On The Question
WHO IS THE HEIR OF DIVINE THINGS.
I. In the treatise preceding the present one, we discussed the question of rewards to the best of our ability. Our present purpose is to examine who is the heir of the things of God; for after the wise man heard the oracle, which being divinely given, said, “Thy reward is exceedingly great;” [Genesis xv. 1] he inquired, saying, “What wilt thou give me, O master? And I shall depart childless: but my son who is the child of my handmaid will inherit after me, this EIiezer of Damascus.” And in another place he says, “Since thou hast not given me any seed, but one born in my house shall be my heir.” And yet who would not have been amazed at the dignity and greatness of him who delivered this oracle, so as to become silent and mute before him, if not out of fear, still at all events from excess of joy? For excessive griefs stop the mouth, and so also do excessive joys; on which account Moses confesses that he is “a man of a slight voice and slow of speech from the time when God first began to converse with him.” [Exodus iv. 10.]
And this testimony of the prophet is unerring; for it is natural for the organs of speech to be checked, and for the reason which is collected in the mind to be borne onwards with unrestrained impetuosity, philosophically examining the unceasing beauty of ideas not of words, with fluent and sublime power; and the most admirable virtues are boldness and freedom of speech at suitable times towards one’s betters, so that the sentence in the comic poet appears to me to be uttered with truth rather than with comic humor:--
If a slave is always dumb,
II. When then has a slave freedom of speech towards his master? Is it not when he is conscious that he has not wronged him, but that he has done and said everything with a view to the advantage of his owner? When therefore is it proper for the servant of God to use freedom of speech to the ruler and master of himself, and of the whole word? Is it not when he is free from all sins, and is aware in his conscience that he loves his master, feeling more joy at the fact of being a servant of God, than he would if he were sovereign over the whole race of mankind, and were invested without any effort on his part with the supreme authority over land and sea. And he mentions the ministrations and services by which Abraham displayed his love to his master in the last sentence of the divine oracle given to his son, “I will give to thee and to thy seed all this land, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because Abraham thy father obeyed my voice, and kept all my precepts, and all my commandments, and my laws, and my judgments.” [Genesis xxvi. 3.] And it is the greatest possible praise of a servant that he does not neglect a single thing of the commandments which his master lays upon him, but that he labors earnestly without any hesitation and with all his vigor, and even beyond his power to perform them all with a well affected mind.
III. There are persons, then, to whom it is becoming to listen but not to speak, with respect to whom it is said, “Be silent and hear,” [Deuteronomy xxvii. 9], a very admirable injunction; for ignorance is a very bad and a very audacious thing, the first remedy for which is silence, and the second, attention to those who present you with anything worthy of your listening to. Let no one, however, think that this is all that is signified by those few words, “Be silent and hear;” but that there is also something greater in them which may give a lesson to any one. For these words do not recommend you only to be silent with your tongues, and to hear with your ears, but also to conduct yourself thus in both these respects in your soul; for many persons when they have come to listen to some one, have nevertheless not come with their minds, but wander outside, and keep on thinking of thousands upon thousands of things within themselves, whether concerning their relations, or strangers, or themselves, which at that moment they ought not to remember at all, but which in short they, recollecting to themselves in regular order, and thus by reason of the excessive tumult which they keep alive in themselves, they are unable to hear the speaker. For he speaks as if he were not among men, but among inanimate statues who have indeed ears, but no sense of hearing.
If, therefore, the mind chooses to associate neither with things wandering about outside, nor with those which are stored up within it, but, remaining quiet and silent, directs its whole attention to the speaker, keeping silent in accordance with the injunction of Moses, it will be able to listen with all attention, but otherwise it would not be able to do so.
IV. Silence, then, is a desirable thing for those who are ignorant, but for those who desire knowledge, and who have at the same time a love for their master’s freedom of speech, is a most necessary possession. Accordingly it is said, in the book of Exodus, “The Lord will fight for us, and you will be silent.” [Exodus xiv. 4.] And, immediately afterwards, there is added a scripture in the following words: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Why dost thou cry unto me?” As it is proper for those persons to be silent who can say nothing worthy of being listened to, and for those to speak who, through love of wisdom, believe in God; and not only to speak quietly but to cry out with exceeding noise, not indeed with the noise of the mouth and tongue, by means of which they say that the air is affected with a rotatory motion, and so is rendered capable of being perceived by the hearing, but by the all-instructed and very loudly speaking organ of that voice of which no mortal man is the hearer, but only the uncreated and immortal God.
For the well-arranged and carefully attuned melody of that harmony which is perceptible by the intellect, the invisible musician, perceptible by the intellect, is alone able to comprehend; but no one of those involved in the entanglements of the outward senses can appreciate it. Accordingly, when the entire organ of the mind sounds according to the symphony of the diapason and of the double diapason, the hearer, as it were, asks (for he does not ask in reality, since everything is known to God), “Why dost thou cry unto me?” Is it in supplication that evils may be averted, or in thankfulness for a participation in good things which have been already enjoyed, or for a combination of both reasons?
V. But the man who appears to be endued with a thin voice, and with slowness of speech, and to be almost dumb, is nevertheless found to be talkative, so that in one place he is represented not merely as speaking, but even as crying out; and, in another, as exerting a ceaseless and uninterrupted flow of words; for, says the scripture, “Moses spoke, and God answered him with a voice.” [Exodus xix. 19.] He did not speak in brief periods or sentences, but in one continuously extended speech; and God also instructed him, not in brief sentences, but gave him one unbroken and continuous answer. And whenever there is an answer, there then must of necessity have been, in every case, a question. But whenever any one puts a question it is respecting something which he does not know, because he is desirous to learn; inasmuch as he is aware that there is nothing so useful with regard to acquiring knowledge as to ask, to inquire, to investigate, to appear to know nothing, and not to have an idea that one comprehends anything firmly.
The wise, therefore, take God for their teacher and instructor; and those who are less perfectly initiated in wisdom take the wise men for theirs. On which account they say, also, “Do thou speak with us, and let not God speak to us, lest we die.” [Exodus xx. 19.] And the virtuous man uses such freedom of speech as not only to speak and cry out, but even to advance positive claims with true confidence and genuine feeling; for the expression, “If thou forgivest them their sin, forgive them; and if not, then wipe me out of the book which thou hast written.” [Exodus xxxii. 32.] And this sentence also, “Did I conceive all this people in my womb? Or have I brought them forth, that thou sayest unto me, Take them up into thy bosom, as a nurse takes her sucking child.” [Numbers xi. 11.] And also that passage where we read, “From whence am I to get flesh to give to all this people, because they cry unto me? Shall sheep end oxen be sacrificed, or shall all the fish of the sea be collected together, to satisfy them?” And again, “Lord, why hast thou afflicted this people?” And again, “Why hast thou sent me?” And, in another place, “From the time that I went forth to speak to Pharaoh in thy name, he has afflicted the people.” And again, “Thou hast not delivered thy people.” [Exodus v. 22.] For these, and similar things, any one would have feared to say to any king of this earth; but to deliver such sentiments, and to speak freely to God, was an instance of what ought not to be called extreme audacity, but of good confidence; because all the wise are dear to God, and especially those who are wise with the wisdom of the most sacred giving of the law.
And freedom of speech is nearly akin to friendship; since to whom would any one speak with more freedom than to his own friend? very appropriately therefore is Moses spoken of in the scriptures as dear to God, when he goes through an account of all the dangers which he had incurred by reason of his boldness, in such a way that they seem to deserve to be attributed to friendship rather than to arrogance; for audacity belongs to the character of the arrogant man; but good confidence belongs to the friend.
VI. But consider again that confidence is tempered with prudent caution; for the question, “What wilt thou give to me?” [Deut. xxxiii. 1] displays confidence, and the addition, “O master,” exhibits prudent confidence. And being in the habit of using two causes or two appellations, with respect to the cause of all things, namely the title of Lord, and also that of God, he has in this instance used neither of them, but calls them by time name of master, speaking with caution and with exceeding propriety; and indeed the two appellations lord and master, are said to be synonymous. But even if the two names are one and the same things, still the titles differ in respect of the meaning attached to them; for the title lord, 'kurios,' is derived from the word, 'kuros' authority, which is a firm thing, in contradistinction to that which is infirm and invalid, 'akuron.' But the term master, 'despotes,' is derived from 'desmos,' a chain; from which word 'deos,' fear, also comes in my opinion, so that the master is a lord, and, as one may say a lord, to be feared, not only inasmuch as he has authority and dominion over every thing, but also inasmuch as he is able to strike one with fear and terror and perhaps also since he is the master of the universe; holding it together in such a manner as to be insoluble, and binding up again what portions of it are dissolved.
But he who says, “Master, what wilt thou give unto me?” does, in the real meaning of his words say, this, “I am not ignorant of thy overpowering might, and I know the formidable nature of thy sovereignty; I fear and tremble, and again I feel confidence; for thou hast given me an oracular command not fear, thou hast given to me the tongue of instruction, that I might know when I ought to speak; thou hast unloosened my mouth which before was sewed up, thou hast opened it, and hast also made it articulate;” thou hast appointed it to utter what ought to be spoken, confirming that sacred oracle, “I will open thy mouth, and I will tell thee what thou oughtest to speak.” [Exodus iv. 12.] For who was I, that thou shouldest give me a portion of thy speech, that thou shouldest promise me a reward as it it were my due, namely, a more perfect blessing of thy grace and bounty? Am I not an emigrant from my country? am I not driven away from my kindred? am I not banished and alienated from my father’s house? do not all men call me an outcast and a fugitive, a desolate and dishonored man? but thou, O master, art my country, thou art my kindred, thou art my paternal hearth, thou art my honor, thou art my freedom of speech, my great, and famous, and inalienable wealth, why therefore shall I not have courage to say what I think? and why shall I not ask questions, when I desire to learn something more?
But nevertheless, though I say that I feel confidence, I do again confess that I am stricken with awe and amazement, and that 1 do not feel within myself an unmixed spirit of battle, but fear mingled with confidence, as perhaps many people will easily imagine, a closely combined conjunction of the two feelings; therefore I drink insatiably of this well-mixed cup, which persuades me neither to speak freely without prudent caution; nor, on the other hand, to think so much of caution as to lose my freedom of speech. For I have learnt to appreciate my own nothingness, and to look up to the excessive and unapproachable height of thy munificence: and whenever I know that I am myself “ but dust and ashes,” or even, what is still more worthless, if there is any such thing, then I feel confidence to approach thee, humbling myself, and casting myself down to the ground, so completely changed as scarcely to seem to exist.
VII. Now such a disposition of the soul, Abraham, the inspector, has deeply engraved on my memory. For, says the scripture, “Abraham came near and said, Now have I begun to speak unto the Lord, I that am but dust and ashes;” [Genesis xviii. 27] since then there was an opportunity given to the creature to approach the Creator, when he recognized his own nothingness. But the expression, “What wilt thou give me?” is not so much the language of one who is in doubt, as of one feeling and expressing gratitude at the multitude and greatness of the blessings which he has already enjoyed. “What wilt thou give me?” for, in fact, what more is there left for me to expect? for, O bountiful God! thy graces and mercies are boundless and unlimited, and they have no boundary and no end, bursting up like fountains full of perfection, which are continually drawn upon and are never dry. And it is worth while to contemplate, not merely the ever-abounding torrent of thy bounties, but also those fields of ours which are irrigated by them; for if a superfluous and too excessive stream be poured over them, then the place will become a marshy and swampy plain instead of fertile land; for our land has need of irrigation, carefully measured out with a view to cause fertility, and not unmeasured. And on this account I will ask, What wilt thou give me, thou who hast already bestowed on me unspeakable mercies, and almost all things, so that mortal nature is incapable of containing them? For what remains that I wish to know, and to have, and to acquire, is this: who could he worthy of thy works, who could deserve to inherit them?
“I shall depart from life childless;” [Genesis xv. 2] having received a short-lived and ephemeral blessing, which speedily passes away, when I prayed for the contrary, namely, for one which should last many days, a long time; which should be free from all mishap, which should never die, but should be able to sow seeds of itself, and to stretch forth roots for the sake of giving it firmness, and which should raise its trunk upwards to heaven, and hold its head on high; for it is necessary that human virtue must walk upon the earth, and must, at the same time, strive to reach heaven; that there being hospitably received by immortality, it may pass all future time in freedom from all evil, for I know that thou hatest a barren and unproductive soul, thou who art thyself the supporter of things that have no existence, and the parent of all things. Since thou hast given especial grace to the race which has the faculty of seeing, so that it shall never be barren, and never be childless; and as I myself have been assigned to that race as a part of it, I am justly desirous of an heir; for, perceiving that that race is inextinguishable, I think it would be a most shameful thing of me to be indifferent to the sight of my own nature, separated from all that is good.
Therefore I am a suppliant to thee, and I implore thee, that those seeds and sparks being kindled and cherished, the saving light of virtue may burn up and give light, which being borne on like a torch, delivered from hand to hand in constant succession, may last as long as the world. Moreover, thou hast inspired those men who practice virtue with a desire for children of the sowing and generation of the soul; and they, having received such a portion have, in their joy, spoken and said, “The children which God hath mercifully given to thy servant,” [Genesis xxxiii. 5] of whom migration is the nurse and guardian, whose souls are simple, and tender, and well disposed, being calculated easily to receive the beautiful and most God-like impressions of virtue; and teach me also this saying, “Whether the son of Meshech, my servant, born in my house, is competent to become the inheritor of thy graces,” for up to this time I have not received the son whom I hoped for, and of the one whom I have received I have no hope.
