Revisiting Philo's Therapeutae and their Context/Timeline

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billd89
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Re: Dating Philo's Therapeutae; Context/Timeline

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Thank you. I was aware of this, havent seen it; what is Niehoff's timeline, please? At least for DVC.

Moritz Friedländer claimed DVC was written by a 'plagiarist' of Philo (perhaps a former scribe of his?), presumably a decade after his Essene work became known, c. 30 AD; I'm not persuaded by this thesis but also doubtful.

otoh, Conybeare (who I find problematic) definitively claims DVC was written 22 or 23 AD!

My own hunch: in whatever function(s) as a lawyer/propagandist/PR, a fairly young Philo might have written this c.17 AD. I think it's a defense against (Jewish & Greek) harsh criticisms: that the 'Therapeutae' were unsavory, trouble-making, libertine heretics. His account also seems recollective (to me); I would guess he himself lived at the commune as a student, c.5 BC or so.


*Edit: Niehoff (2018) follows Joan Taylor (& David Hay?) in late dating DVC (Taylor [2020], p.5): "We can therefore date it around 41 CE. As Niehoff (2011b; 2018) has well defined, it forms part of a body of work that deals with philosophical topics ..."

"As Alexandrian Jews were vilified and attacked, Philo went to Rome to present the case for his community, faced with intense opposition. Side-stepping direct confrontation, Philo here cleverly presents the Therapeutae ..."

I disagree: stylistically, it's different. There are internal contradictions against a late date, also. In her 2003 work on Jewish women philosophers in Alexandria, she proferred the idea (Hay's?) that DVC was a reworked essay from decades earlier. That fits my idea of 'recollection' (i.e. that it may be largely based on decades-old memories), however. The world of DVC is a past-time place (quasi-fiction) already. By this, I mean that -in either case- it's a partly a memorial to the Therapeuts' writers' colony, as recalled from sometime between 5 BC and 15 AD.

Though I enjoy her writing style, I (sadly?) disagree with most of Taylor's conclusions. Perhaps this is the peril of highly conjectural history w/ a dearth of material: it boils down to opinion.
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Re: Philo's Therapeutae ... re-purposed Military Complex, at Lake Marea

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For hundreds of years, there was an Aramaic 'Jewish' garrison community at Lake Marea, one day's march from Rakotis/Alexandria. From Philo's De Vita Contemplativa, I presume the relic barracks had been re-purposed, whenever the Jewish mercenaries had been de-commissioned and the site abandoned. What group eventually took control of the barracks site?

Best guess would be the Warrior-Priest 'Cult of Melchizedek', as a home for wounded/infirm/elderly veterans c.50 BC. It may have been a Jewish veterans' fraternity set up in the old barracks, near villages where fellow-soldiers settled. De-commissioned, the colony would have been first established as a primitive hospital or 'recovery center' (for which the term "Therapeutae" makes sense). As I wrote elsewhere: 'Melchizedek' suggests a Healing-Savior cult (c.150 BC) and may have enjoined a few primitive hospitals or spa-type retreats in various locales, for Jews suffering mental illness, etc. In time, the healing cult grew; here is a rare site where a cultic practice was revealed.

Melchizedekian prayers towards the symbol of the visible Creator God, Logos (Son of God):
Image

We are told that sympathetic villages (viz. in a mixed Graeco-Jewish enclave) surrounded the rural colony, DVC 3.23: "the villages which surround it on all sides give it safety." The old mercenary guard had settled and remained together, even if they didn't adhere (or had never been) 'strictly Jewish'. When the veterans died off - perhaps several generations earlier (c.50 BC?) - the (grand)children of the "Macedonian" (Jewish) soldier-class took over the old Lake Marea barracks (spartan dormitories with cell-like chambers). From Jung (via Philo, DVC 1.2), we are told the Therapeuts are (inheritors of?) the world's first known psychological rehab, practicing:

"an art of medicine more excellent than that in general use in cities (for that only heals bodies, but the other heals souls which are under the mastery of terrible and almost incurable diseases, which pleasures and appetites, fears and griefs, and covetousness, and follies, and injustice, and all the rest of the innumerable multitude of other passions and vices, have inflicted upon them)"

