on the Principle that
The Worse is Accustomed to be Always Plotting Against the Better.
I. And Cain said to Abel his brother, "Let us go to the field. And it came to pass, that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him." [Genesis 4:8.] What Cain proposes to do is this: having by invitation led Abel on to a dispute, to convince him by main force, using plausible and probable sophisms; for the field to which he invites him to come, we may call a symbol of rivalry and contention, forming our conjectures of things that are uncertain from our perception of those which are manifest. For we see that most contests, both in peace and in war, take place in the open fields. In peace, therefore, all those who practice gymnastic contests, seek for level race-courses and plain fields: and, in a war, it is not usual to have battles, of either infantry or cavalry, on hills; for many more disasters arise from the unfavorable character of the ground, than from anything that the enemies do to one another.
II. And a very great proof of this is the conduct of the practicer of knowledge, Jacob, when warring against the opposite disposition, ignorance; when it is beheld in the field how he regulates the irrational faculties in the soul after a fashion, reproving and correcting them. "For Jacob having sent, called Leah and Rachel into the plain where the flocks were;" [Genesis 31:4] showing here clearly, that the plain is the symbol of revolt and contention. And he calls them and says, "I see the face of your father, that it is not to me as it was yesterday and the day before yesterday, [Genesis 31:5] but the God of my father was with me." And on this account I should be inclined to say, Laban is not favorable to you because God is on your side; for in the soul, by which the external object of the outward senses is honored as the greatest good, perfect reason is not found to exist; but in the soul, in which God walks, the external object of the outward senses is not looked upon as the greatest good, according to which object the name of Laban is given and understood. And all those who, through the improvement of their reason, are adorned in the similitude of the Father, in consequence of education, unlearn all subserviency to the irrational impulses of the soul, selecting the plain as a suitable place, for it is said to Joseph, "Are not thy brethren keeping sheep in Sichem? Come, I will send thee to them. And he said, Behold, here am I. And Jacob said unto him, Go and see if thy brethren and the flocks are well, and come and tell me. And he sent him from the valley of Chebron, and he came to Sichem, and a man found him wandering in the plain: and the man asked him, What seekest thou? And he said, I am seeking my brethren, tell me where they are feeding their sheep. And the man said unto him they have departed from hence, for I heard them saying, Let us go to Dotham." [Genesis 37:12.]
III. Therefore, from what has here been said it is plain, that they make the halting-place of the irrational faculties, which are in them, in the plain. But Joseph is sent unto them because he is unable to bear the somewhat austere knowledge of his father; that he may learn, under gentler instructors, what is to be done and what will be advantageous; for he uses a doctrine woven together from divers foundations, very variegated and very artfully made, in reference to which the law-giver says, that he had "a robe of many colors made for him;" [Genesis 37:3] signifying by this that he is an interpreter of labyrinth-like learning, such as is hard to be explained; for as he philosophizes more with a regard to political wisdom than to truth, he brings into one place and connects together the three kinds of good things, namely, external things, the things concerning the body, and those concerning the soul, things utterly different from one another in their whole natures; wishing to show that each has need of each, and that everything has need of everything; and that that which is really the complete and perfect good, is composed of all these things together, and that the parts of which this perfect good is compounded are parts or elements of good, but are not themselves perfect goods. In the same way, as neither fire, nor earth, nor any one of the four elements, out of which the universe was created, are the world, but the meeting and mixture of all the elements together; in the same way also happiness ought not peculiarly to be sought for either in the external things, or in the things of the body, or in the things of the soul, taken by themselves; for each of the aforementioned things has only the rank of parts and elements, but it must be looked for in the combination of them all together.
IV. He therefore is sent, to be untaught this doctrine, to men who think nothing honorable but what is good, which is the peculiar attribute of the soul as the soul; but all external goods, which are called the good things of the body, they believe to be only superfluities, and not true and real goods: "For behold," says he, "thy brethren are tending their sheep," that is to say, they are governing all the irrational part that is in them, "in Sichem;" [Genesis 37:12] and the name Sichem, being interpreted, means a shoulder, the symbol of enduring labor. For the men who are lovers of virtue endure a great burden, the opposition to the body and the pleasure of the body, and also the opposition to external things and to the delights which arise from them. "Come, therefore, let me send thee to them," [Genesis 37:13] that is to say, listen to my bidding and come over, receiving in your mind a voluntary impulse to learn better things. But up to the present time you are full of self-complacency, as one who has received true instruction; for although you have not as yet plainly asserted this, you still say that you are ready to be taught again, when you say, "Behold, here am I," by which expression you appear to me to exhibit your own rashness and easiness to be persuaded more than your readiness to learn; and a proof of what I say is this, "And a little afterwards the true man will find you wandering in the way," [Genesis 37:15] while you would not have been led astray, if you had come to the practice of virtue with a sound intention.
And yet the adhortatory speech of your father's imposes no irresistible necessity upon you, to turn of your own accord and at the instigation of your own mind to better things; for he says, "Go and see," behold, consider, and meditate in the matter with entire accuracy. For you ought first to know the affair concerning which you are going to labor, and then after that to proceed to a care how to accomplish it. But after you have examined into it, and after you have inspected it carefully, casting your eyes over the whole of the business, then examine, besides, those who have already given their attention to the matter, and who have become practicers of it, whether now that they do this they are in a sound state, and not mad, as the lovers of pleasure think who calumniate them and cover them with ridicule. And do not form a positive judgment in your own mind either as to the appearance of the matter, or as to the soundness of condition enjoyed by those who practice these things, before you have reported the matter to and laid it before the father; for the opinions of those who have only lately begun to learn are unstable and without any firm foundation; but the sentiment of those who have made some advance are solid, and from their opinions they must of necessity derive firmness and steadiness.
V. Therefore, O my mind, if you in this manner investigate the holy thoughts of God with which man is inspired by divine agency and the laws of such men as love God, you will not be compelled to admit any thing lowly, anything unworthy, of their greatness. For how could any man who is endowed with sound sense and wisdom, receive this very thing concerning which our present discussion now is? Can any one believe that there was such a great want of servants and attendants in the household of Jacob who was possessed of treasures equal to those of a king, that it was necessary for him to send his son away to a distant country to bring him word of the health of his other children and of his flocks? His grandfather, besides the multitude of captives whom he had carried off when he defeated the nine kings, had more than three hundred domestic servants, and all this household had suffered no diminution, but rather, as time advanced, all his wealth had received great increase in all its parts.
Would he not then, when he had an abundance of servants of all kinds ready to his hand, have preferred sending one of them, to sending his son, whom he loved above all things, on a business which any one of the lowest of his servants could easily have brought to a successful issue?
VI. But you see that he here gives a superfluously minute description of the country from which he sends him forth, in a way which all but commands us to forsake the strict letter of what is written. "For out of the valley of Chebron," now the name Chebron, when interpreted, means conjoined and associated, being a figurative way of intimating our body which is conjoined and which is associated in a sort of companionship and friendship with the soul. Moreover, the organs of the outward senses have valleys, great ducts to receive everything external which is an object of the outward senses, which collect together an infinite number of distinctive qualities, and by means of those ducts pour them in upon the mind, and wash it out, and bring it in the depths. On this account, in the law concerning leprosy, it is expressly ordered, "when in any house hollows appear of a pale or fiery red color, that the inhabitants shall take out the stones in which such hollows appear, and put in other stones in their places;" [Leviticus 14:36] that is to say, when different destructive qualities which the pleasures and the appetites, and the passions akin to them, have wrought in men, weighing down and oppressing the whole soul, have made it more hollow and more lowly than its natural condition would be, it is well to remove the reasons which are the cause of this weakness, and to bring in such in their stead as are sound by a legitimate style of education and a healthy kind of discipline.
VII. Seeing therefore that Joseph has wholly entered into the hollow valleys of the body and of the outward senses, he invites him to come forth out of his holes, and to bring forward the free air of perseverance, going as a pupil to those who were formerly practicers of it themselves, and who are now become teachers of it; but he who appears to himself to have made progress in this, is found to be in error; "For a man," says the holy scripture, "found him wandering in the plain," [Genesis 37:15] showing that it is not labor by itself, intrinsically considered, but labor with skill, that is good. For as it is of no use to study music in an unmusical manner, nor grammar without any attention to its true principles, nor, in short, any art whatever in a manner either devoid of art or proceeding on false rules of art, but each art must be cultivated on a strict obedience to its rules; so also it is of no avail to apply one's self to the study of wisdom in a crafty spirit, or to the study of temperance in a nigardly and illiberal frame of mind, nor to courage rashly, nor to piety superstitiously, nor, in fact, to any other science which is in accordance with virtue in an unscientific manner. For all these steps are confessedly erroneous. In reference to which, a law has been delivered to us "to pursue what is just in a just manner," [Deuteronomy 16:20] that we may cultivate justice and every other virtue by those works which are akin to it, and not by those which are contrary to it.
If, therefore, you see any one desiring meat or drink at an unseasonable time, or repudiating baths or ointments at the proper season, or neglecting the proper clothing for his body, or lying on the ground and sleeping in the open air, and by such conduct as this, pretending to a character for temperance and self-denial, you, pitying his self-deception, should show him the true path of temperance, for all the practices in which he has been indulging are useless and profitless labors, oppressing both his soul and body with hunger and all sorts of other hardships.
Nor if anyone, using washings and purifications soils his mind, but makes his bodily appearance brilliant; nor if again out of his abundant wealth he builds a temple with brilliant artments of all kinds, at a vast expense; nor if he offers up hecatombs and never ceases sacrificing oxen; nor if he adorns temples with costly offerings, bringing timber in abundance, and skillful ornaments, more valuable than any of gold or silver, still let him not be classed among pious men, for he also has wandered out of the way to piety, looking upon ceremonious worship as equivalent to sanctity, and giving gifts to the incorruptible being who will never receive such offerings, and flattering him who can never listen to flattery, who loves genuine worship (and genuine worship is that of the soul which offers the only sacrifice, plain truth), and rejects all spurious ministrations, and those are spurious which are only displays of external riches and extravagance.