VIII. But who Meshech is, and who her son is, must be examined in no superficial manner. Now the interpretation of the name Meshech is, “out of a kiss;” but a kiss differs from loving; for the one exhibits usually a discovery of souls united together by good-will, but the other intimates only a bare and superficial salutation when some necessity has brought the two parties to the same place. For as the meaning “to stoop” ('kuptein') is not contained in ('anakuptein') “ to lift up the head,” nor “to drink” ('pino') in, “to absorb” ('katapino'), nor “ a horse” ('hippos') in the word ('mazsippos') “a bag,” so also “to love” ('philein') is not necessarily contained in “to kiss” ('kataphilein'); since men yielding to the bitter necessities of life offer this salutation to numbers of their enemies. But what that salutation is which consists of a kiss, but not of sincere friendship for us, I will explain without any reservation or concealment. It is, forsooth, that life which exists in union with the external senses, which is called Meshech, being completely secured and defended, which there is no one who does not love, which men in general look upon as their mistress, but which virtuous men consider their handmaid, not a foreign slave or one bought with a price, but born in the house, and in some sense, a fellow citizen with themselves. Well, one class of these men have learnt to kiss this, not to love it; but the other class have learnt to love it to excess, and to think it an object of desire above all things.
But Laban, the hater of virtue, will neither be able to kiss the virtues which are assigned to the man who is inclined to the practice of virtue, but, making his own life to depend on hypocrisy and false pretenses, he, as if indignant, for he is not in reality affected, says, “I was not accounted worthy to kiss my children and my daughters;” [Genesis xxxi. 28] speaking very naturally and decorously, for we have all been taught to hate irony irreconcilably. Do thou, therefore, love the virtues, and embrace them with thy soul, and then you will be not at all desirous to kiss, which is but the false money of friendship;-- “For have they not yet any part or inheritance in thy house? have they not been reckoned as aliens before thee? and hast not thou sold them and devoured the money?” [Genesis xxxi. 14] so that you could neither at any subsequent time recover it, after having devoured the price of their safety and their ransom. Do you pretend, therefore, to wish to kiss, or else to wage endless war against all the judges? But Aaron will not kiss Moses, though he will love him with the genuine affection of his heart. “For,” says the scripture, “he loved him, and they embraced one another.” [Exodus xviii. 7.]
IX. But there are three kinds of life. The first life, to God; the second, with respect to the creature; the third, is on the borders of both, being compounded of the two others. Now, the life to God has not descended to us, and has not come to the necessities of the body. Again, life with respect to the creature has not wholly ascended up to heaven, nor has it sought to ascend, but it lurks in unapproachable recesses, arid rejoices in a life which is no life. And the mingled kind is that one which often ascends upwards, being conducted upwards by the better part, and it gazes on divine things, and contemplates them; but still it often turns back, being dragged in the contrary direction by the worse part: and when the portion of the better life, as if placed in the balance of a scale, outweighs the whole, then the weight of the opposite kinds of life is dragged in the contrary direction, so that the lightest weight appears to be in the opposite scale.
But Moses having, without any contest or doubt, given the crown of victory to that kind of life which is life to God, brings that forward as the best, likening the other two kinds to two women, one of whom he calls beloved, and the other hated, giving them both most appropriate names. For who is there who is not at times influenced by the pleasures and delights which he receives by means of his eyes, or by those which reach him through the medium of his ears, or of his sense of taste, or of his sense of smell and touch? And who is there who does not hate the contrary things, want and self-denial, and a life of austerity, and seeking after knowledge, which has never any share in amusement or laughter, but is full of gravity, and cares and labors, loving contemplation, an enemy to ignorance, superior to money, and glory, and pleasure, but under the dominion of temperance and true glory, and of that wealth which sees and is not blind? These, then, are at all times the eldest offspring of wisdom.
X. But Moses thinks those things which, though younger in point of time are nevertheless honorable by nature, worthy of the first honors of the birth-right, giving them a double share, and taking from the others half of their share; for, says he, “If a man have two wives, the one beloved and the other hated, and if they both bear children, then when he is about to distribute his property, he shall not be able to give the portion belonging to the first-born to the son of her who is beloved,” [Deuteronomy xxi. 15] namely, to the son of pleasure; for he is but young even though in point of time he may be old; but he looks upon the son of her who is hated, namely, of wisdom, as the elder, ever since he was a child; and, accordingly, to him he has assigned a double share.
But because we have, on a previous occasion, explained the figurative sense of this passage, we will now pass on to what comes next, to the passage before us; after we have first explained this point, that “God is said to have opened the womb of her who was hated,” and thus to have caused to arise an offspring of virtuous practices and good actions, while the wife, who was reputed to he beloved, was from that time forth barren: “For the Lord,” says the scripture, “seeing that Leah was hated, opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” [Genesis xxix. 31.] Is it not then the case, that when the soul is pregnant, and begins to bring forth such things as are becoming to the soul, then all those objects of the outward senses are barren and unproductive, objects to which the salutation belongs, which is given by a kiss and not by genuine affection?
XI. Each individual then among us is the son of life according to the outward sense, which he calls Meshech, honoring and admiring the foster-mother and nurse of the mortal race, namely, the outward sense, whom also, when the earthly mind, by name Adam, saw after it had been created, he named her life his own death; for, says the scripture, “Adam called his wife’s name Eve ('Zoe'), because she was the mother of all living,” [Genesis iii. 20] that is to say, of those who are in real truth dead as to the life of the soul; but they who really live have wisdom for their mother and the outward sense for their slave, which has been created by nature for the purpose of ministering to knowledge; and the name of that man who was born of life ('Zoe'), whom we have recognized by a kiss, he calls Damascus, which name, being interpreted, means “the blood of a sack;” by this figurative language, calling the body a sack, with great power and felicity; and by blood, he means the life which depends on the blood.
For since the soul is spoken of in two ways, first of all as a whole, secondly, as to the dominant part of it, which, to speak properly, is the soul of the soul, just as the eye is both the whole orb, and also the most important part of that orb, that namely by which we see; it seemed good to the law-giver that the essence of the soul should likewise be two-fold; blood being the essence of the entire soul, and the divine Spirit being the essence of the dominant part of it: accordingly he says, in express words, “The soul of all flesh is the blood thereof.” [Genesis ix. 8.] He does well here to attribute the flow of blood to the mass of flesh, combining two things appropriate to one another; but the essence of the mind he has not made to depend on any created thing, but has represented it as breathed into man by God from above. For, says Moses, “The Creator of the universe breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul,” [Genesis ii. 7] who also, it is recorded, was fashioned after the image of the Creator.
XII. So that the race of mankind also is twofold, the one being the race of those who live by the divine Spirit and reason; the other of those who exist according to blood and the pleasure of the flesh. This species is formed of the earth, but that other is an accurate copy of the divine image; and that description of us which is but fashioned clay, and which is kneaded up with blood, has need, in no slight degree, of assistance from God; on which account it is said, this Damascus of Eleazar. [Genesis xv. 2.] But the name Eleazar, being interpreted, means “God is my helper.” Since the mass of the body, which is filled with blood, being of itself easily dissolved and dead; has its existence through, and is kept alive by, the providence of God, who holds his arm and shield of defense over it, while our race cannot, by any resources of its own, exist in a state of firmness and safety for a single day.
Do you not see that the second of the sons of Moses has also the same name as this man? For “the name of the second,” says the scripture, “was Eleazar.” [Exodus xviii. 4.] And he adds the reason: “for the Lord has been my helper, and has delivered me out of the hand of Pharaoh.” But those who are still companions of that life which owes its existence to blood, and which is appreciable by the outward senses, are attacked by that disposition which is such a formidable disperser of piety, by name Pharaoh; from whose sovereignty, full as it is of lawlessness and cruelty, it is impossible to escape, unless Eleazar be born in the soul, and unless one puts one’s hope of succor in the only Savior.
And it is with particular beauty that he speaks of Damascus with reference, not to his father, but to his mother; in order to show that the soul depending on blood, by means of which the brute animals live, is akin properly to the female race; the race of his mother, and has no share in the male race. But this is not the case with virtue, that is with Sarah; for she has none but a male offspring, being borne only of God who is the father of all things, being that authority which has no mother. “For truly,” says the scripture, “she is my sister by my father’s side, but not by my mother’s.” [Genesis xx. 12.]
XlII. We have now explained what it was necessary for you to be apprised of as a preliminary. For the first part of the argument had a sort of enigmatical obscurity. But we must examine with more accurate particularity what the man who is fond of learning seeks. Perhaps then it is something of this sort: to know whether any one who is desirous of that life which is dependent on blood and who claims an interest in the objects of the outward sense, can become an inheritor of incorporeal and divine things? for of such only he who is inspired from above is thought worthy, having received a portion of heavenly and divine inheritance, being in fact the most pure mind, disregarding not merely the body but also the other fragment of the soul, which being devoid of reason is mixed up with blood, kindling the fervid passions and excited appetites. Accordingly it pushes its inquiries in this manner: since you have not given to me a seed which is capable of becoming its own instructor, namely, that seed which is able to be comprehended by the intellect, “Shall the slave born in my house be my heir?” the offspring of that life which is dependent upon blood. Then God, making haste, anticipated the speaker, sending, as one may say, instruction on in advance of speech. “For immediately,” says the scripture, “the voice of God came to him, saying, He shall not be thy heir;” [Genesis xv. 3] nor any one else of those who come to an exhibition of the outward senses. For the incorporeal natures are the inheritors of those things which can only be appreciated by the intellect.
And it has been especially observed here, that the scripture does not say he spoke to him or conversed with him, but the expression is, “The voice of God came to him;” as if God uttering a loud and unceasing sound, in order that the voice being thus distributed into every soul, might leave no part destitute of proper instruction, but that all parts might every where be filled with healthy learning.
XIV. Who, then, shall be the heir? Not that reasoning which remains in the prison of the body according to its own voluntary intention, but that which is loosened from those bonds and emancipated, and which has advanced beyond the walls, and if it be possible to say so, has itself forsaken itself. “For he,” says the scripture, “who shall come out from thee, he shall be thy heir.” Therefore if any desire comes upon thee, O soul, to be the inheritor of the good things of God, leave not only thy country, [Genesis xii. 1] the body, and thy kindred, the outward senses, and thy father’s house, that is speech; but also flee from thyself, and depart out of thyself, like the Corybantes, or those possessed with demons, being driven to frenzy, and inspired by some prophetic inspiration. For while the mind is in a state of enthusiastic inspiration, and while it is no longer mistress of itself, but is agitated and drawn into frenzy by heavenly love, and drawn upwards to that object, truth removing all impediments out of its way, and making every thing before it plain, that so it may advance by a level and easy road, its destiny is to become an inheritor of the things of God.
But, O mind! take confidence, and explain to us how you depart and emigrate from those former things, you who utter things perceptible only by the intellect to those who have been taught to hear rightly, always saying, I emigrated from my sojourn in the body when I learnt to despise the flesh, and I emigrated from the outward sense when I learnt to look upon the objects of outward sense as things which had no existence in reality -- condemning its judicial faculties as spurious and corrupted, and full of false opinion, and also condemning the objects submitted to that judgment as speciously devised to allure and to deceive, and to snatch the truth from out of the middle of nature. Again, I departed from speech when I convicted it of great unreasonableness, although it talked of sublime subjects and puffed itself up; for it dared a not inconsiderable deed of daring, namely, to show me bodies through the medium of shadows, and things by means of words, which was impossible; therefore it kept stumbling about over repeated obstacles, and kept on talking vainly, being unable by common expressions to give a clear representation and understanding of the peculiar properties of the subjects with which it was dealing. But I, learning by experience, like an infant and untaught child, decided that it was better to depart from all these things, and to attribute the powers of each to God, who makes and consolidates the body, and who prepares the outward senses so as to feel appropriately, and who gives to speech the power of speaking at its desire; and in the same manner in which you have departed from the other things, now rise up and emigrate from thyself. But what is the meaning of tins expression? Do not treasure up in thyself the faculties of perceiving, and thinking, and comprehending, but offer and dedicate these things to him who is the cause of thinking accurately, and of comprehending without being deceived.
XV. But it is the holier of the all-sacred places in the temple which receives this offering; for it appears that there are two; the one discernible only by the intellect, and the other perceptible by the outward senses. Now, of these creatures which are perceptible by the outward senses, this world is the receptacle; but of those things which are truly invisible, the world, which is discernible only by the intellect, is the magazine: but he that goes out from us and desires to become an attendant of God, is the inheritor of the much celebrated wealth of nature; he bears witness, who says, “He brought him out, and said unto him, Look up to heaven;” [Genesis xv. 5] since that is the treasury of the good things of God. “May the Lord,” says he, “open to thee the treasury of his good things,” [Deut. xxviii. 12] -- that is, the heaven; out of which he who furnishes the supply does incessantly rain the most perfect joys.
Look up, then, so as to convict the blind race of common men, which, though it appears to see, is blind. For how can it be otherwise than blind, when it sees evil instead of good, and what is unjust instead of what is just, and the indulgence of the passions, instead of a mastery over them, and things mortal, instead of things immortal, and when it runs away from its monitors and correctors, and from conviction and instruction, and admits flatterers, and the reasonings of idleness, and ignorance, and luxury, all exerted in the cause of pleasure? The good man, then, alone sees; in reference to whom the ancients also called the prophets, seers. [1 Samuel ix. 9.]
But he who advanced further outwards, not only seeing, but seeing God, was called Israel; the meaning of which name is, “seeing God.” But others, even if they ever do open their eyes, still bend them down towards the earth, pursuing only earthly things, and being bred up among material objects; for the one raises his eyes to the sky, beholding the manna, the divine word, the heavenly, incorruptible food of the soul, which is food of contemplation: but the others fix their eyes on garlic and onions, food which causes pain to the eyes, and troubles the sight, and makes men wink, and on other unsavory food, of leeks, and dead fish, the appropriate provender of Egypt. “For,” says the scripture, “we remembered the fish which we ate in Egypt without payment, and the gourds, and the cucumbers, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our soul is dry, and our eyes behold nothing but manna.” [Numbers xi. 5.]
XVI. And the statement, “He led him out” [Genesis xv. 5] ('egegagen auton'), has a bearing also on moral considerations, though some persons, through their want of instruction in moral philosophy, are accustomed to ridicule it, saying, “For is any one ever led out in ('exo eisagetai'), or led in out ('eisezchetai exo')?” “Certainly,” I would reply, “you ridiculous and very foolish man; for you have never learnt how to trace the dispositions of the soul; but by this language of yours you only seek to understand these motions of bodies which are exerted in change of place. On which account it seems paradoxical to you to speak of any one coming out into ('exezchetai eiso'), or going in out ('exezchetai exo'); but to those acquainted with Moses none of these things seem inconsistent.”
