THE PYTHAGOREAN SOURCEBOOK AND LIBRARY
ON THE NATURE OF THE UNIVERSE
OCELLUS LUCANUS was an early Pythagorean as were other members of his family. This writing seems to be post-Aristotelian. As Holger Thesleff observes in his Introduction to the Pythagorean Writings of the Hellenistic Period, the work seems to be influenced by Peripatetic conceptions and demonstrations concerning the nature of generation and destruction; and the ending. on the generation of good offspring. may derive from Aristoxenus.
ON THE NATURE OF THE UNIVERSE
1. On the Eternity and Indestructibility of the Universe
OCELLUS LUCANUS HAS WRITTEN what follows concerning the nature of the universe, having learnt some things through clear arguments from Nature herself, but others from opinion in conjunction with reason, it being his intention [here] to derive what is probable from intellectual perception.
Therefore it appears to me that the universe is indestructible and unbegotten, since it always was and always will be; for if it had a temporal beginning, it would not always have existed. Thus therefore the universe is unbegotten and indestructible. For if some one should claim that it was once generated, he would not be able to find anything into which it can be corrupted and dissolved, since that from which it was generated would be the first part of the universe; and again, that into which it would be dissolved would be the last part of it.
But if the universe was generated, it was generated together with all things; and if it should be corrupted, it would be corrupted together with all things. This however is impossible. This universe is therefore without a beginning, and without an end; nor is it possible that it can have any other mode of subsistence.
It may be added that everything which has received a beginning of generation, and which ought also to participate in dissolution, receives two mutations. The first, indeed, proceeds from the less to the greater, and from the worse to the better; and that from which it begins to change is denominated generation, but that which at length it arrives is called climax. The other mutation, however, proceeds from the great to the less, and from the better to the worse; but the end of this mutation is called corruption and dissolution.
If therefore the whole and the universe were generated, and are corruptible, they must, when generated, have been changed from the less to the greater, and from the worse to the better; but when corrupted, they must be changed from the greater to the less, and from the better to the worse. Hence, if the world was generated, it would receive increase, and would arrive at its consummation; and again, it would afterwards decrease and end. For every thing which has a progression possesses three boundaries and two intervals: the three boundaries are generation, consummation and end, and the intervals are progression from generation to consummation, and from consummation to end.
The whole, however, and the universe affords as from itself no indication of anything of this kind; for neither do we perceive it rising into existence, or becoming to be, nor changing to the better and the greater, nor changing to worse or less, but it always continues to subsist in the identical manner, and perpetually remains self-identical.
Clear signs and indications of this are the orders of things, their symmetry, figurations, positions, intervals, powers, swiftness and slowness in respect to each other; and besides these, their numbers and temporal periods are clear signs and indications. For all such things as these change and diminish conformably to the course of generation; for things that are greater and better tend towards consummation through power, but those that are less and worse decay through the inherent weakness of nature.
The whole world is what I call the whole universe; for this word "cosmos" was given it as a result of its being adorned with all things. From itself it is a consummate and perfect system of all things, for there is nothing external to the universe, since whatever exists is contained in the universe, and the universe subsists together with this, comprehending in itself all things, both parts and superfluities.
The things contained in the world are naturally congruous with it; but the world harmonizes with nothing else, symphonizing with itself. Other things do not possess self-subsistence, but require adjustment with their environment. Thus animals require conjunction with air for the purpose of respiration, and with light in order to see, and similarly the other senses with other environments to function satisfactorily. A conjunction with earth is necessary for the germination of plants. The sun, moon, planets and fixed stars likewise integrate with the world, as part of its general arrangement. The world, however, has no conjunction with anything outside of itself.
The above is supported by the following. Fire which imparts heat to others is self-hot; honey which is sweet to the taste is self-sweet. The principles of demonstrations, which conclude to things unapparent, are self-evident. Therefore the cause of the perfection of other things is itself perfect. That which preserves and renders permanent other things must itself be preserved and permanent. What harmonizes must itself be self-harmonic. Now as the world is the cause of the existence, preservation and perfection of other things, the world must itself be perpetual and perfect; and because its duration is everlasting, it becomes the cause of the permanence of all other things.
