DOCTRINE THAT DREAMS ARE SENT FROM GOD.
I. IN describing the third species of dreams which are sent from God, we very naturally call on Moses as an ally, in order that as he learnt, having previously been ignorant, so he may instruct us who are also ignorant, concerning these signs, illustrating each separate one of them.
Now this third species of dreams exists, whenever in sleep the mind being set in motion by itself, and agitating itself, is filled with frenzy and inspiration, so as to predict future events by a certain prophetic power. For the first kind of dreams which we mentioned, was that which proceeded from God as the author of its motion, and, as some invisible manner prompted us what was indistinct to us, but well known to himself. The second kind was when our own intellect was set in motion simultaneously with the soul of the universe, and became filled with divine madness, by means of which it is allowed to prognosticate events which are about to happen; and for this reason the interpreter of the sacred will very plainly and clearly speaks of dreams, indicating by this expression the visions which appear according to the first species, as if God, by means of dreams, gave suggestions which were equivalent to distinct and precise oracles. Of the visions according to the second species he speaks neither very clearly nor very obscurely; an instance of which is afforded by the vision which was exhibited of the ladder reaching up to heaven; for this vision was an enigmatical one; nevertheless, the meaning was not hidden from those who were able to see with any great acuteness.
But these visions which are afforded according to the third species of dreams, being less clear than the two former kinds by reason of their having an enigmatical meaning deeply seated and fully colored, require the science of an interpreter of dreams. At all events all the dreams of this class, which are recorded by the lawgiver, are interpreted by men who are skilled in the aforesaid art.
Whose dreams then am I here alluding to? Surely every one must see to those of Joseph, and of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and to those which the chief baker and the chief butler saw themselves; and it may be well at all times to begin our instruction with the first instances.
Now the first dreams are those which Joseph beheld, receiving two visions from the two parts of the world, heaven and earth. From the earth the dream about the harvest; and that is as follows, “I thought that we were all binding sheaves in the middle of the field; and my sheaf stood up.” [Genesis xxxvii. 7.] And the other relates to the circle of the zodiac, and is, “They worshipped me as the sun and the moon and the eleven stars.” And the interpretation of the former one, which was delivered with great violence of reproof, is as follows, “Shall you be a king and reign over us? or shall you be a lord and lord it over us?” The interpretation of the second is again full of just indignation, “Shall I, and thy mother, and thy brethren come and fall down upon the ground and worship thee?”
II. Let these things be laid down first by way of foundation; and on this foundation let us raise up the rest of the building, following the rules of that wise architect, allegory, and accurately investigating each particular of the dreams; but first we must mention what it is requisite should be attended to before the dreams. Some persons have extended the nature of good over many things, and others have attributed it to the most excellent Being alone; some again have mixed it with other things, while others have spoken of it as unalloyed.
Those then who have called only what is honorable good, have preserved this nature free from alloy, and have attributed it only to what is most excellent, namely to the reason that is in us; but those who have mixed it have combined it with three things, the soul, the body, and external circumstances. And they who act thus are persons of a somewhat effeminate and luxurious way of life, being bred up the greater part of their time, from their earliest infancy, in the women’s apartments and among the effeminate race which is found in the women’s apartments. But those who argue differently are men inclined to a harder regimen, being bred up from their boyhood among men, and being themselves men in their minds, embracing what is right in preference to what is pleasant, and devoting themselves to nourishment fit for athletes for the sake of strength and vigor, not of pleasure.
Moses moreover represents two persons as leaders of these two companies. The leader of the noble and good company is the self-taught and self-instructed Isaac; for he records that he was weaned, not choosing to avail himself at all of tender, and milk-like, and childish, and infantine food, but only of such as was vigorous and perfect, inasmuch as he was formed by nature, from his very infancy, for acts of virtue, and was always in the prime and vigor of youth and energy. But the leader of the company, which yields and which is inclined to softer measures, is Joseph; for he does not indeed neglect the virtues of the soul, but he likewise shows anxiety about the stability and permanence of the body, and also desires an abundance of worldly treasures; and it is in strict accordance with natural truth, that he is represented as drawn in different directions, since he proposes to himself many different objects in life; and being attracted by each of them, he is kept in a state of commotion and agitation, without being able to stand firm.
And his case is not like that of cities, which having made a truce enjoy peace, and yet after a time are again attacked, so as to gain the victory and to be defeated alternately; for at times a great influx of riches and glory coming upon them, subdues all their cares for the body and the soul, but afterwards, being repelled by both these things, they are conquered by the adversary; and in the same manner all the pleasures of the body coming upon the soul in a compact array overwhelm and efface all the objects of the intellect one after the other; and then, after a short time, wisdom, changing its course and blowing in the opposite direction with a fresh and violent breeze, causes the stream of the pleasures to slacken, and altogether moderates all the eagerness, and impetuosity, and rivalry of the external senses.
Such a circle then of never-ending war revolves around the soul, subject as it is to so many changes; for when one enemy has been destroyed, then immediately there springs up another more powerful, after the fashion of the many-headed hydra; for they say, that in the case of this monster, instead of the head which was cut off another sprung up, by which statement they mean to intimate the multiform, and prolific, and almost invincible character of undying wickedness.
Do not, therefore, answer Joseph [...] but know that he is the image of multiform and mixed knowledge. For there appears in him a rational species of continence, which is of the masculine kind, being fashioned in accordance with his father Jacob; and also that kind which is devoid of reason is likewise visible, that of the outward sense I mean, being made in the likeness of his maternal race, according to Rachel. There appears in him also the seed of bodily pleasure, which his association with the chief butlers, and chief bakers, and chief cooks has stamped upon him. There is also visible the seed of vain opinion, on which he mounts as on a chariot by reason of his levity, being puffed up, and elated, and raising himself to a height to the destruction of equality.
III. Now the character of Joseph is sketched out by the foregoing outlines. But each of his dreams must be investigated with accuracy; and first of all we must examine the one about the sheaves. “I thought,” says he, “that we were all binding sheaves.” The expression, “I thought,” is clearly that of a person who is not certain, but who is hesitating and supposing with some amount of indistinctness, not of one who sees positively and clearly; for it is very natural for persons just awakening out of a deep sleep, and still dozing as it were, to say, “I thought;” but not so for people who are thoroughly awake, and who can see distinctly. And the practiser of virtue, Jacob, does not say, “I thought,” but his language is, “Behold, a ladder firmly set, the head of which reached up to heaven.” [Genesis xxviii. 12.] And again he says, when “the sheep conceived I saw them with my eyes in my sleep, and behold the he-goats and the rams leapt upon the ewes and upon the she-goats, white, and variegated, and ring-straked, and speckled.” [Genesis xxxi. 10.] For it happens of necessity that the sleeping conceptions also of those who think what is honorable eligible for its own sake are more distinct and more pure, just as their waking actions are also more deserving of approbation.
IV. But when I hear Joseph relating his dream I marvel at his having fancied that he was binding up the sheaves, and not reaping the corn; for the one is the task of the lower classes and of servants, but the other is the occupation of the employers, and of men more skilled in agriculture. For to be able to distinguish what is necessary from what is mischievous, and what is nutritious from what is not so, and what is genuine from what is spurious, and useful fruit from a worthless root, not only in reference to those things which the land bears, but also in those which the intellect bears, is the work of most perfect virtue. Accordingly the holy scripture represents those who see, that is the sons of Israel, as reaping, and what is a most extraordinary thing, as reaping not barley or wheat, but the harvest itself; accordingly the language of Moses is, “When you reap your harvest, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your harvest.” [Leviticus xix. 9.] For he means here that the virtuous man is not merely the judge of things which differ from one another, and that he does not only distinguish the things from which some produce is derived from the produce itself; but that he is able also to distinguish while reaping the harvest, to remove this opinion of his ability to distinguish, and to eradicate a man’s own opinion of himself; because he is firmly persuaded, and believes Moses when he affirms that “judgment belongs to God alone,” [Deut. i. 17] with whom are the comparisons and distinctions between all things; to whom it is well for a man to confess that he is inferior, a confession more glorious than the most renowned victory.
Now the reaping a harvest is like cutting a second time what has been cut already; which when some persons fond of novelty applied themselves to they found a circumcision of circumcision, and a purification of purification; [Numbers vi. 2] that is to say, they found that the purification of the soul was itself purified, attributing the power of making bright to God, and never fancying that they themselves were competent, without the assistance of the divine wisdom, to wash and cleanse a life which is full of stains.
Akin to this is the double cave, which is a symbol of the twofold and excellent recollections (the one existing in reference to the creature, and the other to the Creator), in which the virtuous man is bred up, contemplating the things which are in the world, and being also fond of inquiring about the father who made them; and it is owing to these twofold recollections, in my opinion, that the double symphony in music, that of the double diapason, was invented. For it was necessary that the work and the creator should be made happy in two most perfect melodies, and not both in the same one. For since the excellencies which were to be celebrated by them differed from one another, it followed of necessity that the melodies and symphonies should likewise differ from one another. The combined symphony being assigned to the world, which is a compound creation, composed of many different parts; and the disjoined melody being appropriated to him who, as to his essence, is separated from every creature, namely, to God.
Moreover, the interpreter of the sacred will again enunciates an opinion friendly to virtue, saying that it is not proper “to thoroughly reap every corner of the harvest field;” remembering the original proposition, according to which he agreed that “the tribute belonged to the Lord,” [Numbers xxxi. 28] to whom the authority and the conformation of these things also belong; but he who is uninitiated in reaping boasts, so far as to say, “I thought that I was with the others binding up the sheaves which I had reaped.” [Genesis xxxvii. 7.] And he does not consider that this is the occupation of servants and of unskillful hands, as I have said a little while ago. But this word sheaves is an allegorical expression by which affairs are really meant, such as each man takes in hand for the support of his house, in which he hopes to live and dwell for ever.
V. There are, therefore, an infinite number of differences between sheaves, that is to say, between such affairs as support a house. There are also a countless host of differences between those who gather and take up the sheaves in their hand, so that it is impossible to mention or even to imagine them all. Still it is not out of place to describe a few of them by way of example, which he too mentioned, when he was recounting his dream. For he says to his brethren, “I thought that we were binding up sheaves.” Now, of brethren he has ten, who are sons of the same father as himself, and one who is by the same mother; and the name of each individual among them is an emblem of some most necessary thing. Reuben is an emblem of natural acuteness, for he is called “the son who sees,” being in so far as he is a son not perfect, but in so far as he is endowed with the faculty of sight and sees acutely, he is naturally well qualified. Simeon is an emblem of learning, for his name being interpreted means, “listening.” Levi is a symbol of virtuous energies and actions, and of holy ministrations. Judas is an emblem of songs and hymns addressed to God. Issachar, of wages which are given for good works; but perhaps the works themselves are their own perfect reward. Zabulon is a symbol of light, since his name means the departure of night; and when the night departs and leaves us, then of necessity light arises. Dan is a symbol of the distinction between, and division of, different things. Gad is an emblem of the invasion of pirates, and of a counter attack made upon them. Asser is a symbol of natural wealth, for his name being interpreted, signifies “a calling blessed,” since wealth is accounted a blessed possession. Napthali is a symbol of peace, for all things are opened and extended by peace, as on the other hand they are closed by war; and his name being interpreted means, “widening,” or “that which is opened.” Benjamin is an emblem of young and old time; for being interpreted his name means “the son of days,” and both young time and old time are measured by days and nights.
