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MATHEMATICAL MAGIC OF PYTHAGORAS


From the book of History Of Magic by Eliphas Levi


He who initiated Numa, and of whose proficiency in Magic something has been said already, was a personage known as Tarchon, himself the disciple of a Chaldean named Tages. Science had then its apostles who went to and fro in the world, making priests and kings therein. Not infrequently persecution itself was overruled to fulfil the designs of Providence, and so it came about toward the seventy-second Olympiad, or four generations after the reign of Numa. Pythagoras of Samos sought a refuge in Italy from the tyranny of Polycrates. The great promoter of the philosophy of numbers had visited all the sanctuaries of the world and had even been in Judaea, where he suffered circumcision as the price of his admission into the mysteries of the Kabalah, communicated to him, though not without a certain reserve, by the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel. Subsequently, but again not without difficulty, he obtained Egyptian initiation, being recommended by the King Amasis. The capacities of his own genius supplemented the imperfect revelations of the hierophants, so that he became himself a master and one who expounded the mysteries.


Pythagoras defined God as a living and absolute truth clothed in light ; he defined the Word as number manifested by form ; and he derived all things from the Tetractys—that is to say, the tetrad. He said also that God is supreme music, the nature of which is harmony. Religion was, according to him, the highest expression of justice ; medicine was the most perfect practice of science ; the beautiful was harmony ; force, reason ; felicity, perfection ; while truth in application consisted in distrusting the weakness and perversity of men. When he made his dwelling at Crotona, the magistrates of that city, seeing that he exercised so great an influence over minds and hearts, were at first in some anxiety concerning him ; but ultimately they sought his advice.


Pythagoras counselled them to cultivate the muses and maintain the most perfect accord among themselves, because feuds between masters fomented rebellion among servants. Thereafter he imparted to them his grand religious, political and social precept : There is no evil which is not to be preferred before anarchy—an axiom of universal application and almost infinite depth, though one which even our own age is not as yet sufficiently enlightened to understand.


Outside the traditions of his life, the remains of Pythagoras are his Golden Verses and his Symbols, of which the former have passed into commonplaces of popular morality, so great has been their success through the ages. They have been rendered as follows : First worship the immortal gods, as they are established and ordained by the Law. Reverence the oath and next the heroes, full of goodness and light. Honour likewise thy parents, and those most nearly related to thee. Of all the rest of mankind, make him thy friend who distinguishes himself by his virtue. Always give ear tQ his mild exhortations, and take example from his virtuous and useful actions. Avoid as much as possible hating thy friend for a slight fault. Understand that power is a near neighbour to necessity.


Overcome and vanquish these passions—gluttony, sloth, sensuality, and anger. Do nothing evil, neither in the presence of others nor privately, and above all things respect thyself. In the next place, observe justice in thy actions and in thy words.


The goods of fortune are uncertain ; as they may be acquired, so may they likewise be lost. Always make this reflection, that it is ordained by destiny that all men shall die. Support with patience thy lot, be it what it may, and never repine at it ; but endeavour what thou canst to remedy it. Consider that fate does not send the greatest portion of these misfortunes to good men.


Let no man by his words, or by his deeds seduce thee ; nor entice thee to say or to do what is not profitable for thyself. Consult and deliberate before thou act, that thou mayst not commit foolish actions. For it is the part of a miserable man to speak and to act without reflection. But do that which will not afllict thee afterwards, nor oblige thee to repentance. Never do anything which thou dost not understand ; but learn all that thou oughtest to know, and by that means thou wilt lead a very pleasant life. In no wise neglect the health of thy body ; but give it drink and meat in due measure, and also the exercise of which it has need.


Accustom thyself to a way of living that is neat and decent without luxury. Do only the things which cannot hurt thee, and deliberate before thou dost them. Never sufiver sleep to close thy eyelids, after thy going to bed, till thou hast examined by thy reason all thy actions of the day. Wherein have I done amiss ? What have I done ? What have I omitted that I ought to have done ?


Up to this point the Golden Verses seem to be only the instructions of a schoolmaster. They bear however a very different construction. They are the preliminary laws of magical initiation, which constitute the first part of the Great Work, that is to say, the creation of the perfect adept. This is proved by the following verses : " I swear by him who has transmitted into our souls the Sacred Quaternion, the source of nature, whose cause is eternal. Never begin to set thy hand to any work, till thou hast prayed the gods to accomplish what thou art going to begin. When thou hast made this habit familiar to thee, thou wilt know the constitution of the Immortal Gods and of men. Even how far the different beings extend, and what contains and binds them together, and nothing in this world shall be hid from thee.


O Jupiter, our Father ! if thou wouldst deliver men from all the evils that oppress them, shew them of what daimon they make use. But take courage ; the race of men is divine.

When, having divested thyself of thy mortal body, thou arrivest at the most pure ^ther, thou shalt be a god, immortal, incorruptible, and death shall have no more dominion over thee." Pythagoras said otherwise : "As there are three divine concepts and three intelligible realms, so is there a triple word, because hierarchic order is ever manifested by the triad. There are simple speech, hieroglyphical speech and symbolical speech. In other terms, there is the word which expresses, there is the concealing word and, finally, there is the word that signifies : all hieratic intelligence is in the perfect science of these three degrees." After this manner he enshrined doctrine in symbols, but eschewing personifications and images which, in his opinion, begot idolatry sooner or later. He has been even charged with detestation of poets, but it was the makers of bad verses to whom he forbade the art: Thou who hast no harp, seek not to sing in measures," he says in his symbols.


A man so great as The History of Magic he could never disregard the exact correspondence between sublime thoughts and beautiful figurative expressions ; indeed h