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Fragments of a Faith Forgotten

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Author Topic: Fragments of a Faith Forgotten  (Read 2154 times)
Peggie Welles
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« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2009, 01:08:43 am »

p. 66

PHILO ON THE CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE.

"As I have already treated of Essæans who the assiduously practise the [religious] life of action, The Essæans. carrying it out in all, or, not to speak too presumptuously, in most of its degrees, I will at once, following the sequence of my subject, proceed to say as much as is proper concerning those who embrace [the life of] contemplation; and that too without adding anything of my own to better the matter--as all the poets and history-writers are accustomed to do in the scarcity of good material--but artlessly holding to the truth itself, for even the most skilful [writer], I know, will fail to speak in accordance with her.

"Nevertheless the endeavour must be made and we must struggle through with it; for the greatness of the virtue of these men ought not to be a cause of silence for those who deem it right that no good thing should be kept silent.

"Now the purpose of our wisdom-lovers is immediately apparent from their name. They are The Name Therapeut. called Therapeutæ and Therapeutrides [men and women] in the original sense of the word; either because they profess an art of healing superior to that in use in cities (for that only heals (θεραπεύτει) bodies, whereas this [heals our] souls as well when laid hold of by difficult and scarce curable diseases, which pleasure and desire, and grief and fear, selfishness and folly, and injustice, and

p. 67

the endless multitude of passions and vices, inflict upon them), or else because they have been schooled by nature and the sacred laws to serve (θεραπεύτειν) That which is better than the Good and purer than the One and more ancient than the Monad."

Philo here indulges in a digression., contrasting the unintelligent worship of externals by the misinstructed in all religions with the worship of true Deity by those who follow the contemplative life. Those who are content to worship externals are blind; let them then remain deprived of sight. And he adds significantly, that he is not speaking of the sight of the body, but of that of the soul, by which alone truth and falsehood are distinguished from each other.

"But as for the race of devotees [the Therapeuts], who are ever taught more and more to see, let them strive for the intuition of That which is; let them transcend the sun which men perceive [and gaze upon the Light beyond], nor ever leave this rank [order, space, or plane], which. leads to perfect blessedness. Now they who betake themselves to [the divine] service [do so], not because of any custom, or on some one's advice or appeal, but carried away with heavenly love, like those initiated into the Bacchic and Corybantic Mysteries; they are afire with God until they behold the object of their love.

"Then it is that, through their yearning for that deathless and blessed Life, thinking that their Their Abandonment of the World. mortal life is already ended, they leave their possessions to their sons and daughters, or, may

p. 68

be, other relatives, with willing resolution making them their heirs before the time; while those who have no relatives [give their property] to their companions and friends."

In a digression Philo points out the difference between the sober orderly abandonment of property to follow the philosophic life, which he praises, and the wild exaggerations of the popular legends, which told how Anaxagoras and Democritus, when seized with the love of wisdom, allowed all their estates to be devoured by cattle.

"Whenever then [our wisdom-lovers] take the step of renouncing their goods, they are no longer enticed away by any one, but hurry on without once turning back, leaving behind them brethren, children, wives, parents, the multitudinous ties of relationship, and bonds of friendship, their native lands in which they have been born and reared; for the habitual is a drag and most powerful allurement.

"Nor do they emigrate to some other city (like illused or worthless slaves who, in claiming purchase Their Retreats. from their owners, only procure for themselves a change of masters and not freedom), for every city, even the best governed one, is full of innumerable tumults, forms of destruction, and disorders which would be insupportable to a man who has once taken wisdom as a guide.

"But they make their abode outside the walls in [shut in] woods or enclosed lands in pursuit of solitude, [and this] not to indulge any feeling of churlish dislike to their fellow-men, but from a knowledge that continual contact with those of

p. 69

dispositions dissimilar to their own is unprofitable and harmful.

"Now this natural class of men [lit. race] is to be found in many parts of the inhabited world, both the Grecian and non-Grecian world sharing in the perfect good.

"In Egypt there are crowds of them in every province, or nome as they call it, and especially The Mareōtic Colony. round Alexandria. For they who are in every way [or in every nome] the most highly advanced come as colonists, as it were, to the Therapeutic fatherland, to a spot exceedingly well adapted for the purpose, perched on a fairly high terrace [small plateau or group of small hills] overlooking Lake Marea or Lake Mareōtis immediately south of Alexandria, in a most favourable situation both for security and mildness of temperature. Security [sci. from robbers] is ensured by the belt of homesteads and villages [which surrounds the terrace], and the mildness of temperature is due to the continual breezes sent up by the lake, which opens into the sea, and from the proximity of the open sea itself. The breezes from the sea are light, while those from the lake are heavy, and their combination produces a most healthy condition [of the atmosphere].

"The dwellings of the community are very simple, merely providing shelter against the two Their Dwellings. greatest necessities, the extreme heat of the sun and the extreme cold of the air. The dwellings are not close together as those in towns, for neighbourhood is irksome and unpleasing to those

p. 70

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