Notes on Pythagoras

Reference Notes: 24,000 words approx.
For private members of the Golden Stairs Society.


1.  Pythagoras: A Brief Summary of his Philosophy.
2.  Pythagoras: His Life and Philosophy. (Detail)
3.  Pythagoras and Pythagoreanism.
(The Catholic Encyclopaedia)
4.  Bertrand Russell on Pythagoras.
‘The History of Western Philosophy’ (Chapter III)
5.  Pythagoras Through Quotations.
6.  The Complete Pythagoras.
7.  Life of Pythagoras, by Iamblichus (270 pp.) 

1. Pythagoras:
A Brief Summary of his Philosophy

The pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Pythagoras (c. 570—c.495 B.C.E) must have been one of the world’s greatest persons, but he wrote nothing, and it is hard to say how much of the doctrine we know as Pythagorean is due to the founder of the society and how much is later development. It is also hard to say how much of what we are told about the life of Pythagoras is trustworthy; for a mass of legend gathered around his name at an early date. Sometimes he is represented as a man of science, and sometimes as a preacher of mystic doctrines, and we might be tempted to regard one or other of those characters as alone historical.

The truth is that there is no need to reject either of the traditional views. The union of mathematical genius and mysticism is common enough. Originally from Samos, Pythagoras founded at Kroton (in southern Italy) a society which was at once a religious community and a scientific school. Such a body was bound to excite jealousy and mistrust, and we hear of many struggles. Pythagoras himself had to flee from Kroton to Metapontion, where he died.

It is stated that he was a disciple of Anaximander, his astronomy was the natural development of Anaximander’s. Also, the way in which the Pythagorean geometry developed also bears witness to its descent from that of Miletos. The great problem at this date was the duplication of the square, a problem which gave rise to the theorem of the square on the hypotenuse, commonly known still as the Pythagorean proposition (Euclid, I. 47). If we were right in assuming that Thales worked with the old 3:4:5 triangle, the connection is obvious.

Pythagoras argued that there are three kinds of men, just as there are three classes of strangers who come to the Olympic Games. The lowest consists of those who come to buy and sell, and next above them are those who come to compete. Best of all are those who simply come to look on. Men may be classified accordingly as lovers of wisdom, lovers of honor, and lovers of gain. That seems to imply the doctrine of the tripartite soul, which is also attributed to the early Pythagoreans on good authority, though it is common now to ascribe it to Plato. There are, however, clear references to it before his time, and it agrees much better with the general outlook of the Pythagoreans.

The comparison of human life to a gathering like the Games was often repeated in later days. Pythagoras also taught the doctrine of Rebirth or transmigration, which we may have learned from the contemporary Orphics. Xenophanes made fun of him for pretending to recognize the voice of a departed friend in the howls of a beaten dog. Empedocles seems to be referring to him when he speaks of a man who could remember what happened ten or twenty generations before. It was on this that the doctrine of Recollection, which plays so great a part in Plato, was based. The things we perceive with the senses, Plato argues, remind us of things we knew when the soul was out of the body and could perceive reality directly.

There is more difficulty about the cosmology of Pythagoras. Hardly any school ever professed such reverence for its founder’s authority as the Pythagoreans. ‘The Master said so’ was their watchword. On the other hand, few schools have shown so much capacity for progress and for adapting themselves to new conditions. Pythagoras started from the cosmical system of Anaximenes. Aristotle tells us that the Pythagoreans represented the world as inhaling ‘air’ form the boundless mass outside it, and this ‘air’ is identified with ‘the unlimited’. When, however, we come to the process by which things are developed out of the ‘unlimited’, we observe a great change. We hear nothing more of ‘separating out’ or even of rarefaction and condensation. Instead of that we have the theory that what gives form to the Unlimited is the Limit. That is the great contribution of Pythagoras to philosophy, and we must try to understand it. Now the function of the Limit is usually illustrated from the arts of music and medicine, and we have seen how important these two arts were for Pythagoreans, so it is natural to infer that the key to its meaning is to be found in them.

It may be taken as certain that Pythagoras himself discovered the numerical ratios which determine the concordant intervals of the musical scale. Similar to musical intervals, in medicine there are opposites, such as the hot and the cold, the wet and the dry, and it is the business of the physician to produce a proper ‘blend’ of these in the human body. In a well-known passage of Plato’s Phaedo (86 b) we are told by Simmias that the Pythagoreans held the body to be strung like an instrument to a certain pitch, hot and cold, wet and dry taking the place of high and low in music. Musical tuning and health are alike means arising from the application of Limit to the Unlimited. It was natural for Pythagoras to look for something of the same kind in the world at large. Briefly stated, the doctrine of Pythagoras was that all things are numbers. In certain fundamental cases, the early Pythagoreans represented numbers and explained their properties by means of dots arranged in certain ‘figures’ or patterns.


2.  Pythagoras:
His Life and Philosophy

Life and Works

References to Pythagoras by Xenophanes (ca. 570–475 BCE) and Heraclitus (fl. ca. 500 BCE) show that he was a famous figure in the late sixth and early fifth centuries. For the details of his life we have to rely on fourth-century sources such as Aristoxenus, Dicaearchus and Timaeus of Tauromenium.

There is a great deal of controversy about his origin and early life, but there is agreement that he grew up on the island of Samos, near the birthplace of Greek philosophy, Miletus, on the coast of Asia Minor. There are a number of reports that he traveled widely in the Near East while living on Samos, e.g., to Babylonia, Phoenicia and Egypt. To some extent reports of these trips are an attempt to claim the ancient wisdom of the east for Pythagoras and some scholars totally reject them (Zhmud 2012, 83-91), but relatively early sources such as Herodotus (II. 81) and Isocrates (Busiris 28) associate Pythagoras with Egypt, so that a trip there seems quite plausible. Aristoxenus says that he left Samos at the age of forty, when the tyranny of Polycrates, who came to power ca. 535 BCE, became unbearable (Porphyry, VP 9). This chronology would suggest that he was born ca. 570 BCE. He then emigrated to the Greek city of Croton in southern Italy ca. 530 BCE; it is in Croton that he first seems to have attracted a large number of followers to his way of life. There are a variety of stories about his death, but the most reliable evidence (Aristoxenus and Dicaearchus) suggests that violence directed against Pythagoras and his followers in Croton ca. 510 BCE, perhaps because of the exclusive nature of the Pythagorean way of life, led him to flee to another Greek city in southern Italy, Metapontum, where he died around 490 BCE (Porphyry, VP54–7; Iamblichus, VP 248 ff.; On the chronology, see Minar 1942, 133–5). There is little else about his life of which we can be confident.

The evidence suggests that Pythagoras did not write any books. No source contemporaneous with Pythagoras or in the first two hundred years after his death, including Plato, Aristotle and their immediate successors in the Academy and Lyceum, quotes from a work by Pythagoras or gives any indication that any works written by him were in existence. Several later sources explicitly assert that Pythagoras wrote nothing (e.g., Lucian [Slip of the Tongue, 5], Josephus, Plutarch and Posidonius in DK 14A18; see Burkert 1972, 218–9). Diogenes Laertius tried to dispute this tradition by quoting Heraclitus’ assertion that “Pythagoras, the son of Mnesarchus, practiced inquiry most of all men and, by selecting these things which have been written up, made for himself a wisdom, a polymathy, an evil conspiracy” (Fr. 129). This fragment shows only that Pythagoras read the writings of others, however, and says nothing about him writing something of his own.

The wisdom and evil conspiracy that Pythagoras constructs from these writings need not have been in writing, and Heraclitus’ description of it as an “evil conspiracy” rather suggests that it was not (For the translation and interpretation of Fr. 129, see Huffman 2008b). In the later tradition several books came to be ascribed to Pythagoras, but such evidence as exists for these books indicates that they were forged in Pythagoras’ name and belong with the large number of pseudo-Pythagorean treatises forged in the name of early Pythagoreans such as Philolaus and Archytas.

In the third century BCE a group of three books were circulating in Pythagoras’ name, On Education, On Statesmanship, andOn Nature (Diogenes Laertius, VIII. 6). A letter from Plato to Dion asking him to purchase these three books from Philolaus was forged in order to “authenticate” them (Burkert 1972a, 223–225). Heraclides Lembus in the second century BCE gives a list of six books ascribed to Pythagoras (Diogenes Laertius, VIII. 7; Thesleff 1965, 155–186 provides a complete collection of the spurious writings assigned to Pythagoras).

The second of these is a Sacred Discourse, which some have wanted to trace back to Pythagoras himself. The idea that Pythagoras wrote such a Sacred Discourse seems to arise from a misreading of the early evidence. Herodotus says that the Pythagoreans agreed with the Egyptians in not allowing the dead to be buried in wool and then asserts that there is a sacred discourse about this (II. 81). Herodotus’ focus here is the Egyptians and not the Pythagoreans, who are introduced as a Greek parallel, so that the Sacred Discourse to which he refers is Egyptian and not Pythagorean, as similar passages elsewhere in Book II of Herodotus show (e.g., II. 62; see Burkert 1972a, 219).Various lines of hexameter verse were already circulating in Pythagoras’ name in the third century BCE and were later combined into a compilation known as the Golden Verses, which marks the culmination of the tradition of a Sacred Discourse assgined to Pythagoras (Burkert 1972a, 219, Thesleff 1965, 158–163; and most recently Thom 1995, although his dating of the compilation before 300 BCE is questionable).

The lack of any viable written text which could be reasonably ascribed to Pythagoras is shown most clearly by the tendency of later authors to quote either Empedocles or Plato, when they needed to quote “Pythagoras” (e.g., Sextus Empiricus, M. IX. 126–30; Nicomachus, Introduction to Arithmetic I. 2). For an interesting but ultimately unconvincing attempt to argue that the historical Pythagoras did write books, see Riedweg 2005, 42–43 and the response by Huffman 2008a, 205–207.

The Philosophy of Pythagoras

One of the manifestations of the attempt to glorify Pythagoras in the later tradition is the report that he, in fact, invented the word philosophy. This story goes back to the early Academy, since it is first found in Heraclides of Pontus (Cicero, Tusc. V 3.8; Diogenes Laertius, Proem). The historical accuracy of the story is called into question by its appearance not in a historical or biographical text but rather in a dialogue that recounted Empedocles’ revival of a woman who had stopped breathing. Moreover, the story depends on a conception of a philosopher as having no knowledge but being situated between ignorance and knowledge and striving for knowledge. Such a conception is thoroughly Platonic, however (see, e.g., Symposium 204A), and Burkert demonstrated that it could not belong to the historical Pythagoras (1960). For a recent attempt to defend at least the partial accuracy of the story, see Riedweg 2005: 90–97 and the response by Huffman 2008a:207–208; see also Zhmud 2012a, 428-430.

Even if he did not invent the word, what can we say about the philosophy of Pythagoras? For the reasons given in 1. The Pythagorean Question and 2. Sources above, any responsible account of Pythagoras’ philosophy must be based in the first place on the evidence prior to Aristotle and in the second place on evidence that our sources explicitly identify as deriving from Aristotle’s books on the Pythagoreans as well as from the books of his pupils such as Aristoxenus and Dicaearchus. There is general agreement as to what the pre-Aristotelian evidence is, although there are differences in interpretation of it. There is less agreement as to what should be included in Aristotle’s, Dicaearchus’ and Aristoxenus’ evidence. What one includes as evidence from these authors will have a significant effect on one’s picture of Pythagoras. One particularly pressing question is whether both chapters 18 and 19 of Porphyry’s Life of Pythagoras should be regarded as deriving from Dicaearchus, as the most recent editor proposes (Mirhady Fr. 40), or whether only chapter 18 should be included, as in the earlier edition of Wehrli (Fr.33). It is crucial to decide this question before developing a picture of the philosophy of Pythagoras since chapter 19, if it is by Dicaearchus, is our earliest summary of Pythagorean philosophy. Porphyry is very reliable about quoting his sources. He explicitly cites Dicaearchus at the beginning of Chapter 18 and names Nicomachus as his source at the beginning of chapter 20.

The material in chapter 19 follows seamlessly on chapter 18: the description of the speeches that Pythagoras gave upon his arrival in Croton in chapter 18 is followed in chapter 19 by an account of the disciples that he gained as the result of those speeches and a discussion of what he taught these disciples. Thus, the onus is on anyone who would claim that Porphyry changes sources before the explicit change at the beginning of chapter 20.

Chapter 19 provides a very restrained account of what can be reliably known about Pythagoras’ teachings and that very restraint is one of the strongest supporting arguments for its being based on Dicaearchus, since Porphyry or anyone else in the luxuriant later tradition would be expected to give a much more expanisve presentation of Pythagoras in accordance with the Neopythagorean view of him (Burkert 1972a, 122-123). Wehrli gives no reason for not including chapter 19 and the great majority of scholars accept it as being based on Dicaearchus (see the references in Burkert 1972a, 122, n.7). Zhmud (2012a, 157) following Philip (1966, 139) argues that the passage cannot derive from Dicaearchus, since it presents immortality of the soul with approval, whereas Dicaearchus did not accept its immortality. However, the passage merely reports that Pythagoras introduced the notion of the immortality of the soul without expressing approval or disapproval. Zhmud lists other features of the chapter that he regards as unparalleled in fourth-century sources (2012a, 157) but, since the evidence is so fragmentary, such arguments from silence can carry little weight. Nothing in the chapter is demonstrably late or inconsistent with Dicaearchus’ authorship so we must follow what is suggested by the context in Porphyry and regard it as derived from Dicaearchus.

In the face of the Pythagorean question and the problems that arise even regarding the early sources, it is reasonable to wonder if we can say anything about Pythagoras. A minimalist might argue that the early evidence only allows us to conclude that Pythagoras was a historical figure who achieved fame for his wisdom but that it is impossible to determine in what that wisdom consisted. We might say that he was interested in the fate of the soul and taught a way of life, but we can say nothing precise about the nature of that life or what he taught about the soul (Lloyd 2014). There is some reason to believe, however, that something more than this can be said.

The Fate of the Soul—Metempsychosis

The earliest evidence makes clear that above all Pythagoras was known as an expert on the fate of our soul after death. Herodotus tells the story of the Thracian Zalmoxis, who taught his countrymen that they would never die but instead go to a place where they would eternally possess all good things (IV. 95). Among the Greeks the tradition arose that this Zalmoxis was the slave of Pythagoras. Herodotus himself thinks that Zalmoxis lived long before Pythagoras, but the Greeks’ willingness to portray Zalmoxis as Pythagoras’ slave shows that they thought of Pythagoras as the expert from whom Zalmoxis derived his teaching. Ion of Chios (5th c. BCE) says of Phercydes of Syros that “although dead he has a pleasant life for his soul, if Pythagoras is truly wise, who knew and learned wisdom beyond all men.” Here Pythagoras is again the expert on the life of the soul after death.

A famous fragment of Xenophanes, Pythagoras’ contemporary, provides some more specific information on what happens to the soul after death. He reports that “once when he [Pythagoras] was present at the beating of a puppy, he pitied it and said ‘stop, don’t keep hitting him, since it is the soul of a man who is dear to me, which I recognized, when I heard it yelping’” (Fr. 7). Although Xenophanes clearly finds the idea ridiculous, the fragment shows that Pythagoras believed in metempsychosis or reincarnation, according to which human souls were reborn into other animals after death.

This early evidence is emphatically confirmed by Dicaearchus in the fourth century, who first comments on the difficulty of determining what Pythagoras taught and then asserts that his most recognized doctrines were “that the soul is immortal and that it transmigrates into other kinds of animals” (Porphyry, VP 19). Unfortunately we can say little more about the details of Pythagoras’ conception of metempsychosis.

