Another powerful plea in favour of divination, may be drawn from Nature herself, which teaches us how great is the energy of the mind when abstracted from the bodily senses, as it is most especially in ecstasy and sleep. For even as the Gods know what passes in our minds without the aid of eyes, ears or tongues, (on which divine omniscience is founded the feeling of men, that when they wish in silence for, or offer up a prayer for anything, the Gods hear them,) so when the soul of man is disengaged from corporeal impediments, and set at freedom, either from being relaxed in sleep, or in a state of mental excitement, it beholds those wonders which, when entanged beneath the veil of the flesh, it is unable to see.
It may be difficult, perhaps, to connect this principle of nature with that kind of divination which we have stated to result from study and art. Posidonius, however, thinks that there are in nature certain signs and symbols of future events. We are informed that the inhabitants of Cea, according to the report of Heraclides of Pontus, are accustomed carefully to observe the circumstances attending the rising of the Dog Star, in order to know the character of the ensuing season, and how far it will prove salubrious or pestilential. For if the star rose with an obscure and dim appearance, it proved that the atmosphere was gross and foggy, and its respiration would be heavy and unwholesome. But if it appeared bright and lucid, then that was a sign that the air was light and pure, and therefore healthful.
Democritus believed that the ancients had wisely enjoined the inspection of the entrails of animals which had been sacrificed, because by their condition and colour it is possible to determine the salubrity or pestilential state of the atmosphere, and sometimes even what is likely to be the fertility or sterility of the earth. And if careful observation and practice recognise these rules as proceeding from nature, then every day might bring us many examples which might deserve notice and remark; so that the natural philosopher whom Pacuvius introduces in his Cryses, seems to me very ignorant of the nature of things, when he says,—
All those who understand the speech of birds
And hearts of victims better than their own,
May be just listen'd to, but not obey'd.
Why should he make such a remark here, when a little after he speaks thus plainly in a contrary sense?—
Whatever God may be, 'tis he who forms,
Preserves and nutures all. Unto himself
He back absorbs all beings,—evermore
The universal Sire,—at once the source
And end of nature.
Why, then, since the universe is the sole and common home of all creatures, and since the minds of men always have existed, and will exist, why, I say, should they not be able to perceive the consequences, and what is the result indicated by each sign, and what events each sign foreshows?
These are the arguments which I had to bring forward on the subject of divination. For the rest, I in nowise believe in those who predict by lots, or those who tell fortunes for the sake of gain, nor those necromancers who evoke the manes, whom your friend Appius consulted.
Of little service are the Morsian prophet,
The Haruspi of the village, the astrologer
Of the throng'd circus, or the priest of Isis,
Or the imposturous interpreter
Of dreams. All these are but false conjurors,
Who have no skill to read futurity,
They are but hypocrites, urged on by hunger;
Ignorant of themselves, they would teach others,
To whom they promise boundless wealth, and beg
A penny in return, paid in advance.
Such is the style in which Ennius speaks of those pretenders of divination; and a few verses before, he has affirmed that though the Gods exist, they take no care of the human race. I am of a contrary opinion, and approve of divination, because I believe that the Gods do watch over men, and admonish them, and personify many things to them, all levity, vanity, and malice being excluded.
And when Quintus had said this, You are, indeed, said I, admirably prepared.
The rest of this Book is lost.