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H T M L   T R A N S C R I P T   O F

A 17th-Century Commentary
on the Pythagorean Practice of
Medicine by Musick


excerpted from the 1st edition
of The History of Philosophy
(vol. 3, 1660)

by   T H O M A S   S T A N L E Y   (1625–1678)
classical scholar, poet, Fellow of the Royal Society
of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge,
and a generous patron to poets and translators
during the 1650s and the 1660s

The posthumously-published 3rd edn. (1701) of the 4-vol. set of Stanley’s erudite Lives of the Philosophers was prefixed by a “Life” of Stanley, in which the anonymous biographer notes that Stanley’s own “Affection to Learning” was so great that even an early marriage

did not in the least change his Temper and Disposition, or abate his Affection to Learning, which was no less vigorous now than before. Neither the Cares nor Concerns for his Family, nor the Caresses and Endearments of a Young Wife, could prevail with him to intermit his ordinary Studies, on which he was obstinately bent. I will not say of him as a Learned Chancellor of France has spoke of himself, who complains in Print, that upon his Wedding Day he had not more than Six Hours to employ in his Studies; but his Assiduity and Application is visible to all who shall consider the Greatness of his Works, and the short Limits of Life in which he finished them.

(“An Account of the Life and Writings of Thomas Stanley,” in T. Stanley, The History of Philosophy: Containing the Lives, Opinions, Actions and Discourses of the Philosophers of Every Sect, 4 vols., 3rd edn., 1701, 1.a1v)

Such dedication to the respublica literaria was valued also by the 19th-century editor (Samuel Butler) of Stanley’s masterly bilingual (Greek and Latin) edition of Aeschylus (1663), who gave the following character of Stanley:

Stanley was the greatest scholar of his age in this country, the greatest ornament to the University of Cambridge; he was a liberal, a candid and an upright scholar, yet wholly free from vanity, from envy, and from self-importance. I venerate the memory of such a man.

(qtd. in Warren Chernaik, “Stanley, Thomas (1625–1678), poet and classical scholar,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn., May 2008, n. pag.)

Stanley was only 30 when the 1st volume of his remarkable 4-volume History of Philosophy appeared in 1655. Stanley

was not the first who had attempted this Province; ... but Mr. Stanley has out-done all that preceded him in the Extent of his Design, and the vast Multitude of particulars He has amass’d together.
     The many Editions of so large a Work are undeniable Proofs of the Approbation it has received from the Publick. To speak the Truth, the Excellence and Variety of the Matter, and the vast Reading which the Author has discover’d in every part of it, could not miss of Admiration.

(“An Account of the Life and Writings of Thomas Stanley,” 1.a1v)

Stanley managed to compile an extraordinary range of particulars about Pythagoras, depicted in vol. 3 (1660) of his History of Philosophy as “that Prince of Philosophers.” Stanley began his unique account of Pythagoras and the Pythagorean school with a detailed description of the life and works of the venerated mystic & mathematician who, of all philosophers, had the greatest number of disciples. Then

After his Life, Mr. Stanley has annexed an Account of his Discipline and Doctrine, his Symbolical Way of Teaching, and transcribed into his Works the Learned Reuchlius Explanation of the Pythagorick Doctrine.

(“An Account of the Life and Writings of Thomas Stanley,” c1v)

In his write-up on Pythagorean music therapy — Chapter 8 (“Medicine by Musick”) in Section 2 (“Musick”) of “The Discipline and Doctrine of Pythagoras. The Second Part.” — Stanley borrows heavily from an early biography of Pythagoras written by the Syrian Neoplatonist philosopher, Iamblichus of Chalcis (c.250–c.330). As was customary in the 17th century, extracts from Iamblichus (Jamblichus) are placed in italics (rather than modern-style quote marks), which is how the third paragraph of Stanley’s commentary on Pythagorean “Medicine by Musick” (see below) opens.

