The Golden Verses of Pythagoras, by Fabre d'Olivet, , at sacred-texts.com
That is to say, that the true disciple of Pythagoras, placed en rapport with the gods through contemplation, arrived at the highest degree of perfection, called in the mysteries, autopsy; saw fall before him the false veil which until then had hidden Truth, and contemplated Nature in its remotest sources. It is necessary, in order to attain to this sublime degree, that the intelligence, penetrated by the divine ray of inspiration, should fill the understanding
with a light intense enough to dissipate all the illusions of the senses, to exalt the soul and release it wholly from things material. Thus it was explained by Socrates and Plato. a These philosophers and their numerous disciples put no limit to the advantages of autopsy, or theophany, as they sometimes named this highest degree of the telestic science. They believed that the contemplation of God could be carried so far during this same life, that the soul became not only united to this Being of beings, but that it was mingled and blended with it. Plotinus boasted having experienced the joy of this beatific vision four times, according to Porphyry, who himself claimed to have been honoured with it at the age of sixty-eight b. The great aim of the mysteries was to teach the initiates the possibility of this union of man with God, and to indicate to them the means. All initiations, all mythological doctrines, tended only to alleviate the soul of the weight of material things, to purify it, so that, desirous of spiritual welfare, and being projected beyond the circle of generations, it could rise to the source of its existence. c If one examines carefully the different cults which still dominate upon earth, one will see that they have not been animated by any other spirit. The knowledge of the Being of beings has been offered everywhere as the aim of wisdom; its similitude, as the crown of perfection; and its enjoyment, as the object of all desires and the goal of all efforts. The enumeration of its infinite faculties has varied; but when one has dared fix ones attention upon the unity of its essence, one has always defined it as has Pythagoras: the principle and the end of all things.
The Spirit whence proceed the created beings [say the Brahmans], by which they live after being emanated from it,
toward which they aspire, and in which they are finally absorbed, this Spirit is that, to the knowledge of which thou shouldst aspire, the Great Being. aThe Universe is one of its forms. b It is the Being of beings: without form, without quality, without passion; immense, incomprehensible, infinite, indivisible, incorporeal, irresistible: no intelligence can conceive of its operations and its will suffices to move all intelligences. cIt is the Truth and the Science which never perish. dIts wisdom, its power, and its plan, are as an immense and limitless sea which no being is in condition either to traverse or to fathom. There is no other God than it. The Universe is filled with its immensity. It is the principle of all things without having principles. e God is one, f eternal, like unto a perfect sphere which has neither beginning nor end. He rules and governs all that exists by a general providence, resultant of fixed and determined principles. Man ought not to seek to penetrate the nature or the essence of this Ineffable Being: such a research is vain and criminal.
Thus do the Hindu sages express themselves in sundry places. They commend aspiring to the knowledge of the Being of beings, making oneself worthy to be absorbed in its bosom; and forbid, at the same time, seeking to penetrate its nature. I have already said that such was the doctrine of the mysteries. I am about to add an important reflection in order to cast some light upon a doctrine which, at first glance, appears contradictory.
Man, who aspires by the inner movement of his will, to attain to the highest degree of human perfection, and who, by the purification of his understanding, and the acquisition of celestial virtues, puts himself in a state to receive the truth, must observe that the higher he rises in the intelligible sphere, the nearer he approaches to the unfathomable Being
whose contemplation must make his happiness, the less he can communicate the knowledge of it to others; for truth, coming to him under intelligible forms more and more universalized, can never be contained in the rational or sentient forms that he might give it. Here is the point where many mystic contemplators have gone astray. As they had never adequately fathomed the triple modification of their being, and as they had not known the intimate composition of the human Quaternary, they were ignorant of the manner in which the transformation of ideas was made, as much in the ascendant progression as in the descendant progression; so that, confusing continually understanding and intelligence, and making no difference between the products of their will according as it acted in one or the other of its modifications, they often showed the opposite of what they intended to show; and instead of the seers that they might, perhaps, have been, they became visionaries. I could give a great many examples of these aberrations; but I will limit myself to a single one, because the man who furnishes it for me, immeasurably great on the side of intelligence, lacked understanding and felt keenly himself, the weakness of his reason. This man, whose audacious gaze has penetrated as far as the divine sanctuary, is a German shoemaker of obscure birth, called Jacob Boehme. The rusticity of his mind, the roughness of his character, and more than all that, the force and the number of his prejudices, render his works almost unintelligible and therefore repel the savants. But when one has the patience and talent necessary to separate the pure gold from its dross and from its alloy, one can find there things which are nowhere else. These things, which present themselves nearly always under the oddest and most absurd forms, have taken them by passing from his intelligence to his instinct, without his reason having had the force to oppose itself. This is how he artlessly expresses this transformation of ideas: ''Now that I have raised myself so high, I dare not look back for fear that giddiness may seize me . . . for as
long as I ascend, I am convinced of my impulse; but it is not the same when I turn my; head and when I wish to descend; then I am troubled, I am bewildered, it seems to me that I shall fall." a And in truth he fell so rapidly that he did not perceive, either the terrible disparity between his ideas and his expressions, nor the manifest contradictions into which his prejudices had drawn him.