Accordingly, every one of them takes up in his hand what belongs to himself; and having taken it up, binds all the parts together; the man well endowed by nature taking up the parts of dexterity, and perseverance, and memory, of which good natural endowments consist; the man who has learnt well takes up the parts of listening, tranquillity, and attention; the man willing to endeavor takes up courage and a happy confidence which does not shrink from danger; the man inclined to gratitude takes up praises, panegyrics, hymns, and blessings, both in speaking and in singing; the man who is eager for wages takes up unhesitating industry, most enduring gratitude, and care, armed with a promptitude which is not to be despised; he who pursues light rather than darkness takes up wakefulness and acuteness of sight; the man who is an admirer of the division of and distinction between things takes up well-sharpened reasons so as not to be deceived by things similar to one another as if they were identical, impartiality so as not to be led away by favor, and incorruptibility; he who, in something of a piratical fashion, lays ambuscades against those who counterplot against him, takes up deceit, cajolery, trickery, sophistry, pretense, and hypocrisy, which being in their own nature blamable, are nevertheless praised when employed against an enemy; he who studies to be rich in the riches of nature takes up temperance and frugality; he who loves peace takes up obedience to law, a good reputation, freedom from pride, and equality.
VI. It is of these things, then, that the sheaves of his brethren by the same father are composed and bound up; but the sheaf of his uterine brother is composed of days and of time, which are the causes of nothing, as if they were the causes of all things. But the dreamer and interpreter of dreams himself, for he united both characters, makes a sheaf of empty opinion as of the greatest and most brilliant of possessions and the most useful to life. For which reason it is originally by his dreams, which are things dear to night, that he is made known to the king of the bodily country, and not by any performance of conspicuous actions, which require day for their exhibition. After that, he is appointed overseer or governor of all Egypt, and is honored with the second rank in the kingdom, and made inferior in honor only to the king. All which things are in the eye of wisdom, if that were the judge, more inglorious and more ridiculous than even defeat and dishonor. After that he puts on a golden necklace, a most illustrious halter, the circlet and wheel of interminable necessity, not the consequence and regular order of things in life, nor the connection of the affairs of nature as Thamar was; for her ornament was not a necklace, but an armlet. Moreover, he assumes a ring, a royal gift which is no gift, a pledge devoid of good faith, the very contrary gift to that which was given to the same Thamar by Judah the son of the seeing king, Israel; for God gives to the soul a seal, a very beautiful gift, to show that he has invested with shape the essence of all things which was previously devoid of shape, and has stamped with a particular character that which previously had no character, and has endowed with form that which had previously no distinctive form, and having perfected the entire world, he has impressed upon it an image and appearance, namely, his own word.
But Joseph also mounts the second chariot, being puffed up with elation of mind and vain arrogance. And he is regulator of the provisions, laying up and preserving the treasures for the body, and providing it with food from all quarters: and this is a very formidable fortification against the soul. Moreover, his deliberate choice of life, and the life which he admires, is testified to in no slight degree by his name; for Joseph, being interpreted, means “addition;” and vain opinion is always adding what is spurious to what is genuine, and what is the property of others to what is one’s own, and what is false to what is true, and what is superfluous to what is adequate, and luxury to what is sufficient to support existence, and pride to life.
VII. Consider now what it is which I am here desirous to prove. We are nourished by meat and drink, even though the meat be the most ordinary corn, and the drink plain water from the stream. Moreover, besides this, vain opinion has added to it an infinite number of varieties of cakes, and cheese-cakes, and sweetmeats, and costly and various mixtures of an indescribable multitude of wines, for the enjoyment of pleasure rather than for a participation in necessary food properly prepared. Again, the necessary seasonings for eating, are leeks, [Numbers xi. 4] and vegetables, and many fruits of trees, and cheese, and other things of that sort; and if you wish to include carnivorous men, we must, besides, add fish and meat to these items.
Would it not, then, have been sufficient to broil these things upon the coals, or to roast them at the fire, and then eat them at once, after the fashion of those true heroes of old time? But the epicure is eager not only for such things as these, but he takes vain opinion for his ally, and excites the gluttonous passions which are within him, and seeks out and hunts all about for confectioners and pastry-cooks of high reputation in their art. And they, bringing forward the different baits for his miserable stomach, which have been invented after long consideration, and preparing all kinds of peculiar flavors, and arranging them in due order, tickle, and allure, and subdue the tongue.
Then, immediately they circumvent that foundation of the outward senses, the taste, by means of which the banquet-hunter in a very short time is rendered a slave instead of a free man. For who is there who does not know that clothes were originally made as a defense against the injuries which might arise to the body from cold and heat? as the poets say somewhere:-
“Taming the wind in the winter.”
Who, therefore, thinks of costly purple garments? Who cares about transparent and thin summer robes? Who wishes for a garment delicate as a spider’s web? Who is eager to have embroidered for him apparel flowered over with dyes and brocaded figures, by those who are skillful in sewing and weaving cunning embroidery, and are superior in their handiwork to the imitative skill of the painter? Who, I say? Who, but vain opinion?
VIII. And, indeed, it is for these same reasons that we had need of houses, requiring them also for protection against the attacks of wild beasts, or of men more savage in their nature than even wild beasts. Why is it, then, that we adorn the pavements and floors with costly stones? And why do we travel over Asia, and Africa, and all Europe, and the islands, searching for pillars and capitals, and architraves, and selecting them with reference to their superior beauty? And why are we anxious for, and why do we vie with one another in specimens of Doric, and Ionic, and Corinthian sculpture, and in all the refinements which luxurious men have devised in addition to the existing customs, adorning the capitals of their pillars? And why do we furnish our chambers for men and for women with golden ornaments? Is it not all from our being influenced by vain opinion? And yet, for sound sleep, the mere ground was sufficient (since, even to the present day, the accounts tell us that the gymnosophists, among the Indians, sleep on the ground in accordance with their ancient customs); and if it were not, at all events a couch made of carefully chosen stones or plain pieces of wood, would be a sufficient bed; but now the poles of our ladders are ornamented with ivory feet, and workmen inlay our beds with costly mother-of-pearl and variegated tortoise-shell, at great expense of labor, and money, and time: and some beds are even made of solid silver or solid gold, and inlaid with precious stones, with all kinds of flowery work, and embossed golden ornaments strewed about them, as if for mere display and magnificence, and not for daily use. The contriver of all which is again the same vain opinion.
Again: why need we seek for more in the way of ointment than the juice pressed out of the fruit of the olive? For that softens the limbs, and relieves the labor of the body, and produces a good condition of the flesh; and if anything has got relaxed or flabby, it binds it again, and makes it firm and solid, and it fills us with vigor and strength of muscle, no less than any other unguent. But the pleasant unguents of vain opinion, are set up in opposition to those that are merely useful, on which the perfumers work, and to which vast regions contribute, such as Syria, Babylon, the Indians, and the Scythians; in which nations the origins of all perfumes are found.
IX. Again, with respect to drinking; what more could man really have need of than the cup of nature wrought with the perfection of art? Now such a cup our own hands supply, which, if any one brings together and forms into a hollow, applying them closely to his mouth, while another pours in the liquid to be drank, he gets not only a remedy for his thirst, but also a most indescribable pleasure. Still, if one were absolutely in need of something else, would not the ivy cup of the agricultural laborer be sufficient? and why should it be requisite to have recourse to the arts of other eminent artists? And what can be the use of providing a countless multitude of gold and silver goblets, if it be not for the gratification of boastful and vain-glorious arrogance, and of vain opinion raising itself to an undue height?
Again, when men wear crowns, they are not content with fragrant garlands of laurel, or ivy, or violets, or lilies, or roses, or of any tree whatever, or of any flower, neglecting all the gifts of God, which he bestows upon us at the various seasons of the year, but they put golden crowns on their heads, which are a very grievous weight, wearing them in the middle of the crowded market-place without any shame. And what can we think of such men, but that they are slaves of vain opinion, in spite of their asserting themselves not only to be free, but even to be rulers over many other persons? The day would fail me if I were to go through all the varieties of human life; and yet, why need I dwell on the subject with prolixity? For who is there who has not heard, or who has not seen, such men as these? Who is there who does not associate with, and who is not familiar with them? So that the sacred scripture has very appropriately named “addition” the enemy of simplicity and the companion of pride; for as superfluous shoots do grow on trees, which are a great injury to the genuine useful branches, and which the cultivators destroy and cut out from a prudent foreknowledge of what is necessary: so likewise the life of falsehood and arrogance often grows up by the side of the true life devoid of pride, of which, to this day, no cultivator has been found who has been able to cut away the injurious superfluous growth by the roots.
Therefore the practisers of wisdom, knowing this in the first instance by the outward sense, and secondly, pursuing it by the mind, cry out loudly and say, “A wicked beast has seized and devoured Joseph.” [Genesis xxxvii. 33.] But does not that most ferocious beast, the various pride which springs up in the life of men living in irregularity and confusion, whose chief workmen are covetousness and unscrupulous cunning, devour every one who comes within his reach? Therefore grief will be added to them, even while they are alive, as though they were dead, since they have a life worthy of lamentation and mourning, since Jacob mourns for Joseph, even while he is alive.
But Moses will not allow the sacred reasonings about Nadab to be bewailed; [Leviticus x. 6] for they have not been carried off by a savage beast, but have been taken up by unextinguishable violence and imperishable light; because, having discarded all fear and hesitation, they had duly consecrated the fervent and fiery zeal, consuming the flesh, and very easily and vehemently excited towards piety, which is unconnected with creation, but is akin to God, not going up to the altar by the regular steps, for that was forbidden by law, but proceeding rapidly onwards with a favorable gale, and being conducted up even to the threshold of heaven, becoming dissolved into ethereal beams like a whole burnt-offering.
X. Therefore, O thou soul, that art obedient to thy teacher! thou must cut off thine hand and thy power when it begins to take hold of the parts of generation; that is to say, of things created, or of human pursuits; for very often [...] to “cut off the hand which has laid hold of the privy parts,” [Deut. xxv. 12] in the first place, because it has gladly received the pleasure which it ought rather to hate; and, secondly, because it has thought that the faculty of propagating seed was in our own power, and also, because it has attributed to the creature the power which belongs to the Creator. Dost thou not see that the earthly mass, Adam, when it lays its hand upon the two trees, dies, because it has preferred the number two to the unit, and because it has admired the creature in preference to the Creator? But do thou go forth beyond the reach of the smoke and the tempest, and flee from the ridiculous pursuits of mortal life as a fearful whirlpool, and do not, as the proverb has it, touch them even with the tip of thy finger.
And when thou hast girded thyself up for the sacred ministrations, having made broad thy whole hand and thy whole power, then take a firm hold of the speculations of instruction and wisdom; for the command is of this kind, “If a soul brings a gift or a sacrifice, the gift shall be of fine wheaten flour.” [Leviticus ii. 1.] After that the lawgiver adds: “And when he has taken a full handful of the fine wheaten flour, with the oil, and with all the frankincense, he places the memorial on the altar of sacrifice.” Is not this a very beautiful and appropriate expression of Moses, to call that soul incorporeal which is about to offer sacrifice, but not to call the double mass which consists of mortality and immortality by any such name? For that which vows the vow - that which is full of gratitude - that which offers such sacrifices as are truly without spot, is one thing only, namely, the soul.
What then is the offering of the incorporeal soul? What is the fine wheaten flour, a symbol of the mind purified by the suggestions of instruction, which is able to render the friend of education free from all disease, and life free from all reproach? From which the priest taking a handful with his whole hand, that is to say, with the whole grasp of his mind, is commanded to offer up the whole soul itself, full of the most unalloyed and pure doctrines, as the most excellent of sacrifices, fat and in good condition, rejoicing in divine light, and redolent of the exhalations which are given forth by justice, and by the other virtues, so as always to enjoy a most fragrant, and delicious, and happy life; for the oil and the frankincense, of which the priest takes a handful with the white wheat, contain a figurative assertion of this.
