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first suggested, I believe, by Higgens or Dalton. And hence the doctrine of numbers is well known to have been very largely and very repeatedly had recourse to under the Pythagorean system, and to have been used in explanation, not only of the endowment of different portions of matter with different forms, but of the harmony with which the different natures of matter and mind unite in identic substances. Numbers and forms are, in consequence, not unfrequently contemplated as the same thing as the models or archetypes after which the world in all its parts is framed as the cause of entity to visible beings; τοῦς ἀριθμοὺς αἰτίους εἶναι τῆς οὐσίας. *
And hence, again, under the term monad, or unity, Pythagoras is generally conceived to have symbolised God, or the active principle in nature; under duad, the passive principle, or matter; and under triad, the visible world, produced by the union of the two former.
Pythagoras, however, was as much attached to music as to numbers, regarding it as a mere branch of the science of numbers applied to a definite object. He has, indeed, the credit of having invented the monochord, and of having applied the principles of music, as well as those of numbers, to the study of physics. He conceived that the celestial spheres, in which the planets move, striking upon the elastic ether through which they pass, must produce a sound, and a sound that must vary according to the diversity of their magnitude, velocity, and relative distance; and as the adjustment of the heavenly bodies to each other is perfect in *Arist. Met. lib. i. c. 6. Plut. Plac. Phil. lib. i. cap. 3. Athenag. Apol. 49.
every respect, he farther conjectured, that the harmony produced by their revolutions must also be the most perfect imaginable: and hence the origin of a notion, which is now, however, only entertained in a figurative sense, a sense frequently laid hold of by our own poets, and thus exquisitely enlarged on by Dryden :
From harmony, from heav'nly harmony,
This universal frame began.
When nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head,
Then hot and cold, and moist and dry,
And Music's power obey.
From harmony, from heav'nly harmony,
This universal frame began;
From harmony to harmony,
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
What Pythagoras thus called numbers, Plato denominated ideas; a term which has hence descended to our own day, and is on every one's lips, although in a different sense from what it originally imported. The reason or wisdom of the great First Cause, and which he denominates the logos of God, λóyos, or ὁ λογισμὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, and not unfrequently Δημιουργὸς (Demiurgus), Plato describes as a distinct principle from the Original Cause or Deity himself, from whom this efficient or operative cause, this divine wisdom or logos, emanates, and has eternally emanated, as light and heat from the sun. Thus emanating, he conceived it to be the immediate region or reservoir
of ideas or intellectual forms, of the archetypes or patterns of things, subsisting by themselves as real beings — τὰ ὄντως ὄντα — in this their eternal and original well-spring; and the union of which with the whole, or any portion of primary or incorporeal matter, immediately produces palpable forms and renders them objects of contemplation, and science to the external senses.*
It is, hence, obvious that Plato contended for a triad or trinity of substances in the creation of the visible universe-God, divine wisdom, or the eternal source of intellectual forms or ideas, and incorporeal matter. And it is on this account that several of the earliest Christian fathers, who, as I have already observed, had been educated in the Platonic school, and had imbibed his notions, regarded this doctrine as of divine origin; and endeavoured, though preposterously, to blend the trinity of Plato, and that of the Christian scripture, into one common dogma: an attempt which has been occasionally revived in modern times, especially by Cudworth and Ogilvie, with great profundity of learning and great shrewdness of argument, but, at the same time, with as little success as in the first ages of Christianity.
It is to this theory, which, indeed, is highly fitted for poetry, and much better so than for dry, dialectic discussion, Akenside beautifully alludes in the first book of his "Pleasures of Imagination:"
Ere the radiant sun
Sprang from the east, or, mid the vault of night,
Ere mountains, woods, or streams adorn'd the globe,
*Plac. Phil. lib. i. cap. 10. Tim. lib. c.
Then lived th' Eternal ONE: then, deep retired
The radiant sun, the moon's nocturnal lamp,
The mountains, woods, and streams, the rolling globe,
Of days, on them his love divine he fix'd,
Hence the green earth, and wild-resounding waves;
And all the fair variety of things.
While, however, we thus point out the fancifulness and imperfections of these hypotheses, let us, with the candour of genuine philosophy, do justice to the merits of their great inventors, and join in the admiration which has been so duly bestowed upon them by the wise and learned of every country. It was Plato who first suggested to Galileo, even upon his own confession, that antagonist power by which a rectilinear motion can be converted into an orbicular, and thus laid a basis for our accounting for the regular movements of the heavenly bodies *, a subject upon which we shall enter to a certain extent in our next lecture; who, in some degree, anticipated that correct system of colours which nothing but the genius of a Newton could fully develope and explain t; who, in mathematics, un
* Galilei Discorsi è Dimostrazioni Mathematiche, p. 254. 4to. Leyd. 1638. Dutens, Origine des Decouvertes, &c. p. 90. 4to. Lond. 1796.
+ Plut. de Placitis Philos. lib. i. cap. 15. p. 32. Dutens ut supr. p. 101.
folded to us the analytic method of solving a problem*, and in theosophy so far surpassed all the philosophers of his country, in his correct views and sublime descriptions of the Deity, that he seems almost to have drunk of the inspiration of Horeb or of Sinai and who, in his Timæus, applies to the wisdom of God, the λογισμὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ—a term which in Hebrew could scarcely be translated by any other word than that of Jeveh or Jehovah-Taç vtws åeì†, "WHATEVER IS ESSENTIALLY ETERNAL."
Of Pythagoras, it is only necessary to direct the attention to the two following very extraordinary facts, to place him beyond the reach of panegyric; the first of which has occasionally furnished reflection for other writers, though the latter remains unnoticed to the present moment. At an antedate of two thousand two hundred years from the age of Copernicus, this wonderful genius laid the first foundation of the Copernican system, and taught to his disciples that the earth revolves both around her own axis and around the sun; that the latter motion is conducted in an oblique path or zodiac‡; and that the moon is an earth of the same kind as our own, and replete with animals, whose nature, however, he does not venture to describe. §
*Dutens, ut supr. p. 251.
+ Plutarch. in Tim. lib. iii. 34. 37.
Plutarch. de Placitis, lib. iii. cap. 11. 13.
lib. viii. sect. 85. Copernicus himself admits that he derived his first hint of the earth's motion from Nicetas, a follower of Pythagoras. Vide his address to Paul III. Delambre, however, in his elaborate history of the Ancient Astronomy, entertains doubts whether Pythagoras really suggested the notions thus imputed to him.
§ Plutarch. de Placit. Cicer. Acad. Quæst. lib. iv. p. 984.