VIII. But some say that the proper name of the man who found him wandering in the plain is not mentioned, and they themselves are in some degree mistaken here, because they are unable clearly to discover the true way of this business, for if they had not been mutilated as to the eye of the soul, they would have known that of one who is truly a man, the most proper, and appropriate, and felicitous name is this very name of man, being the most appropriate appellation of a well regulated and rational mind. This man, dwelling in the soul of each individual, is found at one time to be a ruler and monarch, and at another time to be a judge and umpire of the contest which take place in life. At times also he takes the place of a witness and accuser, and without being seen he corrects us from within, not suffering us to open our mouths, but taking up, and restraining, and girdling, with the reins of conscience the self-satisfied and restive course of the tongue.
This convicting feeling it is which inquires of the soul when it sees it wandering about, What seekest thou? Is it wisdom? why then do you go after wickedness? Or is it temperance? but this path of your leads to niggardliness. Or is it courage? by this path you will only arrive at rashness. Or are you in pursuit of piety? this is the road to superstition. But if it should say that it is seeking words of wisdom, and that it is longing for them, as for what is nearest akin to its own race, we must not give implicit belief to this, for the question was not, Where are they feeding their flocks? but Where are they tending them? for they who feed their flocks supply nourishment, and all the objects of the outward senses to the animal of the outward senses devoid of reason and insatiable; by means of which outward senses and their indulgence, we become unable to govern ourselves and fall into misfortune; but they who tend their flocks, having the power of rulers and governors, make those gentle which were fierce before, checking the mighty power of the appetites. If, therefore, he was in all sincerity seeking the practices of virtue, he would have sought for them among kings, and not among cup-bearers, or cooks, or confectioners, for these last prepare things which have reference to pleasure, but the former are masters of pleasure.
IX. Therefore the man, who saw the deceit, answered rightly, "They are departed hence." And he shows here the mass of the body; clearly proving that all those by whom labor is practiced for the sake of the acquisition of virtue, having left the regions of earth, have determined on contemplating only what is sublime, dragging with them no stain of the body. For he says, too, that he had heard them say, "Let us go to Dotham:" and the name Dotham, being interpreted, means "a sufficient leaving;" showing that it was with no moderate resolution, but with extreme determination that they had decided on leaving and abandoning all those things which do not co-operate towards virtue, just as the customs of women had ceased any longer to affect Sarah. But the passions are female by nature, and we must study to quit them, showing our preference for the masculine characters of the good dispositions.
Therefore the interpreter of diverse opinions, the wandering Joseph, is found in the plain, that is to say, in a contention of words, having reference to political considerations rather than to useful truth; but there are some adversaries who, by reason of their vigorous body, their antagonists having succumbed, have gained the prize of victory without a struggle, not having even had to descend into the arena to contend for it, but obtaining the chief honors on account of their incomparable strength. Using such a power as this with reference to the most divine thing that is in us, namely, our mind, "Isaac goes forth into the plain;" [Genesis 24:63] not for the purpose of contending with any body, since all those who might have been his antagonists, are terrified at the greatness and exceeding excellence of his nature in all things; but only wishing to meet in private, and to converse in private with the fellow traveller and guide of his path and of his soul, namely God. And the clearest possible proof of this is, that no one who conversed with Isaac was a mere mortal. Rebecca, that is perseverance, asks her servant, seeing but one person, and having no conception but of one only, "Who is this man who is coming to meet us?" For the soul which perseveres in what is good, is able to comprehend all self-taught wisdom, which is named Isaac, but is not yet able to see God, who is the guide of wisdom. Therefore, also, the servant confirming the fact that he cannot be comprehended who is invisible, and who converses with man invisibly, says, "He is my lord," pointing to Isaac alone. For it is not natural that, if two persons were in sight, he should point to one alone; but the person whom he did not point to, he did not see, inasmuch as he was invisible to all persons of intermediate character.
X. Now I think that it has already been sufficiently shown, that the field to which Cain invites Abel to come, is a symbol of strife and contention. And we must now proceed to raise the question what the matters are concerning which, when they have arrived in the plain, they are about to institute an investigation. It is surely plain that they are opposite and rival opinions: for Abel, who refers everything to God, is the God-loving opinion; and Cain, who refers everything to himself (for his name, being interpreted, means acquisition), is the self-loving opinion. And men are self-loving when, having stripped and gone into the arena with those who honor virtue, they never cease struggling against them with every kind of weapon, till they compel them to succumb, or else utterly destroy them; for, as the proverb is, they leave no stone unturned, saying, Is not the body the house of the soul? Why, then, should we not take care of the house that it may not become ruinous? Are not the eyes and the ears, and all the company of the other outward senses, guards, as it were, and friends of the soul? Ought we not, then, to honor men's friends and allies equally with themselves? And has nature made pleasures and enjoyments, and all the delights which are spread over the whole of life for the dead, or for those who have never even had any existence at all, and not rather for those who are alive? And what ought we not to do to procure for ourselves riches, and glory, and honors, and authority, and all other things of that sort, which are the only means of living not only safely, but happily? And the life of these men is a proof of this. For they who are called lovers of virtue are nearly all of them men inglorious, easily to be despised, lowly, in need of necessary things, more dishonorable than subjects, or even than slaves, sordid, pale, cadaverous-looking, bearing want and hunger in their countenances, full of diseases, men who would be glad to die. But those who take care of themselves are men of reputation, rich, leaders, men in the enjoyment of praise and honor; moreover, they are healthy, stout, and vigorous; living delicately, nursed in luxury, strangers to labor, living in the constant company of pleasure, and using all their outward senses to bring delights to the soul, which is capable of receiving them all.
XI. Arguing therefore in this prolix train of reasoning, they thought that they got the better of those who were not accustomed to deal in sophistry. But the cause of their victory was not the strength of those who got the better, but the weakness of their adversaries in these matters. For of those who practice virtue, some treasured up what is good in their soul alone, becoming practicers of praiseworthy actions, and having no knowledge whatever of sophistries of words. But they who were armed in both ways, having their minds furnished with wise counsel and with good deeds, and having also good store of reasons to bring forward according to the arts of the sophists, they had a good right to oppose the contentious behavior of some others, having means at hand by which to repel their enemies. But the former sort had no safety whatever. For what men could fight naked against armed enemies on equal terms, when, even if they had been both equally armed, the contest would still have been unequal?
Abel therefore had not learnt any of the arts of reasoning, but he knew what was good by his intellectual disposition alone; on account of which he ought to have refused to go down to the plain, and to have disregarded the invitation of his enemy. For any display of fear is better than being defeated; but such fear a man's enemies call cowardice, but his friends entitle it safe prudence, and we must believe friends in preference to enemies, inasmuch as they tell us the truth.
XII. And it is on this account, as you see, that Moses rejected the sophists in Egypt, that is to say, in the body whom he calls magicians (for it is owing to the tricks and deceits of their sophistical tricks that good dispositions and good habits are infected and corrupted), saying that he was "not an eloquent man," [Exodus 4:10] which is equivalent to saying that he was not formed by nature for the conjectural rhetoric of plausible and specious reasons. And immediately afterwards he confirms the assertion by adding, that he is not only not eloquent, but altogether "void of words," [alogos] meaning this, not in the sense in which we do when we call animals void of words, but speaking of himself as one who did not choose to employ words by means of his organs of speech, but who impresses and stamps the principles of true wisdom upon his mind alone, which is the most perfect opposite to false sophistry. And he will not go to Egypt, nor will he descend into the arena to strive against the sophists who contend in it, till he has thoroughly studied and practiced the art of argumentative reasoning; God himself showing to him all the ideas which belong to such elocution, and making him perfect in them by the election of Aaron who was the brother of Moses, and whom he was accustomed to call his mouth-piece, and interpreter, and prophet. [Exodus 7:1.] For all these attributes belong to speech, which is the brother of the intellect; for the intellect is the fountain of words, and speech is its mouth-piece, because all the conceptions which are entertained in the mind are poured forth by means of speech, like streams of water which flow out of the earth, and come into sight. And speech is an interpreter of the things which the mind has decided upon in its tribunal. Moreover, it is a prophet and a soothsayer of those things which the mind unceasingly pours forth as oracles from its inaccessible and invisible retreats.
XIII. In this manner, then, it is useful to oppose those who are ostentatious about doctrines. For if we have been well exercised in various species of discourses, we shall no longer stumble through inexperience and want of acquaintance with the maneuvers of sophists. But rising up and making a firm and resolute stand against them, we shall with ease escape from their artificial entanglements. But they, when their tricks have once been found out, will appear to be exhibiting the conduct of sparrers rather than of regular combatants. For they too, in their own opinion, get great credit by their style of beating the air; but when they come to a real contest they meet with no moderate disgrace. And if any one is adorned as to his soul with all imaginable virtues, and yet has paid no attention to the art of speaking and arguing, if he only preserves silence he will obtain safety, a prize won without danger. But if he comes forth like Abel into a contest with sophists, he will be thrown down before he has obtained a firm footing.
For, as in medical science, some practitioners who know how to cure almost every complaint, and disease, and infirmity, can nevertheless give no true or even probable account of any one of them; and on the other hand, others are very clever, as far as giving an account of the diseases goes, and in explaining their symptoms and causes, and the modes of cure, and are the most excellent interpreters possible of the principles of which their art is made up, but are utterly useless in the matter of attending the bodies of the sick, to the cure of which they are not able to contribute even the slightest assistance. In the same way, those who have devoted themselves to practical wisdom have often neglected to pay attention to their language; and those who have learnt their professions thoroughly as far as words go, have yet treasured up no good instruction in their soul. It is therefore nothing extraordinary, that these men being in the habit of indulging an unbridled tongue, should be full of self-sufficiency and boldness, displaying all the folly which they have from the first beginning cherished. But it is better to trust to those who, like skillful physicians, have a knowledge of the means of healing the diseases and evil affections of the soul, until God provides an excellent interpreter, and displays to and pours upon him the fountains of his eloquence.
