175 Pythagorean Aphorisms SEXTUS THE PYTHAGOREAN [ca 300 B.C.]
1. To neglect things of the smallest consequence is not the least thing in human life.
2. The sage and the contemner of wealth most resemble God.
3. Do not investigate the name of God, because you will not find it. For everything called by a name receives its appellation from that which is more worthy than itself, so that it is one person that calls, and another that hears. Who is it, therefore, who has given a name to God? The word God is not a name of his, but an indication of what we conceive of him.
4. God is a light incapable of receiving its opposite (darkness).
5. You have in yourself something similar to God, and therefore use yourself as the temple of God, on account of that which in you resembles God.
6. Honor God above all things, that he may rule over you.
7. Whatever you honor above all things, that which you so honor will have dominion over you. But if you give yourself to the domination of God; you will thus have the dominion over all things.
8. The greatest honor which can be paid to God is to know and imitate him.
9. There is not any thing, indeed, much wholly resembles God; nevertheless the imitation of him as much as possible by an inferior nature is grateful to him.
10. God indeed, is not in want of any thing; the wise man is in want of God alone. He, therefore who is in want of but few things, and the necessary, emulates him who is in want of nothing.
11. Endeavor to be great in the estimation of divinity; but among men avoid envy.
12.The sage whose estimation with man was but small while he was living, will be renowned when he is dead.
13. Consider lost all the time in which you do not think of divinity.
14. A good intellect is the choir of divinity.
15. A bad intellect is the choir of evil geniuses.
16. Honor that which is just, on this very account that it is just.
90. Recognize what God is, and that in you which recognizes God.
91. It is not death; but a bad life, which destroys the soul.
92. If you knew Him by whom you were made, you would know yourself.
93. It is not possible for a man to live conformably to Divinity, unless he acts modestly, well and justly.
94. Divine wisdom is true science.
95. You should not dare to speak of God to an impure soul.
96. The wise man follows God, and God follows the [soul] of the wise man.
97. A king rejoices in those he governs, and therefore God rejoices in the wise man. He who governs likewise, is inseparable from those he governs; and therefore God is inseparable from the soul of the wise man, which He defends and governs.
98. The wise man is governed by God, and on this account is blessed.
99. A scientific knowledge of God causes a man to use but few words.
100. To use many words in speaking of God obscures the subject.
101. The man who possesses a knowledge of God will not be very ambitious.
102. The erudite, chaste and wise soul is the prophet of the truth of God.
103. Accustom yourself always to look to the Divinity.
104. A wise intellect is the mirror of God.
( These sentences were preserved by Rufinus, a Christian writer, who would not have taken the trouble to do so unless indeed their intrinsic worth had been as great as it is. )
From the PROTREPTICS OF IAMBLICHUS
105. As we live through soul, it must be said that by the virtue of this we do live well; just as because we see through. the eyes, we see well through their virtues.
106. It must not be thought that gold can be injured by rust, or virtue by baseness.
107. We should betake ourselves to virtue as to an invisible temple, so that we may not be exposed to any ignoble insolence of soul, with respect to our communion with, and continuance in life.
108. We should confide in virtue as in a chaste wife; but trust to fortune as to an inconsistent mistress.
109. It is better that virtue should be received accompanied by poverty, than wealth with violence; and frugality with health, than veracity with disease.
110. An overabundance of food is harmful to the body; but the body is preserved when the soul is disposed in a becoming manner.
111. It is as dangerous to give power to a depraved man, than a sword to a madman.
112. As it is better for a part of the body that contains purulent decay to be burned, than to continue as it is, thus also is it better for a depraved man to die, than to continue to live.
113. The theorems of philosophy are to be enjoyed, as much as possible, as if they were ambrosia and nectar. For the resultant pleasure is genuine incorruptible and divine. They are also capable of producing magnanimity, and though they cannot make us eternal, yet they enable us to obtain a scientific knowledge of eternal natures.
114. If vigor of sensation is, as it is, considered to be desirable, so much more strenuously should we endeavor to obtain prudence; for it is, as it were, the sensitive vigor of the practical intellect, which we contain. And as through the former we are not deceived in sensible perceptions, so through the latter we avoid false reasonings in practical affairs.
115. We shall properly venerate Divinity if we purify our intellect from vice, as from a stain.
116. A temple should, indeed, be adorned with gifts; but our soul with disciplines.
117. As the lesser mysteries are to be delivered before the greater, thus also discipline must precede philosophy.
118. The fruits of the earth, indeed, appear annually; but the fruits of philosophy ripen at all seasons.
119. As he who wishes the best fruit must pay most attention to the land, so must the greatest attention be paid the soul, if it is to produce fruits worthy of its nature.
120. Do not even think of doing what ought not to be done.
121. Choose rather to be strong in soul, than in body.
122. Be sure that laborious thing contribute to virtue, more than do pleasurable things.
123. Every passion of the soul is most hostile to its salvation.
124. Pythagoras said that it is most difficult simultaneously to walk in many paths of life.
125. Pythagoras said that we must choose the best life; for custom will make it pleasant. Wealth is a weak anchor; glory, still weaker; and similarly with the body, dominion, and honor. Which anchors are strong? Prudence, magnanimity and fortitude; these can be shaken by no tempest. This is the law of God, that virtue is the only thing strong, all else is a trifle. (Taylor thinks that this and the next six sentences are wrongly attributed to Socrates, and are by Democrates or Demophilus).
127. As a statue stands immovable on its pedestal, so should a man on his deliberate choice, if he is worthy.
128. Incense is for the Gods, but praise to good men.
129. Men unjustly accused of acting unjustly should be defended, while those who excel should be praised.
130. It is not the sumptuous adornment of the horse that earns him praise, but the nature of the horse himself; nor is the man worthy merely because he owns great wealth, but he whose soul is generous.