Would you not say that the perfect high priest when, being in the inmost shrine, he is performing his national sacrifices, is both within and without at the same time? within in respect of his visible body, but without in respect of his soul, which is roaming about and wandering? And again, on the other hand, would you not say that a man who was not of the family consecrated to the priesthood, but who was a lover of God and beloved by God, though standing without the holy shrine, was nevertheless in reality in its inmost parts? looking upon his whole life in the body as a sojourning in a foreign land; bat while he is able to live only in the soul, then he thinks that he is abiding in his own country.
For every fool is outside of friendship, even though he may not depart for one moment from daily association with people. But every wise man is within friendship, even if he be dwelling at a distance, not merely in a different country, but in another climate and region of the world. But, according to Moses, a friend is so near to one as to differ in no respect from one’s own soul, for he says, “the friend who is like thy soul.” [Deut. xiii. 6.] And again he says, “The priest shall not be a man by himself, when he goeth into the holy of holies, until he cometh out:” [Leviticus xvi. 17] speaking not with reference to the motions of the body, but to those of the soul; for the mind, while it is offering holy sacrifices to God in all purity, is not a human but a divine mind; but when it is serving any human object, it then descends from heaven and becomes changed, or rather it falls to the earth and goes out, even though the mind may still remain within.
Very correctly, therefore, it is said, he led him out ('exegagen exo') of the prison according to the body, of the caves existing in the external senses, of the sophistries displayed in deceitful speech; and beyond all this, out of himself and out of the idea that by his own self-exerted, self-implanted, and independent power he was able to conceive and comprehend.
XVII. And after he has conducted him out, he says to him, “Look up to heaven, and count the stars, if thou art able to number them; thus shall be thy seed.” [Genesis xv. 5.] He says very beautifully, “Thus shall be thy seed,” not so great shall it be, equal in number to the stars; for he does not intend here to allude to their multitude only, but also to an infinite number of other circumstances which contribute to entire and perfect happiness. “Thus shall thy seed be,” says God, as the ethereal firmament which thou beholdest, so heavenly, so full of unshadowed and pure brilliancy (for night is driven away from heaven, and darkness from virtue,) most thoroughly like the stars, beautifully adorned, having an arrangement which knows no deviation, but which is always the same and proceeding in the same way. For he means him to speak of the soul of the wise man as a copy of heaven, or, if one may use such a hyperbolical expression, as an actual heaven upon earth, having pure appearances in the air, and well arranged motions, and harmonious progress, and periodical revolutions of divine character, star-like and brilliant rays of virtue.
But if it is impossible to find out the number of the stars which are perceptible by the outward senses, how much more so must it be to count those which are discernible only by the intellect? for in proportion, I suppose, as that which judges is better or worse than that which is judged of (for the mind is better than the outward sense, and the outward sense is duller than the intellect; in the same ratio do the subjects of the judgment differ: so that the objects of the intellect are infinitely superior to those of the outward senses; for the eyes in the body are the smallest imaginable portion of the eye of the soul; for the one is like the sun, but the others only resemble lamps, which are at one time lighted and at another extinguished.
XVIII. Therefore that is a necessary addition which is subjoined, “Abraham believed in God,” [Genesis xv. 6] to the praise of him who did thus believe. And yet, perhaps, some one may say, “Do you judge this worthy of praise? who would not give his attention to God when saying or promising anything, even if he were the most wicked and impious of all men?” To whom we will reply, “Do not, do not, my good man, without further inquiry, either rob the wise man of his due praise, or attribute to unworthy persons that most perfect of the virtues, faith; and do not blame our opinion on this point; for if you are willing to enter upon a deeper investigation into this subject, and are not content with examining it superficially, you will then see clearly, that without the assistance or addition of something else, it is not easy to believe in God on account of that connection with mortality in which we are involved, which compels us to put some trust in money, and glory, and authority, and friends, and health, and vigor of body, and in numerous other things; but to wash off all these extraneous things, to disbelieve in creation, which is, in all respects, untrustworthy as far as regards itself, and to believe in the only true and faithful God, is the work of a great and heavenly mind, which is no longer allured or influenced by any of the circumstances usually affecting human life.”
XIX. And it is well added in the scripture, “And it was counted to him for righteousness:” for nothing is so righteous as to have an unalloyed and entire belief in the only God.
But this, although both just and consistent with reason, was considered an incredible thing on account of the incredulity of the generality of men, whom the holy scripture condemns, saying, that “to anchor firmly and unchangeably on the only living God, is a thing to be admired among men, who have no possession of true unmingled good, but is not to be wondered at if truth guide the judgment; but it is the especial attribute of justice.
XX. The scripture proceeds: “And he said unto him I am God, who brought thee out of the land of the Chaldaeans, so as to give thee this land to inherit it.” These words exhibit not only a promise, but a confirmation of an ancient promise; for the good which was previously bestowed upon him was the departure from the Chaldaean philosophy, which was occupied about the things of the air, which taught men to suppose that the world was not the work of God, but was God himself; and that good and evil is caused in the case of all existing things, by the motions and fixed periodical revolutions of the stars, and that on these motions the origin of all good and evil depends; and the equable ('homale') and regular motion of these bodies in heaven, persuaded those simple men to look upon these things as omens, for the name of the Chaldaeans being interpreted is synonymous with equability ('homalotes'). But the new blessing which is promised is the acquisition of that wisdom which is not taught by the outward senses, but is comprehended by the pure mind, and by which the best of all emigrations is confirmed; when the soul departs from astronomy and learns to apply itself to natural philosophy, and to exchange unsure conjecture for certain apprehension, and, to speak with real truth, to quit the creature for the Creator, and the world for its father and maker; for the scriptures tell us, that the votaries of the Chaldaean philosophy believed in the heaven, but that he who abandoned that sect believed in the ruler of the heaven and the manager of the whole world, namely, in God. A very beautiful inheritance, greater perhaps than the power of him who receives it, but worthy of the greatness of the giver.
XXI. But it is not sufficient for the lover of wisdom to have a hope of good things, and to expect all kinds of admirable things, because of the predictions given to him, but unless he also knows the manner in which he is to arrive at the succession of his inheritance, he thinks it very grievous, inasmuch as he thirsts after knowledge, and has an insatiable desire of attaining to it; on which account he puts a question, saying, O Lord God, how shall I know that I shall inherit it?” Perhaps some one may say that this question is at variance with perfect faith, for that to feel such a difficulty is the part of one who doubts, but that it is the part of one who believes to seek for nothing further. We must say, therefore, that he both doubts and has believed, but not about the same matter, far from it, for he has believed that he is to be an inheritor of wisdom, but he only seeks to know the manner in which this event will take place; that it really will take place he does by all means confidently comprehend, in accordance with the divine promises.
Therefore the teacher having praised the desire for learning which he feels, begins his explanation with the first elementary instruction, in which this is set down as the first and most necessary thing, “Take for me” [Genesis xv. 9.] The sentence is brief, but the meaning is great; for there are not a few things implied in these words. In the first place you have, says God, no good thing of your own, but whatever you fancy that you have, another has bestowed it upon you. From which it is inferred that all things are the property of God who gives them, but that they do not belong to the creature which only existed after him, and which stretches forth its hands to take them. In the second place, he says, even if you take them, take them not for yourself, but think what is thus given you a loan or deposit, and be ready to restore it to him who has deposited it with, or contributed it to you, requiting an older favor with a newer one, and an original kindness with one proffered instead of it, as justice and propriety require.
XXII. For many men have become wicked in respect of such sacred deposits, having, through their immoderate covetousness improperly used the property of others as their own. But do thou, O good man! endeavor with all thy strength, not only to present what you have received without injury and without adulteration, but also to take even more care than that of such things, that he who has deposited them with you may have no grounds to blame the care which has been exercised by you. And what the Creator of man has deposited in your custody are soul, speech, and external sense; which are symbolically named a heifer, a ram, and a goat, in the sacred scriptures. But these things some persons have at once appropriated through self-love, but others have stored them up so as to be able to return them in due season. Now, of those who have appropriated them, it is impossible to tell the number; for who of us is there who does not think his soul, and his speech, and his external senses, all taken together, to be his own property, thinking that to feel, and to speak, and to comprehend, depend upon himself alone? But of those who really preserve their faith holy and inviolate, the number is very small.
Such men attribute to God these three things: the soul, the external sense, and speech. For they have received all these things, not for themselves, but for him, in whose favor they naturally and appropriately confess that the energies according to each of these three things depend upon him, namely, the imaginations and apprehensions of the mind, the explanations of speech, and the perceptions of the outward senses. Those, now, who attribute these things to themselves, have received an allotment worthy of their own perverseness, namely, a soul fond of plotting against others, polluted with irrational passions, and enveloped in a multitude of vices; at one time eager to indulge in violent insolence through its gluttony and lasciviousness, as though it were in a brothel; at another time held fast by the multitude of its iniquities as in a prison, with wicked (not men but) actions which deserve to be led before all the judges. Secondly, speech insolent, loquacious, sharpened against the truth injurious to all who come in its way, and bringing disgrace upon those who possess it. Thirdly, the external sense, insatiable, always filling itself with the objects of the outward senses, but through its immoderate appetites never able to be satisfied, disregarding all its monitors and correctors, so as to refuse to look upon or to listen to them, and to reject with disdain all that they say to it for its good. But those who take these things not for themselves but for God, attribute each one of them to him, guarding that which they have acquired in a truly holy and religious manner, keeping their mind, so that it shall think of nothing else but the things relating to God and to his excellencies, and their speech so as to make it, with unrestrained mouth, and with encomiums, and hymns, and announcements of happiness, honor the father of the universe, collecting together and exhibiting all its powers of interpretation and utterance in this one office; and regulating the external senses, so that forming a conception of the whole of that world which is perceptible by them, they may, in a guileless, honest, and pure manner, relate to the soul all the heaven and earth, and the natures whose home is between the two, and all animals and plants, and their respective energies and faculties, and all their motions and their stationary existence.
For God has implanted in the mind a power of comprehending that world, which is appreciable only by the intellect, by its own power, but the invisible world by means of the external senses. And if any one were able in all his parts to live to God rather than to himself; looking by means of the external senses into those things which are their proper objects, for the sake of finding out the truth; and through the medium of the soul, investigating in a philosophical spirit the proper objects of intelligence, and those things which have a real existence, and by means of his organs of voice, singing hymns in praise of the world and of its Creator, he will have a happy and a blessed life.
XXIII. I think then that this is what intimated in the words, “Take for me;” God, intending to send down the perfection of his divine virtue from heaven to earth, out of pity for our race, in order that it might not be left destitute of a better portion, prepared in a symbolical manner the sacred tabernacle and the things in it, a thing made after the model and in imitation of wisdom. For he says that he has erected his oracle as a tabernacle in the midst of our impurity, in order that we may have something whereby we may be purified, washing off and cleansing all those things which dirt and defile our miserable life, full of all evil reputation as it is.
Let us now then see in what manner he has commanded us to bring in the different things which are to contribute to the furnishing of the tabernacle. “The Lord,” says the scripture, “spake unto Moses saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and take ye first-fruits for me of whatever it shall seem good to your heart to take my first-fruits.” [Exodus xxv. 1.] Therefore here also there is an injunction to take not for themselves but for God, examining who it is who gives these things, and doing no injury to what is given, but preserving it free from danger, and free from spot, perfect and entire. And the injunction, by which he orders the first fruits to be offered to himself; is full of doctrine; for in real truth the beginnings both of bodies and of things are investigated with reference to God alone; and search if you wish to understand everything, plants and animals, and arts and sciences.
Are then the first castings of the seed of plants, the actions of husbandry or the invisible works of invisible nature? What more need I ask ? What are the works of men and other animals? Have not they parents as co-operating causes, as it were, and also nature as the primary and more important and real cause? And is not nature the fountain, and root, and foundation of all arts and sciences, or any other name you please to give to the oldest of principles, nature, upon which all speculations are built up ? And if nature be not first laid as the foundation, everything is imperfect, and on this account some one seems to me to have said with great felicity:--
The first beginning is quite half the whole.
XXIV. Very appropriately therefore does the sacred scripture command the first-fruits to be offered up to the all-ruling God. And in another passage we read “The Lord spake unto Moses saying, Sanctify to me all the first born: all that is first brought forth, all that openeth the womb among the children of Israel, whether of man or beast is mine,” [Exodus xiii. 2] so that it is openly asserted in these words, that all the first things, whether in point of time or of power, are the property of God, and most especially all the first-born; since the whole of that race which is imperishable shall justly be apportioned to the immortal God; and if there is anything, in short, which openeth the womb, whether of man which here means speech and reason, or of beast which signifies the outward sense and the body; for that which openeth the womb of all these things, whether of the mind, so as to enable it to comprehend the things appreciable only by the intellect, or of the speech so as to enable it to exercise the energies of voice, or of the external senses, so as to qualify them to receive the impressions which are made upon them by their appropriate subjects, or of the body to fit it for its appropriate stationary conditions or motions, is the invisible, spermatic, technical, and divine Word, which shall most properly be dedicated to the Father.
And, indeed, as are the beginnings of God so likewise are the ends of God; and Moses is a witness to this, where he commands to “separate off the end, and to confess that it is due to God.” [Exodus xiii. 2.] The things in the world do also bear witness. How so? The beginning of a plant is the seed, and the end is the fruit, each of them being the work, not of husbandry, but of nature. Again, of knowledge the beginning is nature, as has been shown, but the end can never reach mankind, for no man is perfect in any branch of study whatever; but it is a plain truth, that all excellence and perfection belong to one Being alone; we therefore are borne on, for the future, on the confines of beginning and end, learning, teaching, tilling the ground, working up everything else, as if we were really effecting something, that the creature also may seem to be doing something; therefore, with a more perfect knowledge, Moses has confessed that the first-fruits and the end belong to God, speaking of the creation of the world, where he says, “In the beginning God created...” [Genesis i. 1.] And again he says, “God finished the heaven and the earth.” Now therefore he says, “Take for me,” assigning to himself what becomes him, and admonishing his hearer not to adulterate what is given to him, but to take care of it in a manner worthy of its importance. And again, in another passage, he who has need of nothing, and who on this account takes nothing, will confess that he does take something, for the sake of giving to his worshippers the feeling of piety, and of implanting in them an eagerness after holiness, and moreover sharpening their zeal in his service, as one who favorably receives the genuine worship and service of a willing soul, “For behold,” says he, “I have taken the Levites instead of all the first-born that openeth the womb among the children of Israel; they shall be their ransom;” [Num. iii. 12] therefore we take and give, but we are said to take with strict accuracy, but it is only by a metaphorical abuse of the term that we are said to give, for the reasons which I have already mentioned. And it is very felicitously that he has called the Levites a ransom, for nothing so completely conducts the mind to freedom as its fleeing for refuge to and becoming a suppliant of God; and this is what the consecrated tribe of the Levites particularly professes to be.