Stanley’s other sources on the Pythagorean practice of musical medicine (again, with quotes italicized) included: the Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and disciple of Pythagoras, Empedocles (c.492–c.432 BCE); the Roman statesman, Stoic philosopher, and dramatist, Lucius Annaeus Seneca (aka Seneca the Younger, c.4 BCE–65 CE); the Roman statesman, orator, and writer, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BCE); the 3rd-century Roman writer, teacher, and historian, Claudius Aelianus (aka Ælian, c.175–c.235 CE); the Neoplatonic philosopher, Porphyry of Tyre (aka Porphyrius, c.234–c.305 CE); the Greek author of an ancient musical treatise (Perì musikês), Aristides Quintilianus (c. 3rd or 2nd century CE); the 6th-century Roman statesman and philosopher, Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius (aka Boethius, c.480–524 CE); the early Church Father who defended Christian orthodoxy against Arianism, Basil of Caesarea (aka Saint Basil the Great (c.329–379 CE); the Roman rhetorician and educator, Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (aka Quintilian, c.39–c.96 CE); the Greek writer and philosopher, Plutarch (c.46–126 CE), whose renowned Parallel Lives paired biographies of famous Greeks and Romans and was an inspiration for later writers (most notably, Shakespeare in his Roman plays); and the 3rd-century Roman scholar and writer, Censorinus.

According to Stanley and his sources, Pythagoras “instituted a most profitable correction of manners and life by Musick,” by which means the Pythagoreans “expelled some affections and diseases, and reduced the sick to health” (T. Stanley, The History of Philosophy, the Third and Last Volume, 5 parts, 1st edn., 1660, 1.73–74). The effects were primarily psychological: Pythagorean musical medicine served mostly “for rectification of the mind” and “to purifie the irrationall impulsions of the soul” when disordered by the passions (“the affections of the mind, grief, anger, lust”).

It was the custome of the Pythagoreans as soon as they waked, to excitate their souls with the Lute, that they might be the readier for action; and before they went to sleep, to soften their minds by it.

(T. Stanley, The History of Philosophy, the Third and Last Volume, 5 parts, 1st edn., 1660, 1.74)

Stanley’s 4-volume History of Philosophy (vol. 1, 1655; vol. 2, 1656; vol. 3, 1660; vol. 4, part 1, 1661; vol. 4, part 2, 1662) was accepted as a standard authority for many years. Republished as a single volume in 1687, 1701, and 1743, the work was also translated into French and Latin, becoming an important source book for continental as well as British scholars, among whom was Margaret Cavendish, duchess of Newcastle, whose biography of her husband, The Life of the Thrice Noble, High and Puissant Prince, William Cavendishe, Duke, Marquess, and Earl of Newcastle (1667), adapted Stanley’s model.

The duchess responded more directly to Stanley’s learned description of “the lives and opinions of the ancient Philosophers” in Part 3 of her Observations upon Experimental Philosophy (1666), which includes a critique of Pythagorean natural philosophy (pp. 14–20). Her purpose in Part 3, “Observations upon the Opinions of Some Ancient Philosophers,” was to

examine, and mark some of their opinions, as erroneous ... not out of a humor to revile or prejudice their wit, industry, ingenuity and learning, in the least; but onely to shew, by the difference of their opinions and mine, that mine are not borrowed from theirs, as also to make mine the more intelligible and clear, and, if possible, to find out the truth in Natural Philosophy; for which were they alive, I question not, but I should easily obtain their pardon.

(M. Cavendish, Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, 3 parts, 1666, 3.3)

As such, Cavendish focused not on proven Pythagorean achievements in the field of music, but on more controversial hypotheses concerning sense perception, number mysticism (Pythagorean belief that the whole universe rested on numbers and their relationship), immaterial essences, vacuums, the soul, the mind (monad), and metempsychosis (the pre-existence of the soul, and its migration from one body to another). More concerned with establishing the singularity of her own natural philosophy — hence, worthy of institutionalization (having “a sect or School for my self” founded) — than she was in engaging with the esoteric teachings of the Pythagorean school, Cavendish admits several times in her commentary that she can not “conceive the Truth” of Pythagorean doctrine. And in the work of feminist fabulation first published in 1666 as an appendix to her Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, the character of the Duchess of Newcastle tried to create a world based on Pythagorean principles, but was flummoxed by the math:

