row I

[ocr errors]

smell mortality in an infant's breath; but with these impulses, and is incapable of tell me, dear Ischomachus, if there is meditation. But in man there is a power any other felicity which you have in which enables him not only to enjoy, but store if these should be lost.

to meditate upon the variety of enjoyIscHom. I know of none but these: ment; not only to suffer, but to observe that my land is good, my wife virtuous, whether be suffers justly or unjustly. and my son obedient. What more can I Ischom. But even in this, O Socrates, possess ?

there is nothing constant: to-day I med. Soc. All these you have by the favoritate on my happiness, and to-morrow of some god.

on my pains; to-day I am just, to-mor. Ischom. By no other means, at least.

may be guilty of injustice. This Soc. How may I too attain his favor ? power is, therefore, in no respect imIschom. By prayer and offering.

movable or eternal; for if there is any. Soc. Thousands pray for these things, thing eternal in man, it should prevail and for other modes of felicity, but you over the transient in him, and men would alone possess them. Why is the deity be always just; and if happiness lies in partial, or what is that amazing virtue a good conscience, they should be always in you ?

happy. But now I see them fluctuating, Ischom. I am at a loss to answer. My impulsive, and full of altercation. Thus virtue is unknown to me, if I have it, am I persuaded of the utter insufficiency and the opinion you discover that I alone of reason. I regard men as only a better am happy almost subverts my happiness. kind of animals, capable of higher de.

Soc. Am I then able with a breath to grees of happiness and misery. If the blow away the favor of heaven? bliss 1 now enjoy is to be taken from me

Ischom. It is easy: you might do to-morrow, there is no refuge but in more, and on a sudden take my life. death. And why not die, when life beSoc. This happiness of yours, like an

comes a burden? halcyon's nest, Hoats upon the sea, in Soc. You astonish me, Ischomachus, danger of a thousand waves. Is there no- and hearing you, I am oppressed with thing firm but the rock that may destroy it? gloom. The guardian genius forbids me

Ischom. Nothing, as I think. All to leave you, and now I am forced to things move and change, and evils are begin a war against the demon who over. seasonable: death sweeps all

away. comes me through you. Soc. Is life like the melody of a lyre,

Ischom. What have I said? sounding and ceasing?

Soc. Did you not say that the gods Ischom. So it seems.

gave you happiness, in reward of prayer Soc. Who am I, then, that am able to and sacrifice ? consider my own transiency? Is the Ischom. I did so, honestly. harmony of a chord a harmony to itself, Soc. I fear they will suddenly resume or only to some superior being ?

their gifts. Ischom. To a superior.

Ischom. How say you? Soc. When we meditate on the tran Soc. Observe, good sir, I am neither a siency of life, what is it that meditates? seer, nor a master of omens, to predict

Ischom. I am unable to say. Call it the conclusion of your bliss; yet I am spirit if you will; names avail not in fear for you. Who are these gods, or much.

by what sign do we know them? Soc. Let us look closer at 'the matter. Ischom. Say, first, by what signs you An ape is able to consider various methods predict my sorrow; but since you ask it, of eating, and of all other modes of plea. I will answer. We know the deities by sure affecting the body. It is able, also, to the tradition of our fathers, who saw avoid and inflict pain. Admit, even, that them face to face; and by the favors they there is a soul in the ape, it is occupied confer in answer to our prayers. mistaking of certain emotions, excited by pictures, poetry, or music, with the aid of good company, for a taste in the arts. Any absurd or incomprehensible notion that pretends to an unusual refinement or spirituality.

A very singular species of “ Transcendentalism” appears in the modern French his. tories, which personifies certain concrete notions, “ Democracy,” “ Monarchy,” the * Masses," “the sick,” “ the poor,” &c., &c., as though they were persons or spiritual energies, operating deliberately and consciously upon each other, and upon individuals. By attributing historic events to the agency of these irresponsible powers, every kind of violence and iniquity is skillfully cloaked over and excused.

Soc. And by the pains they inflict ? he is imperfect, because he beholds im. Ischom. Yes, in punishment of wrong. perfection. Much less, then, is the reason Soc. But is all pain a punishment ? of man to be held imperfect, because it

Ischom. No; the gods, as I think, beholds and permits imperfections, even punish only an intentional wrong; but in the body which it inspires. But you with the unintentional they are not of- say, “ that which is eternal cannot be fended.

born;" “ that which is born must die.” Soc. All pain, therefore, is not pun. The body of a man is born; it therefore ishment. If I fall, I may or may not dies. Out of earth it rose, and to earth suffer, as it chances; but if I do wrong, it must return. But see, O friend, the the gods, who see all things, and know beauty of this image of a birth. The even the secret thoughts of the mind, are body is inspired, first, by sensuous desure to punish me. Is it not so ? sires, and we say they are born in it: we