XIV. It would therefore have been consistent for Abel to practice prudence, a very saving virtue, and to have remained at home, disregarding the invitation to the arena of discussion and contest, which was given to him, imitating Rebecca, that is perseverance, who, when Esau, the companion of wickedness, was pouring forth threats, advised the practicer of wisdom, Jacob, to retreat before him who was about to plot against him, until he should have relaxed in his fierce hostility to him, for Esau had been holding out an intolerable threat over Jacob, saying, "The days of mourning for my Father are at hand, that then I may slay my brother Jacob;" [Genesis 27:41] for he is wishing only that that species in the nature of things which is void of passions, namely, Isaac (to whom the oracle had been given, that he should not descend into Egypt), [Genesis 26:2] may be the victim of an irrational affection, in order I suppose that he may be wounded by the stings of pleasure or pain, or of any other passion, showing that the man who is not wholly perfect and who makes laborious improvements, will receive not merely a wound, but utter destruction. However, the good God will neither allow that invulnerable species among created things to be subdued by passion, nor will he surrender the practice of virtue to bloody and raging destruction.
On which account we read in a subsequent passage, "Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him." [Genesis 4:8.] For according to the first imagination, he suggests the idea that Abel has been killed. But if you look at it according to the most accurate investigation, you will see that the intimates that Cain himself was slain by himself, so that we ought to read it thus: "Cain rose up and killed himself," and not the other. And very reasonably may we attribute this to him. For the soul, which destroys out of itself the virtue-loving and God-loving principle, has died as to the life of virtue, so that Abel (which appears a most paradoxical assertion) both is dead and alive. He is dead, indeed, having been slain by the foolish mind, but he lives according to the happy life which is in God. And the holy oracle which has been given will bear witness, which expressly says, that he cried out loudly, and betrayed clearly by his cries [Genesis 4:10] what he had suffered from the concrete evil, that is from the body. For how could one who no longer existed have conversed?
XV. The wise man, therefore, who appears to have departed from this mortal life, lives according to the immortal life; but the wicked man who lives in wickedness has died according to the happy life. For in the various animals of different kinds, and in general in all bodies, it is both possible and easy to conceive, that the agents are of one kind, and the patients of another. For when a father beats his son, correcting him, or when a teacher beats his pupil, he who beats is one, and he who is beaten is another. But in the case of these beings, which are united and made one, only in the part as to which both acting and suffering are found to exist; these two things are there, neither at different times, nor do they affect different people, but they affect the same person in the same manner at the same time.
At all events, when an athlete rubs himself for the sake of taking exercise, he is by all means rubbed also; and, if any one strikes himself, he himself is struck and wounded; and so also he who mutilates or kills himself as the agent, is mutilated or killed as the patient. Why, then, do I say this? Because it appears inevitable that the soul, inasmuch as it consists not of particles which are separated but of those which are united, should suffer what it appears to do, as in real truth it did in this instance; for, when it appeared to be destroying the God-loving doctrine, it destroyed itself. And Lamech is a witness to this, the descendant of the impiety of Cain, who says to his wives, who are the representatives of two inconsiderate opinions, "I have slain a man to my hurt, and a young man to be a scar to me." [Genesis 4:23.] For it is evident that if any one slays the principle of courage, he wounds himself with the opposite disease of cowardice; and if any one in the practice of honorable studies slays his vigorous strength, he is inflicting on himself wounds and great injuries with no moderate degree of disgrace. Therefore, indeed, perseverance says that if practice and improvement be destroyed she will lose not only one child but also her others also, and be an instance of complete childlessness.
XVI. But as he who injures a good man is proved to be doing injury to himself, so also does he who thinks his betters worthy of privileges, in word indeed claim advantage for them, but in fact he is procuring it for himself. And nature here bears testimony in support of my argument, and so do all the laws which have been established in consistency with her; for there is a positive and express and intelligible command laid down in these words: "Honor thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee;" not well with those who receive the honor, says the Scripture, but with thee; for if we look upon the intellect as the father of this concrete animal, and if we honor the outward senses as its mother, we ourselves shall be well treated by them. But the proper honor to be paid to the mind is first to be honored on account of what us useful, and not on account of what is pleasant; but all things proceeding from virtue are useful. And the honor proper to be paid to the outward sense is when we do not allow ourselves to be carried away by its impetuosity towards the external objects of the outward senses, but compel it to be curved by the mind, which knows how to govern and guide the irrational powers in us. If, therefore, each of these things, the outward sense and the mind, receive the honor which I have been describing, then it follows of necessity that I, who use them both, must derive advantage from them. But if, carrying your language away a long distance from the mind and from the outward sense, you think your father, that is to say, the world which produced you, and your mother, wisdom, by means of which the universe was completed, worthy of honor, you yourself shall be well treated; for neither does God, who is full of everything, nor sublime and perfect knowledge, want anything. So that he who is inclined to pay proper attention to them, benefits not those who receive his attentions and who are in no need of anything, but himself most exceedingly. For skill in horsemanship and in judging of dogs, being in reality a ministering to horses and dogs, supplies those animals with the useful things of which each species is in need; and if it were not so to supply them it would seem to neglect them. But it is not proper to call piety, which consists in ministering to God, a virtue which is conversant about supplying the things which will be of use to the Deity; for the Deity is not benefited by any one, inasmuch as he is not in need of anything, nor is it in the power of any one to benefit a being who is in every particular superior to himself. But, on the contrary, God himself is continually and unceasingly benefiting all things.
So, when we say that piety is a ministering to God, we say that it is in some such a service as slaves discharge to their masters, who are taught to do without hesitation that which is commanded them; but, again, there will be a difference, because the masters are in need of service, but God has no such want. So that, in the case of the masters, the servants do supply that which will be of use to them, but to God they supply nothing beyond a mind imbued with a spirit of willing obedience; for they will not find anything which they can improve, since all things belonging to masters are, from the very beginning, most excellent; but they will benefit themselves very greatly by determining to become friends to God.
XVII. I think, therefore, that enough has been now said with respect to those who appear to think that they do others good or harm. For it has been shown, that that which they think that they are doing to others, they in either case do to themselves. We will now examine the remainder of this event; the question is as follows: -- "Where is Abel, thy brother?" [Genesis 4:9.] To which answer is made, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" It is therefore worth while to consider the question whether it can be appropriately said of God that he asks a question. For he who asks a question or puts an inquiry is asking or inquiring about something of which he is ignorant; seeking an answer through which he will know what he as yet does not know. But everything is known to God, not only all that is present, and all that is past, but also all that is to come. What need, then, has he of an answer which cannot give any additional knowledge to the questioner? But we must say that such things cannot properly be uttered by the Cause of all things, but that, as it is possible to say what is not true without lying, so it is possible for one to put question or an interrogatory without either making inquiry or seeking for information. "Why, then," some one will say, "are such words spoken?" In order that the soul which is about to give the answer may prove by itself what it answers correctly or incorrectly, having no one else either as an accuser or an adversary.
Since, when he asks the wise man, Where is virtue? [Genesis 18:9] that is to say, when he asks Abraham about Sarah, he asks, not because he is ignorant, but because he thinks that he ought to answer for the sake of eliciting praise from the answer of him who speaks. Accordingly, Moses tells us that Abraham answered, "Behold, she is in the tent;" that is to say, in the soul. What then is there in this answer that contains praise? Behold, says he, I keep virtue in my house as a treasure carefully stored up, and on account of this I am immediately happy. For it is the use and enjoyment of virtue that is happiness, and not the bare possession of it. But I should not be able to use it unless you, by letting down the seeds from heaven, had yourself made virtue pregnant; and unless she had brought forth the germs of happiness, namely, Isaac. And I consider that happiness is the employment of perfect virtue in a perfect life. In reference to which he, approving of his own determination, promises that he will complete perfectly all that he asked.
XVIII. To him therefore the answer brought praise, as he confessed that virtue without the divine favor was not sufficient of itself to help any one; and, in consequence, it also brings blame to Cain, who says that he does not know where he is who has been treacherously slain by him. For he appears by this answer to be wishing to deceive his hearer, as one who does not see everything, and who has no previous suspicion of the deceit which he is about to use. But every one is wicked and worthy of proscription who thinks that the eye of God can ever fail to see anything. But Cain here speaks arrogantly, "Am I my brother's keeper?" For we might altogether say he was sure hereafter to lead a miserable life, if nature made you the guardian and keeper of so good a man. Do you not see that the lawgiver entrusts the keeping and preservation of the holy things not to any chance person, but to the Levites, who were the most holy persons in their opinions? for whom the earth and the air and the water were considered an unworthy inheritance, but the heaven and the whole world were looked upon as their due. And the Creator alone is worthy of these things, to whom they have fled for refuge, becoming his sincere suppliants and servants, showing their love for their master in their continued service, and in the unhesitating observance of all the commands which are laid upon them, and in the preservation of the things entrusted to them.
XIX. And it has not fallen to the lot of all the suppliants to become guardians of the holy things, but to those only who have arrived at the number fifty, which proclaims remission of offenses and perfect liberty and a return to their ancient possessions. "For this," says the Scripture, "is the law concerning the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upwards, they shall go in to wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: and from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more; but shall minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall keep what is to be kept, and shall do no service." [Numbers 8:24.] Therefore, the Scripture charges him who has half perfection (for the number fifty is perfect, and the number twenty-five is the half of fifty), to work and to do what is holy, approving his ministration by his works. And the beginning, as an old writer has said, is half of the whole. But the perfect man it does not enjoin to labor any longer, but only to preserve what he has acquired by labor and diligence. For may I never become a practicer of what I ought not to be a preserver; subsequently practice therefore is mediocrity not perfection, for it takes place not in perfect souls, but in such as are seeking after perfection. But it is the perfect duty of guardianship to deliver to memory the well-practiced contemplations of holy things, the excellent deposit of knowledge to a faithful guardian, who is the only one who disregards the ingenious and manifold nets of forgetfulness; so that the Scripture, with great propriety and felicity, calls him who is mindful of what he has learnt, the guardian of it. And such an one before he practiced was a pupil, having another to teach him; but when he became competent himself to guard what he had learnt, he then received the power and rank of a teacher, having appointed his brother, his own uttered discourse, to the ministration of teaching.
