Pythagoras: an introductory biography

April 13, 2012

Pythagoras and his followers swore oaths on perhaps their most sacred symbol - the Tetractys.

Pythagoras was born  in 560 BC, on the Greek island of Samos.  Pythagoas influenced Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander the Great, and the general world of western philosophy.  Pythagoras is the earliest, best-known Greek philosopher, though he never wrote a word (to our knowledge).

All of what we know about him comes from what his students wrote, and from this, we know that Pythagoras was a mathematician, philosopher, speaker, teacher, musician, vegetarian, and religious leader who was fascinated by the patterns of mathematics in nature.

Beyond atoms, electrons, nucleii, protons, neutrons, up quarks, down quarks, muons, gluons, or even eleven dimensional strings, there are only numbers.  Matter and energy can be broken down ad infintum by our irrelevant classifications – math, numbers, and information theory govern the process at every step, so these are the best basis for reality.

Pythagoras – the spirit within him, at least – was once many other people, so this bears mentioning in his biography.  From Diogenes Laertius,

“Pythagoras remembered everything – how he first had been Aethalides, then Euphorbus, then Hermotimus, then Pyrrhus, the Delian fisherman. When Pyrrhus died, he became Pythagoras.”

Reincarnation, or metempsychosis, was the reality known by Pythagoras.  On Pythagoras’s first visit to Troy, he saw a shield from the Trojan war nailed to a wall.  He recognized the shield, and broke down into tears – it was his shield, when he fought in the battle of Troy in a previous life, as Ephorbus.  Pythagoras informed all around him that his name, Ephorbus, was inscribed on the inside of the shield.  The crowd was intrigued by the unlikely claim, and removed the shield to find it inscribed exactly as Pythagoras had predicted.

The Tetracys

Pythagoras venerated the tetractys – a shape so holy that Pythagoreans would swear oaths on it, like the Bible in modern western culture.  A tetracys is made of six points in the shape of a hexagon, with one at the middle, and with three at each corner to form a triangle with exactly ten dots.  The tetractys is actually an incredibly deep metaphor.

Aristotle studied Pythagoreanism, and from him we learn 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.”

To examine and clarify this striking (and somewhat awkwardly worded) quotation, we have that “the Limit gives form to the Unlimited.”

Subjectivity is the idea that there is anything outside of the self, and objectivity is an experience-based observation on something within the self.  In objectivity, there is the Unlimited, in subjectivity, there is the Limit.  We have faith in the subjective (or limit), and knowledge in the objective (or unlimited).  To create subjectivity, one must encode the objective (for example, one might type on a keyboard, speak, play music, or paint – all of these are Limited encodings of the Unlimited).  Only when encoded can the Unlimited be given form and perhaps communicated.  This approach, or perspective, is a lens through which all reality may be interpreted.

As our understanding of the world advances and evolves, it becomes more complex.  The idea that numbers comprise reality can be easily applied to computers.  Computers are a type of reality, albeit a simple one at this point.  Computers use zeroes and ones, which are numbers, to operate.  Any reality created by computers, such as Second Life or WOW, is a very clear example of how our reality is fundamentally comprised of numbers.  As the quantum computers of the future loom over our horizon, the power of computer-based reality will grow exponentially, as will our need for a spiritual framework which encapsulates the entire process.

It’s one thing to say that mathematics governs our reality, but it would be an entirely different statement to say that numbers are our reality.  At first, this seems like saying that because a newspaper article is about a story, that newspaper article is that story.  This is a tricky distinction.    Our reality arises out of perception.  We never truly “see” anything, we only see our perception of it.  But in terms of the raw, uncommunicatable, pre-sensory experience, there is something Unlimited, objective, boundless, continuously and causally connected to us, this is the shared reality of which we speak.

This website is dedicated to the idea that the opinions and beliefs of Pythagoras were and are, in fact, correct, and it serves as a publishing platform for like-minded individuals to publish creative works of any relevant kind.  The only criteria is that it conveys Pythagorean ideas in new, original ways.  Truth, as John Stuart Mill tells us, has over falsehood the advantage of being able to resurface again and again throughout history.  The truths held holy by Pythagoras remain just as true and holy today, and is about expanding artistically upon those ancient truths.

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July 5, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

thanks it was very helpfull

    July 17, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

    Glad you thought so!

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  • kevin
    October 21, 2012 @ 7:06 pm

    love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • kelly den adel
    December 12, 2013 @ 5:31 pm
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    July 18, 2014 @ 9:08 am

    It was quite helpful for me as it helped me a lot to answer in a quiz.

    July 21, 2014 @ 3:56 am

    What a GREAT man he was!


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