When you seek expert opinion, remember that you don’t know exactly what it will be (or you wouldn’t be making the consultation), but that you’ve come to ask. If the result is something you can’t control, then it’s neither good nor evil. So leave your longings and loathings behind when you consult the expert, or you’ll go in a state of fear. Instead, decide beforehand that the result will be acceptable, because you will make good use of it – and no one can stop you. Then you can approach the expert with confidence. Let God work through the expert, and remember whose advice you’re neglecting if you ignore the opinion rendered.
Seek out experts, as Socrates might have advised, when the entire question is the outcome, and your own reason and expertise can produce no answer. When duty is clear – to put yourself at risk to help a friend or the community – there’s no need to get an expert to tell it to you. You’d probably be told that doing the right thing will cost you money, time, trouble or danger. But reason tells you to do your duty in any event. The greatest expert of ancient times, the oracle at Delphi, made no bones about it when throwing out a questioner who had failed to do his duty and ran when his friend was being murdered on the road.
When you have recourse to divination, remember that you do not know what the issue is going to be, but that you have come in order to find this out from the diviner; yet if you are indeed a philosopher, you know, when you arrive, what the nature of it is. For if it is one of the things which are not under our control, it is altogether necessary that what is going to take place is neither good nor evil. Do not, therefore, bring to the diviner desire or aversion, and do not approach him with trembling, but having first made up your mind that every issue is indifferent and nothing to you, but that, whatever it may be, it will be possible for you to turn it to good use, and that no one will prevent this. Go, then, with confidence to the gods as to counsellors; and after that, when some counsel has been given you, remember whom you have taken as counsellors, and whom you will be disregarding if you disobey. But go to divination as Socrates thought that men should go, that is, in cases where the whole inquiry has reference to the outcome, and where neither from reason nor from any other technical art are means vouchsafed for discovering the matter in question. Hence, when it is your duty to share the danger of a friend or of your country, do not ask of the diviner whether you ought to share that danger. For if the diviner forewarns you that the omens of sacrifice have been unfavourable, it is clear that death is portended, or the injury of some member of your body, or exile; yet reason requires that even at this risk you are to stand by your friend, and share the danger with your country. Wherefore, give heed to the greater diviner, the Pythian Apollo, who cast out of his temple the man who had not helped his friend when he was being murdered.
When you make use of prophecy remember that while you know not what the issue will be, but are come to learn it from the prophet, you do know before you come what manner of thing it is, if you are really a philosopher. For if the event is not in our control, it cannot be either good or evil. Therefore do not bring with you to the prophet the will to get or the will to avoid, and do not approach him with trembling, but with your mind made up, that the whole issue is indifferent and does not affect you and that, whatever it be, it will be in your power to make good use of it, and no one shall hinder this. With confidence then approach the gods as counsellors, and further, when the counsel is given you, remember whose counsel it is, and whom you will be disregarding if you disobey. And consult the oracle, as Socrates thought men should, only when the whole question turns upon the issue of events, and neither reason nor any art of man provides opportunities for discovering what lies before you. Therefore, when it is your duty to risk your life with friend or country, do not ask the oracle whether you should risk your life. For if the prophet warns you that the sacrifice is unfavourable, though it is plain that this means death or exile or injury to some part of your body, yet reason requires that even at this cost you must stand by your friend and share your country’s danger. Wherefore pay heed to the greater prophet, Pythian Apollo, who cast out of his temple the man who did not help his friend when he was being killed.
When you have recourse to divination, remember that you do not know how it will turn out, but that you are come to inquire from the diviner. But of what kind it is, you know when you come, if indeed you are a philosopher. For if it is any of the things which are not in our power, it is absolutely necessary that it must be neither good nor bad. Do not then bring to the diviner desire or aversion: if you do, you will approach him with fear. But having determined in your mind that everything which shall turn out (result) is indifferent, and does not concern you, and whatever it may be, for it will be in your power to use it well, and no man will hinder this, come then with confidence to the gods as your advisers. And then, when any advice shall have been given, remember whom you have taken as advisers, and whom you will have neglected, if you do not obey them. And go to divination, as Socrates said that you ought, about those matters in which all the inquiry has reference to the result, and in which means are not given either by reason nor by any other art for knowing the thing which is the subject of the inquiry. Wherefore, when we ought to share a friend’s danger or that of our country, you must not consult the diviner whether you ought to share it. For even if the diviner shall tell you that the signs of the victims are unlucky, it is plain that this is a token of death or mutilation of part of the body or of exile. But reason prevails that even with these risks we should share the dangers of our friend and of our country. Therefore attend to the greater diviner, the Pythian god, who ejected from the temple him who did not assist his friend when he was being murdered.
Then you go to inquire of an oracle, remember that though you do not know beforehand what the event will be (for this very thing is what you have come to learn from the seer), yet of what nature it must be (if you are a philosopher), you knew already when you came. For if it be of those things which do not depend upon ourselves, it follows of necessity that it can be neither good nor evil.
When you go then to the seer, bring with you neither desire nor aversion, and approach him, not with trembling, but with the full assurance that all events are indifferent, and nothing to you, and that whatever may befall you it will be your part to use it nobly; and this no one can prevent. Go then with a good courage to the Gods as to counselors, and, for the rest, when something has been counseled to you, remember who they are whom you have chosen for counselors, and whom you will be slighting if you are not obedient.
Therefore, as Socrates insisted, you should consult the oracle in those cases only where your judgment depends entirely upon the event, and where you have no resources, either from reason or any other method, for knowing beforehand what is independently certain in the case. Thus, when it may behove you to share some danger with your friend or your country, do not inquire whether you may [safely] do so. For if the seer should announce to you that the sacrifices are inauspicious, that clearly signifies death, or the loss of some limb, or banishment; yet Reason convinces that even with these things you should stand by your friend and share your country’s danger. Mark therefore that greater seer, the Pythian, who cast out of the temple one who, when his friend was being murdered, did not help him.
