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«The Tablet of Cebes Bruce MacLennan History of The Tablet of Cebes   Text seems to date from 3rd cent. BCE to 2nd cent. CE (probably 1st BCE to 1st ...»

The Tablet of Cebes

Bruce MacLennan

History of The Tablet of Cebes

  Text seems to date from 3rd cent. BCE to 2nd cent. CE

(probably 1st BCE to 1st CE)

  Earliest manuscripts from 11th cent. CE

  Gives an allegorical interpretation of a tablet set up in a

temple of Kronos

  A mandala with characteristics of a labyrinth

  Presents way for living well and path of spiritual initiation

Cebes is mentioned only in the title

Cebes of Thebes

  Lived 469–399 BCE

  Disciple of Socrates   Pythagorean initiate   Pronounced “KEH-base”   Might have written original version of The Tablet, or set up the original tablet, or neither!

Hermeneutic Levels   Anagogical   Symbolical   Allegorical   Literal Reconstructed Images Drawing of Ancient Relief   Depicts fragment of ancient marble relief   Agrees with description in Cebes’ Tablet   Two drawings made of relief in 16th century   Original relief has been lost H. Goltzius / J. Matham (1592) M. Merian 1638 D. Kandel (1547) II D. Kandel, 1547: the Tablet as autonomous image.

Cornelio Pepoli (1771) Hans Holbein the Younger 1497/8–1543 Border for a title page (1521) Engraved by Knackfuss The Tablet and its Interpretation The Old Man in the Sanctuary of Kronos While Kronos’ fane with solemn step we trod, And viewed the votive honors of the God, A pictured Tablet, o’er the portal raised, Attached our eye; in wonder lost, we gazed.* *verse translations after Thomas Scott, 1754.

The Sage A Foreigner, long since, whose noble mind Learning’s best culture to strong genius joined, Here lived, conversed, and showed th’ admiring age Another Samian or Elean Sage.

He reared this dome to Kronos’ awful name, And gave that portrait to eternal fame.

Such Wisdom flowing from a mouth but young I heard astonished, and enjoyed it long.

The Riddle of Father, if leisure with thy Will conspire, Yield, yield that comment to our warm desire.

the Sphinx Free to bestow, I warn you first, beware:

Danger impends, which summons all your care.

Wise, virtuous, blessed, whose Heart our precepts gain, Abandoned, blind, and wretched, who disdain.

For know, our purposed theme resembles best The famed Enigma of the Theban pest.

Th’ Interpreter a plighted crown enjoyed, The stupid perished, by the Sphinx destroyed.

Count folly as a Sphinx to all mankind, Her Problem: How is Good and Ill defined?

With opposite effect, where thoughtful Skill Discerns the boundaries of Good and Ill, Folly must perish; and the’ illumined Breast To Virtue saved, is like th’ Immortals blessed.

The First Ring The Realm of Life, serving the Body The Daimôn of Mankind Behold Life’s penciled scene, the Natal Gate, The numbers thronging into mortal state.

Which Danger’s Path, and which to Safety bears, That ancient Daimon of Mankind declares.

See him aloft, benevolent he bends, One hand is pointing, one a Roll extends, Reason’s Imperial Code, by Heav’n impressed In living letters on the human breast.

Delusion and her Potion Her faithless hand presents a crystal bowl, Whose poisonous Draught intoxicates the soul.

Error and ignorance infused, compose The fatal beverage which her fraud bestows.

Is that the hard condition of our birth?

Must all drink error who appear on Earth?

All; yet in some their measure drowns the mind, Others but taste, less erring and less blind.

Opinions, Desires, Pleasures All promise joy, we rush to their embrace, To bliss or ruin here begins our race.

Happy, thrice happy, who entrust their youth, To Right Opinions, and ascend to Truth, Whom Wisdom tutors, whom the Virtues hail, And with their own substantial Feast regale.

Fortune Fortune, blind, frantic, deaf, with restless wing The World she ranges, and her

favors flings:

Flings and resumes, and plunders and bestows, Caprice divides the Blessings and the Woes.

The Unforeseeing What mean those multitudes around her? Why Such motley attitudes perplex the eye?

Some, in the act of wildest rapture, leap, In agony some wring their hands, and weep.

The Second Ring The Realm of Indulgence, serving the Lower Soul Indulgence There stationed to what end?

–  –  –

Fortune’s infatuate favorites of a day.

These they caress, they flatter, they entreat To try the pleasures of their soft retreat, Life disencumbered, frolicsome, and free, All ease, all mirth, and high felicity.

Waste, Greed, and Flattery A short illusion his imagined feast, Himself the game, himself the slaughtered beast.

