The temple of Eleima became a source of joy. The services led the people back to their origins and they enjoyed the perfect sustenance. The place where the rites and the offerings took place was always neat and the air was purified with the best incense. In the field at the front, at the foot of the tree, many people gathered each day to speak as their hearts commanded. Some brought wine, others brought bread. It also happened at night that they were seized by clouds of desire and shared their bodies, on other nights they sang until it made them melancholy.
A man arrived there from an island. He had traveled widely and in his company there were many sensible boys and girls. They spoke to each other about the things that are important to a good life. They said: Out of all that this world provides, the possession of friendship is by far the most important.
When this company had arrived at the temple, they brought their sacrifices to the Gods. They then sat down under the leaves of the tree of Arethusa and shared bread. A woman from the city, who was also there, saw them and asked who he was and why he had come here. The man answered that he was named Epicure, that he and his companions greatly appreciated each other’s company and that it pleased them to travel together and to investigate what brings true joy and wisdom and what does not. Thereupon the woman remonstrated with him, arguing that wisdom is given by the Gods, and she asked him whether he did not fear becoming old and unhappy amidst this youthful party.
The prophet answered: Happiness and wisdom go hand in hand. It is never too early or too late to strive for wisdom, because what is wisdom other than knowledge of what lives within the people? If those who are young do not tarry in seeking wisdom, they will be without fear once their days are numbered. And if those who are no longer young do not cease to look for wisdom, they will remain always young in the esteem of the world. Neither youth nor wisdom decides who we are, but our appreciation of happiness, because with happiness we have everything and without it we are endlessly searching for it.
Happiness has no fixed shape, she arises from the study of what gives a life meaning. Of those things, the most important is the belief that the Godhead is an immortal and many-shaped being and the belief that the Godhead lets itself be known by man through the Gods that carry the visible and the invisible worlds. It is not hard to see there are Gods, because the experience of them is abundantly clear, and in each of my companions I perceive daily the spark of divinity.
The woman that heard him speak thus, asked him: By talking like that, you make it seem as though the happiness of the people is solely in the hands of the Gods, but is it not always up to us to decide who we are? Are we not therefore each of us alone responsible for our own happiness?
And the prophet answered: To be sure, we are responsible for our happiness. One cannot hide behind the will of the Gods, because that will is unknowable to us. What each person does for themselves has consequences for that person and for the environment around them. The Gods lead our way, but through our actions we change the way the Gods see us and we set an example to others how they can be seen. The idea that people are subjected to unknown forces gives them an excuse to behave as they like, and that is clearly not the case. We must face that people allow themselves to be led by their desires and that some desires are natural while others are meaningless; and that some desire are necessary while others must be understood and mastered.
For necessary desires it is the case that their fulfilment is a condition for happiness. For others, it is the case that they relieve the body of discomfort, and for yet others it is the case that their fulfilment is a condition for life itself. Those who have a good understanding of this will focus all their attention on gaining a healthy body and a calm mind, for those are the beginning and the end of a blessed life. The goal of all our pursuits, after all, is to be released from pain and fear, and once we have attained that, the storm in our hearts will quiet; and then there is no longer any cause to seek out anything else.
And that is why we do not blindly chase after every pleasure. Oftentimes we leave out something pleasurable because it will ultimately lead to a greater loss. But we also undergo torments and endure them for long periods of time, provided their ultimate result is a greater wellbeing. So, just because all that brings wellbeing is naturally good, we still need not chase after all pleasures, just as all pain is torment but not all pain is to be avoided. Sometimes we regard something good as an evil and we regard an evil as something good. By measuring the one against the other, the comfort against the discomfort, we arrive at a sensible judgement.
But again the woman interrupted him, and she asked: There are many delightful things in the world that bring pleasure and cause no pain. Some people live in big houses with golden bathtubs, others spend their money on soft cushions and sweet meals. Are they not free to do so, provided their search does not harm others? Do you blame those that spend their life in opulence that they seek opulence? Is it not the fate of the happy that they can live in great prosperity?
And the prophet answered: If a person lingers on the world of outward appearances, he will be attracted to them; the attraction becomes greed and greed leads to frenzy. From frenzy arises only caprice, which leads to memory loss, making a clear judgement impossible; and so man wilts prematurely amidst opulence; and he does not see how he has wronged his fellow man.
Some are very attached to power and gold. They allow themselves to be misled by the ornate promises of merchants, they glorify the world of matter and say: There is nothing better than this. Their minds are consumed by thoughts of power and personal gain, they consult only with their avarice and keep on thinking of new ways to ensure their own possessions and power; the result is discontent and fragmentation.
Just as a ship is helplessly carried away by a storm, so discernment is dragged off by the greedy mind. Only if the intellect remains unperturbed and allows itself to be led by thoughts of the return to the Godhead can there be peace. For those who see the truth the world of objects loses its lustre. A sensible person can let go of their desires while still remaining in the world, not bent on outward appearances and not weakened by a lack of substance.
Independence from externalities is a great good, not because there should always be scarcity but because it is better to be satisfied with little. Moreover, that which is natural is easily attained, while vain and worthless things are usually very expensive. The sweetest pleasure is for those who are least in need of it. By becoming accustomed to simple things, enough to live life in good health, the people are more capable of appreciating luxurious goods and precious meals, and are less afraid of the whimsies of destiny.
Those who need not suffer hunger, thirst or cold, and can trust that circumstances will remain thus, can vie with anyone in happiness. Wellbeing is not a succession of drinking sprees, not the consumption of tasty fish, the delicate joys of a luxurious table or life amidst precious metals; it is calm reason that is used to approach every like and dislike, it is the renunciation of those convictions that makes the heart bitter. The greatest wellbeing exists through honourable and righteous actions, also in the face of adversity. Whomsoever lives in this way rejoices in life, but also in the time that comes after this life, when the Gods once again take care of the assembling parts.
The wise believes that there is no good or evil that is caused by change. There is endless good and evil in the world, yet the adversity a sensible person sometimes experiences is preferable to the prosperity that happens to a fool. It is best if our own actions are not dependent on happy or unhappy coincidences.
It is better to obey the laws of the Goddess than to follow the words of those who accept nothing but blind nature. Only by doing the first may we hope to escape the disorder because there is no disorder in the actions of the Goddess. The fate some talk of endlessly is less important than how we live and what we do. Fate is capricious but what we do ourselves is never random and we will always justly profit by it or suffer from it.
And thereupon the woman asked: How can one still expect happiness in a world where so many people fight each other?
The prophet answered: People often think that they are limited by the world and the convictions of others, but they themselves are the ones that set the limitations. Those in whom desire flows like water in the ocean, endlessly moving yet always the same, achieve peace. By overcoming adversity and helping our fellow man bear their fate, by not despairing at unexpected turns and not hesitating to turn evil into goodness, we show the Godhead that we accept all that She is.
Do not believe that the future is fixed, do not despair that the future is uncertain. The future is neither entirely dependent upon us, nor is it entirely independent from us. Focus your attention on your good labour not on its fruits. Let attachment go and regard success as equal to failure, without suffering from a lack of vigour. Transcend contradictions and direct your attention to the Heart at the centre.
Practice these and similar convictions, both in solitude and in the company of kindred spirits; and you will be free amidst the people. The greatest blessing originates from the immortal blessings of the Unity and these blessings are everywhere. Once someone has truly learned this knowledge, they will be one with the Eternal, even in the darkest hour.