For it is said that, "His brother shall minister;" so that the mind of the good man is the guardian and steward of the doctrines of virtue. But his brother, that is to say, uttered discourse, shall minister instead of him, going through all the doctrines and speculations of wisdom to those who are desirous of instruction. On which account Moses, also, in his praises of Levi, having previously said many admirable things, adds subsequently, "He has guarded thy oracles and kept thy covenant." [Deuteronomy 33:9.] And presently he continues, "They shall show thy justification to Jacob, and thy law to Israel." Therefore, he here clearly asserts that the good man is the guardian of the words and of the covenant of God. And, indeed, in another place he has shown that he is the best interpreter and declarer of his justifications and laws; the faculty of interpretation being displayed through its kindred organ -- the voice, and guardianship being exerted through the mind, which having been made by nature as a great storehouse, easily contains the conceptions of all things, whether bodies or things. It would therefore have been worth the while of this self-loving Cain to have been the keeper of Abel; for if he had kept him he would have attained to a compounded and moderate kind of life, and would not have been filled with unmodified and absolute wickedness.
XX. And God said, "What has thou done? The voice of the blood of thy brother cries out to me from out of the ground." [Numbers 23:8.] The expression, "What hast thou done," shows indignation at an unhallowed action, and also ridicules the man who thought he had committed the murder secretly. The indignation now arises at the intention of the man who has done the deed, because he designed to destroy what was good; but the ridicule is excited by his thinking that he has plotted against one who is better than himself, and at his having plotted not so much against him as against himself. For, as I have said before, he who appears to be dead is alive, inasmuch as he is found to be a suppliant of God and to utter a voice; and he who believes that he is still alive is dead, as to the death of the soul, inasmuch as he is excluded from virtue, according to which alone he is worthy to live. So that the expression, "What hast thou done?" is equivalent to, "Thou hast done nothing; thou hast done no good for thyself."
For neither was the sophist, Balaam, who was an empty multitude of contrary and contending doctrines, when he was desirous to imprecate curses upon and to injure the good man, able to do so; since God turned his curses into a blessing, in order to correct the unjust man of wickedness and to display his own love of virtue.
XXI. But it is the nature of sophists to have for enemies the faculties which are in them, while their language is at variance with their thoughts and their thoughts with their language, and while neither is in the least degree consistent with the other. At all events, they wear out our ears, arguing that justice is a great bond of society, that temperance is a profitable thing, that continence is a virtuous thing, that piety is a most useful thing, and, of each other virtue, that it is a most wholesome and saving quality. And, on the other hand, that injustice is a quality with which we ought to have no truce, that intemperance is a diseased habit, that impiety is scandalous, and so going through every kind of wickedness, that each sort is most pernicious. And, nevertheless, they never cease showing by their conduct that their real opinion is the reverse of their language. But, when they extol prudence and temperance and justice and piety, they then show that they are, above all measure, foolish, and intemperate, and unjust, and impious; in short, that they are throwing into confusion and overturning all divine and human regulations and principles. And to them, therefore, one may very properly say what the divine oracle said to Cain, "What is this that thou hast done?" What good have ye done yourselves? What have all these discourses about virtue profited your souls? In what particular of life, whether small or great, have ye done well? What? Have you not, on the contrary, contributed to advancing true charges against yourselves? because, by expressing your approval of what is good, and philosophizing as far as words go, you have been excellent interpreters, but are nevertheless discovered to be men who both think and practice shameful things. In fact, all good things are dead in your souls, these evils having been there kindled; and, on this account there is no one of you who is really alive.
For as, when some musician or grammarian is dead, the music and grammar which existed in them dies with them, but their ideas survive, and in a manner live as long as the world itself endures; according to which the existing race of men, and those who are to exist hereafter in continual succession, will, to the end of time, become skillful in music and grammar. Thus, also, if the prudence, or the temperance, or the courage, or the justice, or, in short, if the wisdom of any kind existing in any individual be destroyed, nevertheless the prudence existing in the nature of the immortal universe will still be immortal; and every virtue is erected like a pillar in imperishable solidity, in accordance with which there are some good people now, and there will be some hereafter. Unless, indeed, we should say that the death of any individual man is the destruction of humanity and of the human race, which, whether we ought to call it a genus, or a species, or a conception, or whatever else you please, those who are anxious about the investigation of proper names may determine. One seal has often stamped thousands upon thousands of impressions in infinite number, and though at times all those impressions have been effaced with the substances on which they were stamped, still the seal itself has remained in its pristine condition without being at all injured in its nature. Again, do we not think that the virtues, even if all the characters which they have impressed upon the souls of those who have sought them should become effaced by wicked living, or by any other cause, would nevertheless preserve their own unadulterated and imperishable nature? Therefore, they who have not been duly initiated in instruction, not knowing anything about the differences between wholes and parts, or between genera and species, or about the homonymies which are incidental to these things, mix up all things together in a confused mass. On which account every one who is a lover of self, by surname Cain, should learn that he has destroyed the namesake of Abel, that is to say species, individuality, the image made according to the model; not the archetypal pattern, nor the genus, nor the idea, which he thinks are destroyed together with animals, though, in fact, they are indestructible.
Let any one then say to him, reproving and ridiculing him, What is this that thou hast done, O wretched man? Does not the God-loving opinion which you flatter yourself that you have destroyed, live in the presence of God? But it is of yourself that you have become the murderer, by destroying from out of its seat the only quality by which you could live in a blameless manner.
XXII. And what was said afterwards is uttered very beautifully, with reference either to the beauty of the interpretation of which it is susceptible, or to the conception which may be discovered in it. "The voice of the blood of thy brother calls to me from out of the earth." This now, which is a very sublime expression if we regard the language in which it is couched, is intelligible to all those who are not utterly uninitiated in eloquence. But let us consider the ideas which are apparent in it as well as we are able.
And first of all, let us consider what is said about the blood; for in many places of the law as given by Moses, he pronounces the blood to be the essence of the soul or of life, saying distinctly, "For the life of all flesh is the blood thereof." [Leviticus 17:11.] And when the Creator of all living things first began to make man, after the creation of the heaven and the earth, and all the things which are between the two, Moses says, "And he breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul," showing again by this expression that it is the breath which is the essence of the life. And, indeed, he is accustomed diligently to record all the suggestions and purposes of God from the beginning, thinking it right to adopt his subsequent statements to aid to make them consistent with his first accounts. Therefore, after he had previously stated the breath to be the essence of the life, he would not subsequently have spoken of the blood as occupying the most important place in the body, unless he had been making a reference to some very necessary and comprehensive principle. What then are we to say? The truth is, that every one of us according to the nearest estimation of numbers, is two persons, the animal and the man. And each of these two has a cognate power in the faculties, the seat of which is the soul assigned to it. To the one portion is assigned the vivifying faculty according to which we live; and to the other, the reasoning faculty in accordance with which we are capable of reasoning. Therefore, even the irrational animals partake of the vivifying power; but of the rational faculty, God -- I will not say partakes, but -- is the ruler, and that is the fountain of the most ancient Word.
XXIII. Therefore, the faculty which is common to us with the irrational animals, has blood for its essence. And it, having flowed form the rational fountain, is spirit, not air in motion, but rather a certain representation and character of the divine faculty which Moses calls by its proper name an image, showing by his language that God is the archetypal pattern of rational nature, and that man is the imitation of him, and the image formed after his model; not meaning by man that animal of a double nature, but the most excellent species of the soul which is called mind and reason.
On this account, Moses represents God as calling the blood the life of the flesh, though he is aware that the nature of the flesh has no participation in intellect, but that it does partake of life, as also does our whole body. And the soul of man he names the spirit, meaning by the term man, not the compound being, as I said before, but that Godlike creation by which we reason, the roots of which he stretched to heaven, and fastened it to the outermost rim of the circle of those bodies which we call the fixed stars. For God made man, the only heavenly plant of those which he placed upon the earth, fastening the heads of the others in the mainland, for all of them bend their heads downwards; but the face of man he has exalted and directed upwards, that it might have its food of a heavenly and incorruptible nature, and not earthly and perishable. With a view to which, he also rooted in the earth the foundations of our body, removing the most insensible part of it as far as possible from reason; and the outward senses, which are as it were the body-guards of the mind, and the mind itself, he established at a great distance from the earth, and from all things connected with it, and bound it with the periodical revolutions of the air and of the heavens, which are imperishable.
XXIV. Let us then no longer doubt, we who are the disciples of Moses, how man conceived an idea of God who is destitute of all figure, for he was taught the reason of this by the divine oracle, and afterwards he explained it to us. And he spoke as follows: -- He said that the Creator made no soul in any body capable of seeing its Creator by its own intrinsic powers. But having considered that the knowledge of the Creator and the proper understanding of the work of Creation, would be of great advantage to the creature (for such knowledge is the boundary of happiness and blessedness), he breathed into him from above something of his own divine nature. And his divine nature stamped her own impression in an invisible manner on the invisible soul, in order that even the earth might not be destitute of the image of God. But the archetypal pattern was so devoid of all figure, that its very image was not visible, being indeed fabricated in accordance with the model, and accordingly it received not mortal but immortal conceptions. For how could a mortal nature at the same time remain where it was and also emigrate? or how could it see what was here and what was on the other side? or how could it sail round the white sea, and at the same time traverse the whole earth to its furthest boundaries, and inspect the customs and laws of the nations on all the affairs and bodies which are in existence?