XI. It is on this account that Moses set apart an especial festival for the sheaf; however, not for every sheaf, but for that which came from the sacred land. “For when,” says he, “you come into the land which I give unto you, and when you reap its harvest, you shall bring sheaves as a first fruit of your harvest to the priest.” [Leviticus xxiii. 10.] And the meaning of this injunction is, when, O mind, you come into the country of virtue, which it is fitting should be offered up to God alone, being a land good for pasture, a land of rich soil, a land which beareth fruit, and when you reap the fruit (either that afforded by the land spontaneously or that which thou hast sown), which has been brought to perfection by the God who gives perfection; carry it not home to thy house; that is to say, do not store it up, and do not attribute to thyself the cause of the crop which has arisen to thee, before thou hast offered the first fruits to the Cause of all wealth, and to him who persuaded thee to study the operations which confer riches. And it is enjoined that you shall offer the “first fruits of your own harvest;” not of the harvest of the land, in order that we may reap and gather in the harvest for ourselves; dedicating to God all good and nutritious, and beneficial fruits.
XII. But the man who is at the same time initiated in dreams and also an interpreter of dreams, is bold to say that his sheaf rose and stood upright; for in real truth, as spirited horses lift their necks high, so all who are companions of vain opinion place themselves above all things, above all cities, and laws, and national customs, and above all the circumstances which affect each individual of them. Then proceeding onwards from being demagogues to being leaders of the people, and overthrowing the things which belong to their neighbors, and setting up and establishing on a solid footing what belongs to themselves, that is to say, all such dispositions as are free and by nature impatient of slavery, they attempt to reduce these also under their power; on which account the dreamer adds, “And your sheaves turning towards my sheaf made obeisance unto it.” [Genesis xxxvii. 7.]
For the lover of modesty marvels at and fears the stiff-necked, and the cautious person fears the self-willed man, and he who reverences holiness fears that which is impious both for himself and for others. And is not this reasonable? For inasmuch as the good man is a spectator, not only of human life but also of all the things which exist in the world, he knows how many things are accustomed to be caused by necessity, and chance, and opportunity, and violence, and authority; and what numbers of propositions, and what great instances of prosperity proceeding onwards with rapidity towards heaven, the same causes have shaken and overthrown; so that he will of necessity take up caution as a shield, as a protection to prevent his suffering any sudden and unexpected evil; for as I imagine what a wall is to a city, that caution is to an individual.
Do not these men then talk foolishly, are they not mad, who desire to display their inexperience and freedom of speech to kings and tyrants, at times daring to speak and to do things in opposition to their will? Do they not perceive that they have not only put their necks under the yoke like brute beasts, but that they have also surrendered and betrayed their whole bodies and souls likewise, and their wives and their children, and their parents, and all the rest of the numerous kindred and community of their other relations?
And it is lawful for the charioteer, and also for the passenger, with all freedom to spur, and to urge forward, and to check, and to hold back, according as he desires to arrange things, so as to make them greater or smaller. Therefore, being pricked with goads, and flogged, and mutilated, and suffering all the cruelties which can be inflicted in an inhuman and pitiless manner before death, all together, they are led away to execution and put to death.
XIII. These are the rewards of unseemly freedom of speech, not of that which is accounted such by right-thinking judges, but of that license which is full of folly, arid insanity of mind, and of incurable distemper. What do you mean? Does anyone, when he sees a storm at its height, and a violent gale opposing him, and a hurricane raging tempestuously, and the sea full of vast waves, when he ought to anchor his ship, does anyone, I say, at such a moment weigh anchor and put to sea? What pilot, or what captain of a ship, was ever so drunk and intoxicated, as, while all the dangers which I have just enumerated were threatening him, to be willing to set sail, lest, if his vessel became water-logged by the sea breaking over it from above, it might be swallowed up with all its crew? For, if he had been inclined to meet with a voyage free from danger, it was in his power to wait for calm weather and a smooth and favorable breeze. What would one say, suppose anyone were to see a bear or a lion coming on with violence, and, while he might pacify and tame him, were to provoke him and make him savage, in order to give up himself as an unpitied meal and feast to those ravenous monsters? Unless indeed anyone will assert that it is of no use to anyone to oppose the asps and serpents of Egypt, and all the other things which [...] destructive poison [...] inflict inevitable death on those who are once bitten by them; for that men must be content to use incantations, and so to tame those beasts, and by such means to avoid suffering any evil from them.
Moreover, are there not certain men who are more savage and more treacherous than boars, or serpents, or asps? whose treacherous and malignant disposition it is impossible to escape otherwise than by gentleness and caresses? Therefore the wise Abraham will offer adoration to the sons of Cheth, and their name being interpreted, means “admiring,” because the occasion persuades him to do so. For he has not come to this action of adoration because he honors persons who, by nature, and by hereditary qualities, and by their own habits, are enemies to reason, and who miserably waste that coinage of the soul, namely instruction, corrupting, and adulterating, and clipping it, but because he fears their present power and their scarcely conquerable strength, and is on his guard not to provoke them, he takes refuge in that great and powerful possession and weapon of virtue, that most excellent place of abode for wise souls, the double cave, which he could not occupy while warring and fighting, but only by acting as a champion and servant of reason.
What? Do not we also, when we are spending our time in the market-place, frequently wonder at the masters, and also at the beasts of burden? But we wonder at these two classes, with different and not the same feelings. For we look upon the masters with honor, and upon the beasts of burden with fear, lest some injury should be done to us by them. And when an opportunity offers, it is a good thing to attack our enemies and put down their power; but when we have no such opportunity, it is better to be quiet; but if we wish to find perfect safety as far as they are concerned, it is advantageous to caress them.
XIV. On which account it is even now proper to praise those persons who do not yield to the president of vain opinion but who withstand him and say, “Shall you be a king and rule over us?” [Genesis xxxvii. 8.] For they do not as yet see him actually in possession of kingly power, they do not see him as yet kindled like a flame, and shining and blazing in the unlimited fuel, but only smouldering like a spark, dreaming of glory, and not visibly having attained to it; for they also suggest favorable hopes to themselves as if they will not be able to be overcome by him; for which reason they say, “Shall you reign over us?” Which is equivalent to saying, Do you expect to be a king over us while we are living, existing, strong, and breathing? Perhaps, indeed, you may make yourself master of such as are weak people, but with respect to us who are strong you will be looked upon by us as a subject.
And, indeed, this is the natural state of the case. For when right reason is powerful in the soul, vain opinion is put down; but when right reason is weak, vain opinion is strong. As long, therefore, as the soul has its own power still safe, and as long as it is not mutilated in any part of it, it may well have confidence to attack and aim its arrows at the pride which resists it, and it may indulge in freedom of speech, saying, “You shall not be a king, you shall not be a lord either over us, or during our lifetime over others; but we, with our bodyguards and shield-bearers, the offspring of wisdom, will overthrow your attacks and baffle your threats with one single sally of ours.” In reference to which circumstances it is said, “They began to hate him because of his dreams and because of his words.”
But are not all the images which pride sets up and worships mere words and dreams, while, on the contrary, those things alone deserve to be called actions and real energies which are referable to correct life and right reason? And the one class are worthy of hatred as being false, and the other class deserve friendship as being full of desirable and lovely truth. Let no one, therefore, venture to bring accusations against the virtues of such men, as if they exhibited a specimen of an inhuman and unbrotherly disposition; but let any one who is disposed to do so, learn that it is not a man who is now being judged of, but the disposition which exists in the soul of each individual, which is mad on the subject of glory and arrogant pride; let him embrace these men who have adopted irreconcilable enmity and hatred towards this disposition, and let him never love what is hated by them. Knowing thoroughly that such judges are never deceived so as to wander from a sound opinion, but that, having learnt from the beginning to understand who is the true king, namely, the Lord, they indignantly refuse to worship him who deprives God of his honor, and seeks to appropriate it to himself, and who invites his fellow servants to do him service.
XV. On which account they say with confidence, “Shall you be a king and reign over us?” Are you ignorant that we are not independent, but that we are under the government of an immortal king, the only God? And why should you be a lord and lord it over us? for are we not under domination, and have we not now, and shall we not have for ever, and ever the same one Lord? in being whose servants we rejoice more than any one else can do in his liberty; for to be the servant of God is the most excellent of all things which are honored in creation.
* * * * * *
I, therefore, should pray that I myself also might be able to abide firmly in the things which have been decided by these men; for they are accurate investigators, and superintendents, and overseers of things, not of bodies, and just, and sober all their lives, so as never to be deceived by any of those things which are accustomed to deceive mankind. But up to this time I am in a state of intoxication, and I am laboring under much uncertainty, and I have need of a staff and of a guide like a blind man; for if I had a staff to support me, then, perhaps, I might neither stumble nor fall.
But if any persons who are conscious that they are but inconsiderate and precipitate, pay no attention to and do not care to follow those who have investigated all necessary matters with diligence and circumspection, nor, though they themselves are ignorant of the road, submit to the guidance of those who are acquainted with it, let them know that they have entered a course which it is very difficult to travel through, and that they are entangled in it, and will not be able to advance further; but I am am so bound by treaties to these men, the moment I have a little recovered from my intoxication, that I think the same person both a friend and an enemy.
But at present I will drive from me and hate that dreamer no less than they do; for no one in his senses could blame me for this, that the majority of opinions and votes does always prevail; but when he changes to a better course of life, and no longer dreams, and no longer worries himself by entangling himself in the vain imaginations of the slaves of vain opinion, and when he no longer dreams about night, and darkness, and the changes of uncertain matters which cannot be guessed at; he, then, having awakened from deep sleep, continues awake and receives certainty instead of indistinctness, and truth instead of false conceptions, and day instead of night, and light instead of darkness, and rejects an Egyptian wife, that is to say, the pleasure of the body, when she invites him to come in to her, and to enjoy her conversation, out of an indescribable love of continence and admiration for piety, and asserts his right to a share in those kindred and inherited blessings from which he appeared to be alienated, again desiring to recover that portion of virtue which properly belongs to him.
For proceeding by small and gradual improvements, as if he were now established on the summit and perfection of his own life, he cries out, what indeed he knows to a certainty from what has happened to him, that he “belongs to God,” [Genesis l. 19] and that he belongs no more to any object of external sense which can affect any creature; and then his brethren will come to a permanent reconciliation with him, changing their hatred into friendship, and their malignity into good will.
But I who am the follower of these men, for I have learnt to obey them as a servant obeys his master, will never cease to praise him for his change of mind. Since Moses, also, that priest of sacred things, preserves his change of mind as what is worthy of love and of being preserved in men’s recollection, from being forgotten, by the symbol of the bones [Exodus xiii. 19] which he did not think proper to have buried in Egypt for ever, looking upon it as a hard thing, if the soul put forth any beautiful flower to suffer that to wither away, and to be overwhelmed and destroyed by the torrents which the Egyptian river of the passions, namely the body, which is incessantly flowing through all the outward senses, sends forth.
XVI. The vision, therefore, which appeared proceeding from the earth, with reference to the sheaves and the interpretation thereof, has now been sufficiently discussed. It is time now to consider the other vision; and to examine how that is interpreted by the art of the explanation of dreams. “He saw then,” says the scripture, “a second dream, and he related it to his father, and to his brethren, and he said, I saw that the sun, and the moon, and the eleven stars worshipped me. And his father rebuked him, and said, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I, and thy mother, and thy brethren, come forward and advance, and fall down to the earth and worship thee? And his brethren were jealous of him; but his father regarded his words.” [Genesis xxxvii. 9.]
The studiers of sublime wisdom now say that the zodiac, the greatest of all the circles in heaven, is studded with twelve animals ('zodia'), from which it has derived its name. And that the sun and the moon are always revolving around it, and go through each of the animals, not indeed with equal rapidity, but in unequal numbers and periods; the one doing so in thirty days, and the other in as near as may be a twelfth part of that time, that is in two days and a half; therefore, he who saw this heaven-sent vision, thought that he was being worshipped by eleven stars, ranking himself among them as the twelfth, so as to complete the whole circle of the zodiac.
And I recollect having before now heard some man who had applied himself to learning in no careless or indolent spirit, say that men were not the only beings which went mad with vain opinions, but that the stars did so too. And they also, said he, contend with one another for precedence, and those which are the greater claim to be attended by the lesser stars as their guards; these matters, however, we may leave for the studiers of sublime subjects to investigate, and to settle how much truth and how much random assertion there is in them.
But we say, that the lover of indiscriminate study, and unreasonable contention, and vain opinion, being always puffed up by folly, wishes to assert a precedence, not only over men, but also above the nature of all existing things; and he thinks that all things were created for his sake, and that it is necessary that everything, whether earth or heaven, or water or air, should bring him tribute; and he has gone to such an extravagant pitch of folly, that he is not able to reason upon such matters as even a young child might understand, and to see that no artist ever makes the whole for the sake of the part, but rather makes the part for the sake of the whole. Now the part of the whole is the man, so that he is properly asserted to have been made for the sake of perfecting the world in which he is rightly classed.
XVII. But some persons are full of such exceeding folly, that they are indignant if the whole world does not follow their intentions: for this reason Xerxes, the king of Persia, being desirous to strike terror into his enemies, made a display of very mighty undertakings, altering the whole face of nature; for he changed the nature of the elements of the earth and of the sea, giving land to the sea and sea to the land, by joining the Hellespont with a bridge, and breaking up Mount Athos into deep gulfs, which, being filled with sea, became so many new and artificially-cut seas, being entirely changed from the ancient course of nature. And having worked wonders with respect to the earth, according to his wishes, he mounted up upon daring conceptions, like a miserable man as he was, contracting the guilt of impiety, and seeking to soar up to heaven, as if he would move what cannot be moved, and would subjugate the host of heaven, and, as the proverb has it, he began with a sacred thing.
For he aimed his arrows at the most excellent of the heavenly bodies, the sun, the ruler of the day, as if he had not himself been wounded by the invisible dart of insanity, not only because of his desiring things which were impossible, but such as were also most impious, either of which is a great disgrace to him who attempts them.
It is related, also, that the very populous nation of the Germans, and theirs is a country where the sea is subject to the ebb and flow of the tide, ran down to the reflux which occurs in their country with great impetuosity, and drawing their naked swords charged and encountered the billowy sea as if it were a phalanx of enemies: and these men deserve to be hated because they dare impiously to take up the arms of enemies against the free and invincible parts of nature; but they deserve also to be ridiculed for attempting what is impossible, as if they thought it practicable to wound the water as though it were a living animal, or to stab it and kill it. And again, one should grieve at the sight of such men, and fear, and flee out of fear at their attacks, and submit to all the affections of the soul which are conversant with pleasures and pains.
XVIII. Moreover, it is only a very short time ago that I knew a man of very high rank, one who was prefect and governor of Egypt, who, after he had taken it into his head to change our national institutions and customs, and in an extraordinary manner to abrogate that most holy law guarded by such fearful penalties, which relates to the seventh day, and was compelling us to obey him, and to do other things contrary to our established custom, thinking that that would be the beginning of our departure from the other laws, and of our violation of all our national customs, if he were once able to destroy our hereditary and customary observance of the seventh day. And as he saw that those to whom he offered violence did not yield to his injunctions, and that the rest of our people was not disposed to submit in tranquillity, but was indignant and furious at the business, and was mourning and dispirited as if at the enslaving, and overthrow, and utter destruction of their country; he thought fit to endeavor by a speech to persuade them to transgress, saying: “If an invasion of enemies were to come upon you on a sudden, or the violence of a deluge, from the river having broken down all its barriers by an inundation, or any terrible fire, or a thunderbolt, or famine, or pestilence, or an earthquake, or any other evil, whether caused by men or inflicted by God, would you still remain quiet and unmoved at home? And would you still go on in your habitual fashion, keeping your right hand back, and holding the other under your garments close to your sides, in order that you might not, even without meaning it, do anything to contribute to your own preservation? And would you still sit down in your synagogues, collecting your ordinary assemblies, and reading your sacred volumes in security, and explaining whatever is not quite clear, and devoting all your time and leisure with long discussions to the philosophy of your ancestors? Nay: rather shaking off all these ideas, you would gird yourselves up for the preservation of yourselves, and of your parents, and of your children, and, if one must tell the plain truth, of your possessions and treasures, to save them from being utterly destroyed. And, indeed, I myself, am,” said he, “all the evils which I have just enumerated: I am a whirlwind, I am war, and deluge, and thunderbolt, and the calamity of famine, and the misery of pestilence, and an earthquake which shakes and overthrows what stood firm before, not being merely the name of a necessity of fate, but actual, visible power, standing close to you.”
What then can we say that a man who says, or who merely thinks such things as these, is? Is he not an evil of an extraordinary nature? He surely must be some foreign calamity, brought from over the sea, or from some other world, since he, a man in every respect miserable, has dared to compare himself to the all-blessed God. We must likewise add, that he is daring here to utter blasphemies against the sun, and the moon, and the rest of the stars, whenever anything which had been looked for according to the seasons of the year, either does not happen at all, or is brought about with difficulty; if, for instance, the summer causes too much heat, or the winter too excessive a cold, or if the spring or autumn were unseasonable, so that the one were to become barren and unfruitful, and the other to be prolific only in diseases.
Therefore, giving all imaginable license to an unbridled mouth and abusive tongue, such a man will reproach the stars as not bringing their customary tribute, all but claiming for the things of earth the reverence and adoration of the heavenly bodies, and for himself above them all, in proportion as he, as being a man, looks upon himself as superior to the other animals.
XIX. Such men then are classed by us as the very teachers of vain opinion. Let us now in turn look at their followers by themselves. These men are always laying plots against the practisers of virtue, and when they see them laboring to make their own life pure with guileless truth, and to exhibit it, as one may say, to the light of the moon, or of the sun, as able to stand inspection, they endeavor by deceit, or even by open violence, to hinder them, trying to drive them into the sunless country of impious men, which is occupied by deep night, and endless darkness, and ten thousand tribes of images, and appearances, and dreams, and then, having thrust them down thither, they compel them to fall down and worship them as masters.
For we look upon the practiser of virtue as the sun, since the one gives light to our bodies, and the other to the things which belong to the soul: and the education which such a man uses we look upon as the moon, for the use of each is most pure and most useful in the night; and the brethren are those virtuous reasonings which are the offspring of instruction, and of a soul devoted to the practice of virtue, all of which make straight the right path of life, and which they, therefore, by all kinds of wary and cunning wrestlings, seek to overcome, and to trip up, and overthrow, and break the neck of, because they have determined neither to think nor to say anything sound themselves.
For this reason his father rebukes this intractable youth (I do not mean Jacob, but right reason, which is older even than he), saying, “What is this dream which thou hast dreamt?” but thou hast not seen any dream at all; hast thou fancied that things which are free by nature are to be of necessity slaves to human things, and that things which are rulers are to become subjects? and, what is more paradoxical still, subject, not to anything else but to the very things which they govern? and to be the slaves of no other things except those very things which are their own slaves? unless indeed a change of all established things to their direct contraries is to take place, by the power of God, who is able to effect all things, and to move what is immovable, and to fix what is in a constant state of agitation.
Since on what principle can you be angry with or reproach a man who sees a vision in his sleep? For he will say, I did not see it intentionally, why do you bring accusations against me, for errors which I have not committed from any deliberate purpose? I have related to you what fell upon me and made an impression on my mind suddenly, and without my desiring it. But the present question is not about dreams, but about things which resemble dreams; which, to those whose minds are not highly purified appear great, and beautiful, and desirable things; while they are, in reality, trifling, and obscure, and deserving of ridicule, in the eyes of honest judges of the truth.
XX. Shall I then, says he, I, that is to say, right reason, come to you? And shall the soul, which is both the mother and nurse of the company devoted to learning virtuous instruction, also come to thee? And are the offspring of us too to come likewise? And are we all to stand in a row, laying aside all our former dignity, and holding up our hands and praying to thee? And are we then to prostrate ourselves on the ground, and endeavor to propitiate and adore thee? But may the sun never shine upon such transactions, since deep darkness is suited to evil deeds, and brilliant light to good deeds.
And what could be a greater evil than for pride, that deceiver and beguiler, to be praised and admired, instead of sincere and honest simplicity? And it is with great propriety that the statement is added, “And his father took notice of his words.” For it is the occupation of a soul which is not young, nor barren, nor wholly unfruitful, but rather of one which is really older and able to beget offspring, to cohabit with prudent caution, and to despise and overlook nothing whatever, but to have a reverential fear of the power of God, from which we cannot escape, and which we cannot overcome; and to look all round to see what its very end shall be.
For this reason they say, that the sister of Moses also (and she is called Hope by us, when speaking in a figurative manner) was contemplated at a distance by the sacred scriptures, inasmuch as she kept her eyes fixed on the end of life, hoping that some good fortune might befall her, sent by the Giver of all good from above, from heaven; for it has often happened that many persons, after having taken long voyages, and having sailed over a great expanse of sea with a fair wind, and without any danger, have suddenly been shipwrecked in the harbor itself, when they have been on the very point of casting anchor; and many persons too, who have successfully come to the end of formidable wars of long duration, and have come off unwounded so as never to have received even a scratch on the surface of the skin, but to have escaped whole and entire as if they had only been at some popular assembly or national festival, having returned home with joy and cheerfulness, have been plotted against in their houses by those who, of all the world, least ought to have done so; being, as the proverb says, like oxen slain in their stall.
XXI. As these unexpected events, which no one could ever have anticipated, do frequently happen in this manner and overthrow people, so also do they often drive the powers of the soul in a contrary direction to the proper one, and drag it in an opposite way, according to their power, and compel it to change its course: for what man, who has ever descended into the arena of life, has come off without a fall? And who is there who has never been tripped up in that contest? He is happy who has not often been so. And for whom has not fortune laid snares, blowing upon him at intervals, and collecting its strength, that it may twine itself around him, and speedily carry him off before its adversary is ready for the contest? Do we not know, that some persons have come from infancy to old age who have never been sensible of any irregularity, whether it be from the happy condition of their nature, or from the care of those who brought them up and educated them, or owing to both circumstances? But then, being filled with profound peace in themselves, which is real peace, and the archetypal model of that which exists in cities, and being considered happy on that account, because they have never had a notion, not even in a dream, of the intestine war which arises from the violence of the passions, and which is the most piteous of all wars, have at last, at the very close of their lives, run on shore and made shipwreck, either through some intemperance of language or some insatiable gluttony, or some incontinent licentiousness of the parts below the belly. For some, while -
“Still on the threshold of extreme old age,”
Have admired the youthful, unhonored, detestable, and disgraceful life of debauchees; and others have given in to the cunning, and wicked, and calumnious, and desperate way of life of others, pursuing the first fruits of a quarrelsome curiosity, when they ought rather to have discarded such habits now, even if they had been familiar to them.
For which reason one ought to propitiate God, and to supplicate him perseveringly, that he will not pass by our miserable race, but that he will allow his saving mercy to be everlastingly shown towards us; for it is difficult for those who have tasted unalloyed peace to be prevented from glutting themselves with it.
XXII. But, come now, this hunger is a lighter evil than thirst, inasmuch as it has love and desire for its comforters; but when, through the desire of drinking, it is necessary to satisfy one’s self with that other fountain, the water of which is dirty and unwholesome, then it is indispensable for the drinkers, being filled with a bitter-sweet pleasure, to live an unenviable life, betaking themselves to pernicious things as though they were advantageous, from ignorance of what is really desirable. But the impetuous course of these evils is most grievous when the irrational powers of the soul attack the powers of the reason and get the better of them; for as long as the herds of oxen obey their drivers, and the flocks obey their shepherds, and the goats obey the goatherds, the herds and all belonging to them go on well; but when the herdsmen who are appointed to look after the cattle become weaker than the beasts committed to their care, then everything goes wrong, and instead of regularity there arises irregularity, and disorder in the place of order, and confusion instead of steadiness, and disturbance in the place of good arrangement, since there is no longer any lawful superintending power properly established; for if there had been such a thing, it would have been destroyed before this time.
What then? Do we not think that even in ourselves there is a herd of irrational cattle, inasmuch as the irrational multitude of the soul is deprived of reason, and that the shepherd is the governing mind? But as long as that is vigorous and competent to act as the manager of the herd, everything goes on in a just, and prosperous, and advantageous manner; but when any weakness or want of power supervenes to the king, then it follows of necessity that the subjects also labor with a like infirmity; and when they most completely seem to be in enjoyment of liberty, then they are a prize, lying most entirely ready for any one who pleases to contend for it to seize; for the natural course is for anarchy to be treacherous, and for government to be salutary, especially in a state where law and justice are honored. And this is such a state as is consistent with reason.
XXIII. We have now, then, spoken with sufficient accuracy about the dreams of vain opinion. Now, the different species of gluttony are conversant about drinking and eating. But the one has no need of any great variety, while the other requires a countless number of seasonings and sauces. These things, then, are referred to two managers. The matters relating to excessive drinking are referred to the chief butler, and those which belong to luxurious eating to the chief baker. Now these men are, with excessive propriety, recorded to have seen visions of dreams in one night; for they, each of them, labor to gratify the same need of their master, providing not simple food, but such as is accompanied with pleasure and extraordinary gratification; and each of them, separately, labors about half the food, but the two together are employed about the whole, and the one part draws on the other; for men when they have eaten, immediately desire drink; and men who have drunk immediately wish to eat; so that it is in no slight degree on this account that a vision is ascribed to them both at the same time. Therefore the chief butler has the office of ministering to the appetite for wine, and the chief baker to the voracity.
And each of them sees in his vision what relates to his own business: the one sees wine and the plant which engenders wine, namely the vine; the other sees white bread lying on dishes, and himself serving up the dishes. [Genesis xl. 16.]
Now perhaps it may be proper first of all to examine the first dream. And it is as follows:- “In my sleep there was a vine before me; and on the vine were three branches, and it flourished and brought forth shoots, and there were on it ripe bunches of grapes. And Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the bunch of grapes and pressed it into the cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.” [Genesis xl. 9.] He speaks here in an admirable manner, and the expression, “in my sleep,” is quite correct. For, in real truth, he who follows not so much the inebriety which arises from wine as that which proceeds from folly, being indignant at an upright and wakeful position, like people asleep, is thrown down and relaxed, and shuts the eyes of his soul, not being able either to see or to hear anything which is worthy of being seen or of being heard. And being overthrown, he goes on a blind and guideless (I will not say path, but pathless) way through life, being pricked with thorns and briars; and sometimes too he falls down steep places, and tumbles down upon other people, so as to hurt both them and himself in a pitiable manner. But the deep and long-enduring sleep in which every wicked man is held, removes all true conceptions, and fills the mind with all kinds of false images, and unsubstantial visions, persuading it to embrace what is shameful as praiseworthy. For at one time it dreams of grief as joy, and does not perceive that it is looking at the vine, the plant of folly and error. “For,” says the chief butler, “the vine was before me,” the desired object was before him who desired it, wickedness was before the wicked man: which we, foolish men that we are, cultivate, without being aware that we are doing so to our own injury, the fruit of which we eat and drink, classing it under both species of food, which, as it would seem, we appropriate, not for one half the evils that affect us for the whole of our complete and entire misfortunes.
XXIV. But it is desirable not to be ignorant that the intoxication which proceeds from the vine does not affect all who indulge in it in a similar manner, but very often affects different people in contrary ways, so that it makes some better and others worse than they are naturally. For in the case of some men, it relaxes the sternness and moroseness of their character, and relieves them of their cares, and assuages their anger and their sorrow, and brings their dispositions into a milder mood, and makes their souls placable. But of others again, it cherishes the angry passions, and binds their pains firmly, and excites their feelings of love, and stimulates their rudeness; rendering their mouth talkative, their tongue unbridled, emancipating their external senses from all restraint, rendering their passions furious, and their whole mind violent and excited towards every object.
So that the condition of the men first-mentioned appears to resemble an untroubled calm in fine weather, or a waveless tranquillity at sea, or a most peaceful and steady state of affairs in a city. But the condition of those whom I have last described, is more like a violent and unremitting gale, or a sea tossed by a storm into vast billows, or a sedition, an evil more fearful than even interminable and irreconcilable war.
Therefore of these two banquet parties, the one is filled with laughter, with men promising amusement, and hoping for good fortune, and enjoying cheerfulness, and pleasant language, and mirth, and joy, and freedom from anxiety; but the other is full of melancholy, and seriousness, and downcast looks, and offenses, and reproaches, and wounds; of men gnashing their teeth, looking fiercely at one another, barking, strangling one another, contending with one another in every conceivable way, mutilating one another’s ears and noses, and whatever parts of the body they can reach, displaying the intoxication of their whole life and their drunkenness in this unholy contest, with every kind of unseemly behavior.
XXV. It would therefore be naturally consistent to consider next that the vine is the symbol of two things: of folly, and of mirth. And each of these two, though it is indicated by many circumstances, we will explain in a few words, to avoid prolixity. When any one leading us along the road, deserted by the passions and by acts of wickedness, the road, that is, of philosophy, has led right reason to a height, and placed it like a scout upon a watch-tower, [Numbers xiii. 18] and has commanded it to look around, and to survey the whole country of virtue, and to see whether it be blessed with a deep soil, and rich, and productive of herbage and of fruit, since deep soil is good to cause the learning which has been sown in it to increase, and to make the doctrines which have been planted in it, and which have grown to trees, to form solid trunks, or whether it be of a contrary character; and also to examine into actions, as one might into cities, and see whether they are strongly fortified, or whether they are defenseless and deprived of all the security which might be afforded by walls around them.
Also to inquire into the condition of the inhabitants, whether they are considerable in numbers and in valor, or whether their courage is weak and their numbers scanty, the two causes acting reciprocally on one another. Then because we were not able to bear the weight of the whole trunk of wisdom, we cut off one branch and one bunch of grapes, and carried it with us as a most undeniable proof of our joy, and a burden very easy to be borne, wishing to display at the same time the branch and the fruit of excellence to those who are gifted with acuteness of mental sight, to show them, that is, the strongly-shooting and grape-bearing vine.
XXVI. They then very fairly compare this vine of which we were only able to take a part, to happiness. And one of the ancient prophets bears his testimony in favor of my view of the matter, who speaking under divine inspiration has said, “The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel.” [Isaiah v. 7.] Now Israel is the mind inclined to the contemplation of God and of the world; for the name Israel is interpreted, “seeing God,” and the abode of the mind is the whole soul; and this is the most sacred vineyard, bearing as its fruit the divine shoot, virtue: thus thinking well (to eu phronein) is the derivation of the word joy (euphrosune), being a great and brilliant thing so that, says Moses, even God himself does not disdain to exhibit it; and most especially at that time when the human race is departing from its sins, and inclining and bending its steps towards justice, following of its own accord the laws and institutions of nature.
“For,” says Moses, “the Lord thy God will return, that he may rejoice in thee for thy good as he rejoiced in thy fathers, if thou wilt hear his voice to keep all his commandments and his ordinances and his judgments which are written in the book of this law.” [Deuteronomy xxx. 9.] Who could implant in man a desire for virtue and excellence, more strongly than is here done? Dost thou wish, says the scripture, O mind, that God should rejoice? Do thou rejoice in virtue thyself, and bring no costly offering, (for what need has God of anything of thine?) But, on the other hand, receive with joy all the good things which he bestows upon thee; for he rejoices in giving, when they who receive are worthy of his grace; unless you think that those men who live blameably may be justly said to make God indignant and to excite his anger, but that those who live in a praiseworthy manner do not make him rejoice.
But there is nothing which gives so much pleasure to fathers and mothers, our mortal parents, as the virtues of their children, even though they may be in want of numbers of necessary things. And does not the excellence of these aforesaid persons in like manner rejoice the Creator of the universe, who is in no want of anything whatever? Do thou therefore, O mind, having learnt how mighty a thing the anger of God is, and how great a good the joy of God is, do not do anything worthy to excite his anger to thy own destruction, but study only such things as may be the means of your pleasing God. And you will find these actions to be not the making of long and unusual journeys, nor the passing over unnavigable seas, or wandering without stopping to take breath to the furthest boundaries of earth and sea: for good actions do not dwell at a distance and have not been banished beyond the confines of the habitable world, but, as Moses says, good is situated near you, and is planted along with you, being united to you in three necessary parts, in the heart, in the mouth, and in the hands: that is to say, in the mind, in the speech, and in the actions; since it is necessary to think and to say, and to do good things, which are made perfect by a union of good design, good execution, and good language.
XXVII. I say therefore to him whose occupation is to gratify one description of gluttony, the fondness for drinking, namely to the chief butler, “Why are you laboring hard, O unhappy man? For you think that you are preparing pleasant things to give delight, but in reality you are kindling a flame of folly and intemperance, and contributing great and abundant quantities of fuel to it.” But perhaps he may reply, do not blame me precipitately before you have considered my case; I was appointed to pour out wine, not indeed for a man who was endowed with temperance, and piety, and all the other virtues, but for a violent, and intemperate, and unjust master, one who was very proud in his impiety, and who dared once to say, “I do not know the Lord;” [Exodus v. 2] so that I very naturally studied what would afford him gratification: and do not wonder that God is delighted with one thing, and the mind which is hostile to God, namely Pharaoh, with the contrary.
Who then is the chief butler of God? The priest who offers libations to him, the truly great high priest, who, having received a draught of everlasting graces, offers himself in return, pouring in an entire libation full of unmixed wine.
You see that there are differences between butlers in proportion to the differences existing between those whom they are waiting on; on this account I, the butler of Pharaoh, who exerts his stiff-necked, and in all respects intemperate reason, in the direction of indulgences of his passions, am a eunuch, having had all the generative parts of my soul removed, and being compelled to migrate from the apartments of the men, and am a fugitive also from the women’s chambers, inasmuch as I am neither male nor female; nor am I able to disseminate seed nor to receive it, being of an ambiguous nature, neither one thing nor the other; a mere false coin of human money, destitute of immortality, which is from time to time kept alive by the constant succession of children and offspring: being also excluded from the assembly and sacred meeting of the people, for it is expressly forbidden that any one who has suffered any injury or mutilation such as I have should enter in thereto. [Deuteronomy xxiii. 1.]
XXVIII. But the high priest of whom we are speaking is a perfect man, the husband of a virgin (a most extraordinary statement), who has never been made a woman; but who on the contrary, has ceased to be influenced by the customs of women in regard to her connection with her husband. [Genesis xviii. 11.] And not only is this man competent to sow the seeds of unpolluted and virgin opinions, but he is also the father of sacred reasonings, some of which are overseers and superintendents of the affairs of nature, such as Eleazar and Ithamar; others are ministers of the worship of God, earnestly occupied in kindling and burning up the flame of heaven; for, as they are always uttering discourses relating to holiness, they cause it to shine, bringing forth the most divine kind of piety like fire from a flint; and the being who is at the same time the guide and father of those men is no insignificant part of the sacred assembly, but he is rather the person without whom the duly convened assembly of the parts of the soul could never be collected together at all; he is the president, the chairman, the creator of it, who, without the aid of any other being, is able by himself alone to consider and to do everything.
