A TREATISE ON FUGITIVES.
I. “And Sarah afflicted her, and she fled from before her face. And the angel of the Lord found her sitting by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by a fountain which is in the way to Shur. And the angel of the Lord said unto her: “‘Thou handmaiden of Sarah, whence art thou come? and whither art thou going?’ And she answered and said: ‘I am fleeing from the face of Sarah, my mistress.’ And the angel of the Lord said unto her: 'Return unto thy mistress, and be thou humbled beneath her hands.’ And the angel of the Lord said unto her: ‘Behold, thou art with child, and thou shalt bring forth a son, and shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has heard the cry of thy humiliation. He shall be a rude man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.’” [Genesis xvi. 8.]
Having in our former treatise spoken what was becoming respecting the preliminary branches of education, and respecting affliction, we will now proceed in regular order to discuss the topic of fugitives. Now Moses often mentions persons who flee, as here he says concerning Hagar, that being afflicted she fled from the face of her mistress. I think therefore that there are three causes for flight -- hatred, fear, and shame. Now women leave their husbands out of hatred, and for the same reason men desert their wives. But children flee from their parents, and servants from their masters, out of fear. And lastly, friends avoid their companions out of shame, when they have done anything which is displeasing to them. And before now I have known instances of fathers who have led a life of effeminate luxury, reverencing the austere and philosophical lives of their sons, and out of shame preferring to live in the country rather than in the city.
Now of all these three causes, one may find instances revealed in the sacred scriptures Accordingly, Jacob, the practicer of virtue, fled from his father-in-law Laban out of hatred, and from his brother Esau out of fear, as I shall show presently. But Hagar flees out of shame. And a proof of this is, that the angel, that is the word of God, met her, with the intent to recommend her what she ought to do, and to guide her in her return to her mistress’s house. For he encouraged her, and said unto her: “The Lord has heard the cry of thy humiliation,” which you uttered, not out of fear, nor yet out of hatred. For the one is the feeling of an ignoble soul, and the other of one which loves contention, but under the influence of that copy of temperance and modesty, shame. For it was natural, if she had fled out of fear, that he would have encouraged her mistress, who was holding out threats to alarm her, to comfort her, and to restore her to tranquillity. For then it would have been safe for the fugitive to return, and not before. But no one intercedes for her to her mistress, inasmuch as she was already appeased by herself. But this angel, who is reproof, at the same time friendly and full of advice, out of his good-will teaches her not to feel only shame, but also to entertain confidence, for that modesty is but half a virtue, when separated from proper boldness.
II. Therefore the account which follows will show these characteristics more accurately. But we must return to the heads of the question which we have already set forth, and begin with those who flee under the influence of hatred. “For,” says the scripture, “Jacob concealed his purpose from Laban the Syrian, so as not to tell him that he was fleeing, and he fled, he and all that he had.” [Genesis xvi. 8.] What then was the cause of his hatred? For perhaps you are desirous to hear this.
There are some persons who make to themselves gods of substance destitute of all distinctive quality, and species, and shape, neither knowing the cause which puts things in motion, nor showing any anxiety to learn of those who do know, but being contented with their ignorance and want of understanding of the most important kind of learning, which was in fact the first and only thing of which it was absolutely necessary to labor for the understanding. Laban now is one of this kind of persons; for the sacred scriptures attribute to him a flock devoid of all distinctive marks. And matter, without any distinctive characteristics, is without any marks in the universe, and so is in men the soul, which is destitute of learning and which has no instructors. But there are others who belong to a better portion, who say that the mind has come and arranged everything, bringing the disorder which arose from an ochlocracy among all existing things, into the order established by the legitimate authority of kingly power. Of this company Jacob is a follower, who presides over the marked and party-colored flock.
On the other hand the species in the universe is distinguished by marks and is of varied color, and so also in men is the mind which has been well instructed and which is fond of learning. And he who is marked, and who is the companion of true kingly power, having received a great deal of the social affection from nature, goes to him who has no distinguishing marks, and who, as I have said, makes himself gods of the material powers, and who thinks that besides them there is no effectual cause of anything, to teach him that his opinions are not correct. For the world has been created, and has by all means derived its existence from some extraneous cause. But the word itself of the Creator is the seal by which each of existing things is invested with form. In accordance with which fact perfect species also does from the very beginning follow things when created, as being an impression and image of the perfect word. For the animal when first created is imperfect as to quantity; and a proof of this is the gradual growth which takes place at each successive age. But it is perfect as to quality. For the same quality remains in it, as having been stamped upon it by the divine word which abides permanently and never charges.
III. But seeing that he is dumb with respect to learning and to all desirable and legitimate authority, he very naturally thinks of flight. For he is afraid that in addition to not being able to derive any advantage, he may even be injured. For all connection with the foolish injures us, and very often the soul against its will becomes stamped with the impression of their insanity of mind. And, in truth, instruction is naturally a thing inimical to ignorance, and so is industry to indifference. In reference to which fact the powers devoted to practice and meditation, when they are set free, cry out, giving a full account of the causes of their hatred: “Have we not any longer a share and an inheritance in the house of our father? Are we not now accounted aliens by him? For he has sold us, and he has eaten up and devoured our money. All the wealth and all the glory which God took from our father shall belong to us and to our children.” [Genesis xxxi. 14.] For those who are free both in name and also in their minds do not consider any foolish person as either rich or glorious, but look upon all such persons, so to say, as inglorious and poor, even if they exceed the fortune of wealthy kings. For they do not say that they will have the riches of their father, but the riches which have been taken away; nor do they say that they shall possess his glory, but the glory which has been taken away from him.
But the wicked man is deprived of all genuine riches and of all true and honorable glory; for these blessings are procured by wisdom, and temperance, and the kindred dispositions of the soul, and are inherited by those souls which love virtue. Therefore, it is not the things which belong to the wicked man, but those of which he is destitute, that are the abundance and the glory of the good. And he is destitute of virtues which are their possession, in order that what is said in another place may be consistent with the passage already quoted: “Let us sacrifice the abominations of Egypt to the Lord our God.” [Exodus viii. 26.] For the virtues are perfect and blameless offerings, and so are the actions in accordance with virtue, which the Egyptian body, being devoted to the passions, abominates; for, as in this passage, those things which, according to the principles of natural philosophy, are reckoned profane among the Egyptians are called sacred by the Israelites who see acutely, and are all offered as sacrifices; so, in the same manner, the man who is the companion of virtue will be the heir of those things of which every foolish man is deprived and destitute.
And these things are true glory, which in fact differs in no respect from knowledge, and wealth, not blind wealth, but that which is the most sharp-sighted of all existing things, which never receives any base money, not even anything whatever devoid of life unless it be thoroughly tried and approved. Very naturally, therefore, that person will flee from him who has no participation in divine blessings, who even in the matters in which he accuses another does without perceiving it accuse himself also, when he says, “If thou hadst told me I would have sent thee away.” [Genesis xxxi. 27.] For this very thing was a worthy cause for your being deserted, if you, being the servant of an infinite number of masters, pretending to have been invested with command and authority, proclaimed liberty to others.
But I, says he, did not take a man as my assistant in the road which leads to virtue, but I listened to the divine oracles which enjoined me to depart from hence, and which even now continue to direct my course. And how would you have sent me away? surely, as you boast, using pompous language, with a joy which to me would have been sorrowful, with music which would have been no music, with dances, and noises destitute of articulate sound and of reason, striking blows on the soul through the medium of the ears, and with the harp, and with sounds unsuited to the lyre, and unsuited to harmony, not being so much organs, as the actions of a whole life. But these are the things by reason of which I meditated flight; but you, as it seems, contemplated dragging me back from my flight, in order that I might return on account of the deceitful and seductive nature of the external senses, by which I was scarcely able to permit myself to be carried forward.
IV. Hatred then, was the cause of the flight which I have been here describing; but fear was the cause of the one which I am about to mention. For, says the sacred historian, Rebekkah said unto Jacob, “Behold, Esau thy brother threateneth to kill thee: now therefore, my son, hear my voice, and rise up, and flee to Laban my brother, to Charran, and dwell with him certain days, until the anger of thy brother is turned away, and he forget what thou hast done unto him; and then I will send again, and fetch thee back from thence.” [Genesis xxvii. 42.] For it was worth while to fear, lest the worse portion of the soul, lying in an ambuscade, or else moving forwards openly to the attack, might overthrow and cast down the better part; and so the counsel of the right-minded perseverance, Rebekkah, was very good.
But she says, when you see the bad man coming in with great impetuosity, against virtue, and making great account of those things which it is more proper to disregard, such as wealth, glory, and pleasure, and praising the performance of actions of injustice, as being the cause of all the advantages before mentioned: for we see that those who act unjustly, are, for the most part, men possessed of much silver, and of much gold, and of high reputation. Do not then, turn away to the opposite road, and devote yourself to a life of penury, and abasement, and austerity, and solitude; for, by so doing, you will irritate your adversary, and arm a more bitter enemy against yourself. Consider, therefore, now by what conduct you may avoid his attacks; apply yourself to the same things, I do not mean the same pursuits, but to the same things which are the efficient causes of those things which have been mentioned; to honors, to offices of authority, to silver, to gold, to possessions, to money, to colors, to forms, to exceeding nicety; and when you meet with such things, then, like a skillful workman, impress the most beautiful appearance on the material substances: and perfect a most excellent work. Do you not know, that if a man unacquainted with navigation, takes the management of a ship, which might otherwise have reached the harbor in safety, he overturns it? but that a man, skillful as a pilot, has often saved a ship which otherwise must have been lost? And also, some sick persons, owing to the unskillfulness of their medical attendants, have been severely afflicted with disease; while others, through the skill of their doctors, have escaped from dangerous sicknesses? And why need I have been prolix on this point; for always the things which are done with skill, are a conviction of those which are done unskillfully; and the true praise of the one is an unerring accusation of the other.
