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Chapter XLIII.—Recapitulation of Theologies and Cosmogonies; System of the Persians; Of the Babylonians; The Egyptian Notion of Deity; Their Theology Based on a Theory of Numbers; Their System of Cosmogony.

Among all those who throughout the earth, as philosophers and theologians, have carried on investigations, has prevailed diversity of opinion278278    See Aristotle’s Metaphysics, book i.; Cicero, De Naturâ Deorum, book i. (both translated in Bohn’s Classical Library); and Plutarch, De Placitis Philosophorum. lib. i. concerning the Deity, as to His essence or nature. For some affirm Him to be fire, and some spirit, and some water, while others say that He is earth. And each of the elements labours under some deficiency, and one is worsted by the other. To the wise men of the world, this, however, has occurred, which is obvious to persons possessing intelligence; (I mean) that, beholding the stupendous works of creation, they were confused respecting the substance of existing things, supposing that these were too vast to admit of deriving generation from another, and at the same time (asserting) that neither the universe itself is God. As far as theology was concerned, they declared, however, a single cause for things that fall under the cognizance of vision, each supposing the cause which he adjudged the most reasonable; and so, when gazing on the objects made by God, and on those which are the most insignificant in comparison with His overpowering majesty, not, however, being able to extend the mind to the magnitude of God as He really is, they deified these (works of the external world).

But the Persians,279279    The mention of the Persians, Babylonians, and Egyptians shows the subject-matter of the lost books to have been concerning the speculative systems of these nations. supposing that they had penetrated more within the confines of the truth, asserted that the Deity is luminous, a light contained in air. The Babylonians, however, affirmed that the Deity is dark, which very opinion also appears the consequence of the other; for day follows night, and night day. Do not the Egyptians, however,280280    This rendering follows Miller’s text. Schneidewin thinks there is a hiatus, which the Abbe Cruice fills up, the latter translating the passage without an interrogation: “The Egyptians, who think themselves more ancient than all, have formed their ideas of the power of the Deity by calculations and computing,” etc. who suppose themselves more ancient than all, speak of the power of the Deity? (This power they estimate by) calculating these intervals of the parts (of the zodiac; and, as if) by a most divine inspiration,281281    Or, “meditation on the divine nature,” or “godlike reflection.” they asserted that the Deity is an indivisible monad, both itself generating itself, and that out of this were formed all things. For this, say they,282282    The ms. has “says he.” being unbegotten, produces the succeeding numbers; for instance, the monad, superadded into itself, generates the duad; and in like manner, when superadded (into duad, triad, and so forth), produces the triad and tetrad, up to the decade, which is the beginning and end of numbers. Wherefore it is that the first and tenth monad is generated, on account of the decade being equipollent, and being reckoned for a monad, and (because) this multiplied ten times will become a hundred, and 41again becomes a monad, and the hundred multiplied ten times will produce a thousand, and this will be a monad. In this manner also the thousand multiplied ten times make up the full sum of a myriad; in like manner will it be a monad.  But by a comparison of indivisible quantities, the kindred numbers of the monad comprehend 3, 5, 7, 9.283283    The Abbe Cruice suggests the elimination of 9, on account of its being a divisible number.

There is also, however, a more natural relation of a different number to the monad, according to the arrangement of the orbit of six days’ duration,284284    Miller considers some reference here to the six days’ creation (Hexaëmeron), on account of the word φυσικωτέρα, i.e., more natural. The Abbe Cruice considers that there is an allusion to an astronomic instrument used for exhibiting harmonic combinations; see Ptolem., Harmon., i. 2. Bunsen reads τοῦ ἑξακύκλου ὑλικοῦ. (that is), of the duad, according to the position and division of even numbers. But the kindred number is 4 and 8. These, however, taking from the monad of the numbers285285    The text is obviously corrupt. As given by Schneidewin, it might be rendered thus: “These deriving from the monad a numerical symbol, a virtue, have progressed up to the elements.” He makes no attempt at a Latin version. The Abbe Cruice would suggest the introduction of the word προστεθεῖσαν, on account of the statement already made, that “the monad, superadded into itself, produces a duad.” an idea of virtue, progressed up to the four elements; (I allude), of course, to spirit, and fire, and water, and earth. And out of these having made the world, (God) framed it an ermaphrodite, and allocated two elements for the upper hemisphere, namely spirit and fire; and this is styled the hemisphere of the monad, (a hemisphere) beneficent, and ascending, and masculine. For, being composed of small particles, the monad soars into the most rarified and purest part of the atmosphere; and the other two elements, earth and water, being more gross, he assigned to the duad; and this is termed the descending hemisphere, both feminine and mischievous. And likewise, again, the upper elements themselves, when compared one with another, comprise in one another both male and female for fruitfulness and increase of the whole creation. And the fire is masculine, and the spirit feminine. And again the water is masculine, and the earth feminine. And so from the beginning fire consorted with spirit, and water with earth. For as the power of spirit is fire, so also that of earth is water;286286    There is a hiatus here. Hippolytus has said nothing concerning enneads.…and the elements themselves, when computed and resolved by subtraction of enneads, terminate properly, some of them in the masculine number, and others of them in the feminine. And, again, the ennead is subtracted for this cause, because the three hundred and sixty parts of the entire (circle) consist of enneads, and for this reason the four regions of the world are circumscribed by ninety perfect parts. And light has been appropriated to the monad, and darkness to the duad, and life to light, according to nature, and death to the duad. And to life (has been appropriated) justice; and to death, injustice. Wherefore everything generated among masculine numbers is beneficent, while that (produced) among feminine (numbers) is mischievous. For instance, they pursue their calculations thus: monad—that we may commence from this—becomes 361, which (numbers) terminate in a monad by the subtraction of the ennead. In like manner, reckon thus: Duad becomes 605; take away the enneads, it ends in a duad, and each reverts into its own peculiar (function).

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