely ideal and relative.
The Stoics would have evaded these calamitous results if, like Pythagoras, they had admitted the two motives of which I have spoken, Necessity and Power; and if, far from instituting Necessity alone as absolute master of the
[paragraph continues] Universe, under the name of Destiny or Fatality, they had seen it balanced by the Power of the Will, and subject to the Providential Cause whence all emanates. The disciples of Plato would also have evaded many errors, if they had clearly understood this concatenation of the two opposed principles, from which results universal equilibrium; but following certain false interpretations of the doctrine of their master regarding the soul of matter, they had imagined that this soul was no other than Necessity by which it is ruled a; so that, according to them, this soul being inherent in matter, and bad in itself, gave to Evil a necessary existence: a dogma quite formidable, since it makes the world to be considered as the theatre of a struggle without beginning or end, between Providence, principle of Good, and the soul of matter, principle of Evil. The greatest mistake of the Platonists, exactly contrary to that of the Stoics, was in having confused the free power of the Will with the divine Providence, in having instituted it for the principle of good and thus being put in position of maintaining that there are two souls in the world, a beneficent one, God, and a malefic one, Matter. This system, approved of by many celebrated men of antiquity and which Beausobre assures was the most widely received, b offers, as I have observed, the very great disadvantage of giving to Evil a necessary existence, that is to say, an independent and eternal existence. Now, Bayle has very well proved, by attacking this system through that of Manes, that two opposed Principles cannot exist equally eternal and independent of one another, because the clearest ideas of order teach us that a Being which exists by itself, which is necessary, which is eternal, must be unique, infinite, all-powerful, and endowed with all manner of perfections. c
But it is not at all certain that Plato may have had the
idea that his disciples have attributed to him, since far from considering matter as an independent and necessary being, animated by a soul essentially bad, he seems even to doubt its existence, going so far as to regard it as pure nothingness, and calls the bodies which are formed of it, equivocal beings holding the medium between what is always existing and what does not exist at all a; he affirms sometimes that matter has been created and sometimes that it has not been b; and thus falls into contradictions of which his enemies have taken advantage. Plutarch, who has clearly seen it, excuses them by saying that this great philosopher has fallen into these contradictions designedly, in order to conceal some mystery; a mind constructed like his not being made to affirm two opposites in the same sense. c The mystery that Plato wished to conceal, as he makes it sufficiently understood, d was the origin of Evil. He himself declares that he has never revealed and that he never will reveal, in writing, his real sentiments in this respect. Thus what Chalcidius and after him André Dacier have given concerning the doctrine of Plato are only conjectures or very remote inferences drawn from certain of his dogmas. One has often made use of this means, with regard to celebrated men whose writings one comments upon and particularly when one has certain reasons for presenting ones ideas sous un côté which outlines or which favours an opinion either favourable or unfavourable. It is this which happened more to Manes than to any other; his doctrine concerning the two Principles has been greatly calumniated, and without knowing just what he meant by them, one hastened to condemn him without investigating what he had said; adopting as axioms that he had laid down, inferences the most bizarre and most
ridiculous that his enemies had drawn from certain equivocal phrases. a What persuades me to make this observation, is because it has been proved that Manes had indeed admitted two opposed Principles of Good and Evil, eternal independents, and holding of themselves their proper and absolute existence, since it is easy to see that Zoroaster, whose doctrine he had principally imitated, had not admitted them as such, but as equally issued from a superior Cause, concerning the essence of which he was silent. b I am very much inclined to believe that the Christian doctors who have transmitted to us the ideas of this mighty heresiarch, blinded by their hatred or by their ignorance, have travestied them as I find that the Platonist philosophers, bewildered by their own opinions, have entirely disfigured those of the illustrious founder of the Academy. The errors of both have been, taking for absolute beings, what Zoroaster and Pythagoras, Plato or Manes, had put down as emanations, results, forces, or even the simple abstractions of the understanding. Thus Ormuzd and Ahriman, Power and Necessity, the Same and the Other, Light and Darkness, are, in reality, only the same things diversely expressed, diversely sensed, but always drawn from the same origin and subject to the same fundamental Cause of the Universe.
It is not true therefore, as Chalcidius has stated, that Pythagoras may have demonstrated that evil exists necessarily, c because matter is evil in itself. Pythagoras
never said that matter might be an absolute being whose essence might be composed of evil. Hierocles, who had studied the doctrine of this great man and that of Plato, has denied that either the one or the other had ever declared matter as a being existing by itself. He has proved, on the contrary, that Plato taught, following the steps of Pythagoras, that the World was produced from Nothing, and that his followers were mistaken when they thought that he admitted an uncreated matter. a Power and Necessity (mentioned in the lines at the head of this Examination) are not, as has been believed, the absolute source of good and evil. Necessity is not more evil in itself than Power is not good; it is from the usage that man is called to make of them, and from their employment which is indicated by wisdom or ignorance, virtue or vice, that results Good or Evil. This has been felt by Homer who has expressed it in an admirable allegory, by representing the god of gods himself, Jupiter, opening indifferently the sources of good and evil upon the universe.
Those who have rejected this thought of Homer have not reflected enough upon the prerogatives of poetry, which are to particularize what is universal and to represent as done what is to be done. Good and Evil do not emanate from Jupiter in action, but in potentiality, that is to say, that the same thing represented by Jupiter or the Universal Principle of the Will and the Intelligence, becomes good or evil, according as it is determined by the particular operation of each individual principle of the Will and the
[paragraph continues] Intelligence. a Now, man is to the Being called Jupiter by Homer, as the particular is to the Universal. b
146:a Herm. Trismeg., In Pmand.
146:b Senac., De Sen., vi., 2.
146:c Aul. Gell., l. vi., c. 2.
146:d Plutar., De repugn. Stoïc. de Fato.
147:a Chalcidius, in Tim., not. 295, p. 387.
147:b Hist. du Manich., t. ii., l. v., ch. 6, p. 250.
147:c Dict. crit., MANICHEENS, rem. D.
148:a Cicéron, Tuscul., l. i.; Clem. Alex., Strom., l. v., p. 501.
148:b Justin., Cohort ad Gent., p. 6; Cyrill., Contr. Julien; Fabric., Bibl. græc., t. i., p. 472.
148:c Plutar., De Procr. anim.
148:d Plat., Epist., 2 et 7, t. iii., p. 312, 313, 341, etc.
149:a Voyez lexcellent ouvrage de Beausobre à ce sujet, LHistoire du Manichéisme.
149:b When Zoroaster spoke of this Cause, he gave it the name of Time without Limit, following the translation of Anquetil Duperron. This Cause does not still appear absolute in the doctrine of this theosophist; because in a passage of the Zend-Avesta, where in contemplation of the Supreme Being, producer of Ormuzd, he calls this Being, the Being absorbed in excellence, and says that Fire, acting from the beginning, is the principle of union between this Being and Ormuzd (36e hâ du Vendidad Sadé, p. 180, 19e fargard, p. 415), One finds in another book, called Sharistha, that when this Supreme Being organized the matter of the Universe, he projected his Will in the form of a resplendent light (Apud Hyde, c. 22, p. 298).
149:c In Tim., not. 295.
150:a Voyez Photius, Cod., 251. Plotin, Porphyre, Jamblique, Proclus et Symplicius ont été du même sentiment qu Hiéroclès, ainsi que le dit le savant Fabricius, Bibl. græc., t. i., p. 472.
150:b Iliad, L. ult., v. 663.
151:a Cicér., de Natur. Deor., l. i., c. 15.
151:b Cicér., de Fato, c. 17.