He, when taken in conjunction with others, is insignificant in point of number, but when he is looked at by himself he becomes numerous; he is a tribunal, an entire council, the whole people, a complete multitude, the entire race of mankind, or rather, if one is to speak the real truth, he is a sort of nature bordering on God, inferior indeed to him, but superior to man; “for when,” the scripture says, “the high priest goes into the Holy of Holies he will not be a man.” [Leviticus xvi. 17.] What then will he be if he is not a man? Will he be God? I would not venture to say that (for the chief prophet, Moses, did receive the inheritance of this name while he was still in Egypt, being called “the god of Pharaoh;”) [Exodus vii. 1] nor again is he man, but he touches both these extremities as if he touched both the feet and the head.
XXIX. So now one kind of vine, which has been assigned as the portion of cheerfulness, and the intoxication which arises from it, namely unmingled goodness of counsel, and the cup-bearer too who drew the wine from the divine goblet, which God himself has filled with virtues up to the lip, has been explained; but the other kind, that of folly, and grief, and drunkenness, is also already depicted in a fashion but in another character, by other expressions which are used in the greater canticle; “for,” says the scripture, “their vine is of the vine of Sodom and their tendrils are of the vine of Gomorrah; their grapes are the grapes of gall; their bunches are full of bitterness itself. Their wine is the madness of dragons and the incurable fury of asps.” [Deuteronomy xxxii. 32.]
You see here what great effects are produced by the drunkenness of folly: bitterness, an evil disposition, exceeding gall, excessive anger, implacability, a biting and treacherous disposition. The lawgiver most emphatically asserts the branch of the vine of folly to be in Sodom; and the name Sodom, being interpreted, means “blindness,” or “barrenness;” since folly is a thing which is blind, and also barren of all good things; though, nevertheless, some people have been so greatly influenced by it as to measure, and weigh, and count everything with reference to themselves alone.
Gomorrah, being interpreted, means “measure;” but Moses conceived that God was the standard of weight, and measure, and number, in the universe, but he had not the same opinion of the human mind. And he shows this in the following passage, where he says, “There shall not be in thy sack one weight, and another weight, a great and a small; there shall not be in thy house one measure, and another measure, a great and a small; thy weight shall be a true and just one.” [Deuteronomy xxv. 13.] But a true and just measure is, to conceive that it is the only just God alone who measures and weighs everything, and who has circumscribed the nature of the universe with numbers, and limitations, and boundaries. But it is unjust and false to imagine that these things are regulated in accordance with the human mind. But the eunuch and chief butler of Pharaoh, having beheld the plant generative of folly, namely, the vine, adds besides to his delineation three stocks, that he may signify the three extremities of error according to the three different times; for a root is equivalent to extremity.
XXX. When, therefore, folly has overshadowed and occupied the whole soul, and when it has left no portion of it unoccupied or free, it not only compels it to commit such errors as are remediable, but such also as are irremediable. Now those which admit of a remedy are set down as the easiest and the first; but those which are irremediable are altogether terrible, and are the last of all, being so far analogous to roots. And as, in my notions, wisdom begins to benefit a man in small matters, and ends at last in the absolute perfection of all well-doing, so, in the same manner folly, constraining the soul from above and leading it away from instruction by small degrees, establishes it at last at a long distance from right reason, and finally leads it to the extreme point, and utterly overthrows it.
And the dream showed that after the roots appeared the vine flourished and put forth shoots and bore fruit; for, says the chief butler, “It was flourishing and bearing shoots, around which were bunches of grapes.” [Genesis xl. 10.] The foolish man is accustomed to display barrenness, and never to put forth even leaves, and, in fact, to be withered all his life; for what could be a greater evil than folly flourishing and bearing fruit? But, says he, “the cup of Pharaoh,” the vessel which is the receptacle of folly and drunkenness, and of the ceaseless intoxication of life, “is in my hand;” an expression equivalent to saying, depends upon my administration, and endeavors, and powers; for without my contrivances, the passion will not proceed rightly by its own efforts; for as it is proper that the reins should he in the hands of the charioteer, and the rudder in the hands of the pilot - for this is the only way in which the course of the chariot and the voyage of the vessel can proceed successfully - so, also, the filling of the goblet with wine is in the hands and depends upon the power of him who by his art brings to perfection one of the two kinds of gluttony, namely, satiety of wine.
But why has he endured to boast in respect of a matter which deserved rather to be denied than to be confessed? Would it not have been better not to have confessed at all that he was a teacher of intemperance, and not to admit that he increased the excitement of the passions by wine in the case of the intemperate man, as being an inventor and producer of a luxurious, and debauched, and most disgraceful way of life. Such, however, is the case. Folly boasts of those things which ought to be concealed; and in this present case it prides itself, not only on holding in its hands the receptacle of the intemperate soul, that is to say, the cup of wine, and in showing it to all men, but also in pressing out the grapes into it; that is to say, in making that which satisfies the passion, and bringing what is concealed to light.
For as children which require food, when they are about to receive the milk, squeeze and press out the breast of the nurse that feeds them, so likewise does the workman and cause of intemperance vigorously press the fountain from which the evil of abundance of wine pours forth, that he may derive food in a most agreeable manner from the drops which are squeezed out.
XXXI. Such a description then as I have here given may be applied to the man who is made frantic by the influence of unmixed wines, that he is a drunken, and foolish, and irremediable evil. We must now, in turn, investigate the character of the glutton, who is akin to the drunkard, and who is a sworn companion of all kinds of voracity and greediness, laboring, without any restraint, at the artificial gratification of his appetite. And yet it does not require a great deal of care to arrive at his true character; for the dream which was seen is a representation of his likeness very closely resembling him; and when we have accurately examined him, let us look upon him as we would upon a representation in a mirror; for “I thought,” said the chief cook, “that I had three baskets of fine wheaten loaves upon my head.” Now, using the word “head” in an allegorical manner, we mean by it the dominant part of the soul, that is, the mind, and we say that everything rests or depends upon that; for he once exclaimed concerning it, “All these things were in my charge.” Therefore when he had completed the preparation of these things which he had devised against the miserable belly, he displayed himself also, and, like a foolish man as he was, he was not ashamed to be weighed down with so great a burden, namely, the weight of three baskets; that is to say, with three portions of time.
For those who advocate the cause of pleasure affirm that it consists of three times, of the memory of past delights, and of the enjoyment of those that are present, and of the hope of what are to come; so that the three baskets are likened unto the three portions of time, and the cakes upon the baskets to those circumstances which are suitable to each of the portions; to the recollection of past joys, to the enjoyment of present pleasures, to the hope of future delights. And he who carries all these things is likened unto the lover of pleasure, who has filled his faithless table, a table destitute of all hospitable and friendly salt, not with one kind of luxury only, but with almost every description and species of intemperance; and this is enjoyed by king Pharaoh alone, as if he were sitting at a public banquet, and devoting himself to a dispersion, and scattering, and defeat, and destruction of temperance; for the name Pharaoh, being interpreted, means “dispersion.” And it is a magnificent and royal piece of conduct in him not to exult in the specious advantages of wisdom, but to pride himself on those pursuits of profligacy which it is unseemly to mention, wrecking himself on insatiable appetite, and gluttony, and effeminacy of life.
Therefore the birds, that is to say, the chances which never could have been anticipated by conjecture, coming from outward quarters and hovering around him, will attack and kindle every thing like fire, and will destroy every thing with their all-devouring power, so that there is not a single fragment left to the bearer of the baskets for his enjoyment though he had hoped to proceed with his inventions and contrivances, for ever and ever carrying them on in a safe place, so that they could never be taken from him.
And thanks be to God who giveth the victory and who renders the labors of the man who is a slave to his passions, though ever so carefully carried out, still unproductive and useless, sending down winged natures in an invisible manner for their destruction and overthrow. Therefore, the mind, being deprived of those things which it had made for itself, having, as it were, its neck cut through, will be found headless and lifeless, and like those who are fixed to a cross, nailed as it were to the tree of hopeless and helpless ignorance. For as long as none of these things come upon one which arrive suddenly and unexpectedly, then those acts which are directed to the enjoyment of pleasure appear to be successful; but when such evils descend upon them unexpectedly, they are overthrown, and their maker is destroyed with them.
XXXII. The dreams, therefore, of those men who divide those things which produce the taste according to every species of food, whether it be meat or drink, and such as is not necessary but superfluous, and sought only by the intemperate, have been sufficiently explained. But those of Pharaoh, who appears to exercise sovereignty over these men and over all the powers of the soul, must now be investigated if we would proceed in order and consistently with our plan.
Pharaoh says, “In my dream I thought that I was standing by the bank of a river, and seven oxen came up as it were out of the river, of eminent plumpness in their flesh, and beautiful to the view, and fed in the green marsh; and behold, seven other oxen came up out of the river after them, evil to look at and ill-favored, and lean in their flesh, such that I never saw any leaner in all Egypt; and the lean and ill-favored oxen devoured the seven former oxen which were beautiful, and picked out, and they entered into their stomachs, and still their appearance remained ill-favored, as I have described it at first. And when I had awoke I fell asleep again; and again I saw in my dream, and as it were seven ears of corn grew up on one stalk, full and beautiful. And seven other ears of corn also came up, lean and wind-beaten, close to them, and these last seven ears did swallow up the seven beautiful and full ears.” [Genesis xli. 17.]
You see now the preface of the lover of self who being easily moved, and changeable, and fickle, both in his body and soul, says, “I thought that I was standing,” and did not consider that unchangeableness and steadiness belong to God alone, and to him who is dear to God. And the most evident proof of the unchangeable power which exists in him is this world, which is always in the same place and in the same condition. And if the world is immovable how can the Creator of it be any thing but firm?
In the second place the sacred scriptures are likewise most infallible witnesses; for it is said in them, where the words are put into the mouth of God, “I stand here and there, before you were dwelling upon the rock,” [Exodus xvii. 6.] which is an expression equivalent to, Thus am I who am visible to you, and am here: and I am there and everywhere, filling all places, standing and abiding in the same condition, being unchangeable, before you or any one of the objects of creation had any existence, being beheld upon the highest and most ancient authority of power, from which the creation of all existing things was shed forth, and the stream of wisdom flowed; “for I am he who brought the stream of water out of the solid rock,” [Deut. viii. 15] is said in another place. And Moses also bears witness to the immutability of the Deity, where he says, “I saw the place where the God of Israel stood;” [Exodus xxiv. 10] intimating enigmatically that he is not given to change by speaking here of his standing, and of his being firmly established.
XXXIII. But there is in the Deity such an excessive degree of stability and firmness, that he gave even to the most excellent natures a share of his durability as his most excellent possession: and presently afterwards he, the most ancient author of all things, namely God, says that he is about to erect firmly his covenant full of grace (and that means his law and his word) in the soul of the just man as on a solid foundation, which shall be an image in the likeness of God, when he says to Noah, “I will establish my covenant with thee.” [Genesis ix. 10.] And besides this, he also indicates two other things, one that justice is in no respect different from the covenant of God, the other that other beings bestow gifts which are different from the persons who receive them; but God gives not only those gifts, but he gives also the very persons who receive them to themselves, for he has given me to myself, and every living being has he given to himself; for the expression, “I will establish my covenant with thee,” is equivalent to, I will give thee to thyself.