On separating them from the things of the earth, how could it arrive at a contemplation of the sublimer things of the air and its revolutions, and the peculiar character of its seasons, and all the things which at the periodical changes of the year are made anew, and, according to their usual habit, brought to perfection? Or again, how could it fly through the air from earth to heaven, and investigate the natures which exist in heaven, and see of what nature they are, how they are moved, what are the limits of their movements, of their beginning and of their end; how they are adapted to one another and to the universe according to the just principles of kindred? Is it easy to have an accurate comprehension of the different arts and of the different branches of knowledge which bring external things into shape, and which are concerned with the affairs of the body and of the soul, with a view to the improvement of the two, and to understand ten thousand other things, of which it is not easy to describe either the number or the nature in language? For of all the faculties which exist in us, the mind alone, as being the most rapid in its motions of all, appears to be able to outrun and to pass by the time in which it originates, according to the invisible powers of the universe and of its parts existing without any reference to time, and touching the universe and its parts, and the causes of them.
And now, having gone not only to the very boundaries of earth and sea, but also to those of air and heaven, it has not stopped even there, thinking that the world itself is but a brief limit for its continued and unremitting course. And it is eager to advance further; and, if it can possibly do so, to comprehend the incomprehensible nature of God, even if only as to its existence. How, then, is it natural that the human intellect, being as scanty as it is, and enclosed in no very ample space, in some membrane, or in the heart (truly very narrow bounds), should be able to embrace the vastness of the heaven and of the world, great as it is, if there were not in it some portion of a divine and happy soul, which cannot be separated from it? For nothing which belongs to the divinity can be cut off from it so as to be separated from it, but it is only extended. On which account the being which has had imparted to it a share of the perfection which is in the universe, when it arrives at a proper comprehension of the world, is extended in width simultaneously with the boundaries of the universe, and is incapable of being broken or divided; for its power is ductile and capable of extension.
XXV. Let this then be enough to say concisely about the essence of the soul. And now proceeding in regular order, we will explain the expression, that "the voice of his blood cries out," in this manner, -- of our soul, one part is dumb, and one part is endowed with utterance. All that part which is devoid of reason is likewise destitute of voice, but all that part which is rational is capable of speech, and that part alone has formed any conception of God; for, by the other parts of us, we are not able to comprehend God, or any other object of the intellect. Of our vivifying power, therefore, of which the blood is, as it were, the essence, one portion has particular honor, namely, that of speech and reason; I do not mean the stream which flows through the mouth and tongue, but I speak of the fountain itself, from which the channels of utterance are, in the course of nature, filled. And this fountain is the mind; by means of which, all our conversations with and cries to the living God take place, at one time being voluntary, and at another involuntary. But he, as a good and merciful God, does not reject his suppliants, and most especially he does not, when they, groaning at the Egyptian deeds and passions, cry to him in sincerity and truth. For at such a time Moses says that, "their words go up to God," [Exodus 2:21] and that he listens to them, and delivers them from the evils that surround them. But that all these things should happen when the king of Egypt dies, should be a most strange thing; for it would be natural that when the tyrant died, all those who have been tyrannized over by him should rejoice and exult; but at that time they are said to groan. "For after many days the king of Egypt died, and the children of Israel groaned." [Exodus 2:25.]
Now here, if we look merely at the words, the expression does not appear to be reasonable; but if we have regard to the faculties in the soul, then its consistency is discovered. For as long as he who scatters abroad and dissipates the opinions about good things, namely, Pharaoh, is vigorous in us, and appears in a sound and healthy state, if indeed we can say that any wicked man is in such a condition, we receive pleasure, driving temperance away from our borders. But when he loses his strength, and in a manner dies, he who has been the cause of men's living in a filthy and lascivious manner, then we, fixing our eyes on modesty of life, bewail and groan over ourselves on account of our former way of living; because then, honoring pleasure before virtue, we joined a mortal life to an immortal one; and the law taking pity on our continued lamentation, gently receives our suppliant souls, and easily drives away the Egyptian calamities which are brought upon them by the passions.
XXVI. But on him who is incapable of receiving repentance on account of the enormity of the pollution which he has incurred by the murder of his brother, namely, on Cain, he lays well-deserved and fitting curses; for in the first place he says to him, "And now, cursed art thou upon the earth:" [Genesis 4:11] showing first of all that he is polluted and accursed, not now for the first time when he has committed the murder, but that he was so before, the moment that he conceived the idea of it, the intention being of equal importance with the perfected action; for as long as we only conceive wicked things in the bad imagination of our minds, still, during that time, we are guilty of thoughts only, for the mind is capable of being changed even against its will; but when performance is added to the intention that has been conceived, then our deliberate purpose becomes also guilty; for this is the chief distinction between voluntary and involuntary sin. But the scripture here pronounces that the mind shall be accursed, not from anything else, but from the earth; for of all the most grievous calamities which can happen to it, the earthly portion which exists in each of us is found to be the cause. At all events, when the body is afflicted with disease, it adds the miseries which are derived from itself, and so fills the mind with grief and despondency; or, on the other hand, if it has grown fat immoderately through enjoyment of pleasures, it makes all the faculties of the mind duller for the comprehension of nobler objects.
For, indeed, each of the outward senses is capable of receiving injury; for either a man beholding beauty is wounded by the darts of love, which is a terrible passion; or else, perhaps, if he hears of the death of any one related to him by birth, he is bowed down by sorrow: very often, too, taste gets the mastery of a man, when it is either tortured by disagreeable flavors, or weighed down by the multitude of delicacies. And why need I speak of the impetuous passions, which tend to the connection of the two sexes? These have destroyed whole cities, and countries, and mighty nations of the earth; to which fact nearly the whole multitude, both of poets and of historians, bears abundant testimony.
XXVII. And as to the manner in which the mind becomes accursed upon the earth, he adds further information immediately afterwards, saying: "The earth which opened her mouth to receive the blood of thy brother." For it is very difficult for the mouths of the outward senses to be opened and widened, as even when they are not open the flood of the objects appreciable only by them rushes in like an overflowing river, nothing being capable of resisting their evident impetuosity; for then the mind is found to be overwhelmed, being wholly absorbed by so vast a wave, and being utterly unable to swim against it, or even to raise its head above it; but it is necessary to employ all these things not so much for whatever objects can possibly be effected, but for those that are best; for the sight can perceive all colors and all shapes; but still it ought to behold only things worthy of light, and not of darkness. Again, the ear can receive all kinds of sounds; but some it ought to disregard; for myriads of the things that are said are disgraceful. Nor, O foolish and arrogant man, because nature has given you the faculty of taste, ought you to fill yourself insatiably with everything, like a cormorant; for there are many things not merely among such as are nutritious, but of those which are exceedingly so, which have, nevertheless, produced diseases accompanied with great suffering.
Nor does it follow that, because for the sake of the perpetuation of your race you have been endowed with the powers of generation, you ought to pursue pollutions and adulteries and other impure connections; but only such as, in a legitimate manner, engender and propagate the race of mankind. Nor, because you have been made endowed with a mouth and a tongue and the organs of speech, ought you to say everything and to reveal what ought not to be spoken, for there are times when to hold one's peace is useful. And, in my opinion, those who have learnt to speak have also learnt to be silent, the same capacity teaching a man both lines of conduct. But those men who relate what they ought not, do not display the faculty of eloquence, but the weakness of their faculty of silence. On which account we labor to bind each of the mouthpieces of the senses before-mentioned with the imperishable bonds of temperance. "For whatever is not bound with a bond," says Moses, in another passage, "is impure," [Numbers 19:15] as if the cause of its unhappiness was the fact of the parts of the soul being relaxed and open and dissolved; but that the fact of their being compacted and tightly bound together contributed to goodness and soundness of life and reason.
He, therefore, curses the godless and impious Cain with deserved curses; because, having opened the caverns of this concrete creature, he opened his mouth for all external things, praying to receive them in an insatiable manner and to contain them, to the utter destruction of the Godloving doctrine, Abel.
XXVIII. "On this account shall he cultivate the earth;" [Genesis 4:12] he does not say, "He shall become a farmer." For every farmer is an artist, because farming is an art. But any of the common people are cultivators of the earth, giving their service to provide themselves with necessaries, without any skill. These men, then, as they have no superintendent in all that they do, do much harm; and whatever they do well they do by chance, and not in accordance with reason. But the works of farmers, which are performed according to knowledge, are all of them, of necessity, useful.
On this account it is that the law-giver has attributed to the just Noah the employment of a farmer; [Genesis 9:20] showing by this that, like a good farmer, the virtuous man eradicates in the wild wood all the mischievous young saplings which have been planted by the passions or by the vices, but leaves untouched all those which bear fruit, and which may act instead of a wall and prove a firm defense for the soul. And, again, among the trees capable of cultivation he manages them in different ways, and not all in the same way: pruning some and adding props to others, training some so as to increase their size, and cutting down others so as to keep them dwarf. Again, when he sees a vine flourishing and luxuriant he bends down its young shoots to the ground, digging trenches to receive them, and again heaping up the ground on the top of them; and they at no distant period, instead of parts, become whole trees, and instead of daughters they become mothers, having moreover put off the old age which is the usual companion of maternity. For, having desisted from distributing and apportioning its nourishment amongst numerous offspring, inasmuch as they are able to support themselves, that which was previously weak from being drained by this cause becomes so fully satiated as to grow fat and young again.
And I have seen another man who cut away the less desirable shoots of trees which admitted of cultivation, as soon as they appeared above the ground, and left only a small piece adhering to the root itself. And then taking a branch in good condition from another tree of a good sort, he scraped away the one shoot down till he came to the pith, and the shoot which was attached to the root he cut at no great depth, but opening it just sufficiently to make the union perfect, and then putting into the cleft the shoot which he had pared away he fitted it in; and from these two shoots one single tree of one united nature sprang up, each portion giving to the other that which was useful to it; for the roots support the shoot which has been fitted into them, and prevent it from drying up and withering, and the shoot which has been inserted as a reward for its nourishment supplies the root with good fruit in requital. There are also an innumerable host of other operations in farming which proceed on rules of art, which it would be superfluous to enumerate on the present occasion, for we have only dwelt on this point at such length for the purpose of showing the difference between the man who is only a cultivator of the earth, and one who is a farmer.
XXIX. Accordingly the bad man never ceases from employing, without any of the principles of art, his earth-like body, and the outward senses which are akin to it, and all the external objects of these outward senses, and he injures his miserable soul, and he also injures what he fancies he is benefiting exceedingly, his own body.