A 'Jewish' philosophers' camp was eventually established and long-resident by Philo's childhood (c.5 BC.) It was located in a beautiful climate - wealthy villas nearby, Philo seems intimately familiar with the neighborhood. From first-hand experience, having visited the camp in his youth, Philo defends the unorthodox colony against tacit suspicions of an unknown urbane audience. He could merely allude to the publicly-seen age-old Melchizedekian practices (solar-worship!), no need to further discuss it. In fact, the Therapeut colony had evolved, diversified and refocused (creating content/ propaganda for far-flung Diaspora synagogues of all stripes). But he avoids divulging the specifics of their business and instead portrays the 'ambiguously Jewish' Therapeutae as harmless elderly, dashing off poems.

Herodotus Histories (published in Vol. I of the Loeb Classical Library edition [1920]), Book 2.30; elsewhere (2.154) on what we may presume to be referencing 'Chaldean' mercenaries, he mentions seeing "the ruins of their houses" which were identifiable (as Jewish barracks?):
In the reign of Psammetichus {625 BC}, there were garrisons posted at Elephantine facing Ethiopia, at Daphnae of Pelusium facing Arabia and Assyria, and at Marea facing Libya. And still in my time {c.430 BC} the Persians hold these posts as they were held in the days of Psammetichus; there are Persian guards at Elephantine* and at Daphnae.

*Herodotus is right: there was a Persian garrison at Elephantine. Documents, written in Aramaic, prove that the soldiers were Jews.

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Re: Philo's Therapeutae, as 'Psycho-Medical Specialists' of the Serapis Cult

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Jane L. Draycott, "Approaches to Healing in Roman Egypt" 2011 PhD, p.100:

G.A. Moss* has suggested that the Therapeutae, a Jewish sect related to the Essenes, were resident at Canopus and attached to the Serapeum where they undertook medical practices, citing a series of similarities between the cult of Sarapis and the Therapeutae. This is a somewhat broad interpretation of Philo's description of the Therapeutae in On the Contemplative Life, the result of translating Therapeutae 'to heal' rather than 'to serve'; 'to wait on' or even 'to tend the sick'.317 On the contrary, Joan Taylor and Philip Davies argue that rather than being related to the Essenes, the Therapeutae were actually simply devotees of gods.318 However, it is notable that the votive offerings that they cite as proof are all dedicated to gods and goddesses associated with healing. Additionally, when Philo describes their community, like Strabo and Ammianus Marcellinus he emphasises the healthy climate ofthe area.319 He also makes it clear that the community, consisting of both men and women, was a reasonably affluent and educated one so it is feasible that at least some of its members possessed a certain amount of medical knowledge and the ability to put it into practice.320

* G.A. Moss "The Essene's sister sect in Egypt: another medical site?" [2002] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10 ... 0212200414

This is problematic. Where Taylor has argued the Therapeutae are Jewish, how can they worship "gods"? If they must be admitted as polytheists it seems more rather than less certain they are actual "soul-healers" (i.e. occult specialists), as DVC states unequivocably.

Taylor would deny this fundamental characteristic defning this odd Judaic cult, recognized as far back as Eusebius (Schaff [1892]) :
He {Philo} then adds the reasons for such a name, explaining it from the fact that they applied remedies and healed the souls of those who came to them, by relieving them like physicians, of evil passions, or from the fact that they served and worshiped the Deity in purity and sincerity.

My own qualification would be: Philo doesnt explain HOW they are soul-healers, specifically. What he has omitted is the inconvenient truth: embarassing facts of their occupation. And all that would suggest something more and not less syncretistic/heterodox, a controversy he wants to avoid. (Taylor hasn't thought this through.) In the rural nomes of Egypt and elsewhere, the Therapeutae were (itinerant? Temple attached?) psycho-spiritual healers who engaged in radical philosophy/preaching, dream interpretation, folk psychology and what we would call 'magic'.