... The Duchess of Newcastle was most earnest and industrious to make her world, because she had none at present; and first she resolved to frame it according to the opinion of Thales, but she found her self so much troubled with Dæmons, that they would not suffer her to take her own will, but forced her to obey their orders and commands; which she being unwilling to do, left off from making a world that way, and began to frame one according to Pythagoras’s Doctrine; but in the Creation thereof, she was so puzled with numbers, how to order and compose the several parts, that she having no skill in Arithmetick, was forced also to desist from the making of that world. Then she intended to create a World according to the opinion of Plato; but she found more trouble and difficulty in that, then in the two former; for the numerous Ideas having no other motion but what was derived from her mind, whence they did flow and issue out, made it a far harder business to her, to impart motion to them, then Puppit-players have in giving motion to every several Puppit; in so much, that her patience was not able to endure the trouble which those Ideas caused her; wherefore she annihilated also that world, and was resolved to make one according to the Opinion of Epicurus; which she had no sooner begun, but the infinite Atomes made such a mist, that it quite blinded the perception of her mind; neither was she able to make a Vacuum as a receptacle for those Atomes, or a place which they might retire into; so that partly for the want of it, and of a good order and method, the confusion of those Atomes produced such strange and monstrous figures, as did more affright then delight her, and caused such a Chaos in her mind, as had almost dissolved it. At last, having with much ado cleansed and cleared her mind of these dusty and misty particles, she endeavoured to create a World according to Aristotle’s Opinion; but remembring that her mind, as most of the Learned hold it, was Immaterial, and that, according to Aristotle’s Principle, out of Nothing, Nothing could be made; she was forced also to desist from that work, and then she fully resolved, not to take any more patterns from the Ancient Philosophers ....

(M. Cavendish, The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World, 2 parts, 1666, 1.98–100)

The virtues of the Pythagorean code of silence (an aid for learning and memory that instilled focus, gravity, and temperance in students) were easier for Cavendish — herself prone to “bashfull fears which many condemn’d” (M. Cavendish, Natures Pictures Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life, 1656, 375) — to assimilate, and she recycled the trope in multiple plays and stories.

[ The Discipline and Doctrine of Pythagoras. The Second Part. ]

[ SECT. 2  /  “Musick” ]

C H A P.   VIII.
Medicine by Musick.

Opening quotation marka Pythagoras conceived, that Musick conduced much to health, if used appositely; for he was accustomed to make use of this purification, not perfunctorily. This he called, Medicine by Musick, which kind of Melody he exercised about the Spring-time. He seated him who plai’d [played] on the Lute in the midst, and those who could sing sat round about him; and so he playing, they made a consort of some excellent pleasant Verses, wherewith they seemed exhilarated, and decently composed.

 They likewise at another time made use of Musick as of a Medicine, and there were certain pleasant Verses framed, conducing much against the affections and diseases of the mind, and against the dejections and corrodings of the same. Moreover, he composed others against anger and malice, and all such disorders of the mind. There was also another kind of Musick and Song invented, against unlawfull desires. He likewise used Dancing. He used no musicall Instrument but the Lute. Wind-Instruments he conceived to have an ignoble sound, and to be onely fit for the common people, but nothing generous.

 He likewise made use of the words of Homer and Hesiod, for the rectification of the mind. It is reported, that Pythagoras, by a Spondiack Verse b out of the works (perhaps of Hesiod, whose Poem bears that title, Facsimile of Greek word, as typeset in 1660.,) by a Player on the Flute, asswaged the madness of a young man of Tauromenium, who being drunk, & having employ’d all the night lasciviously with his mistress, was going about to fire the dore [door] of his Rivall’s house; for he was exasperated and enflamed by the Phrygian mood. But Pythagoras, who was at that time busied in observing the Stars, immediately appeased and reclaimed him, by perswading the Piper to change his Aire into the Spondiack mood. Whereupon the young man being suddainly composed, went quietly home, who but a little before would by no means hear the least exhortation from Pythagoras, but threatned and reviled him. In like manner Empedocles, when a young man drew his sword upon Anchitus, his Host, (for that he had in publick judgment condemned his father to death) and was about to have killed him, streight-way changing his Tune, sung out of Homer,

                Nepenthe calming anger, easing grief:

 and by that means freed Anchitus his Host from death, and the young man from the crime of murther; who from thence-forward became one of his disciples, eminent amongst them.