According to Herodotus, the Egyptians believed that the soul was reborn as every sort of animal before returning to human form after 3,000 years. Without naming names, he reports that some Greeks both earlier and later adopted this doctrine; this seems very likely to be a reference to Pythagoras (earlier) and perhaps Empedocles (later). Many doubt that Herodotus is right to assign metempsychosis to the Egyptians, since none of the other evidence we have for Egyptian beliefs supports his claim, but it is nonetheless clear that we cannot assume that Pythagoras accepted the details of the view Herodotus ascribes to them. Similarly both Empedocles (see Inwood 2001, 55–68) and Plato (e.g., Republic X and Phaedrus) provide a more detailed account of transmigration of souls, but neither of them ascribes these details to Pythagoras nor should we. Did he think that we ever escape the cycle of reincarnations? We simply do not know.

The fragment of Ion quoted above may suggest that the soul could have a pleasant existence after death between reincarnations or even escape the cycle of reincarnation altogether, but the evidence is too weak to be confident in such a conclusion. In the fourth century several authors report that Pythagoras remembered his previous human incarnations, but the accounts do not agree on the details. Dicaearchus (Aulus Gellius IV. 11.14) and Heraclides (Diogenes Laertius VIII. 4) agree that he was the Trojan hero Euphorbus in a previous life. Dicaearchus continues the tradition of savage satire begun by Xenophanes, when he suggests that Pythagoras was the beautiful prostitute, Alco, in another incarnation (Huffman 2014b, 281-285).

It is not clear how Pythagoras conceived of the nature of the transmigrating soul but a few tentative conjectures can be made (Huffman 2009). Transmigration does not require that the soul be immortal; it could go through several incarnations before perishing. Dicaearchus explicitly says that Pythagoras regarded the soul as immortal, however, and this agrees with Herodotus’ description of Zalmoxis’ view. It is likely that he used the Greek word psychê to refer to the transmigrating soul, since this is the word used by all sources reporting his views, unlike Empedocles, who used daimon. His successor, Philoalus, uses psychê to refer not to a comprehensive soul but rather to just one psychic faculty, the seat of emotions, which is located in the heart along with the faculty of sensation (Philolaus, Fr. 13). This psychê is explicitly said by Philolaus to be shared with animals. Herodotus uses psychê in a similar way to refer to the seat of emotions. Thus it seems likely that Pythagoras too thought of the transmigrating psychê in this way. If so, it is unlikely that Pythagoras thought that humans could be reincarnated as plants, since psychê is not assigned to plants by Philolaus.

It has often been assumed that the transmigrating soul is immaterial, but Philolaus seems to have a materialistic conception of soul and he may be following Pythagoras. Similarly, it is doubtful that Pythagoras thought of the transmigrating soul as a comprehensive soul that includes all psychic faculties. His ability to recognize something distinctive of his friend in the puppy (if this is not pushing the evidence of a joke too far) and to remember his own previous incarnations show that personal identity was preserved through incarnations. This personal identity could well be contained in the pattern of emotions, that constitute a person’s character and that is preserved in the psychê and need not presuppose all psychic faculties. In Philolaus this psychê explicitly does not include the nous (intellect), which is not shared with animals. Thus, it would appear that what is shared with animals and which led Pythagoras to suppose that they had special kinship with human beings (Dicaearchus in Porphyry, VP 19) is not intellect, as some have supposed (Sorabji 1993, 78 and 208) but rather the ability to feel emotions such as pleasure and pain.

There are significant points of contact between the Greek religious movement known as Orphism and Pythagoreanism, but the evidence for Orphism is at least as problematic as that for Pythagoras and often complicates rather than clarifies our understanding of Pythagoras (Betegh 2014; Burkert 1972a, 125 ff.; Kahn 2002, 19–22; Riedweg 2002). There is some evidence that the Orphics also believed in metempsychosis and considerable debate has arisen as to whether they borrowed the doctrine from Pythagoras (Burkert 1972a, 133; Bremmer 2002, 24) or he borrowed it from them (Zhmud 2012a, 221-238). Dicaearchus says that Pythagoras was the first to introduce metempsychosis into Greece (Porphyry VP 19).

Moreover, while Orphism presents a heavily moralized version of metempsychosis in accordance with which we are born again for punishment in this life so that our body is the prison of the soul while it undergoes punishment, it is not clear that the same was true in Pythagoreanism. It may be that rebirths in a series of animals and people were seen as a natural cycle of the soul (Zhmud 2012a, 232-233). One would expect that the Pythagorean way of life was connected to metempsychosis, which would in turn suggest that a certain reincarnation is a reward or punishment for following or not following the principles set out in that way of life. However, there is no unambiguous evidence connecting the Pythagorean way of life with metempsychosis.

It is crucial to recognize that most Greeks followed Homer in believing that the soul was an insubstantial shade, which lived a shadowy existence in the underworld after death, an existence so bleak that Achilles famously asserts that he would rather be the lowest mortal on earth than king of the dead (Homer, Odyssey XI. 489). Pythagoras’ teachings that the soul was immortal, would have other physical incarnations and might have a good existence after death were striking innovations that must have had considerable appeal in comparison to the Homeric view. According to Dicaearchus, in addition to the immortality of the soul and reincarnation, Pythagoras believed that “after certain periods of time the things that have happened once happen again and nothing is absolutely new” (Porphyry, VP 19). This doctrine of “eternal recurrence” is also attested by Aristotle’s pupil Eudemus, although he ascribes it to the Pythagoreans rather than to Pythagoras himself. (Fr. 88 Wehrli). The doctrine of transmigration thus seems to have been extended to include the idea that we and indeed the whole world will be reborn into lives that are exactly the same as those we are living and have already lived.

Pythagoras as a Wonder-worker

Some have wanted to relegate the more miraculous features of Pythagoras’ persona to the later tradition, but these characteristics figure prominently in the earliest evidence and are thus central to understanding Pythagoras. Aristotle emphasized his superhuman nature in the following ways: there was a story that Pythagoras had a golden thigh (a sign of divinity); the Pythagoreans taught that “of rational beings, one sort is divine, one is human, and another such as Pythagoras” (Iamblichus, VP31); Pythagoras was seen on the same day at the same time in both Metapontum and Croton; he killed a deadly snake by biting it; as he was crossing a river it spoke to him (all citations are from Aristotle, Fr. 191, unless otherwise noted). Aristotle reports that the people of Croton called Pythagoras the “Hyperborean Apollo” and Iamblichus’ report (VP 140) that a priest from the land of the Hyperboreans, Abaris, visited Pythagoras and presented him with his arrow, a token of power, may well also go back to Aristotle (Burkert 1972a, 143). Kingsley argues that the visit of Abaris is the key to understanding the identity and significance of Pythagoras. Abaris was a shaman from Mongolia (part of what the Greeks called Hyperborea), who recognized Pythagoras as an incarnation of Apollo. The stillness of ecstacy practiced by Abaris and handed on to Pythagoras is the foundation of all civilization. Abaris’ visit to Pythagoras thus beomces the central moment when civilizing power is passed from East to West (Kingsley 2010).

Whether or not one accepts this account of Pythagoras and his relation to Abaris, there is a clear parallel for some of the remarkable abilities of Pythagoras in the later figure of Empedocles, who promises to teach his pupils to control the winds and bring the dead back to life (Fr. 111). There are recognizable traces of this tradition about Pythagoras even in the pre-Aristotelian evidence, and his wonder-working clearly evoked diametrically opposed reactions. Heraclitus’ description of Pythagoras as “the chief of the charlatans” (Fr. 81) and of his wisdom as “fraudulent art” (Fr. 129) is most easily understood as an unsympathetic reference to his miracles. Empedocles, on the other hand, is clearly sympathetic to Pythagoras, when he describes him as “ a man who knew remarkable things” and who “possessed the greatest wealth of intelligence” and again probably makes reference to his wonder-working by calling him “accomplished in all sorts of wise deeds”(Fr. 129).

In Herodotus’ report, Zalmoxis, whom some of the Greeks identified as the slave and pupil of Pythagoras, tried to gain authority for his teachings about the fate of the soul by claiming to have journeyed to the next world (IV. 95). The skeptical tradition represented in Herodotus’ report treats this as a ruse on Zalmoxis’ part; he had not journeyed to the next world but had in reality hidden in an underground dwelling for three years. Similarly Pythagoras may have claimed authority for his teachings concerning the fate of our soul on the basis of his remarkable abilities and experiences, and there is some evidence that he too claimed to have journeyed to the underworld and that this journey may have been transferred from Pythagoras to Zalmoxis (Burkert 1972a,154 ff.).

The Pythagorean Way of Life

The testimony of both Plato (R. 600a) and Isocrates (Busiris 28) shows that Pythagoras was above all famous for having left behind him a way of life, which still had adherents in the fourth century over 100 years after his death. It is plausible to assume that many features of this way of life were designed to insure the best possible future reincarnations, but it is important to remember that nothing in the early evidence connects the way of life to reincarnation in any specific fashion.

One of the clearest strands in the early evidence for Pythagoras is his expertise in religious ritual. Isocrates emphasizes that “he more conspicuously than others paid attention to sacrifices and rituals in temples” (Busiris 28). Herodotus gives an example: the Pythagoreans agree with the Egyptians in not allowing the dead to be buried in wool (II. 81). It is not surprising that Pythagoras, as an expert on the fate of the soul after death. should also be an expert on the religious rituals surrounding death. A significant part of the Pythagorean way of life thus consisted in the proper observance of religious ritual. One major piece of evidence for this emphasis on ritual is the symbola or acusmata(“things heard”), short maxims that were handed down orally.

The earliest source to quote acusmatais Aristotle, in the fragments of his now lost treatise on the Pythagoreans. It is not always possible to be certain which of the acusmata quoted in the later tradition go back to Aristotle and which of the ones that do go back to Pythagoras. Most of Iamblichus’ examples in sections 82–86 of On the Pythagorean Life, however, appear to derive from Aristotle (Burkert 1972a, 166 ff.), and many are in accord with the early evidence we have for Pythagoras’ interest in ritual. Thus the acusmataadvise Pythagoreans to pour libations to the gods from the ear (i.e., the handle) of the cup, to refrain from wearing the images of the gods on their fingers, not to sacrifice a white cock, and to sacrifice and enter the temple barefoot.

A number of these practices can be paralleled in Greek mystery religions of the day (Burkert 1972a, 177). Indeed, it is important to emphasize that Pythagoreanism was not a religion and there were no specific Pythagorean rites (Burkert 1985, 302). Pythagoras rather taught a way of life that emphasized certain aspects of traditional Greek religion.

A second characteristic of the Pythagorean way of life was the emphasis on dietary restrictions. There is no direct evidence for these restrictions in the pre-Aristotelian evidence, but both Aristotle and Aristoxenus discuss them extensively. Unfortunately the evidence is contradictory and it is difficult to establish any points with certainty. One might assume that Pythagoras advocated vegetarianism on the basis of his belief in metempsychosis, as did Empedocles after him (Fr. 137). Indeed, the fourth-century mathematician and philosopher Eudoxus says that “he not only abstained from animal food but would also not come near butchers and hunters” (Porphyry, VP 7). According to Dicaearchus, one of Pythagoras’ most well-known doctrines was that “all animate beings are of the same family” (Porphyry, VP 19), which suggests that we should be as hesitant about eating other animals as other humans.

Unfortunately, Aristotle reports that “the Pythagoreans refrain from eating the womb and the heart, the sea anemone and some other such things but use all other animal food” (Aulus Gellius IV. 11. 11–12). This makes it sound as if Pythagoras forbade the eating of just certain parts of animals and certain species of animals rather than all animals; such specific prohibitions are easy to parallel elsewhere in Greek ritual (Burkert 1972a, 177). Aristoxenus asserts that Pythagoras only refused to eat plough oxen and rams (Diogenes Laertius VIII. 20) and that he was fond of young kids and suckling pigs as food (Aulus Gellius IV. 11. 6). Some have tried to argue that Aristoxenus is refashioning Pythagoreanism in order to make it more rational (e.g., Kahn 2001, 70; Zhmud 2012b, 228), but Aristoxenus, in fact, recognizes the non-rational dimension of Pythagoreanism and Pythagoras’ eating of kids and suckling pigs may itself have religious motivations (Huffman 2012b). Moreover, even if Aristoxenus’ evidence were set aside Aristotle’s testimony and many of the acusmata indicate that Pythagoras ate some meat. Certainly animal sacrifice was the central act of Greek religious worship and to abolish it completely would be a radical step. The acusma reported by Aristotle, in response to the question “what is most just?” has Pythagoras answer “to sacrifice” (Iamblichus, VP 82).

Based on the direct evidence for Pythagoras’ practice in Aristotle and Aristoxenus, it seems most prudent to conclude that he did not forbid the eating of all animal food. The later tradition proposes a number of ways to reconcile metempsychosis with the eating of some meat. Pythagoras may have adopted one of these positions, but no certainty is possible. For example, he may have argued that it was legitimate to kill and eat sacrificial animals, on the grounds that the souls of men do not enter into these animals (Iamblichus,VP 85). Perhaps the most famous of the Pythagorean dietary restrictions is the prohibition on eating beans, which is first attested by Aristotle and assigned to Pythagoras himself (Diogenes Laertius VIII. 34).

Aristotle suggests a number of explanations including one that connects beans with Hades, hence suggesting a possible connection with the doctrine of metempsychosis. A number of later sources suggest that it was believed that souls returned to earth to be reincarnated through beans (Burkert 1972a, 183). There is also a physiological explanation. Beans, which are difficult to digest, disturb our abilities to concentrate. Moreover, the beans involved are a European vetch (Vicia faba) rather than the beans commonly eaten today. Certain people with an inherited blood abnormality develop a serious disorder called favism, if they eat these beans or even inhale their pollen. Aristoxenus interestingly denies that Pythagoras forbade the eating of beans and says that “he valued it most of all vegetables, since it was digestible and laxative” (Aulus Gellius IV. 11.5). The discrepancies between the various fourth-century accounts of the Pythagorean way of life suggest that there were disputes among fourth-century Pythagoreans as to the proper way of life and as to the teachings of Pythagoras himself.

The acusmata indicate that the Pythagorean way of life embodied a strict regimen not just regarding religious ritual and diet but also in almost every aspect of life. Some of the restrictions appear to be largely arbitrary taboos, e.g., “one must put the right shoe on first” or “one must not travel the public roads” (Iamblichus, VP 83, probably from Aristotle). On the other hand, some aspects of the Pythagorean life involved a moral discipline that was greatly admired, even by outsiders. Pythagorean silence is an important example. Isocrates reports that even in the fourth century people “marvel more at the silence of those who profess to be his pupils than at those who have the greatest reputation for speaking” (Busiris 28). The ability to remain silent was seen as important training in self-control, and the later tradition reports that those who wanted to become Pythagoreans had to observe a five-year silence (Iamblichus, VP 72). Isocrates is contrasting the marvelous self-control of Pythagorean silence with the emphasis on public speaking in traditional Greek education. Pythagoreans also displayed great loyalty to their friends as can be seen in Aristoxenus’ story of Damon who is willing to stand surety for his friend Phintias, who has been sentenced to death (Iamblichus, VP 233 ff.).

In addition to silence as a moral discipline, there is evidence that secrecy was kept about certain of the teachings of Pythagoras. Aristoxenus reports that the Pythagoreans thought that “not all things were to be spoken to all people” (Diogenes Laertius, VIII. 15), but this may only apply to teaching and mean that children should not be taught all things (Zhmud 2012a, 155). Clearer evidence is found in Dicaearchus’ complaint that it is not easy to say what Pythagoras taught his pupils because they observed no ordinary silence about it (Porphyry, VP 19). Indeed, one would expect that an exclusive society such as that of the Pythagoreans would have secret doctrines and symbols. Aristotle says that the Pythagoreans “guarded among their very secret doctrines that one type of rational being is divine, one human, and one such as Pythagoras” (Iamblichus, VP 31). That there should be secret teachings about the special nature and authority of the master is not surprising. This does not mean, however, that all Pythagorean philosophy was secret.

Aristotle discusses the fifth-century metaphysical system of Philolaus in some detail with no hint that there was anything secret about it, and Plato’s discussion of Pythagorean harmonic theory in Book VII of the Republic gives no suggestion of any secrecy. Aristotle singles out the acusma quoted above (Iamblichus, VP 31) as secret, but this statement in itself implies that others were not. The idea that all of Pythagoras’ teachings were secret was used in the later tradition to explain the lack of Pythagorean writings and to try to validate forged documents as recently discovered secret treatises. For a sceptical evaluation of Pythagorean secrecy see Zhmud 2012a, 150-158.

There is some controversy as to whether Pythagoras, in fact, taught a way of life governed in great detail by the acusmata as described above. Plato praises the Pythagorean way of life in the Republic(600b), but it is hard to imagine him admiring the set of taboos found in the acusmata (Lloyd 2014, 44; Zhmud 2012a). Although acusmata were collected already by Anaximander of Miletus the younger (ca. 400 BCE) and by Aristotle in the fourth century, Zhmud (2012a, 177-178 and 192-205) argues that very few of these embody specifically Pythagorean ideas and that it is difficult to imagine anyone following this bewildering set of rules literally as Burkert argues (1972a, 191). However, the early evidence suggests that Pythagoras largely constructed the acusmata out of ideas collected from others (Thom 2013; Huffman 2008b: Gemelli Marciano 2002), so it is no surprise that many of them are not uniquely Pythagorean. Moreover, Thom suggests a middle ground between Zhmud and Burkert whereby, contra Zhmud, most of the acusmata were followed by the Pythagoreans but contra Burkert, they were subject to interpretation from the beginning and not followed literally, so that it is possible to imagine people living according to them (Thom, 2013). It is true that there is little if any fifth- and fourth-century evidence for Pythagoreans living according to the acusmata and Zhmud argues that the undeniable political impact of the Pythagoreans would be inexplicable if they lived the heavily ritualized life of the acusmata, which would inevitably isolate them from society (Zhmud 2012a, 175-183). He suggests that the Pythagorean way of life differed little from standard aristocratic morality (Zhmud 2012a, 175).

If, however, the Pythagorean way of life was little out of the ordinary, why do Plato and Isocrates specifically comment on how distinctive those who followed it were? The silence of fifth-century sources about people practicingacusmata is not terribly surprising given the very meager sources for the Greek cities in southern Italy in the period. Why not suppose that the vast majority of names in Aristoxenus’ catalogue of Pythagoreans, who are not associated with any political, philosophical or scientific accomplishment, who are just names to us, are preceisely those who were Pythagoreans because they followed the Pythagorean way of life? We would then have lots of people who followed the acusmata (166 of the 222 name in the catalogue appear nowhere else). This suspicion is confirmed by the fact that one of the names from Arsitoxenus’ catalogue (Hippomedon of Argos) is elsewhere (Iamblichus, On the Pythagorean Life, 87) explicitly said to belong the acusmatici. Moreover, other scholars argue that archaic Greek society in southern Italy was pervaded by religion and the presence of similar precepts in authors such as Hesiod show that adherence to taboos such as are found in the acusmatawould not have caused a scandal and adherence to many of them would have gone unobserved by outsiders (Gemelli Marciano 2014, 133-134).

Once again a problem of source criticism raises its head. Zhmud argues that the split between acusmatici who blindly followed the acusmata and the mathematici who learned the reasons for them (see the fifth paragraph of section 5 below) is a creation of the later tradition, appearing first in Clement of Alexandria and disappearing after Iamblichus (Zhmud 2012a, 169-192). He also notes that the term acusmata appears first in Iamblichus (On the Pythagorean Life 82-86) and suggests that it is also a creation of the later tradition.

The Pythagorean maxims did exist earlier, as the testimony of Aristotle shows, but they were known as symbola, were originally very few in number and were mainly a literary phenomena rather than being tied to people who actually practiced them (Zhmud 2012a, 192-205). However, several scholars have argued that the passages in which the split between the acusmatici and mathematici is described as well as the passage in which the termacusmata is used, in fact, go back to Aristotle (Burkert 1972a, 196; see Burkert 1998, 315 where he comments that the Aristotelian provenance of the text is “as obvious as it is unprovable”) and even Zhmud recognizes that a large part of the material in Iamblichus is derived from Aristotle (2012a, 170). Indeed, the description of the split in what is likely to be the original version (Iamblichus, On General Mathematical Science 76.16-77.18 Festa) uses language in describing the Pythagoreans that is almost an Aristotelian signature, “There are two forms of the Italian philosophy which is called Pythagorean” (76.16). Aristotle famously describes the Pythagoreans as “those called Pythagoreans” and also describes them as “the Italians” (e.g., Mete. 342b30, Cael. 293a20). So the question of whether Pythagoras taught a way of life tightly governed by the acusmata turns again on whether key passages in Iamblichus (On the Pythagorean Life 81-87, On General Mathematical Science 76.16-77.18 Festa) go back to Aristotle. If they do, we have very good reason to believe that Pythagoras taught such a life, if they do not the issue is less clear.

The testimony of fourth-century authors such as Aristoxenus and Dicaearchus indicates that the Pythagoreans also had an important impact on the politics and society of the Greek cities in southern Italy. Dicaearchus reports that, upon his arrival in Croton, Pythagoras gave a speech to the elders and that the leaders of the city then asked him to speak to the young men of the town, the boys and the women (Porphyry, VP 18). Women, indeed, may have played an unusually large role in Pythagoreanism (see Rowett 2014, 122-123), since both Timaeus and Dicaearchus report on the fame of Pythagorean women including Pythagoras’ daughter (Porphyry, VP 4 and 19). Theacusmata teach men to honor their wives and to beget children in order to insure worship for the gods (Iamblichus, VP 84–6). Dicaearchus reports that the teaching of Pythagoras was largely unknown, so that Dicaearchus cannot have known of the content of the speech to the women or of any of the other speeches; the speeches presented in Iamblichus (VP 37–57) are thus likely to be later forgeries (Burkert 1972a, 115), but there is early evidence that he gave different speeches to different groups (Antisthenes V A 187).

The attacks on the Pythagoreans both in Pythagoras’ own day and in the middle of the fifth century are presented by Dicaearchus and Aristoxenus as having a wide-reaching impact on Greek society in southern Italy; the historian Polybius (II. 39) reports that the deaths of the Pythagoreans meant that “the leading citizens of each city were destroyed,” which clearly indicates that many Pythagoreans had positions of political authority. On the other hand, it is noteworthy that Plato explicitly presents Pythagoras as a private rather than a public figure (R. 600a). It seems most likely that the Pythagorean societies were in essence private associations but that they also could function as political clubs (see Zhmud 2012a, 141-148), while not being a political party in the modern sense; their political impact should perhaps be better compared to modern fraternal organizations such as the Masons. Thus, the Pythagoreans did not rule as a group but had political impact through individual members who gained positions of authority in the Greek city-states in southern Italy. See further Burkert 1972a, 115 ff., von Fritz 1940, Minar 1942 and Rowett 2014.

Source of these extracts

3.  Pythagoras and Pythagoreanism
(from The Catholic Encyclopaedia)

Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher and mathematician and founder of the Pythagorean school, flourished about 530 B.C. Very little is known about the life andpersonality of Pythagoras. There is an abundance of biographical material dating from the first centuries of the Christian era, from the age of neo-Pythagoreanism, but, when we go back to the centuries nearer to Pythagoras’s time, our material becomes very scanty. It seems to be certain that Pythagoras was born at Samosabout the year 550 or 560 B.C., that he travelled to Magna Græcia in Southern Italy about the year 530, that he founded there a school of philosophy and that he died at Metapontum in Sicily. The detailed accounts of how he invented the musical scale, performed miracles, pronounced prophecies, and did many other wonderful things, belong to legend, and seem to have no historical foundation. Similarly the story of his journey into Egypt, Asia Minor, and even to Babylon is not attested by reliable historians. To the region of fable belongs also the description of the learned works which he wrote and which were long kept secret in his school. It is certain, however, that he founded a school, or, rather, a religious philosophical society, for which he drew up a rule of life. In this rule are said to have been regulations imposing secrecy, a protracted period of silence, celibacy, and various kinds of abstinence. The time-honoured tradition that Pythagoras forbade his disciples to eat beans, for which various reasons, more or less ingenious, were assigned by ancient and medieval writers, has been upset by some recent writers, who understand the phrase, “Abstain from beans” (kyamon apechete), to refer to a measure of practical prudence, and not to a gastronomic principle. Beans, black and white, were, according to this interpretation, the means of voting in Magna Græcia, and “Abstain from beans” would, therefore, mean merely “Avoid politics”—a warning which, we know, was warranted by the troubles in which the school was involved on account of the active share which it took during the founder’s lifetime in the struggles of the popular with the aristocratic party in Southern Italy. The school was instructed by its founder to devote itself to the cultivation of philosophy, mathematics, music, and gymnastics, the aim of the organization being primarily ethical. The theoretical doctrines taught by the master were strictly adhered to, so much so that the Pythagoreans were known for their frequent citation of the ipse dixit of the founder. Naturally, as soon as the legendsbegan to grow up around the name of Pythagoras, many tenets were ascribed him which were in fact introduced by later Pythagoreans, such as Philolaus andArchytas of Tarentum.

It seems to be certain that, besides prescribing the rules that were to govern the society, Pythagoras taught:

a doctrine of transmigration of souls which he probably borrowed from the Bacchic and Orphic mysteries, the whole spirit of the doctrine being religious andethical, intended to show, by successive incarnations of the soul in the bodies of different animals a system by which certain vices and virtues were to be punished and rewarded after death;
in a general way, the doctrine that mathematics contains the key to all philosophical knowledge, a germ, so to speak, which was afterwards developed into an elaborate number-theory by his followers; and the notion that virtue is a harmony, and may be cultivated not only by contemplation and meditation but also by the practice of gymnastics and music.

The subsequent elaboration of these three central doctrines into a complicated system is the work of the followers of Pythagoras. The Pythagorean philosophy in its later elaboration is dominated by the number-theory. Being the first, apparently, to observe that natural phenomena, especially the phenomena of theastronomical world, may be expressed in mathematical formulas, the Pythagoreans were carried on by the enthusiasm characteristic of discoverers to maintain that numbers are not only the symbols of reality, but the very substance of real things. They held, for example, that one is the point, two the line, three the surface, and four the solid. Seven they considered to be the fate that dominates human life, because infancy ceases at seven, maturity begins at fourteen,marriage takes place in the twenty-first year, and seventy years is the span of life usually allotted to man. Ten is the perfect number, because it is the sum of one, two, three, and four-the point, the line, the surface, and the solid. Having, naturally, observed that all numbers may be ranged in parallel columns under “odd” and “even”, they were led to attempt a similar arrangement of the qualities of things. Under odd they placed light, straight, good, right, masculine; under even, dark, crooked, evil, left, feminine. These opposites, they contended, are found everywhere In nature, and the union of them constitutes the harmony of the real world.

The account given by the Pythagoreans of the “harmony of the spheres” is the best illustration of their method. There are, they said, ten heavenly bodies, namely, the heaven of the fixed stars, the five planets, the sun, the moon, the earth, and the counter-earth. The counter-earth is added because it is necessary to make up the number ten, the perfect number. It is a body under the earth, moving parallel with it, and, since it moves at the same rate of speed, it is invisible to us. The five planets, the sun, the moon, and the earth with its counter-earth, moving from west to east at rates of speed proportionate to the distance of each from the central fire, produce eight tones which give an octave, and, therefore, a harmony. We are not conscious of the harmony, either because it is too great to be perceptible by human ears, or because, like the blacksmith who has grown accustomed to the noise of his hammer on the anvil, we have lived since our firstconscious moments in the sound of the heavenly music and can no longer perceive it. In their psychology and their ethics the Pythagoreans used the idea of harmony and the notion of number as the explanation of the mind and its states, and also of virtue and its various kinds. It was not these particular doctrines of the school so much as the general notion which prevailed among the Pythagoreans of the scope and aim of philosophy, that influenced the subsequent course ofspeculation among the Greeks. Unlike the Ionians, who were scientists and related philosophy to knowledge merely, the Pythagoreans were religiously andethically inclined, and strove to bring philosophy into relation with life as well as with knowledge. Aristotelianism, which reduced philosophy to knowledge, never could compete, in the estimation of its advocates, with Christianity, as neo-Pythagoreanism did, by setting up the claim that in the teachings of its founder it had a “way of life” preferable to that taught by the Founder of Christianity.

‘The History of Western Philosophy’ (Chapter III)

Pythagoras… was intellectually one of the most important men that ever lived… Mathematics, in the sense of demonstrative deductive argument, begins with him, and in him is intimately connected with a peculiar form of mysticism. The influence of mathematics on philosophy, partly owing to him, has, ever since his time, been both profound and unfortunate.
p. 29.
He founded a religion, of which the main tenets were transmigration of souls and the sinfulness of eating beans. His religion was embodied in a religious order, which, here and there, acquired control of the State and established a rule of the saints. But the unregenerate hankered after beans and sooner or later rebelled.
p. 31.
In the society that he founded, men and women were admitted on equal terms; property was held in common, and there was a common way of life. Even scientific and mathematical discoveries were deemed collective, and in a mystical sense due to Pythagoras, even after his death.
p. 32.
Most sciences, at their inception, have been connected with some form of false belief, which gave them a fictitious value. Astronomy was connected with astrology, chemistry with alchemy. Mathematics was associated with a more refined type of error. Mathematical knowledge appeared to be certain, exact, and applicable to the real world; moreover it was obtained by mere thinking, without the need for observation. Consequently, it was thought to supply an ideal, from which every-day empirical knowledge fell short. It was supposed, on the basis of mathematics, that thought is superior to sense, intuition to observation. If the world of sense does not fit the world of mathematics, so much the worse for the world of sense. In various ways, methods of approaching the mathematician’s ideal were sought, and the resulting suggestions were the source of much that was mistaken in metaphysics and theory of knowledge. This form of philosophy begins with Pythagoras.
p. 34.
Pythagoras, as everyone knows, said that “all things are numbers.” This statement, interpreted in a modern way, is logical nonsense, but what he meant was not exactly nonsense. He discovered the importance of numbers in music and the connection which he established between music and arithmetic survives in the mathematical terms “harmonic mean” and “harmonic progression.” He thought of numbers as shapes, as they appear on dice or playing cards. We still speak of squares or cubes of numbers, which are terms that we owe to him. He also spoke of oblong numbers, triangular numbers, pyramidal numbers, and so on. These were the numbers of pebbles (or as we would more naturally say, shot) required to make the shapes in question. …He presumably thought of the world as atomic, and of bodies as built up of molecules composed of atoms arranged in various shapes. In this way he hoped to make arithmetic the fundamental study in physics as in aesthetics.
p. 35.
Unfortunately for Pythagoras, his theorem led at once to the discovery of incommensurables, which appeared to disprove his whole philosophy. So long as no adequate arithmetical theory on incommensurables existed, the method of Euclid was the best that was possible in geometry. When Descartes introduced co-ordinate geometry, thereby again making arithmetic supreme, he [Descartes] assumed the possibility of a solution of the problem of incommensurables, though in his day no such solution had been found.
p. 35-6.
The influence of geometry upon philosophy and scientific method has been profound. Geometry, as established by the Greeks, starts with axioms which are (or are deemed to be) self-evident, and proceeds, by deductive reasoning, to arrive at theorems which are very far from self-evident. The axioms and theorems are held to be true of actual space, which is something given in experience. It thus appeared to be possible to discover things about the actual world by first noticing what is self-evident and then using deduction. This view influenced Plato and Kant, and most of the intermediate philosophers. …The eighteenth century doctrine of natural rights is a search for Euclidean axioms in politics. The form of Newton’s Principia, in spite of its admittedly empirical material, is entirely dominated by Euclid. Theology, in its exact scholastic forms, takes its style from the same source.
p. 36.
Personal religion is derived from ecstasy, theology from mathematics, and both are to be found in Pythagoras.
p. 37.
Mathematics is, I believe, the chief source of the belief in eternal and exact truth, as well as in a super-sensible world. Geometry deals with exact circles, but no sensible object is exactly circular; however carefully we use our compasses, there will be some imperfections and irregularities. This suggests the view that all exact reasoning applies to ideal as opposed to sensible objects; it is natural to go further, and to argue that thought is nobler than sense, and the objects of thought more real than that of sense-perception.
p. 37.
Mystical doctrines as to the relation of time to eternity are also reinforced by pure mathematics, for the mathematical objects, such as numbers, if real at all, are eternal and not in time. Such eternal objects can be conceived as God’s thoughts. Hence Plato’s doctrine that God is a geometer, and Sir James Jeans’ belief that He is addicted to arithmetic.
p. 37.
Rationalistic as opposed to apocalyptic religion has been, ever since Pythagoras, and notably ever since Plato, very completely dominated by mathematics and mathematical method.
p. 37.
The combination of mathematics and theology, which began with Pythagoras, characterized religious philosophy in Greece, in the Middle Ages, and in modern times down to Kant. Orphism before Pythagoras was analogous to Asiatic mystery religions. But in Plato, Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza, and Kant there is an intimate blending of religion and reasoning, of moral aspiration with logical admiration of what is timeless, which comes from Pythagoras, and distinguishes the intellectualized theology of Europe from the more straightforward mysticism of Asia.
p. 37.
It is only in quite recent times that it has been possible to say clearly that Pythagoras was wrong.
p. 37.
I do not know of any other man who has been as influential as he was in the sphere of thought. I say this because what appears as Platonism is, when analyzed, found to be in essence Pythagoreanism. The whole conception of an eternal world, revealed to the intellect but not to the senses, is derived from him. …but for him, theologians would not have sought logical proofs of God and immortality.
p. 37.



Pythagoras of Samos (Πυθαγόρας; c. 582 BC – c. 496 BC) was an Ionian Greek philosopher and founder of the religious movement called Pythagoreanism, often revered as a great mathematician, mystic and scientist.  


Let no one persuade you by word or deed to do or say whatever is not best for you.

The soul of man is divided into three parts, intelligence, reason, and passion. Intelligence and passion are possessed by other animals, but reason by man alone.

Number is the ruler of forms and ideas, and the cause of gods and daemons. 

Reason is immortal, all else mortal.

Truth is so great a perfection, that if God would render himself visible to men, he would choose light for his body and truth for his soul.

Sooner throw a pearl at hazard than an idle or useless word; and do not say a little in many words, but a great deal in a few.

There is no word or action but has its echo in Eternity.

Thought is an Idea in transit, which when once released, never can be lured back, nor the spoken word recalled.

The oldest, shortest words— “yes” and “no”— are those which require the most thought.

Time is the soul of the world

I was Euphorbus at the siege of Troy.

  • By the air which I breathe, and by the water which I drink, I will not endure to be blamed on account of this discourse.
  • Dear youths, I warn you cherish peace divine,
    And in your hearts lay deep these words of mine.

  • Τὴν δ’ ἀνθρώπου ψυχὴν διῃρῆσθαι τριχῆ, εἴς τε νοῦν καὶ φρένας καὶ θυμόν. νοῦν μὲν οὖν καὶ θυμὸν εἶναι καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἄλλοις ζῴοις, φρένας δὲ μόνον ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ.
  • ἀλλήλοις θ᾽ ὁμιλεῖν, ὡς τοὺς μὲν φίλους ἐχθροὺς μὴ ποιῆσαι, τοὺς δ᾽ ἐχθροὺς φίλους ἐργάσασθαι. ἴδιόν τε μηδὲν ἡγεῖσθαι.
  • ἐν ὀργῇ μήτε τι λέγειν μήτε πράσσειν
    • In anger we should refrain both from speech and action.
    • As quoted in Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, “Pythagoras”, Sect. 23–24, as translated in Dictionary of Quotations(1906) by Thomas Benfield Harbottle, p. 370
  • Reason is immortal, all else mortal.
    • As quoted in Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Sect. 30, as translated by Robert Drew Hicks (1925); also in The Demon and the Quantum: From the Pythagorean Mystics to Maxwell’s Demon(2007) by Robert J. Scully, Marlan O. Scully, p. 11
  • The most momentous thing in human life is the art of winning the soul to good or to evil.
    • As quoted in Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, as translated by Robert Drew Hicks (1925)
    • Variant translation: The most momentous thing in human life is the art of winning the soul to good or evil.
      • As quoted in Ionia, a Quest(1954) by Freya Stark, p. 94
    • κοινὰ τὰ φίλων εἶναι καὶ φιλίαν ἰσότητα.
    • Power is the near neighbour of necessity.
      • As quoted in Aurea Carmina(8) by Hierocles of Alexandria, as translated in Dictionary of Quotations (1906) by Thomas Benfield Harbottle, p. 356
    • Number is the ruler of forms and ideas, and the cause of gods and daemons.
      • As quoted in Life of Pythagoras(c. 300) by Iamblichus of Chalcis, as translated by Thomas Taylor (1818)
      • Variants:
      • Number rules the universe.
      • As quoted in The Story of a Number‎(1905) by E. Maor; also in Comic Sections (1993) by Desmond MacHale
    • Sobriety is the strength of the soul, for it preserves its reason unclouded by passion.
      • As quoted in The History of Philosophy: From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Present Century(1819) by William Enfield
      • Sobriety is the strength of the mind; for it preserves reason unclouded by passion.
        • As quoted in Bible of Reason(1831) by Benjamin F. Powell, p. 157
      • Strength of mind rests in sobriety; for this keeps your reason unclouded by passion.
        • As quoted in Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern English and Foreign Sources(1899) by James Wood
      • None but God is wise.
      • Silence is better than unmeaning words.
        • As quoted in Encyclopaedia Americana(1832) Vol. X, p. 445 edited by Francis Lieber, E. Wigglesworth, and Thomas Gamaliel Bradford
      • If there be light, then there is darkness; if cold, heat; if height, depth; if solid, fluid; if hard, soft; if rough, smooth; if calm, tempest; if prosperity, adversity; if life, death.
        • As quoted in Bibliotheca Sacra and Theological Review by Vol. IV, No. 8 (1847) by Dallas Theological Seminary, p. 107
      • Rest satisfied with doing well, and leave others to talk of you as they please.
        • As quoted in The World’s Laconics: Or, The Best Thoughts of the Best Authors(1853) by Everard Berkeley
        • Variant: Rest satisfied with doing well, and leave others to talk of you as they will.
      • It is only necessary to make war with five things; with the maladies of the body, the ignorances of the mind, with the passions of the body, with the seditions of the city and the discords of families.
      • As soon as laws are necessary for men, they are no longer fit for freedom.
        • As quoted in Short Sayings of Great Men: With Historical and Explanatory Notes‎(1882) by Samuel Arthur Bent, p. 454
      • Friends are as companions on a journey, who ought to aid each other to persevere in the road to a happier life.
        • As quoted in Gems of Thought: Being a Collection of More Than a Thousand Choice Selections, Or Aphorisms, from Nearly Four Hundred and Fifty Different Authors, and on One Hundred and Forty Different Subjects(1888). p. 97 by Charles Northend
      • Anger begins in folly, and ends in repentance.
        • As quoted in Treasury of Thought: Forming an Encyclopædia of Quotations from Ancient and Modern Authors(1894) by Maturin Murray Ballou
      • Choose always the way that seems the best, however rough it may be; custom will soon render it easy and agreeable.
        • As quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, both Ancient and Modern(1908) by Tyron Edwards, p. 101
      • It is better wither to be silent, or to say things of more value than silence.Sooner throw a pearl at hazard than an idle or useless word; and do not say a little in many words, but a great deal in a few.
        • As quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, both Ancient and Modern(1908) by Tyron Edwards, p. 525
      • Truth is so great a perfection, that if God would render himself visible to men, he would choose light for his body and truth for his soul.
        • As quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, both Ancient and Modern(1908) by Tyron Edwards, p. 592
      • There are men and gods, and beings like Pythagoras.
      • There is no word or action but has its echo in Eternity.
        Thought is an Idea in transit, which when once released, never can be lured back, nor the spoken word recalled. Nor ever can the overt act be erased All that thou thinkest, sayest, or doest bears perpetual record of itself, enduring for Eternity.

        • As quoted in Pythagoron: The Religious, Moral, and Ethical Teachings of Pythagoras(1947) by Hobart Huson, p. 99
      • There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.
        • As quoted in The Mystery of Matter‎(1965) edited by Louise B. Young, p. 113
      • As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.
        • Attribution to Pythagoras by Ovid, as quoted in The Extended Circle: A Dictionary of Humane Thought(1985) by Jon Wynne-Tyson, p. 260; also in Vegetarian Times, No. 168 (August 1991), p. 4
      • Time is the soul of this world.
      • Most men and women, by birth or nature, lack the means to advance in wealth and power, but all have the ability to advance in knowledge.
        • As quoted in The Golden Ratio(2002) by Mario Livio
      • Man know thyself; then thou shalt know the Universe and God.
        • As quoted in Fragments of Reality: Daily Entries of Lived Life(2006) by Peter Cajander, p. 109
      • The oldest, shortest words— “yes” and “no”— are those which require the most thought.
        • As quoted in Numerology for Relationships: A Guide to Birth Numbers(2006) by Vera Kaikobad, p. 78
      • A blow from your friend is better than a kiss from your enemy.
        • As quoted in Geary’s Guide to the World’s Great Aphorists‎(2007) by James Geary, p. 118
      • Write in the sand the flaws of your friend.
        • As quoted in Geary’s Guide to the World’s Great Aphorists‎(2007) by James Geary
      • Educate the children and it won’t be necessary to punish the men.
        • As quoted in Geary’s Guide to the World’s Great Aphorists‎(2007) by James Geary

The Symbols

English translations of the Symbols of Pythagoras recorded by Iamblichus of Chalcis from those in The Golden Verses of Pythagoras and other Pythagorean Fragments (1904); selected and arranged by Florence M. Firth

Disbelieve nothing wonderful concerning the gods, nor concerning divine dogmas

Assist a man in raising a burden; but do not assist him in laying it down.

Abstain from beans.

  • When going to the temple to adore Divinity neither say nor do any thing in the interim pertaining to the common affairs of life.
    • Symbol 1
  • Sacrifice and adore unshod.
    • Symbol 3
  • Disbelieve nothing wonderful concerning the gods, nor concerning divine dogmas.
    • Symbol 4
  • Declining from the public ways, walk in unfrequented paths.
    • Symbol 5
  • Govern your tongue before all other things, following the gods.
    • Symbol 7
  • The wind is blowing, adore the wind.
    • Symbol 8
  • Cut not fire with a sword.
    • Symbol 9
    • Variant translation: Poke not the fire with a sword.
      • As quoted in Short Sayings of Great Men: With Historical and Explanatory Notes‎(1882) by Samuel Arthur Bent, p. 455
    • Assist a man in raising a burden; but do not assist him in laying it down.
      • Symbol 11
    • Step not beyond the beam of the balance.
      • Symbol 14
    • Having departed from your house, turn not back; for the furies will be your attendants.
      • Symbol 15
    • Eat not the heart.
      • Symbol 30; explained in the edition used here: “This Symbol signifies that it is not proper to divulse the union and consent of the universe. And still further it signifies this, Be not envious, but philanthropic and communicative; and from this it exhorts us to philosophize. For philosophy alone among the sciences and arts is neither pained with the goods of others, nor rejoices in evils of neighbours, these being allied and familiar by nature, subject to the like passions, and exposed to one common fortune; and evinces that all men are equally incapable of foreseeing future events. Hence it exhorts us to sympathy and mutual love, and to be truly communicative, as it becomes rational animals.
      • Variant translation: Do not eat your heart.
    • Eat not the brain.
      • Symbol 31
    • Κυάμων ἀπέχεσθαι
      • Abstain from beans.
      • Symbol 37; This was long thought by many to be simply a dietary proscription, and often ridiculed, but many consider it to have originally been intended as advice against getting involved in politics, for voting on issues in his time was often done by using differently colored beans. Others have stated that it might signify a more general admonition against relying on the votes of people to determine truths of reality. The explanation provided in the translation used here states: “This Symbol admonishes us to beware of everything which is corruptive of our converse with the gods and divine prophecy.
    • Abstain from animals.
      • Symbol 39; explained in the edition used here: “This Symbol exhorts to justice, to all the honour of kindred, to the reception of similar life, and to many other things of a like kind.”

The Golden Verse

Quotes cited as from the Golden Verses, but drawn from various translations.

Above all things reverence thy Self.

Work at these things, practice them… they are what will put you on the path of divine virtue — yes, by the one who entrusted our soul with the tetraktys, source of ever-flowing nature.

Meditate upon my counsels; love them; follow them; To the divine virtues will they know how to lead thee..

Holding fast to these things, you will know the worlds of gods and mortals which permeates and governs everything.

You will know, as is right, nature similar in all respects, so that you will neither entertain unreasonable hopes nor be neglectful of anything.

  • Above and before all things, worship GOD!
    • As quoted in The Sayings of the Wise: Or, Food for Thought: A Book of Moral Wisdom, Gathered from the Ancient Philosophers(1555) by William Baldwin [1908 edition]
    • Variant translation: Honor first the immortal gods, in the manner prescribed, and respect the oath.
      Next, honor the reverent heroes and the spirits of the dead by making the traditional sacrifices.
      Honor your parents and your relatives. As for others, befriend whoever excels in virtue.
      Yield to kind words and helpful deeds, and do not hate your friend for a trifling fault as you are able. For ability is near to necessity.

      • As quoted in Divine Harmony: The Life and Teachings of Pythagorasby John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook. (1999) ISBN 0-9653774-5-8
    • Above all things reverence thy Self.
      • Variant translations:
      • Respect yourself above all.
      • Above all things reverence thy self.
        Above all things, respect yourself.
        Above the cloud with its shadow is the star with its light. Above all things reverence thyself.
    • Work at these things, practice them, these are the things you ought to desire; they are what will put you on the path of divine virtue — yes, by the one who entrusted our soul with the tetraktys, source of ever-flowing nature. Pray to the gods for success and get to work.
      • As quoted in Divine Harmony: The Life and Teachings of Pythagorasby John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook. (1999)
    • Practice justice in word and deed, and do not get in the habit of acting thoughtlessly about anything.
      • As quoted in Divine Harmony: The Life and Teachings of Pythagoras by John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook. (1999)
    • Know that death comes to everyone, and that wealth will sometimes be acquired, sometimes lost. Whatever griefs mortals suffer by divine chance, whatever destiny you have, endure it and do not complain. But it is right to improve it as much as you can, and remember this: Fate does not give very many of these griefs to good people.
      • As quoted in Divine Harmony: The Life and Teachings of Pythagoras by John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook. (1999)
    • Many words befall men, mean and noble alike; do not be astonished by them, nor allow yourself to be constrained.
      If a lie is told, bear with it gently.
      But whatever I tell you, let it be done completely.
      Let no one persuade you by word or deed to do or say whatever is not best for you.

      • As quoted in Divine Harmony: The Life and Teachings of Pythagorasby John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook. (1999)
    • Let not sleep fall upon thy eyes till thou has thrice reviewed the transactions of the past day.Where have I turned aside from rectitude? What have I been doing? What have I left undone, which I ought to have done? Begin thus from the first act, and proceed; and, in conclusion, at the ill which thou hast done, be troubled, and rejoice for the good.
      • As translated in The Rambler 8 (14 April 1750) by Samuel Johnson
      • Let not sleep e’er close thy eyes
        Without thou ask thyself: What have I omitted and what done?
        Abstain thou if ’tis evil; persevere if good.

      • Do not let sleep close your tired eyes until you have three times gone over the events of the day. ‘What did I do wrong? What did I accomplish? What did I fail to do that I should have done?’ Starting from the beginning, go through to the end. Then, reproach yourself for the things you did wrong, and take pleasure in the good things you did.
        • As quoted in Divine Harmony: The Life and Teachings of Pythagorasby John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook. (1999)
      • Meditate upon my counsels; love them; follow them;
        To the divine virtues will they know how to lead thee.

        I swear it by the One who in our hearts engraved
        The sacred Tetrad, symbol immense and pure,
        Source of Nature and model of the Gods.

      • Holding fast to these things, you will know the worlds of gods and mortals which permeates and governs everything. And you will know, as is right, nature similar in all respects, so that you will neither entertain unreasonable hopes nor be neglectful of anything.
        • As quoted in Divine Harmony: The Life and Teachings of Pythagorasby John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook. (1999)
      • You will know that wretched men are the cause of their own suffering, who neither see nor hear the good that is near them, and few are the ones who know how to secure release from their troubles.Such is the fate that harms their minds; like pebbles they are tossed about from one thing to another with cares unceasing. For the dread companion Strife harms them unawares, whom one must not walk behind, but withdraw from and flee.
        • As quoted in Divine Harmony: The Life and Teachings of Pythagorasby John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook (1999)
      • There is geometry in the humming of the strings. There is music in the spacings of the spheres.
        • As quoted in the preface of the book entitled Music of the Spheresby Guy Murchie (1961)


Remind yourself that all men assert that wisdom is the greatest good, but that there are few who strenuously seek out that greatest good.

Quotes of Pythagoras from the Florilegium of Stobaeus, using various translations, including those from “Pythagorean Ethical Sentences From Stobæus” in The Golden Verses of Pythagoras and other Pythagorean Fragments (1904); selected and arranged by Florence M. Firth

  • Do not even think of doing what ought not to be done.
    • “Pythagorean Ethical Sentences From Stobæus” (1904)
  • Choose rather to be strong in soul than in body.
    • “Pythagorean Ethical Sentences From Stobæus” (1904)
    • Choose rather to be strong of soul than strong of body.
      • As quoted in Florilegium, I.22, as translated in Dictionary of Quotations(1906) by Thomas Benfield Harbottle, p. 396
    • It is difficult to walk at one and the same time many paths of life.
      • “Pythagorean Ethical Sentences From Stobæus” (1904)
    • It is requisite to choose the most excellent life; for custom will make it pleasant.Wealth is an infirm anchor, glory is still more infirm; and in a similar manner, the body, dominion, and honour. For all these are imbecile and powerless. What then are powerful anchors. Prudence, magnanimity, fortitude. These no tempest can shake. This is the Law of God, that virtue is the only thing that is strong; and that every thing else is a trifle.
      • “Pythagorean Ethical Sentences From Stobæus” (1904)
    • It is requisite to defend those who are unjustly accused of having acted injuriously, but to praise those who excel in a certain good.
      • “Pythagorean Ethical Sentences From Stobæus” (1904)
    • Neither will the horse be adjudged to be generous, that is sumptuously adorned, but the horse whose nature is illustrious; nor is the man worthy who possesses great wealth, but he whose soul is generous.
      • “Pythagorean Ethical Sentences From Stobæus” (1904)
    • When the wise man opens his mouth, the beauties of his soul present themselves to the view, like the statues in a temple
      • “Pythagorean Ethical Sentences From Stobæus” (1904)
    • Remind yourself that all men assert that wisdom is the greatest good, but that there are few who strenuously seek out that greatest good.
      • “Pythagorean Ethical Sentences From Stobæus” (1904)
    • Despise all those things which when liberated from the body you will not want; invoke the Gods to become your helpers.
      • “Pythagorean Ethical Sentences From Stobæus” (1904)
    • Wind indeed increases fire, but custom love.
      • “Pythagorean Ethical Sentences From Stobæus” (1904)
    • Those alone are dear to Divinity who are hostile to injustice.
      • “Pythagorean Ethical Sentences From Stobæus” (1904)
    • None can be free who is a slave to, and ruled by, his passions.
      • As quoted in Florilegium, XVIII, 23, as translated in Dictionary of Quotations(1906) by Thomas Benfield Harbottle, p. 368
      • No one is free who has not obtained the empire of himself.
        • As translated by Nicholas Rowe(1732)
      • No man is free who cannot command himself.
        • As quoted in Moral Encyclopaedia, Or, Varlé’s Self-instructor, No. 3(1831) by by Charles Varle
      • No man is free who cannot control himself.
        • As quoted in 25 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living: A Guide for Improving Every Aspect of Your Life(2006) by Linda Elder and Richard Paul
      • It is not proper either to have a blunt sword or to use freedom of speech ineffectually.
        Neither is the sun to be taken from the world, nor freedom of speech from erudition.

      • Not frequently man from man.
        • As quoted in the translation of Thomas Taylor(1818); This has been interpreted as being an exhortation to moderation in homosexual liaisons.

The Sayings of the Wise (1555)

Dispose thy Soul to all good andnecessary things!

Quotes of Pythagoras as translated in The Sayings of the Wise: Or, Food for Thought: A Book of Moral Wisdom, Gathered from the Ancient Philosophers (1555) by William Baldwin [1908 edition]

True and perfect Friendship is, to make one heart and mind of many hearts and bodies.

The best and greatest winning is atrue friend; and the greatest loss is the loss of time.

  • When a reasonable Soul forsaketh his divine nature, and becometh beast-like, it dieth. For though the substance of the Soul be incorruptible: yet, lacking the use of Reason, it is reputed dead; for it loseth the Intellective Life.
  • A good Soul hath neither too great joy, nor too great sorrow: for it rejoiceth in goodness; and it sorroweth in wickedness. By the means whereof, when it beholdeth all things, and seeth the good and bad so mingled together, it can neither rejoice greatly; nor be grieved with over much sorrow.
  • Order thyself so, that thy Soul may always be in good estate; whatsoever become of thy body.
  • Dispose thy Soul to all good and necessary things!
  • Patience cometh by the grace of the Soul.
  • True and perfect Friendship is, to make one heart and mind of many hearts and bodies.
  • He is not rich, that enjoyeth not his own goods.
  • By Silence, the discretionof a man is known: and a fool, keeping Silence, seemeth to be wise.
  • A fool is known by his Speech; and a wise man by Silence.
  • The King that followeth Truth, and ruleth according to Justice, shall reign quietly: but he that doth the contrary, seeketh another to reign for him.
  • Tell not abroad what thou intendest to do; for if thou speed not, thou shalt be mocked!
  • If thy fellows hurt thee in small things, suffer it! and be as bold with them!
  • Take not thine enemy for thy friend; nor thy friend for thine enemy!
  • Rejoice not in another man’s misfortune!
  • Let thy mind rule thy tongue!
  • Hear gladly!
  • Attempt nothing above thy strength!
  • Be not hasty to speak; nor slow to hear!
  • Wish not the thing, which thou mayest not obtain!
  • If thou intend to do any good; tarry not till to-morrow! for thou knowest not what may chance thee this night.
  • Use examples; that such as thou teachest may understand thee the better!
  • Reason not with him, that will deny the principal truths!
  • Honor Wisdom; and deny it not to them that would learn; and shew it unto them that dispraise it! Sow not the sea fields!
  • Wisdom thoroughly learned, will never be forgotten.
    Science is got by diligence; but Discretion and Wisdom cometh of GOD.
  • Without Justice, no realm may prosper.
  • Happy is that City that hath a wise man to govern it.
  • To use Virtue is perfect blessedness.
  • Envy has been, is, and shall be, the destruction of many.What is there, that Envy hath not defamed, or Malice left undefiled? Truly, no good thing.
  • A solitary man is a God, or a beast.
  • None but a Craftsman can judge of a craft.
  • Repentance deserveth Pardon.
  • The best and greatest winning is a true friend; and the greatest loss is the loss of time.
  • It is better to suffer, than to do, wrong.
  • He is worst of all, that is malicious against his friends.
  • Evil destroyeth itself.
  • Better be mute, than dispute with the Ignorant.


Virtue is harmony.

  • Virtue is harmony.
    • This is often published as a direct quote of Pythagoras, but seems to be derived from the account of Diogenes Laertiusof Pythagorean doctrines, where he simply describes the statement as a precept of his followers. In the translation of C. D. Yonge (1853) it is rendered, in regard to Pythagoreans:

They also say, that the most important privilege in man is, the being able to persuade his soul to either good or bad. And that men are happy when they have a good soul; yet, that they are never quiet, and that they never retain the same mind long. Also, that an oath is justice; and that on that account, Jupiter is called Jupiter of Oaths. Also, that virtue is harmony, and health, and universal good, and God; on which account everythingowes its existence and consistency to harmony. Also, that friendship is a harmonious equality.


  • There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly.
    • Terence, in Heauton Timoroumenos[The Self-Tormentor]
  • Concern should drive us into action and not into a depression.
    • The Collected Works of Karen Horney‎(1957) by Karen Horney, p. 154: “We may feel genuinely concerned about world conditions, though such a concern should drive us into action and not into a depression.”
  • In this theater of man’s life it is reserved only for God and angels to be lookers on.
    • Francis Bacon, in The Advancement of Learning(1605) Book II, xx, 8.

Quotes about Pythagoras

I have often admired the mystical way of Pythagoras, and the secretMagic of numbers. ~ Thomas Browne

It was Pythagoras who first called heaven kosmos, because it is perfect, and “adorned” with infinite beauty and living beings.

It was through philosophy, he said, that he had come to be surprised at nothing. ~ Plutarch

I do not know of any other man who has been as influential as he was in the sphere of thought. ~ Bertrand Russell

Even the seeming remoteness of Pythagorean teaching helps one to realize that the current world view, while it seems destined to dominate the planet, is fleeting and temporary and, like others before it, will pass. ~ John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook

  • Ten is the very nature of number. All Greeks and all barbarians alike count up to ten, and having reached ten revert again to the unity. And again, Pythagoras maintains, the power of the number 10 lies in the number 4, the tetrad.This is the reason: if one starts at the unit (1) and adds the successive number up to 4, one will make up the number 10 (1+2+3+4 = 10). And if one exceeds the tetrad, one will exceed 10 too…. So that the number by the unit resides in the number 10, but potentially in the number 4. And so the Pythagoreans used to invoke the Tetrad as their most binding oath: “By him that gave to our generation the Tetractys, which contains the fount and root of eternal nature…”
  • Pythagoras, it seems, did not only call the supreme Deity a monad, but also a tetrad, or tetractys… It is, in the golden verses, said to be the fountain of the eternal nature; and by Hierocles, the maker of all things, the intelligent god, the cause of the heavenly and sensible god, that is, of the animated world or heaven. The later Pythogoreans endeavour to give reasons why God should be called Tetractys, from certain mysteries in the number four; but… much more probable… this name was really nothing else but the tetragrammaton, or that proper name of the supreme God amongst the Hebrews, consisting of four letters; nor is it strange Pythagoras should be so well acquainted with the name Jehovah, since, besides travelling into other parts of the East, he is by JosephusPorphyry, and others, to have conversed with the Hebrews also.
  • These thinkers seem to consider that number is the principle both as matter for things and as constituting their attributes and permanent states.
  • They thought they found in numbers, more than in fire, earth, or water, many resemblances to things which are and become; thus such and such an attribute of numbers is justice, another is soul and mind, another is opportunity, and so on; and again they saw in numbers the attributes and ratios of the musical scales. Since, then, all other things seemed in their whole nature to be assimilated to numbers, while numbers seemed to be the first things in the whole of nature, they supposed the elements of numbers to be the elements of all things, and the whole heaven to be a musical scale and a number.
    • Aristotle(c. 330 BC) as quoted by Sir Thomas Little HeathA History of Greek Mathematics 1, pp.67-68, citing Metaph. A. 5, 985 b 27-986 a 2..
  • Whenever he heard a person who was making use of his symbols, he immediately took him into his circle, and made him a friend.
    • Aristoxenus, as quoted in Birth of the Symbol: Ancient Readers at the Limits of Their Texts(2004) by Peter Struck
  • It seems probable that the early Greeks were largely indebted to the Phoenicians for their knowledge of practical arithmetic or the art of calculation, and perhaps also learnt from them a few properties of numbers. It may be worthy of note that Pythagoras was a Phoenician; and according to Herodotus, but this is more doubtful, Thaleswas also of that race.
  • I have often admired the mystical way of Pythagoras, and the secret Magic of numbers.
  • Pythagoras was said to have been the first man to call himself philosopher; in fact, the world is indebted to him for the word philosopher. Before that time the wise men called themselves sages, which was interpreted to mean those who know. Pythagoras was more modest. He coined the word philosopher, which he defined as one who is attempting to find out.
    • Grover W. Brunton, Pythagoras: The First Philosopher and Discoverer of the Forty-seventh Problem of Euclid(2005)
  • There remains no firm basis for the belief that Pythagoras was a geometer and in any case no attestation of his having written anything.
  • The apparently ancient reports of the importance of Pythagoras and his pupils in laying the foundations of mathematics crumble on touch, and what we can get hold of is not authentic testimony by the efforts latecomers to paper over a crack, which they obviously found surprising, by the use of various kinds of reconstruction and reinterpretation. On the other hand, there are ancient and unassailable indications of a Greek mathematics antedating Pythagoras and quite outside his sphere of influence.
  • I wished to show that Pythagoras, the first founder of the vegetable regimen, was at once a very great physicist and a very great physician; that there has been no one of a more cultured and discriminating humanity; that he was a man of wisdom and of experience; that his motive in commending and introducing the new mode of living was derived not from any extravagant superstition, but from the desire to improve the health and the manners of men.
    • Antonio CocchiThe Pythagorean Diet: for the Use of the Medical Faculty, as quoted in The Ethics of Dietby Howard Williams (University of Illinois Press, 2003,  159)
  • Koyré’s exaltation of the “Platonic and Pythagorean” elements of the Scientific Revolution… was based on a demonstrably false understanding of how Galileo reached his conclusions. Koyré asserted that Galileo merely used experiments as a check on the theories he devised by mathematical reasoning. But later research has definitively established that Galileo’s experiments preceeded his attempts to give a mathematical account of their results.
    • Clifford D. Conner, A People’s History of Science(2005)
  • Pythagoras could not have been the discoverer of the relation, because… this property was known and used by scholars and artisans of Oriental lands thousands of years before Pythagoras… While deductive geometry is barely more than twenty-five hundred years old, empirical geometry is probably as old as civilization itself.
  • Pythagoras did not possess a proof of the theorem which bears his name… he was temperamentally uninterested in proofs of this nature, as may be gleaned from… his numerological …the Pythagorean theorem was known to Thales. …the hypotenuse theorem is a direct consequence of the principle of similitude, and… Thales was fully conversant with the theory of similar triangles. On the other hand, there is no doubt that Pythagoras fully appreciated the metaphysicalimplications. …this relation …was to Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans a basic law of nature, and… a brilliant confirmation of their number philosophy.
  • A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — “Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.” — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and [[Nicolaus Copernicus|Copernicus]], and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
  • But there was among them a man of prodigious knowledge who acquired the profoundest wealth of understanding and was the greatest master of skilled arts of every kind; for, whenever he willed with his whole heart, he could with ease discern each and every truth in his ten—nay, twenty—men’s lives.
    • Empedocles(c. 460 BC) as quoted by Sir Thomas Little HeathA History of Greek Mathematics 1, p.65, citing Diog. L. viii. 54 and Porph. V. Pyth. 30 (Fr. 129 in Vorsokratiker i3, p. 272. 15-20).
  • Pythagoras is the founder of European culturein the Western Mediterranean sphere.
  • Nor need you question but that Pythagoras a long time be­fore he found the demonstration for which he offered the Heca­tomb, had been certain, that the square of the side subtending the right angle in a rectangle triangle, was equal to the square of the other two sides: and the certainty of the conclusion condu­ced not a little to the investigating of the demonstration, un­derstanding me alwayes to mean in demonstrative Sciences.
  • Let us suppose that we have set the problem of finding a solution to the equation {\displaystyle \scriptstyle x^{2}=2.\,}This is a problem for which the Babylonians around 1700 BC found the excellent approximation {\displaystyle \scriptstyle {\sqrt {2}}.} …This is the identical problem which Pythagoras asserted had no fractional solution and in whose honor he was supposed to have sacrificed a hecatomb of oxen—the problem which caused the existentialist crisis in ancient Greek mathematics. The {\displaystyle \scriptstyle {\sqrt {2}}} exists (as the diagonal of the unit square); yet it does not exist (as a fraction)!
    • Philip J. Davis and Reuben Hersh, The Mathematical Experience(1980) p. 180
  • Pythagoras was indeed the first man to call himself a philosopher. Others before had called themselves wise (sophos), but Pythagoras was the first to call himself a philosopher, literally a lover of wisdom.
    More importantly, for Pythagoras and his followers philosophy was not merely an intellectual pursuit, but a way of life, the aim of which was the assimilation to God.

    • Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie and David R. Fideler, The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library: An Anthology of Ancient Writings which Relate to Pythagoras and Pythagorean Philosophy(1919)
  • Pythagoras, the son of Mnesarchus, was the most learned of all men of history; and having selected from these writings, he thus formed his own wisdom and extensive learning, and mischievous art.
  • Much learning does not teach wisdom; otherwise it would have taught Hesiodand Pythagoras, and again Xenophanes and Hecataeus.
    • Heraclitus(c. 500 BC) as quoted by Sir Thomas Little HeathA History of Greek Mathematics 1, p.65, citing Diog. L. ix. 1 (Fr. 40 in Vorsokratiker i3, p. 86. 1-3).
  • No one will deny that the soul of Pythagoras was sent to mankind from Apollo’s domain, having either been one of his attendants, or more intimate associates, which may be inferred both from his birth, and his versatile wisdom.
  • After his father’s death, though he was still but a youth, his aspect was so venerable, and his habits so temperate that he was honored and even reverenced by elderly men, attracting the attention of all who saw and heard him speak, creating the most profound impression. That is the reason that many plausibly asserted that he was a child of the divinity.Enjoying the privilege of such a renown, of an education so thorough from infancy, and of so impressive a natural appearance he showed that he deserved all these advantages by deserving them, by the adornment of piety and discipline, by exquisite habits, by firmness of soul, and by a body duly subjected to the mandates of reason. An inimitable quiet and serenity marked all his words and actions, soaring above all laughter, emulation, contention, or any other irregularity or eccentricity; his influence at Samos was that of some beneficent divinity. His great renown, while yet a youth, reached not only men as illustrious for their wisdom as Thales at Miletus, and Bias at Prione, but also extended to the neighboring cities. He was celebrated everywhere as the “long-haired Samian,” and by the multitude was given credit for being under divine inspiration.
    • Iamblichus of Chalcisin Life of Pythagoras translated by Thomas Taylor; Ch. 2: Youth, Education, Travels
  • Pythagoras conceived that the first attention that should be given to men should be addressed to the senses, as when one perceives beautiful figures and forms, or hears beautiful rhythms and melodies.Consequently he laid down that the first erudition was that which subsists through music’s melodies and rhythms, and from these he obtained remedies of human manners and passions, and restored the pristine harmony of the faculties of the soul.
  • Some fundamental unity was surely to be discerned either in the matter or the structure of things. The Ionic philosopherschose the former field: Pythagoras took the latter. …The geometry which he had learnt in Egypt was merely practical. …It was natural to nascent philosophy to draw, by false analogies, and the use of a brief and deceptive vocabulary,2 enormous conclusions from a very few observed facts: and it is not surprising if Pythagoras, having learnt in Egypt that number was essential to the exact description of forms and of the relations of forms, concluded that number was the cause of form and so of every other quality. Number, he inferred, is quantity and quantity is form and form is quality.
    Footnote2 Primitive men, on seeing a new thing, look out especially for some resemblance in it to a known thing, so that they may call both by the same name. This developes a habit of pressing small and partial analogies. It also causes many meanings to be at attached to the same word. Hasty and confused theories are the inevitable result.

  • Nicomachusconcludes his first book with a theorem that indicates that mathematics was not yet free from ethical and æsthetic mixture. From Pythagoras onward two ideas were widespread in Greek, especially Platonic, philosophy. These are that the beautiful and the definite are prior to the ugly and the indefinite, and that from them are formed all the parts and classes of the infinite and indefinite. Nicomachus aims to show that in mathematics the same principle holds good in that from equality may be derived all the species of inequality.
  • The Ionianswere optimistic, heathenly materialists… Every philosopher of the period seems to have had his own theory regarding the nature of the universe around him. …The sixth century scene evokes the image of an orchestra expectantly tuning up, each player absorbed in his own instrument only, deaf to the caterwaulings of the others. Then there is a dramatic silence, the conductor enters the stage, raps three times with his baton, and harmony emerges from the chaos. The maestro is Pythagoras of Samos, whose influence on the ideas, and thereby on the destiny, of the human race was probably greater than that of any single man before or after him.
    • Arthur KoestlerThe Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe(1959, 1963)
  • It is impossible to decide whether a particular detail of the Pythagorean universe was the work of the master, or filled in by a pupil—a remark which equally applies to Leonardoor Michelangelo. But there can be no doubt that the basic features were conceived by a single mind; that Pythagoras of Samos was both the founder of a new religious philosophy, and the founder of Science, as the word is understood today.
    • Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe(1959, 1963)
  • What appeared here, at the center of the Pythagoreantradition in philosophy, is another view of psyche that seems to owe little or nothing to the pan-vitalism or pan-deism (see theion) that is the legacy of the Milesians.
    • Francis E. Peters, in Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon(NYU Press 1967), p. 169 ISBN: 0814765521
  • It was through philosophy, he said, that he had come to be surprised at nothing.
    • Plutarchin Recta Audiendi Rationa, XII, as quoted in
  • The following became universally known: first, that he maintains that the soul is immortal; second, that it changes into other kinds of living things; third, that events recur in certain cycles and that nothing is ever absolutely new; and fourth, that all living things should be regarded as akin.Pythagoras seems to have been the first to bring these beliefs into Greece.
  • He ordained that his disciples should speak well and think reverently of the Gods, muses and heroes, and likewise of parents and benefactors; that they should obey the laws; that they should not relegate the worship of the Gods to a secondary position, performing it eagerly, even at home; that to the celestial divinities they should sacrifice uncommon offerings; and ordinary ones to the inferior deities. (The world he Divided into) opposite powers; the “one” was a better monad, light, right, equal, stable and straight; while the “other” was an inferior duad, darkness, left, unequal, unstable and movable.
    • Porphyry of Tyre, in “The Life of Pythagoras”as translated by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie in The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library: An Anthology of Ancient Writings which Relate to Pythagoras and Pythagorean Philosophy (1919); also quoted in The Golden Chain: An Anthology of Pythagorean and Platonic Philosophy (2004) by Algis Uzdavinys
  • Such things taught he, though advising above all things to speak the truth, for this alone deifies men.For as he had learned from the Magi, who call God Oremasdes, God’s body is light, and his soul is truth. He taught much else, which he claimed to have learned from Aristoclea at Delphi.
    • Porphyry of Tyre, as translated by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie in The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library: An Anthology of Ancient Writings which Relate to Pythagoras and Pythagorean Philosophy(1919); also quoted in The Golden Chain: An Anthology of Pythagorean and Platonic Philosophy (2004) by Algis Uzdavinys
    • Unsourced variant: Speak the truth in all situations.
  • According to the account of Proclus(Book II. c. 4 ), Pythagoras was the first who gave to Geometry the form of a deductive science, by shewing the connexion of the geometrical truths then known, and their dependence on certain first principles. …The traditionary account, that Pythagoras was the founder of scientific mathematics, is in some degree, supported by the statement of Diogenes Laertius, that he was chiefly occupied with the consideration of the properties of number, weight, and extension, besides music and astronomy. The passage of Cicero (De Nat. Deor. III. 36) may be referred to as evidence that later writers were unable to give any precise account of the mathematical discoveries of Pythagoras. To Pythagoras, however, is attributed the discovery of some of the most important elementary properties contained in the first book of Euclid’s Elements. The very important truth contained in Prop. 47, Book I. is also ascribed to Pythagoras. …Proclus attributes to him the discovery of that right-angled triangle, the three sides of which are respectively 3, 4, and 5 units. To Pythagoras also belongs the discovery, that there are only three kinds of regular polygons which can be placed so as to fill up the space round a point; namely, six equilateral triangles, four squares, and three regular hexagons. Proclus attributes to him the doctrine of incommensurables, and the discovery of the five regular solids, which, if not due to Pythagoras, originated in his school. In Astronomy he is reputed to have held, that the Sun is the centre of the system, and that the planets revolve round it. This has been called, from his name, the Pythagorean System, which was revived by Copernicus, A.D.1541, and proved by Newton.
  • Pythagoras, as everyone knows, said that “all things are numbers.” This statement, interpreted in a modern way, is logical nonsense, but what he meant was not exactly nonsense.He discovered the importance of numbers in music and the connection which he established between music and arithmetic survives in the mathematical terms “harmonic mean” and “harmonic progression.” He thought of numbers as shapes, as they appear on dice or playing cards. We still speak of squares or cubes of numbers, which are terms that we owe to him. He also spoke of oblong numbers, triangular numbers, pyramidal numbers, and so on. These were the numbers of pebbles [or calculi] (or as we would more naturally say, shot) required to make the shapes in question.
  • Personal religion is derived from ecstasy, theology from mathematics, and both are to be found in Pythagoras.
    • Bertrand Russell, in A History of Western Philosophy(1945), Book One, Part I, Chapter III, Pythagoras, p. 36
  • The combination of mathematics and theology, which began with Pythagoras, characterized religious philosophy in Greece, in the Middle Ages, and in modern times down to Kant.Orphism before Pythagoras was analogous to Asiatic mystery religions. But in PlatoSaint AugustineThomas AquinasDescartesSpinoza, and Kant there is an intimate blending of religion and reasoning, of moral aspiration with logical admiration of what is timeless, which comes from Pythagoras, and distinguishes the intellectualized theology of Europe from the more straightforward mysticism of Asia. It is only in quite recent times that it has been possible to say clearly that Pythagoras was wrong. I do not know of any other man who has been as influential as he was in the sphere of thought. I say this because what appears as Platonism is, when analyzed, found to be in essence Pythagoreanism. The whole conception of an eternal world, revealed to the intellect but not to the senses, is derived from him. But for him, Christians would not have thought of Christ as the Word; but for him, theologians would not have sought logical proofs of God and immortality.
  • In spite of the dominance of mechanistic thought in the contemporary world, a perplexing residue of the magical tradition still survives in the form of several issues, solutions to which do not appear possible within the context of a purely mechanical view of the world…. It is important to recognize that the materialist, scientific paradigm that dominates the late twentieth century world and provides the basis for its dominant institutions, has its basis in the life and work of Pythagoras, one of the most significant representatives of the perennial philosophyand a founder of the magical tradition. This spirit, which gave rise to our world view, is a spirit that must be recaptured if our civilization is to flourish. The choice is a clear one to many, and was summed up in a book title by the late Pythagorean and futuristBuckminster FullerUtopia or Oblivion.
    • John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook, in Divine Harmony : The Life and Teachings of Pythagoras(1999).
  • What seems certain is that Pythagoras developed the idea of mathematical logic… He realized that numbers exist independently of the tangible world and therefore their study was untainted by inaccuracies of perception. This meant he could discover truths which were independent of opinion of prejudice and which were more absolute then any previous knowledge.
  • Number, its kinds; the first kind, intellectual in the divine mind.
    Number is of two kinds, the Intellectual (or immateriall) and the Scientiall. The intellectuall is that eternal substanceof number, which Pythagoras in his discourse concerning the Gods asserted to be the principle most providentiall of all Heaven and Earth, and the nature that is betwixt them. Moreover, it is the root of divine Beings, and of gods, & of Dæmons. This is that which he termed the principle, fountain,and root of all things, and defined it to be that which before all things exists in the divine mind; from which and out of which all things are digested into order, and remain numbred by an indissolube series.
    For all things which are ordered in the world by nature according to an artificiall course in part and in whole appear to be distinguished and adorn’d by Providence and the All-creating Mind, according to Number; the exemplar being established by applying (as the reason of the principle before the impression of things) the number præxistent in the Intellect of God, maker of the world. This only in intellectual, & wholly immaterial, really a substance according to which as being the most exact artificiall reason, all things are perfected, Time, Heaven, Motion, the Stars and their various revolutions.
    The other kind of number, Scientiall; its principles.
    Scientiall Number is that which Pythagoras defines the extension and production into act of the seminall reasons which are in the Monad, or a heap of Monads, or a progressian of multitude beginning from Monad, and a regression ending in Monad.

  • Pythagoras was a teacher of the purest system of morals ever propounded to man.
  • Pythagoras was a man; and with all his imperfections on his head, we shall look among the race of men, for his better, in yain, yea, for his equal, or his second, but in vain.Pythagoras was entirely a Deist, a steady maintainer of the unity of God, and of the eternal obligations of moral virtue. No Christian writings, even to this day, can compete in sublimity and grandeur with what this illustrious philosopher has laid down concerning God, and the end of all our actions; and it is likely, says Bayle, that he would have carried his orthodoxy much farther, had he had the courage to expose himself to martyrdom.
  • It was Pythagoras who first called heaven kosmos, because it is perfect, and “adorned” with infinite beauty and living beings.
    • Algis Uzdavinys in The Golden Chain: An Anthology of Pythagorean and Platonic Philosophy(2004) p. 4; also in The Life of Pythagoras by an unknown ancient author, as quoted in The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library: An Anthology of Ancient Writings which Relate to Pythagoras and Pythagorean Philosophy (1919)
  • It was a maxim of Pythagoras that the two most excellent things for man were to speak the truth, and to render benefits to each other.
    • Joseph Dame Weeks, History of the Knights of Pythias, with an Account of the Life and Times of Damon and Pythias(1874) Note: The bolded portion of this has sometimes been presented as a quote of Pythagoras, but has not been found in this form in any existing translations of his statements.
  • Around 600 BCE, Pythagoras observed that the tones of a lyre sound most harmonious when the ratio of string lengths forms a simple whole-number fraction. Inspired by such hints, Pythagoras and his followers made a remarkable intuitive leap. They foresaw the possibility of a different kind of world-model, less dependent on the accident of our senses but more in tune with Nature’s hidden harmonies, and ultimately more faithful to reality. This is the meaning of… “All things are number.”