θεραπεύω: healing or worship? Taylor wants "Jewish philosophers" - a contradiction in Philo that's deeply problematic and unresolved. Philo tells us smthg different! Here is the essential text that Taylor would excise as an interpolation, or smthg irrelevant to be dismissed. It is, I think, the crux of the matter.

έμφαίνεται διά της προσρήσεως: θεραπευταί γάρ και θεραπευτρίδες ετύμως καλούνται, ήτοι παρόσον ιατρικήν επαγγέλλονται κρείσσονα της κατά πόλεις – ή μέν γάρ σώματα θεραπεύει μόνον, εκείνη δε και ψυχάς νόσοις κεκρατημένας χαλεπαίς τε και δυσιάτoις, ας εγκατέσκηψαν ήδοναι και επιθυμίαι και λυπαι και φόβοι πλεονεξίαι τε και αφροσύναι και αδικίαι και το των άλλων παθών και κακιών ανήνυτον πλήθος

I am following Louise Wells [2017] (among others) in seeing smthg very, very important in a suggested 'therapeusis'.
Here to cure in the sense of θεραπεύω involves healing the soul as well as the body, incorporating spiritual, mental, emotional and physical healing. Indeed, while not excluding the importance of physical health, the spiritual, emotional and mental health of a person appears to be more important in Philo's definition of θεραπεύω. Thus to cure in the sense of θεραπεύω is to strive for holistic health. How do the Therapeutae do this? The answer lies in their life of worship, the other meaning attributed by Philo to θεραπεύω. Philo gives a detailed description of the way the community lived and worshipped, particularly admiring their piety.110 In this way Philo makes it clear that holistic health and spiritual worship are inextricably entwined in the notion of θεραπεύω.

The Jewish Encyclopedia [1905] entry for 'Philo Judaeus' (by C. H. Toy, C. Siegfried, J. Z. Lauterbach) errs in terming the Θεραπευταί as "servants of Yhwh" - Yahveh is never mentioned, and Philo still has his own Two-God Problem. Yahvehists didn't worship the sun; 'Melchizedekians' had either evolved separately or departed from the normative Judaism of Philo's day. (Their philosophy & religious practices were almost unspeakably controversial - that is WHY Philo is defending them.)

Though suggesting smthg closer to Moritz Friedlander's radical thesis (which I agree with, in parts), their highly speculative commentary on the colony itself is completely unsupported by anything (even DVC, which states the commune was then generations old) and makes little sense by implication:
It must furthermore be remembered that Philo in none of his other works mentions these colonies of allegorizing ascetics, in which he would have been highly interested had he known of them. But pupils of Philo may subsequently have founded near Alexandria similar colonies that endeavored to realize his ideal of a pure life triumphing over the senses and passions; and they might also have been responsible for the one-sided development of certain of the master's principles. While Philo desired to renounce the lusts of this world, he held fast to the scientific culture of Hellenism, which the author of this book denounces.

Nevertheless, my Anonymous Authors replicated this very logic for their own 'Therapeutic' project.
Last edited by billd89 on Fri Apr 23, 2021 3:50 am, edited 7 times in total.
StephenGoranson
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Re: Revisiting Philo's Therapeutae and their Context/Timeline

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The bolded quote above, "On the contrary, Joan Taylor and Philip Davies argue that rather than being related to the Essenes, the Therapeutae were actually simply devotees of gods.318" if I may suggest, is misleading. Philo wrote of "servers of God" {note, the singular, God] according to Philo. Prob. 75, as repeated on page 6 of Taylor/Davies, the page cited in note 318. Plato--not Philo--on p. 6 mentioned gods, plural. Taylor/Davies note various translations of therapeutae. Philo of course mentions contemplative Therapeutae and active (cf. 'osey [observers of] hatorah) Essenes, as in some sense related.
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Re: Philo's Therapeutae Pray to the Sun

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DVC 2.11:
But the therapeutic sect of mankind, being continually taught to see without interruption, may well aim at obtaining a sight of the living God, and may pass by the sun, which is visible to the outward sense, and never leave this order which conducts to perfect happiness.

