The Golden Verses of Pythagoras

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The first 15 of 71

1. First worship the Immortal Gods, as they are established and ordained by the Law.

2. Reverence the Oath, and next the Heroes, full of goodness and light.

3. Honour likewise the Terrestrial Dæmons by rendering them the worship lawfully due to them.

4. Honour likewise thy parents, and those most nearly related to thee.

5. Of all the rest of mankind, make him thy friend who distinguishes himself by his virtue.

6. Always give ear to his mild exhortations, and take example from his virtuous and useful actions.

7. Avoid as much as possible hating thy friend for a slight fault.

8. [And understand that] power is a near neighbour to necessity.

9. Know that all these things are as I have told thee; and accustom thyself to overcome and vanquish these passions:--

10. First gluttony, sloth, sensuality, and anger.

11. Do nothing evil, neither in the presence of others, nor privately;

12. But above all things respect thyself.

13. In the next place, observe justice in thy actions and in thy words.

14. And accustom not thyself to behave thyself in any thing without rule, and without reason.

15. But always make this reflection, that it is ordained by destiny that all men shall die.


"First worship the Immortal Gods, as they are established and ordained by the Law."

So what is the theosophical interpretation of this idea?  Is he speaking of the Agnisvatta Pitris of the SD here?


In the language of the Secret Doctrine we are probably talking about what HPB calls Dhyan Chohans, Divine Beings responsible for many levels of manifestation.

Heroes might be equated with Mahatmas or great teachers. And it is interesting that respect for elders and parents as symbols of these beings is important to Pythagoras. Can we really honor higher beings if we are unable to honor our parents?


I think there is a world of Occult symbolism in the idea of honoring the parents; as the two are givers of individual life.  

In various places in the Great Itihasa; The Mahabharata; there are various selections stating the great respect one should cultivate regarding ones parents.  Without spending days to locate this specific source, I can remember there was dialogue regarding the deeds of the father will be given to the son... Upon the sons initiation to the fathers deeds, the son is responsible for the fathers (indirect) fulfillment either in worldly affairs, ritual, or spiritual pursuits. In other words, the karma of the former becomes the karma of the latter.  The son (or child) is now the torch bearer regarding the deeds of the latter. Hence the great responsibility of passing along knowledge and giving life.  

Parents are more than fleshy bodies. Look how Pythagoras orders this hierarchy;

Immortal Gods, Heros of Goodness and Light, Terrestrial Dæmons, and parents- Parents, the Human Tabernacle being the conglomerate of the three former according to the Esoteric Tradition.  As I understand this, the parents are to the child- creators- as the two are responsible for many provisions (i.e., supplying the material for the field [ the body and all of its components and associations to deities etc] so personal and family Karma may manifest) in regards the reincarnating Ego. 

To develop respect, rather, to look upon family life in the light of Devotion (duty and responsibility) is to carry out ones Dharma to the myriad of cosmic beings.  


Most of the oldest cultures in the world and certainly the cultures of native peoples place respect for elders as one of the most important virtues of society.


Where would humanity be without parents both physical and spiritual?


Well, in the Pythagorean system (which is the same as the Orphic, Platonic, etc.) there is a whole range of "Gods" spoken of, from the highest or "Intelligible" order of Gods, to the Intelligible-Intellectual, to the Intellectual, to the Supermundane, Mundane, etc. (Thomas Taylor explores all of these in his translations/commentaries). So when Pythagoras here speaks of the "Gods", I think we might imagine that he is indicating the full range of hierarchies, represented in the SD by the "Ah-hi", the Dhyanis, Manasaputras, Lunar Pitris, etc. each having their equivalent in the Pythagorean system.

In that system, the "Heroes" are arranged along with and kind of interspersed between the lower orders of Gods. So in the Golden verses we have all the Gods mentioned in verse 1; then the heroes (we might also call them Avatars, of various kinds, or simply the adepts/mahatmas and their lodge); then the "terrestrial daemons (elementals perhaps? or elementaries?; the chaldean oracles say of them: "It is not proper that you should behold them, till your body is purified by initiation: for these daemons alluring souls always draw them away from mystic ceremonies."); then the "parents", which, as Kristan says, holds a deeper meaning than our biological parents (in one sense, our "parent" is our previous incarnation, which "gives birth to" the present one, so our "parents" might be interpreted as our series of past births; but this is just one interpretation); our "parents" might also indicate those who help us in our "second birth" or initiation.