V. If therefore, you wish to convict a wicked man, who is also possessed of great wealth, do not disdain an abundance of money; for the unhappy man will soon show himself in his true colors, either as an illiberal and slavish-minded skin-flint, and parer of people by usury, or else as a profligate and intemperate spendthrift, very ready to devour and to squander, and a most zealous companion of harlots and brothel-keepers, and pimps, and of every kind of profligate company. But you will rather bestow your contributions on those who are in want of friends, and will do favors to, and bestow your liberality on, your country, and will assist to portion out the daughters of needy parents, giving them, in addition to their inheritance, a most sufficient dowry; and in fact, very nearly throwing all your own property into the common stock, you will invite to a participation in it all who are worthy of favor.
And, in the same manner, when you wish to reprove any wicked man who is mad with a high opinion of himself and full of boasting, while you are able yourself to attain to distinguished honors, do not disdainfully reject the praise of the multitude: for by so doing you will trip up and supplant the miserable man who takes long strides, and who gives himself airs. For he will abuse his own renown for the purpose of behaving with insolence and contumely to others who are better than he, promoting those who are worse, so as to set them above them; while you, on the contrary, will give all worthy persons a share in your renown, giving in this manner security to those who are good, and by your admonitions improving those who are not so good. And if you ever go to a drinking party or to a costly entertainment, go with a good confidence; for you will put to shame the intemperate man by your own dexterity. For he, falling on his belly, and opening his insatiable desires even before he opens his mouth, will glut himself in a most shameless and indecorous manner, and will seize the things belonging to his neighbor, and will lick up everything without thinking.
And when he is completely sated with eating, then drinking, as the poets say, with his mouth open, he will make himself an object for the laughter and ridicule of all those who behold him. But do you adopt a moderate course without being compelled thereto, and if ever you are constrained to indulge yourself in things beyond moderation, still make reason the governor of the necessity, and never go so far as to change pleasure into unpleasantness, but, if we may speak in such a manner, be drunk in a sober manner.
VI. And here therefore truth may not unreasonably blame those who, without any examination, abandon the business and means of regulating a civil life, and who say that they have learnt to despise glory and pleasure; for those men are behaving insolently, and do not really despise these things, making an open boast of their sordid, and melancholy, and stern appearance, and putting forth their austere and dirty way of living as a bait, as if they were lovers of orderly behavior, and modesty, and endurance; but they are not able to deceive those who look into them with greater accuracy, and who pierce within their disguise, and who are not led astray by outward show; for having removed these veils and coverings from the others, they see what is treasured up and concealed within, and learn what kind of qualities and nature are theirs: and if they are good they admire them, and if they are evil they ridicule them, and hate them because of their hypocrisy.
Let us then say to such persons, “Are ye zealous admirers and imitators of a life which hates mixing with and joining in the society of others, a solitary and uncompanionable life? For what specimen of virtue have you ever exhibited while living in the society of others? Do ye disdain money? Have you, then, who have been professed money-dealers, been desirous to act justly? Professing to disregard the pleasures of the belly and of the parts beneath the belly, have you behaved with moderation when you have had abundant opportunities of indulging these appetites? Do you despise glory? Then, when you have been placed in situations of authority, have you cultivated an affable humility? Perhaps you have ridiculed a participation in the affairs of state, not considering how useful an employment that is. Have you then first exercised yourselves in, and directed your attention to, the public and the private business of life? and having become skillful politicians and experienced economists by means of the kindred virtues of economical and political science, have you, in your exceeding abundance of these things, prepared for your migration to another and a better kind of life? For it is proper to go through a practical life before beginning the theoretical one: as being a sort of rehearsal of the more perfect contest and exhibition.”
In this way it is possible to escape from the charge of hesitation and indolence. Thus also an express injunction is given to the Levites to fulfill their works till the time that they are fifty years of age; and after they are released from all active ministrations, to consider and contemplate each particular thing, receiving as a reward for their well-doing in active life, another life which delights only in knowledge and contemplation. And at other times it is necessary that those who think themselves worthy to claim the just things of God, should first of all fulfill their human duties; for it is great folly to expect to attain to what is of greater importance, while one is unable properly to discharge what is of less consequence. First of all, therefore, be ye known for your virtue among men, that you may also become established by that which relates to God. This is the advice which perseverance gives to the man inclined to the practice of virtue; but we must now examine her several expressions with accuracy.
“Behold,” says she, “Esau thy brother threatens thee.” But is it not natural for that disposition, hard as oak and obstinate through ignorance, by name Esau, who offers the baits of mortal life to lead you to your destruction; such baits, I mean, as wealth, glory, pleasure, and other kindred temptations, to seek to kill thee? But do you, O my child! flee from this contest at present, for you have not as yet had complete strength for it given to you, but still the nerves of your soul, like those of a child, are somewhat soft and weak. And it is for this reason that she calls him “my child,” which is a name of affection, and also one which indicates his tender age; for we look upon the disposition which is inclined to the practice of virtue, and which is young, as worthy of affection in comparison of the full-grown man.
But such a person is worthy to carry off the prizes which are proposed for children, but he is not yet able to win the prizes offered for the men. But the best contest for men to engage in is the service of the only God. Therefore if, even before we have been completely purified, but while we appear only to have proceeded so far as to wash off the things which defile our life, we have arrived at the vestibule of God’s service, we departed again more quickly than we approached, not being able to endure the austere way of living dictated by that service, nor the sleepless desire to please God, nor the continual and unwearied labor; flee, therefore, at this present time from what is best and from what is worst. What is worst are the fabulous inventions, the unmetrical and inharmonious poems, the conceptions and persuasions which from ignorance are hard and stubborn, of which Esau is the namesake. What is best is the offering; for the race inclined to service is an offering meet for God, being consecrated to him alone in the great chief priesthood; for to dwell with what is evil is most pernicious, and to dwell with perfect good is most dangerous. Accordingly Jacob both flees from Esau, and also dwells apart from his parents; for being fond of practicing virtue and still laboring at it, he flees from wickedness, and yet is unable to live in company with perfect virtue so as to have no need of an instructor.
VIII. On which account we read, “He will depart to Laban,” not to him as the Syrian, but as the brother of his mother; that is to say, he will go to the brilliancies of life; for Laban, being interpreted, means “white.” And when he has arrived there he will not hold his head too high, from being puffed up with the happy events of fortune; for the word Syrian, being translated, means “sublime.” But now he does not recollect the Syrian Laban, but the brother of Rebekkah; for the means of life being given to a bad man, inflate and raise up to a great height the mind which is devoid of wisdom, which is called the Syrian; but if they are bestowed on a lover of instruction, then they make the mind inclined to abide by the steady and solid doctrines of virtue and excellence. This is the brother of Rebekkah, that is to say, of perseverance, and he dwells in Charran, which name, being interpreted, means “holes,” a symbol of the external senses; for he who is still moving about in mortal life has need of the organs of the external senses. “Dwell, therefore,” says she, “O my child, with him,” not all thy life, but “certain days;” that is to say, learn to be acquainted with the country of the external senses; know thyself and thy own parts, and what each is, and for what end it was made, and how it is by nature calculated to energize, and who it is who moves those marvellous things, and pulls the strings, being himself invisible, in an invisible manner, whether it is the mind that is in thee, or the mind of the universe.
And when you have become thoroughly acquainted with yourself, then examine accurately also the peculiar qualities of Laban; the things which are accounted brilliant instances of the success of empty glory; but do not you be deceived by any one of them, but like a good workman adapt them all in a skillful manner to your own necessities; for if, while immersed in this political and much confused life, you display a stable and well-instructed disposition, I will send for you from thence that you may receive the same prize which also your parents received: and the prize is the unchangeable and unhesitating service of the only wise God.
IX. And his father also gives him similar precepts, adding a few trifling injunctions; for he says, “Rise up and flee into Mesopotamia, to the house of Bethuel, the father of thy mother, and from thence take a wife to thyself of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother.” [Genesis xxviii. 2.] Again, he also forbears to speak of Laban as a Syrian, but he calls him Rebekkah’s brother, who is about to form a connection with the practicer of virtue by means of intermarriage.
Flee, therefore, into Mesopotamia, that is to say, into the middle of the rapid torrent of life, and take care not to be washed away and swallowed up by its whirlpools, but standing firmly, vigorously repel the violent, impetuous course of affairs which overflows and rushes upon thee from above, from both sides, and from every quarter; for you will find the house of wisdom a calm and secure haven, which will gladly receive you when you are anchored within it.
But Bethuel in the sacred scriptures is called wisdom; and this name, being translated, means “the daughter of God;” and the legitimate daughter, always a virgin, having received a nature which shall never be touched or defiled, both on account of her own orderly decency, and also because of the high dignity of her Father. And he calls Bethuel the father of Rebekkah. How, then, can the daughter of God, namely, wisdom, be properly called a father? is it because the name indeed of wisdom is feminine but the sex masculine? For indeed all the virtues bear the names of women, but have the powers and actions of most full-grown men, since whatever is subsequent to God, even if it be the most ancient of all other things, still has only the second place when compared with that omnipotent Being, and appears not so much masculine as feminine, in accordance with its likeness to the other creatures; for as the male always has the precedence, the female falls short, and is inferior in rank.
We say, therefore, without paying any attention to the difference here existing in the names, that wisdom, the daughter of good, is both male and a father, and that it is that which sows the seed of, and which begets learning in, souls, and also education, and knowledge, and prudence, all honorable and praiseworthy things. And from this source it is that Jacob, the practicer of wisdom, seeks to procure a wife for himself; for from what other quarter should he seek a partner rather than from the house of wisdom? and where else should he find an opinion free from all reproach, with which to live all his life? [...]
X. But Moses has spoken more accurately about flights when he was establishing the law with respect to homicides, in which he goes through every species of homicide, that of intentional murder, that of unintentional slaying, that of murder by deliberate attack, or by crafty treachery. Repeat the law : “If any man strike another and he die, the striker shall die the death. And if a man do it not intentionally, but if God delivers him into his hand, then I will give thee a place to which he who has slain another shall flee. And if any one set upon his neighbor to slay him by treachery, and flee away, thou shalt drag him even from the altar to put him to death.” [Exodus xxi. 12.] Knowing very well that the law is here adding no superfluous word from any indescribable impetuosity in its description of the matter, I doubted within myself why it does not merely say that he who has slain another shall die, and why it has added, that he shall die the death; for how else does any one die, who dies at all, except dying the death?
Therefore, betaking myself for instruction to a wise woman, whose name is Consideration, I was released from my difficulty, for she taught me that some persons who are living are dead, and that some who are dead still live: she pronounced that the wicked, even if they arrive at the latest period of old age, are only dead, inasmuch as they are deprived of life according to virtue; but that the good, even if they are separated from all union with the body, live for ever, inasmuch as they have received an immortal portion.
XI. Moreover, she confirmed this opinion of hers by the sacred scriptures, one of which ran in this form: “You who cleave unto the Lord your God are all alive to this day:” [Deuteronomy iv. 4] for she saw that these who sought refuge with God and became his suppliants, were the only living persons, and that all others were dead. And Moses, it seems, testifies to the immortality of those persons, when he adds, “You are all alive to this day;” and this day is interminable eternity, from which there is no departure; for the periods of months, and years, and, in short, all the divisions of time, are only the inventions of men doing honor to number. But the unerring proper name of eternity is “to-day;” for the sun is always the same, without ever changing, going at one time beneath the earth, and at another time above the earth, and by him it is that day and night, the measures of time, are distinguished.
She also confirmed her statement by another passage in scripture of the following purport: “Behold, I have set before thy face life and death, good and evil.” [Deuteronomy xxx. 15.] Therefore, O all-wise man, good and virtue mean life, and evil and wickedness mean death. And in another passage we read, “This is thy life, and thy length of days, to love the Lord thy God.” [Deuteronomy xxx. 20.] This is the most admirable definition of immortal life, to be occupied by a love and affection for God unembarrassed by any connection with the flesh or with the body. Thus, the priests, Nadab and Abihu, die in order that they may live; taking an immortal existence in exchange for this mortal life, and departing from the creature to the uncreated God. And it is with reference to this fact that the symbols of incorruptibility are thus celebrated: “Then they died before the Lord;” [Leviticus x. 2] that is to say, they lived; for it is not lawful for any dead person to come into the sight of the Lord.
And again, this is what the Lord himself has said, “I will be sanctified in those who come nigh unto me.” [Leviticus x. 3.] “But the dead,” as it is also said in the Psalms, “shall not praise the Lord,” [Psalm cxiii. 25] for that is the work of the living; but Cain, that shameless man, that fratricide, is no where spoken of in the law as dying; but there is an oracle delivered respecting him in such words as these: “The Lord God put a mark upon Cain, as a sign that no one who found him should kill him.” [Genesis iv. 15.] Why so? Because, I imagine, wickedness is an evil which can never end, but which is kindled and is never able to be extinguished; so that the lines of the poet may well be applied to wickedness --
And she is of no mortal race,
Immortal, indeed, as to the life among us on earth, since with reference to the life with God it is lifeless and dead, and as some one has said, more worthless and odious than dung.
XII. But it was by all means necessary that different regions should be assigned to different things, the heaven to good things, the earth to what is evil; for the tendency of good is to soar on high, and if it ever comes down to us, for its Father is very bounteous, it still is very justly anxious to return again to heaven. But evil remains here, living at the greatest possible distance from the divine choir, always hovering around mortal life, and unable to die from among the human race. This, too, one of the most eminent among the men who have been admired for their wisdom has asserted, speaking in a magnificent strain in the Theaetetus, where he says, “But it is impossible for evils to come to an end. For it is indispensable that there should always be something in opposition to God. And it is equally impossible that it should have its place in the divine regions; but it must of necessity hover around mortal nature and this place where we live; on which account we ought to endeavor to flee from this place as speedily as possible. And our flight will be a likening of ourselves to God, to the best of our power. And such a likening consists of being just and holy in conjunction with prudence.” [Plato, Theaetetus.] Very naturally, therefore, Cain, the symbol of wickedness, will not die, for wickedness must of necessity be always alive in the mortal race of mankind; so that the expression, “to die the death,” is not incorrectly spoken of the homicide, for the reasons which have here been given.
XIII. And the expression, “not intentionally, but if God deliver him into his hand,” is used with exceeding propriety with reference to those who commit an unintentional homicide; for it seems to Moses here, that our Intentional actions are the fruit of our own mind and will, but that our unintentional actions proceed from the will of God. I mean by this, not our sins, but, on the contrary, those things which are the punishment of our sins; for it is not becoming for God himself to inflict punishment, as being the first and most excellent Lawgiver; but he punishes by the ministry of others, and not by his own act. It is very suitable to his character that he himself should bestow his graces, and his free gifts, and his great benefits, inasmuch as he is by nature good and bountiful. But it is not fitting that he should inflict his punishments further than by his mere command, inasmuch as he is a king; but he must act in this by the instrumentality of others, who are suitable for such purposes.
And the practicer of virtue, Jacob, bears his testimony in support of this doctrine of mine, where he says, “The God who has nourished me from my youth up, the angel who delivered me from all my evils.” [Genesis xlviii. 15.] For the more ancient benefits, those by which the soul is nourished, he attributes to God, but the more recent ones, which are caused by the errors of the soul, he attributes to the servant of God. On this account, I imagine it is, that when Moses was speaking philosophically of the creation of the world, while he described every thing else as having been created by God alone, he mentions man alone as having been made by him in conjunction with other assistants; for, says Moses, “God said, Let us make man in our image.” [Genesis i. 26.] The expression, “let us make,” indicating a plurality of makers. Here, therefore, the Father is conversing with his own powers, to whom he has assigned the task of making the mortal part of our soul, acting in imitation of his own skill while he was fashioning the rational part within us, thinking it right that the dominant part within the soul should be the work of the Ruler of all things, but that the part which is to be kept in subjection should be made by those who are subject to him. And he made us of the powers which were subordinate to him, not only for the reason which has been mentioned, but also because the soul of man alone was destined to receive notions of good and of evil, and to choose one of the two, since it could not adopt both. Therefore, he thought it necessary to assign the origin of evil to other workmen than himself,-- but to retain the generation of good for himself alone.
XIV. On which account, after Moses had already put in God’s mouth this expression, “Let us make man,” as if speaking to several persons, he adds, as if he were speaking only of one, “God made man.” For, in fact, the one God alone is the sole Creator of the real man, who is the purest mind; but a plurality of workmen are the makers of that which is called man, the being compounded of external senses; for which reason the especial real man is spoken of with the article; for the words of Moses are, “The God made the man;” that is to say, he made that reason destitute of species and free from all admixture. But he speaks of man in general without the addition of the article; for the expression, “Let us make man,” shows that he means the being compounded of irrational and rational nature.
In accordance with this he has also not attributed the blessing of the virtuous and the cursing of the wicked to the same ministers, though both these offices receive praise. But since the blessing of the good has the precedence in panegyrics, and the affixing curses on the wicked is in the second rank of those who are appointed for these duties (and they are the chiefs, and leaders of the race, twelve in number, whom it is customary to call the patriarchs), he has assigned the better six, who are the best for the task of blessing, namely, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin; and the others he has appointed for the curses, namely, the first and last sons of Leah, Reuben, and Zabulon, and the four bastard sons by the handmaidens; for the chiefs of the royal tribe, and of the tribe consecrated to the priesthood, Judah and Levi, are reckoned in the former class.
Very naturally, therefore, does God give up those who have done deeds worthy of death to the hands of others for punishment, wishing to teach us that the nature of evil is banished to a distance from the divine choir, since even punishment, which, though a good, has in it some imitation of evil, is confirmed by others. And the expression, “I will give thee a place to which he who has slain a man unintentionally shall flee,” appears to me to be spoken with exceeding propriety; for what he calls a place is not a region filled by the body, but is rather, in a figure, God himself, because he, surrounding all things, is not surrounded himself, and because he is that to which all things flee for refuge. It is proper, therefore, for him who appears to have been involuntarily changed to say that this change has come upon him by the divine will, just as it is not proper for him to say so who has done evil of his own accord; and he says that he will give this place, not to him who has slain the man, but to him with whom he is conversing, so that the inhabitant of it shall be one person, but he who flees to it for refuge another; for God has given his own word a country to inhabit, namely, his own knowledge, as if it were a native of it. But to the man who is under the pollution of involuntary error he has given a foreign home as to a stranger, not a country as to a citizen.
XV. Having now said thus much in a philosophical spirit with respect to involuntary offenses, he proceeds to legislate concerning the man who rises up to attack another, or who treacherously plots his death, saying, “But if any one attacks his neighbor so as to slay him by treachery, and he flees to God,” that is to say to the place which has already been spoken of under a figure, from which life is given to all men. For he says also in another passage: “Whosoever shall flee thither shall live.” But is not everlasting life a fleeing for refuge to the living God? and is not a fleeing from his presence death? But if anyone sets upon another, he by all means is committing iniquity by deliberate purpose, and that which is done with treachery is liable to be accounted among voluntary actions, just as, on the other hand, that which is done without treachery is not subject to blame. There is nothing therefore of the wicked actions which are done secretly, and treacherously, and of malice aforethought, which we can properly say are done through the will of God, but they are done only through our own will. For, as I have said before, the storehouses of wickedness are in us ourselves, and those of good alone are with God.
