Pythagoras offers tips from the grave

Pythagorean Persevering Spirit.

Words of wisdom from the grave - a letter from Lysis to Hipparchus, saved from historical death via transcription by Copernicus in his Revolutions of the heavenly spheres written in 1500. Lysis was a follower of Pythagorus, and here, shockingly, he tells Hipparchus if he wishes to continue teaching mathematics/philosophy without any adjusting of his pupils, he is "as good to him as dead".

Lysis compared those who preached the lofty precepts of philosophy without laying a type of 'cleansing of the spirit' to pouring fresh water down a mucky well. "Pure water is mixed with filth, and the result is a mix of waste."

Imagine every professor ever starting his class for the first 3 days saying:
"These first 7 days the syllabus is as follows - nothing for today, nothing for tomorrow, and nothing this entire week. Past this - what I will be doing is giving you information so prized by the ancients countless hours of toil and persevering spirit were needed to unearth these treasures. You can either sit here, and let it go to waste, and I waste my time and you yours, or you may listen and be initiated. You must cleanse the stains on your heart of terrible habits, obstain from beastly drugs, and inhale these words as if they come directly from Minerva herself. You will not be given these secrets as you are, there is a reason you are average and not great. But if you 'get up and attain glory' - work to change and show you are eager - you will be initiated, and with persevering spirit and hard work things will be reveiled to you which now lie hidden.
Lysis to Hipparchus: Greetings!

After the death of Pythagoras... it is not fitting to hand out to everyone what we have obtained through so much labor. In the same way as it is not permitted to reveal to profane people the mysteries of the Eleusinian goddesses...The value of our labor, indeed, is to rehearse continually: How much time we have consumed in removing blemishes which persisted in our breasts; so that at last after five years we have been able to master his precepts. In the same way that dyers, after washing, fix the color with an astringent, so that they might hold the color indelible, so the color does not pass away thereafter...

There are some, in truth, who, imitating his doctrine, make much of it in the wrong context, not as is seemly to instruct young men. Hence, they make the pupils importunate and arrogant, as they mix the genuine precepts of philosophy with turbulent and impure attitudes. It is as if someone pored pure and clear water into a deep well full of mud: he stirs up the mud and loses the water's clarity. So it happens to those who teach or are taught in that manner. Deep and dark tangles occupy the heart and the mind of those who were not correctly initiated, and they impede all gentleness and right reason in the soul. In this tangle there are found all manner of vice which feed in them. They keep reason away and do not allow it to come forth. We shall name first, as mothers of those ingredients, incontinence and greed. For they are both most prolific. Incontinence breeds all sorts of illicit things, incest, drunkenness, outrage, unnatural pleasures, and certain violent forces which drive one to death and destruction. Lust drives certain ones even to relations with their mothers and daughters, whom it also leads even against law, state, city, and rulers. It hurls them into traps so that it forces them into perdition. From avarice arises robbery, murder, sacrilege, poisoning, and other vices of that kind. Therefore it is fitting to remove by fire, sword, and any means those who are influenced by shadows of this forest. Once we understand innate reasoning--freed from these influences--we will have implanted the best and most fertile fruit for him.

You indeed, Hipparchus, had learned these things from no little study. But you have preserved little, O good man, having tasted Sicilian luxury--which you should have regarded of no value. Many say you philosophize publicly, which Pythagoras forbade, who, relinquishing the short treatises in his will to his daughter, Dama, ordered her not to give them to anyone outside the family. Although able to sell them for a great price, she did not. She held poverty and the instructions of her father more dear than gold. It is said that the dying Dama left this trust of faith to her daughter Vitalia. For we males are omitted in wills by the master, but we are the bearers of our profession.

If you will correct yourself, I shall receive joy. If not, you are as good as dead to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment