And any one may receive a confirmation of this from the fact, that every organic body has three dimensions, length, depth, and breadth; and four boundaries, the point, the line, the superficies, and the solid; and by theses, when combined, the number seven is made up. But it would be impossible for bodies to be measured by the number seven, according to the combination of the three dimensions, and the four boundaries, if it did not happen that the ideas of the first numbers, one, two, three and four, in which the number ten is founded, comprised the nature of the number seven.
Philo of Alexandria
For the aforesaid numbers have four boundaries, the first, the second, the third, the fourth, and three intervals. The first interval being that between one and two; the second, that between two and three; the third, that between three and four. And at the end of the second period of the same length, he arrives at the age of puberty: at the end of the third period, the growth of the beard takes place. The fourth period sees him arrive at the fullness of his manly strength.
The fifth seven years is the season for marriage. In the sixth period he arrives at the maturity of his understanding.
The seventh period is that of the most rapid improvement and growth of both his intellectual and reasoning powers. The eighth is the sum of the perfection of both. In the ninth, his passions assume a mildness and gentleness, from being to a great degree tamed. In the tenth, the desirable end of life comes upon him, while his limbs and organic senses are still unimpaired: for excessive old age is apt to weaken and enfeeble them all. As in a third, his limbs increase, A beard buds o'er his changing face. When he has passed a fourth such time, His strength and vigour's in its prime.
When five times seven years o'er his head Have passed, the man should think to wed; At forty two, the wisdom's clear To shun vile deed of folly or fear: While seven times seven years to sense Add ready wit and eloquence. And seven years further skill admit To raise them to their perfect height. When nine such periods have passed, His powers, though milder grown, still last; When God has granted ten times seven, The aged man prepares for heaven.
He is an infant till he reaches his seventh year, the age of the shedding of his teeth.
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He is a child till he arrives at the age of puberty, which takes place in fourteen years. He is a boy till his beard begins to grow, and that time is the end of a third period of seven years. He is a youth till the completion of the growth of his whole body, which coincides with the fourth seven years.
Then he is a man till he reaches his forty-ninth year, or seven times seven periods. He is a middle aged man till he is fifty-six, or eight times seven years old; and after that he is an old man. And if any one doubles the third number after the unit, he will find a square; and if he doubles the fourth number, he will find a cube. And if he doubles the seventh from both, he will both a cube and a square; therefore, the third number from the unit is a square in a double ratio. And the fourth number, eight, is a cube. It also comprises all the proportions, the arithmetical, the geometrical, and moreover the harmonic proportion.
And the square consists of these numbers, six, eight, nine, and twelve; and eight bears to six the ratio of being one third greater, which is the diatessaron of harmony. And nine bears to six the ratio of being half as great again, which is the ratio of fifths. And twelve is to six, in a twofold proportion; and this is the same as the diapason. And geometrical proportion is according to these four numbers. For the same ratio that eight bears to six, that also does twelve bear to nine.
And this is the ratio of thirds. Harmonic ratio consists of three numbers, six, and eight, and twelve. One when, whatever ratio the last number bears to the first, the excess by which the last number exceeds the middle one is the same as the excess by which the middle number exceeds the first. And any one may derive a most evident proof of this from the numbers before mentioned, six, and eight, and twelve: for the last number is double the first.
And again, the excess of twelve over eight is double the excess of eight over six. For the number twelve exceeds eight by four, and eight exceeds six by two; and four is the double of two. For what portion of all the things on earth is there which is not fond of seven; being subdued by an affection and longing for the seventh.
For the horizon is something which affects ourselves, in proportion as any one has acute vision, or the contrary; our sensation cutting off at one time a lesser, and at another time a greater circumference. For they turn the air towards the times, that are called the seasons of the year, causing in each of them innumerable changes by calm weather, and pleasant breezes, and clouds, and irresistible blasts of wind.
And again, they make rivers to overflow and to subside, and turn plains into lakes; and again, on the contrary, they dry up the waters: they also cause the alterations of the seas, when they receded, and return with a reflux. For at times, when the tide recedes on a sudden, an extensive line of shore occupies what is usually a wide gulf of sea; and in a short time afterwards, the waters are brought back, and there appears a sea, sailed over, not by shallow boats, but by ships of exceeding great burden.