The Golden Verses seem to be a sort of "exoteric" or "laymans" text, an invitation to the teachings, so I think they kind of lump things together in those opening verses to give the layman some bearing on the idea of heirarchy and to instill in the reader a sense of being lower on the rung to combat human arrogance (the idea that we're the highest, most evolved, greatest being, etc.).


Here's a nice recap of Hierocles' neoplatonic commentary:


I would love to hear comments from fellow students about this idea.  Exoteric teachings from Spiritual Teachers, like Pythagoras, that is what is easily accessible to the public, usually focuses  upon ethical teachings.  Teachings that set the pre-conditions within the student for inner illumination.   The Golden Verses provides much assistance to leading an ethical life.  That is a life lived beyond personal desires and self-centered orientations.


I think this is a very important observation. The "first steps" on the path, in any of the major spiritual traditions of the world, are almost entirely ethical/moral. This makes perfect sense to me, as there really is no beneficial use to "esoteric knowledge" if one is lacking the firm foundation of ethics that help guide our use of that knowledge.

In studying the Greek philosophical traditions, this is very evident. Pythagoras seems to have focused almost exclusively on ethics and "lifestyle" in his public teachings. Even in what we have of his occult teachings most was given under the veil of symbols. He seems to have been far more concerned with how people live, and live together, than with how much knowledge they have. In Iamblichus's biography of him it details the preliminary trials the student had to pass just to be admitted to the Pythagorean school, and details the traits Pythagoras required in his disciples.... and those traits and trials related almost exclusively to ethical/moral considerations, and the "uprightness" of their character.



I was under the impression that moral and ethical practices had to be meet with metaphysics or "esoteric knowledge."  I believe this, simply because the one appears to enhance the other.  A development of a moral and ethical character is far more than a "right thing to do," but is a very important contribution to endless numbers of intelligences and lives.  One might say this is the duty of every individual that takes a physical body (also including the subtle body, naturally as the former cannot exist without the latter). 

How might one take responsibility and live a theosophical life, i.e., the life of an Occultist if Occult Knowledge isn't developed?  To refrain from physical injury, indulgences, and other wicked behavior is but one very little step.  However, to refrain from the subtle thoughts which might be injurious, immoral, unethical etc. is far different.  

As I understand, the moral character isn't developed in our commonly experienced state of matter.  Meaning, it isn't the personality that undergoes this moral change, but it is an aspect of the subtle body that must be re-woven with the finest threads of moral/ethical practices. 

It has been said that the practice of developing a firm moral character quickens the karma of the individual. Devotion and the quest for Knowledge act as somewhat of an accelerant regarding the progress of the individual.  If the student remains unaware of the microcosmic/macrocosmic relationship, one will ultimately be crushed by the forces which have been thrown into a frenzy. Knowledge of elementals, Devas, along with other forces and intelligences in Nature plays the most crucial part in developing a firm moral and ethical character. 

Occultism demands all or nothing, as it has been so often quoted.  I believe this is the same for the development of the moral and ethical character.  I personally cannot see the difference between the two.  

Esoteric teachings have everything to do with the weaving of the moral and ethical character.  It also appears to be the main teaching in Light on the Path and essentially the most esoteric text available, Bhagavadgita, in my opinion. 


I suspect that as we pursue a ethical ideal we are forced to make progress in perceiving "formless spiritual essences"  or occult truths.  So yes you are right they do go hand in hand.  But this necessity would be preceded by a lot of preliminary work.  If you are out of shape as a distance runner you cannot leap into the toughest training regime.  That would be delayed until the basic conditioning was accomplished.  Something like that.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on February 24, 2016 at 5:29pm

It does appear that preliminaries are necessary...  It reminds me of a time I watched a mother hawk teach/force the young ones to fly.  Ever see this event?  It is truly all or nothing.  