Whosoever therefore flees for refuge, that is to say, whosoever accuses not himself, but God as the cause of his offense, let him be punished, being deprived of that refuge to the altar which tends to salvation and security, and which is meant for suppliants alone. And is not this proper? For the altar is full of victims, in which there is no spot, I mean of innocent and thoroughly purified souls. But to pronounce the Deity the cause of evil is a spot which it is hard to cure, or rather which is altogether incurable.
Those who have cultivated such a disposition as to be lovers of themselves rather than lovers of God, may remain at a distance from the sacred places, in order that as polluted and impure persons, they may not behold, not even from a distance, the sacred flame of the evil which is unextinguishably set on fire, and purified, and dedicated to God with entire and perfect power. Very beautifully, therefore, did one of the wise men of old, hastening on to this same conclusion, find confidence to say that “God is in no respect and in no place unjust, but he is the most righteous being possible. There is nothing that more nearly resembles him than the man who is as just as possible. Around is the strength, and the real ability, and power of man, and also nothingness and unmanliness. For the knowledge of him is wisdom and true virtue; but the ignorance of him is real ignorance and manifest wickedness. And all other things which appear to be cleverness or wisdom, if they be displayed in political affairs are troublesome, and if in acts, are sordid.” [Plato, Theaetetus.]
XVI. Therefore, having further commanded the unholy man who is a speaker of evil against divine things to be removed from the most holy places and to be given up to punishment, he proceeds to say, “Whosoever hateth his father or his mother, let him die.” [Exodus xxi. 15.] And in a similar strain he says, “He who accuseth his father or his mother, let him die.” He here all but cries out and shouts that there is no pardon whatever to be given to those who blaspheme the Deity. For if they who bring accusations against their mortal parents are led away to death, what punishment must we think that those men deserve who venture to blaspheme the Father and Creator of the universe? And what accusation can be more disgraceful than to say that the origin of evil is not in us but in God? Drive away, therefore, drive away, O ye who have been initiated in, and who are the hierophants of, the sacred mysteries, drive away, I say, the souls which are mixed and in a confused crowd, and brought together promiscuously from all quarters, those unpurified and still polluted souls, which have their ears not closed, and their tongues unrestrained, and which bear about all the instruments of their misery ready prepared, in order that they may hear all things, even those which it is not lawful to hear. But they who have been instructed in the difference between voluntary and involuntary offenses, and who have received a tongue which speaketh good things instead of one which delighteth in accusation, when they do right are to be praised, and when they err contrary to their intention, they are not greatly to he blamed, for which reason cities have been set apart for them to flee unto for refuge.
XVII. And it is worth while to examine with all the accuracy possible into some necessary points relating to this place. They are four in number. One, why it is that the cities which were set apart for the fugitives were not chosen out of those cities which the other tribes received as their portion, but only out of those which were assigned to the tribe of Levi. The second point is, why they were six in number, and neither more nor fewer. The third is, why three of them were beyond Jordan, and the other three in the land of the Canaanites. The fourth is, why the death of the high priest was appointed to the fugitives as a limit, after which they might return. We must, therefore, say what is suitable on each of these heads, beginning with the first in order.
It is with exceeding propriety that the command is given to flee only to those cities which had been assigned to the tribe of Levi; for the Levites themselves are in a manner fugitives, inasmuch as they, for the sake of pleasing God, have left parents, and children, and brethren, and all their mortal relations. Therefore the original leader of this company is represented as saying to his father and mother, “I have not seen you, and my brethren I do not know, and my sons I disown,” [Deuteronomy xxxiii. 9] in order to be able to serve the living God without allowing any opposite attraction to draw him away. But real flight is a deprivation of all that is nearest and dearest to a man. And it introduces one fugitive to another, so as to make them forget what they have done by reason of the similarity of their actions. Either, therefore, it is for this reason alone, or perhaps for this other also, that the Levitical tribe of the persons set apart for the service of the temple ran up, and at one onset slew those who had made a god of the golden calf, the pride of Egypt, killing all who had arrived at the age of puberty, being inflamed with righteous anger, combined with enthusiasm, and a certain heaven-sent inspiration: “And every one slew his brother, and his neighbor, and him that was nearest to him.” [Exodus xxxii. 26.] The body being the brother of the soul, and the irrational part the neighbor of the rational, and the uttered speech that which is nearest to the mind.
For by the following means alone can that which is most excellent within us become adapted for and inclined to the service of him who is the most excellent of all existing beings. In the first place, if man be resolved into soul, the body, which is akin to it as a brother, being separated and cut off from it, and also all its insatiable desires; and in the second place when the soul has, as I have already said, cast off the irrational part, which is the neighbor of the rational part; for this, like a torrent, being divided into five channels, excites the impetuosity of the passions through all the external senses, as so many aqueducts. Then, in regular order, the reason removes to a distance and separates the uttered speech which appeared to be the nearest to it of all things, in order that speech, according to the intention, might alone be left, free from the body, free from the entanglements of the outward senses, and free from all uttered speech; for when it is left in this manner existing in a solitary manner, it will embrace that which alone is to be embraced with purity, and in such a way that it cannot be drawn away.
In addition to what has been said above, we must also mention this point, that the tribe of Levi is the tribe of the ministers of the temple and of the priests, to whom the service and ministration of holy things is assigned; and they also perform sacred service who have committed unintentional homicide, since, according to Moses, “God gives into their hands” [Exodus xxi. 31] those who have done things worthy of death, with a view to their execution. But it is the duty of the one body to know the good, and of the other body to chastise the wicked.
XVIII. These then are the reasons on account of which they who have committed unintentional homicide fly only to those cities which belong to the ministers of the temple. We must now proceed to mention what these cities are, and why they are six in number. Perhaps we may say that the most ancient, and the strongest, and the most excellent metropolis, for I may not call it merely a city, is the divine word, to flee to which first is the most advantageous course of all. But the other five, being as it were colonies of that one, are the powers of Him who utters the word, the chief of which is his creative power, according to which the Creator made the world with a word; the second is his kingly power, according to which he who has created rules over what is created; the third is his merciful power, in respect of which the Creator pities and shows mercy towards his own work; the fourth is his legislative power, by which he forbids what may not be done. [...]
And these are very beautiful and most excellently fenced cities, the best possible refuge for souls which are worthy to be saved for ever; and the establishment of them is merciful and humane, calculated to excite men, to aid and to encourage them in good hopes.
Who else could more greatly display the exceeding abundance of his mercy, of all the powers which are able to benefit us, towards such an exceeding variety of persons who err by unintentional misdeeds, and who have neither the same strength nor the same weakness? Therefore he exhorts him who is able to run swiftly to strain onwards, without stopping to take breath, to the highest word of God, which is the fountain of wisdom, in order that by drinking of that stream he may find everlasting life instead of death. But he urges him who is not so swift of foot to flee for refuge to the creative power which Moses calls God, since it is by that power that all things were made and arranged; for to him who comprehends that everything has been created, that comprehension alone, and the knowledge of the Creator, is a great acquisition of good, which immediately persuades the creature to love him who created it. Him, again, who is still less ready he bids flee to his kingly power; for that which is in subjection is corrected by the fear of him who rules it, and by necessity which keeps it in order, even if the child is not kept in the right way by love for his father.
Again, in the case of him who is not able to reach the boundaries which have been already mentioned, in respect of their being a long way off, there are other goals appointed for them at a shorter distance, the cities namely of the necessary powers, the city of the power of the mercy, the city of the power which enjoins what is right, the city of the power which forbids what is not right: for he who is already persuaded that the Deity is not implacable, but is merciful by reason of the gentleness of his nature, then, even if he has previously sinned, subsequently repents from a hope of pardon. And he who has adopted the notion that God is a lawgiver obeys all the injunctions which as such he imposes, and so will he happy; and he who is last of all will find the last refuge, namely, the escape from evil, even though he may not be able to arrive at a participation in the more desirable good things.
XIX. These, then, are the six cities which Moses calls cities of refuge, five of which have had their figures set forth in the sacred scriptures, and their images are there likewise. The images of the cities of command and prohibition are the laws in the ark; that of the merciful power of God is the covering of the ark, and he calls it the mercy-seat. The images of the creative power and of the kingly power are the winged cherubim which are placed upon it. But the divine word which is above these does not come into any visible appearance, inasmuch as it is not like to any of the things that come under the external senses, but is itself an image of God, the most ancient of all the objects of intellect in the whole world, and that which is placed in the closest proximity to the only truly existing God, without any partition or distance being interposed between them: for it is said, “I will speak unto thee from above the mercy-seat, in the midst, between the two cherubim.” [Exodus xxv. 22. ] So that the word is, as it were, the charioteer of the powers, and he who utters it is the rider, who directs the charioteer how to proceed with a view to the proper guidance of the universe.
Therefore, he who is so far removed from committing any intentional misdeeds, that he is even free from all unintentional offense, will have God himself for his inheritance, and will dwell in him alone. But those who fall into errors which proceed not from willful purpose, but which are done without premeditation, will have the aforesaid places of refuge in all abundance and fullness.
Now of the cities of refuge there are three on the other side of Jordan, which are at a great distance from our race. What cities are they? The word of the Governor of the universe, and his creative power, and his kingly power: for to these belong the heaven and the whole world. But those which, as it were, participate in us, and which are near to us, and which almost touch the unfortunate race of mankind which is alone capable of sinning, are the three on this side of the river; the merciful power, the power which enjoins what is to be done, the power which prohibits what ought not to be done: for these powers touch us. For what need can there be of prohibition to persons who are not likely to do wrong? And what need of injunction to people who are not by nature inclined to stumble? And what need of mercy can those persons have who will absolutely never do wrong at all? But our race of mankind has need of all these things because it is by nature inclined and liable to offenses both voluntary and involuntary.