Ischom. It is, indeed. The deities are should rather say it is born in them, for perfectly just.

they are intelligent, but the body is maSoc. We believe that they are just! terial; they belong to the system of the But how is it with dogs and cattle; do world, and inspire myriads of bodies, as they meditate on the divine justice, as we the quality of heaviness inspires myriads do now?

of stones. Then follows another" birth;" IschoM. Impossible: they show no and by this figure we imply that this sign of reason.

body has become a vehicle of divine reaSoc. Reason, it appears, is a faculty son, or of the spirit of Justice, and is given to men, that they may witness di- thus born into that spirit, and is reunited vine justice ?

with it, as with its first Cause. Ischom. Ay! the eternal justice ! As fire to the nitre, so is the spirit

Soc. Even now, Ischomachus, the evil of reason to the body of man. But the genius leaves me, and it is necessary for spirit that is in me differs not in being you to confess yourself in the wrong. from that which is in all men, or even in Consider, excellent sir, the consequences the gods. That which is all-pervading of your words. If men are able to be. is everywhere the same. Is not my jushold the justice of the gods, and know tice one with yours? Or is there a justhat that is justice which they bebold, it tice of Socrates, which is not of Ischomis necessary to confess that they are en achus? dowed with justice, and that they were Ischom. But this spirit of which you always so endowed. If any one is in. speak is not the spirit of a man, but of a capable of knowing right and wrong, no god. person regards him as a man: but he Soc. Of a god, indeed; for in the body, cause of this incapacity we say that he and in the sensual soul, we found no. is a brute, and no man; or, that reason thing permanent. is not yet born in him. This, then, is no Ischom. Is man, therefore, not man fluctuating principle, like anger, or de- only, but a mixture of spirit and matter, sire, but remains from the instant of its of mortal and immortal ? birth in the soul, nor is any action of the Soc. What else? man possible, over which reason does Ischom. Thus far I have gone with not in some manner preside.

you, as with one walking in his sleep; Ischom. I am not convinced that human you lead me by a sorbidden path to the reason is eternal and divine. That which verge of an abyss. is eternal cannot be born; but even now Soc. Let us return to the point from you spoke of a birth of reason! What- whence we came. But answer me: are ever is divine is perfect, as the deities you still of this first opinion that there is are perfect; but the imperfection of rea- nothing permanent, but that all things fail son is evident to all.

and are annihilated ? Soc. Shall we confess that all things Ischom. All things are fluctuating and were produced as they are—the perfect mortal; but the sources of things are per. and the imperfect-by some Being who manent. is One, and all-sufficient, but whom it is Soc. What then of this human reason; unlawful to name?

is that a "thing,” or a “source of things?” Ischom. We must admit this.

Ischom. Not a thing, indeed! nor yet Soc. We are not, therefore, to con a source. Reason is thought, and thought, clude that he is imperfect or transient, though spiritual, is yet transient. When because he creates the transient; nor that I cease to think of reason, where,

[ocr errors]

then, is my reason ? Where, when Soc. Is it customary for those who go I am asleep or intoxicated? Where, with gifts to the temple to make such a when I am annihilated ?

request of any deity ? Soc. Is reason yours or mine, that we İSchom. No. I followed the custom ask “ where is it?" or whether it comes awhile, and prayed for wealth and prosto us, or departs from us? or do we perity, as others do; but these prayers, know that it is neither of this man nor of like most that are made, came all to that, but pervades and inspires all with nought. one and the same power, from the be Soc. I desire greatly to know, if

you ginning even to this day. Why, then, do are willing, by what chance or by what you ask, Where is my reason when I reason, you learned this new kind of am intoxicated, or asleep, or deceased ?” prayer. IsCHOM. I am still dark.

Ischom. It happened as you shall hear. Soc. Do you say, then, that if my rea On a certain occasion, when I was opson is not mine, nor proper to me, I then pressed with evil fortune and an extreme am nothing?

sadness, I met an old man at the entrance Ischom. So it seems to me.

of the temple, whose venerable figure Soc. A perfect agreement appears be- struck me with awe. Observing that I tween your thoughts and mine; for, but wore a wreath, as is usual with those now you were grieved with the imper- who sacrifice, he saluted me courteously fection, the transiency and nothingness and inquired whether I entered there for of each particular man; but you dwelt my own sake or for that of another; for with fervor upon the all-sufficiency of I perceive, he continued, that you are opdeity. There is none good by God. There pressed with some unusual grief. Reis no good but Him. But reason is pure marking in him a certain superiority, as good, and the greatest good. It is there of a father, I answered willingly that fore of God. But it is in man; somewhat my own misfortunes brought me there, of God, therefore, is in man.

and that though I meant to supplicate, I Ischom. I am unwilling to believe that had no hope of favor. For the goddess so wretched an animal as man became had received my offering for the hundredth the temple of a deity.

time, but had given me nothing in return. Soc. How say you? Is this a matter I perceive, my son, replied the sageof opinion, or is it perfectly established ? whom I now saw to be a priest—that

Ischom. A wonderful proof you offer, you are not perfectly acquainted with O Socrates, to make me confess that there your own necessities, or with the power is a god in me. I, who am a poor and of the goddess. Riches and fortune are ignorant citizen. But I am persuaded of in the hands of fate alone. Athene prethe truth of what you assert. My intel sides over prudence; and it is her part to lect lothly confesses that it is the slave of confer prudence upon those who ask it. a divine reason.