Nature gives tests mechanically it seems- but it will never be more than the student can handle, as this would be animpossibility. The student must have primal determination or Will.

There is one note, take it as you may;

 "To obtain knowledge by experiment is too tedious a method for those who aspire to accomplish real work; he who gets it by certain intuition, lays hands on its various forms with supreme rapidity, by fierce effort of will ; as a determined workman grasps his tools, indifferent to their weight or any other difficulty which may stand in his way. He does not stay for each to be tested—he uses such as he sees are fittest...

To all who are interested seriously in Occultism, I say first—take knowledge To him who hath shall be given. It is useless to wait for it. The womb of Time will close before you, and in later days you will remain unborn, with out power. I therefore say to those who have any hunger or thirst for knowledge, attend to these rules."
[Light on the Path]

You might be right, if one is 'out of shape' as you say, a leap into the toughest training regime might be too overwhelming.  Let them not jump yet, but they'll have to sometime... Nature is mechanical and will never give more than one is able to do, there is a very subtle truth to this.  

Permalink Reply by Casady on February 26, 2016 at 1:53pm

A note from The Voice of the Silence, part 3 - related to the Pythagorean akousmatikoi and mathematikoi?

(3). Sravaka -- a listener, or student who attends to the religious instructions. From the root "Sru." When from theory they go into practice or performance of asceticism, they become Sramanas,"exercisers," from Srama, action. As Hardy shows, the two appellations answer to the words akoustikoi and asketai of the Greeks.

Here's the reference, akoustikoi is Pythagorean - asketai is early Christian - the Greek term being more applied to athletic discipline.

Spence Hardy, Eastern Monachism, 1860

The priests of Budha have received various names, of which the 
following are the principal: — 1. Srawakas, from the root sru, to 
hear, answering to the akoustikoi of the Greeks. 2. Sarmanas, from 
srama, the performance of asceticism, answering to the asketai, 
exercisers, of the ancient church. By the Chinese the word is 
written Cha men and Sang men, and is said by Klaproth to mean 
" celui qui restreint ses pensees, ou celui qui s'efforce et se re- 
streint." It is probable that the epithet Samanean, as applied to 
the religious system of Tartary, is derived from the same word.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on February 24, 2016 at 8:40am

The ethical requirements given us are sufficiently high that one would assume we have more than enough work cut out for us with just the teachings of the Golden Verses.  The secrets of the Tetraktys can come later.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on March 15, 2016 at 8:42am

We tap the soul in man when we aspire. Teachers, parents, and heroes all  help to set our sites for higher ground. They help to reveal what is possible if we strive.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 10, 2016 at 10:23am

The next section:

16. And that the goods of fortune are uncertain; and that as they may be acquired, so may they likewise be lost.

17. Concerning all the calamities that men suffer by divine fortune,

18. Support with patience thy lot, be it what it may, and never repine at it.

19. But endeavour what thou canst to remedy it.

20. And consider that fate does not send the greatest portion of these misfortunes to good men.

21. There are among men many sorts of reasonings, good and bad;

22. Admire them not too easily, nor reject them.

23. But if falsehoods be advanced, hear them with mildness, and arm thyself with patience.

24. Observe well, on every occasion, what I am going to tell thee:--

25. Let no man either by his words, or by his deeds, ever seduce thee.

26. Nor entice thee to say or to do what is not profitable for thyself.

27. Consult and deliberate before thou act, that thou mayest not commit foolish actions.

28. For it is the part of a miserable man to speak and to act without reflection.

29. But do that which will not afflict thee afterwards, nor oblige thee to repentance.

30. Never do anything which thou dost not understand.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on February 10, 2016 at 10:28am

Pythagoras is teaching us how to live in harmony with Karma.  16-20

Permalink Reply by Casady on February 14, 2016 at 7:46pm

Karma-Nemesis is the creator of nations and mortals, but once created, it is they who make of her either a fury or a rewarding Angel. Yea —