Now, raving for his squandered wealth in vain, Slave to those tyrant frauds he drags their chain, Compelled to suffer hard and hungry need, Compelled to dare each foul and desperate deed.

Lack of Self-control Seeing glitt’ring visions in succession rise, He laughs at Socrates the chaste and wise.

Till, sobered by distress, awake, confused, Amazed, he knows himself a wretch abused.

Punishment High-brandishing her lash, with stern regard, Stands Punishment, an ever-waking Ward;

While sullen Melancholy mopes behind, Fixed, with her head upon her knees inclined;

And, frantic with remorseful fury, there Fierce Anguish stamps, and rends her shaggy hair.





Repentance Unless, rare Guest, Repentance o’er the gloom Diffuse her radiance, and repeal his doom.

She comes! meek-eyed, arrayed in grave attire, See Right Opinion, joined with Good Desire, Handmaids of Truth; with those, an adverse pair (False Wisdom’s minions, that deceiving fair) Attend her solemn step; the Furies flee.

Come forth, she calls, come Led to True Wisdom, whose forth to liberty, cathartic Bowl Guilt-harassed thrall, thy Recovers and beautifies the future lot decide, soul.

And, pond’ring well, elect my Misguided else, a counterfeit future Guide. he’ll gain, Momentous option! choosing Whose Art is only to amuse right, he’ll find the brain;

A sovereign Med’cine for his From vice to studious folly ulcered mind; now he flies,

–  –  –

And mighty masters of the vocal strings, Those who on labored speeches waste their oil, Those who in crabbed calculations toil, Who measure Earth, who climb the starry road, And human fates by heav’nly signs forebode, Pleasure’s philosophers. Lyceum’s pride Disdainful soaring up to heights untried.

All who in learned trifles spin their wit,

–  –  –

At distance see yon strait and lonely Gate (No crowds at the forbidding entrance wait) Its avenue a rugged rocky soil, Travelled with painful step and tedious toil.

Beyond the wicket, tow’ring to the skies See Difficulty’s cragged mountain rise, Narrow and sharp th’ Ascent, each edge a brink Whence to vast depth dire precipices sink.

Self-mastery and Perseverance The pow’rs of Self-control and Patience, there

–  –  –

With their own Force his panting Through beauteous land, from all breast they arm, annoyance clear And with their own intrepid Of thorny evil and perplexing spirit warm; fear.

The House of Happiness and the Virtues Wisdom, Truth, and Persuasion In station at th’ effulgent Portal, see A beauteous form of mildest majesty.

Her eyes how piercing! how sedate her mien!

Mature in life her countenance serene:

Spirit and solid thought each feature shows, And her plain robe with state unstudied flows.

She stands upon a cube of marble, fixed As the firm rock, two lovely Nymphs betwixt, Her daughters, copies of her looks and air,

Here candid Truth, and sweet Persuasion there:

–  –  –

The Virtues hail their Guest, the Guest enraptured sings.

Perfection: Crowning by Happiness The Third Degree of Initiation

–  –  –

Becloud their suns and sadden all their years.

He sees his better state Confounding good and evil, like the throng, His life, like theirs, was action always wrong.

Enlightened now in the true bliss of man, He shapes his altered course by Wisdom’s Plan;

And, blessed himself, beholds with weeping eyes The madding world an hospital of sighs.

He fares where’er his wise volition leads.

He is safe from evil

Where’er it leads, Safety attends him still:

–  –  –

The inexperienced to the Plain of Light;

Returning, new adventurers to bring, The blessings of the last-arrived they sing.

Opinion’s foot is never found Where Knowledge dwells, ’tis interdicted ground, At Wisdom’s Gate th’ Opinions must resign Their charge, those limits their employ confine.

The Charge of the Daimon The Daimon bids those entering life to hold A Spirit with erected courage bold.

Never (he calls) on Fortune’s faith rely, Nor grasp her dubious gifts as property.

Let not her smile transport, her frown dismay, Nor praise, nor blame, nor wonder at her sway which reason never guides; tis fortune still, Capricious chance and arbitrary will.

The Gifts of False Wisdom So in the sciences, though, rudely taught, We may attain the little that we ought;

Yet, accurately known they might convey More Light not wholly useless in its Way.

But Virtue may be reached, through all her rules, Without the curious subtleties of schools.

The Old Man Concludes Strangers, these Lessons, oft revolving, hold

–  –  –

Do thus, or unavailing is my care, And all th’ Instruction dies away in air.

The Book   Teaches practical Neoplatonic

spiritual path:

How to live a more meaningful life   Nine-month plan of study   Progresses through “three degrees of wisdom”   Numerous exercises

WisdomOfHypatia.com



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