And all those who are truly lovers of God desire eagerly to escape from the storm of multiplied affairs and business in which there is always tempestuous weather, and rough sea, and confusion, and to anchor in the calm and safe untroubled haven of virtue. Do you not see what is said about the wise Abraham who “is standing before the Lord?” [Genesis xviii. 22.] For when was it likely that the mind would be able to stand, no longer inclining to different sides like the balance in a scale, except when it is opposite to God, beholding him and being beheld by him? For perfect absence of motion comes to it in two ways, either from beholding him with whom nothing can be compared, because he is not attracted by anything resembling himself, or from being beheld by him, because [...] which he considered worthy, the ruler has assigned to himself alone as the most excellent of beings. And indeed a divine admonition was given in the following terms to Moses: “Stand thou here with me,” [Deuteronomy v. 31] by which injunction both these things appear to be intimated, first, the fact that the good man is not moved, and secondly, the universal stability of the living God.
XXXIV. For, in real truth, whatever is akin or near to God is appropriated by him, becoming steady and stationary by reason of his unchangeableness; and the mind, being at rest, well knows how great a blessing rest is, and admiring, its own beauty, it conceives that either it is assigned to God alone as his, or else to that intermediate nature which is between the mortal and the immortal race; at all events, it says, “And I stood in the midst between the Lord and you,” [Deuteronomy x. 10] not meaning by these words that he was standing on his own feet, but wishing to indicate that the mind of the wise man, being delivered from all storms and wars, and enjoying unruffled calm and profound peace, is superior indeed to man, but inferior to God.
For the ordinary human mind is influenced by opinion, and is thrown into confusion by any passing circumstances; but the other is blessed and happy, and free from all participation in evil. And the good man is on the borders, so that one may appropriately say that he is neither God nor man, but that he touches the extremities of both, being connected with the mortal race by his manhood, and with the immortal race by his virtue.
And there is something which closely resembles this in the passage of scripture concerning the high priest; “For when,” says the scripture, “he goes into the holy of holies, he will not be a man till he has gone out again.” [Leviticus xvi. 17.] But if at that time he is not a man, it is clear that he is not God either, but a minister of God, belonging as to his mortal nature to creation, but as to his immortal nature to the uncreate God. And he is placed in the middle class until he again goes forth among the things which belong to the body and to the flesh.
And this is the order of things according to nature, when the mind, being entirely occupied with divine love, bends its course towards the temple of God, and approaches it with all possible earnestness and zeal, it becomes inspired, and forgets all other things, and forgets itself also. It remembers him alone, and depends on him alone, who is attended by it as by a body-guard, and who receives its ministrations, to whom it consecrates and offers up the sacred and untainted virtues. But when the inspiration has ceased, and the excessive desire has relaxed, then it returns from divine things and becomes a man again, mixing with human affairs, which were awaiting him in the vestibule, that they might carry him off while gazing only on the things in them.
XXXV. Moses therefore describes the perfect man as being neither God nor man, but, as I said before, something on the border between the uncreated and the perishable nature. Again, he classes him who is improving and advancing towards perfection in the region between the dead and the living, meaning by “the living” those persons who dwell with wisdom, and by “the dead” those who rejoice in folly; for it is said with respect to Aaron, that “He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stayed.” [Numbers xvi. 48.] For he who is making progress is not reckoned among those who are dead as to the life of virtue, inasmuch as he has a desire and admiration of what is honorable, nor among those who are living in extreme and perfect prosperity, for there is still something wanting to the end, but he touches both extremes; on which account the expression, “the plague was stayed,” is very properly used rather than “the plague ceased;” for in those who are perfect the things which break, and crush, and destroy the soul cease; but in those who are advancing towards perfection, they are only diminished, as if they were only cut short and checked.
XXXVI. Since then all steadiness, and stability, and the abiding for ever in the same place unchangeably and immovably, is first of all seen in the living God, and next in the word of the living God, which he has called his covenant; and in the third place in the wise man, and in the fourth degree in him who is advancing towards perfection, what could induce the wicked mind, which is liable to all sorts of curses, to think that it is able to stand by itself, while it is in reality borne about as in a deluge, and dragged hither and thither by the incessant eddies of things flowing in through the dead and agitated body? “For I thought,” says the scripture, “that I was standing on the bank of the river:” [Genesis xli. 17] and by the word river we say that speech is symbolically meant, since both these things are borne outward, and flow on with a vigorous and sustained speed. And the one is at one time filled up with a great abundance of water, and the other with a quantity of verbs and nouns, and at another time they are both empty and relaxed, and in a state of quiescence; again, they are of use inasmuch as the one irrigates the fields, and the other fertilizes the souls of those who receive it. And at times they are injurious by reason of overflowing, as then the one deluges the land on its borders, and the other troubles and confuses the reason of those who do not attend to it.
XXXVII. Therefore speech is compared to a river, and the nature of speech is twofold, the one sort being better and the other worse; that is, the better kind which does good, and that of necessity is the worse kind which does harm; and Moses has given most conspicuous examples of each kind to those who are able to see, for he says, “For a river goes out of Eden to water the Paradise, and from thence it is divided into four branches:” [Genesis ii. 10] and by the name Eden he means the wisdom of the living God, and the interpretation of the name Eden is “delight,” because I imagine wisdom is the delight of God, and God is the delight of wisdom, as it is said also in the Psalms, “Delight thou in the Lord.” [Psalm xxxvi. 4.]
And the divine word, like a river, flows forth from wisdom as from a spring, in order to irrigate and fertilize the celestial and heavenly shoots and plants of such souls as love virtue, as if they were a paradise. And this sacred word is divided into four beginnings, by which I mean it is portioned out into four virtues, each of which is a princess, for to be divided into beginnings, does not resemble divisions of place, but a kingdom, in order that any one, after having shown the virtues as boundaries, may immediately proceed to show the wise man who follows them to be a king, being elected as such, not by men, but by the only free nature which cannot err, and which cannot be corrupted; for those who behold the excellence of Abraham say unto him, “Thou art a king, sent from God among us;” [Genesis xxiii. 6] proposing as a maxim, for those who study philosophy, that the wise man alone is a ruler and a king, and that virtue is the only irresponsible authority and sovereignty.
XXXVIII. Accordingly, one of the followers of Moses, having compared this speech to a river, has said in the Psalms, “The river of God was filled with water;” [Psalm lxv. 10] and it is absurd to give such a title to any of the rivers which flow upon the earth. But as it seems the psalmist is here speaking of the divine word, which is full of the streams of wisdom, and which has no part of itself empty or desolate, or rather, as some one has said, which is diffused everywhere over the universe, and is raised up on high, on account of the continued and incessant rapidity of that ever-flowing spring.
There is also another expression in the Psalms, such as this, “The course of the river makes glad the city of God.” [Psalm xlv. 5.] What city? For the holy city, which exists at present, in which also the holy temple is established, at a great distance from any sea or river, so that it is clear, that the writer here means, figuratively, to speak of some other city than the visible city of God. For, in good truth, the continual stream of the divine word, being borne on incessantly with rapidity and regularity, is diffused universally over everything, giving joy to all. And in one sense he calls the world the city of God, as having received the whole cup of the divine draught, [...] and being gladdened thereby, so as to have derived from it an imperishable joy, of which it cannot be deprived for ever.
But in another sense he applies this title to the soul of the wise man, in which God is said also to walk, as if in a city, “For,” says God, “I will walk in you, and I will be your God in you.” [Leviticus xxvi. 12.] And who can pour over the happy soul which proffers its own reason as the most sacred cup, the holy goblets of true joy, except the cup-bearer of God, the master of the feast, the word? not differing from the draught itself, but being itself in an unmixed state, the pure delight and sweetness, and pouring forth, and joy, and ambrosial medicine of pleasure and happiness; if we too may, for a moment, employ the language of the poets.
XXXIX. But that which is called by the Hebrews the city of God is Jerusalem, which name being interpreted means, “the sight of peace.” So that do not look for the city of the living God in the regions of the earth, for it is not made of wood or of stone, but seek it in the soul which is free from war, and which proposes to those who are endowed with acuteness of sight a contemplative and peaceful life; since where could any find a more venerable and holy abode for God amid all existing things, than the mind fond of contemplation, which is eager to behold every thing and which does not, even in a dream, feel a wish for sedition or disturbance? And again, the invisible spirit which is accustomed to converse with me in an unseen manner prompts me with a suggestion, and says, O my friend, you seem to be ignorant of an important and most desirable matter which I will explain to you completely; for I have also in a most seasonable manner explained many other things to you also. Know, then, O excellent man, that God alone is the truest, and most real, and genuine peace, and that every created and perishable essence is continual war.
For God is something voluntary, and mortal essence is necessity. Whoever, therefore, is able to forsake war, and necessity, and creation, and destruction, and to pass over to the uncreated being, to the immortal God, to the voluntary principle, and to peace, may justly be called the abode and city of God. Do not, therefore, consider it a different thing whether you speak of the sight of peace or the sight of God, as they are the same thing; because peace is not only the companion but also the chief of the powers of the living God, which are distinguished by many names.
XL. And, moreover, he says to the wise Abraham, “that he will give him an inheritance of land from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,” [Genesis xv. 18] not meaning a portion of the land so much as a better portion in respect of our own selves. For our own body, and the passions which exist in it, and which are engendered by it, are likened to the river of Egypt, but the soul and the passions which are dear to that are likened to the river Euphrates. And here a doctrine is laid down, at once most profitable to life and of the highest importance, that the good man has received for his inheritance the soul and the virtues of the soul: just as, on the contrary, the wicked man has received for his share the body and the vices of the body, and those which are engendered by the body.
And the expression “from,” has a double sense. One, that by which the starting point from which it begins is included; the other that by which it is excluded. For when we say that from morning to evening there are twelve hours, or from the new moon to the end of the month there are thirty days, we are including in our enumeration both the first hour and the day of the new moon. And when any one says that such and such a field is three or four furlongs distant from the city, he clearly means to leave the city itself out of that measurement. So that now, too, we must consider that the expression, “from the river of Egypt,” is to be understood so as not to include that river; for the writer intends to remove us to a distance from the things of the body which are seen to exist in a constant flow and course which is being destroyed and destroying, that so we may receive the inheritance of the soul with the imperishable virtues, which are, moreover, deserving of immortality.
Thus, therefore, by tracing it out diligently, we have found that praiseworthy speech is likened to a river; but speech which is deserving of blame is the very river of Egypt itself, untractable, unwilling to learn, as one may say in a word, lifeless speech; for which reason it is also changed into blood, [Exodus vii. 17] as not being able to afford sustenance. For the speech of ignorance is not wholesome, and it is productive of bloodless and lifeless frogs, which utter only a novel and harsh sound, a noise painful to the ear. And it is said, likewise, that all the fish in that river were destroyed. And by the fish are here figuratively meant the conceptions; for these things float about and exist in speech as in a river, resembling living things and filling the river with life. But in uninstructed speech all conceptions die; for it is not possible to find any thing intelligent in it, but only, as some one has said, some disorderly and unmusical voices of jackdaws.
XLI. We have now then said enough on these subjects. But since he not only confesses that he saw in his dream, a standing and a river, but also the banks of a river, as his words are “I thought that I was standing by the bank ('cheilos') of the river.” [Genesis xli. 17.] It must be desirable to say a few seasonable things also about the bank. Now there appears to be two most necessary objects on account of which nature has adapted lips ('cheile') to all animals, and especially to men; one for the sake of tranquillity, for they are the strongest bulwark and fortification of the voice; the other for the sake of distinctness, for it is through them that the stream of words issues forth. For when they are closed speech is checked; for it is impossible that it should be borne outward if they are not parted. And by these means nature prepares and trains man for both objects, speech and silence, watching the appropriate time for each employment.