These Therapeutae offer prayers to the Sun (Visible God: Creator of Life on earth) in hopes of seeing the Living God (Invisible God: Father). As stated later, it's the "Father and Creator" (DVC 11.90) - as Xtians might say under the triune pretext "Father, Son and Holy Spirit". Philo still has the Two-God Problem elsewhere, no exception here.

Polytheism is to be expected! Other sources confirm that some 'Jews' worshipped Serapis as Joseph, as some early 'Christians' worshipped Serapis as Christ. I call that polytheism (denials notwithstanding: Catholics, with all their saints, are likewise polytheistic), any theological fig-leaf disallowed.

What Jews (c. 1st C AD) were known to worship the Sun? (Melchizedek was part of an older Semitic solar cult.) Philo isn't divulging the whole story, nor properly explaining this syncretistic Judeo-Egyptian cult - however many 'gods' they recognized - or even calling them Jews. Why? Everything is a game of inference - we have to read between the lines for the truth.

I'm interested to see Moss' paper; Taylor's work fails to grasp the essential truth (as indicated already).
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Re: Revisiting Philo's Therapeutae and their Context/Timeline

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G. A. Moss (2002) 260 wrote, concerning Kh. Qumran locus 30 plaster installations:
“The ‘desks’ in room 30 served as beds:[….]”
That seems to me quite unlikely.
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'Therapeuts' of Military Descent?

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Alexandria
[2021]:
Jews have been part of the ethnic and religious landscape of Egypt since the 6th Century BCE and inhabited Alexandria from its foundation. Then, “the Macedonian conquest opened the floodgates of a new Jewish immigration to Egypt.” The Letter of Aristeas (Let.Aris.12) in combination with the Satrap stela (dated August 29, 311 BCE) suggest that Jews came to Alexandria as prisoners of war after Ptolemy Lagos’s campaign in Gaza in 312–311 BCE. Sandra Gambetti [2009] therefore makes the significant point “that the Alexandrian Jewish community had military origins.”

Sandra Gambetti, The Alexandrian Riots of 38 C.E. and the Persecution of the Jews [2009] p.48ff
[The politeuma was] institutionally close to, but separate from, the rest of the Jewish community. The Letter does not specify how this distinction came about. A pattern can be identified, however, on the basis of comparative evidence (e.g. the politeumata of Heracleopolis and of the Idumaeans in Memphis): the Jewish garrison became the politeuma, that is, the upper tier of the community, and all other Jews living in the vicinity of the politeuma were what the Letter calls the plethos {=multitude}. Comparison with Herakleopolis also suggests that the Alexandrian Jews may have enjoyed independent legal jurisdiction for civil matters, a privilege which allowed them to avoid the Alexandrian foreign tribunal mentioned in P. Hal. 1, col. iv, l. 164. No other direct evidence supports discussion of any other aspect of the institutional or administrative organization of the politeuma or the surrounding community. Other than having separate jurisdiction, the polituema was likely instrumental in obtaining certain privileges and exemptions from obligations. For example, during the Ptolemaic period, the cavalry cleruchs and active soldiers did some public service, while also enjoying a reduced tax-rate. Alexandria’s Jews, Macedonians from the military point of view, were likely included in that group. The discussion of privileged tax-status, however, should not be limited to soldiers. In his effort to show that in Ptolemaic times the Jews and the Greeks enjoyed the same status, Josephus claims that Alexandria’s Jews and the Greeks share the same appellation of Hellenes (B.J., 2.487).

Around the identified garrison at Lake Mareotis grew a 'Macedonian' Jewish settlement, separate/distant from 'Greek' Alexandria and with some privileges, c.300-150 BC. If Ptolemaic Jewish life (religion/culture) survived into the Roman period, this was a prime settlement zone. In coded language, Philo describes this neighborhood (DVC 3.22) as a site of 'pilgrimage' or 'homeland' known for its 'safety': (DVC 3.23) "the villages which surround it on all sides give it safety." A multitude? The urban Jewish community (i.e. in Alexandria) would have been derived from this original colony. In time, many Jews moved into the metropolis; some would have kept farms/villas for safety. Meanwhile, the barracks site might still have housed elderly veterans (c.50 BC?) before the community (descendants of those privileged veterans) took over this primitive sanitarium; and then it became a writers' colony, c.10 BC?