XXV. Having now, therefore, said as much as is proper on these subjects, let us proceed onwards to what comes next; for we have postponed the consideration of many things which ought to be examined into with exactness. “Take for me,” says God, “a heifer which has never been yoked and has never been ill-treated, tender and young,” [Genesis xv. 9] and exulting; that is to say, a soul adapted easily to receive government, and instruction, and superintendence. “Take for me also a ram,” that is to say, speech contentious and perfect, capable of dissecting and overthrowing the sophistries of these who advance contrary opinions, and capable also of ensuring safety, and good order, and regularity to him who uses it. “Take for me,” also the external sense, which lives and directs all its energies to the world, which is perceptible by it, that is, “a goat,” three complete years old, enjoying solid strength in a perfect number, having beginning, middle, and end. Besides all these things, “a turtle dove and a pigeon,” that is to say, divine and human wisdom, both of them being winged, and being animals accustomed to soar on high, still different from one another, as much as genus differs from species or a copy from the model; for divine wisdom is fond of lonely places, loving solitude, on account of the only God, whose possession she is; and this is called a turtle-dove, symbolically; but the other is quiet and tame, and gregarious, haunting the cities of men, and rejoicing in its abode among mortals, and so they liken her to a pigeon.
XXVI. Moses appears to me to have intended figuratively to represent these virtues when he calls the midwives of the Egyptians, Shiphrah and Puah, [Exodus i. 15] for the name Shiphrah, being interpreted, means “ a little bird,” and Puah means “red.” Now it is the especial property of divine wisdom, like a bird, to be always soaring on high; but it is the characteristic of human wisdom to study modesty and temperance, so as to blush at all objects which are worthy to cause a blush; and as a very manifest proof of this the scripture says, “He took for himself all these things.” [Genesis xv. 10.] This is the praise of a virtuous man, who preserves the sacred deposit of those things which he has received, the soul, the outward sense, speech, divine wisdom, human knowledge, in a pure and guileless manner, not for himself, but only for him who has trusted him. After this the scripture proceeds to say, “And he divided them in the middle,” not explaining who did so, in order that you may understand that it was the untaught God who divided them, and that he divided all the natures of bodies and of things one after another, which appeared to be closely fitted together and united by his word, winch cuts through everything; which being sharpened to the finest possible edge, never ceases dividing all the objects of the outward senses, and when it has gone through them all, and arrived at the things which are called atoms and indivisible, then again this divider begins from them to divide those things which may be contemplated by the speculations of reason into unspeakable and indescribable portions, and to “beat the gold into thin plates,” [Exodus xxxix. 3] like hairs, as Moses says, making them into one length without breadth, like unsubstantial lines. Each therefore of the three victims he divided in the midst, dividing the soul into the rational and the irrational part, speech into truth and falsehood, and the outward sense into imaginations which can be and which cannot be comprehended; and these divisions he immediately places exactly opposite to one another, that is, the rational part opposite to the irrational, truth to falsehood, what is comprehensible to what is incomprehensible, leaving the birds undivided; for it was impossible to divide the incorporeal and divine sciences into contrarieties at variance with one another.
XXVII. But as the discussion on the subject of a division into equal portions, and on that of opposite contrarieties, is of great extent and of necessary importance, we will not wholly pass it by, nor will we dwell on it with prolixity, but, investigating it as it is, we will be content with such things as seem suitable to the occasion.
For as the Creator divided our soul and our limbs in the middle, so also, in the same manner, did he divide the essence of the universe when he made the world; for, having taken it, he began to divide it thus: in the first instance, he made two divisions, the heavy and the light, separating that which was thick from that which was more subtle. After that, he again made a second division of each, dividing the subtle part into air and fire, and the denser portion into water and earth; and, first of all, he laid down those elements, which are perceptible by the outward senses, to be, as it were, the foundations of the world which is perceptible by the outward senses. Again, he subdivided heavy and light according to other ideas, for he divided the light into cold and hot; and the cold he called air, and that which was hot by nature he called fire. The heavy, again, he divided into wet and dry; and the dry he called land, and the wet he called water -- and each of these, again, received other further subdivisions; for the land was divided into continents and islands, and the water into sea and rivers, and all drinkable springs, and the air was divided into the solstices of summer and winter; fire, also, was divided into what is useful (but fire is a most insatiable and destructive thing), and also by a different division into what is saving; and this division was assigned for the conformation of the heaven.
But as he divided the things when entire, so also did he divide the particular divisions, some of which were animated and others inanimate; and of those which were inanimate he made a division into those which always remain in the same place, the bond of which is habit, and those which move, not indeed in the way of changing their place, but so as to grow, which indescribable nature has vivified. Again of these, those which are of wild materials are productive of wild fruits, which are the food of brute beasts; but others producing good fruit, the cultivation of which has called forth diligent superintendence and care, and these produce fruit for the tamest of all animals, namely, for man, that he may enjoy them. And not only did he divide the inanimate things, and those which had received a soul and vitality in one manner -- for of these he defined one species as that of irrational, and one as that of rational animals -- but he also again subdivided each of these things, dividing the irrational into the wild and the tame species, and the rational into the mortal and the immortal. Again, of the mortal he made two divisions, one of which he called men, and the other women; and, in the same manner, he divided the irrational animals into male and female.
And these things were also subjected to other necessary divisions, which made distinctions between them; winged animals being distinguished from terrestrial, terrestrial from aquatic creatures, and aquatic creatures, again, from both extremities. Thus God, having sharpened his own word, the divider of all things, divides the essence of the universe which is destitute of form, and destitute of all distinctive qualities, and the four elements of the world which were separated from this essence, and the plants and animals which were consolidated by means of these elements.
XXVIII. But since Moses not only uses the expression, “he divided,” but says further, “he divided in the midst,” it is necessary to say a few words on the subject of equal divisions; for that which is divided skillfully just in the middle makes two equal divisions. And no man could ever possibly divide anything into two exactly equal parts; but it is inevitable that one of the divisions must fall a little short, or exceed a little, if not much, at all events by a small quantity, in every instance, which indeed escapes the perception of our outward senses which attend only to the larger and more tangible burdens of nature and custom, but which are unable to comprehend atoms and indivisible things. But it is established by the incorruptible word of truth that there is nothing equal in inequality.
God alone therefore seems to be exactly just, and to be the only being able to divide in the middle bodies and things, in such a manner that none of the divisions shall be greater or less than the other by the smallest and most indivisible portion, and he alone is able to attain to sublime and perfect equality.
If therefore there were but one idea of perfect equality, what has been said would be quite sufficient for the purpose. But as there are many, we must not hesitate to add some considerations which are suitable. For the word “equal” is used in one sense when speaking of numbers, as when we say that two are equal to two, and three to three; and speak of other numbers in the same manner. But in another sense when speaking of magnitude, as equal in length or breadth, or depth, which are all different proportions. For wrestler compared with wrestler, or cubit with cubit are equal in magnitude but different in power, as is the case also with measures and weights. But the idea of equality is a necessary one, and so is that of equality in proportion, according to which a few things are looked upon as equal to many, and small things are equal to larger ones. And their proportionate equality, cities are accustomed to use at suitable times, when they command every citizen to contribute an equal share of his property, not equal in number, but in proportion to the value of his assessment, so that in some cases he who contributes a hundred drachms will appear to have brought an equal sum with him who contributes a talent.
XXIX. These things being thus previously sketched out, see now how God, dividing things in the middle, has divided them into equal portions according to all the ideas of equality which occur in the creation of the universe. He has divided the heavy things so as to make them equal in number to the light ones, two to two; that is to say, so that the earth and the water, being things of weight, are equal in number to those which are by nature light, air and fire. Again, he has made one equal to one, the driest thing to the wettest thing, the earth to the water; and the coldest thing to the hottest thing, the air to the fire, So, in the same manner, he has divided light from darkness, and day from night, and summer from winter, and autumn from spring; and so on.
Again, he has divided things so as to make his divisions equal in point of magnitude; such as the parallel cycles in heaven, and those which belong to the equinoxes both of spring and autumn, and those which belong to the winter and summer solstice. And on the earth he has divided the zones, two being equal to one another, which being placed close to the poles are frozen with cold, and on this account are uninhabitable. And two he has placed on the borders between these two and the torrid zone, and these two they say are the abode of a happy temperature of the air, one of them lying towards the south and the other towards the north.
Now the divisions of time are equal in point of length, the longest day being equal to the longest night, and again the shortest day being equal to the shortest night, and the mean length of day to the mean length of night. And the equal magnitude of other days and nights appears to be indicated chiefly by the equinoxes. From the spring equinox to the summer solstice, day receives an addition to its length, and night, on the other hand, submits to a diminution; until the longest day and the shortest night are both completed. And then after the summer solstice the sun, turning back again the same road, neither more quickly nor more slowly than he advanced, but always preserving the same difference in the same manner, having a constantly equal arrangement, proceeds on till the autumnal equinox; and then, having made day and night both equal, it begins to increase the length of the night, diminishing the day until the time of the winter solstice. And when it has made the night the longest night, and the day the shortest day, then returning back again and adopting the same distances as before, he again comes to the spring equinox.
Thus the differences of time which appear to be unequal, do in reality possess a perfect equality in respect of magnitude, not indeed at the same seasons, but at different seasons of the year.
XXX. And a very similar effect is seen in the different parts of animals and especially of men. For hand is equal to hand, and foot to foot, and nearly all the other limbs of the body are equal to their corresponding members in magnitude, those on the left hand being equal to those on the right. And there are an exceeding number of things which are equal to one another in power, both among wet things and dry things, the judgment on which is seen in measures and scales, and things of that kind. And nearly all things are equal as respects proportion, even all the little and all the great things in the whole world. For those who have examined the questions of natural philosophy with some accuracy say that the four elements are all equal in proportionate equality. And it is by proportion that the whole world is compounded together, and united, and endowed with consistency so as to remain firm for ever, proportion having distributed equality to each of its parts. And they say also that the four elements which are in us, dryness, and moisture, and cold, and heat have all been mixed together and well adapted by proportionate equality, and in fact that our whole composition is nothing but a mixture of the four powers combined together by an equality of proportion.
XXXI. But any one who examines all these things might add an interminable list of arguments and instances to this one present discussion. If he considered he would find the very smallest animals equal to the largest as to proportion; as for instance he would find the swallow equal to the eagle, the herring equal to the whale, and the ant equal to the elephant. For body and soul, and again pains and pleasures, and moreover affection for and dislike towards things, and all the other feelings which the nature of animals experience, are nearly all of them similar, being made equal by the rule of proportion. Thus some men have felt confidence even to declare that the smallest of animals, man, is equal to the whole world, considering that each of them consists of a body and a rational soul, so that, using a figurative expression, they have called man a little world, and the world a large man. And in teaching this they are not very wide of the mark, but they know that the art of God according to which he created all things, admitting neither any extraordinary intensity nor any relaxation; but always remaining the same, made every single existing thing perfectly, according to its own excessive and consummate perfection, the Creator employing all numbers and all the ideas which tend to perfection.
XXXII. For, as Moses says, “He judged according to the little and according to the great,” [Deuteronomy i. 17] engendering and fashioning everything, and not taking anything away from the display of his art by reason of the obscurity of his materials, not adding anything because of their brilliancy; since all the artists who have any reputation wish to work up whatever materials they take in an admirable manner, whether they are costly or whether they are inexpensive. And before now some persons, having even an extraordinary love of distinction, have even spent more skill in working up materials of little value, than they have devoted to those which are costly, wishing to make up for the deficiencies of the material by the additional display of their skill. But there is no material which has any value in the eyes of God, because he has given all materials an equal share of his skill. In reference to which it is said in the sacred scriptures, “God saw all that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” [Genesis i. 31.] But the things which receive an equal degree of praise, are by all means held in equal estimation by him who confers the praise; and what God praised was not the materials which he had worked up into creation, destitute of life and of melody, and easily dissolved, and moreover in their own intrinsic nature perishable, and out of all proportion and full of iniquity, but rather his own skillful work, completed according to one equal and well-proportioned power and knowledge always alike and identical. In reference to which all things were also accounted equal and similar by all the rules of proportion, according to the principles of art and knowledge.
XXXIII. And if there is any one in the world who is a praiser of equality, that man is Moses. In the first place composing hymns in its honor, and in every place, and calling it the especial property of justice, as in fact its very name to some degree shows, to divide ['dicha temnein=dikaiosune'] bodies and things into two equal parts; and in the second place blaming injustice, the worker of the most disgraceful inequality; and inequality has been the parent of two wars, foreign and civil war, as on the other hand equality is the parent of peace. And he also utters the most manifest panegyric on justice, and the most undeniable reproach of injustice when he says, “You shall not commit injustice in any judgment, nor in measures, or weights or balances: a just balance, and just weights, and a just heap, shall be yours.” [Leviticus xix. 35.] And in Deuteronomy he says, “There shall not be a false weight in thy bag; thy weight shalt be true and just; there shall not be a little weight and a large one; that thy days may be multiplied upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, because every one who committeth injustice is an abomination to the Lord.” [Deuteronomy xxv. 13.]