Pray, ihen, for this virtue, having first Soc. Which of the gods is in you? considered its meaning. If any supplicant How say you?

is careful to know the nature of the gift Ischom. Which of the gods ? I am he asks, he will always obtain it. unable to discover which it is that in. Soc. Can you tell me the name of this spires me; but whoever it may be, venerable person? I desire greatly to whether Zeus or Hermes, I desire he see and converse with him. may never leave me.

IsČHom. I saw him only on this occaSoc. Is it the same who gave this sion. He resembled no other person that happiness, of which you said that a god I had ever seen. Thus, then, I answerconferred it?

ed : Is it so difficult a matter to discover Ischom. I made offering and supplica- the nature of one's own necessities ? Tell tion to Athene.

me, replied he, if you were about to pray Soc. The power who is divine pru- for prudence, for what would you pray? dence, who presides over the affairs of You mean, said I, to discover whether I the city, and over enterprises.

have a right notion of prudence, or IscHom. The same.

whether I am able to attain such a noSoc. Why to her? Why had she your tion. I do, he answered. Say, then, offerings ?

while we are walking here in the portico, Jschom. I wished to be inspired with (for I perceive you are not yet able to prudence, for the management of my sacrifice successfully,) what is this pruhouse, and the conduct of my affairs. dence which so few possess, but which

none will ask for because they imagine fetters for those who are possessed with they possess it? They, answered I, are it. Is there, then, a power in man which prudent who so conduct their affairs as to restricts the exercise of this quality and secure the greatest good to themselves. disciplines the animal soul, that it shall

PRIEST. You describe the effects of a not utterly absorb and waste the life of certain virtue ; but for the virtue itself, man, or lead him to a blind and isolating let us come a little nearer to a knowledge selfishness. of it.

om. What is this power? I desire Ischom. I confess, reverend sir, it is to know. impossible for me to tell you in the proper Priest, Athene, the divine prudence. words, what I imagine to be the nature Ischom. Is it she, then, that aids us ? of this virtue. But I know that if I saw PRIEST. Yes, it is she; but when you any one acting prudently, I should under- pray, supplicate the divine prudence, stand what I saw.

and name her not, for she has no name; Priest. Say, then, what are the actions neither is she a goddess, or a nymph, but of the prudent man?

of no sex or figure. Ischom. He is careful of his health, Ischom. (Continues.) Thus he instruct. assiduous in business, and avoids danger. ed me. I made my petition to power in

Priest. A prudent man is he, therefore, the manner he advised, and from that pewho, without the least regard for others, riod my felicity began. provides cunningly for the wants and Soc. Did the power confer wealth pleasures of his own body.

upon you ? Ischom. He is, as I think, what you Ischom. I have no more than at that describe.

time ; but the little I have is vastly more Priest. In regard of prudence, it ap- serviceable. pears that men differ in no respect from Soc. Did it never occur to you that this such animals as the rat and the fox; for venerable person might be Athene herthey are wonderfully provident, and ex: self, in the guise of a priest ? cel in cunning and caution. But will IsCHOM. I confess it seemed so. the goddess listen to a prayer such as Soc. I am persuaded that it was a god this : “ Give me, 0 Daughter of Wisdom, who instructed you, speaking out of the the cunning of the fox, the avarice of the body of a man. rat, and the caution of the serpent, for thou Ischom. I believe it; but why should preside it over these ; and I know that thou I be so favored? What had I done to art able to confer them upon whom thou deserve it? pleasest."

Soc. We forget easily what we learn IschoM. Who would dare to offer so late. But now, Ischomachus, you agreed blasphemous a prayer ?

with me in thinking that men differ Priest. Say, then, is prudence a mor from the inferior animals by the favor of tal or an immortal quality ?

the divine powers, who enter into and in. Ischom. I begin to surmise that it is a spire them with reason. Why, then, virtue of the immortal kind.

should not this venerable instructor have PRIEST. And therefore proper to a been a mortal, speaking by the favor of deity ?

an immortal power; a goddess, Athene, IsChoM. Yes; but I am unable to form a god, Zeus, or whom you will ? a true conception of it.

