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Pythagoras - Iamblichus's Life - Healing with music



Type of spiritual experience

A description of the experience

Iamblichus – Life of Pythagoras [translated by Thomas Taylor]

Pythagoras was of opinion that music contributed greatly to health, if it was used in an appropriate manner. For he was accustomed to employ a purification of this kind, but not in a careless way.

And he called the medicine which is obtained through music by the name of purification. But he employed such a melody as this about the vernal season. For he placed in the middle a certain person who played on the lyre and seated in a circle round him those who were able to sing. And thus, when the person in the centre struck the lyre, those that surrounded him sung certain paeans, through which they were seen to be delighted, and to become elegant and orderly in their manners.

But at another time they used music in the place of medicine. And there are certain melodies devised as remedies against the passions of the soul, and also against despondency and lamentation, which Pythagoras invented as things that afford the greatest assistance in these maladies. And again, he employed other melodies against rage and anger, and against every aberration of the soul.

There is also another kind of modulation invented as a remedy against desires. He likewise used dancing; but employed the lyre as an instrument for this purpose.

For he conceived that the pipe was calculated to excite insolence, was a theatrical-instrument, and had by no means a liberal sound. Select verses also of Homer and Hesiod were used by him, for the purpose of correcting the soul.

Among the deeds of Pythagoras likewise, it is said,- that once through the spondaic song of a piper, he extinguished the rage of a Tauromenian lad, who had been feasting by night, and intended to burn the vestibule of his mistress, in consequence of seeing her coming from the house of his rival.   For the lad was inflamed and excited [to this rash attempt] by a Phrygian song; which however Pythagoras most rapidly suppressed.

But Pythagoras as he was astronomizing, happened to meet with the Phrygian piper at an unseasonable time of night, and persuaded him to change his Phrygian for a spondaic song; through which the fury of the lad being immediately repressed, he returned home in an orderly manner, though a little before this, he could not be in the least restrained, nor would in short, bear any admonition; and even stupidly insulted Pythagoras.

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