When you have recourse to divination, remember that you know not what the event will be, and you come to learn it of the diviner; but of what nature it is you knew before coming; at least, if you are of philosophic mind. For if it is among the things not within our own power, it can by no means be either good or evil. Do not, therefore, bring with you to the diviner either desire or aversion, - else you will approach him trembling, -but first clearly understand that every event is indifferent, and nothing to you, of whatever sort it may be; for it will be in your power to make a right use of it, and this no one can hinder. Then come with confidence to the gods as your counsellors; and afterwards, when any counsel is given you, remember what counsellors you have assumed, and whose advice you will neglect, if you disobey. Come to divination, as Socrates prescribed, in cases of which the whole consideration relates to the event, and in which no opportunities are afforded by reason, or any other art, to discover the matter in view. When, therefore, it is our duty to share the danger of a friend or of our country, we ought not to consult the oracle as to whether we shall share it with them or not. For though the diviner should forewarn you that the auspices are unfavorable, this means no more than that either death or mutilation or exile is portended. But we have reason within us; and it directs us, even with these hazards, to stand by our friend and our country. Attend, therefore, to the greater diviner, the Pythian God, who once cast out of the temple him who neglected to save his friend.This refers to an anecdote given in full by Simplicius, in his commentary on this passage, of a man assaulted and killed, on his way to consult the oracle, while his companion, deserting him, took refuge in the temple, till cast out by the Deity.- H.
When you have recourse to divination, remember that you know not what the event will be, and you come to learn it of the diviner; but of what nature it is you know before you come, at least if you are a philosopher. For if it is among the things not in our own control, it can by no means be either good or evil. Don’t, therefore, bring either desire or aversion with you to the diviner (else you will approach him trembling), but first acquire a distinct knowledge that every event is indifferent and nothing to you., of whatever sort it may be, for it will be in your power to make a right use of it, and this no one can hinder; then come with confidence to the gods, as your counselors, and afterwards, when any counsel is given you, remember what counselors you have assumed, and whose advice you will neglect if you disobey. Come to divination, as Socrates prescribed, in cases of which the whole consideration relates to the event, and in which no opportunities are afforded by reason, or any other art, to discover the thing proposed to be learned. When, therefore, it is our duty to share the danger of a friend or of our country, we ought not to consult the oracle whether we will share it with them or not. For, though the diviner should forewarn you that the victims are unfavorable, this means no more than that either death or mutilation or exile is portended. But we have reason within us, and it directs, even with these hazards, to the greater diviner, the Pythian god, who cast out of the temple the person who gave no assistance to his friend while another was murdering him.
Ὅταν μαντικῇ προσίῃς, μέμνησο, ὅτι, τί μὲν ἀποβήσεται, οὐκ οἶδας, ἀλλὰ ἥκεις ὡς παρὰ τοῦ μάντεως αὐτὸ πευσόμενος, ὁποῖον δέ τι ἐστίν, ἐλήλυθας εἰδώς, εἴπερ εἶ φιλόσοφος. εἰ γάρ ἐστί τι τῶν οὐκ ἐφ’ ἡμῖν, πᾶσα ἀνάγκη μήτε ἀγαθὸν αὐτὸ εἶναι μήτε κακόν.
μὴ φέρε οὖν πρὸς τὸν μάντιν ὄρεξιν ἢ ἔκκλισιν μηδὲ τρέμων αὐτῷ πρόσει, ἀλλὰ διεγνωκώς, ὅτι πᾶν τὸ ἀποβησόμενον ἀδιάφορον καὶ οὐδὲν πρὸς σέ, ὁποῖον δ’ ἂν ᾖ, ἔσται αὐτῷ χρήσασθαι καλῶς καὶ τοῦτο οὐθεὶς κωλύσει. θαῤῥῶν οὖν ὡς ἐπὶ συμβούλους ἔρχου τοὺς θεούς: καὶ λοιπόν, ὅταν τί σοι συμβουλευθῇ, μέμνησο τίνας συμβούλους παρέλαβες καὶ τίνων παρακούσεις ἀπειθήσας.
ἔρχου δὲ ἐπὶ τὸ μαντεύεσθαι, καθάπερ ἠξίου Σωκράτης, ἐφ’ ὧν ἡ πᾶσα σκέψις τὴν ἀναφορὰν εἰς τὴν ἔκβασιν ἔχει καὶ οὔτε ἐκ λόγου οὔτε ἐκ τέχνης τινὸς ἄλλης ἀφορμαὶ δίδονται πρὸς τὸ συνιδεῖν τὸ προκείμενον: ὥστε, ὅταν δεήσῃ συγκινδυνεῦσαι φίλῳ ἢ πατρίδι, μὴ μαντεύεσθαι, εἰ συγκινδυνευτέον. καὶ γὰρ ἂν προείπῃ σοι ὁ μάντις φαῦλα γεγονέναι τὰ ἱερά, δῆλον ὅτι θάνατος σημαίνεται ἢ πήρωσις μέρους τινὸς τοῦ σώματος ἢ φυγή: ἀλλ’ αἱρεῖ ὁ λόγος καὶ σὺν τούτοις παρίστασθαι τῷ φίλῳ καὶ τῇ πατρίδι συγκινδυνεύειν. τοιγαροῦν τῷ μείζονι μάντει πρόσεχε, τῷ Πυθίῳ, ὃς ἐξέβαλε τοῦ ναοῦ τὸν οὐ βοηθήσαντα ἀναιρουμένῳ τῷ φίλῳ.