XX. The fourth and last of the points which we proposed to discuss, is the appointing as a period for the return of the fugitives the death of the high priest, which, if taken in the literal sense, causes me great perplexity; for a very unequal punishment is imposed by this enactment on those who have done the very same things, since some will be in banishment for a longer time, and others for a shorter time; for some of the high priests live to a very old age, and others die very early, and some are appointed while young men, and others not until they are old. And again of those who are convicted of unintentional homicide, some have been banished at the beginning of the high priest’s entrance into office, and some when the high priest has been at the very point of death. So that some are deprived of their country for a very long time, and others suffer the same infliction only for a day, if it chance to be so; after which they lift up their heads, and exult, and so return among those whose nearest relations have been slain by them.
This difficult and scarcely explicable perplexity we may escape if we adopt the inner and allegorical explanation in accordance with natural philosophy. For we say that the high priest is not a man, but is the word of God, who has not only no participation in intentional errors, but none even in those which are involuntary. For Moses says that he cannot be defiled neither in respect of his father, that is, the mind, nor of his mother, that is, the external sense [Leviticus xxi. 11]; because, I imagine, he has received imperishable and wholly pure parents, God being his father, who is also the father of all things, and wisdom being his mother, by means of whom the universe arrived at creation; and also because he is anointed with oil, by which I mean that the principal part of him is illuminated with a light like the beams of the sun, so as to be thought worthy to be clothed with garments.
And the most ancient word of the living God is clothed with the word as with a garment, for it has put on earth, and water, and air, and fire, and the things which proceed from these elements. But the particular soul is clothed with the body, and the mind of the wise man is clothed with the virtues. And it is said that he will never take the mitre off from his head, he will never lay aside the kingly diadem, the symbol of an authority which is not indeed absolute, but only that of a viceroy, but which is nevertheless an object of admiration. Nor will he “rend his clothes;” for the word of the living God being the bond of every thing, as has been said before, holds all things together, and binds all the parts, and prevents them from being loosened or separated.
And the particular soul, as far as it has received power, does not permit any of the parts of the body to be separated or cut off contrary to their nature; but as far as depends upon itself, it preserves every thing entire, and conducts the different parts to a harmony and indissoluble union with one another. But the mind of the wise man being thoroughly purified, preserves the virtues in an unbroken and unimpaired condition, having adapted their natural kindred and communion with a still more solid good will.
XXI. This high priest, as Moses says, “shall not enter into any soul that is dead.” But the death of the soul is a life according to wickedness; so that he must never touch any pollution such as folly is fond of dealing with. And to him also “a virgin of the sacred race is joined;” that is to say, an opinion for ever pure, and undefiled, and imperishable; for he “may never become the husband of a widow, or of one who has been divorced, or of one who is a profane person, or of one who is a harlot,” since he is always proclaiming an endless and irreconcilable war against them. For it is a hateful thing to him to be widowed with respect to virtue, and to be divorced and driven away by her; and in like manner all persuasion of this kind is profane and unholy.
But that promiscuous evil abandoned to many husbands, and to the worship of many gods, that is, a harlot, he does not think fit even to look upon, being content with her who has chosen for herself one husband and father only, the all-governing God. There is a certain extravagance of perfection visible in this disposition. He has known the man who has vowed the great vow in some instances offending unintentionally, even if not of deliberate purpose; for he says, “But if any one die before him suddenly, he shall be at once polluted.” For if of things without deliberation anything coming from without strikes down suddenly, such things do at once pollute the soul, but not with a pollution which remains for any length of time, inasmuch as they are unintentional actions. And about these actions the high priest (standing above them, as he also does above those which are voluntary) is indifferent.
But I am not saying this at random, but for the sake of proving that the period of the death of the high priest is a most natural termination of exile to be appointed by the law, so as to allow of the return of the fugitives. As long, therefore, as this most sacred word lives and survives in the soul, it is impossible for any involuntary error to enter into it; for it is by nature so framed as to have no participation in, and to be incapable of admitting any kind of error. But if it dies (not meaning by this that it is itself destroyed, but that it is separated from our soul), then a return is at once granted to intentional offenses. For if while the word remained and was healthy in us, error was driven to a distance, by all means, when the word departs, error will be introduced. For the undefiled high priest, conscience, has derived from nature this most especial honor, that no error of the mind can find any place within him; on which account it is worth our while to pray that the high priest may live in the soul, being at the same time both a judge and a convictor, who having received jurisdiction over the whole of our minds, is not altered in his appearance or purpose by any of those things which are brought under his judgment.
XXII. Having now, therefore, said what was proper on the subject of fugitives, we will proceed with what follows in the regular order of the context. In the first place it is said, “The angel of the Lord found her in the way,” [Genesis xvi. 7] pitying the soul which out of modesty had voluntarily committed the danger of wandering about, and very nearly becoming a conductor of her return to opinion void of error. It is desirable also not to pass over in silence the things which are said in a philosophical strain by the lawgiver on the subject of discovery and investigation; for he represents some persons as neither investigating nor discovering anything, others as succeeding in both these paths, others as having chosen only one of them; of which last class some who seek do not find, and others find without having sought.
Those, then, who have no desire for either discovery or investigation have shamefully debased their reason by ignorance and indifference, and though they had it in their power to see acutely, they have become blind. Thus he says that “Lot’s wife turning backwards became a pillar of salt;” [Genesis xix. 26] not here inventing a fable, but pointing out the proper nature of the event.
For whoever despises his teacher, and under the influence of an innate and habitual indolence forsakes what is in front of him, by means of which it may be in his power to see, and to hear, and to exert his other powers, so as to form a judgment in things of nature, and turns his head round so as to keep his eyes on what is behind him, that man has an admiration for blindness in the affairs of life, as well as in the parts of the body, and becomes a pillar, like a lifeless and senseless stone. For, as Moses says, “such men have not hearts to understand, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear,” [Deut. xxix. 4] but make the whole of their life blind, and deaf, and senseless and mutilated in every respect, so as not to be worth living, caring for none of those matters which deserve their attention.
XXIII. And the leader of this company is the king of the region of the body. “For,” says Moses, “Pharaoh turned himself about and went into his house, and did not set his heart to this thing either,” [Exodus vii. 23] which statement is equivalent to, he did not take notice of anything whatever, but allowed himself to become dried up like a plant which has no care taken of it by the farmer, and to lose his fertility and become barren. Those then who take counsel, and consider matters, and who investigate everything carefully, sharpen and rouse their minds: and the mind being duly exercised bears its appropriate fruit of cleverness and intelligence, by means of which the power of repelling all deceitful things is acquired. But the man who is an enemy to consideration blunts and breaks the edges of his wisdom; we must therefore discard the truly senseless and lifeless company of such men as these, and choose those who exert their powers of consideration and discovery.
And presently the political disposition is introduced, which, without being at all over ambitious of glory, has a desire for that better generation, which the virtues have received as their inheritance, and which consequently seeks and finds it; for, says the scripture, “A man found Joseph in the plain, and asked him saying, What seekest thou; and he said, I am seeking my brothers; tell me where they are feeding their flocks: and the man said unto him, They are departed from hence; for I heard them saying, Let us go into Dothan; and Joseph went after his brethren and found them in Dothan.” [Genesis xxxvii. 15.] The name Dothan is interpreted, “a sufficient abandonment,” being a symbol of the soul which has in no slight degree but altogether escaped those vain opinions, which resemble the pursuits of women rather than those of men. On which account virtue, that is Sarah, is very beautifully described as having given up “the manner of women,” [Genesis xviii. 11] which is the object of pursuit to those men who live an unmanly and truly feminine life. But the wise man is also “added when leaving,” [Genesis xxv. 17] according to Moses, speaking most strictly in accordance with nature. For the deprivation of empty opinion must necessarily be the addition of true opinion.
But if any one, passing his days in a mortal, and promiscuous, and variously formed life, and having abundant resources of wealth and riches, considers and inquires concerning that better generation which looks only to what is good, he is worthy of being received, if the dreams and visions of those things, which are fancied to be and which appear to be good, do not again overwhelm him and immerse him in luxury. For if he abides in contemplation of the soul without any adulteration, proceeding and following in the track of the things which he is seeking, he will never give up his search till he has attained to the objects of his wishes; but he will find none of the things which he desires among the wicked. Why not ? Because they departed from hence. Having abandoned the studies of our friends they have changed their abode from the country of the pious, and settled in the desert of the wicked. But the real man, the convictor that dwells in the soul says this, who when he sees the soul in perplexity, and considering and investigating deeply, exerts a prudent care in its behalf, that it may not wander and so miss the right road.
XXIV. I very greatly wonder at those persons also, I mean at him who is fond of asking questions about what is in the middle between two extremes, and who says, “Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” [Genesis xxii. 7.] And also at him who answers, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering,” and who afterwards finds what is given as a ransom; “For behold a single ram was caught by his horns in a shrub of Sabec.” Let us therefore consider what it is that he who is seeking doubts about, and what he who answers reveals, and in the third place what the thing is which was found.
Now what the inquirer asks is something of this kind:-- Behold the efficient cause, the fire; behold also the passive part, the material, the wood. Where is the third party, the thing to be effected? As if he said,-- Behold the mind, the fervid and kindled spirit; behold also the objects of intelligence, as it were so much material or fuel; where is the third thing, the act of perceiving? Or, again,-- Behold the sight, behold the color, where is the act of seeing? And, in short, generally, behold the external sense, behold the thing to be judged of; but where are the objects of the external sense, the material, the exertion of the feeling? To him who puts these questions, answer is very properly made, “God will provide for himself.” For the third thing is the peculiar work of God; for it is owing to his providential arrangement that the mind comprehends, and the sight sees, and that every external sense is exerted. “And a ram is found caught by his horns;” that is to say, reason is found silent and withholding its assent; for silence is the most excellent of offerings, and so is a withholding of assent to those matters of which there are not clear proofs; therefore this is all that ought to be said, “God will provide for himself,”-- he to whom all things are known, who illuminates the universe by the most brilliant of all lights, himself. But the other things are not to be said by creatures over whom great darkness is poured; but quiet is a means of safety in darkness.