But the good man, for he has skill in the art of a farmer, manages the whole of his materials in accordance with the principles of art and reason; for when the outward senses behave insolently, being borne forward with irresistible impetuosity towards the external objects of the outward senses, they are easily restrained by some contrivance among those which art has devised; but when an impetuous passion in the soul becomes violent, bringing forth voluptuous itchings and ticklings arising from pleasure or from appetite, or on the other hand, stings and agitation, caused by fear or grief, it is softened by the previously prepared saving medicine; and if any evil devouring as it goes, proceeds further, like a sister of the cancerous disease, which creeps over the body, it is cut out by reason which proceeds in its operations in accordance with knowledge.
In this manner then the trees of the wild wood are brought into a state of tameness, but all the plants of the cultivated and fruit-bearing virtues have for their shoots studies, and for their fruits virtuous actions, of each of which the farming skill of the soul promotes the growth, and as far as depends upon it, it makes them immortal by its industry.
XXX. Very clearly therefore is the good man thus shown to be a farmer, and the bad man to be only a cultivator of the land; and I wish that while he is thus cultivating the land, the earthly nature which environs him, had imparted some vigor to him, and had not, as it has, taken away something of the power which he had before, for we read in the scripture, "It shall not add its strength to thee to give it to thee," and such would be the character of a man who was always eating or drinking and never satisfied, or who was incessantly indulging in the pleasures of the belly, and devoting his energies to the gratifying of his carnal appetites, for deficiency produces weakness, but fullness produces strength; but when, amid abundance of things an insatiability is united with excessive intemperance, that is hunger; and they are truly wretched whose bodies are filled, while their passions are empty and still thirsting; but of the lovers of knowledge the prophet speaks in a great song, and says, "That she has made them to ascend upon the strength of the earth, and has fed them upon the produce of the fields," [Deuteronomy 32:13] showing plainly that the godless man fails in attaining his object, in order that he may grieve the more while strength is not added to these operations in which he expends his energies, but while on the other hand it is taken from them; but they who follow after virtue, placing it above all these things which are earthly and mortal, disregard their strength in their exceeding abundance, using God as the guide to conduct them in their ascent, who proffers to them the produce of the earth for their enjoyment and most profitable use, likening the virtues to fields, and the fruits of the virtues to the produce of the fields, according to the principles of their generation; for from prudence is derived prudent action, and from temperance temperate action, and from piety pious conduct, and from each of the other virtues is derived the energy in accordance with it.
XXXI. Now these energies are especially the food of the soul, which is competent to give suck, as the lawgiver says, "Honey out of the rock, and oil out of the solid rock," [Deuteronomy 23:13] meaning by the solid rock which cannot be cut through, the wisdom of God, which is the nurse and foster-mother and educator of those who desire incorruptible food; for it, as the mother of those things which exist in the world, immediately supplies food to those beings which are brought forth by her; but they are not all thought worthy of divine food, but only such are honored with that as do not show any degeneracy from their parent; for there are many which a scarcity of virtue, which is more terrible than a scarcity of meat and drink, has destroyed; but the fountain of divine wisdom is borne along, at one time in a more gentle and moderate stream, and at another with greater rapidity and a more exceeding violence and impetuosity. When, therefore, it descends gently it sweetens after the manner of honey, but when it comes on swiftly the whole material enters like oil into the light of the soul.
This rock, Moses, in another place, using a synonymous expression, calls manna the most ancient word of God, by which appellation is understood, something of the most general possible nature, from which two cakes are made, one of honey and the other of oil, that is to say, two different systems of life, exceedingly difficult to distinguish from one another, both worthy of attention, at the very beginning instilling the sweetness of these contemplations which exist in the sciences, and again emitting the most brilliant light to those who take hold of the things which are the objects of their desire, not fastidiously, but firmly, and scarcely by means of unremitting and incessant perseverance. These then, as I have said before, are they who ascend up upon the strength of the earth.
XXXII. But to the impious Cain, neither does the earth contribute anything to give him vigor, even though he never concerns himself about anything which is exterior to it; on which account, in the next sentence, he is found "groaning and trembling upon the earth," [Genesis 4:12] that is to say, under the influence of grief and terror; and such also is the miserable life of a wicked man, who has received for his inheritance the most painful of the four passions, pain and terror; the one being equivalent to groaning, and the other to trembling; for it is inevitable, that some evil should either be present to or impending over such a man. Now the expectation of impending evil causes fear, but the suffering of present evil causes pain.
On the other hand, he who pursues virtue is found to be in the enjoyment of corresponding blessings; for either he has acquired what is good or he will attain to it. Now the present possession perfects joy, which is the best of all possessions; but the expectation of possessing it brings hope, the food of those souls which love virtue; on account of which, putting away sluggishness, we, with spontaneous readiness, hasten onwards to good actions. From that soul therefore, in which justice has brought forth a male offspring, that is to say just thoughts, it has also at the same time removed all painful things, and the birth of Noah will bear testimony in confirmation of this, and the interpretation of the name of Noah is just; and of him it is said, "he will make us to rest from our works, and from the labors of our hands, and from the earth, which the Lord God has cursed;" [Genesis 5:29] for it is the nature of justice in the first place to cause rest instead of labor, being utterly indifferent to the things that are in the confines between wickedness and virtue, riches and glory, and power and honor, and all other things which are akin to these, which are the chief objects of the energies of the human race. And, in the second place, to destroy those pains which exist in accordance with our own energies; for Moses does not (as some wicked men do) say, that God is the cause of evils, but our own hands; indicating, by a figurative expression, the works of our hand, and the voluntary inclinations of our mind to the worser part.
XXXIII. Last of all, Noah is said "to comfort us concerning our work, because of the ground which the Lord God hath cursed." [Genesis 5:29.] But by this is meant wickedness, which is established in the souls of foolish men; the remedy for which (as one seeks for remedies for a severe disease) is found to be the just man, who is in possession of the panacea, justice. When, therefore, he has repelled these evils he is filled with joy, as also is Sarah; for she says, "The Lord hath caused me laughter;" and she adds further, "so that whosoever hears it shall rejoice with me." [Genesis 21:6.] For God is the author of virtuous laughter and joy; so that we must look upon Isaac not as the offspring of creation, but as the work of the uncreate God. For if Isaac, being interpreted, means laughter, and if it be God who is the cause of laughter according to the true testimony of Sarah, then he may be most properly said to be the father of Isaac. And he also gives a share to Abraham of his own proper appellation, to whom, when he eradicated pain from wisdom, he gave rejoicing as an offspring. If, therefore, any one is worthy to listen to the account of the creative power of God he is of necessity joyful, and rejoices in company with those who have had a longing to hear the same. And in the account of the creative power of God you will find no cunningly devised fable, but only unalloyed laws of truth firmly established. Moreover, you will find no vocal measures or rhythm, no melodies alluring the hearing with musical art; but only most perfect works of virtue, which have all of them a peculiar harmony and fitness. And as the mind rejoices which is eager to hear of the works of God, so also does language, which is in harmony with the conceptions of the mind, and which in a manner is compelled to attend to them, feel exultation.
XXXIV. And this will also be proved by the oracle which was given to the all-wise Moses, in which these words are contained: "Behold, is there not Aaron thy brother, the Levite? I know that he will speak for thee; and behold he will be coming forth to meet thee, and he will rejoice in himself when he seeth thee." [Exodus 4:14.] For here the Creator says, that he knows that uttered speech is a burden to the mind, because it speaks; for he represents it, that is to say, articulate sound, as the organ, as it were, of all this concrete being of ours. This speech speaks, and discourses, and interprets both in your case and mine, and in that of all mankind, the things conceived in the mind, and it moreover comes forward to meet the things which the mind conceives; for when the mind being excited towards any object connected with it receives an impetus, either because it has been moved internally by itself, or because it has received some remarkable impressions from external circumstances, it then becomes pregnant and labors to bring forth its conceptions. And, though it tries to deliver itself of them, it is unable to do so till sound, like a midwife, acting either through the medium of the tongue or of some other of the organs of speech, receives those conceptions and brings them to light. And this voice is itself the most manifest of all the conceptions. For, as what is laid up is hidden in darkness until light shines upon it and exhibits it, in the same manner the conceptions are stored away in an invisible place, namely, the mind, until the voice, like light, sheds its beams upon them and reveals everything.
XXXV. Very beautifully, therefore, was it said that speech goes forth to meet the conceptions, and that it runs on endeavoring to overtake them, from its desire of giving information respecting them, for everything has the greatest affection for its own proper employment; and the proper employment of speech is to speak, to which employment therefore it hastens by a kind of natural kindred and propriety. And it rejoices and exults when, shedding its rays upon it as it were, it accurately sees and overtakes the sense of the matter exhibited; for then, seizing it in its embrace, it becomes its most excellent interpreter. At all events, we repudiate those chatterers and interminable talkers, who, in the long passages of their conversations, do not properly keep to their conceptions, but merely connect long and empty and, to say the truth, lifeless sentences.
Therefore the conversation of such men as these is indecorous, and is justly condemned to groan; as, on the other hand, it is inevitable that that conversation which proceeds from a proper consideration of the objects of its consideration must rejoice, since it comes in an adequate manner to the interpretation of the things which it saw and comprehended vigorously; and this is a matter within the knowledge of almost every one from his daily experience. For, when we thoroughly understand what we are saying, then our speech rejoices and exults, and is rich in most emphatic and appropriate expressions, with which, using great copiousness and fluency of unhesitating diction, it sets before the hearer what it desires to exhibit to him in a most evident and efficient manner. But when the comprehension of the conceptions is doubtful, then the speech stumbles and exhibits a great deficiency of suitable and felicitous expressions, and speaks very inappropriately; on which account it is tedious and wearisome and wanders about, and instead of persuading its hearers it pains their ears.