As for instance, is anything said worth listening to? Then attend, raising no obstacle, in perfect quiet, according to the injunction of Moses, “Be silent and hear.” [Duet. xxvii. 19.] For of those per sons who mix themselves up in contentious discussions there is not one who can properly be considered as either speaking or listening; but this is only advantageous to him who is about to do so.
Again, when you see, amid the wars and disasters of life, the merciful hand of God and his favorable power held over you and standing in defense of you, be silent yourself; for that champion stands in no need of any assistance. And there are proofs of this fact recorded in the sacred writings; such, for instance, as the verse, “The Lord will fight for us, and ye shall be silent.” [Exodus xiv.14.] And if you see the genuine offspring and the firstborn of Egypt destroyed, namely desire, and pleasures, and pain, and fear, and iniquity, and mirth, and intemperance, and all the other qualities which are similar and akin to these, then marvel and be silent, dreading the terrible power of God; for, say the scriptures, “Not a dog shall move his tongue, nor shall anything, man or beast, utter a sound;” [Exodus xi. 7] which is equivalent to saying, It does not become either the impudent tongue to bark and curse - nor the man that is within us, that is to say, our dominant mind; nor the cattle-like beast which is within us, that is to say, the outward sense - to boast, when all the evil that was in us has been utterly destroyed, and when an ally from without comes of his own accord to hold his shield over us.
XLII. But there are many occasions which are not well suited to silence: and if we go to the language of ordinary prose, of which we may again see memorials laid up, how did there ever an unexpected participation in good take place to any one? It is well, therefore, to give thanks and to sing hymns in honor of him who bestowed it. What, then, is the good? The passion which is attacking us is dead, and is thrown out on its face without burial. Let not us delay, but standing still, let us sing that most sacred and becoming hymn, feeling that we are commanded to say to all men, “Let us sing unto the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.” [Exodus xv. 1.] But the rout and destruction of the passions is indeed a good, but not a perfect good; but the discovery of wisdom is a surpassing good, and when that is found all the people will sing harmonies and melodies, not with one kind of music only, but with every sort; for then, says the scripture, “Israel sang this song at the well;” [Numbers xxi. 17] that is to say, in triumph for the fact that knowledge, which had long been hidden but which was sought for, had at length been found by all men, though lying deep by nature; the duty of which was to irrigate the rational fields existing in the souls of those men who are fond of contemplation.
What, then, shall we say? When we bring home the legitimate fruit of the mind, does not the sacred scripture enjoin us to display in our reason, as in a sacred basket, the first fruits of our fertility; a specimen of the glorious flowers, and shoots, and fruits which the soul has brought forth, bidding us speak out distinctly, and to utter panegyrics on the God who brings things to perfection, and to say, “I have cleared away the things which were holy out of my house, and I have arranged them in the house of God:” [Deut. xxvi. 13] appointing as stewards and guardians of them, men selected for their superior merit, and giving them the charge of these sacred things; and these persons are Levites, proselytes, and orphans, and widows. But some are suppliants, some are emigrants and fugitives, some are persons widowed and destitute of all created things, but enrolled as belonging to God, the genuine husband and father of the soul which is inclined to worship.
XLIII. In this way, then, it is most proper both to speak and to be silent. But the wicked adopt an exactly contrary course; for they are admirers of a blamable kind of silence, and of an interpretation open to reproach, practising both lines of conduct to their own destruction and that of others. But the greater part of their employment consists in saying what they ought not; for having opened their mouth and leaving it unbridled, like an unrestrained torrent, they allow their speech to run on indiscriminately, as the poets say, dragging on thousands of profitless sayings; therefore those who have devoted themselves to the advocacy of pleasure and appetite, and every sort of excessive desire, building up irrational passion as a fortification against dominant reason, and preparing themselves for a contentious sort of discussion, have come at last to a regular dispute, hoping to be able to blind the race which is endowed with the faculty of sight, and to throw it down precipices, and into depths from which it will not be able at any future time to emerge. But some have not only put themselves forward as rivals to human virtue, but have proceeded to such a pitch of folly as to oppose themselves also to divine virtue. Therefore Pharaoh, the king of the land of Egypt, is spoken of as the leader of the company which is devoted to the passions; for it is said to the prophet, “Behold, he is going forth to the river, and thou shalt stand in the way to meet him, on the bank of the river;” [Exodus vii. 15] for it is the peculiar characteristic of the one man to go forth to the rapidity and continual pouring forth of the irrational passion; and it is also characteristic of the wise man to oppose with exceeding vigor the arguments on behalf of pleasure and desire, not with his feet, but with his mind, firmly and immoveably, standing on the bank of the river; that is to say, on the mouth and on the tongue, which are the organs of speech.
For standing firmly on these, he will be able to overturn and defeat the plausible specious arguments which advocate the cause of passion. But the enemy of the race which is endowed with the power of seeing, is the people of Pharaoh, which never ceased attacking, and persecuting, and enslaving virtue, until . . . . it paid the penalty of the evils which it inflicted . . . . being overwhelmed in the sea of those iniquities . . . . which it excited . . . . So that that period exhibited an extraordinary sight, a victory which was in no doubt, and a joy greater than could have been hoped for.
On which account it is said, “And Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore.” [Exodus xiv. 30.] Great indeed was the hand which fought for them, compelling those who had sharpened these organs against the truth to fall by the mouth, and lips, and speech, so that they who had taken up these weapons against others should perish by their own arms and not by those of others. And this announces three most glorious things to the soul; one, the destruction of the passions of Egypt; another, that this has taken place in no other spot than near the salt and bitter springs, as if on the shore of the sea, by which sophistical reason, that enemy of virtue, is poured forth; and, lastly, the sight of the disaster. For no glorious thing can be invisible, but should be brought to the light and brilliancy of the sun. For so also the contrary, namely evil, should be thrust into deep darkness, and should be accounted deserving of night. And may it indeed by chance happen to some one to behold this: but what is really good should be always beheld by more piercing eyes. And what is so good as that what is good should live, and what is evil should die?
XLIV. There were, therefore, three persons who uttered atrocious words which were to reach even to heaven; these men devoted themselves to studies against nature, or rather against their own souls, saying that this universe was the only thing which was perceptible to the outward senses, and visible, having never been created, and being never destined to be destroyed, but being uncreated and imperishable, not requiring any superintendence, or care, or regulation, or management. Afterwards piling up fresh attempts one upon another, they built up a doctrine which was not approved, and raised it to a height like a tower; for it is said, “And the whole earth spoke one language,” [Genesis xi. 1] an inharmonious agreement of all the portions of the soul, for the purpose of overthrowing that which is the most comprehensive of all existing principles, namely, authority.
Therefore, a great and irresistible hand overthrew them when they were hoping to mount up even to heaven by their devices, for the purpose of destroying the everlasting kingdom; and it also dashed down the doctrine which they had built up; and the place is called confusion: a very appropriate name for such an audacious and wicked attempt; for what can be more productive of confusion than anarchy? Are not houses which have no manager full of offenses and disturbances? And are not cities which are left unprovided with a king destroyed by the domination of the mob, the opposite evil to kingly power, and at the same time the greatest of all evils? And have not countries, and nations, and regions of the earth, the governments of which have been put down, lost all their ancient and great prosperity?
And why need I speak of matters of human history? For even the other species of animals, flocks of birds, and herds of terrestrial beasts, and shoals of aquatic creatures, never exist without some leader of their company; but they always desire and always pay attention to their own leader, as being the sole cause of the advantages they receive; at whose absence they are scattered and destroyed. Do we suppose then, that in the case of earthly creatures, which are the most insignificant portion of the universe, authority is the cause of good things and anarchy the cause of evils, but that the world itself is not filled with extreme happiness by reason of the administration of God its king?
Therefore they have suffered punishment corresponding to their iniquities: for having polluted the sacred doctrine, they saw themselves polluted in like manner, all authority being taken away from among them; and being thrown themselves into confusion, but not having really caused any. But as long as they were left unpunished, being puffed up by insane pride, they sought to overthrow the authority of the universe by unholy speeches; and they set themselves up as rulers and kings, attributing the irresistible power of God to creatures which are perpetually coming to an end and being destroyed.
XLV. Therefore these ridiculous men giving themselves tragic airs and using inflated language, are accustomed to speak thus: we are they who are leaders; we are kings; on us all things depend. Who, except ourselves, is the cause of good and of the contrary? To whom, except to us, can the doing well or ill be truly attributed? They talk nonsense too in another manner, saying, that all things depend upon an invisible power, which they fancy presides over all human and divine affairs in the whole world.
Uttering such insolent falsehoods as these, if after intoxication they have become sober, and have come to themselves again, and feel ashamed of the intoxication to which they have given way coming under the dominion of the external senses, and if they reproach themselves for the evil actions which they have been led on to commit by folly, giving ear to their new counsellor, which never flatters, and which cannot be corrupted, namely, repentance, having propitiated the merciful power of the living God by sacred hymns of repentance instead of profane songs, they will find entire forgiveness.
But if they are restive and obstinate for ever, and indulge in wanton behavior, as if they were independent, and free, and the rulers of others, then by a necessity which is deaf to all entreaties and implacable, they will learn to feel their own nothingness in all things both small and great; for the driver who mounts upon them, putting a bridle upon this world, as though it were a winged chariot, drawing back with main strength the reins which before were loose, and pressing the bits severely, will remind them by whip and spur of his authority as master, which they, like wicked servants, have forgotten by reason of the gentle and merciful temper of their manager; for bad servants, looking upon the gentleness of masters as anarchy, fancy themselves entirely free from the power of any master at all, until their owner checks their great and increasing disease by applying punishment as a remedy.
For which reason the expression is used of “a lawless soul, which with its lips distinguishes well-doing and evil-doing, and then will subsequently announce its own sin.” [Leviticus v. 4] What sayest thou, O soul, full of insolence? For dost thou know what real good or real evil, real justice or real holiness, are? or what is suited to what? The knowledge of those things and the power of regulating them belongs to God alone, and to whoever is dear to him. And witness is borne to this assertion by the scripture in which it is said, “I will kill and I will cause to live; I will smite and I will heal.” [Deuteronomy xxxii. 39.] But the mind which was wise in its own conceit had not even a superficial dreaming intimation of the things placed above it: but, wretched that it was, it was so completely carried away by the wind of vain opinion that it swore that those things which it had erroneously imagined stood firmly and solidly. If, therefore, the violence and convulsion of the disease begin to relax, the sparks of returning health becoming gradually rekindled, will compel it at first to confess its error, that is to say, to reproach itself, and afterwards to become a suppliant at the altar, entreating with prayers, and supplications, and sacrifices, that it may only obtain pardon.
XLVI. After this who can fairly raise the question why the historian of the scriptures has spoken of the river of Egypt only as having banks and has made no such mention of the Euphrates or of any other of the sacred rivers; for here he says, “Thou shalt stand in the way to meet him by the bank of the river.” And yet perhaps some persons in a spirit of ridicule will say that it is not right to bring such matters as these forward for investigation, for that it rather displays a spirit of cavilling than does any good. But I imagine that such things, like sweetmeats, are prepared in the sacred scriptures, for the improvement of those who read them, and that we ought not to condemn the curiosity of those who investigate such matters, but that we should rather blame their indolence if they did not investigate them.
For our present discussion is not about the history of rivers but about ways of life, which are compared to the streams of rivers, running in opposite directions to one another. For the life of the good man consists in actions; but that of the wicked man is seen to consist only in worlds. And speech . . . . in the tongue, and mouth, and lips, and . . . .
[The rest of this treatise is lost.]