XXV. Those also who have inquired what it is that nourishes the soul, for as Moses says, “They knew not what it was,” learnt at last and found that it was the word of God and the divine reason, from which flow all kinds of instinctive and everlasting wisdom. This is the heavenly nourishment which the holy scripture indicates, saying, in the character of the cause of all things, “Behold I rain upon you bread from heaven;” [Exodus xvi. 4] for in real truth it is God who showers down heavenly wisdom from above upon all the intellects which are properly disposed for the reception of it, and which are fond of contemplation. But those who have seen and tasted it, are exceedingly delighted with it, and understand indeed what they feel, but do not know what the cause is which has affected them; and on this account they inquire, “What is this which is sweeter than honey and whiter than snow?” And they will be taught by the interpreter of the divine will, that “This is the bread which the Lord has given them to eat.” [Exodus xvi. 15.]
What then is this bread? Tell us. “This,” says he, “is the word which the Lord has appointed.” This divine appointment at the same time both illuminates and sweetens the soul, which is endowed with sight, shining upon it with the beams of truth, and sweetening with the sweet virtue of persuasion those who thirst and hunger after excellence. And the prophet also having himself inquired what was the cause of meeting with success, finds it to be associated with the only God; for when he was doubting and asking, Who am I, and what am I, that I shall deliver the seeing race of Israel from the disposition hostile to God, which seems to be a king? He is taught by the oracle that, “I will be with thee.” And, indeed, inquiries into individual matters have a certain elegant and philosophical kind of meditation in them; for how can they avoid it? But the inquiry into the nature of God, the most excellent of all things, who is incomparable, and the cause of all things, at once delights those who betake themselves to its consideration, and it is not imperfect inasmuch as he, out of his own merciful nature, comes forward to meet it, displaying himself by his virgin graces, and willingly to all those who are desirous to see him. Not, indeed, such as he is, for that is impossible, since Moses also turned away his face, [Exodus iii. 6] for he feared to see God face to face; but as far as it is possible for created nature to approach by its own power those things which are only discernible to the mind. And this also is written among the hortatory precepts, for, says Moses, “Ye shall turn unto the Lord your God, and shall find him, when ye seek him with all your heart, and with all your soul.” [Deuteronomy iv. 29.]
XXVI. Having now spoken at sufficient length on this point also, let us proceed in regular order to consider the third head of our subject, in which the seeking existed, but the finding did not follow it. At all events Laban, who examined the entire spiritual house of the practicer of virtue, “did not,” as Moses says, “find the images,” [Genesis xxxi. 33] for it was full of real things, and not of dreams and vain fantasies. Nor did the inhabitants of Sodom, blind in their minds, who were insanely eager to defile the holy and unpolluted reasonings, “find the road which led to this” [Genesis xix. 11] object; but, as the sacred scriptures tell us, they were wearied with their exertions to find the door, although they ran in a circle all round the house, and left no stone unturned for the accomplishment of their unnatural and impious desires.
And before now some persons, wishing to be kings instead of doorkeepers, and to put an end to the most beautiful thing in life, namely order, having not only failed in obtaining the success which they hoped to meet with through injustice, but have even been compelled to part with that which they had in their hands; for the law tells us that the companions of Korah, who coveted the priesthood, lost both what they wished for and what they had: for as children and men do not learn the same things, but there are institutions adapted to each age, so also there are by nature some souls which are always childish, even though they are in bodies which have grown old; and on the other hand, there are some which have arrived at complete perfection in bodies which are still in the prime and vigor of early youth.
But those men will deservedly incur the imputation of folly who desire objects too great for their own nature, since everything which is beyond one’s power will vanish away through the intensity of its own vehemence. And so Pharaoh also, when “seeking to kill Moses,” [Exodus ii. 15] the prophetic race, will never find him, although he has heard that a heavy accusation is brought against him, as if he has attempted to destroy all the supreme authority of the body by two attacks, the first of which he made upon the Egyptian disposition, which was fortifying pleasure as a citadel against the soul; for “having smote him,” with an accidental instrument that came to hand, “he buried him in the sand,” [Exodus ii. 12] thinking that the two doctrines, of pleasure being the first and greatest good, and of atoms being the origin of the universe, both proceed from the same source.
The second attack he made upon him who was cutting into small pieces the nature of the good, and assigning one portion to the soul, another to the body, and another to external circumstances; for he wishes the good to be entire, being assigned to the best thing in us, the intellect alone, as its inheritance) and not being adapted to anything inanimate.
XXVII. Nor does he, who is sent forth to search for that virtue which is invincible and embittered against the ridiculous pursuits of men, by name Tamar, find her. And this failure of his is strictly in accordance with nature; for we read in the scripture, “And Judah sent a kid in the hands of his shepherd, the Adullamite, to receive back his pledge from the woman, and he found her not: and he asked the men of the place, Where is the harlot who was in Aenan by the wayside? and they said, There is no harlot in this place. And he returned back to Judah, and said unto him, I have not found her, and the men of the place say that there is no harlot there. And Judah said, Let her keep the things, only let me not be made a laughing-stock, I because I have sent the kid, and you because you have not found her.” [Exodus ii. 12.] Oh, the admirable trial! oh, the temptation becoming sacred things! Who gave the pledge? Why the mind, forsooth, which was eager to purchase the most excellent possession, piety towards God, by three pledges or symbols, namely a ring, and an armlet, and a staff, signifying confidence and sure faith; the connection and union of reason with life, and of life with reason; and upright and unchanging instruction on which it is profitable to rely. Therefore he examines the question as to whether he had properly given this pledge. What, then, is the examination? to throw down some bait having an attractive power, such as glory, or riches, or bodily health, or something similar, and to see to which it will incline, like the balance in a scale; for if there is any inclination to any one of these things the pledge is not sure. Therefore he sent a kid in order to recover back his pledge from the woman, not because he had determined by all means to recover it, but only in the case of her being unworthy to retain it. And when will this be? when she willingly exchanges what is of importance for what is indifferent, preferring spurious to genuine good.
Now the genuine good things are faith, the connection and union of words with deeds, and the rule of right instruction, as on the other hand the evils are, faithlessness, a want of such connection between words and deeds, and ignorance. And spurious goods are those which depend upon appetite devoid of reason; for “when he sought her he did not find her;” for what is good is hard to be found, or, one may even say, is utterly impossible to be found in a confused life. And if one inquires whether the soul, which is a harlot, is in every place of virtue, one will be distinctly told that it is not, and that it has not been previously; for a common, unchaste, and wanton, and utterly shameless woman, selling the flower of her beauty at a low price, and making her external parts both bright with purifications and washings, but leaving her inward parts unclean and vile, and being like pictures painted with colors about the face because of the absence of all natural beauty; she who pursues that promiscuous evil called the vice of having many husbands, as if it were a good, coveting polygamy, and laying herself open for infinite variety, and being mocked and insulted at the same time by ten thousand bodies and things, “is not there.”
He, then, who sent the messenger to inquire, hearing this, having removed envy to a distance from himself, and being gentle in his nature, rejoices in no moderate degree, and says, “Perhaps, then, according to my prayer, she is truly a virtuous mind, a citizen wife, excelling in modesty, and chastity, and all other virtues, cleaving to one husband alone, being content with the administration of one household, and rejoicing in the authority of one husband; and if she is such an one, let her keep what I have given her -- the instruction and the connection of reason with life and of life with reason, and, what is the most necessary of all things, surety and faith. But let us not be laughed at as appearing to have given gifts which were not merited, while we think that we gave what is most suitable to the soul; for I, indeed, did what was proper for a man to do who wished to make experiment of and to test her disposition, throwing out a bait and sending a messenger; but he has showed me that her nature is not easily caught. And it is not clear to me why it is not easily caught; for I have seen ten thousand persons of the extremely wicked class doing the same things as those who are extremely good, but not with the same purpose, since the one class has truth and the other only hypocrisy, and it is very hard to distinguish the one from the other, for very often reality is overpowered by appearance.
XXVIII. Also the person who loves virtue seeks a goat by reason of his sins, but does not find one; for, already, as the sacred scripture tells us, “it has been burnt.” [Leviticus x. 16.] Now we must consider what is intimated under this figurative expression -- how never to do any thing wrong is the peculiar attribute of God; and to repent is the part of a wise man. But this is very difficult and very hard to attain to. Accordingly the scripture says that “Moses sought and sought again” a reason for repentance for his sins in mortal life; for he was very anxious to find a soul which was stripped of sin, and coming forward naked of all offense without shame. But nevertheless he did not find one, the flame, I mean by this the very quickly moving irrational desire, rushing inwards and devouring the whole soul.
For what is smaller in numbers is usually overpowered by what is more numerous, and what is slower by what is more speedy, and what is to come hereafter by what is present. Now what is contracted in quantity, and slow, and future, is repentance; what is numerous, and swift, and continuous in human life is, iniquity. Very naturally, therefore, when any one falls into error, he says that he is unable to eat of what is offered by reason of his sins, so that his conscience will not permit him to be nourished by repentance; on which account it is said in the scripture, “Moses heard, and it pleased him.” [Leviticus xvi. 20.] For the things which relate to the creature are very far removed from the things which relate to God; for to the creature only those things which are visible are known, but to God, even those things also which are invisible. And that man is crazy who, speaking falsely instead of truly, while still committing iniquity, asserts that he has repented. It is like as if one who had a disease were to pretend that he was in good health; for he, as it seems, will only get more sick, since he does not choose to apply any of the remedies which are conducive to health.