These grave disadvantages, which do not strike the vulgar, were perfectly understood and appreciated by the sages. The institutors of the mysteries were not ignorant of them and it is for this that they had imposed the most absolute silence upon the initiates and particularly upon the epopts, to whom they gave their highest teachings. They made them feel readily that intelligible things can only become sentient by being transformed, and that this transformation requires a talent and an authority even, which cannot be the appanage of all men.
I am now at the close of my reflection. The diverse cults established upon earth are but the transformations of ideas; that is to say, particular forms of religion, by means of which a theocratic legislator or theosophic sage renders sentient that which is intelligible, and puts within reach of all men what, without these forms, would have been only within reach of a very small number; now, these transformations can only be effected in three ways, according to the three faculties of the human Ternary; the fourth, which concerns its Quaternary or its relative unity, being impossible. I beg the reader to recall what I have said, touching the intimate composition and movement of this Quaternary, and grant me a little attention.
The aim of all the cults being to conduct to the knowledge of the Divinity, they differ only by the route that they travel in its attainment, and this route depends always upon the manner in which the Divinity has been considered by the
founder of the cult. If this founder has considered it in his intelligence, he has seen the Divinity in its universal modifications, and, therefore, triple, as the Universe; if he has considered it in his understanding, he has seen it in its creative principles, and, therefore, double as Nature; if he has considered it in his instinct, he has seen it in its faculties and its attributes, and, therefore, infinite, as Matter; if he has considered it, finally, in its proper volitive unity, acting at once in its three modifications, he has seen this same Divinity according to the force and movement of his thought, either in its absolute essence or in its universal essence; that is, One in its cause, or One in its effects. Examine closely what I have said and see if there exists a single cult upon the face of the earth that you may not connect with one of the kinds whose origin I have indicated.
I have said that the Divinity, considered in the human intelligence, is shown under the emblem of the universal Ternary; hence all the cults which are dominated by three principal gods as in India. a in Greece and in Italy, b three principal modifications in the same God, as in China, c in Japan, in Tibet and among the considerable followers of Fo-Hi or Buddha. d This cult, which has been called that
of the Tritheists, is one of the most widespread on earth, and one which has mingled most easily with the others. It pleases the imagination and gives to wisdom great power to rise to intelligible truths.
I have said that the Divinity, considered in the human understanding, is manifest under the emblem of two natural principles: hence, all the cults wherein two opposed beings appear, as in the cult of Zoroaster. This cult, which is rarely encountered as pure as among the ancient Persians, or among the followers of Manes, mingles readily with tritheism and even polytheism: it was quite recognizable in Egypt and among the Scandinavians, and much more involved among the Indians, Greeks, and Latins. This cult could be considered as a natural Diarchy, and those who follow it, Diarchists. Judgment and reason conform very well in it; one also sees ordinarily, profound reasoners and skeptics, inclining there nolens volens. a Its abuse leads to atheism; but it offers great means, when one knows how to make good use of it, to penetrate the essence of things and succeed to the explanation of natural phenomena.
Again I say, that the Divinity considered in the instinct is presented under the emblem of material infinity: hence, all cults where, by a contrary movement, the intelligible becomes sentient and the sentient intelligible; as when the attributes and faculties of the Divinity are particularized and personified, and as the agents of Nature, the parts of the Universe and the individual beings themselves, are deified. This cult, to which I have given the name of Polytheism, is everywhere, under different forms and under different names,
the portion of the vulgar. More or less apparent it insinuates itself in the midst of the other two, multiplies the images of the intellectual modifications and the natural principles, and whatever attentions the theosophists bring to forestall its invasion, end by stifling utterly the spirit of it beneath the material covering which envelops them. This cult, the cradle of all religions, with which the other two can never entirely dispense, which nourishes and lives in their life, is also the tomb. It pleases singularly that faculty of man which is developed first, sense perception; it aids the development of instinct and can, by the sole medium of common sense, lead to the knowledge of the natural principles. Its abuse precipitates people into idolatry and superstition; its good use arouses the talents and gives birth to heroic virtues. One becomes artist or hero through the exaltation of Polytheism; savant or philosopher through that of Diarchy; and sage or theosophist through that of Tritheism. These three cults, whether pure or variously mixed, are the only ones in which transformation may be possible; that is to say, which may be clothed in ostensible forms and enclosed in any sort of ritual. The fourth cult, which is founded upon the absolute unity of God, is not transformable. This is the reason.