XXXVI. Again, it is not every speech which should come forward to meet the conceptions; nor is it every kind of conception that it should come to meet; but only the perfect Aaron who should come forward to meet the conceptions of the most perfect Moses. Since else why, when God had said, "Behold, is not Aaron thy brother?" did he add, "the Levite," if it were not for the sake of teaching that it belongs to the Levite and priest, and to virtuous speech alone, to give information respecting the conceptions of the mind, which are shoots of the perfect soul. For never may the speech of a wicked man be interpreter of divine doctrines, for such an one would deform their beauty by his own pollutions; and, on the other hand, may what is intemperate and disgraceful never be related by the utterance of a virtuous man, but may sacred and holy conversations always deliver the relation of holy things.
In some of the best governed cities of the world they say that such a custom as this prevails. When any man who has not lived well attempts to deliver his opinion, either in the council or in the assembly of the people, he is not permitted to do so by his own mouth, but is compelled by the magistrates to deliver his opinion to some virtuous and honorable man to explain in his behalf; and then he, when he has heard what he wishes said, rises up and unfolds the meaning of the sewn up mouth of his instructor, becoming his extempore pupil; and he displays the imaginations of another, scarcely considering the original concern for them even in the rank of a hearer or spectator. So some people do not choose to receive even benefits from unworthy persons, but look upon the injury accruing from the shame of taking their advice as greater than the advantage which can be derived from it.
XXXVII. This lesson the most holy Moses appears to teach; for such is the object of the statement that Aaron the Levite is coming forward to meet his brother Moses, and that when he sees him he rejoices in himself; and the statement that he rejoices in himself shows also, besides the doctrine which has already been mentioned, another more connected with politics, since the lawgiver is here exhibiting that genuine joy which is most especially akin to the human race; for to speak strictly, the feeling of joy does not belong to abundance of money, or of possessions, or to brilliancy of renown, nor, in short, to any one of those external circumstances which are lifeless and unstable, and which contain the seeds of their decay in themselves: nor yet does it belong to personal strength and vigor, and to the other advantages of the body, which are common to even the most worthless men, and which have often brought inevitable destruction on those who possessed them.
Since then it is only in the virtues of the soul that genuine and unadulterated joy is found, and since every wise man rejoices, he rejoices in himself, and not in his surrounding circumstances; for the things that are in himself are the virtues of the mind on which it is worthy for a man to provide himself; but the circumstances which surround him are either a good condition of body or an abundance of external wealth, which are not proper objects for a man to pride himself on.
XXXVIII. Having shown, therefore, as far as we could by the most unmistakeable testimony of Moses that, to rejoice is the peculiar property of the wise man, we will now also show that to hope also belongs to him alone; and here again we shall have no need of any other witness than Moses; for he tells us that the name of the son of Seth was Enos: and Enos, being interpreted, means hope. "He hoped first," says Moses, "to call upon the name of the Lord his God." [Genesis 4:26.] Speaking wisely: for to a man inspired with the principles of truth what can be more akin and appropriate than a hope and expectation of the acquisition of good things from the one bounteous God? This, if one must speak the plain truth, is, properly speaking, the only real birth of men, as those who do not hope in God have no share in rational nature. On which account Moses, after he had previously mentioned with respect to Enos that "he hoped to call upon the name of the Lord his God," adds in express words, "This is the book of the generation of men;" [Genesis 5:1] speaking with perfect correctness: for it is written in the book of God that man is the only creature with a good hope. So that arguing by contraries, he who has no good hope is not a man. The definition, therefore, of our concrete being is that it is a living rational mortal being; but the definition of man, according to Moses, is a disposition of the soul hoping in the truly living God.
Let good men, then, by all means having received joy and hope for their blessed inheritance, either possess or expect good things: but let bad men, of whom Cain is a companion, living in fear and pain, reap a harvest of a most bitter portion, namely, either the presence or the expectation of evils, groaning over the miseries which are actually oppressing them, and trembling and shuddering at the expected fearful dangers.
XXXIX. However, we have now said enough on this subject, and let us proceed to investigate what comes afterwards.
He continues thus: "And Cain said unto the Lord, My crime is too great to be forgiven." [Genesis 4:14.] Now what is meant by this will be shown by a consideration of simple passages. If a pilot were to desert his ship when tossed about by the sea, would it not follow of necessity that the ship would wander out of her course in the voyage? Shall I say more? If a charioteer in the contest of the horse-race were to quit his chariot, is it not inevitable that the course of the free horses would be disorderly and irregular? Again, when a city is left destitute of rulers or of laws, and laws, undoubtedly, are entitled to be classed on an equality with magistrates, must not that city be destroyed by those greatest of evils, anarchy and lawlessness? (142) And in the same manner, by the ordinances of nature, the body must perish if the soul be absent; and the soul, if reason be absent. Reason, too, must be destroyed by the absence of virtue. But if each of these things is such an injury to the things that are abandoned by them, then how great must we consider is the misfortune of those persons who are abandoned by God? Whom he has rejected as deserters from his band: and put out of the pale of his sacred laws, considering them unworthy of his superintendence and government. For we must absolutely be certain that a person who is deserted by his superior and benefactor is guilty of great crimes and liable to severe accusations. For when would you say that a man destitute of skill is most greatly injured? Would it not be when he is utterly abandoned by knowledge? And when would you say that the ignorant and wholly uninstructed man is most injured? Must it not be when instruction and education complete their desertion of him? When again do we most deplore the condition of the foolish? Is it not when prudence has utterly rejected them? And when do we pronounce intemperate or unjust men, miserable? Is it not when temperance and justice have condemned them to an eternal banishment from their dominion? When do we pronounce the impious, wretched? Is it not when piety has cut them off from her peculiar rites? So that it seems to me that those who are not utterly impure should pray to be chastised and rejected rather than deserted; for desertion will most easily ruin them, as vessels without ballast and without a pilot; but correction will set them right again. Are not those boys who are beaten by their preceptors, for whatever errors they commit, better than those who have no schoolmaster? And are not those who are reproved by their teachers, for all the errors they commit in the arts which they are studying, better than those who receive no such reproof? And are not those young men who have been accounted especially worthy of that natural superintendence and government, which those who are parents exercise over their children, more fortunate and better than those who have had no such protectors? And if they have not such natural protectors, do they not receive guardians as governors in a secondary rank, who are accustomed to be appointed over them out of pity for their orphan state; to fill the place of parents to them in all things that are expedient?
XL. Let us, therefore, address our supplications to God, we who are self-convicted by our consciousness of our own sins, to chastise us rather than to abandon us; for if he abandons us, he will no longer make us his servants, who is a merciful master, but slaves of a pitiless generation: but if he chastises us in a gentle and merciful manner, as a kind ruler, he will correct our offenses, sending that correcting conviction, his own word, into our hearts, by means of which he will heal them; reproving us and making us ashamed of the wickednesses which we have committed. On this account the law-giver says, "Every word which a widow or a woman who is divorced vows against her own soul shall remain against it." [Numbers 30:10.] For if we call God the husband and father of the universe, supplying the origin and generation of all things, we shall be speaking rightly: as we shall if we call that heart widowed and divorced from God which either has not received divine seed, or, after having received it, has again voluntarily made it abortive. Therefore every thing which it decides it shall decide against itself: and these things shall remain utterly incurable.
For how can it be anything but a most intolerable evil, for a creature which is inconstant and easily moved in every direction, to lay down any positive decision and determination about itself, attributing to itself the virtues of the Creator? One of which is that, according to which, it defines in an unhesitating and unalterable manner. Therefore, not only shall it be widowed of knowledge, but it shall likewise be divorced from it. And the meaning of this expression is as follows:--For the soul which is widowed of, but is not yet divorced from, what is good, is able, in a manner, after long perseverance, to come to a reconciliation and agreement with her lawful husband, right reason. But the soul which has once been utterly separated from it, and which has been utterly separated from it, and which has been removed to a different abode, has been cast out for ever and ever, as utterly incapable of reconciliation or peace, and is entirely unable to return to its previous habitation.
XLI. This, then, may be enough to say about the expression, "My crime is too great to be forgiven."
Let us now consider what follows that verse -- Cain says, "But if thou castest me out this day from off the face of the earth, and from thy face I shall be hidden." [Genesis 4:14.] What sayest thou, my good man? If thou art utterly cast out from the whole earth, shall you still be hidden? In what manner? For shall you be able to live? or are you ignorant of this, that nature has given animals different places to live in, and has not assigned the same place to them all? She has allotted the sea to the fishes, and to the whole race of aquatic animals, and the land to all the terrestrial animals. And man too, according, at least, to the composite nature of his body, is a terrestrial animal. And it is owing to this that all animals easily die when they have quitted the place which properly belongs to them, and have gone, as it were, into a foreign country; as, for instance, when terrestrial animals go under the water, or when aquatic animals have sailed out upon the land.
If, therefore you, being a man, should be cast out from the land, whither will you turn? Will you dive under water, imitating the nature of aquatic animals? But you will die the moment that you are underneath the water. Or will you take wings and raise yourself aloft, and so attempt to traverse the regions of the air, changing your character of a terrestrial, for that of a flying animal? But, if it is in your power, change and re-fashion the divine impress that you bear. You cannot do so. For in proportion as you raise yourself to a greater height, so much the more rapidly will you descend from that higher region and with the greater impetuosity to the earth, which is your appropriate place.
XLII. Can a man, then, or any other created animal, hide himself from God? Where can he do so? Where can he hide himself from that being who pervades all places, whose look reaches to the very boundaries of the world, who fills the whole universe, of whom not even the smallest portion of existing things is deficient? And what is there extraordinary in the fact, that it is not practicable for any created being to conceal himself from the living God, when it is not even in his power to escape from all the material elements by which he is surrounded, but he must, if he abandon one, by that very act enter into another? At all events, if the Creator, employing that act by which he created amphibious animals, had chosen also by the same act to create a new animal, one capable of living in any element, then, this animal, if it forsook the weighty elements of earth and water, would necessarily have gone to those which are naturally light, namely, air and fire. And, on the other hand, supposing that it had originally dwelt among those elements whose place is on high, if it had sought to effect a migration from them, it would have changed to the opposite region; for it was at all events necessary for it to appear steadily in one portion of the world, since it was not possible for it to run away out of every element: since, in order that nothing external might be omitted, the Creator scattered the whole of the four principles of everything over the universe, in order to create the existing condition of the world, in order to make a most perfect universe of perfect parts.