XXIX. On one occasion Moses was urged on, by a desire of learning, to investigate the causes through which the most necessary of the things in the world are brought to perfection; for seeing how many things come to an end, and are produced afresh in creation, being again destroyed, and again abiding, he marvelled, and was amazed, and cried out, saying, “The bush ('batos') burns, and is not consumed.” [Exodus iii. 2.] For he does not trouble his head about the inaccessible ('abatos') country as being the abode of divine natures. But now that he is about to undertake a labor which will have no success and no end, he is relieved by the mercy and providence of God, the Savior of all men, who has given warning out of his holy shrine, “Do not approach near this place,” which is equivalent to, Do not approach this consideration; for it is a business requiring more labor, and more energy, and care, and fondness for investigation than can he suited to human power. But be content with admiring what is created; and do not be over-curious about the causes why each thing is created or destroyed.
“For the place,” says God, “on which thou standest is holy ground.” [Exodus iii. 5.] What kind of place is that? Is it not plain that it is that which relates to the principles of causes, which is the only one that he has adapted to the divine natures, not thinking any more competent to aim at a clear understanding of the principles of causes? But he who, out of his desire for learning, has raised his head above the whole world begins to inquire concerning the Creator of the world who this being is who is so difficult to see and whose nature it is so difficult to conjecture, whether he is a body, or an incorporeal being, or something above these things, or whether he is a simple nature like a unit, or a compound being or any ordinary existing thing. And when he sees how difficult to ascertain, and how difficult to understand this is, he then prays to be allowed to learn from God himself who God is; for he has never hoped to be able to learn this from any other of the beings that are around him. But nevertheless, though inquiring into the essence of the living God he has heard nothing. For, says God, “thou shalt see my back parts, but my face thou shalt not behold.” [Exodus xxxiii. 23.] For it is sufficient for the wise man to know the consequences, and the things which are after God; but he who wishes to see the principal essence will be blinded by the exceeding brilliancy of his rays before he can see it.
XXX. Having now said thus much concerning the third head of our subject, we will proceed to the fourth and last of the propositions we proposed to examine, according to which discovery sometimes comes to meet us without there having been any search. To this order belongs every self-taught and self-instructed wise man; for such an one has not been improved by consideration, and care, and labor, but from the first moment of his birth he has found wisdom ready prepared and showered upon him from above from heaven, of which he drinks an unmixed draught and on which he feasts, and continues being intoxicated with a sober intoxication with correctness of reason. This is the man whom the law calls Isaac, whom the soul did not conceive at one time and bring forth at another, for says the scripture, “having conceived him she brought him forth,” [Genesis xxi. 2] as if without any consideration of time.
For it was not a man who was now being thus brought forth, but a conception of the purest character, beautiful rather in its nature than in consequence of any study; for which reason also she who brings him forth is said to have given up the usual manner of women, that is to say her usual, and reasonable, and human customs. For the self-taught race is something new, and beyond any description, and truly divine, existing not by any human conceptions, but by some inspired frenzy. Are you ignorant that the Hebrews stand in no need of midwives for their delivery? But they, as Moses says, “bring forth before the midwives can arrive,” by which is meant that they have nature alone for a coadjutor, without having any need of methods, or arts, or sciences.
And Moses gives very beautiful and very natural definitions of what is taught a man by himself: one being such a thing as is speedily discovered, the other what God himself has given us; accordingly, that which is taught by others requires a long time, but what is taught a man by himself is quick, and in a manner independent of time. And the one again has God for its expounder, but the other has man. Now the first definition he has placed in the question, “What is this that thou has found so quickly, O my son?” [Genesis xxvii. 20.] But the other is contained in the answer to this question, “What the Lord God gave unto me.”
XXXI. There is also a third definition of what is taught a man by himself, namely that which of its own accord rises upwards. For it is said in the hortatory injunctions, “Ye shall not sow, neither shall ye reap those things which arise from the earth of their own accord.” [Genesis xxv. 11.]
For nature has no need of any art since God himself sows those things, and by his agricultural skill brings to perfection, as if they grew of themselves, things which do not grow of themselves, except inasmuch as they stand in need of no human assistance whatever. But this is not so much a positive exhortation as an announcement of his opinion, for if he had been giving a positive recommendation he would have said, “Do not sow, and do not reap:” but as he is only giving his opinion, he says, “Ye shall not sow, neither shall ye reap.” For as to those things with which we meet by the voluntary bounty of nature, of these we cannot find either the beginnings or the ends in ourselves as if we were the causes of them: therefore the beginning is the seed-time and the end the harvest time. And it is better to understand these things thus: every beginning and every end is spontaneous, that is to say, it is the work of nature and not of ourselves. For instance; what is the beginning of learning. It is plain that it is a nature in the person who is taught which is well calculated to receive the particular subjects of meditation submitted to him. Again what is the beginning of being made perfect? If we are to speak plainly without keeping anything back, it is nature. Therefore he who teaches is also indeed to effect improvement, but it is God alone; the most excellent nature of all, who is able to conduct one to supreme perfection.
He who is bred up among such doctrines as these has everlasting peace, and is released from wearisome and endless labors. And according to the lawgiver there is no difference between peace and a week; for in each creation lays aside the appearance of energizing and rests. Very properly, therefore, is it said, “And the sabbath of the law shall be food for you,” speaking figuratively. For the only thing which is really nourishing and really enjoyable is rest in God; which confers the greatest good, undisturbed peace. Peace, therefore, among cities is mixed up with civil war; but the peace of the soul has no mixture in it of any kind of difference.
And the lawgiver appears to me to be recommending most manifestly that kind of discovery which is not preceded by any search, in the following words, “When the Lord thy God shall lead thee into the land which he swore to thy fathers that he would give to thee, large and beautiful cities which thou buildedst not, houses full of all good things which thou filledst not, cisterns hewn out of the quarries which thou hewedst not, vineyards and olive gardens which thou plantedst not.” [Deuteronomy vi. 10.] You see here the ungrudging abundance of all the great blessings which are ready, and poured forth for man’s possession and enjoyment. And the generic virtues are here likened to cities, because they are of the most comprehensive kind; and the specific virtues are likened to houses, because they are contracted into a narrower circle; and the souls of a good disposition are likened to cisterns, which are well inclined to receive wisdom, as the cisterns are calculated to receive water; and the improvement, and growth, and production of fruit, are compared to vineyards and olive gardens; and the fruit of knowledge is a life of contemplation, which produces unmixed joy, equal to that which proceeds from wine; and a light appreciable only by the intellect, as if from a flame of which oil is the nourishment.
XXXII. Having now said thus much on the subject of discovery, we will proceed in due order to what comes next in the context. Moses proceeds, “Therefore the angel of the Lord found her sitting by a fountain of water.” Now a fountain is spoken of in many senses; in one manner our mind is meant by a fountain, in another the rational habit and instruction; in a third sense a bad disposition is intimated; in a fourth sense a good disposition, the contrary of the preceding; in a fifth sense, the Creator and Father of the universe is himself thus spoken of in a figure; and there are passages written in the sacred scriptures which give proofs of these things. What they are we must now consider. Now in the very beginning of the history of the law there is a passage to the following effect: “And a fountain went up from the earth, and watered all the face of the earth.” [Genesis ii. 6.] Those men, then, who are not initiated in allegory and in the nature which loves to hide itself, liken the fountain here mentioned to the river of Egypt, which every year overflows and makes all the adjacent plains a lake, almost appearing to exhibit a power imitating and equal to that of heaven; for what the heaven during winter bestows on other countries, the Nile affords to Egypt at the height of summer; for the heaven sends rain from above upon the earth, but the river, raining upward from below, which seems a most paradoxical statement, irrigates the corn-fields.
And it is starting from this point that Moses has described the Egyptian disposition as an atheistical one, because it values the earth above the heaven, and the things of the earth above the things of heaven, and the body above the soul; but, however, we shall have an opportunity of speaking on these subjects hereafter when occasion permits.
But at present, for we must study not to be too prolix, we had better have recourse to an explanation which may be drawn from looking on the words as used figuratively; and we may say that the meaning of the statement that “a fountain went up and watered all the face of the earth,” is something of this kind. The dominant part of us, like a fountain, pours forth many powers through the veins of the earth as it were, till they reach the organs of the external senses, that is to say, the eyes, and ears, and nostrils, and other organs; and these organs in every animal are situated about the head and face. Therefore, the face, which is the dominant portion of the body, is irrigated as from a fountain from the dominant portion of the soul; making the spirit, which is calculated for seeing, reach to the eyes, that which has the power of hearing reach the ears, the spirit of smelling reach the nostrils, that of taste the mouth, and causing that of touch to pervade the whole surface of the body.
XXXIII. There are also many various fountains of instruction, by means of which most nutritious reasonings have sprung up like the trunks of palm-trees; “for,” says Moses, they came to Aileim, and in Aileim there were twelve fountains of water and seventy trunks of palm-trees. And they pitched their tents there by the side of the water.” [Exodus xv. 27.] The name Aileim is interpreted to mean “vestibules,” a symbol of the approach to virtue. For as vestibules are the beginning of a house, so also are the encyclical preliminary branches of instruction the beginning of virtue, and twelve is the perfect number, of which the circle of the zodiac in the heaven is a witness, studded as it is with such numbers of brilliant constellations. The periodical revolution of the sun is another witness, for he accomplishes his circle in twelve months, and men also reckon the hours of the day and of the night as equal in number to the months of the year, and the passages are not few in which Moses celebrates this number, describing the twelve tribes of his nation, appointing by law the offering of the twelve cakes of showbread, and ordering twelve stones, on which inscriptions are engraved, to be woven into the sacred robe of the garment, reaching down to the feet of the high-priest, on his oracular dress.