Therefore God, who loveth justice, hates and abominates injustice, the beginning of sedition and of evils; and in one passage the lawgiver represents equality as the muse of justice beginning with the creation of the entire heaven. For he says, “And God made a separation between the light and between the darkness, and he called the light day, and the darkness he called night.” [Genesis i. 4.] For it is equality which allotted night and day and light and darkness to existing things. It is equality also that divided the human race into man and woman, making two divisions, unequal in strength, but most perfectly equal for the purpose which nature had principally in view, the generation of a third human being like themselves. For, says Moses, “God made man; in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” [Genesis i. 26.] He no longer says “him,” but “them” in the plural number, adapting the species to the genus, which have, as I have already said, been divided with perfect equality.
XXXIV. And he apportioned cold and heat, and summer and spring, the different seasons of the year, divided by the same dividing Word. And the three days which passed before the creation of the sun, are equal in number to the three days of the first week which came after the creation of the sun, the number six being dissected equally in order to display the character of eternity and of time. For thus God allotted three days to eternity before the appearance of the sun, and those which came after the sun he allotted to time; the sun being an imitation of eternity, and time and eternity being the two primary powers of the living God; the one his beneficent power, in accordance with which he made the world, and in respect of which he is called God; the other his chastening power, according to which he rules and governs what he has created, in respect of which he is further denominated Lord, and these two he here states to be divided in the middle by him standing above them both. “For,” says he, “I will speak to you from above the mercy-seat, in the midst, between the two cherubims;” [Exodus xxv. 22] that he might show that the most ancient powers of the living God are equal; that is to say, his beneficent and his chastising being both divided by the same dividing Word.
XXXV. But what are the pillars of the the generic laws which he calls tables? They are two; equal in number to the parts of the soul, the rational and irrational part, which must be instructed and corrected, being again divided by the Lawgiver; “for the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraven on the tables.” [Exodus xxxii. 16.] And, indeed, of the ten commandments engraved on these tables which are properly and especially laws, there is an equal division into two numbers of five; the first of which contains the principle of justice relating to God, and the second those relating to man.
Now of those principles of justice relating to God, the first law enunciated is one which opposes the polytheistic doctrine, and teaches us that the world is ruled over by one sole governor. The second is one forbidding men to make gods of things which are not the causes of anything, by means of the treacherous arts of painters and sculptors, whom Moses banished from his own constitution which he proposed to establish, condemning them to everlasting banishment, in order that the only true God might be honored in truth and simplicity. The third law is one about the name of the Lord, not about that name which has not yet reached his creatures; for that name is unspeakable, but about the name which is constantly applied to him as displayed in his powers; for it is commanded that we shall not take his name in vain. The fourth commandment is concerning the seventh day, always virgin, and without any mother, in order that creation, taking care that it may be always free from labor, may in this way come to a recollection of him who does everything without being seen.
The fifth commandment is about the honor due to parents. For this also is a sacred command; having reference not to men, but to him who is the cause of birth and existence to the universe, in accordance with whom it is that fathers and mothers appear to generate children; not generating them themselves, but only being the instruments of generation in his hands. And this command is placed, as it were, on the borders between the two tables of laws relating to God and those relating to man, and so it bounds the five which concern piety, and that five also which comprehend a prevention of injury to one’s fellows. Since mortal parents are the boundaries of the immortal powers, which, generating everything according to nature, have permitted this lowest and mortal race to imitate their own powers of generation, and so to propagate its own seed; for God is the beginning of all generation, and the mortal species of mankind, being the lowest and least honored of all, is the end.
The other table of five is the prohibition of adultery, of murder, of theft, of false witness, and of covetousness. These are generic rules, comprehending nearly all offenses whatever, and to one of these rules each particular and special action is naturally referrable.
XXXVI. But you see also that the regularly occurring daily sacrifices are divided into equal portions; one portion being the sacrifice which the priests offer in their own behalf, consisting of the finest wheat-flour, and the other being that which they offer on behalf of the whole nation; consisting of two lambs, which they are especially commanded to offer. [Leviticus vi. 20.] For the law commands them to offer one half of the sacrifices above-mentioned early in the morning, and the other half at the time of the evening twilight, in order that God may receive his proper tribute of thanks for the blessings which are showered upon all men during the night.
You see also that the loaves which are placed upon the sacred table are divided by the twelve into equal parts, so as to be distributed to each company of six in number, and are so placed as a memorial of the tribes which are of a corresponding number; one half of whom, virtue, that is Leah, received as her share, having become the mother of six leaders of tribes; and the other half fell to the lot of Rachel’s children and those of the other women.
You see also that the twelve stones of an emerald upon the garment which reached down to the priests’ feet are divided equally on the right and on the left side of the garment; on which, being divided into equal numbers of six, the names of the twelve patriarchs of the tribes were engraved, being divine characters engraved on pillars, memorials of divine natures. What more need I say? Has he not also, taking two mountains symbolically to mean two races, and having again divided them on principles of the equality of proportion, allotted one to those who bless, and the other to those who curse; appointing leaders of tribes over each in order to give admonitions to those who have need of them, and to show them that the curses are equal in number to the blessings, and nearly, if it may be lawful to say so, of equal value? For the praises of the good and the reproaches of the wicked are of equal service, since to avoid evil and to choose good are, among all persons of sound sense, looked upon as one and the same thing.
XXXVII. A great impression is made upon me by the selection and division of the two goats which are brought as an offering for the purpose of atonement, and which are divided by an obscure and uncertain principle of division, namely, by lot. For of two principles, the one which is occupied about the affairs of divine virtue is consecrated and set apart to be offered to God; but that which devotes itself to the concerns of human unhappiness is appropriated to the banished creature, for the share which that has obtained the sacred scriptures call the scapegoat, since it is removed from its place, and pursued and driven away to a great distance from virtue.
And, as is the case with respect to good and unadulterated money, so also, as there are many things in nature, does not the invisible divider appear to you to divide them into equal portions, and to distribute the good money which has stood the test to the lover of instruction, and that which has not been properly coined, and which is bad, to the man who is ignorant? for, says Moses, “that which had no mark belonged to Laban, and that which was marked belonged to Jacob.” [Genesis xxx. 42.] For the soul, being as some ancient writer has said, a waxen tablet, while it is hard and resisting, repels and refuses the impressions which are attempted to be stamped upon it; and remains of necessity undistinguished by any figure. But when it becomes tractable and yielding in a moderate degree, it then receives deep impressions, and having taken off the stamp given by the seal, it preserves accurately the appearances which are impressed upon it, so that they cannot be effaced.
XXXVIII. Moreover, the equal division of the sacrifices of blood is certainly calculated to excite our admiration: which division the chief priest Moses, having nature for his teacher, made; for, says the scripture, “He, taking the half of the blood, poured it into the bowls; and the other half he poured out upon the altar.” [Exodus xxiv. 6.] In order to show that the sacred genus of wisdom is of a twofold nature, the one kind being divine, and the other human: and the divine kind is unmingled and unadulterated, on which account it sacrifices to the pure, and unalloyed, and only God existing in unity; but the human kind is of a mixed and alloyed nature, and therefore dissipates the unanimity and community of our mixed, and combined, and compound race, and effects any thing rather than a proper harmony of either melodies or morals.
But the unmixed and unadulterated portion of the soul is the pure mind, which, being inspired by heaven from above, when it is preserved in a state free from all disease and from all mishap is very suitably all poured forth and resolved into the elements of a sacred libation, and so restored in a fitting manner to God, who inspired it and preserved it free from any infliction of evil; but the mixed portion is entirely that of the outward senses, and for this part nature has made suitable craters. Now, the craters of the sense of seeing are the eyes, those of hearing are the ears, those of smelling are, the nostrils, and so on with the appropriate receptacles for each of the senses. On these craters the sacred word pours a portion of blood, thinking it right that the irrational part of us should become endowed with soul and vitality, and should in some manner become rational; following the guidance of admonition, and purifying itself from the deceitful alluring powers of the objects of the outward sense which aim to overcome it.
Was it not in the same manner that the holy double-drachm was divided? [Exodus xxx. 13.] That we should purify the half of it, namely, a drachm, offering it as the ransom for our souls: which the only free, the only delivering God, when addressed in the voice of supplication, and sometimes even without any supplication, by force delivers from the cruel and bitter despotism of the passions and iniquities; but the other portion we may leave to the race which is never free, but which is of a slavish disposition; of which class was the man who said, “I have loved my lord;” [Exodus xxi. 5] that is to say, the mind which is the master in me; “and my wife,” that is to say, the outward sense which is dear to him, and the housekeeper of his passions; “and my children,” that is to say, the evils which are the offspring of them; “I will not depart free.” For it is quite inevitable that such a description of persons as this must obtain a lot which is no lot, and that the scapegoat bought with the double drachm, must be given to them, which is just the opposite of the drachm and of unity which is offered up to God. And it is the nature of unity not to be capable of either addition or subtraction, inasmuch as it is the image of the only complete God; for all other things are intrinsically and by their own nature loose; and if there is any where any thing consolidated, that has been bound by the word of God, for this word is glue and a chain, filling all things with its essence. And the word, which connects together and fastens every thing, is peculiarly full itself of itself, having no need whatever of any thing beyond.
XXXIX. Very naturally therefore does Moses say, “He who is rich will not add anything, and he who is poor will not diminish anything of the half of the double drachm,” [Exodus xxx. 15] which is, as I have said before, a drachm, and a unit; to which every member might quote that line of the poet:
With thee I’ll end, with thee I will begin.
For even an infinitely infinite number, being made of a continuation of other numbers, when dissolved must end in a unit: and again it must begin with a unit, being afterwards compounded so as to make an illimitable multitude; on which account those who have made the investigation of such matters their study, have not called the unit a number, but rather an element, and the beginning of number.
Again this heavenly food of the soul which Moses calls manna, the word of God divides in equal portions among all who are to use it; taking care of equality in an extraordinary degree. And Moses bears witness to this where he says, “He who had much had not too much, and he who had but little was in no want;” [Exodus xvi. 18] since they all used that wonderful and most desirable measure of proportion. On which account it happened to the Israelites to learn that each of them was collecting not more for the men who were related to him than for the reasonings and manners which were akin to him. For as much as was sufficient for each man, that he was allotted in a prudent manner, so as neither to feel any want or any superfluity.
XL. And we may find something very much resembling this equality, according to analogy in the case of the festival which is called the passover; and the passover is when the soul is anxious to unlearn its subjection to the irrational passions, and willingly submits itself to a reasonable mastery over them. For it is expressly said, “If there be few that are in thy house, so as not to be sufficient in number for a sheep, then thou shalt take thy nearest neighbor in addition, according to the number of souls,” [Exodus xii. 16] so that each person may receive a sufficient share in proportion to the number of his family, being such as he is found to be worthy of and to have need of.
But when, as if it were some country, he wishes to divide out virtue among its inhabitants, he then allows the more numerous body to have more, and the less numerous to have less, thinking it reasonable not to allot a larger share to a smaller number, nor a smaller share to a larger number; for in such a case they would neither of them be suited to their respective portions.
XLI. But the most manifest instance of equality in respect of number, is exhibited in the sacred offerings of the twelve princes, and again in the portions of those offerings which are distributed among the chiefs. For, says the scripture, “There shall be an equal share allotted to each of the sons of Aaron.” [Numbers vii. 5.] Equality is also very beautifully displayed in respect of the composition of spices for purposes of fumigation; for we read, “Take to thyself sweet odors, stacte, onycha, galbanum, these sweet spices with pure frankincense, all of the most chosen kinds, all of equal weight and thou shalt make of it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, a pure composition, a holy work.” [Exodus xxx. 34.] For the Lord enjoins here that each of the separate portions shall be equal to each, with a view to the proper composition of the whole.
And as I imagine these four ingredients of which the entire perfume is composed are emblems of the four elements of which the whole world is made; he likens the stacte to water, the onycha to land, the galbanum to the air, and the pure transparent frankincense to fire; for stacte, which derives its name from the drops ('stagones') in which it falls is liquid, and onycha is dry and earth-like, the sweet smelling galbanum is added by way of giving a representation of the air, for there is fragrance in the air; and the transparency which there is in frankincense serves for a representation of fire. On which account also, he has separated the things which have weight from those which are light, uniting the one class by a closely connecting combination, and bringing forth the other in a disunited form; as where he says, “Take to thyself sweet odors, stacte, onycha,” these things being weighty he mentions unconnectedly, being the symbols of earth and water. Afterwards he begins afresh with the other class, which he mentions in combination, saying, “And the sweet spice of galbanum and the transparent frankincense,” these again being in their own nature emblems of the light things, air and fire.
And the harmonious composition and mixture of these things is truly his most ancient and most perfect holy work, namely, the world; which, speaking of it under the emblem of perfume, he thinks is bound to show gratitude to its Creator. So that in name the composition which has been carefully fabricated by the art of the apothecary may be offered up, but in real fact the whole world which was created by divine wisdom may be consecrated and dedicated, being made a burnt offering of early in the morning and also in the evening. For such a life as this becomes the world, namely, continually and without ceasing to be giving thanks to its Father and Creator, so as to stop short of nothing but evaporating and reducing itself into its original element, in order to show that it stores up and conceals nothing, but dedicates itself wholly as a pious offering to God who created it.
XLII. And I marvel also at that sacred word which runs on with zeal, in one continued course, without taking breath, “In order to stand in the midst between the dead and the living; and immediately,” says Moses, “the plague was stayed.” [Numbers xvi. 48.] But the evils which grind down and break to pieces and crush our souls were not likely either to be stayed or lightened, unless the reasoning, dear to God, had separated off the holy men who live in sincerity, from the unholy who in real truth are dead; for, owing to the mere fact of being near those who are sick, it has often happened that those who were in perfect health have caught their disease, and have been at the point of death: and it was impossible for them any longer to be exposed to this affliction if they once separated by a strong boundary fixed in the middle between them, which will preserve the better part by keeping off the inroads and attacks of the worse.
And I marvel still more, when listening to the sacred oracles I learn from them in what manner “a cloud came in the midst” [Exodus xiv. 19] between the army of the Egyptians and the company of the children of Israel; for the cloud no longer permitted the race, which is temperate and beloved by God, to be persecuted by that which was devoted to the passions and a foe to God; being a covering and a protection to its friends, but a weapon of vengeance and chastisement against its enemies; for it gently showers down wisdom on the minds which study virtue -- wisdom which cannot be visited by any evil. But on those minds which are ill-disposed and unproductive of knowledge, it pours forth a whole body of punishments, bringing upon them the most pitiable destruction of the deluge.
