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Fragments of a Faith Forgotten

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Author Topic: Fragments of a Faith Forgotten  (Read 2268 times)
Peggie Welles
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« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2009, 01:10:18 am »

"A number of them, in whom the thirst for wisdom is implanted to a greater degree, remind themselves of their food but once in three days,

p. 73

while a few are so cheered and fare so sumptuously Fasting. at wisdom's banquet of teachings which she so richly and unstintingly sets before them, that they can last for twice the time, and even after six days barely take a mouthful of the most necessary food, being trained to live on air, as they say the grasshoppers do [Plato, Phaedr.], their needs made light by their singing methinks.

"Since then they regard the seventh day as all-hallowed The Seventh Day Common Meal. and high festival, they consider it worthy of special honour, and on it, after paying due attention to the soul, they anoint the body, giving it, as also indeed they do their cattle, respite from continual labour. Still they partake of no dainty fare, but plain bread with salt for seasoning, which the gourmands supplement with an extra relish of hyssop; while for drink they have water from the spring. Thus in mollifying those tyrants which nature has set over the mortal race--hunger and thirst, they offer them nothing to tickle their vanity, but only such bare necessities as make life possible. Accordingly they eat only to escape hunger, and drink only to escape thirst, avoiding satiety as an enemy of and a plotter against both soul and body.

"Now there are two kinds of covering--clothes and house. As to their dwelling I have already Housing and Clothing. stated above that it is anything but beautiful to look at, and put together anyhow, being made to answer only its most absolutely necessary purpose; and as to their clothing, it is equally of the plainest description, just to protect them from cold

p. 74

and heat; in winter a thick mantle instead of a woolly hide, and in summer a sleeveless robe of fine linen.

"For in everything they practise simplicity, knowing that vanity has falsehood for its origin, but simplicity truth, each of them containing the innate power of its source; for from falsehood stream forth the manifold kinds of evils, while from truth come the abundant blessings of good both human and divine.

"I would also touch upon the general meetings in which they pass the time in greater festivity Their Sacred Feasts. than usual banqueting together, contrasting them with the banquets of others."

Philo here indulges in a long digression in which he paints in the strongest colours the debauchery and extravagance of the banquets of voluptuaries, in order to contrast them as much as possible with the sacred feasts of the Therapeuts.

"In the first place they all come together at the end of every seventh week, for they reverence not only the simple period of seven days, but also the period of the power [or square] of seven, since they know that the 'seven' is pure and ever-virgin. Their seventh day festival then is only a prelude to their greatest feast, which is assigned to the fiftieth, the most holy and natural of numbers, [the sum] of the powers of the [perfect] right-angled triangle, which has been appointed as the origin of the generation of the cosmic elements.

"When then they have assembled together, clad in white robes, with joyous looks and with the

p. 75

greatest solemnity, at sign from one of the Ephemereuts for the day (for this is the usual name The Banquet on the Fiftieth Day. for those who are engaged in such duties), and before sitting down, standing one beside the other in rows in a certain order, and raising their eyes and hands to heaven--their eyes, since they are trained to gaze on things worthy of contemplation; and their hands, since they are pure of gain, unstained by any pretence of money-making affairs--they offer prayer unto God that their banquet may be pleasing and acceptable.

"After prayers the seniors sit down to table, following the order of their election. For they do Seniority. not regard as seniors merely those who are advanced in years and have reached old age (nay, they regard such as quite young children if they have only lately fallen in love with the higher life), but such as have grown up and arrived at maturity in the contemplative part of philosophy, which is unquestionably its fairest and most divine portion.

"And women also share in the banquet, most of whom have grown old in virginity, preserving their The Women Disciples. purity not from necessity (as some of the priestesses among the Greeks), but rather of their own free-will, through their zealous love of wisdom, with whom they are so keenly desirous of spending their lives that they pay no attention to the pleasures of the body. Their longing is not for mortal children, but for a deathless progeny which the soul that is in love with God can alone bring forth, when the Father has implanted in it those spiritual light-beams, with which it shall

p. 76

contemplate the laws of wisdom. There is, however, a division made between them in their places at table, the men being apart on the right, and the women apart on the left."

(It should be remembered that it was the custom in the Greco-Roman world to recline at table, leaning on the left elbow with a cushion under the arm. The person reclining to the right of another was said to lie on the latter's breast (ἀυακεῖσθαι ἐυ τῷ κόλπῳ). Cf. the canonical phrase, "the disciple who lay on His breast at meat.")

"Perhaps you suspect that cushions, if not luxurious at any rate of tolerable softness, are provided The Plain Couches. for people well-born and well-bred and students of philosophy, whereas they have nothing but mattresses of the more easily procurable material (the papyrus of the country), over which [they throw] the plainest possible rugs, slightly raised at the elbow for them to lean upon. For on the one hand they somewhat relax their [usual] Spartan rigour of life [on such occasions], while on the other [even at the banquets] they always study the most liberal frugality in everything, rejecting the allurements of pleasure with all their might.

"Nor are they waited upon by slaves, since they consider the possession of servants in general The Servers. to be contrary to nature. For nature has created all men free; but the injustice and selfishness of those who strive after inequality (the root of all evil), have set the yoke of power on the necks of the weaker and harnessed them to [the chariots of] the stronger.

p. 77

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