For it is through conjectures, directed by the aforementioned stars, that they have discovered countries which were previously unknown; those who dwell on the continent having discovered islands, and islanders having found out continents. For it was fitting that the recesses both of earth and sea should be revealed to that God-loving animal, the race of mankind, by the purest of essences, namely heaven.
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For when they set, the furrows are ploughed up for the purpose of sowing; and when they are about to rise, they bring glad tidings of harvest; and after they have arisen, they awaken the rejoicing husbandman to the collection of their necessary food. And they with joy store up their food for their daily use.
The spring equinox in the constellation of Aries, and the autumnal one in Libra, gives the most evident demonstration possible of the divine dignity of the number seven. For each of the equinoxes takes place in the seventh month, at which time men are expressly commanded by law to celebrate the greatest and most popular and comprehensive festivals; since it is owing to both these seasons, that all the fruits of the earth are engendered and brought to perfection; the fruit of corn, and all other things which are sown, being owing to the vernal equinox; and that of the vine, and of all the other plants which bear hard berries, of which there are great numbers, to the autumnal one.
And so again, besides the dominant part of our mind, our soul is divided into seven divisions; there being five senses, and besides them the vocal organ, and after that the generative power. All which things, like the puppets in a raree show, which are moved by strings by the manager, are at one time quiet, and at another time in motion, each according to its suitable habits and capacities of motion.
For the things which are seen are seven; body, distance, shape, magnitude, colour, motion, tranquillity, and besides these there is nothing. For tears are poured out through the eyes, and the purifications of the head through the nostrils, and through the mouth the saliva which is spit out; there are, besides two other channels for the evacuation of the superfluities of the body, the one being placed in front and the other behind; the sixth mode of evacuation is the effusion of perspiration over the whole body, and the seventh that most natural exercise of the generative powers.
Also, children in the womb receive life at the end of seven months, so that a very extraordinary thing happens: for children who are born at the end of the seventh month live, while those who are born at the expiration of the eighth month are altogether incapable of surviving. For that day determines the contest for life, allotting safety to some men, and death to others. For the lyre with seven strings, bearing a proportion to the assemblage of the seven planets, perfects its admirable harmonies, being almost the chief of all instruments which are conversant about music.
And of the elements of grammar, those which are properly called vowels are, correctly speaking, seven in number, since they can be sounded by themselves, and when they are combined with other letters, they make complete sounds; for they fill up the deficiency existing in semi-vowels, making the sounds whole; and they change and alter the natures of the mutes inspiring them with their own power, in order that what has no sound may become endowed with sound.
But the Romans, adding the letter S, which had been omitted by the Greeks, show still more conspicuously the correct etymological meaning of the word, calling it septem, as derived from semnos, venerable, as has been said before, and from sebasmos, veneration.
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And it is honoured by those of the highest reputation among both Greeks and barbarians, who devote themselves to mathematical sciences. It was also greatly honoured by Moses, a man much attached to excellence of all sorts, who described its beauty on the most holy pillars of the law, and wrote it in the hearts of all those who were subject to him, commanding them at the end of each period of six days to keep the seventh holy; abstaining from all other works which are done in the seeking after and providing the means of life, devoting that day to the single object of philosophizing with a view to the improvement of their morals, and the examination of their consciences: for conscience being seated in the soul as a judge, is not afraid to reprove men, sometimes employing pretty vehement threats; at other times by milder admonitions, using threats in regard to matters where men appear to be disobedient, of deliberate purpose, and admonitions when their offences seem involuntary, through want of foresight, in order to prevent their hereafter offending in a similar manner.
For before the earth was green, he says that this same thing, verdure, existed in the nature of things, and before the grass sprang up in the field, there was grass though it was not visible. For although Moses did not describe everything collectively, but only a part of what existed, as he was desirous of brevity, beyond all men that ever wrote, still the few things which he has mentioned are examples of the nature of all, for nature perfects none of those which are perceptible to the outward senses without an incorporeal model.
But Moses, who was accustomed to contemplate and comprehend matters with a more acute and far-sighted vision, considers thus: the vast sea is an element, being a fourth part of the entire universe, which the men after him denominated the ocean, while they look upon the smaller seas which we sail over in the light of harbours. And he drew a distinction between the sweet and drinkable water and that of the sea, attributing the former to the earth, and considering it a portion of the earth, rather than of the ocean, on account of the reason which I have already mentioned, that is to say, that the earth may be held together by the sweet qualities of the water as by a chain; the water acting in the manner of glue.