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Revisiting Philo's Therapeutae: The Poimandres Thesis

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Mead 1906: Link
Ménard said: "It seems certain that ‘The Shepherd’ {Poimandres} came from that school of Therapeuts of Egypt, who have been often erroneously confounded with the Essenians of Syria and Palestine” (p. lvi)... ‘The Shepherd’ {c.15 AD} should be earlier than (Gnostic Basilides' & Valentinus') schools {c.125 AD}" (p. lviii.). As to “The Sermon on the Mountain,” “it can be placed, in order of ideas and date {c.60 AD} between ‘The Shepherd’ {c.15 AD} and the first Gnostic schools {c.90 AD} it should be a little earlier than the founders of Gnosticism, Basilides, and Valentinus {adulthood, c.80 AD}” (p. lxv.).

Here are two sources identified (after Mead [1906]) claiming the Author of Poimandres as a Jewish Therapeut (of whatever 1st C. AD date).

1) See B.J. Hilgers, De Hermetis Trismegisti Poimandro commentatio [1855], pp.16-7, Link.
{p.16} ...Quibus Hermeti h. e. libelli auctori persona imponitur moderatoris asceticae cuiusdam societatis, cuius mos erat, ad vesperam, occidente sole, comuniter precari; et profecto hoc illud est, quod nobis hominum genus significat, cui auctorem nostrum addicendum esse statuamus. Ul statim dicam, quod sentio: Therapeutarum sectae assectatorem se praebet auctor; cuius rei testis est mos ille, quem Therapeutis in usu fuisse constat, testis sententiarnm in libello propositarum cum Philonis iudaei, Therapeutarum patroni, doctrinis necessitudo, testis denique Therapeutarum vivendi rationis cum Poimandri praeceptis convenientia.


Finally, it will be possible to compare in a few words what can be said about Poimander's author. … For we have to ascertain that he was not a follower of the doctrines of Christ, but of the so-called Neo-Platonists, and especially following Philo Judæus, whose entreaties he sought to adapt and conform by Scripture's propositions. But we will approach the truth, from our place with this tractate, if we follow the guide, by which Hermes, instructed by Poimandres, opens to him and others, relates himself to this statement {CH1.29}: “And those who desired to be taught cast themselves at my feet. But having made them arise, I am become a guide of the Race to the Father’s Home, teaching them the words, and how they too may be saved in this way. I sowed the logoi of Wisdom in them, bred by the sword drawn from the Ambrosial Water. When evening came and the sun’s beams began to set, I urged all to thanksgiving, and when they gave thanks, each turned to their own bed.”
The person of Hermes, author of this book, is placed in the role of moderator in a certain ascetical society whose custom was to pray in community each evening, at sunset. And certainly this {society} is what signifies for us ‘the Race of Men’ to which we maintain our author ought to be ascribed. Now I will say what I suppose: the author presents himself as a follower of the Therapeut sect. Witness to this is that custom agreed to have been practiced by the Therapeuts (as evidenced by the sentence proposed in the book by Philo Judæus, patron of the Therapeutae), the relationship to the doctrines, and finally, the fact of the way of life of the Therapeutae which conforms to precepts of Poimandre.

2) Hermès Trismégiste, 1866, trad. Ménard, pp.54-60:
It is very likely that the Poimandres and the Gospel of John were written at dates not far from each other, in circles where the same ideas and the same expressions were current, the one among the Judaeo-Greeks of Alexandria, the other among those of Ephesus. There is, however, a profound difference between them which is summed up in the words of John: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." The incarnation of the Word is the fundamental dogma of Christianity, and as there is no trace of this dogma in the Poimandres, it is not likely that the author was aware of it; otherwise he would have alluded to it, either to adhere to it or to fight it.

