In “Chapter XIII: The Life and Philosophy of Pythagoras,” Manly P. Hall states:
Pythagoras taught that friendship was the truest and nearest perfect of all relationships. He declared that in Nature there was a friendship of all for all; of gods for men; of doctrines one for another; of the soul for the body; of the rational part for the irrational part; of philosophy for its theory; of men for one another; of countrymen for one another; that friendship also existed between strangers, between a man and his wife, his children, and his servants. All bonds without friendship were shackles, and there was no virtue in their maintenance. Pythagoras believed that relationships were essentially mental rather than physical, and that a stranger of sympathetic intellect was closer to him than a blood relation whose viewpoint was at variance with his own.
(pp. 196 – 197)
This passage struck multiple nerves when I read it. I completely agree that friendship is based upon sympathetic interests, and I have long accepted that “bonds without friendship were shackles, and there was no virtue in their maintenance.” Throughout my life, friends have come and gone, usually the result of changes of interests and ideas, resulting in the sympathetic connection dissolving over the course of time. Generally, I have been OK with this, although, at this stage in my life, it seems easier to lose friends in this divisive society than it is to make new friends. Which leads me to the next point.
Pythagoras asserted that “a stranger of sympathetic intellect was closer to him than a blood relation whose viewpoint was at variance with his own.” As much as I want to dig my heels in and rail against this statement, I must concede the veracity of it. One need only look around and note the family members who are alienated because of different views, be they political, social, religious, or whatever. I know people who refuse to speak with their parents, and parents who refuse to speak to their children, all because of what I would consider trivial differences of opinion. And while I personally would never alienate myself from my family because of a difference of ideology, there are clearly many who would. So, it appears that Pythagoras recognized that this is a tendency of human behavior. Anyway, it gave me reason to pause and think.
I think that is all I have to say about this passage. I will conclude by saying that reading the several chapters on Pythagoras in this book gave me a whole new perspective on him as a thinker and philosopher. Previously, all I could tell you about Pythagoras was that there was a mathematical theorem named after him, but could not tell you anything else. He was fascinating.
Thanks for stopping by, and have an amazing day.
Comments Off on “The Secret Teachings of All Ages” by Manly P. Hall: Part 4 – The Pythagorean Ideal of Friendship
Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distilled:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty’s treasure, ere it be self-killed.
That use is not forbidden usury,
Which happies those that pay the willing loan;
That’s for thyself to breed another thee,
Or ten times happier, be it ten for one;
Ten times thyself were happier than thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigured thee:
Then what could death do, if thou shouldst depart,
Leaving thee living in posterity?
Be not self-willed, for thou art much too fair,
To be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir.
And we have yet another fair youth sonnet addressing procreation. But this one is a little more interesting, particularly in the use of metaphors and the incorporation of what may be some number mysticism.
In the first two lines, Shakespeare encourages the young man to have children before he gets too old. I really like the phrase “winter’s ragged hand.” It evokes an image of an old, weathered face, accompanied by aged hands with loose skin draped over the bones.
In lines 3 and 4, Shakespeare uses the vial as a symbol for a woman’s genitalia. The youth is encouraged to find a wife he can treasure and who will bear his children.
With line 5, things start to get a little interesting. References are made to usury, which in Shakespeare’s time was the loaning of money at an interest greater than 10%. We then have the word “ten” repeated five times. The number 10 has mystical significance. According to Pythagoras, 10 is represented by the decad, which is symbolic of the world and heaven and is fundamental to understanding the creation of the universe. For more on Pythagoras’ theory, here is a brief and informative article: Pythagoras and the Mystery of Numbers.
The next thing I would like to point out is the importance of the number 10 in Jewish kabbalistic mysticism. The Tree of Life contains ten sephirot. Basically, the ten sephirot are the divine emanations from God which are the basis of all creation. I do not know if Shakespeare possessed a firm grasp of Jewish mysticism, but I would not be surprised if his contemporaries were studying this and possibly shared some insight.
The last thing I want to point out about the number 10 is that the last mention of the number in this sonnet occurs in line 10. I personally do not think this is a coincidence. I suspect Shakespeare did this to emphasize the importance of this number.
I also want to comment on the last line. As I read it, I could not help thinking about Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem, “The Conqueror Worm.” It is one of my favorite poems by Poe. If you’re interested, click here to read my thoughts on that poem.
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