The Golden Verses of Pythagoras, by Fabre d'Olivet, , at sacred-texts.com
That is to say, thou shouldst consider what will be the results of such or such action and think that these results, dependent upon thy will (while the action remains in suspense and free, while they are yet to be born), will become the domain of Necessity the very instant when the action will be executed, and increasing in the past, once they shall have had birth, will coöperate in forming the plan of a new future.
I beg the reader, interested in these sorts of comparisons, to reflect a moment upon the idea of Pythagoras. He will find here the veritable source of the astrological science of the ancients. Doubtless he is not ignorant of what an extended influence this science exercised already upon the face of the globe. The Egyptians, Chaldeans, Phnicians, did not separate it from that which regulated the cult of the gods. a Their temples were but an abridged image of the Universe, and the tower which served as an observatory was raised at the side of the sacrificial altar. The Peruvians followed, in this respect, the same usages as the Greeks and Romans. b Everywhere the grand Pontiff
united the science of genethlialogy or astrology with the priesthood, and concealed with care the principles of this science within the precincts of the sanctuary. a It was a Secret of State among the Etruscans and at Rome, b as it still is in China and Japan. c The Brahmans did not confide its elements except to those whom they deemed worthy to be initiated. d For one need only lay aside an instant the bandage of prejudice to see that an Universal science, linked throughout to what men recognize as the most holy, can not be the product of folly and stupidity, as has been reiterated a hundred times by a host of moralists. All antiquity is certainly neither foolish nor stupid, and the sciences it cultivated were supported by principles which, for us today, being wholly unknown, have none the less existed. Pythagoras, if we give attention here, revealed to us those of genethlialogy and of all the sciences of divination which relate thereunto.
Let us observe this closely. The future is composed of the pastthat is to say, that the route that man traverses in time, and that he modifies by means of the power of his will, he has already traversed and modified; in the same manner, using a practical illustration, that the earth describing its annual orbit around the sun, according to the modern system, traverses the same spaces and sees unfold around it almost the same aspects: so that, following anew a route that he has traced for himself, man would be able not only to recognize the imprints of his steps, but to foresee the objects that he is about to encounter, since he has already seen them, if his memory preserved the image, and if this image was not effaced by the necessary consequence of his nature and the providential laws which rule him. Such is
the doctrine of Pythagoras as I have already revealed. a It was that of the mysteries and of all the sages of antiquity. Origen, who has opposed it, attributes it to the Egyptians, to the Pythagoreans, and to the disciples of Plato. It was contained in the sacred books of the Chaldeans, cited by Syncellus, under the title of livres géniques. b Seneca and Synesius have supported it as wholly in accordance with the spirit of the initiations. c What the ancients called the great year, was a consequence of this doctrine; for it was taught in the mysteries, that the Universe itself traversed, after a sequence of incalculable centuries, the same revolutions that it had already traversed, and brought around in the vast unfolding of its concentric spheres, as much for it as for the worlds which compose it, the succession of the four ages, the duration of which, relative to the nature of each being, immense for the Universal Man, is limited in the individual to what is called infancy, youth, manhood, and old age, and is represented on the earth by the fleeting seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. This great year, thus conceived, has been common to all the peoples of the earth. d Cicero has plainly seen that it constituted the veritable basis of genethlialogy or the astrological science. e Indeed if the future is composed of the pastthat is, a thing already made, upon which the present is gradually unfolded as upon the circumference of a circle which has neither beginning nor end, it is evident that one can succeed, up to a certain point, to recognize it, whether by means of remembrance, by examining in the past, the picture of the whole revolution; or by means of prevision carrying the moral sight, more or less far, upon the route through which
the Universe is passing. These two methods have grave disadvantages. The first appears even impossible. For what is the duration of the great year? What is the immense period, which, containing the circle of all possible aspects and of all corresponding effects, as Cicero supposes, is able, by observations made and set down in the genethliatic archives, to foresee, at the second revolution, the return of the events which were already linked there and which must be reproduced? a Plato exacts, for the perfection of this great year, that the movement of the fixed stars, which constitutes what we call the precession of the equinoxes, should coincide with the particular movement of the celestial bodies, so as to bring back the heavens to the fixed point of its primitive position. b The Brahmans carry the greatest duration of this immense period, which they name Kalpa, to 4,320,000,000 of years, and its mean duration, which they name Maha-Youg, to 4,320,000. c The Chinese appear to restrict it to 432,000 years, d and in this they agree with the Chaldeans; but when one reduces it again to a twelfth of this number, with the Egyptians, that is, to the sole revolution of the fixed stars, which they made, according to Hipparchus, 36,000 years, and which we make no more than 25,867, according to modern calculations, e we feel indeed that we would be still very far from having a series of observations capable of making us foresee the return of the same events, and that we could not conceive even, how men could ever attain to its mastery. As to the second method, which consists, as I have said, in carrying forward the moral sight upon the route which one has before him, I have no need to observe that it can be only very conjectural and very uncertain, since it depends upon a faculty which man has never possessed except as a special favour of Providence.
