In this article we present excerpts from Iamblichus‘ book “On the Pythagorean life“, indicative of Pythagoras‘ views on Pleasure.
First excerpt: «Pythagoreans urged everyone they associated with to be careful about Pleasure more than anything else that requires attention. Because nothing makes us so prone to do wrong and pushes us to commit sin rather than this passion. Apparently, in general they claimed that we should do absolutely nothing if the goal is Pleasure only (this goal is, moreover, mostly improper and detrimental), but we should do what is proper to do; aiming, before anything else, at what is Good and Decent, and secondarily in what is of interest and useful, things that require not a casual judgement. For the so-called physical desire those men claimed, as it is said, the following. This desire is a tendency of the soul, momentum and appetite either for some kind of fulfilment, either for the presence of some specific senses or for sensual mood. There is also, though, the desire for the opposite, i.e., for evacuation, absence and so as to avoid feeling certain things. Pleasure has a wide variety and most forms than any other human passion. Many of the desires of men are acquired and created by men themselves, that is why this passion requires a lot of care, attention and physical exercise, not by accident. Because it is natural, when the body is empty; but to wish for sophisticated food or sophisticated and luxurious clothes and bedding or a sophisticated, luxurious and ornate home, this is acquired. The same applies to household equipment, glasses, servants and animals intended for food. Generally, from human passions, this, most probably, primarily has the peculiarity of not stopping anywhere, but continuing indefinitely. That is why, even from youth, attention should be given to the appearing desires, so that they desire only what is proper and keep away from the vain and unnecessary desires, keeping themselves undisturbed and clean from such appetites and despising what is despicable and attached to wishes. We must understand that futile, detrimental, unnecessary and arrogant desires are born, above all, to those who have power. Because there is nothing so absurd that the soul of such children, men and women, does not wish. In general, there is a wide variety in the genus of humans with regard to the multitude of desires. Clear evidence is the variety of food products. As it is huge the number of fruits, and of roots, that man uses. They also feed on all kinds of meat and it is really hard to find any of the animals of the land, air or water that they do not eat. And they have even devised various ways of cooking them and various sauces, too. Consequently, the human genus appears, as it is natural, as manic and multiform concerning the changes of the soul. Because everything that man consumes causes to him a certain mood. But people see, of course, what immediately causes a great change, for example, wine, which, if they drink more than it is necessary, makes them more cheerful to one point, but then more obsessed and impotent. But people ignore the things that do not seem to have such power. Whatever we consume causes a certain situation. That is why much wisdom is required in order to understand and distinguish which kind and what quantity of food we should use. This science was initially discovered by Apollon and Paeon and was later transmitted to the priests of Asclepius»
(NovoScriptorium: A first immediate conclusion is that Pythagorean views seem very much alike the Orthodox Fathers’ views on the matter. A reading of ‘The Ladder’ by Saint John Sinaites or ‘Philokalia’ by Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain would be convincing.
Next, we notice a ‘political’ message of Pythagoras; when people enslaved to Pleasure receive commanding positions they become even worse. Obviously, this reflects to the whole of a Society. On the other hand, when the majority of civilians is also enslaved to Pleasure, either because of lacking proper Education/Training or due to a scheduled -by some sneaky form of Power- opposite Propaganda through ‘State Education’ and Media, then it is rather expected to have it electing and accepting the corresponding ‘leaders’, as it identifies itself in their faces.
It is also important to note that, as suggested, the way of eating -what we eat and how- proportionally changes the mood of people’s souls. Well, we have scientific evidence nowdays that this is actually pretty much valid)
Second excerpt: «So, boys and girls should grow up with working, gymnastics and appropriate endurance exercises, and feed on what is appropriate for a diligent/industrious/sedulous, abstemious, and persevering/resigned/enduring way of life. There is a lot in human life which is best to be learnt later on. One of these is erotic activity. So the child must be raised so that it does not seek for such intercourse until its twenties. But even when it reaches this age, rarely should it surrender to sexual activity. This will be achieved if wellness is considered as something honest and good. Because incontinence/intemperance and wellness do not often meet in the same person»
(NovoScriptorium: It is clear that all the above are being done in the completely opposite way in our days. For the man who doesn’t have the characteristics Pythagoras suggests, when serious troubles emerge, the chances of him surviving without mental, spiritual and physical disorders are extremely few. Pythagoras says it clearly; good health and mood do not co-exist with incontinence/intemperance.
Lack of prudence suggests lack of Logic and a ‘sleeping’ soul subject to uncontrolable emotional situations, as we have analyzed in previous articles. When the majority of people live like this, then every kind of Evilness is consequently expected. This, of course, serves Power very well, as it divides the body of Society starting from the cell itself; each and every man himself)
Third excerpt: «Apparently, those men believed that it is necessary for the unnatural (against nature) sexual acts to be eliminated, same for those which are done with licentiousness; and from the ones which are in accordance with nature and are done with temperance, those that aim at wise and legitimate childbearing should be left. They believed that those who are going to have children should make a lot of provision for their future descendants. The first and most important concern for the one that goes for childbearing is to have lived and continue living as healthy and abstemious as possible, without having eaten overly neither having consumed such foods that damage the body, and, above all, without being drunk. Because they believed that from bad, dysharmonic and disturbed body status bad quality sperms are produced. Generally, they believed that it is a trait of a totally slothful and reckless man to intend to give life, birth, and existence to another man, without making provision, with great care, for how to make the arrival of his children in the world and in life as beautiful as possible.
But on the one hand, those who love dogs to take care of the birth of dogs in any way, how good dogs will come out of the appropriate parents, when and how this should be done, the same ones and those who love the birds (and it is clear that all others who care for good animal breeding take every precaution to prevent their births happening in random ways) and on the other hand people who don’t pay attention to their own offspring at all, but give birth to them randomly and in whatever way, improvising in any way whatsoever, and subsequently they completely neglect their upbringing and education. This is the most serious and obvious cause of the evilness and vileness/nefariousness/villainy of most people. Because most of them give birth as if they were animals. Such were the suggestions and habits that these men had adopted in their words and actions on temperance. And these instructions had been received from the very beginning by Pythagoras himself as Apollo’s oracles»
(NovoScriptorium: according to Pythagoras, most people of our times are slothful and reckless. Additionally, we appear to be more concerned about our animals rather than our children. The abortion statistics and the increasing numbers of children born with health problems are representive enough of the situation. The unnatural (against nature) pleasures which Pythagoras condemns are almost a rule in our days. It is quite scary that, at present, there is so little provision on childbearing. Pythagoras is very strict on this; those who give birth like this -randomly and recklessly- ressemble to animals. Hence, the effortless conclusion that emerges is that our societies are moving ever closer to dehumanization as years pass. Well, it is quite clear towards what painful End all this is leading)