“Wise are they who worship Nemesis”*
* Who dread Karma-Nemesis would be better.
— as the chorus tells Prometheus. And as unwise they, who believe that the goddess may be propitiated by whatever sacrifices and prayers, or have her wheel diverted from the path it has once taken. “The triform Fates and ever mindful Furies” are her attributes only on earth, and begotten by ourselves.
SDI , 642-43

"That he need not accuse Heaven and the gods, Fates and Providence, of the apparent injustice that reigns in the midst of humanity. But let him rather remember and repeat this bit of Grecian wisdom, which warns man to forbear accusing That which —

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“Just, though mysterious, leads us on unerring
Through ways unmark’d from guilt to punishment . . .”
SD I, 644
qtd from Eurydice, David Mallet, 1795
Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 7, 2016 at 9:53pm

"Never do anything which thou dost not understand"  Is this pointing to the importance of self-reliance on the spiritual path?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 15, 2016 at 9:56am

Next Group of Verses

31. But learn all thou ought'st to know, and by that means thou wilt lead a very pleasant life.

32. in no wise neglect the health of thy body;

33. But give it drink and meat in due measure, and also the exercise of which it has need.

34. Now by measure I mean what will not incommode thee.

35. Accustom thyself to a way of living that is neat and decent without luxury.

36. Avoid all things that will occasion envy.

37. And be not prodigal out of season, like one who knows not what is decent and honourable.

38. Neither be covetous nor niggardly; a due measure is excellent in these things.

39. Do only the things that cannot hurt thee, and deliberate before thou dost them.

40. Never suffer sleep to close thy eyelids, after thy going to bed,

41. Till thou hast examined by thy reason all thy actions of the day.

42. Wherein have I done amiss? What have I done? What have I omitted that I ought to have done?

43. If in this examination thou find that thou hast done amiss, reprimand thyself severely for it;

44. And if thou hast done any good, rejoice.

45. Practise thoroughly all these things; meditate on them well; thou oughtest to love them with all thy heart.

46. 'Tis they that will put thee in the way of divine virtue.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on February 24, 2016 at 4:20pm

47. I swear it by him who has transmitted into our souls the Sacred Quaternion, the source of nature, whose cause is eternal.

48. But never begin to set thy hand to any work, till thou hast first prayed the gods to accomplish what thou art going to begin.

49. When thou hast made this habit familiar to thee,

50. Thou wilt know the constitution of the Immortal Gods and of men.

p. 6

51. Even how far the different beings extend, and what contains and binds them together.

52. Thou shalt likewise know that according to Law, the nature of this universe is in all things alike,

53. So that thou shalt not hope what thou ought'st not to hope; and nothing in this world shall be hid from thee.

54. Thou wilt likewise know, that men draw upon themselves their own misfortunes voluntarily, and of their own free choice.

55. Unhappy that they are! They neither see nor understand that their good is near them.

56. Few know how to deliver themselves out of their misfortunes.

57. Such is the fate that blinds mankind, and takes away his senses.

58. Like huge cylinders they roll to and fro, and always oppressed with ills innumerable.

59. For fatal strife, innate, pursues them everywhere, tossing them up and down; nor do they perceive it.

60. Instead of provoking and stirring it up, they ought, by yielding, to avoid it.

p. 7

61. Oh! Jupiter, our Father! if Thou would'st deliver men from all the evils that oppress them,

62. Show them of what dæmon they make use.

63. But take courage; the race of man is divine.

64. Sacred nature reveals to them the most hidden mysteries.

65. If she impart to thee her secrets, thou wilt easily perform all the things which I have ordained thee.

66. And by the healing of thy soul, thou wilt deliver it from all evils, from all afflictions.

67. But abstain thou from the meats, which we have forbidden in the purifications and in the deliverance of the soul;

68. Make a just distinction of them, and examine all things well.

69. Leaving thyself always to be guided and directed by the understanding that comes from above, and that ought to hold the reins.

70. And when, after having divested thyself of thy mortal body, thou arrivest at the most pure Æther,

71. Thou shalt be a God, immortal, incorruptible, and Death shall have no more dominion over thee.