The principle by which it is claimed that the future is only a return of the past, did not therefore suffice to recognize even the plan of it; a second principle is necessary, and this principle, openly announced in the Golden Verses, as we shall see farther on, was that by which it was established that Nature is everywhere alike, and, consequently, that its action, being uniform in the smallest sphere as in the greatest, in the highest as in the lowest, can be inferred from both, and pronounced by analogy. This principle proceeded from the ancient dogma concerning the animation of the Universe, as much in general as in particular: a dogma consecrated among all nations, and following which it was taught that not only the Great All, but the innumerable worlds which are like its members, the heavens and the heaven of heavens, the stars and all the beings who people them even to the plants and metals, are penetrated by the same Soul and moved by the same Spirit. a Stanley attributes this dogma to the Chaldeans, b Kircher to the Egyptians, c and the wise Rabbi Maimonides traces it back to the Sabæans. d Saumaise has attributed to them the origin of astrological science, e and he is correct in one point. But of what use is it to consider the movement of the heavens and the respective position of the stars belonging to the same sphere as the earth, in order to form the genethliatical theme of the empires of nations, cities, and even of simple individuals, and conclude from the point of departure in the temporal route of existence, the aim of this route and the fortunate or unfortunate events with which they should be sown, if one had not established, primarily, that this route, being only
some portion of an existing sphere and already traversed, it belonged thus to the domain of Necessity and could be known; and, secondarily, that the analogical rapport ruling between the sentient sphere that one examined and the intelligible sphere that one could not perceive, authorized drawing inferences from both and even deciding from the general to the particular? For, believing that the stars have an actual and direct influence upon the destiny of peoples and of men, and that they even determine this destiny by their good or evil aspects, is an idea as false as ridiculous, born of the darkness of modern times, and that is not found among the ancients, even among the most ignorant masses. The genethliatical science is supported by principles less absurd. These principles, drawn from the mysteries, were, as I have explained, that the future is a return of the past and that nature is everywhere the same.
It is from the union of these two principles that resulted genethlialogy, or the science by which the point of departure being known in any sphere whatever, they believed they had discovered, by the aspect and direction of the stars, the portion of this sphere which must immediately follow this point. But this union, outside of the enormous difficulty that it presented, still involved in its execution very dangerous consequences. This is why they concealed in the sanctuaries the science which was its object, and made of religion a secret and state affair. The prevision of the future, supposing it possible as the ancients did, is not, in effect, a science that one should abandon to the vulgar, who, being unable to acquire previously the learning necessary, and having but rarely the wisdom which regulates its use, risked debasing it, or making use of it wrongfully. Furthermore, the pontiffs, who were in sole charge, initiated in the great mysteries and possessing the ensemble of the doctrine, knew very well that the future, such even as they could hope to understand it in the perfection of the science, was never aught but a doubtful future, a sort of canvas upon
which the power of the Will might exercise itself freely, in such a manner that, although the matter might be determined beforehand, its form was not, and that such an imminent event could be suspended, evaded, or changed by a coöperation of the acts of the will, inaccessible to all prevision. This is what was said with such profoundness by Tiresias, the most famous hierophant of Greece and whom Homer called the only sage, a these words so often quoted and so little understood: "Whatever I may see will come to pass, or it will not come to pass" b; that is to say, The event that I see is in the necessity of Destiny and it will come to pass, unless it is changed by the power of the Will; in which case it will not come to pass.
182:a Hermes, In Asclepio; Porphyr., De Antr. Nymph., p. 106; Origen, Contr. Cels., l. vi., p. 298; Hyd., De Vet. Pers. Relig., p. 16; Jamblic., De Myster-Egypt., c. 37.
182:b Hist. des Voyag., t. lii., p. 72; Divd., l. iv., c. 79; Plutar., In Vitâ Num.
183:a Boulanger, Antiq. dévoil., l. iii., ch. 5, § 3.
183:b Mém. de lAcad. des Insc., t. i., p. 67; Tit.-Liv., Decad., i, l. ix.; Aul. Gell., l. vi., c. 9.
183:c Duhald., t. ii., p. 578; t. iii., p. 336, 342; Const. dOrville, t. i., p. 3.
183:d Philostr., In Vitâ Apoll., l. iii., c. 13.
184:a Dans mon 21e Examen, où jai cité particulièrement Diogène Laërce, l. viii., § 4.
184:b Syncell., p. 35.
184:c Senec., Quæst. Nat., l. iii., c. 30; Synes., De Provid., l. ii., sub fin.
184:d Plato, In Tim.; Ovid, Metam., l. xv., fab. v.; Senec., Epist., 35; Macrob., In Somn. Scip., l. ii., c. 2; Hist. des Voyages, t. xii., p. 529; Dupuis, Orig. des Cultes, l. v., in 12, p. 474; Bailly, Hist. de lAstr. Anc., l. ix., § 15.
184:e Ciceron, De Divin., l. ii., c. 97.
185:a Cicer., De Natur. Deor., l. ii., c. 20; ibid., De Divin., l. ii., c. 97.
185:b Plato, In Tim.
185:d Asiat. Research., t. ii., p. 378.
185:e Biot., Astr. Phys., ch. xiv., p. 291.
186:a Vitâ Pythag.; Phot., Bibl. Cod., 259; Plato, In Tim.; Macrob., In Somn. Scip.; Virg., Æneid, l. vi., v. 724; Sevius, Comm., ibid.; Cicer., De Nat. Deor., l. i., c. 5, 11, 14, et 15; Diog. Laërt., In Zon.; Batteux, Causes premières, t. ii., p. 116; Beausob., Hist. du Manich., t. ii., l. vi., c. 6, § 14.
186:b Stanley, De Phil. Chald., p. 1123.
186:c Kircher, Ædip., t. i., p. 172, et t. ii., p. 200.
186:d Maimon., More Nevoch., i., part., c. 70.
186:e Salmas, Ann. Climat., Præf., p. 32.
188:a Homer, Odyss., K. V. 494; Diodor. Sic., l. v., C. 6; Plin., l. vii., C. 56; Plutar., De Oracul. Defect., p. 434.
188:b Horat., Sat., v., l. ii., v. 59.