As therefore it is impossible for any one to escape from the whole of the creation of God, how can it be anything but still more impossible to escape from the Creator and Ruler himself? Let no one therefore too easily receiving these words in their obvious and literal acceptation without examination, affix his own simplicity and folly to the law; but let him rather consider what is here enigmatically intimated by figurative expressions, and so understand the truth.
XLIII. Perhaps now that which is intimated by the expression, "If thou castest me out this day from off the face of the earth, from thy face I shall be hidden," may be this, if thou dost not bestow on me the good things of the earth, I will not receive those of Heaven; and if no use and enjoyment of pleasure is afforded me, I have no desire for virtue, and if thou dost not allow me to participate in human advantages, thou mayest retain the divine ones to thyself. Now the things which among us are accounted necessary and valuable and genuine real goods are these; to eat, to drink, to be clothed in favorite colors and fashions; by means of the faculty of sight, to be delighted with pleasant sights; by means of one's faculty of hearing to be delighted with melodies of all sorts of sounds; to be gratified through our nostrils with fragrant exhalations of odors; to indulge in all the pleasures of the belly and of the parts adjacent to the belly to satiety; not to be indifferent to the acquisition of silver and gold; to be invested with honors and post of authority, and all other things which may tend to man's reputation; but as for prudence, or fortitude, or justice, austere dispositions which only make life laborious, those we pass by, and if we are forced to admit them into one calculation we must do so, not as perfect goods in themselves, but only as efficients of good.
Do you therefore, O ridiculous man, affirm that if you are deprived of a superfluity of bodily advantages and external good things, you will not come into the sight of God? But I tell you that even if you are so deprived of them, you will by all means come into his sight; for when you have been released from the unspeakable bonds of the body and around the body, you will attain to an imagination of the uncreated God.
XLIV. Do you not see in the case of Abraham that, "when he had left his country, and his kindred, and his father's house," [Genesis 12:1] that is to say, the body, the outward senses, and reason, he then began to become acquainted with the powers of the living God? for when he had secretly departed from all his house, the law says that, "God appeared unto him," [Genesis 12:7] showing that he is seen clearly by him who has put off mortal things, and who has taken refuge from this body in the incorporeal soul; on which account Moses taking his tent "pitches it without the tabernacle," [Exodus 33:7] and settles to dwell at a distance from the bodily camp, for in that way alone could he hope to become a worthy suppliant and a perfect minister before God. And he says that this tent was called the tent of testimony, taking exceeding care that it may really be the tabernacle of the living God, and may not be called so only.
For of virtues, the virtues of God are founded in truth, existing according to his essence: since God alone exists in essence, on account of which fact, he speaks of necessity about himself, saying, "I am that I am," [Exodus 3:14] as if those who were with him did not exist according to essence, but only appeared to exist in opinion. But the tent of Moses being symbolically considered, the virtue of man shall be thought worthy of appellation, not of real existence, being only an imitation, a copy made after the model of that divine tabernacle, and consistent with these facts is the circumstance that Moses when he is appointed to be the God of Pharaoh, was not so in reality, but was only conceived of as such in opinion, for I know that it is God who gives and bestows favors, but I am not able to perceive that he is given, and it is said in the sacred scriptures, "I give thee as a God to Pharaoh," and yet what is given is the patient, not the agent; but he that is truly living must be the agent, and beyond all question cannot be the patient.
What then is inferred from these facts? Why, that the wise man is called the God of the foolish man, but he is not God in reality, just as a base coin of the apparent value of four drachmas is not a four drachma piece. But when he is compared with the living God, then he will be found to be a man of God; but when he is compared with a foolish man, he is accounted a God to the imagination and in appearance, but he is not so in truth and essence.
XLV. Why then do you talk nonsense, saying, "If thou castest me forth from off the earth, and from thee I shall be hidden." For one might say on the contrary, if I remove thee from the earth by part of thee, then I will manifestly show thee my own image. And a proof of this is, thou wilt depart from before the face of God, but when thou hast departed thou wilt not the less inhabit thy earthly body. For Moses says, afterwards, "And Cain went forth from before the face of God and dwelt in the earth," [Genesis 4:16] so that when thou art cast out from the earth, thou art not hidden from the living God; but when thou desertest him thou takest refuge on earth in a mortal country. And indeed it will not be the case, that every one who findeth thee will hide thee, as thou sayest, speaking sophistically. For that which is found, is found in every case by two people, by one who resembles itself, or by one who is dissimilar. By one who resembles itself according to the kindred and relationship which exists in all things, and by him who is not like, according to the contrary unlikeness.
The one, therefore, that is like, endeavors to preserve that which resembles itself, and that which is dissimilar endeavors to destroy that which differs from it. And let them know that Cain, and all other wicked men will not be slain by any one who meets them, but that evil doers imitating their kindred and connected wickednesses, will become guardians and preservers of them; but all those who have cultivated prudence or any other virtue, will destroy them if they can, as irreconcileable enemies. For, in short, all bodies and all things are preserved by the things which are akin to and attached to them, but are destroyed by those that are alien and hostile to them. On this account, also, the oracle which bears testimony against this pretended simplicity of Cain, says, "You do not think as you say." For you say, indeed, that whosoever finds out the devices of your act will slay you. But you know that it is not every one who will do so, as there are millions of men enrolled in your alliance; but he only who is a friend to virtue and an irreconcileable enemy to you. And God says, he "who slays Cain shall suffer sevenfold." But I do not know what analogy this real meaning of this expression bears to the literal interpretation of it, "He shall suffer sevenfold." For he has not said what is to be sevenfold, nor has he described the sort of penalty, nor by what means such penalty is excused or paid.
XLVI. Therefore, one must suppose that all these things are said figuratively and allegorically; and perhaps what God means to set before us here is something of this sort. The irrational part of the soul is divided into seven parts, the senses of seeing, of smelling, of hearing, of tasting, and of touch, the organs of speech, and the organs of generation. If, therefore, any one were to slay the eighth, that is to say, Cain, the ruler of them all, he would also paralyze all the seven. For they are all confirmed by the vigorous strength of the mind, and they all feel weak simultaneously with any weakness exhibited by the mind, and they all endure relaxation and complete dissolution in consequence of the destruction which complete wickedness brings upon them.
Now these seven senses are unpolluted and pure in the soul of the wise man, and here also they are found worthy of honor. But in that of the foolish man they are impure and polluted, and as I said before, punished, that is, they are worthy of punishment and chastisement. At all events, when the Creator determined to purify the earth by means of water, and that the soul should receive purification of all its unspeakable offenses, having washed off and effaced its pollutions after the fashion of a holy purification, he recommended him who was found to be a just man, who was not borne away by the violence of the deluge, to enter into the ark, that is to say, into the vessel containing the soul, namely, the body, and to lead into it "seven of all clean beasts, male and female," [Genesis 7:2] thinking it proper that virtuous reason should employ all the pure parts of the irrational portion of man.
XLVII. And this injunction which the lawgiver laid down, is of necessity applicable to all wise men; for they have their sense of sight purified, their sense of hearing thoroughly examined, and so on with all the rest of their outward senses. Accordingly, they have the faculty of speech free from all spot or stain, and their appetites which prompt them to indulge the passions in a state of due subjection to the law. And every one of the seven outward senses is in one respect male, and in another, female. For when they are stationary, or when it is in motion, they are stationary while quiescent in sleep, and they are in motion while they are energizing in their waking state; and the one in accordance with habit and tranquillity, as being subject to passion, is called the female; and the one which exists according to motion and energy, as one that is only conceived in action, is called the male.
Thus, in the wise man, the seven senses appear to be pure; and on the contrary in the wicked man, they appear to be all liable to punishment. For how great a multitude of things do we imagine to be each day wrongly represented by our eyes, which go over to colors and shapes, and to things which it is not lawful to see? And how so great a multitude of things suffer similar treatment from the ears which follow all kinds of sounds? How many too are misrepresented by the organs of smelling and of taste, and by flavors and vapors, and other things led on according to innumerable variations? I say nothing of that multitude of persons whom the unrestrainable impetuosity of an unbridled tongue has destroyed, or the incurable violence which leads man on to carnal connections with intemperate appetite. Cities are full, and all the earth from one side to the other, is full of these evils, in consequence of which, continual and unceasing and terrible wars are set on foot among men, even in times of peace, both publicly and privately.
XLVIII. On which account it appears to me that all men who are not utterly uneducated would choose to be mutilated and to become blind, rather than to see what is not fitting to be seen, to become deaf rather than to hear pernicious discourses, and to have their tongues cut out if that were the only way to prevent their speaking things, which ought not to be spoken. At all events, they say that some wise men, when they have been tortured on the wheel to make them betray secrets which are not worthy to be divulged, have bitten out their tongues, and so have inflicted on their torturers a more grievous torture than they themselves were suffering, as they could not learn from them what they desired; and it is better to be made an eunuch than to be hurried into wickedness by the fury of the illicit passions: for all these things, as they overwhelm the soul in pernicious calamities, are deservedly followed by extreme punishments.
Moses says in the next passage that the Lord God set a mark upon Cain in order to prevent any one who found him from slaying him; but what this mark is, he has not shown, although he is in the habit of explaining the nature of everything by a sign, as he does in the affairs of Egypt, where God changed his rod into a serpent, and withered the hand of Moses till it became like snow, and turned the river into blood. Or may we not suppose that this mark was set upon Cain to prevent his being slain, as a token that he would never be destroyed? For he has never once mentioned his death in the whole of the law, showing enigmatically that, like that fabulous monster Scylla, so also folly is an undying evil, which never entirely perishes, and yet which as to its capability of dying receives all time, and is never wholly free from death.
And I would that the opposite event might happen, that all evils might be utterly eradicated, and might endure total destruction; but as it is they are constantly budding forth, and inflict an incurable disease on all who are once infected by them.