[The original MS. of this brief account in H.P.B.’s own handwriting was among the papers of her old and trusted friend, John M. Watkins of London. It is now in the hands of his son, Geoffrey Watkins. Because of the way the text starts, this item may have been intended for a Glossary.—Compiler.]
PHERECYDES (Gr.). A Greek philosopher from Syros, the teacher of Pythagoras. Like the latter he is credited on the concurrent testimony of antiquity, to have travelled many years in the East, to have visited India and Chaldea, and lived in Egypt, where he was the disciple of the initiated priests of the two latter countries. On the other hand, such writers as Clemens Alexandrinus and Philo Biblius, assert that “Pherecydes did not receive instruction in philosophy from any master, but obtained his knowledge from the secret books of the Phoenicians.”* The latter assertion cannot, however, interfere in any way with the former statement, that which is most interesting in it being the fact that the Phoenicians like all other ancient races had secret books, i.e., an exoteric religion for the profane and masses, and an esoteric system for those who aspired to initiation into the mysteries. Pherecydes is denied by modern Encyclopaedists the title of philosopher, because, as alleged, “he lived at the time at which men began to speculate on cosmogony and the nature of the gods, but had hardly yet commenced the study of true philosophy.”† This is an error as great as
* F. W. Sturtz, Pherecydis Fragmenta, Lips., 1824, 2nd ed.
† Wm. Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London, 1849, S.V. Pherecydes.
so many others. Real philosophy dates from Pythagoras only in Greece, but was pursued millenniums earlier in other countries; nor would Pythagoras, the “lover of truth” . . . . . that which he called philosophy, in the insanely materialistic albeit scientific speculations and theories of our modern philosophy, so-called. However it may be, Theosophists may well look up to Pherecydes as one of their earliest Western teachers and authorities, since his work Eptamuchos (z+BJV<LP@H) — which others call Theokrasia and others again Theologia—is the first in classical literature which speaks of reincarnation, or metempsychosis, now so falsely understood; but which was synonymous with the ancients, with rebirth or the immortality of the soul. It is by the latter name that Suidas calls the doctrine taught by Pherecydes, and says that it was contained in two books, in which moreover, the septenary principle was plainly taught, though, of course, in more or less symbolical and allegorical languages. Thus he states in Kosmos there are three high principles, which he designates as Chthona (Chaos), Aether (Zeus) and Chronos (Time), and four lower principles, the elements of fire, water, air and the earth. Of these everything visible and invisible in the Universe was formed. He was a great collector of Orphic writings, and his own were extant in the days of the Alexandrian Neo-Platonists. He is referred to by Aristotle as a mythological, and by Plutarch as a theological writer; and mentioned in a great number of classics. Diogenes Laertius* calls him a rival of Thales, and some credit him with having been the first writer in Greece in prose, which he used to explain philosophical subjects. There was another Pherecydes of Athens, often confused with Pherecydes of Syros. But while the latter was a contemporary of Servius Tullius (cf. Cicero and Diogenes Laertius), the sixth King of Rome, and must have lived, therefore, according to the Olympiads, in the sixth century B.C., Pherecdyes the Athenian lived a century later being a contemporary of Herodotus. He was a
* [Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Book I, Ch. 11, §116-18, p. 123 in Loeb Classical Library, London, Heinemann, 1950 ed.]
logographer, and has done nothing to merit a place in this work. It is curious that Democritus hints at, and Cicero denounces, the philosophy of Pherecydes and Pythagoras as being “cribbed” wholly from the Eastern systems. The charge is strange since both Pherecydes and Pythagoras never made a secret of the Eastern origin of their doctrines.