And the Father who created the universe has given to his archangelic and most ancient Word a pre-eminent gift, to stand on the confines of both, and separated that which had been created from the Creator. And this same Word is continually a suppliant to the immortal God on behalf of the mortal race, which is exposed to affliction and misery and is also the ambassador, sent by the Ruler of all, to the subject race. And the Word rejoices in the gift, and, exulting in it, announces it and boasts of it, saving, “And I stood in the midst, between the Lord and you;” [Numbers xvi. 48] neither being uncreate as God, nor yet created as you, but being in the midst between these two extremities, like a hostage, as it were, to both parties a hostage to the Creator, as a pledge and security that the whole race would never fly off and revolt entirely, choosing disorder rather than order; and to the creature, to lead it to entertain a confident hope that the merciful God would not overlook his own work. For I will proclaim peaceful intelligence to the creation from him who has determined to destroy wars, namely God, who is ever the guardian of peace.
XLIII. Therefore the sacred Word, having given us instruction respecting the division into equal parts, leads us also to the knowledge of opposites, saying that God placed the divisions “opposite to one another;” [Genesis xv. 10] for in fact nearly all the things that exist in the world, are by nature opposite to one another. And we must begin with the first.
Hot is opposite to cold, and dry to wet, and light to heavy, and darkness to light, and night to day; also in heaven that which is fixed is opposite to the wandering planetary motion, and in the air a clear sky is opposite to clouds, winter to summer, autumn to spring, for the one is blooming and the other fading. Again, of things on earth, sweet water is opposite to bitter, and barren to fertile land. Again, there are other things contrary to one another, as visible bodies to incorporeal, things endowed with vitality to things inanimate, rational to irrational, mortal to immortal, things discernible by the outward sense to things perceptible only by the intellect; things comprehensible to things incomprehensible, elements to things concrete and perfected, beginning to end, generation to destruction, life to death, disease to health, white to black, the right to the left, justice to injustice, wisdom to folly, courage to cowardice, temperance to intemperance, virtue to vice; and all the species of one class to all the species of the other class.
Again, grammatical knowledge is contrary to ignorance of the same subject, musical science to unacquaintance with music, an educated to an illiterate condition; and, in short, skill in art to want of skill. Again, in the different arts there are vocal elements and mute elements, there are sharp and flat sounds, there are straight and circular lines. Once more, in animals and plants, there are some barren and some productive; some very prolific, others which yield but small increase; animals oviparous and animals viviparous; animals with soft skins, and others with hard shells; some wild and some tractable creatures; some fond of solitude, and others gregarious.
To go on further: poverty is opposite to wealth, glory to want of reputation, baseness of birth to nobility, want to abundance, war to peace, law to lawlessness, a bad to a good disposition, inactivity to labor, youth to old age, power to want of power, weakness to strength. And why need I enumerate every class separately, when these are unlimited and indescribable by reason of their multitude? Very beautifully, therefore, has the interpreter of the writings of nature, taking pity upon our idleness and want of consideration, taught every one of us in an invisible manner, as he does now, to arrange everything in such a way as to produce an exact opposition, not arranging them in wholes, but in equal divisions; for one thing consists of the two opposite parts; and when that one thing is bisected then the opposite parts are easily known. Is not this the thing which the Greeks say that Heraclitus, that great philosopher who is so celebrated among them, put forth as the leading principle of his whole philosophy, and boasted of it as if it were a new discovery? For it is in reality an ancient discovery of Moses, that out of the same thing opposite things are produced having the ratio of parts to the whole, as has here been shown.
XLVI. These matters then we will examine into accurately on another occasion; but there is this other point also, which does not deserve to be passed over in silence. For the divisions into two equal parts which have been mentioned become six in number, since three animals were divided, so that the Word which divided them made up the number seven, dividing the two triads and establishing itself in the midst of them. And a thing very similar to this appears to me to be very clearly shown in the matter of the sacred candlestick; for that also was made having six branches, three on each side, and the main candlestick itself in the middle made the seventh, dividing and separating the two triads; for it is made of carved work, a divine work of exquisite skill and highly admired, being made of one solid piece of pure gold. For the unit, being one and single and pure, begot the number seven, which had no mother but is born of itself alone, without taking any additional material whatever to aid him.
But those who praise gold say a great many other things by way of panegyric on it, but dwell on two especial points as most particularly important and excellent; one that it does not receive poison, the other that it can he beaten out or melted out into the thinnest possible plates, while still remaining unbroken. Therefore it is very naturally taken as an emblem of that greater nature, which, being extended and diffused every where so as to penetrate in every direction, is wholly full of everything, and also connects all other things with the most admirable arrangement.
Concerning the candlestick above mentioned, the artist speaks again a second time and says, that from its different branches there are three arms projecting out on each side, equals in all respects to one another, and having on the top lamps like nuts, in the shape of flowers supporting the lights; [Exodus xxv. 33] the seventh flower being fashioned on the top of the candlestick of solid gold, and having seven golden places for lights above them; so that in many accounts it has been believed to be fashioned in such a manner because the number six is divided into two triads by the Word, making the seventh and being placed in the midst of them; as indeed is the case now. For the entire candlestick with its six most entire and principal parts was made so as to consist of seven lamps, and seven flowers, and seven lights; and the six lights are divided by the seventh. And in like manner the flowers are divided by that which comes in the middle; and in the same manner also the lamps are divided by the seventh which comes in the middle. But the six branches, and the equal number of arms which shoot out are divided by the main trunk itself which makes up the number seven.
XLV. But the long discussion which some people start with respect to each of these, must be postponed to a subsequent opportunity. Thus much alone we must remind our readers of at this moment, that the sacred candlestick and the seven lights upon it are an imitation of the wandering of the seven planets through the heaven. How so? some one will say. Because, we will reply, in the same manner as the lights, so also does every one of the planets shed its rays. They therefore, being more brilliant, do transmit more brilliant beams to the earth, and brilliant beyond them all is he who is the center one of the seven, the sun. And I call him the center, not merely because he has the central position, as some have thought, but also because he has on many other accounts a right to be ministered unto and attended by the others accompanying him as body-guards on each side, by reason of his dignity and his magnitude, and the great benefits which he pours upon all earthly things.
But men, being unable completely to comprehend the arrangement of the planets (and in fact what other of the heavenly bodies can they understand with certainty and clearness?) speak according to their conjectures. And these persons appear to me to form the best conjectures on such subjects, who, having assigned the central position to the sun, say that there is an equal number of planets, namely, those above him and below him. Those above him being Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars; then comes the Sun himself, and next to him Mercury, Venus, and the Moon, which last is close to the air. The Creator therefore, wishing that there should be a model upon earth among us of the seven-lighted sphere as it exists in heaven, ordained this exquisite work to be made, namely, this candlestick. And its likeness to the soul is often pointed out too; for the soul is divisible into three parts, and each of the parts, as has been already pointed out, is divided into two more. And thus there being six divisions, the sacred and divine Word, the divider of them all, very naturally makes up the number seven.
XLVI. This other point also is too important to deserve to be passed over in silence: that, as there are three vessels among the sacred furniture, a candlestick, a bath, and an altar of incense; the altar of incense has reference to that gratitude which is exhibited for the bestowal of the elements, as has been shown before, since it does itself also receive a portion from these four, receiving wood from the earth, and the spices which are burnt from the water; for, being first of all liquefied, they are dissolved into drops of moisture, and vapor from the air, and form the fire the spark which kindles the whole; and the composition of frankincense, and galbanum. and onycha, and stacte, is a symbol of the four elements; and the table is referred to the gratitude which is displayed for the mortal things which are made out of the elements, for loaves and libations are placed upon it, which the creatures who stand in need of nourishment must of necessity use. And the candlestick has reference to the gratitude exhibited for all the things existing in heaven, in order that no portion of the world may lie under the imputation of ingratitude; but that we may see that every single part of it gives thanks, the elements, the things made of them, and not those only which are made on earth, but also those in heaven.
XLVII. And it is worth while to consider why, after having explained the measures of the table and of the altar of incense, he has given no such description of the candlestick; may it not be, perhaps, for the reason that the elements and all the mortal things which are compounded of them, of which the table and the altar of incense are symbols, have been measured, inasmuch as they are terminated in heaven? For that which surrounds anything is invariably the measure of that which is surrounded; but the heaven, of which the candlestick is the symbol, is of infinite magnitude; for it is indeed surrounded, but not, according to the account of Moses, by a vacuum, nor by any substance, nor by anything which is of equal magnitude with itself, nor by anything of unlimited size, in accordance with the marvellous fables which we touched upon when speaking of the building of the tower; but its boundary is God, and he also is its ruler and the director of its course.
As, therefore, the living God is incomprehensible, so also that which is bounded by him is not measured by any measures which come within the range of our intellect and, perhaps, inasmuch as it is of circular form and skillfully fashioned into a perfect sphere, it has no participation in either length or breadth.
XLVIII. Therefore, after he has said what is becoming on this subject, he proceeds to add, “But the birds he did not divide;” [Genesis xv. 10] meaning, by the term birds, the two reasonings which are winged and inclined by nature to soar to the investigation of sublime subjects; one of them being the archetypal pattern and above us, and the other being the copy of the former and abiding among us. And Moses calls the one which is above us the image of God, and the one which abides among us the impression of that image, “For,” says he, “God made man,” not an image, “but after the image.” [Genesis i. 27.] So that the mind which is in each of us, which is in reality and truth the man, is a third image proceeding from the Creator. But the intermediate one is a model of the one and a copy of the other. But by nature our mind is indivisible; for the Creator, having divided the irrational part of the soul into six portions, has made six divisions of it, namely, sight, taste, hearing, smelling, touch, and voice; but the rational part, which is called the mind he has left undivided, according to the likeness of the entire heaven. For in this, also, there is a report that the outermost sphere, which is destitute of motion, is preserved without being divided, but that the inner one is divided into six portions, and thus completes the seven circles of what are called the planets; for I imagine the heaven is in the world the same thing that the soul is in the human being. They say. therefore, that these two natures, full of reason and comprehension -- that, I mean, which exists in man and that which exists in the world -- are both at all times entire and indivisible.
On this account, therefore, it is that the scriptures tell us, “He did not divide the birds.” For our own mind is here compared to a dove, since that is a creature which is tame and domesticated among us; and the turtle dove is compared to the model presented by the other, that is to say, by the mind of the world, the heaven; for the word of God is fond of retirement, and solitude, and privacy; not mixing itself up with the crowd of things which have been created and will be destroyed, but being at all times accustomed to roam on high, and being anxious to be an attendant only on the one supreme Being.
Therefore, the two natures are indivisible; the nature, I mean, of the reasoning power in us, and of the divine Word above us; but though they are indivisible themselves, they divide an innumerable multitude of other things. For it is the divine Word which divided and distributed every thing in nature; and it is our own mind which divides every thing and every body which it comprehends, by the exertion of its intellect in an infinite manner, into an infinite number of parts, and which, in fact, never ceases from dividing. And this happens by reason of its resemblance to the Creator and Father of the universe; for the divine nature, being unmingled, uncombined with any thing else, and most completely destitute of parts, has been to the whole world the cause of mixture, and combination, and of an infinite variety of parts so that, very naturally, the two things which thus resemble each other, both the mind which is in us and that which is above us, being without parts and indivisible, will still be able in a powerful manner to divide and distribute all existing things.
XLIX. Therefore, after Moses has mentioned the facts of birds not being cut in two pieces or divided, he proceeds to say, “And the birds came down and descended upon the bodies which were divided;” [Genesis xv. 11] using indeed expressions which are synonymous, but still representing the variance which exists in the facts in a most visible manner to those who are able to see. For it is contrary to nature that birds should come down, when they have been given wings for the purpose of soaring on high. For, as the earth is the most appropriate place for land animals, and above all for reptiles, which do not endure even to crawl upon it, but seek caves and lurking places, avoiding the regions which are above, on account of their kindred with the things which are below; so, in the same manner, the air is the appropriate abode for the winged race, the element which is by nature light is the proper home for those creatures which are light by reason of their being feathered.
When, therefore, those creatures, whose nature it is to traverse the air and who ought to roam through the aether, descend and come down upon the land, they are unable to live a life according to their nature. On the other hand, Moses approves, in no ordinary degree, of whatever reptiles are able to take a leap in an upward direction. At all events he says, “Ye shall eat of these winged reptiles which go upon four feet, and which have legs above their feet so as to be able by them to leap up from the ground.” [Leviticus xi. 21.] But these reptiles are the emblems of souls, which like reptiles being rooted in the earthly body, when they are raised up, get strength to soar on high, taking the heaven in exchange for the earth, and immortality in exchange for destruction. We must, therefore, think that they are full of every description of misery, which, having been brought up in the air, and in the aether which is the purest of all things, have changed their abode (not being able to bear the satiety of divine things), and have descended to that mortal and evil district, the earth.
And there are innumerable imaginations concerning an innumerable variety of things which roam about upon it also; some voluntary, and some out of ignorance, which are in no respect different from winged creatures, and which Moses compares to the birds that come down. And of these imaginations those which take the upward course belong to the better class, since virtue, which conducts the mind towards heaven and the divine country, travels with them. But those which take the downward course belong to the worse class, since wickedness guides them and drags them in the contrary direction by force. And their very names do, to a great extent, show the opposite character of the places. For virtue ('arete') has derived its name not only from the word ('airesis') choice, but also from the fact of its being lifted up ('para to airestha') for it is lifted up ('airetai') and borne on high because it always loves heavenly things; but wickedness ('kakia') is so called from its tendency to go downwards ('apo tou kato kechorekenai'), and also because it compels those who practice it to fall down to the bottom ('katapiptein').