Ischom. What you say appears reaPriest. What can you say of Athene sonable. I cannot object to it. But now herself?

relate to me the fable of Prometheus, not Ischom. That she is the daughter of the one of Eschylus, but that Thracian wisdom, and presides over affairs that re tradition. It seems in some manner to quire prudence.

bear upon our present inquiry. PRIEST. Is that all ? Consider a mo Soc. It does so, and happily. Come, ment. This virtue, it appears, is in the then, let us recline under this olive, and gift of a deity; and we know that it is I will relate it. not conferred upon brutes; but that they, At the close of the golden age, two beon the contrary, exercise a selfish heed ings were produced-Prometheus, whose in which there is no virtue. But we, too, parentage is unknown, and Zeus, the son exercise this heed; and, when it appears of Saturn and Rhea. Saturn ruled over nakedly as in a brute, we instantly con the world, but Zeus deprived him of his demn and execrate it, and even visit it kingdom. Prometheus wandered solita. with punishment and provide laws and rily, planning vengeance in secret against

the usurper. After a time he created a and in some

measure counteract the second race of mortals, in place of those power of Prometheus; with whom, in • who were destroyed by Zeus when he this manner, they maintain perpetual seized the empire of the world. These war. By their means men are become new beings, though animated and intelli- miserable, and contemn their own bodies, gent, were altogether childish and irra- the handiwork of Prometheus. Inspired tional, without foresight and without by Bacchus, Juno and Mars, they rage constancy, but full of love and obedience. against and destroy each other, using Being unable to confer reason upon them foresight and reason. Those who are by his own power, the maker bethought inspired by Apollo, or by Mercury, or himself of a stratagem. He invited the hy Venus Urania, are enslaved and nine principal gods to a banquet, and oppressed by these powers; while the after showing them many wonderful and favorites of Zeus and Pluto suffer all the curious devices of his own invention, he pains and weight of their terrible mas. brought them to a cave in the summit of iers. Of all the deities, one only, the Caucasus, where they heard a mysterious wise Athene, uses man kindly, out of an music issuing from ihe mountain. The ancient affection which she bore their nine deities, overpowered by the charm, maker. entered the cave, and were instantly im. IsChom. I thank you, Socrates, for the prisoned by Prometheus, who rolled a fable. But now, if you are at leisure, rock over the entrance, and held it there let us return to the topic we began with, by the power of his will. When the the instability and insufficiency of human deities found their united strength insuf- reason-of which your last relation is a ficient to remove the rock while Pro- kind of proof; for by this story it appears metheus willed it should remain, they that the gods are not of themselves the began to parley with him, and offered cause of happiness to men, though they one half the universe for ransom. Find- inspire them. Is it not evident that ing him inflexible, they made other larger Athene herself, though she be well-dispromises, vowing that he should be ihe posed toward us, is unable to insure us sovereign of the world, and that they, any good beyond that of her own nature the nine principal gods, should submit and dominion? As for Zeus, Apollo, and themselves in all particulars to his will, the others, they continually inflict misery if he would suffer them to remove the on those who serve them. The gods are rock. When the maker of men had suf- hard masters, and the worse that men ficiently humbled and subdued the gods, are their sole dominion. holding them imprisoned for a thousand Soc. Let us beware how we incur their years, he offered them liberty on this displeasure, or refuse to obey them. The condition: that they should confer reason natural man is unable to sustain his being. upon men by entering into them at birth; If the deities oppress, they also preserve and, resigning in his favor the empire of and elevate the race of men. But who the earth, the sea and the air, should are we that say this? Is it necessary have no other power than such as might always to interpose an allegory between be exerted through the energy of man deity and intellect? himself. Then all the nine gods iook Ischom. Speak, then, without mystery. an oath that they would observe the con I desire to know esoterically what is true. ditions of their ransom from the instant Soc. Hear, then, the ancient doctrine; of their liberation; but when the maker and if it seems absurd, blame the weakof men permitted them to roll away the ness of my language, which is unable to rock, they seized him and bound him express it aright. I received it from with chains of adamant upon the side of Diotime-she who teaches the doctrine Caucasus. Notwithstanding his durance, of Love; but it came to her through he became the sovereign of the elements, Manes the Egyptian, who learned it in and from his snowy throne distributes the temple of Ammon. clouds, commands the winds, and shakes The universe is inspired by three Prin. earth and ocean in the recurring agony ciples, who govern and compose all that

is, and all that exists. The first of these The deities observed with equal care is Phtha, the Primeval Substance, and the other condition of their liberty—that the Being of being, out of whom all they should enter and possess the human things arise, and into whom they return. nature. By means of mortal energies They proceed from him because he wills they rule over and subdue the elements, that they should become. They return

of his rage.

« ElőzőTovább »