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.
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This tractate explores the connection between the body and the Soul, focusing on the question of where emotions and experiences reside. Basically, determining whether emotions like fear and courage are experienced by the Soul or by the physical body.
Plotinus establishes that the Soul is immortal, and since it cannot be threatened by the physical danger, it cannot be the source of these emotional states.
Now what could bring fear to a nature thus unreceptive of all the outer? Fear demands feeling. Nor is there a place for courage: courage implies the presence of danger. And such desires as are satisfied by the filling or voiding of the body, must be proper to something very different from the Soul, to that only which admits of replenishment and voidance.
Plotinus then goes on to argue that humans possess what he terms the Animate, which is essentially a combination of a physical body with the immortal Soul.
Now this Animate might be merely the body as having life: it might be the Couplement of Soul and body: it might be a third and different entity formed from both.
Plotinus later explores the question of perception, inquiring into whether the Soul can perceive things in the physical realm. He posits that the Soul perceives sympathetically, essentially picking up reverberations from what the body experiences on the physical plane.
The faculty of perception in the Soul cannot act by the immediate grasping of sensible objects, but only by the discerning of impressions printed upon the Animate by sensation: these impressions are already Intelligibles while the outer sensation is a mere phantom of the other [of that in the Soul] which is nearer to Authentic-Existence as being an impassive reading of Ideal-Forms.
Based upon this quote, it appears that the Soul, being divine in origin and immortal, has direct knowledge of the Platonic forms. The Soul thereby is able to identify the sensations from the physical world because of their connection to the ideals existing within the realm of forms. This reminds me of how, in music, a string will vibrate when a note of the same key is played on a different string. For example, if you play a D note on the A string, the D string will also vibrate.
That’s all I have for this tractate. We will look at the next one soon.
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