THE PYTHAGOREAN SOURCEBOOK AND LIBRARY
ECPHANTUS THE CROTONIAN:
MANY ARGUMENTS apparently prove that every being's nature is adapted to the world and the things it contains. Every animal thus conspiring [in union and consent] and having such an organization of its parts, through the attractive flux of the universe around it, effects the general ornamentation of the world and the peculiar permanence of everything it contains. Hence it is called the kosmos and is the most perfect living thing.
When we study its parts we find them many and naturally different: First, a being who is the best, both from its native alliance to the world, and in its particular divinity [containing the stars called planets, forming the first and greatest series]. Second is the nature of the divinities, in the sublunary region, where bodies move in a straight line. Third, in the earth and with us, the best being is man, of whom the most divine is a king, surpassing other men in his general being. While his body resembles that of other men, being made of the same physical matter, he was molded by the best sculptors who used him as the archetype. Hence, in a certain respect, a king is one and alone, being the production of the supernal king with whom he is always familiar, being beheld by his subjects in his kingdom as in a splendid light.
A kingdom has been said to resemble an eagle, the most excellent of winged animals, who undazzled stares at the sun. A kingdom is also similar to the sun, because it is divine, and because its exceeding splendor cannot be seen without difficulty, except by piercing eyes that are genuine. For the numerous splendors that surround it, and the dark vertigos it produces in those that gaze at it, as if they had ascended into some foreign altitude, demonstrates that their eyes are spurious. Those however who can safely arrive thither, on account of their familiarity or alliance therewith, can use it properly.
A kingdom, therefore, is something pure, genuine, uncorrupted, and because of its preeminence, divine and difficult of access. He who is established therein should naturally be most pure and lucid in his soul, that by his personal stains he may not obscure so splendid an institution, as some persons defile the most sacred places, and the impure pollute those they meet. But a king, who associates with men should be undefiled, realizing how much more divine than other things are both himself and his prerogatives; and from the divine exemplar of which he is an image, he should treat both himself and his subjects worthily.
When other men are delinquents, their most holy purification causes them to imitate their rulers, whether laws or kings. But kings who cannot on earth find anything better than their own nature to imitate should not waste time in seeking any model other or lower than God himself. No one would long search for the world, seeing that he exists in it, as a part of it; so the governor of others should not ignore him by whom he also is governed. Being ruled is the supreme ornament, inasmuch as there is nothing rulerless in the universe.
A king's manners should also be the inspiration of his government. Thus its beauty will immediately shine forth, since he who imitates God through virtue will surely be dear to him who he imitates, and much more dear will he be to his subjects. No one who is beloved by the divinity will be hated by men, since neither do the stars nor the whole world hate God. For if they hated their ruler and leader they would never obey him. But it is because he governs properly that human affairs are properly governed. The earthly king, therefore, should not be deficient in any of the virtues distinctive of the heavenly ruler.
Now as an earthly king is something foreign and external, inasmuch as he descends to men from the heavens, so likewise his virtues may be considered as works of God and descending upon him from divinity. You will find this true if you study out the whole thing from the beginning.
An earthly king obtains possession of his subjects by an agreement which is the first essential. The truth of this may be gathered from the state of affairs produced by the destruction of the usual unanimity among citizens, which indeed is much inferior to a divine and royal nature. Such natures are not oppressed by any such poverty but, conforming to intellect, they supply the wants of others, assisting them in common, being perfect in virtue. But the friendship existing in a city, and possessing a certain common end, imitates the concord of the universe. No city could be inhabited without an institution of magistrates. To effect this, however, and to preserve the city, there is a necessity of laws, a political domination, a governor and the governed. All this happens for the general good, for unanimity and the consent of the people in harmony with organic efficiency. Likewise, he who governs according to virtue is called a king, and is so in reality, since he possesses the same friendship and communion with his subjects as divinity possesses with the world and its contained natures. All benevolence, however, ought to be exerted in the first place, indeed, by the king towards his subjects; second, by the subjects towards the king; and this benevolence should be similar to that of a parent towards his child, or a shepherd towards his flock, and of the law towards the law-abiding.
For there is one virtue pertaining to the government and to the life of men. No one should through indigence solicit the assistance of others when he is able to supply himself with what nature requires. Though [in the city] there is a certain community of goods, yet everyone should live so as to be self-sufficient, which requires the aid of no others in his passage through life. If therefore it is necessary to lead an active life, it is evident that a king, though he should also consume other things, will nevertheless be self-sufficient. For he will have friends through his own virtue, and in using these, he will not use them by any virtue other than that by which he regulates his own life. For he must follow a virtue of this kind since he cannot procure anything more excellent. God, indeed, needing neither ministers nor servants, nor employing any mandate, and neither crowning nor proclaiming those that are obedient to him, or disgracing those that are disobedient, thus administers so great an empire. In a manner to me appearing most worthy of imitation, he instills into all things a most zealous desire to participate in his nature. As he is good, the most easy possible communication thereof is his only work. Those who imitate him find that this imitation enables them to accomplish everything else better. Indeed the imitation of God is the self-sufficiency of everything else, for there is an identity, and no difference between the virtues that make things acceptable to God, and those that imitate him; and is not our earthly king in a similar manner self-sufficient? By assimilating himself to one, and that the most excellent nature, he will beneficently endeavor to assimilate all his subjects to himself.
Such kings, however, as towards their subjects use violence and compulsion, entirely destroy in every individual of the community a readiness to imitate himself. Without benevolence no assimilation is possible, since benevolence particularly effaces fear. It is indeed much to be desired that human nature should not be in want of persuasion, which is the relic of human depravity, of which the temporal being called man is not destitute. Persuasion, indeed, is akin to necessity inasmuch as it is chiefly used on persons flying from necessity. But persuasion is needless with beings such as spontaneously seek the beautiful and the good.
Again, a king alone is capable of effecting this human perfection, that through imitation of the excellent man may pursue propriety and loveliness, and that those who are corrupted as if by intoxication, and who have fallen into an ignorance of the good by a bad education, may be strengthened by the king's eloquence, may have their diseased minds healed, their depravity's dazedness expelled, and may become mindful of an intimate associate, whose influence may persuade them. Though originating from undesirable seeds, yet [this royal influence] is the source of a certain good to inhabitants of this terrestrial realm, where language supplies our deficiencies in our mutual converse.
He who has a sacred and divine conception of things will in reality be a king. Persuaded by this, he will be the cause of all good, but of no evil. Evidently, as he is fitted for society, he will become just. For communion or association consists in equality, and in its distribution. Justice indeed precedes, but communion participates. For it is impossible for a man to be unjust and yet distribute equality, or that we should distribute equality, and yet not be adapted to association.
How is it possible that he who is self-sufficient should not be continent? For sumptuousness is the mother of incontinence, and this of wanton insolence, and from this an innumerable host of ills. But self-sufficiency is not mastered by sumptuousness, nor by any of its derivative evils, but itself being a principle, it leads all things, and is not led by any. To govern is the province of God, and also of a king, on which account indeed he is called self-sufficient; so to both it pertains not to be governed by anyone.
Evidently, these things cannot be effected without prudence, and it is manifest that the world's intellectual prudence is God. For the world reveals graceful design which would be impossible without prudence. Nor is it possible for a king without prudence to possess these virtues -- I mean justice, continence, sociability and kindred virtues.