131. When the wise man opens his mouth, the beauties of his soul present themselves to view as the statues in a temple (when the gates are opened).
132. Remind yourself that all men assert that wisdom is the greatest good, but that there are few who strenuously endeavor to obtain this greatest good. Ñ Pythagoras.
l33. Be sober, and remember to be disposed to believe; for these are the nerves of wisdom. ---Epicharmus.
134. It is better to live lying on the grass, confiding in divinity and yourself, than to lie on a golden bed with perturbation.
135. You will not be in want of anything, which is in the power of Fortune to give or take away. Ñ Pythagoras.
136. Despise all those things which you will not want when liberated from the body; and exercising yourself in those things of which you will be in want, when liberated from the body, be sure to invoke the Gods to become your helpers. Ñ Pythagoras.
137. It is as impossible to conceal fire in a garment, as a base deviation from rectitude in time. (Demophilus, rather than Socrates).
138. Wind increases fire, but custom, love. Ibidem. 139. Only those are dear to divinity who are hostile to injustice. (Democritus or Demophilus).
140. Bodily necessities are easily procured by anybody; without labor or molestation; but those things whose attainment demands effort and trouble, are objects of desire not to the body, but to depraved opinion. (Aristoxenus the Pythagorean).
141. Thus spoke Pythagoras of desire: This passion is various, laborious and very multiform. Of desires, however, some are acquired and artificial, while others are inborn. Desire is a certain tendency and impulse of the soul, and an appetite of fullness, or presence of sense, or of an emptiness and absence of it, and of non-perception. The three best known kinds of depraved desire are the improper, the unproportionate, and the unseasonable. For desire is either immediately indecorous, troublesome or illiberal; or if not absolutely so, it is improperly vehement and persistent. Or, in the third place, it is impelled at an improper time, or towards improper objects .—Aristoxenus.
142. Pythagoras said: Endeavor not, to conceal your errors by words, but to remedy them by reproofs.
143. Pythagoras said: It is not so difficult to err, as not to reprove him who errs.
144. As a bodily disease cannot be healed, if it is concealed or praised, thus also can neither a remedy be applied to a diseased soul, which is badly guarded and protected. Ñ Pythagoras.
145. The grace of freedom of speech, like beauty in season, is productive of greater delight.
146. To have a blunt sword is as improper as to use ineffectual freedom of speech.
147. As little could you deprive the world of the sun, as freedom of speech from erudition.
148. As one who is clothed with a cheap robe may have a good body-habit, thus also may he whose life is poor possess freedom of speech.
149. Pythagoras said: Prefer those that reprove, to those that flatter; but avoid flatterers as much as enemies.
150. The life of the avaricious resembles a funeral banquet. For though it has all desirable elements, no one rejoices.
151. Pythagoras said: Acquire continence as the greatest strength and health.
152. “Not frequently man from man,” is one of the exhortations of Pythagoras; by which obscurely he signifies that it is not proper frequently to engage in sexual connections.
153. Pythagoras said: A slave to his passions cannot possibly be free.
154. Pythagoras said that intoxication is the preparation for insanity.
155. On being asked how a wine-lover might be cured of intoxication Pythagoras said: “If he frequently considers what were his actions during intoxication."
156. Pythagoras said that unless you had something better than silence to say, you had better keep silence.
157. Pythagoras said, that rather than utter an idle word, you had better throw a stone in vain.
158. Pythagoras said: “Say not few things in many words, but much in few words."
159. Epicharmus said: “To men genius is a divinity, either good or evil."
160. On being asked how a man ought to behave towards his country when it had acted unjustly towards him, Pythagoras said, “As to a mother.”
161. Traveling teaches a man frugality, and self-sufficiency. The sweetest remedies for hunger and weariness are bread made of milk and floury on a bed of grass. (Democritus, probably Democrates or Demophilus; also the next one).
162. Every land is equally suitable as a residence for the wise man; the worthy soul's fatherland is the whole world.
163. Pythagoras said that into cities entered first, luxury; then being glutted; then lascivious, insolence, and last destruction.
164. Pythagoras said that was the best city which contained the worthiest men.
165. Pythagoras added to Demophilus's maxim that “you should do those things that you judge to be beautiful, though in doing them you should lack renown; for the rabble is a bad judge of a good thing.” The words, “Therefore despise the reprehension of those whose praise you despise.”
166. Pythagoras said that those who do not punish bad men, are really wishing that good men be injured.
167. Pythagoras said: “Not without a bridle can a horse be governed, and no less riches without prudence.”
168. The prosperous man who is vain is no better than the driver of a race on a slippery road. (Socrates? Probably Democrates, or Demophilus).
169. There is no gate of wealth so secure but that may open to the opportunity of Fortune. (Democritus? Probably Democrates or Demophilus).
170. The unrestrained grief of a torpid soul may be expelled by reasoning. (Democrates, not Democritus).
171. Poverty should be born with equanimity by a wise man. (Same).
172. Pythagoras: Spare your life, lest you consume it with sorrow and care.
173. Phavorinus in speaking of Old Age, said: Nor will I be silent as to this particular, that both to Plato and Pythagoras, it appeared that old age was not to be considered with reference to an egress from the present life, but to the beginning of a blessed one.
From CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, Strom. 3: 415.
174. Philolaus said that the ancient theologians and priests testified that the soul is united to the body by a certain punishment, and that it is buried in this body as a sepulchre.
175. Pythagoras said that “Whatever we see when awake is death, and when asleep is a dream.”