He also celebrates the number seven, multiplied by the number ten; at one time speaking of the seventy palm-trees by the fountains, and in other passages he speaks of the elders, who were only seventy in number, to whom the divine and prophetical Spirit was vouchsafed. And again, it is the same number of heifers which are sacrificed at the solemn festival of the feast of tabernacles, [Numbers xxix. 13] in a regular and proper division and order, for they are not all sacrificed together, but in seven days, the beginning being made with thirteen bulls; for thus, by every day subtracting one till they come to the number seven, the arranged number of seventy is properly completed.
And when they have come to the gates of virtue, the preliminary liberal sciences, and have seen the fountains, and the stems of the palm-trees growing by them, they are said to pitch their tents, not by the palm-trees, but by the waters. Why is this? Because those who carry off the prizes of perfect virtue are adorned with palm-leaves and with fillets; but those who are still exercising themselves in the preliminary branches of instruction, as people thirsting for learning, settle themselves by the side of those sciences which are able to bedew and irrigate their souls.
XXXIV. Such then are the fountains of intermediate instruction. Let us now consider the fountain of folly, concerning which the lawgiver speaks thus, “Whosoever shall lie with a woman who is sitting apart has uncovered her fountain, and she has uncovered the issue of her blood; they shall both be destroyed.” [Leviticus xx. 18.] He here calls the external sense a woman, representing the mind as her husband. When therefore the woman, having forsaken her legitimate husband, settles near those objects of the external sense which allures and destroys, and embraces them all in an amorous manner; then therefore, if the mind be turned to sleep when it is necessary that it should be awakened, it has uncovered the fountain of the external sense, that is itself, that is to say, it has rendered itself, without a covering and without a wall, and easy to be plotted against. But nevertheless the woman also has uncovered the fountain of her blood, for every external sense, when flowing towards the external object appreciable by it, is cheered and restrained by being under the dominion of the reason; and it is left in a solitary condition, being deprived of any proper governor. And as the most terrible misfortune for a city is to be without walls, so the most unfortunate state for a soul is to be without a guardian.
When, then, is it without a guardian? Is it not when the sight is without any covering, being poured forth upon the objects of sight; and when the hearing is without a covering, being occupied in drinking in all kinds of sounds; and when the sense of smell is uncovered, and the kindred powers are left to themselves, and so are most ready to suffer whatever the invading enemy may be disposed to inflict? And that speech is uncovered and uttered which speaks ten thousand things in an unseasonable manner, without any thing to restrain its impetuosity; therefore flowing on unrestrainedly, it overturns many noble purposes and plans of life which were previously sailing on erect as though in calm weather.
This is that great deluge in which “the cataracts of heaven were opened” [Genesis vii. 11] -- by heaven I here mean of the mind -- and the fountains of the bottomless pit were revealed; that is to say, of the outward sense; for in this way alone is the soul overwhelmed, iniquities being broken up and poured over it from above, as from the heaven of the mind, and the passions irrigating it from below, as from the earth of the outward senses. For which reason Moses forbids a man to uncover the nakedness of his father or his mother, [Leviticus xviii. 7] well knowing how great an evil it is not to check and to conceal the offenses of the mind and of the external sense, but to bring them forward and display them as though they were good actions.
XXXV. These are the fountains of errors. We must now examine that of prudence. To this one it is that perseverance, that is to say, Rebecca, descends; [Genesis xxiv. 15] and after she has filled up the whole vessel of her soul she goes up again, the lawgiver, most strictly in accordance with natural truth, calling her return an ascent; for whoever brings his mind to descend from over-arrogant haughtiness is raised to a great height of virtue. For Moses says, “And having gone down to the fountain, she filled her ewer, and went up again.” This is that divine wisdom from which all the particular sciences are irrigated, and all the souls which love contemplation and are filled with a love of what is most excellent; and to this fountain the sacred scripture most appropriately assigns a name, calling it “judgment” and “holy.” For says the historian, “Having turned back, they came to the fountain of judgment; this is the fountain of Caddes,” [Genesis xiv. 7] and the interpretation of the name Caddes is holy. It all but cries out and shouts that the wisdom of God is holy, bringing with it nothing of the earth, and that it is the judgment of the universe by which all contrarieties are separated from one another.
XXXVI. We must now speak also concerning that highest and most excellent of fountains which the Father of the universe spake of by the mouths of the prophets; for he has said somewhere, “They have left me, the fountain of life, and they have digged for themselves cisterns already worn out, which will not be able to hold water;” [Jeremiah ii. 13] therefore God is the most ancient of all fountains. And is not this very natural? For he it is who has irrigated the whole of this world; and I am amazed when I hear that this is the fountain of life, for God alone is the cause of animation and life, and most especially of rational animation and of that life which is in union with prudence; for the matter is dead. But God is something more than life; he is, as he himself has said, the everlasting fountain of living.
But the wicked having fled away, and having passed their time without ever tasting the draught of immortality, have digged, insane persons that they are, for themselves, and not first for God, having preferred their own actions to the heavenly and celestial things, and the things which proceed from care to those which are spontaneous and ready. Then they dig, not as the wise men Abraham and Isaac did, making wells, but cisterns, which have no good nutritious stream belonging to and proceeding from themselves, but requiring an influx from without, which must proceed from instruction. While the teachers are always pouring into the ears of their disciples all kinds of doctrines and speculations of science altogether, admonishing them to retain them in their minds, and to preserve them when faithfully committed to memory.
But now they are but worn-out cisterns, that is to say, all the channels of the ill-educated soul are broken and leaky, not being able to hold and to preserve the influx of those streams which are able to profit.
XXXVII. We have now then said as much as the time will permit us to say on the subject of the fountains, and it is with great accuracy and propriety that the sacred scriptures represent Hagar as found at the fountain, and not as drawing water from it: for the soul has not as yet made such an advance as to be fit to use the unmixed draught of wisdom; but it is not forbidden from making its abode in its neighborhood. And all the road which is made by instruction is easy to travel, and most safe, and most solid, and strong, on which account the scripture tells us that she was found in the road leading to Shur; and the name Shur being interpreted means a wall or a direction. Therefore its convicter, speaking to the soul, says, “Whence comest thou, and whither goest thou?” And it says, not because it doubts, and not so much by way of asking a question, as in a downcast and reproachful spirit, for an angel cannot be ignorant of anything that concerns us, and a proof of this is, that he is well acquainted even with the things which are in the womb, and which are invisible to the creature, inasmuch as he says, “Behold thou art with child, and thou shalt bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael;” for to know that that which is conceived is a male child does not belong to human power, any more than it does to foretell the description of life which the child who is not yet born will adopt, namely, that it will be rude life, and not that of a citizen or of a polished man.
The expression, “Whence comest thou?” is said by way of reproving the soul, which is fleeing from the better and dominant opinion, of which she is the handmaiden, not in name more than in fact, and by remaining in subjection to which she would gain great glory. And the expression, “And whither goest thou?” means, you are running after uncertain things, having discarded and thrown away confessed good. It is well, therefore, to praise her for rejoicing at this admonition. And she shows a proof of her delighting in it, by not bringing any accusation against her mistress, and by attributing the cause of her running away to her own self, and by her making no reply to the second question, “Whither goest thou?” for it is a matter of uncertainty; and it is both safe and necessary to restrain one’s self from speaking of what is uncertain.
XXXVIII. Therefore the convicter of the soul approving of her in respect of her obedience says, Return unto thy mistress; for the government of the teacher is profitable to the disciple, and servitude in subjection to wisdom is advantageous to her who is imperfect; and when thou returnest, “be thou humbled under her hands:” -- a very beautiful humiliation, comprehending the destruction of irrational pride. For thus, after a gentle travail, thou wilt bring forth a male child, by name Ishmael, corrected by divine admonitions; for Ishmael, being interpreted, means “the hearing of God;” and hearing is considered as entitled to only the second prize after seeing; but seeing is the inheritance of the legitimate and first-born son, Israel; for the name Israel, being interpreted, means “seeing God.”
For it is possible for a man to hear false statements as though they were true, because hearing is a deceitful thing; but seeing is a sense which cannot be deceived, by which a man perceives existing things as they really are. But the angel describes the characteristics of the disposition which is born of Hagar, by saying that he will be a rude man; as if he had said that he would be a man wise about rude matters, and not as yet thought worthy of that which is the truly divine and political portion of life: and this is virtue, by means of which it is the nature of the moral character to be humanized. And by his saying, “His hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him,” he means to describe the design and plan of life of a sophist, who professes an over-curious skepticism, and who rejoices in disputatious arguments.
Such a man shoots at all the followers of learning, and in his own person opposes all men, both publicly and privately, and is shot at by all who very naturally repel him as if they were acting in defense of their own offspring, that is to say, of the doctrines which their soul has brought forth.
He also adds a third characteristic of him, saying, “He shall dwell before the face of all his brethren.” In these words all but expressly declaring that he will wage an everlasting battle and war against them, face to face, for ever. Therefore the soul, which is pregnant with sophistical reasoning, says to the convicter who is addressing her, “Thou art God, who hast beheld me:” an expression equivalent to, Thou art the creator of my plans and of my offspring. And may we not look upon this as a very natural reply on her part? For of these souls which are free, and, as it were truly citizens, the Creator is free, and a deliverer; but of slavish minds, slaves are the creators.
And the angels are the servants of God, and are considered actual gods by those who are in toil and slavery; on this account, says Moses, she called the well, “The well where I saw in front of me.” But O, thou soul! advancing in wisdom and plunging deep into the knowledge of the elementary parts of encyclical instruction, thou wast not able to see the cause of thy knowledge in instruction as in a mirror. Bat the most appropriate place for such a well is in the midst, between Caddes and Barad; and the name Bared, being interpreted, means “in common,” and Caddes means “holy;” for the person who is in a state of imprisonment is on the confines between what is holy and what is profane, fleeing from what is wicked, and being not yet able to live in the company of what is perfectly good.