Part 3

Pythagoras' Origin and Education

April 26, 2022

Pythagoras’ words were of 2 kinds:

  1. plain
  2. symbolic

His teaching was twofold. His disciples were either called:

  • Students: These learned the fuller and more exactly elaborate reasons of science
  • Hearers: These heard only the chief heads of learning, without more detailed explanations

He ordained his disciples to:

  • should speak well and think reverently of the Gods, muses and heroes, and likewise of parents and benefactors
  • should obey the laws
  • should not relegate the worship of the Gods to a secondary position, performing it eagerly, even at home
  • should sacrifice uncommon offerings to the celestial divinities and ordinary ones to the inferior deities.

According to him, the world was divided into opposite powers:

  • the “one” was a better monad, light, right, equal, stable and straight*
  • the “other” was an inferior duad, darkness, left, unequal, unstable and movable**.

*Superphysics note: This is Yang or Shiva

**Superphysics note: This is Yin or Shakti

He believed that a cultivated and fruit-bearing plant, harmless to man and beast, should be neither injured nor destroyed.

A deposit of money or of teachings should be faithfully preserved by the trustee.

There are three kinds of things that deserve to be pursued and acquired:

  • honorable and virtuous things,
  • those that conduce to the use of life, and
  • those that bring pleasures of the blameless, solid and grave kind, of course not the vulgar intoxicating kinds.

There are two kinds of pleasures:

  • one that indulges the bellies and lusts by a profusion of wealth, which he compared to the murderous songs of the Sirens;
  • the other kind consists of things honest, just, and necessary to life, which are just as sweet as the first, without being followed by repentance; and these pleasures he compared to the harmony of the Muses.
  1. He advised special regard to the time we go to sleep and when we awake.

At each of these we should consider our past actions, and those that are to come. We should require of ourselves an account of our past deeds, while of the future we should have a providential care. Therefore he advised everybody to repeat to himself the following verses before he fell asleep:

    "Nor suffer sleep to close thine eyes
    Till thrice thy acts that day thou hast run o'er;
    How slipt? What deeds? What duty left undone?"

On rising:

    "As soon as ere thou wakest, in order lay
    The actions to be done that following day"
  1. He advised 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. Certain things he declared mystically, symbolically, most of which were collected by Aristotle, as when he called the sea a tear of Saturn; the two bear (constellations) the hand of Rhea; the Pleiades, the lyre of the Muses; the Planets, the dogs of Persephone; and he called be sound caused by striking on brass the voice of a genius enclosed in the brass.

  1. He had also another kind of symbol, such as, pass not over a balance; that is, Shun avarice.

Poke not the fire with a sword, that is, we ought not to excite a man full of fire and anger with sharp language. Pluck not a crown, meant not to violate the laws, which are the crowns of cities.

Eat not the heart, signified not to afflict ourselves with sorrows. Do not sit upon a [pack]-measure, meant, do not live ignobly. On starting a journey, do not turn back, meant, that this life should not be regretted, when near the bourne of death. Do not walk in the public way, meant, to avoid the opinions of the multitude, adopting those of the learned and the few. Receive not swallows into your house, meant, not to admit under the same roof garrulous and intemperate men. Help a man to take up a burden, but not to lay it down, meant, to encourage no one to be indolent, but to apply oneself to labor and virtue. Do not carry the images of the Gods in rings, signified that one should not at once to the vulgar reveal one’s opinions about the Gods, or discourse about them. Offer libations to the Gods, just to the ears of the cup, meant, that we ought to worship and celebrate the Gods with music, for that penetrates through the ears. Do not eat those things that are unlawful, sexual or increase, beginning nor end, nor the first basis of all things.

  1. He taught abstention from the loins, testicle, pudenda, marrow, feet and heads of victims.

The loins he called basis, because on them as foundations living beings are settled. Testicles and pudenda he called generation, for no one is engendered without the help of these. Marrow he called increase as it is the cause of growth in living beings. The beginning was the feet, and the head the end; which have the most power in the government of the body. He likewise advised abstention from beans, as from human flesh.

  1. Beans were interdicted because the particular plants grow and individualize only after (the earth) which is the principle and origin of things, is mixed together, so that many things underground are confused, and coalesce;

After which everything rots together. Then living creatures were produced together with plants, so that both men and beans arose out of putrefaction whereof he alleged many manifest arguments.

If anyone should chew a bean, and having ground it to a pulp with his teeth, and should expose that pulp to the warm sun, for a short while, and then return to it, he will perceive the scent of human blood.

Moreover, if at the time when beans bloom, one should take a little of the flower, which then is black, and should put it into an earthen vessel, and cover it closely, and bury in the ground for ninety days, and at the end thereof take it up, and uncover it, instead of the bean he will find either the head of an infant, or the pudenda of a woman.