For if the earth were left entirely dry, so that no moisture arose and penetrated through its holes rising to the surface in various directions, it would split. But now it is held together, and remains lasting, partly by the force of the wind which unites it, and partly because the moisture does not allow it to become dry, and so to be broken up into larger and smaller fragments.
It is not the nature of anything upon the earth to exist without a moist essence. And this is indicated by the throwing of seed, which is either moist, as the seed of animals, or else does not shoot up without moisture, such as the seeds of plants; from which it is evident that it follows that the aforesaid moist essence must be a portion of the earth which produces everything, just as the flux of the catamenia is a part of women.
For by men who are learned in natural philosophy, this also is said to be the corporeal essence of children. For it is not the earth which imitates the woman, as Plato has said, but the woman who has imitated the earth which the race of poets has been accustomed with truth to call the mother of all things, and the fruit-bearer, and the giver of all things, since she is at the same time the cause of the generation and durability of all things, to the animals and plants. Rightly, therefore, did nature bestow on the earth as the eldest and most fertile of mothers, streams of rivers, and fountains like breasts, in order that the plants might be watered, and that all living things might have abundant supplies of drink.
For man as formed now is perceptible to the external senses, partaking of qualities, consisting of body and soul, man or woman, by nature mortal. But man, made according to the image of God, was an idea, or a genus, or a seal, perceptible only by the intellect, incorporeal, neither male nor female, imperishable by nature.
For that the body was created by the Creator taking a lump of clay, and fashioning the human form out of it; but that the soul proceeds from no created thing at all, but from the Father and Ruler of all things. For when he uses the expression, "he breathed into," etc. Mortal as to his body, but immortal as to his intellect. For he in truth was really good and perfect. And one may form a conjecture of the perfection of his bodily beauty from three considerations, the first of which is this: when the earth was now but lately formed by its separation from that abundant quantity of water which was called the sea, it happened that the materials out of which the things just created were formed were unmixed, uncorrupted, and pure; and the things made from this material were naturally free from all imperfection.
For it was an abode or sacred temple for a reasonable soul which was being made, the image of which he was about to carry in his heart, being the most God-like looking of images. And after he had endowed it with fair proportions, he clothed it with beauty of flesh, and embellished it with an exquisite complexion, wishing, as far as was possible, that man should appear the most beautiful of beings. For God does not seem to have availed himself of any other animal existing in creation as his model in the formation of man; but to have been guided, as I have said before, by his own reason alone.
On which account, Moses affirms that this man was an image and imitation of God, being breathed into in his face in which is the place of the sensations, by which the Creator endowed the body with a soul. Then, having placed the mind in the dominant part as king, he gave him as a body of satellites, the different powers calculated to perceive colours and sounds, and flavours and odours, and other things of similar kinds, which man could never have distinguished by his own resources without the sensations.
And it follows of necessity that an imitation of a perfectly beautiful model must itself be perfectly beautiful, for the word of God surpasses even that beauty which exists in the nature which is perceptible only by the external senses, not being embellished by any adventitious beauty, but being itself, if one must speak the truth, its most exquisite embellishment. For our generation has been from men: but he was created by God.
Philo of Alexandria
And in the same proportion as the one Author of being is superior to the other, so too is the being that is produced. For as that which is in its prime is superior to that the beauty of which is gone by, whether it be an animal, or a plant, or fruit, or anything else whatever of the productions of nature; so also the first man who was ever formed appears to have been the height of perfection of our entire race, and subsequent generations appear never to have reached an equal state of perfection, but to have at all times been inferior both in their appearance and in their power, and to have been constantly degenerating, which same thing I have also seen to be the case in the instance of the sculptors' and painters' art.
For the imitations always fall short of the original models. And those works which are painted or fashioned from models must be much more inferior, as being still further removed from the original. And the stone which is called the magnet is subject to a similar deterioration.
For any iron ring which touches it is held by it as firmly as possible, but another which only touches that ring is held less firmly. And the third ring hangs from the second, and the fourth from the third, and the fifth from the fourth, and so on one from another in a long chain, being all held together by one attractive power, but still they are not all supported in the same degree.
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