The Divinity considered in the volitive unity of man, acting at the same time in its principal faculties, is manifested finally, in its absolute essence, or in its universal essence; One in its cause, or One in its effects: thence, not only all public cults, but all secret mysteries, all doctrines mystic and contemplative; for how can that which has no likeness to anything be represented? How render sentient that which is beyond all intelligence? What expressions will be consistent with that which is inexpressible, with that which is more ineffable than silence itself? What temples will one raise to that which is incomprehensible, inaccessible, unfathomable? The theosophists and sages have realized these difficulties; they have seen that it was necessary to suppress all discourse, to set aside all simulacra: to renounce
all enclosures, to annihilate finally all sentient objects or to be exposed to give false ideas of the absolute essence of a Being that neither time nor space can contain. Many have dared the undertaking. One knows, in delving into ages long since past, that the ancient Magians of Persia erected no temple and set up no statue. a The Druids acted in the same manner. b The former invoked the Principle of all things upon the summits of mountains; the latter, in the depths of the forests. Both deemed it unworthy of the divine Majesty to enclose it within precincts and to represent it by a material image. c It even appears that the early Romans shared this opinion. d But this cult, entirely intellectual and destitute of forms, could not subsist long. Perceptible objects were needed by the people, on which they might place their ideas. These objects, even in spite of the legislator who sought to proscribe them, insinuated themselves. e Images, statues, temples were multiplied notwithstanding the laws which prohibited them. At that time if the cult did not undergo a salutary reform, it was changed, either into a gross anthropomorphism, or into an absolute materialism: that is to say, that a man of the people being unable to rise to the divine Unity, drew it down to his level; and the savant, being unable to comprehend it and believing nevertheless to grasp it, confused it with Nature.
It was to evade this inevitable catastrophe that the sages and theosophists had, as I have said, made a mystery of the Unity of God, and had concealed it in the inmost recesses of the sanctuaries. It was only after many trials, and not until the initiate was judged worthy to be admitted to the sublime degree of autopsy, that the last veil was lifted
to his gaze, and the principle and end of all things, the Being of beings, in all its unfathomable Unity, was delivered to his contemplation. a
242:a Origen., Contr. Cels., l. i., p. 19.
242:b Synés., De Insomn., p. 134 et seq.; Niceph. Greg., Schol. in Synes., p. 360 et seq.
242:c Voyez Naudé, Apolog. des grands Hommes accusés de Magie.
242:d Com. Cels., De Re Medic., l. i., Præf.
242:e Hiérocl., Aur. Carm., v. 48 et 49, et ibid., v. 46.
243:a Plat., In Georgiâ, In Phæd.; Ibid., De Rep., l. vii.; August., De Civit. Dei, l. iii., c. 1 et l. x., c. 29.
243:b Acad. des Inscript., t. xxxi., p. 319.
243:c Procl., In Tim., l. v., p. 330; Cicer., Somn. Scip., c. 2, 3, 4, et 6; Hierocl., In Aur. Carm., v. 70.
244:a Veda, cité par W. Jones, Asiat. Resear., t. iv., p. 173.
244:b Premier Pourâna, intitulé Matsya.
244:d Institut. of Menou, ch. 1, v. 1.
246:a Aurore naissante (Morgens röte im Aufgang: durch Jacob Böhmen zu Amsterdam, 1682), ch. 14, § 41.
247:a Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra.
247:b Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto.
247:c In the Tao-te-King of Lao-Tse, a work which has held a high reputation among the numerous followers of this theosophist, one finds that the absolute, universal Being which he declares can neither be named, nor defined, is triple. "The first," he said, "has engendered the second; the two have produced the third; and the three have made all things. That which the mind perceives and the eye cannot see is named Y, the absolute Unity, the central point; that which the heart understands and the ear cannot hear is named Hi, the universal Existence; that which the soul feels and the hand cannot touch is named Ouei, the individual Existence. Seek not to penetrate the depths of this Trinity; its incomprehensibility comes from its Unity." "This Unity," adds Lao-Tse, in another passage, "is named Tao, the Truth; Tao is Life; Tao is to itself both rule and model. It is so lofty that it cannot be attained; so profound that it cannot be fathomed; so great that it contains the Universe; when one looks on high one sees no beginning; when one follows it in its productions, one finds in it no end."
247:d One of the principal dogmas of Fo-Hi is the existence of one God in p. 248 three persons, whose image is man. All his doctrine is limited to leading, by meditation and repression of the passions, the human ternary to its perfection. This ternary is composed, according to him, of Ki, Tsing, and Chen, that is to say, of the material, animistic, and spiritual principle. It is necessary that, being joined together, this ternary should make but One. Then its duration will have no limit and its faculties will be indestructible. Voyez Duhalde, t. iii., in fol., p. 50.
248:a This is noticeable particularly in Bayle.
250:a Herod., In Clio, § 131; Strab., l. xv.; Boehm., Mores Gentium.
250:b Pelloutier, Hist. des Celtes, t. v., c. 3.
250:c Tacit., De Morib. Germ., c. 9; Lactant., Præm., p. 5.
250:d August., De Civit. Dei, l. iv., c. 31; Clem. Alex., l. i., p. 304; Strom.
250:e Plutar., In Vitâ Numa; ibid., In Mar.; Pelloutier, Hist. des Celt., l. iv., c. i.; Lucan., Phars., l. iii., v. 412; Clem. Alex., Cohort. ad Gent., p. 57.
251:a Euseb., Præp. Evang., l. xiii., c. 12; Henric. Steph., Poes. philosop., p. 78.