  1. He also wished men abstain from:
  • swine’s paunch
  • a mullet
  • a sea-fish called a “nettle”
  • nearly all other marine animals.

He referred his origin to those of past ages, affirming that he was first Euphorbus, then Aethalides, then Hermotimus, then Pyrrhus, and last, Pythagoras. He showed to his disciples that the soul is immortal, and to those who were rightly purified he brought back the memory of the acts of their former lives.

  1. He cultivated philosophy, the scope of which is to free the mind implanted within us from the impediments and fetters within which it is confined; without whose freedom none can learn anything sound or true, or perceive the unsoundedness in the operation of sense. Pythagoras thought that mind alone sees and hears, while all the rest are blind and deaf. The purified mind should be applied to the discovery of beneficial things, which can be effected by, certain artificial ways, which by degrees induce it to the contemplation of eternal and incorporeal things, which never vary. This orderliness of perception should begin from consideration of the most minute things, lest by any change the mind should be jarred and withdraw itself, through the failure of continuousness in its subject-matter.

  2. That is the reason he made so much use of the mathematical disciplines and speculations, which are intermediate between the physical and the incorporeal realm, for the reason that like bodies they have a threefold dimension, and yet share the impassibility of incorporeals; as degrees of preparation to the contemplation of the really existent things; by an artificial reason diverting the eyes of the mind from corporeal things, whose manner and state never remain in the same condition, to a desire for true (spiritual) food. By means of these mathematical sciences therefore, Pythagoras rendered men truly happy, by this artistic introduction of truly [consistent] things.

  3. Among others, Moderatus of Gades, who [learnedly] treated of the qualities of numbers in seven books, states that the Pythagoreans specialized in the study of numbers to explain their teachings symbolically, as do geometricians, inasmuch as the primary forms and principles are hard to understand and express, otherwise, in plain discourse. A similar case is the representation of sounds by letters, which are known by marks, which are called the first elements of learning; later, they inform us these are not the true elements, which they only signify.

  4. As the geometricians cannot express incorporeal forms in words, and have recourse to the descriptions of figures, as that is a triangle, and yet do not mean that the actually seen lines are the triangle, but only what they represent, the knowledge in the mind, so the Pythagoreans used the same objective method in respect to first reasons and forms. As these incorporeal forms and first principles could not be expressed in words, they had recourse to demonstration by numbers. Number one denoted to them the reason of Unity, Identity, Equality, the purpose of friendship, sympathy, and conservation of the Universe, which results from persistence in Sameness. For unity in the details harmonizes all the parts of a whole, as by the participation of the First Cause. .

  5. Number two, or Duad, signifies the two-fold reason of diversity and inequality, of everything that is divisible, or mutable, existing at one time in one way, and at another time in another way.

These methods were not confined to the Pythagoreans, being used by other philosophers to denote unitive powers, which contain all things in the universe, among which are certain reasons of equality, dissimilitude and diversity.

These reasons are what they meant by the terms Monad and Duad, or by the words uniform, biform, or diversiform.

  1. The same reasons apply to their use of other numbers, which were ranked according to certain powers.

Things that had a beginning, middle and end, they denoted by the number Three, saying that anything that has a middle is triform, which was applied to every perfect thing.

If anything were perfect, it would make use of this principle and be adorned, according to it and invented the form Triad. Whenever they tried to bring us to the knowledge of what is perfect they led us to that by the form of this Triad. So also with the other numbers, which were ranked according to the same reasons.

  1. All other things were comprehended under a single form and power which they called Decad, explaining it by a pun as decad, meaning comprehension. That is why they called Ten a perfect number, the most perfect of all as comprehending all difference of numbers, reasons, species and proportions.

For if the nature of the universe be defined according to the reasons and proportions of members, and if that which is produced, increased and perfected, proceed according to the reason of numbers; and since the Decad comprehends every reason of numbers, every proportion, and every species, why should Nature herself not be denoted by the most perfect number, Ten? Such was the use of numbers among the Pythagoreans.

  1. This primary philosophy of the Pythagoreans finally died out first, because it was enigmatical, and then because their commentaries were written in Doric, which dialect itself is somewhat obscure, so that Doric teachings were not fully understood.

They became misapprehended, and finally spurious, and later, they who published them no longer were Pythagoreans.

The Pythagoreans affirm that Plato, Aristotle, Speusippus, Aristoxenus and Xenocrates appropriated the best of them, making but minor changes (to distract attention from this their theft). They later collected and delivered as characteristic Pythagorean doctrines whatever therein was most trivial, and vulgar, and whatever had been invented by envious and calumnious persons, to cast contempt on Pythagoreanism.