Accordingly the thoughts of the soul which are at variance with one another, flying towards and descending upon the earth, both come down themselves and also throw the mind down too, mingling with bodies in a disgraceful degree, and with things which are perceptible by the outward senses, not discernible by the intellect, imperfect not entire, perishable and not living. For they mix themselves up not only with bodies, but also with the divisions of the bodies which have been divided in two parts. And it is quite impossible that things which have been divided in this way should ever again admit of adaptation and, union; since the nerves of the spirit, which were the strongest natural bond in them, are cut in two.
L. Moreover, Moses introduces a very true opinion when he teaches us that justice and every virtue loves the soul, but that wickedness and every vice is attached to the body; and that what is friendly to the one is in every case of necessity hostile to the other, as is the case even now. For having figuratively represented the wars of the soul, he then introduces birds as eager to involve themselves with and to cling to the bodies, and to satiate themselves with the flesh, the inroads and attacks of which the virtuous man, desiring to check, is said to sit by them as if he were a sort of curator or overseer of them. For when his domestic affairs were thrown into confusion by domestic sedition, and when the armies of the enemy were proceeding against him, he collected a wise council and deliberated with respect to the adversaries; in order that if he could possibly do so, using persuasion he might both put an end to the foreign war, and also remove the domestic confusion; for it was desirable to disperse those enemies who were gathering over him like a cloud, and who were full of irreconcilable enmity to him; and equally so to re-establish with the other party the relations which had previously existed.
Now those who are irreconcilable and implacable enemies are set down thus; the follies and intemperances of the soul, cowardice and injustice, and all the other irrational appetites which are accustomed to be generated by luxuriant and impotent appetite, raising their heads high and becoming restive, and preventing the mind from proceeding in its straight course and very often throwing its whole system into confusion and beating it down.
But the attacks and conflicts of those powers which are not irreconcilable resemble the frequent effect of the discussions and quarrels about doctrines which arise among the Sophists. For inasmuch as they all labor for one end, namely the contemplation of the things of nature, they may be said to be friends; but inasmuch as they do not agree in their particular investigations they may be said to be in a state of domestic sedition as, for instance, those who affirm the universe to be uncreated are at variance with those who insist upon its creation; and again those who urge that it will be destroyed are at strife with those who affirm that it is indeed perishable by nature but that it never will be destroyed, because it is held together by a more powerful chain, the will of the Creator. And again, those who affirm that there is nothing self-existent, but that everything has been created, are at variance with those who are of a contrary opinion. Those too, who say that man is he measure of all things, differ from those who would restrain the judicial faculties of the outward senses and of the intellect. And, in short, to sum up all these differences in a few words, those who represent everything as incomprehensible are at variance with those who say that a great number of things are properly understood.
And the sun, and the moon, and the whole heaven, and the earth, and the air, and the water, and all the things that are connected with them, afford subject for strife and contention to those who are fond of examining into such subjects, and who investigate their essences, and distinctive qualities, and changes, and alterations, and moreover their origin and the method of their destruction; and making no superficial investigation into the magnitude and motion of the heavenly bodies, they adopt all sorts of different opinions, never agreeing together, until some man, who is at the same time skillful at disentangling controversies and calculated to judge, takes his seat on the tribunal, and comes to a clear perception of the progeny of each individual’s soul, and discards those which do not deserve to be maintained, and preserves those which are good, and which he pronounces worthy of suitable providential care. And all the controversies of philosophy are full of disagreement, since the truth escapes the intellect which is given to plausibilities and conjectures: for it is the very difficulty of discovering and seizing hold of the nature of truth that, in my opinion, has given rise to so many quarrels.
LI. “And about the setting of the sun a trance fell upon Abraham, and, behold, fear with great darkness fell upon him.” [Genesis xv. 12.] Now there is one kind of trance which is a sort of frantic delirium, causing infirmity of mind, either through old age, or melancholy, or some other similar cause. There is another kind which is excessive consternation, arising usually from things which happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Another kind is mere tranquillity of the mind, arising when it is inclined by nature to be quiet: but that which is the best description of all is a divinely inspired and more vehement sort of enthusiasm, which the race of prophets is subject to.
Now the first kind Moses mentions in the curses which are recorded in Deuteronomy: for he says that, “delirium and blindness, and aberration of mind shall seize on the impious,” [Deut. xxviii. 28] so that they shall differ in no respect from blind persons at mid-day, being like people feeling their way in deep darkness. The second kind he mentions in many places; for he says, “And Isaac was astonished with a great astonishment, and said, Who, then, is it who went out to hunt for game for me, and who brought it to me? And I ate of it all before you came, and I have blessed him; yea, and he shall be blessed.” [Genesis xxvii. 33.] And, again, with reference to Jacob, who disbelieved those who told him that “Joseph is alive, and is ruler over the whole land of Egypt; for he,” says the scripture, “was amazed in his mind, for he believed them not.” [Genesis xlv. 26.] And, again, in Exodus, in the assembly of the people, we read: “For the whole of the mountain of Sinai was enveloped in smoke, because God descended upon it in fire. And the smoke went up as the vapor of a furnace, and the whole people was greatly astonished.” [Exodus xix. 18.] Also, in Leviticus, when speaking of the consecration of the priests on the eighth day, when fire came out from heaven and licked up what was on the altar, and the burnt-offerings and the fat, the historian proceeds immediately to tell us, “And the whole people saw it and were astonished, and fell upon their faces;” [Leviticus ix. 24] for such astonishment as this causes alarm and consternation.
And ought we not especially to wonder in the case of Esau, that he who was skillful in hunting was nevertheless himself continually caught and supplanted, having acquired his skill to his own injury and not to his advantage, and that he never used any great care to catch anything in his hunts? And also in the case of Jacob, that he hunts without having acquired any skill by learning, but only as he is moved by nature; and that he brings what he has caught to the examiner, who will distinguish whether it deserves to be approved; on which account he “eateth of it all.” [Genesis xxvii. 33.] For everything that relates to meditation is wholesome food, whether it be investigation, or consideration, or hearing, or reading, or prayer, or self-restraint, or a contempt for things indifferent: and he ate, as I imagine, the first fruits of them all, but he did not eat the whole of all; for some appropriate food must be left for him who meditates as a reward for his pains. And the words, “ before you came,” are added out of regard for the nature of the thing; for if passion enters into the soul, we shall not enjoy temperance. And it convicts the worthless man as slow, and hesitating, and procrastinating, as to the works of instruction, but not as to those of intemperance. Therefore Egypt contains inspectors of works, who devote themselves with energy to securing the enjoyment of the passions. But Moses, on the other hand, commands the Israelites to eat the passover in haste, and to celebrate the migration from these passions in this way. And Judah says: “For if we had not delayed, we should by this time have returned, and have arrived again in Egypt; aye, and a second time should we have returned safe from thence.” [Genesis xliii. 9.]
And very naturally did Jacob wonder whether the mind was still in the body; that is to say, whether Joseph was alive to virtue and ruling over the body, and not being ruled over by it. And any one who chooses to go through all the other instances, would be able to trace out the truth. But our present subject does not require any accurate discussion of those matters; on which account we had better return to the point from which we set out.
With respect to the third kind of trance, he philosophizes in this manner when speaking of the creation of the woman “For the Lord God,” says Moses, “cast a trance upon Adam, and be slept.” [Genesis ii. 21] here calling the quietness and tranquillity of mind a trance; for the slumber of the mind is the awaking of the outward sense: and, again, the awaking of the intellect is the reducing of the outward senses to a state of inactivity.
LII. An instance of the fourth kind of trance is the one which we are now considering: “And about the setting of the sun a trance fell upon Abraham,” he being thrown into a state of enthusiasm and inspired by the Deity. But this is not the only thing which shows him to have been a prophet, but also the express words which are engraven in the sacred scriptures as on a pillar. When some one endeavored to separate Sarah, that is, the virtue which is derived from nature, from him, as if she had not been the peculiar property of the wise man alone, but had also belonged to every one who made any pretense to wisdom, God said, “Give the man back his wife, because he is a prophet, and he will pray for thee, and thou shalt live;” [Genesis xx. 7] and the sacred scriptures testify in the case of every good man, that he is a prophet; for a prophet says nothing of his own, but everything which he says is strange and prompted by some one else; and it is not lawful for a wicked man to be an interpreter of God, as also no wicked man can be properly said to be inspired; but this statement is only appropriate to the wise man alone, since he alone is a sounding instrument of God’s voice, being struck and moved to sound in an invisible manner by him.
Accordingly, all those whom Moses describes as just persons he has also represented as inspired and prophesying. Noah was a just man; was he not also by that fact a prophet? or did he, without being possessed by any divine inspiration, utter those prayers and curses which he applied to the generations which should come hereafter, and all of which were eventually confirmed by the reality of the facts? Why should I speak of Isaac? Why of Jacob? For these also are manifestly found to have been prophets by many other circumstances, and especially by their addresses to their children. For the annunciation, “Assemble yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in the last days,” [Genesis xlix. 2] was the expression of a man possessed by inspiration; for the knowledge of the future is not appropriate to, or natural to, man. What shall we say of Moses? is he not celebrated everywhere as a prophet? For the scripture says, “If there shall be among you a prophet of the Lord, I will make myself known unto him in a vision,” [Numbers xii. 6] but to Moses God appeared in his actual appearance and not by a riddle. And again we read, “There arose not any more any prophet like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” [Deuteronomy xxxiv. 10.] Very admirably, therefore, does the historian here point out, that Abraham was under the influence of inspiration when he says that, “About the setting of the sun a trance fell upon him.”
LIII. And under the symbol of the sun he intimates our mind: for what reasoning is in us, that the sun is in the world. Since each of them gives light, the one casting a light which is perceptible by the outward senses, to shine upon the universe; and the other shedding their beams, discernible only by the intellect by means of our apprehensions, upon ourselves. As long therefore as our mind still shines around and hovers around, pouring as it were a noontide light into the whole soul, we, being masters of ourselves, are not possessed by any extraneous influence; but when it approaches its setting, then, as is natural, a trance, which proceeds from inspiration, takes violent hold of us, and madness seizes upon us, for when the divine light shines the human light sets, and when the divine light sets this other rises and shines, and this very frequently happens to the race of prophets; for the mind that is in us is removed from its place at the arrival of the divine Spirit, but is again restored to its previous habitation when that Spirit departs, for it is contrary to holy law for what is mortal to dwell with what is immortal.
On this account the setting of our reason, and the darkness which surrounds it, causes a trance and a heaven-inflicted madness. After that the historian connects with his preceding account what follows in consistency with it, saying, “And it was said to Abraham” -- for in real truth the prophet, even when he appears to be speaking, is silent, and another being is employing his vocal organs, his mouth and tongue, for the explanation of what things he chooses; and operating on these organs by some invisible and very skillful act, he makes them utter a sweet and harmonious sound, full of every kind of melody.
LIV. And it is well to hear what the things are which are thus said to have been predicted to Abraham. In the first place, that God does not grant to the man who loves virtue to dwell in the body as in his own native land, but only to sojourn in it as in a foreign country. “For knowing,” says the scripture, “thou shalt know that thy seed shall be sojourners in a land which is not theirs.” [Genesis xv. 13.] But the district of the body is akin to every bad man, and in it he is desirous to abide as a dweller, not as a sojourner. Accordingly, these words contain this as one lesson; another is, that the things which bring slavery and disaster and bitter humiliation, as the prophet himself tells us, upon the soul are the dwellings upon earth. For the affections of the body are truly spurious and foreign, being produced by the flesh, in which they are rooted. And this slavery lasts four hundred years in accordance with the powers of the four passions.
For when pleasure rules, the mind is elated and puffed up, being carried away by empty vanity. Again, when appetite gets the upper hand, a desire for absent things is engendered, which suspends the mind upon unaccomplished hopes, as if in a halter; for then the mind is always thirsting and yet is unable to drink, enduring the punishment of Tantalus. Again, when under the influence of grief, the mind is tortured and contracted, like trees the leaves of which are falling off and withering; for all its flourishing and nutritious particles are dried up. Also, when fire obtains the supremacy, no one any longer chooses to remain, but betakes to flight and running away, thinking that that is the only way in which he can be saved. For appetite, having an attractive power even if the object which is desired retreats, compels one to pursue it; and fear, on the other hand, causing alienation, separates one from it, and makes one remove to a distance from what is presented to one’s view.
LV. But the supremacy of these different passions before mentioned inflicts terrible slavery on those who are ruled over by them, until God, the umpire and judge of all things, separates that which is ill treated from that which is inflicting ill treatment, and delivers the former and blesses it with perfect freedom, and inflicts upon the other a retribution for the wickedness which it has committed. For we read in the next verse, “And the nation to which they shall be slaves I will judge, and after that they shall go forth with great substance.” [Genesis xv. 14.] For it is inevitable that a mortal man must obey the nature of the passions, and that a man who has been born must endure the fate which is allotted to him as appropriate; but it is the will of God to lighten the evils which are planted contemporaneously with our birth. So that even if we at the beginning suffer such evils as are properly assigned to us, become slaves of cruel masters, and if God also performs what is his peculiar work, proclaiming emancipation and freedom to the souls which address their supplications to him, then he not only gives men a release from their bondage and a means of departure from their prison all guarded round as it is, but he also gives them the means of travelling, which he here calls substance.
And what is this? When the mind having come down from above from heaven becomes entangled in the necessities of the body, then, although it is not allured by any of these, still, like a eunuch or impotent person, it embraces pleasant evils. But if it remains in its own nature, then, being truly a man, it resists and discards them instead of being overthrown by them, being initiated in all the parts of complete encyclical learning; from which it derives a desire for contemplation, and acquires temperance and patience, very vigorous virtues, leaving its former abode, and finding a means of return back to its own country, and bringing with it all the lessons of instruction, which are here called supplies for the journey.
LVI. Having said thus much on these subjects, the historian proceeds: “And thou shalt depart to thy fathers, having lived in peace, in a good old age.” [Genesis xv. 15.] Therefore we, who are imperfect, are made war upon, and we become slaves, and only with difficulty do we find any relief from the dangers which impend over us. But the perfect race, exempt from slavery and free from the perils of war, is bred up in peace and the firmest freedom. And there is a particular lesson to be learnt from his representing the good man not as dying but departing, in order to show that the race of the soul, which is completely purified, cannot be extinguished and cannot die, but only departs in the way of migration from this earth to heaven, not undergoing that dissolution and destruction which death appears to bring with it. And after the words, “Thou shalt depart,” he adds, “to thy fathers.” It is here worth while to consider what kind of fathers is meant; for God can never mean those who had passed their lives in the country of the Chaldaeans, among whom alone he had lived as being his relations, because he had been commanded by a sacred oracle to depart from those who were his kinsmen by blood.