 Moreover the whole School of Pythagoras made that which is called c Facsimile of Greek word, as typeset in 1660., and Facsimile of Greek word, as typeset in 1660., and Facsimile of Greek word, as typeset in 1660., by certain Verses suitable thereto, and proper against the contrary affections, profitably diverting the constitutions and dispositions of the mind. For when they went to bed, and resigned themselves to rest, they purified their minds from the troubles and busie noises of the day, by some Songs and proper Verses, whereby they rendred their sleeps pleasant and quiet, and little troubled with dreams, and those dreams which they had were good. In the morning, when they arose from the common relief of sleep, they expelled drousinesse and sleepiness of the head with other Songs.

 Sometimes also, without pronouncing Verses, they expelled some affections and diseases, and reduced the sick to health, Facsimile of Greek word, as typeset in 1660., by charming them. And from hence it is probable, that the word Epode came to be used. After this manner, Pythagoras instituted a most profitable correction of manners and life by Musick. Hitherto Jamblichus. All which is ratifi’d by other testimonies: That they had Verses against the affections of the mind, grief, anger, lust, is related also by d Seneca, who saith, that Pythagoras composed the troubles of his soul by the Lute. And e Cicero, that the Pythagoreans used to deliver Verses, and some Precepts, and to reduce the mind from intensnesse of thoughts to tranquillity, by Songs and Instruments. To which effect, f AElian relates of Clinias the Pythagorean, that if at any time he perceived himself enclining to anger, he, before it took full possession of him, plaid upon the Lute; and to those who asked him, Why he did so, answered, Because I am calmed.

 That he danced, g Porphyrius confirms, saying, He danced some dances, which he conceived to confer agility and health to the body.

 That he disallowed Flutes and wind-Instruments, appears from h Aristides Quintilianus, who saith, He advised his disciples to refrain from permitting their ears to be defiled with the sound of the Flute; but on the contrary, to purifie the irrationall impulsions of the soul by solemn Songs to the Lute.

 That he made use of Homer and Hesiod for rectification of the mind, is thus related by i Porphyrius; He had morning exercises at his own house, composing his soul to the Lute, and singing some old Paeans of k Thales. He likewise sung some Verses of Homer and Hesiod, whereby the mind seemed to be rendred more sedate.

 The story of the young man is confirmed by l Ammonius, by m Cicero related thus; When as some young men being drunck, and irritated by the musick of Flutes, would have broken open the dore [door] of a modest Matron’s house, he had the woman-piper play a Spondiack tune; which as soon as she did, their raging petulancy was allayed by the slownesse of the Mood, and solemnesse of the Tune. n St. Basil relates another story to the same purpose, that Pythagoras meeting with some, that came from a feast drunck, bid the Piper (the Musitian at that feast) to change his Tune, and to play a Dorick Aire; wherewith they were so brought to themselves, that they threw away their Garlands, and went home ashamed.

 That, evening and morning, they used Musick to compose their minds, is affirmed by many others. o Quintilian, It was the custome of the Pythagoreans as soon as they waked, to excitate their souls with the Lute, that they might be the readier for action; and before they went to sleep, to soften their minds by it. p Plutarch, The Musick of the Lute the Pythagoreans used before they went to sleep, thereby charming and composing the passionate and irrationall part of the soul. q Censorinus, Pythagoras, that his mind might be continually seasoned with Divinity, used (as they say) to sing before he went to sleep, and as soon as he waked.

 As for the severall moods, which, in musicall compositions, were observed by the Antients, for moving particular passions, there is a remarkable fragment of Damon the Musitian, cited by r Aristides.Closing quotation mark

SOURCE:  Stanley, Thomas. The history of philosophy, the third and last volume, in five parts. By Thomas Stanley. London: printed for Humphrey Moseley and Thomas Dring, and are to be sold at their shops at the Prince’s Armes in S. Pauls Church-yard, and at the George in Fleet-street, near S. Dunstons Church, 1660. 73–74.