What seems certain is that Poimandres came from this school of Egyptian Therapeuts, who have often been mistakenly confused with the Essenes of Syria and Palestine. The Essenes," he says, "regard the reasoning part of philosophy as not necessary for acquiring virtue, and they leave it to the lovers of words. Physics seems to them to be above human nature; they leave it to those who are lost in the clouds, except for questions concerning the existence of God and the creation of the world. They are concerned above all with morality. Philo goes on to describe the morals of the Essenes, and this description could be applied to the early Christian communities, so striking is the similarity. We can therefore believe that it was among them that the Apostles recruited their first disciples. It seems probable to me that the Shepherd of Hermas came out of this group, and that the title of the work and the name of the author inspired, in a spirit of rivalry, some Judaeo-Egyptian Therapeut to compose in his turn a kind of apocalypse that was less moralistic and more metaphysical, and to attribute it, not to a contemporary Hermas or Hermes, but to the famous Hermes Trismegistus, so famous in all Egypt.

In the Poimandres, in fact, we find several features which agree perfectly with what Philo says about the Therapeuts, whom he takes as a type of The Contemplative Life: "In the study of the holy books, they treat the ethnic philosophy by allegories, and guess the secrets of nature by the interpretation of symbols." This sentence, which applies so well to the allegorical system of Philo himself, makes one think at the same time of the cosmogony of Poimandres, although the Biblical texts are not invoked there as authority. One can already sense the Gnostic systems that will emerge from a more intimate combination of Judaism and Hellenism. Philo also says that the Therapeuts, constantly occupied with the thought of God, find, even in their dreams, visions of the beauty of the Divine Powers. "There are some," he says, "who discover through dreams during their sleep the venerable dogmas of sacred philosophy. Now, the author of the Poimandres begins his work with these words: "I was reflecting one day on the beings; my thought was hovering in the heights, and all my bodily sensations were numbed as in the heavy sleep which follows satiety, excess or fatigue." He then recounts his vision, and after writing it down, he falls asleep full of joy: "The sleep of the body produced the lucidity of the intelligence, my closed eyes saw the truth." According to Philo, the Therapeuts used to pray twice a day, in the morning and in the evening; the author of Poimandres, after having instructed the men, invites them to prayer at the last light of the setting sun.

After having spread among the Jews of Asia, the Christian missionaries went to bring their doctrines to the Jews of Egypt. Instead of the industrious customs of the Essenes, who, according to Philo, practiced manual trades, pooled the products of their labor, and reduced philosophy to morality and morality to charity, the monasteries of the Therapeuts offered to Christian propaganda a much more Hellenized population, accustomed to abstract speculations and mystical allegories. From these tendencies, combined with the dogma of the incarnation, came the Gnostic sects. The Poimandres must be earlier than these sects; one does not yet find in it the mythological luxury which characterizes them: the divine powers, life, light, etc., are not yet distinguished or personified, and above all there is not yet any question of the incarnation of the Word. But one finds there already the idea of Gnosis, that is to say of the mystical science which unites man to God; this authorizes, not to suppose, with Jablonski, that the author is a Gnostic, but to regard him as a precursor of Gnosticism, as well as Philo. In the one, the Jewish element dominates, in the other, the Greek element; to be Gnostics, the only thing missing in both was the admission of the incarnation of the Word.

This is a William Blake painting on Enoch's 'translation' ; to me, it suggests a Therapeut community where everyone is reading/composing esoterica all day long. No shroud-weaving, here!:
Image

A less successful etching on Enoch, I think:
Image

Yonge's Trans:
DVC (29) They have also writings of ancient men, who having been the founders of one sect or another have left behind them many memorials of the allegorical system of writing and explanation, whom they take as a kind of model, and imitate the general fashion of their sect; so that they do not occupy themselves solely in contemplation, but they likewise compose psalms and hymns to God in every kind of metre and melody imaginable, which they of necessity arrange in more dignified rhythm. (30) Therefore, during six days, each of these individuals, retiring into solitude by himself, philosophises by himself in one of the places called monasteries, never going outside the threshold of the outer court, and indeed never even looking out.

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