In short, if the universe should be dissolved, it would be dissolved either into the existent or non-existent. It could not be dissolved into existence, for in this case the dissolution would not be a corruption, as being either the universe or some part of it. Nor can it be dissolved into non-entity, since being cannot possibly arise from non-being, or be dissolved into non-entity. Therefore the universe is incorruptible and never can be destroyed.
If, however, somebody should think that it can be corrupted, it must be corrupted either from something external to or contained in the universe; but it cannot be corrupted by anything external to it, for nothing such exists, since all other things are comprehended in the universe, and the world is the whole and the all. Nor can it be corrupted by the things it contains, which would imply their greater power. This however is impossible, for all things are led and governed by the universe, and thereby are preserved and adjusted, possessing life and soul. But if the universe can neither be corrupted by anything external to it, nor by anything contained within it, the world must therefore be incorruptible and indestructible, for we consider the world identical with the universe.
Further, the whole of nature surveyed through its own totality, will be found to derive continuity from the first and most honorable bodies, proportionally attenuating this continuity, introducing it to everything mortal, and receiving the progression of its peculiar subsistence; for the first (and most honorable) bodies in the universe revolve according to the Same,  and similarly. The progression of the whole of nature, however, is not successive and continuous, nor yet local, but is subject to mutation.
When condensed, fire generates air, air water, and water earth. A return circuit of transformation extends backward from earth to fire, whence it originated. Likewise, fruits and most rooted plants, originate from seeds. When however they fruit and mature, they are again resolved into seed, nature producing a complete circular progression.
In a subordinate manner men and other animals change the universal boundary of nature, for in these there is no periodical return to the first age; nor is there a transfusion, such as between fire and air, and water and earth, but the mutations of their ages being accomplished in a four-cycled circle, they are dissolved and reformed.
These therefore are the signs and indications that the universe which comprehends [all things) will always endure and be preserved, but that its parts and its nonessential additions are corrupted and dissolved.
Further, it is credible that the universe is without a beginning, and without end, from its figure, motion, time and essence; and therefore it may be concluded that the world is unbegotten and incorruptible, for its figure is circular, and as a circular figure is similar and equal on all sides, it is therefore without a beginning or end. Circular is also the motion of the universe, but this motion is stable and without transition. Time, likewise, in which motion exists, is infinite, for neither had this a beginning, nor will it have an end of its revolution. The universe's essence also does not waste elsewhere, and is immutable, because it is not naturally adapted to change, either from worse to better, or from better to worse. From all these arguments, therefore, it is obviously credible that the world is unbegotten and incorruptible. So much about the world and the universe.
2. Creation of the Elements
SINCE, HOWEVER, IN THE UNIVERSE there is a difference between generation and the generated, and since generation occurs where there is a mutation and egress from things which rank as subjects, then must the cause of generation subsist as long as the generated matter. The cause of generation must be both efficient and motive, while the recipient must be passive and moved.
The Fates themselves distinguish and separate the impassive part of the world from that which is perpetually in motion. For the course of the moon is the meeting-line of generation and immortality. The region above the moon, as well as the lunar domain, is the residence of divinities, while the sublunar regions are the abodes of strife and nature, for in this place there is a mutation of things that are generated and a regeneration of things which have perished.
In that part of the world, however, in which nature and generation predominate, it is necessary that the three following things be present. In the first place, there is the body which yields to the touch, and which is the subject of all generated natures. But this will be an universal recipient, and a characteristic of generation itself, having the same relation to the things that are generated from it, as water to taste, silence to sound, darkness to light, and the matter of artificial forms to the forms themselves. For water is tasteless and devoid of quality, yet is capable of receiving the sweet and the bitter, the tart and the salty. Air also, which is formless as regards sound, is the recipient of words and melody. Darkness, which is without color, and without form, becomes the recipient of splendor, and of the yellow color, and the white; but white pertains to the statuary's art and to the wax-sculptor's art. Matter's relation, however, is different from the sculptor's art, for in matter, prior to generation, all things exist in potential, but they exist in perfection when they are generated, and receive their proper nature. Hence matter [or universal recipient] is necessary to the existence of generation.
The second necessity is the existence of contrarieties, in order to effect mutations and changes in quality, matter for this purpose receiving passive qualities and an aptitude to the participations of form. Contrariety is also necessary in order that powers which are naturally mutually repugnant may not finally conquer or vanquish each other. These powers are hot and cold, dryness and moistness.