Lives of the Necromancers (1835)

by William GodwinLives of the Necromancers p. 77-92

  • Pythagoras was a man of the most various accomplishments, and appears to have penetrated in different directions into the depths of human knowledge. He sought wisdom in its retreats of fairest promise, in Egypt and other distant countries. In this investigation he employed the earlier period of his life, probably till he was forty, and devoted the remainder to such modes of proceeding, as appeared to him the most likely to secure the advantage of what he had acquired to a late posterity.
  • He founded a school, and delivered his acquisitions by oral communication to a numerous body of followers. He divided his pupils into two classes, the one neophytes, to whom was explained only the most obvious and general truths, the other who were admitted into the entire confidence of the master. These last he caused to throw their property into a common stock, and to live together in the same place of resort. He appears to have spent the latter half of his life in that part of Italy, called Magna Graecia, so denominated in some degree from the numerous colonies of Grecians by whom it was planted, and partly perhaps from the memory of the illustrious things which Pythagoras achieved there. He is said to have spread the seeds of political liberty in Crotona, Sybaris, Metapontum, and Rhegium, and from thence in Sicily to Tauromenium, Catana, Agrigentum and Himera. Charondas and Zaleucus, themselves famous legislators, derived the rudiments of their political wisdom from the instructions of Pythagoras.
  • But this marvellous man in some way, whether from the knowledge he received, or from his own proper discoveries, has secured to his species benefits of a more permanent nature, and which shall outlive the revolutions of ages, and the instability of political institutions. He was a profound geometrician. The two theorems, that the internal angles of every right-line triangle are equal to two right angles, and that the square of the hypothenuse of every right angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides, are ascribed to him. In memory of the latter of these discoveries he is said to have offered a public sacrifice to the Gods; and the theorem is still known by the name of the Pythagorean theorem. He ascertained from the length of the Olympic course, which was understood to have measured six hundred of Hercules’s feet, the precise stature of that hero. Lastly, Pythagoras is the first person, who is known to have taught the spherical figure of the earth, and that we have antipodes; and he propagated the doctrine that the earth is a planet, and that the sun is the centre round which the earth and the other planets move, now known by the name of the Copernican system.
  • To inculcate a pure and a simple mode of subsistence was also an express object of pursuit to Pythagoras. He taught a total abstinence from every thing having had the property of animal life. It has been affirmed, as we have seen, that Orpheus before him taught the same thing. But the claim of Orpheus to this distinction is ambiguous; while the theories and dogmas of the Samian sage, as he has frequently been styled, were more methodically digested, and produced more lasting and unequivocal effects. He taught temperance in all its branches, and a resolute subjection of the appetites of the body to contemplation and the exercises of the mind; and, by the unremitting discipline and authority he exerted over his followers, he caused his lessons to be constantly observed. There was therefore an edifying and an exemplary simplicity that prevailed as far as the influence of Pythagoras extended, that won golden opinions to his adherents at all times that they appeared, and in all places.
  • One revolution that Pythagoras worked, was that, whereas, immediately before, those who were most conspicuous among the Greeks as instructors of mankind in understanding and virtue, styled themselves sophists, professors of wisdom, this illustrious man desired to be known only by the appellation of a philosopher, a lover of wisdom. The sophists had previously brought their denomination into discredit and reproach, by the arrogance of their pretensions, and the imperious way in which they attempted to lay down the law to the world.
  • The modesty of this appellation however did not altogether suit with the deep designs of Pythagoras, the ascendancy he resolved to acquire, and the oracular subjection in which he deemed it necessary to hold those who placed themselves under his instruction. This wonderful man set out with making himself a model of the passive and unscrupulous docility which he afterwards required from others. He did not begin to teach till he was forty years of age, and from eighteen to that period he studied in foreign countries, with the resolution to submit to all his teachers enjoined, and to make himself master of their least communicated and most secret wisdom. In Egypt in particular, we are told that, though he brought a letter of recommendation from Polycrates, his native sovereign, to Amasis, king of that country, who fully concurred with the views of the writer, the priests, jealous of admitting a foreigner into their secrets, baffled him as long as they could, referring him from one college to another, and prescribing to him the most rigorous preparatives, not excluding the rite of circumcision. But Pythagoras endured and underwent every thing, till at length their unwillingness was conquered, and his perseverance received its suitable reward.
  • When in the end Pythagoras thought himself fully qualified for the task he had all along had in view, he was no less strict in prescribing ample preliminaries to his own scholars. At the time that a pupil was proposed to him, the master, we are told, examined him with multiplied questions as to his principles, his habits and intentions, observed minutely his voice and manner of speaking, his walk and his gestures, the lines of his countenance, and the expression and management of his eye, and, when he was satisfied with these, then and not till then admitted him as a probationer. It is to be supposed that all this must have been personal. As soon however as this was over, the master was withdrawn from the sight of the pupil; and a noviciate of three and five, in all eight years, was prescribed to the scholar, during which time he was only to hear his instructor from behind a curtain, and the strictest silence was enjoined him through the whole period. As the instructions Pythagoras received in Egypt and the East admitted of no dispute, so in his turn he required an unreserved submission from those who heard him: autos iphae “the master has said it,” was deemed a sufficient solution to all doubt and uncertainty.
  • To give the greater authority and effect to his communications Pythagoras hid himself during the day at least from the great body of his pupils, and was only seen by them at night. Indeed there is no reason to suppose that any one was admitted into his entire familiarity. When he came forth, he appeared in a long garment of the purest white, with a flowing beard, and a garland upon his head. He is said to have been of the finest symmetrical form, with a majestic carriage, and a grave and awful countenance. He suffered his followers to believe that he was one of the Gods, the Hyperborean Apollo, and is said to have told Abaris that he assumed the human form, that he might the better invite men to an easiness of approach and to confidence in him. What however seems to be agreed in by all his biographers, is that he professed to have already in different ages appeared in the likeness of man: first as Aethalides, the son of Mercury; and, when his father expressed himself ready to invest him with any gift short of immortality, he prayed that, as the human soul is destined successively to dwell in various forms, he might have the privilege in each to remember his former state of being, which was granted him. From, Aethalides he became Euphorbus, who slew Patroclus at the siege of Troy. He then appeared as Hermotimus, then Pyrrhus, a fisherman of Delos, and finally Pythagoras. He said that a period of time was interposed between each transmigration, during which he visited the seat of departed souls; and he professed to relate a part of the wonders he had seen. He is said to have eaten sparingly and in secret, and in all respects to have given himself out for a being not subject to the ordinary laws of nature.
  • Pythagoras therefore pretended to miraculous endowments. Happening to be on the sea-shore when certain fishermen drew to land an enormous multitude of fishes, he desired them to allow him to dispose of the capture, which they consented to, provided he would name the precise number they had caught. He did so, and required that they should throw their prize into the sea again, at the same time paying them the value of the fish. He tamed a Daunian bear by whispering in his ear, and prevailed on him henceforth to refrain from the flesh of animals, and to feed on vegetables. By the same means he induced an ox not to eat beans, which was a diet specially prohibited by Pythagoras; and he called down an eagle from his flight, causing him to sit on his hand, and submit to be stroked down by the philosopher. In Greece, when he passed the river Nessus in Macedon, the stream was heard to salute him with the words “Hail, Pythagoras!” When Abaris addressed him as one of the heavenly host, he took the stranger aside, and convinced him that he was under no mistake, by exhibiting to him his thigh of gold: or, according to another account, he used the same sort of evidence at a certain time, to satisfy his pupils of his celestial descent. He is said to have been seen on the same day at Metapontum in Italy, and at Taurominium in Sicily, though these places are divided by the sea, so that it was conceived that it would cost several days to pass from one to the other. In one instance he absented himself from his associates in Italy for a whole year; and when he appeared again, related that he had passed that time in the infernal regions, describing likewise the marvellous things he had seen. Diogenes Laertius, speaking of this circumstance affirms however that he remained during this period in a cave, where his mother conveyed to him intelligence and necessaries, and that, when he came once more into light and air, he appeared so emaciated and colourless, that he might well be believed to have come out of Hades.
  • The close of the life of Pythagoras was, according to every statement, in the midst of misfortune and violence. Some particulars are related by Iamblichus, which, though he is not an authority beyond all exception, are so characteristic as seem to entitle them to the being transcribed. This author is more circumstantial than any other in stating the elaborate steps by which the pupils of Pythagoras came to be finally admitted into the full confidence of the master. He says, that they passed three years in the first place in a state of probation, carefully watched by their seniors, and exposed to their occasional taunts and ironies, by way of experiment to ascertain whether they were of a temper sufficiently philosophical and firm. At the expiration of that period they were admitted to a noviciate, in which they were bound to uninterrupted silence, and heard the lectures of the master, while he was himself concealed from their view by a curtain. They were then received to initiation, and required to deliver over their property to the common stock. They were admitted to intercourse with the master. They were invited to a participation of the most obscure theories, and the abstrusest problems. If however in this stage of their progress they were discovered to be too weak of intellectual penetration, or any other fundamental objection were established against them, they were expelled the community; the double of the property they had contributed to the common stock was paid down to them; a head-stone and a monument inscribed with their names were set up in the place of meeting of the community; they were considered as dead; and, if afterwards they met by chance any of those who were of the privileged few, they were treated by them as entirely strangers.
  • Cylon, the richest man, or, as he is in one place styled, the prince, of Crotona, had manifested the greatest partiality to Pythagoras. He was at the same time a man of rude, impatient and boisterous character. He, together with Perialus of Thurium, submitted to all the severities of the Pythagorean school. They passed the three years of probation, and the five years of silence. They were received into the familiarity of the master. They were then initiated, and delivered all their wealth into the common stock. They were however ultimately pronounced deficient in intellectual power, or for some other reason were not judged worthy to continue among the confidential pupils of Pythagoras. They were expelled. The double of the property they had contributed was paid back to them. A monument was set up in memory of what they had been; and they were pronounced dead to the school.
  • It will easily be conceived in what temper Cylon sustained this degradation. Of Perialus we hear nothing further. But Cylon, from feelings of the deepest reverence and awe for Pythagoras, which he had cherished for years, was filled even to bursting with inextinguishable hatred and revenge. The unparalleled merits, the venerable age of the master whom he had so long followed, had no power to control his violence. His paramount influence in the city insured him the command of a great body of followers. He excited them to a frame of turbulence and riot. He represented to them how intolerable was the despotism of this pretended philosopher. They surrounded the school in which the pupils were accustomed to assemble, and set it on fire. Forty persons perished in the flames. According to some accounts Pythagoras was absent at the time. According to others he and two of his pupils escaped. He retired from Crotona to Metapontum. But the hostility which had broken out in the former city, followed him there. He took refuge in the Temple of the Muses. But he was held so closely besieged that no provisions could be conveyed to him; and he finally perished with hunger, after, according to Laertius, forty days’ abstinence.
  • It is difficult to imagine any thing more instructive, and more pregnant with matter for salutary reflection, than the contrast presented to us by the character and system of action of Pythagoras on the one hand, and those of the great enquirers of the last two centuries, for example, Bacon, Newton and Locke, on the other. Pythagoras probably does not yield to any one of these in the evidences of true intellectual greatness. In his school, in the followers he trained resembling himself, and in the salutary effects he produced on the institutions of the various republics of Magna Graecia and Sicily, he must be allowed greatly to have excelled them. His discoveries of various propositions in geometry, of the earth as a planet, and of the solar system as now universally recognised, clearly stamp him a genius of the highest order.
  • Yet this man, thus enlightened and philanthropical, established his system of proceeding upon narrow and exclusive principles, and conducted it by methods of artifice, quackery and delusion. One of his leading maxims was, that the great and fundamental truths to the establishment of which he devoted himself, were studiously to be concealed from the vulgar, and only to be imparted to a select few, and after years of the severest noviciate and trial. He learned his earliest lessons of wisdom in Egypt after this method, and he conformed through life to the example which had thus been delivered to him. The severe examination that he made of the candidates previously to their being admitted into his school, and the years of silence that were then prescribed to them, testify this. He instructed them by symbols, obscure and enigmatical propositions, which they were first to exercise their ingenuity to expound. The authority and dogmatical assertions of the master were to remain unquestioned; and the pupils were to fashion themselves to obsequious and implicit submission, and were the furthest in the world from being encouraged to the independent exercise of their own understandings. There was nothing that Pythagoras was more fixed to discountenance, than the communication of the truths upon which he placed the highest value, to the uninitiated. It is not probable therefore that he wrote any thing: all was communicated orally, by such gradations, and with such discretion, as he might think fit to adopt and to exercise.
  • Delusion and falsehood were main features of his instruction. With what respect therefore can we consider, and what manliness worthy of his high character and endowments can we impute to, his discourses delivered from behind a curtain, his hiding himself during the day, and only appearing by night in a garb assumed for the purpose of exciting awe and veneration? What shall we say to the story of his various transmigrations? At first sight it appears in the light of the most audacious and unblushing imposition. And, if we were to yield so far as to admit that by a high-wrought enthusiasm, by a long train of maceration and visionary reveries, he succeeded in imposing on himself, this, though in a different way, would scarcely less detract from the high stage of eminence upon which the nobler parts of his character would induce us to place him.
  • Such were some of the main causes that have made his efforts perishable, and the lustre which should have attended his genius in a great degree transitory and fugitive. He was probably much under the influence of a contemptible jealousy, and must be considered as desirous that none of his contemporaries or followers should eclipse their master. All was oracular and dogmatic in the school of Pythagoras. He prized and justly prized the greatness of his attainments and discoveries, and had no conception that any thing could go beyond them. He did not encourage, nay, he resolutely opposed, all true independence of mind, and that undaunted spirit of enterprise which is the atmosphere in which the sublimest thoughts are most naturally generated. He therefore did not throw open the gates of science and wisdom, and invite every comer; but on the contrary narrowed the entrance, and carefully reduced the number of aspirants. He thought not of the most likely methods to give strength and permanence and an extensive sphere to the progress of the human mind. For these reasons he wrote nothing; but consigned all to the frail and uncertain custody of tradition.And distant posterity has amply avenged itself upon the narrowness of his policy; and the name of Pythagoras, which would otherwise have been ranked with the first luminaries of mankind, and consigned to everlasting gratitude, has in consequence of a few radical and fatal mistakes, been often loaded with obloquy, and the hero who bore it been indiscriminately classed among the votaries of imposture and artifice.

Divine Harmony (1999)

Divine Harmony: The Life and Teachings of Pythagoras by John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook. (1999) ISBN 0-9653774-5-8

The concept of a harmonious universe ordered according to “the Great Chain of Being” — a chain that connects the continuum of matter, body, mind, soul and spirit — stands as one of the most fundamental ideas of western thought.

  • Pythagoras stands at the fountainhead of our culture.The ideas he set in motion were, according to Daniel Boorstin, “among the most potent in modern history,” resulting directly in many of the pillars upon which the modern world is built. In particular, the very existence of science becomes possible only when it is realized that inner, purely subjective, mathematical forms have a resonance with the form and behavior of the external world — a Pythagorean perception. And a world at peace — that is to say, in a nuclear age, the survival of our planet — is predicated upon ideas of universal brotherhood to which Pythagoras, while not the sole author, made an enormous contribution. Even the seeming remoteness of Pythagorean teaching helps one to realize that the current world view, while it seems destined to dominate the planet, is fleeting and temporary and, like others before it, will pass.
  • Pythagoras’ teachings have enormous relevance in understanding both the sources of our culture and, perhaps more importantly, where it may be heading or may need to head. But to appreciate this we have to understand him in modern terms.
  • At the dawn of our century, scientists were proclaiming that our understanding of the world was almost complete. Only one or two small problems in physics remained to be solved.One of these problems had to do with black body radiation and was solved by Max Planck. His solution, however, formed the foundation for quantum mechanics which was to sweep aside almost the whole edifice of fundamental assumptions in physics, and with it our understanding of the world.
    A hundred years later we are faced with a similar situation. The mechanistic viewpoint that began to dominate our world view in the seventeenth century has almost completed its hegemony. This paradigm, as historian Hugh Kearney points out, stems from only one of three main systems of thought that flowed from Greek thought into the modern world, each of which has dominated our world view at different points in our history. … In spite of the dominance of mechanistic thought in the contemporary world, a perplexing residue of the magical tradition still survives in the form of several issues, solutions to which do not appear possible within the context of a purely mechanical view of the world.
  • It is important to recognize that the materialist, scientific paradigm that dominates the late twentieth century world and provides the basis for its dominant institutions, has its basis in the life and work of Pythagoras, one of the most significant representatives of the perennial philosophy and a founder of the magical tradition. This spirit, which gave rise to our world view, is a spirit that must be recaptured if our civilization is to flourish. The choice is a clear one to many, and was summed up in a book title by the late Pythagorean and futurist Buckminster FullerUtopia or Oblivion.
  • The concept of a harmonious universe ordered according to “the Great Chain of Being” — a chain that connects the continuum of matter, body, mind, soul and spirit — stands as one of the most fundamental ideas of western thought.… It continues to be a profound influence upon the deepest strata of our thought. And yet a major rift has appeared in the consciousness of our time because the theme of harmonia has not been translated into the realm of human conduct. The challenge of our time may be to revive it, and make divine harmony “the great theme” of the next millennium. Any success we have in accomplishing this will be based, in large part, on the achievements of Pythagoras.