For, says the historian, “The Lord said unto Abraham, Depart from out of thy land, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, to a land which I will show thee; and I will make thee into a great nation.” [Genesis xii. 1.] For how can it be reasonable for him who has once been removed from his abode by the interference of Divine Providence, to return and dwell again in the same place? And how could it be reasonable for one who was about to be the leader of a new nation and of another race to be again assigned to his ancient one? For God would never have given to him a new character, and a new nation and family, if he had not wholly and entirely separated him from his ancient one. For that man is truly a chief of a nation and ruler of a family, from whom, as from a root, sprang that branch so fond of investigating and contemplating the affairs of our nature, by name Israel, since an express command has been given “to remove the old things from before the face of those which are new.” [Leviticus xxvi. 10.] For where is any longer the use of investigations into antiquity, and ancient, and long-established customs, to those in whom on a sudden, when they have no such expectation, God rains all kinds of new blessings in a mass?
LVII. Therefore, when he says “fathers,” he means not those whose souls have departed from them, and who are buried in the tombs of the land of Chaldea; but, as some say, the sun, and the moon, and the other stars: for some affirm that it is owing to these bodies that the nature of all the things in the world has its existence. But as some other persons think he means the archetypal ideas, those models of these things which are perceptible by the outward senses and visible; which models, however, are only perceptible by the intellect and invisible; and that it is to these that the mind of the wise man emigrates. Some, again, have fancied that by “fathers,” are here meant the four principles and powers of which the world is composed -- the earth, the water, the air, and the fire; for they say, that all created things are very properly dissolved into these elements. For as nouns, and verbs, and all the other parts of speech, consist of the elements of grammar, and again are resolvable into these ultimate principles, so, in the same manner, each individual among us, being compounded of the four elements, and borrowing small portions from each essence, does, at certain fixed periods, repay what he has borrowed, giving what he has dry to the earth, what moisture he has to the water, what heat he has to the fire, and what cold he has to the air.
These then are the things of the body; but the intellectual and heavenly race of the soul will ascend to the purest aether as to its father. For the fifth essence, as the account of the ancients tells us, may be a certain one, which brings things round in a cycle, differing from the other four as being superior to them, from which the stars and the whole heavens appear to be generated, and of which, as a natural consequence, one must lay it down that the human soul is a fragment.
LVIII. And the expression, “After having lived in peace,” is used with much propriety; because nearly all or the greater portion of the human race lives rather in war and among all the evils of war. And of wars, one kind proceeds from external enemies, and is brought on by want of reputation, and by lowness of origin, and by other things of that kind. But another kind arises from one’s domestic enemies; some about the body, such as weaknesses, stains, all kinds of mutilations, and a whole body of other unspeakable evils; and others affecting the soul, such as passions, diseases, infirmities, terrible and most grievous inflictions, and incurable calamities arising from folly and injustice, and other similar evils.
Therefore he speaks of him who has lived in peace, who has enjoyed a serene and tranquil life, as a man truly happy and blessed. When then shall this happen? When all external things prosper with me, in such a way as to tend to my abundance and to my glory. When the things relating to the body are in a favorable state, so as to give me good health and strength; and when the things relating to my soul are in a similar state, so as to enable it to enjoy the virtues. For each of these requires its own appropriate body-guards. Now the body is attended in that capacity by glory, and abundance, and a sufficient provision of wealth; and the soul by the wholeness, and soundness, and thoroughly healthy state of the body; and the mind by those speculations which are concerned about the sciences.
Since it is plain to all those who are versed in the holy scriptures, that when peace is here mentioned, it is not that peace which cities enjoy. For Abraham bore a part in many terrible wars, out of which he appears to have come triumphantly. And indeed the being forced to depart from his native country, and to leave his home, and his inability to dwell in his native city, and his being driven hither and thither, and wandering about by desolate and unfrequented roads, would have been a terrible war for one who had not put his trust in certain divine oracles and promises.
There was also a third calamity, of a formidable nature, also to be borne by him, a famine, worse than the departure from his home, or than all the evils of war. What peace then did he enjoy? For I imagine to be driven from his former home, and to have no settled abode, and to be unable to make any effectual resistance to very powerful monarchs, and to be oppressed with hunger, seem like indications, not of one war, but of many wars of various kinds. But, according to those interpretations which are figurative, every one of these events is an instance and proof of unalloyed peace. For an absence of the passions, and a complete scarcity of them, and the destruction of inimical acts of iniquity, and a departure from the opinions of the Chaldaeans to the doctrine which loves God, that is to say, from the created being, perceptible by the outward senses, to the great Cause and Creator of all things, who is appreciable only by the intellect, are things which supply a good system of laws and stability.
And God promises the man who enjoys such a peace as this a glorious old age, not indeed one which shall last an exceeding time, but he promises him a life with wisdom. For tranquillity and happiness are better than length of years, in proportion as a short period of light is better than everlasting darkness. For well did one of the prophets say: “He had rather live one day in company with virtue, than ten thousand years in the shadow of death;” [Psalm lxxxiv. 11] under this figurative expression of shadow, intimating the life of the wicked. And Moses says the very same thing, intimating it by his actions rather than by his words. For the man who he says shall enjoy a glorious old age, he has at the same time represented as more short-lived than almost any one of those who preceded him. Speaking in a philosophical manner, and teaching us who it is who does truly enjoy a happy old age, that we may not conceive pride respecting old age from anything that affects the visible body, as such pride is full of shame and many disgraceful circumstances. But, that keeping our eyes fixed on wisdom of counsel, and steadiness of soul, we may ascribe to such men and testify in their favor that they have a glorious old age, ('geras') akin to, and bearing nearly the same name as honor ('geras'). Listen, therefore, in such a spirit as to think his words a good lesson, to this statement of the lawgiver, that the good man alone has a happy old age, and that he is the most long-lived of men; but that the wicked man is the most short-lived of men, living only to die, or rather having already died as to the life of virtue.
LIX. In the next verses it is said, “And in the fourth generation they shall return hither,” not merely in order that the time may be exactly marked out to him, in which his descendants shall become inhabitants of the holy land, but also in order to represent to him the perfect and complete re-establishment of virtue; and this takes place as it were in the fourth generation, but how it does so it is worth while to consider.
The child, after it is brought forth, during its age of infancy, till it has completed its first period of seven years, has a pure unmixed nature, very like a smooth waxen tablet, which has not yet been stamped with the indelible impressions of good or evil; for all the things which appear to be engraved upon it are soon confused and effaced by reason of its moisture: this is as it were the first age of the soul.
The second is that which, after the age of infancy is passed, begins to live among evils, some of which it is also accustomed to generate from itself, and others it cheerfully receives from other sources, for the teachers of evil deeds are infinite in number; nurses, and tutors, and parents, and the laws in different states, whether written or unwritten, which make objects of admiration out of things which ought to be laughed at; and even without teachers nature itself is easily inclined to learn what is improper, so as to be continually weighed down by the abundance of its evils; “For,” says the scripture, “the mind of man is carefully devoted to evil from his youth.” [Genesis viii. 21.] This is that most accursed period which is figuratively called an age; but also especially the age of youth, in which the body is full of youthful vigor, and the soul is puffed up; the passions, which have hitherto lain hid, being now fanned into a flame, and burning up the threshing-floors, and crops, and fields, and whatever they meet with.
This diseased generation or age must be remedied by some third age, acting towards it the part of medical philosophy, so that it shall be charmed with salutary and saving words, by means of which it will receive an evacuation of the immoderate satiety of evil actions, and a fullness of a sort of hungry emptiness, and terrible desolation of good deeds. Therefore, after the application of this cure, there comes first the age, in which power and vigor grow up in the soul, in accordance with the most certain comprehension of wisdom, and the undeviating and solid character which exists in all the virtues. This is the meaning of the expression, “And in the fourth generation they shall return hither.” For according to the fourth number thus pointed out the soul, which has turned away from doing evil, is proclaimed as the inheritor of wisdom; for the first number is that into which it is not possible to receive any idea of either good or evil, since the soul is as yet destitute of all impressions; and the second is that in which we indulge in a rapid course of the passions; and the third is that in which we are healed, repelling the infections of disease, and at last ceasing to feel the evil vigor of the passions; the fourth is that in which we acquire complete and perfect health and vigor, when rejecting what is bad we appear to endeavor to apply to what is good, which previously was not in our power.
LX. But up to what time this is to be he tells us himself, when he says, “For the wickednesses of the Amorites are not yet fulfilled.” [Genesis xv. 11.] And such words as these give an occasion to weaker brethren to fancy, that Moses represents fate and necessity as the causes of all things that exist or take place: but we must not be ignorant that he was well acquainted with the consequences, and connection, and reciprocal dependence of the causes of things, inasmuch as he was a philosophical man, accustomed to converse with God: and he does not attribute the causes of things which exist, or which take place, to these powers; for he imagined to himself some other more ancient power, mounted upon the universe, like a charioteer, or like the pilot of a ship; for this power steers the whole common vessel of the world in which all things sail, and he bridles the course of the winged chariot, the entire heaven, exerting an independent and absolute sovereign authority. What then are we to say about these subjects? The name Amorites, being interpreted, means “talkers;” and numbers of those who have received that greatest of all the blessings bestowed upon man by nature, namely speech, have abused and corrupted it, employing it ungratefully and treacherously, to the injury of her who has bestowed it. Such are flatterers, impostors, devisers of plausible sophistries, men who rather cultivate the skill to delude and to cheat, and who have no care to speak truly, and these men study indistinctness. Now indistinctness is equivalent to deep darkness in discourse; and darkness is the great assistant of robbers, on which account Moses has adorned the chief priest with distinct demonstration and truth; thinking it proper that the discourse of the virtuous man should be clear, and perspicuous, and true; but men in general pursue that which is indistinct and false, under the banner of which the whole misguided multitude of ordinary careless men enrolls itself.
Therefore, as long as “the offenses of the Amorites are not fulfilled,” that is to say, the evils of sophistical arguments by reason of their not having been refuted, but while they still influence us, having an attractive power by reason of their plausibility, we being unable to turn away and forsake them, remain in their power from being allured by them. But if once, all unreal plausibilities are convicted and refuted by true proofs, and if their offenses are shown to be full and running over, then we shall flee away without ever turning back, and as it were slipping our cables we shall set sail from the region of falsehoods and sophistries, hastening to cast anchor in the safe harbors and havens of truth.
And in this way, I look upon it as sufficiently proved in the spirit of my original proposition that it is impossible for a man to reject, and to hate, and to forsake plausible falsehood, unless the evils arising from it are seen to be full and complete; and they will be shown to be so, by its being refuted in no superficial way, by the establishment on the other hand, and by the complete confirmation of truth.
LXI. In the next verse the historian proceeds to say, “and when the sun approached its setting, there was a flame;” [Genesis xv. 17] showing that virtue is a thing which is not born till late, and indeed which, as some persons have said, is only confirmed and established at the very setting of life. And he compares virtue to a flame; for as the flame consumes whatever materials are exposed to it, and gives light to all the air in its neighborhood, in the same manner does virtue burn up all the offenses and fills the whole mind with light. But while discourses, which are neither divided nor properly distributed, prevail over us by reason of their plausibilities, which he here calls the Amorites, we are not able to see the most brilliant and unshaded light. But we are like a furnace which has not a pure flame, but, as he himself says, emits only smoke, being gradually kindled by the sparks of knowledge, but not as yet being able to stand the hardening and test of pure fire.
But we owe great gratitude to him who has scattered those sparks, in order that our mind may not become cold like a lifeless corpse, but being warmed and vivified by the gentle increasing heat of virtue, may feel a glow until it receives the change to holy fire, like Nadab and Abihu. But smoke exists before fire, and compels those who come near it to weep; but both fire and smoke often come together. For, being delighted at the messengers of virtue, we hope to attain perfection therein, and if we are not yet able to arrive at it, then we can scarcely through our grief forbear from tears. For when an excessive desire is implanted in our breasts, they hasten to pursue the desired object, and our faces are full of chagrin until we attain it.
And how he has compared the soul of the man, who loves instruction and who cherishes a hope of arriving at perfection, to a furnace, because each is a vessel in which food is cooked, the one being the vessel in which those meats which are perishable are prepared, and the other that suited to the reception of the imperishable virtues.
And the burning torches of fire which are lighted up are the judgments of God who bears the torch, being bright and radiant, which are accustomed to be always placed in the middle between the divided portions; I mean by this the portions set in opposition to one another, of which the whole world is composed. For we read in the scripture, “The lamps of fire which were in the midst between the divided portions,” [Genesis xv. 17.] that you may know that the divine powers which go through the middle of both bodies and things, destroy none of them; for both the divisions remain unhurt, but only divide and discriminate in a most excellent manner between the natures of each.
LXII. Therefore, the wise man has now been sufficiently proved to be the inheritor of the knowledge of the subjects above mentioned. “For,” says the historian, “on that day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, to thy seed will I give this land.” [Genesis xv. 18.] But what land does he mean but that which has been already mentioned, to which he is now making reference? The fruit of which is the safe and most certain comprehension of the wisdom of God, according to which it preserves for its dividers all the good things which exist without any admixture or taint of evil, as if they had been incorruptible from their very beginning. After this he proceeds to add, “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.” Showing that those men who are perfect have their beginnings in the body, and the outward sense, and the organic parts, without which we cannot live, for they are useful for instruction in the life which is in union with the body but they have their end with the wisdom of God, which is truly the great river, overflowing with joy, and cheerfulness, and all other blessings. For he has not described the country as reaching from the river Euphrates to the river of Egypt (for he would never have brought over virtue towards the passions of the body), but on the contrary, he has said from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates. For the migrations are from mortal things to things incorruptible.