In the third place rank essences, and these are fire and water, air and earth, of which heat and cold, dryness and moistness, are powers. Yet essences differ from powers, for essences are locally corrupted by each power, but powers are neither corrupted nor generated, as their reasons [or forms] are incorporeal.
Of these four powers, however, heat and cold subsist as causes and things of an effective nature, but the dry and the moist rank as matter and things that are passive, though matter is the first recipient of things, for it is that which is spread under all things in common. Hence the body, whose capacity is the object of sense, and ranks as a principle, is the first thing; while contraries, such as heat and cold, moistness and dryness, rank as primary differences, and heaviness and lightness, density and rarity, are related as things produced from primary differences. All of them, however, amount to sixteen: heat and cold, moistness and dryness, heaviness and lightness, rarity and density, smoothness and roughness, hardness and softness, thinness and thickness, acuteness and obtuseness. Knowledge of all of these is had by touch, which forms a judgement; hence also any body whatever which contains capacity for these can be apprehended by touch.
Heat and dryness, rarity and sharpness are the powers of fire; coldness and moistness, density and obtuseness are those of water; those of air are softness, smoothness, light, and the quality of being attenuated; while those of earth are hardness and roughness, heaviness and thickness.
Of these four bodies, however, fire and earth are the intensities of contraries. Fire is the intensity of heat, as ice is of cold; and if ice is a concretion of moisture and frigidity, fire will be the fervor of dryness and heat. That is why neither fire nor ice generate anything.
Fire and earth, therefore, are the extremities of the elements, while water and air are the media, for they have a mixed corporeal nature. Nor is it possible that there could be only one of the extremes, a contrary thereto being necessary. Nor could there only be two, for it is necessary to have a medium, as media oppose extremes.
Fire therefore is hot and dry, but air is hot and moist; water is moist and cold, and earth is cold and dry. Hence heat is common to air and fire; cold is common to water and earth; dryness to earth and fire, and moisture to water and air. But with respect to the peculiarities of each, heat is the peculiarity of fire, dryness of earth, moisture of air, and frigidity of water. These essences remain permanent, through the possession of common properties, but they change through such as are peculiar, when one contrary overcomes another.
Hence, when the moisture in air overcomes the dryness in fire, or when water's frigidity overcomes air's heat, and earth's dryness overcomes water's moistness, and vice versa, then are effected the mutual mutations and generations of the elements.
The body, however, which is the subject and recipient of mutations, is a universal receptacle, and is in capacity the first tangible substance.
But the mutations of the elements are effected either from a change of earth into fire, or from fire into air, or from air into water, or from water into earth. Mutation is also effected in the third place, when each element's contrariness is corrupted, simultaneously with the preservation of everything kindred and coeval. Generation therefore is effected when one contrary quality is corrupted. For fire, indeed, is hot and dry, but air is hot and moist, and heat is common to both; and the peculiarity of fire is dryness, and of air, moisture. Hence when the moisture in air overcomes the dryness in fire, then fire is changed into air.
Again, since water is moist and cold, but air is moist and hot, moisture is common to both. Water's peculiarity is coldness, and that of air, heat. When therefore the coldness in water overcomes the heat in air, air is altered into water.
Further, earth is cold and dry, and water cold and moist, coldness being common to both. But earth's peculiarity is dryness, and water's moisture. When therefore earth's dryness overcome water's moisture, water is altered into earth.
Earth's mutation in the ascending alteration occurs in a contrary way. One alternate mutation is effected when one whole vanquishes another, and two contrary powers are corrupted, nothing being common to them, at the same time. For since fire is hot and dry, while water is cold and moist, when the moisture in water overcomes the dryness in fire, and water's coldness overcomes fire's heat, then fire is altered into water.
Again, earth is cold and dry, while air is hot and moist. When therefore earth's coldness overcomes air's heat, and earth's dryness overcomes air's moisture, then air is altered into earth.
When air's moisture corrupts fire's heat, then from both of them will be generated fire; for air's heat, and fire's dryness will remain, fire being hot and dry.
When earth's coldness is corrupted, and also water's moisture, then from both of them will be generated earth. For earth's dryness and water's coldness will be left, as earth is cold and dry.
But when air's heat and fire's heat are corrupted, no element will be generated; for in both of these will remain contraries, air's moisture and fire's dryness. Moisture is however contrary to dryness.