Quotes about Pythagoreanism

  • If someone associates with a true Pythagorean, what will he will get from him, and in what quantity? I would say: statesmanship, geometry, astronomy, arithmetic, harmonics, music, medicine, complete and god-given prophecy, and also the higher rewards—greatness of mind, of soul, and of manner, steadiness, piety, knowledge of the gods and not just supposition, familiarity with blessed spirits and not just faith, friendship with both gods and spirits, self-sufficiency, persistence, frugality, reduction of essential needs, ease of perception, of movement, and of breath, good color, health, cheerfulness, and immortality.
  • It seems to me that they do well to study mathematics, and it is not at all strange that they have correct knowledge about each thing, what it is. For if they knew rightly the nature of the whole, they were also likely to see well what is the nature of the parts. About geometry, indeed, and arithmetic and astronomy, they have handed us down a clear understanding, and not least also about music. For these seem to be sister sciences; for they deal with sister subjects, the first two forms of being.
  • It has fallen to the lot of one people, the ancient Greeks, to endow human thought with two outlooks on the universe neither of which has blurred appreciably in more than two thousand years. …The first was the explicit recognition that proof by deductive reasoning offers a foundation for the structure of number and form. The second was the daring conjecture that nature can be understood by human beings through mathematics, and that mathematics is the language most adequate for idealizing the complexity of nature into appreciable simplicity.
    Both are attributed by persistent Greek tradition to Pythagoras in the sixth century before Christ. …there is an equally persistent tradition that it was Thales… who first proved a theorem in geometry. But there seems to be no claim that Thales… proposed the inerranttactic of definitions, postulates, deductive proof, theorem as a universal method in mathematics. …in attributing any specific advance to Pythagoras himself, it must be remembered that the Pythagorean brotherhood was one of the world’s earliest unpriestly cooperative scientific societies, if not the first, and that its members assigned the common work of all by mutual consent to their master.

  • We may… go to our… statement from Aristotle‘s treatise on the Pythagoreans, that according to them the universe draws in from the Unlimited time and breath and the void. The cosmic nucleus starts from the unit-seed, which generates mathematically the number-series and physically the distinct forms of matter. …it feeds on the Unlimited outside and imposes form or limit on it. Physically speaking this Unlimited is [potential or] unformed matter… mathematically it is extension not yet delimited by number or figure. …As apeironin the full sense, it was… duration without beginning, end, or internal division—not time, in Plutarch‘s words, but only the shapeless and unformed raw material of time… As soon… as it had been drawn or breathed in by the unit, or limiting principle, number is imposed on it and at once it is time in the proper sense. …the Limit, that is the growing cosmos, breathed in… imposed form on sheer extension, and by developing the heavenly bodies to swing in regular, repetitive circular motion… it took in the raw material of time and turned it into time itself.
    • K. C. GuthrieA History of Greek PhilosophyVol. 1, “The Earlier Presocratics and the Pythagoreans” (1962)
  • It is certain that the Theory of Numbersoriginated in the school of Pythagoras.

The Tetractys

  • Those who dwelt in the common auditorium idopted this oath:
    “I swear by the discoverer of the Tetraktys,
    which is the spring of all our wisdom;
    The perennial fount and root of Nature.”

  • The tetrad was called by the Pythagoreans every number, because it comprehends in itself all the numbers as far as to the decad, and the decad itself; for the sum of 1, 2, 3, and 4, is 10. Hence both the decad and the tetrad were said by them to be every number; the decad indeed in energy, but the tetrad in capacity. The sum likewise of these four numbers was said by them to constitute the tetractys, in which all harmonic ratios are included. For 4 to 1, which is a quadruple ratio, forms the symphony bisdiapason; the ratio of 3 to 2, which is sesquialterforms the symphony diapente; 4 to 3, which is sesquitertian, the symphony diatessaron; and 2 to 1, which is a duple ratio, forms the diapason.
  • Why was the Tetraktysso revered? Because to the eyes of the sixth century BC Pythagoreans, it seemed to outline the entire nature of the universe. In geometry—the springboard to the Greeks’ epochal revolution in thought—the number 1 represented a point… 2 represented a line… 3 represented a surface… and 4 represented a three-dimensional tetrahedral solid… The Tetraktys, therefore appeared to encompass all the perceived dimensions of space.
  • On the question whether mathematics was discovered or invented, Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans had no doubt—mathematics was real, immutable, omnipresent, and more sublime than anything that could conceivably emerge from the human mind. The Pythagoreans literally embedded the universe into mathematics. In fact, to the Pythagoreans, God was not a mathematician—mathematics was God!…By setting the stage, and to some extent the agenda, for the next generation of philosophers—Plato in particular—the Pythagoreans established a commanding position in Western thought.
  • As a moral philosopher, many of his precepts relating to the conduct of life will be found in the verses which bear the name of the Golden Verses of Pythagoras. It is probable they were composed by some one of his school, and contain the substance of his moral teaching. The speculations of the early philosophers did not end in the investigation of the properties of number and space. The Pythagoreans attempted to find, and dreamed they had found, in the forms of geometrical figures and in certain numbers, the principles of all science and knowledge, whether physical or moral. The figures of Geometry were regarded as having reference to other truths besides the mere abstract properties of space. They regarded the unit, as the point; the duad, as the line; the triad, as the surface; and the tetractys, as the geometrical volume. They assumed the pentad as the physical body with its physical qualities. They seem to have been the first who reckoned the elements to be five in number, on the supposition of their derivation from the five regular solids. They made the cube, earth; the pyramid, fire; the octohedron, air; the icosahedron, water; and the dodecahedron, aether. The analogy of the five senses and the five elements was another favourite notion of the Pythagoreans.



7.  LIFE OF PYTHAGORAS, by IAMBLICHUS (270 pages pdf.)
(For sale as a book, here)

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15 thoughts on “Notes on Pythagoras

  1. The above article is an off-topic digression from our usual subject matter to which we will return tomorrow. This is strictly for members of the Golden Stairs Society, a small and select group of people with an interest in early Greek philosophy, especially the metaphysics of Pythagoras and Heraclitus which had its roots in Ancient India. Anyone interested in Vedanta, the Upanishads, or Indian philosophy in general, will find these reference notes of interest.

  2. Scanning this fine article (which I intend to read more, in-depth, tonight), I conclude that Mr. Benjamin Franklin must have been a student of Pythagoras. If one should happen to read “Poor Richard’s Almanacs”, one must see the similarities! 🙂

  3. “Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”
    Mark Twain said that, but I think maybe Pythagoras did too.

  4. Interesting articles.

    Some myths about Pythagoras abound:

    According to Hieronymus, Pythagoras had descended into Hades, where:

    “he saw the soul of Hesiod bound fast to a brazen pillar and gibbering, and the soul of Homer hung on a tree with serpents writhing about it, this being their punishment for what they had said about the gods.”

    Superstitions got him killed.

    Not only did Pythagoras avoid meat, but for several reasons he refused beans, to the extent that he was reported to have died because of it – when fleeing from his enemies he stopped before a field of beans, not wanting to cross it, whereby they caught and killed him.

    Pythagoras was caught as he tried to escape local tyranny he got as far as a certain field of beans, where he stopped, saying he would be captured rather than cross it, and be killed rather than prate about his doctrines; and so his pursuers cut his throat.

    1. My life was destroyed when my husband sent me packing, after 13 years we have been together. I was lost and helpless after trying so many ways to get my husband back to me.

      One day at work, I was distracted, not knowing that my boss called me, so he sat and asked me what it was all about, I told him and he smiled and said it was no problem. I never understood what he meant by it was no problem getting back my husband, he said he used a spell to get back his wife when she left him for another man, and now they are together till date and initially I was shocked hearing something from my boss.

      He gave me an email address of the Prophet Abuvia which helped him get his wife back, I never believed that this would work, but I had no choice coming into contact with the sayings that I get done, and he asked for my information and that my husband was able to propose to throw him the spell and I sent him the details, but after two days, my mother called me that my husband was pleading that he wants me back, I never believed, because it was just a dream and I had to rush off to my mother’s place and to my greatest surprise, was kneeling my husband beg me for forgiveness that he wants me and the child back home, when I gave prophet Abuvia a conversation regarding sudden change of my husband and he made clear to me that my husband will love me until the end of the world, that he will never leave for another woman.

      Now me and my husband is back together and started doing funny things he has not done before, he makes me happy and do what it is supposed to do as a man without nagging.

      Please if you need help of any kind need, please contact Prophet Abuvia for help. His email is prophet.abuvia AT g m a i l . com his website is prophetAbuviasolutiontemple . webs . com

      1. I’m not including links to source references and YouTube videos to back-up my assertions, because Lasha and ADMIN fully well know I have The Correct View, plus this post is going to Eternal Spam and will never see the light of day, that’s for sure. Here they go again, the Darkmooners, how they LERV their Hermetic School of babylonian/ancient egyptian/ancient greek/jew qabalah HELLio bullshit. How HELLios LERV their MEGA PSYOPS-GIANT LIE called “The HELLiocentric theory”. Hello! The root of “HELio” is “HELL” and HELL IS ALL ABOUT FIRE AND THE SUN IS ALL ABOUT FIRE AND WE REVOLVE AROUND HELLFIRE, as per the HELLiocentrics and their ancient hermetic snake shit.

        Pythagoras was NOT that wonderful, an excellent mathematician, Yes, but as a philosopher and as an astronomer pythagoras sucks snake shit from the desolation of abomination babylon. Go fuck yourselves, your pythagoras, your copernicus, your galileo, your “honest” “genius” jew “G-d” Albert Einstein, your Jack Parsons, your Carl Sagan, your HELLio “Pope” Stephen Hawkings, your Teilhard, your other Jesuits so full of snake shit from HELL, your jesuit Lucifer Observatory, your jew qabalah hermetic school of lying snakes, your bruno, and last AND lowliest of slithering snakes go fuck Lasha’s Uncle the Gate Keeping thug for The Science Mafia. And Lasha ain’t NO better than Uncle, that’s for sure.

      2. This pythagoras piece has a certain profound esoteric Cosmic Energy, I sense these kinds of things, Yes I Do! This pythagoras piece just might be emitting/communicating/sending forth, the type of Ineffable Cosmic Energy to draw Gilby’s Light-Being Worker MUSE down from Ur-Anus — this pythagoras piece [ of dog sh*t, lol ] serving as a Magnet of sorts drawing Gilby’s MUSE down from Ur-ANUS, you f*ckin assh*les, ALL of youse, and any day now Gilby will be composing “Magnificent” “Light-Filled” “Inspiring” “Endearing” LUHV poems to “Catholic” Lasha’s “god” satan once again just like back in Darkmoon’s Golden Glorious good ole days, how Religiously-Spiritually Enlightening, how ILLUMINATING! How so very ILLUMINATI, yes? Sounds like Gilby’s MUSE is back and Gilby will be back in composing-poetry-action *yawn* again, once again, *yawn*, any day now, that’s the type of *yawn* Energy this pythagoras piece of dog shit is emitting out into, or is more correct to say “Unto”, into/Unto whatever the fuck , a piece of dog shit orbiting around the dark m00n is this pythagoras piece of dog shit from the bitch Lasha… lol.

      3. This Pythagoras piece has got me all riled-up to type up and send off to Darkm00n ALOT of FLAT EARTH GEOCENTRIC TRUTH posts with links to LOTS OF FLAT EARTH GEOCENTRIC TRUTH VIDEOS AND WEBSITES, and I don’t mind ALL the work EXCEPT I know ALL my work will go down the drain because I know Uncle and everyone else here at Darkmoon are a bunch of neanderthal hit-men Gate Keeping goons for what THE HONEST, FACT-BASED, OBJECTIVE, AND THE REAL TRUTHTELLER, Malcolm Bowden, what Malcolm Bowden REAL TRUTH LOVER/TRUTH TELLER rightfully, truthfully, right on-target, labels The Science Mafia.


        I’m sure Pythagoras was a smart philosopher, but his philosophy can NOT save us from the New World Order, NAY, his philosophy is the very ontological foundation of the New World Order, his philosophy serves and advances the New World Order IMMENSELY. Of course Darkmooners know IT, that’s why Darkmoon CENSORS ALL Flat Earth Geocantric TRUTH posts, videos, links to FLAT EARTH GEOCENTRIC TRUTH websites, that’s why I’m NOT going to go thru ALOT of work just to see my work get flushed down the Darkm00n drain. The New World Order ilk LOVES Pythagoras AND Darkm00n LOVES Pythagoras, that’s a GIANT RED FLAG, sayin’.

      4. Sarah Coleman
        prophet.abuvia is not human ,he is Jewish Jinn
        Jinns are God’s creations from flames.
        they are invisible to humans ,but humans aren’t to them.
        like humans ,there are the good and the bad. religious and none.
        you owe a debt to abuvia,and he will collect ,make no mistake about it.
        are you willing to pay?

      5. TROJ –

        It appears the never-setting sun in your flat Earth abode has blistered your brain…
        So sorry – but you don’t inspire me. Go try something else. (Maybe you’ll inspire Lasha, or Sister Monica!)

  5. This is a very long article, at least i was able to figure that out.
    It will take me some time to get through it but for now, i just want to say this:
    in 5th century BC, the entire Greek population around the rim of Mediterranean basin was around 800,000 (there are VILLAGES in India with more people) and the town of Athens had ~60,000 residents.

    and look at their accomplishments, compare them to ours, 10,000 of us for each classical Greek – and what do we have to show in this JEWISH CENTURY?

    no better metric for the toxicity of this pandemic, the infestation of cosmic cockroaches.

    1. @ Lobro

      Beautifully put, Lobro, as usual. But I don’t think Lasha expects you (or anyone else) to read through that long Pythagoras article! The only reason she posted it was for reference purposes, so that anyone interested in Pythagoras and planning to write an article about him might have 24,000 words of valuable notes to work from. She also wanted to make this material available to a few confrères in the Golden Stairs Society.

    2. This is not an article ,it’s a book ,somebody just published their PhD thesis ,as an article.
      God ,help us ,poor peasants.

  6. Thank you for The interesting piece on Pythagoras, I’m studying aspects of it. The ancient Chinese shared the ancient Greek view of the departed (all of us, sooner or later) becoming ‘shades’. Mo Pai and other Wu Shu syles recommend Iron Shirt training, a form of meditation with wonderful health benefits as a by product, which I can attest to. Practiced long enough, one can move to a level where individual consciousness is retained, referred to as becoming a Hsien or “Immortal”. I like the health benefits!

  7. I did not read this post through, I admit. My meager background in mathematics, logic, and calculus, my application of multivariate statistical estimation methods to Big Problems, both lead me to ask — What about Godel???? What about the clear, simple refutation of Russell and Whitehead, as well as each and every “axiomatic” system that purports to explain or to predict Reality?

    Whatever Truth Pythagoras conveyed, per force through many filters to this day, I think we know and we can move on quickly — all hail the Self Within (or Without, however you self-identify!).

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