(having “a sect or School for my self” founded) — Cavendish’s passage reads in full: “Although the indisposition of my body did in a manner disswade me from studying and writing any more; yet the great desire I had to know the Opinions of the Ancient Philosophers, and whether any came near my own, overcame me so much, that even to the prejudice of my own health, I gave my self to the perusing of the works of that learned Author Mr. Stanly, wherein he describes the lives and opinions of the ancient Philosophers; in which I found so much difference betwixt their conceptions and my own in Natural Philosophy, that were it allowable or usual for our sex, I might set up a sect or School for my self, without any prejudice to them; But I, being a woman, do fear they would soon cast me out of their Schools; for though the Muses, Graces and Sciences are all of the female gender, yet they were more esteemed in former ages, then they are now; nay, could it be done handsomely, they would now turn them all from Females into Males; so great is grown the self-conceit of the Masculine, and the disregard of the Female sex.” (M. Cavendish, Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, 3 parts, 1666, 3.1–2) ::

she can not “conceive the Truth” of Pythagorean doctrine — For example: “Neither am I able to conceive the Truth of his [Pythagoras’s] assertion, That all lines are derived from points, and all numbers from unity, and all figures from a circle; for there can be no such thing as a single point, a single unity, a single circle in Nature, by reason Nature is infinitely dividable and composable; neither can they be principles, because they are all but effects.” (M. Cavendish, Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, 3 parts, 1666, 3.18) ::

she recycled the trope in multiple plays and stories — E.g., from Margaret Cavendish’s play, The Publick Wooing (1662): “[spoken by Lady Mute] ... in Antient Times Youth was taught sober Attention, and it was impos’d upon Scholars to keep silence five years before they were suffer’d to speak, that they might afterwards be able to Teach, and not always live to learn as School-boys, which they would always be, if they spent their time in words, and not study and observe ....” (M. Cavendish, Playes Written by the Thrice Noble, Illustrious and Excellent Princess, the Lady Marchioness of Newcastle, 1662, 393)
  Pythagorean pedagogy also inspired scenes in Cavendish’s The Female Academy (printed in the 1662 collection of Playes), Youths Glory, and Deaths Banquet (also in the 1662 Playes), The Convent of Pleasure (printed in the 1668 collection of Plays, Never before Printed), and the tale of “The She Anchoret” (in Natures Pictures Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life, 1656, 287–362). ::

a — Stanley’s note a (in margin) reads in full: “Jamb. c. 25.”
  The reference is to chapter 25 in Iamblichus’s De vita Pythagorica::

b — Stanley’s note b (in margin) reads in full: “Reading Facsimile of Greek 3-word phrase, as typeset in 1660.. This example of Pythagoras seems to relate to Hesiod; the other of Empedocles, to Homer.” ::

c — Stanley’s note c (in margin) reads in full: “See cap.” ::

d — Stanley’s note d (in margin) reads in full: “De ira. 3. 9.” ::

e — Stanley’s note e (in margin) reads in full: “Tusc. quaest. 4. prooem.” ::

f — Stanley’s note f (in margin) reads in full: “Lib. 14. c. 23.” ::

g — Stanley’s note g (in margin) reads in full: “Pag. 21.” ::

h — Stanley’s note h (in margin) reads in full: “Lib. 2.” ::

i — Stanley’s note i (in margin) reads in full: “Pag. 21.” ::

k — Stanley’s note k (in margin) reads in full: “Not the Philosopher, but the Cretan. See the life of Thales, cap.” ::

l — Stanley’s note l (in margin) reads in full: “In quinque voc.” ::

m — Stanley’s note m (in margin) reads in full: “Cited by Boethius.” ::

n — Stanley’s note n (in margin) reads in full: “Homil. 14.” ::

o — Stanley’s note o (in margin) reads in full: “Lib. 9. cap. 4.” ::

p — Stanley’s note p (in margin) reads in full: “De Isid. & Osirid.” ::

q — Stanley’s note q (in margin) reads in full: “Cap. 12.” ::

r — Stanley’s note r (in margin) reads in full: “Mus. lib. 2. pag. 95.” ::