Again, when earth's coldness, and that of water are corrupted, neither thus will any generation occur, for earth's dryness, and water's moisture will remain. But dryness is contrary to moisture.
Thus we have briefly discussed the generation of the first bodies, and how and from what subjects it is effected.
Since, however, the world is indestructible and unbegotten, and neither had a beginning of generation, nor will have an end, it is necessary that the nature which produces generation in another thing, and also that which generates in itself, should be simultaneously present. That which produces generation in another thing is the whole superlunary region, though the more proximate cause is the sun, who by his comings and goings continually changes the air, from hot to cold, which again changes the earth, and alters all its contents.
The obliquity of the zodiac, also, is well placed in respect to the sun's motion, for it likewise is the cause of generation. This is universally accomplished by the universe's proper order, wherein some things are active, and others passive. Different therefore is the generator, which is superlunary, while that which is generated is sublunary; and that which consists of both of these -- namely, an ever- running body, and an ever-mutable generated nature -- is the world itself.
3. The Perpetuity of the World
MAN'S GENERATION did not originate from the earth, other animals, or plants, but the world's proper order being perpetual, the aptly arranged natures it contains should share with it never-failing subsistence. As primarily the world existed always, its parts must coexist with it, and by these I mean the heavens, the earth, and what is contained between them, and that which is on high and is called aerial, for the world does not exist without these, but with and from these.
As the world's parts are co-subsistent, their comprehended natures must coexist with them; with the heavens, indeed, the sun, moon, fixed stars and planets; with the earth, animals and plants, gold and silver; with the aerial region, pneumatic substances and wind, heating and cooling; for it is the property of the heavens to subsist in conjunction with the natures which it comprehends, of the earth to support its native plants and animals, and of the aerial regions to be co-subsistent with the natures it has generated.
Since therefore in each division of the world there is arranged a certain genus of animals which surpasses its fellows, the heavens are the habitat of the Gods, on the earth men, and in the space between, the geniuses. Therefore the race of men must be perpetual, since reason convinces us that not only are the world's parts co-subsistent with it, but so also are their comprehended natures.
Sudden destruction and mutations, however, take place in the parts of the earth; the sea overflows on to the land, or the earth shakes and splits through the unobserved entrance of wind or water. But an entire destruction of the earth's whole arrangement never took place nor ever will.
Hence the story that Grecian history began with Inachus of Argos is false, if understood to be a first principle, but true as some mutation of Greek politics; for Greece has frequently been and will again be barbarous, not only from the influx of foreigners, but from Nature herself, which, although she does not become greater or less, yet is always younger, and has a beginning in reference to us.
So much about the whole, and the universe, the generation and corruption of natures generated in it, of how they subsist, and forever, one part of the universe consisting of a nature which is perpetually moved, and another part being passive; and of how the former governs and how the latter is ever governed.
4. The Generation of Men
LAW, TEMPERANCE AND PIETY conspire in explaining as follows the generation of men from each other, after what manner, from what particulars, and how it is effected. The first postulate is that sexual association should occur never for pleasure, but only for procreation of children.
Those powers and instruments and appetites ministering to copulation were implanted in men by divinity, not for the sake of voluptuousness, but for the perpetuation of the race. Since it was impossible that man, who is born mortal, should participate in a divine life were his race not immortal, divinity operated this immortality through individuals, and lent continuity to mankind's generation. This is the first essential, that cohabitation should not be effected for mere pleasure.
Next, man should be considered in connection with the social organism, a house or city, and especially that each human progeny should work at the completion of the world, unless he plans to be a deserter of either the domestic, political or divine Vestal hearth.
For those who are not entirely connected with each other for the sake of begetting children injure the most honorable system of convention. But if persons of this description procreate with libidinous insolence and intemperance, their offspring will be miserable and flagitious, and will be execrated by God and divinities, by men, families and cities.
Those therefore who deliberately consider these things ought not, in a way similar to irrational animals, to engage in venereal connection, but should think copulation a necessary good. For it is the opinion of worthy men that it is necessary and beautiful not only to fill houses with large families, and also the greater part of the earth, for man is the most mild and the best of all animals, and it is a thing of the greatest consequence to cause them to abound with the most excellent men.
