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The Golden Verses of Pythagoras

An Ancient Description Of
The Philosophical Way of Life
Hierocles of Alexandria
 Partial reproduction of an image published in the book “The
Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library”, Compiled and Translated
by Kenneth Guthrie, Phanes Press, Michigan, USA, 1987, 361 pp.
Editorial Note:
Helena P. Blavatsky wrote:
“Pythagoras brought his doctrines from Eastern sanctuaries”. [1]
Indeed, the following 71 Golden Verses are highly significant to both eastern and western students of esoteric philosophy. The ethical commitment the Verses teach about is a central lesson for theosophists of every Age and under any circumstances. The wisdom in these lines is of a depth that can only be gradually grasped. The Verses are considered by many as one of the main Pythagorean texts available.
We reproduce N. Rowe’s and Guthrie’s version, which is seen as the most classical one, in English language -; except, perhaps, for Rowe’s own poetical rendering of the Verses. [2]
Hierocles of Alexandria, a Pythagorean and Neoplatonist, lived in the first half of fifth century, Christian Era.
(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)
[1] “Mind in Nature”, an article included in “Theosophical Articles”, H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co. Los Angeles, 1981, volume II, p. 221.  The sentence can also be found at “H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings”, TPH, vol. XIII, p. 268.
[2] Our source is “The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library”, compiled and translated by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, Phanes Press, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, 1987, 361 pp., see pp. 163-165. Nicholas Rowe made his version into English in 1707, from the French of André Dacier (Paris, 1706).  The Theosophical Publishing House in the United Kingdom published in 1971 the “Commentaries of Hierocles on the Golden Verses of Pythagoras” (132 pp.). Yet its verses are not completely the same in English words as the one’s presented by Guthrie. It seems many different editors have adapted Rowe’s classical English to present-day language in different ways, while simply ascribing their texts to N. Rowe.
The Golden Verses of Pythagoras
1. First honor the immortal Gods, as the law demands;
2. Then reverence thy oath, and the illustrious heroes;
3. Then venerate the divinities under the earth, due rites performing,
4. Then honor your parents, and all of your kindred;
5. Among others make the most virtuous thy friend;
6. Love to make use of his soft speeches, and learn from his deeds that are useful;
7. But alienate not the beloved comrade for trifling offences,
8. Bear all you can, what you can, for power is bound to necessity.
9. Take this well to heart: you must gain control of your habits;
10. First over stomach, then sleep, and then luxury, and anger.
11. What brings you shame, do not unto others, nor by yourself.
12. The highest of duties is honor of self.
13. Let Justice be practiced in words as in deeds;
14. Then make the habit, never inconsiderately to act;
15. Neither forget that death is appointed to all;
16. That possessions here gladly gathered, here must be left;
17. Whatever sorrow the fate of the Gods may here send us,
18. Bear, whatever may strike you, with patience unmurmuring.
19. To relieve it, so far as you can, is permitted,  
20. But reflect that not much misfortune has Fate given to the good.  
21 The speech of the people is various, now good, and now evil;
22. So let them not frighten you, nor keep you from your purpose.
23. If false calumnies come to your ear, support it in patience;
24. Yet that which I now am declaring, fulfill it faithfully:
25. Let no one with speech or with deeds ever deceive you
26. To do or to say what is not the best.
27. Think, before you act, that nothing stupid results;
28. To act inconsiderately is part of a fool;
29. Yet whatever later will not bring you repentance, that you should carry through.
30. Do nothing beyond what you know,
31. Yet learn what you may need; thus shall your life grow happy.
32.  Do not neglect the health of the body;
33.  Keep measure in eating and drinking, and every exercise of the body;
34. By measure, I mean what later will not induce pain;
35. Follow clean habits of life, but not the luxurious;
36. Avoid all things which will arouse envy.
37. At the wrong time, never be prodigal, as if you did not know what was proper;
38. Nor show yourself stingy, for a due measure is ever the best.  
39. Do only those things which will not harm thee, and deliberate before you act.
40. Never let slumber approach thy wearied eye-lids,
41. Ere thrice you reviewed what this day you did;
42.  Wherein have I sinned? What did I? What duty is neglected?
43. All, from the first to the last, review; and if you have erred, grieve in your spirit, rejoicing for all that was good.
45. With zeal and with industry, this, then repeat; and learn to repeat it with joy.
46. Thus wilt thou tread on the paths of heavenly virtue.
47. Surely, I swear it by him who into our souls has transmitted the Sacred Quaternary [1],  
48. The spring of  eternal Nature.
49. Never start on your task until you have implored the blessing of the Gods.
50. If this you hold fast, soon will you recognize of Gods and mortal men
51. The true nature of existence, how everything passes and returns.
52. Then will you see what is true, how Nature in all is most equal,
53. So that you hope not for what has no hope, nor that anything should escape you.
54. Men shall you find whose sorrows themselves have created,
55. Wretches who see not the Good, that is too near, nothing they hear;
56. Few know how to help themselves in misfortune.
57. That is the Fate that blinds humanity; in circles,
58. Hither and yon they run in endless sorrows;
59. For they are followed by a grim companion, disunion within themselves;
60. Unnoticed; never rouse him, and fly from before him!
61. Father Zeus, O free them all from sufferings so great,
62. Or show unto each the Genius [2], who is their guide!
63. Yet, do not fear, for the mortals are divine by race,
64. To whom holy Nature everything will reveal and demonstrate;
65. Whereof if you have received, so keep what I teach you;
66. Healing your soul, you shall remain insured from manifold evil.
67. Avoid foods forbidden, reflect that this contributes to the cleanliness
68. And redemption of your soul. Consider all things well:
69. Let reason, the gift divine, be thy highest guide;
70. Then should you be separated from the body, and soar in the aether,
71. You will you be imperishable, a divinity, a mortal no more. 
[1] That is, the Sacred Tetraktys or Tetrad, which is discussed by H. P. Blavatsky in her writings. (CCA)
[2] Genius; higher self, immortal soul. (CCA)
On the role of the esoteric movement in the ethical awakening of mankind during the 21st century, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.  
Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.

The Golden Verses of Pythagoras

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