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Antoine Fabre d’Olivet-Pythagoras About Prayer

‘Pythagoreans celebrating sunrise’, 1869, painting by Fyodor Bronnikov.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is an excerpt from Antoine Fabre d’Olivet ‘s ‘The Golden Verses of Pythagoras,‘, 1813, with his commentaries. Treuttel & Wurtz, Paris and Strasbourg. The English translation was done in 1916 by NAYÁN LOUISE REDFIELD.

This is verse 26: “But before all, thy soul to its faithful duty, invoke these Gods with fervour, they whose aid, thy work begun, alone can terminate.”

This is an excerpt only from Antoine Fabre d’Olivet’s commentary. For the full text, please refer to the source given  below.


…/…’According to the doctrine of Pythagoras revealed by Hierocles, two things agree in the efficacy of prayer: the voluntary movement of our soul, and aid from heaven. The first of these things is that which seeks goodness; and the other that which shows it. Prayer is a medium between our quest and the celestial gift. One seeks, one prays in vain, if one adds not prayer to research and research to prayer. Virtue is an emanation from God; it is like a reflected image of the Divinity, the resemblance of which alone constitutes the good and the beautiful. The soul which is attached to this admirable type of all perfection is aroused to prayer by its inclination to virtue, and it augments this inclination by the effusion of the goodness which it receives by means of prayer; so that it does precisely what it demands and demands what it does.

Socrates was not far from the doctrine of Pythagoras in this respect; he added only, that prayer exacted much precaution and prudence, lest, without perceiving it, one demand of God great evils, in thinking to ask great blessings.

“The sage [he said] knows what he ought to say or do; the fool is ignorant of it; the one implores in prayer, what can be really useful to him; the other desires often things which, being granted him, become for him the source of greatest misfortunes. The prudent man [he adds], however little he may doubt himself, ought to resign himself to Providence who knows better than he, the consequences that things must have.”

This is why Socrates cited as a model of sense and reason this prayer of an ancient poet:

“Grant us good whether prayed for or unsought by us;
But that which we ask amiss, do thou avert.”

The prayer was, as I have said, one of the principal dogmas of the religion of Zoroaster b: the Persians also had the greatest confidence therein. Like the Chaldeans, they founded all magical power upon its efficacy. They still possess today certain kinds of prayers for conjuring maladies and driving away demons. These prayers, which they name tavids, are written upon strips of paper and carried after the manner of talismans. It is quite well-known that the modern Jews use them in the same way. In this they imitate, as in innumerable other things, the ancient Egyptians whose secret doctrine Moses has transmitted to them.

The early Christians were inclined to theosophical ideas on this subject. Origen explains it clearly in speaking of the virtue attached to certain names invoked by the Egyptian sages and the most enlightened of the magians of Persia.

Synesius, the famous Bishop of Ptolemais, initiated into the mysteries, declares that the science, by means of which one linked the intelligible essences to sentient forms, by the invocation of spirits, was neither vain nor criminal, but on the contrary quite innocent and founded upon the nature of things. Pythagoras was accused of magic. Ignorance and weakness of mind have always charged science with this banal accusation.

This philosopher, rightly placed in the rank of the ablest physicians of Greece, was, according to his most devoted disciples, neither of the number of the gods, nor even of those of the divine heroes; he was a man whom virtue and wisdom had adorned with a likeness to the gods, by the complete purifying of his understanding which had been effected through contemplation and prayer.’ …/…


Antoine Fabre d’Olivet ‘s ‘The Golden Verses of Pythagoras,‘, 1817, with his commentaries. Treuttel & Wurtz, Paris and Strasbourg. English translation in HARTFORD, CONN., October, 1916, by NAYÁN LOUISE REDFIELD. Published in New York and London by G.P. Putnam’s sons in 1917.
More about Antoine Fabre d’Olivet:’Olivet 🌿Text Source:
Antoine Fabre d’Olivet-Pythagoras About Prayer

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