For on this account men inhabit cities governed by the best laws, rightly manage their domestic affairs, and if they are able, impart to their friends such political employments as are conformable to the polities in which they live, since they not only provide for the multitude at large, but especially for worthy men.
Hence many men err who enter into the connubial state without regarding the magnitude of the power of fortune, or of public utility, but direct their attention to wealth, or to dignity of birth. For in consequence of this, instead of uniting with females who are young and in the flower of their age, they become connected with extremely old women; and instead of having wives with a disposition according with, and most similar to their own, they marry those who are of an illustrious family, or are extremely rich. On this account they procure for themselves discord instead of concord; and instead of unanimity, dissension, contending with each other for the mastery. For the wife who surpasses her husband in wealth, in birth, or in friends, is desirous of ruling over him, contrary to the law of nature. But the husband justly resisting this desire of superiority in his wife, and wishing not to be the second, but the first in domestic sway, is unable in the management of his family to take the lead.
This being the case, it happens that not only families, but cities become miserable. For families are parts of cities, while the composition of the whole and the universe derives its subsistence from its parts. It is therefore reasonable to admit that such as are the parts, such likewise will be the whole and the all which consists of things of this kind.
As in fabrics of a primary nature the first structures cooperate greatly to the good or bad completion of the whole work-as for instance the manner in which the foundation is laid in house-building, the structure of a keel in ship-building, and the utterance and closing of the voice in musical modulation-so the concordant condition of families greatly contributes to the well or ill establishment of a polity.
Those therefore who direct their attention to the propagation of the human species ought to guard against everything which is dissimilar and imperfect; for neither plants nor animals when imperfect are prolific, but their fructification demands a certain amount of time, so that when the bodies are strong and perfect they may produce seeds and fruits.
Hence it is necessary that boys and girls while they are virgin should be trained up in exercises and proper endurance, and that they be nourished with that kind of food which is adapted to a laborious, temperate and patient life.
Moreover, in human life there are many things of such a kind that it is better for the knowledge of them to be deferred for a certain time. Hence a boy should be so tutored as not to seek after venereal pleasures before he is twenty years of age, and then should rarely engage in them. This however will take place if he conceives that a good habit of body and continence are beautiful and honorable.
The following laws should be taught in Grecian cities: that connection with a mother, or a daughter, or a sister should not be permitted Whether in temples or in a public place, for it would be well to employ numerous impediments to this energy.
All unnatural connections should be prevented, especially those attended with wanton insolence. But such as harmonize with nature should be encouraged, such as are effected with temperance for the purpose of producing a temperate and legitimate offspring.
Again, those who intend to beget children should providentially attend to the welfare of their future offspring. A temperate and salutary diet therefore is the first and greatest thing to be considered by the would-be begetter, so that he should neither be filled with unseasonable food, nor become intoxicated, nor subject himself to any other perturbation which may injure the body-habits. But above all things he should be careful that the mind, in the act of copulation, should remain in a tranquil state, for bad seed is produced from depraved, discordant and turbulent habits.
With all possible earnestness and attention we should endeavor that children be born elegant and graceful, and that when born they should be well educated. For it is foolish that those who rear horses, birds or dogs should with the utmost diligence render the breed perfect, doing what is proper when it is proper, and likewise consider how they ought to be disposed when they copulate with each other, that the offspring be not the result of chance-while men are inattentive to their progeny, begetting them by chance; and having begotten offspring, should neglect both their food and education. It is the disregard of these things that causes all vice and depravity, since those born will resemble cattle, and will be ignoble and vile.
AS LIFE CONTAINS BODIES, whose cause is the soul, so harmony, connectedly, comprehends the world, whose cause is God. Likewise concord unites families, whose cause is the law. Therefore there is a certain cause and nature which perpetually adapts to each other the parts of the world, hindering their being disordered and unconnected. However, cities and families continue only for a short time, as the formers' constituent matter, and the latters' progeny -- being causes of dissolution-derive their subsistence from a mutable and perpetually passive nature. For the destruction of things which are generated is the salvation of the matter from which they are generated. That nature, however, which is perpetually moved [the celestial region] governs, while that which is always passive [the sublunary region] is governed, the capacity of the former being prior, and of the latter posterior. The former is divine, possessing reason and intellect, the latter being generated, irrational and mutable.
1. The Same and the Other are Platonic terms for Limit and Unlimited.