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school of athens detail from right hand side showing diogenes on the steps and euclid

Pythagoras, A Silent Inductee

Enchant, Sublimate

The first “pure mathematician” directed a school in which, among other things, the disciples were vegetarian, silent and held no personal property.

Speak not without light about Pythagorean matter.

Pythagorean aphorism

We know very little of Pythagoras’ life. Unlike later Greek mathematicians, Pythagoras left behind no written books. He never wrote because he did not want to be tied to the written word, he wanted his thoughts to live beyond the corporeal death, in the mind of his disciples. Through it he induced the freedom behind retaining the initial knowledge of a master, and transform it to continue its life. Currently, his theories continue to be thought and rethought. Some consider him to be the first pure mathematician, and the society he headed, mystical and scientific, followed a secret code that to this day makes Pythagoras a mysterious and magnum character.


After returning from a trip that explored the entire continent, where he became inducted into the mysteries of Babylon and Egypt, Pythagoras founded a school in the city of Crotone, where he gathered a small group of disciples, which he later named mathematikoi. He taught them the secret wisdom he’d been taught in foreign lands, as well as the foundations of mathematics, music and astronomy, which he considered the triangular base of all sciences and arts. The mathematikoi with the Society permanently, they had no personal property and they were vegetarians (Pythagoras believed that consuming meat was an impediment for reasoning). His school also had a series of initiations, since it demanded that its students passed different courses, until the passed the most advanced one, they would not be allowed to come into direct contact with him.

Pythagoras was not an extremist; he was actually preaching moderation. One of his favourite statements was:

We must avoid with our utmost endeavour, and amputate with fire and sword, and by all other means, from the body, sickness; from the soul, ignorance; from the belly, luxury; from a city, sedition; from a family, discord; and from all things, excess.

It’s hard to encompass his entire cosmogony in an article as short as this, but perhaps we can understand that to him, God was the monad (every single one of those indivisible substances, of a different nature, that constitute the universe), we can understand nature through his teachings. He taught that, in its deepest level, reality has a mathematical nature; that philosophy can be used to purify our soul; that certain symbols have a mystical meaning; that the soul can be elevated become one with the divine and that stars and men return cyclically. Of the latter he believed that the soul was a number with a movement of its own, which experiments a form of consecutive transmigration in different species until it found its final purification. A symbolic vision shared with Buddhism and Orphism that enables us to recognise a type of supreme awareness that the mathematician belonged to.

In terms of their research, what sets the Pythagorean school apart from others, was that the mathematician and his disciples were interested in the principles of mathematics, the concept of the number, the concept of the triangle and other mathematical shapes, and in the abstract idea of demonstration. Meaning, in the poetics of the number, and not in the resolution of mathematical problems.

The most famous fragments of Pythagoras’ teachings are contained in some of the Golden Verses, the summary of the complete philosophical system that represents the foundations for the educational doctrines of Crotone. These verses encourage Man to think carefully and industrially of the concerns of everyday life, and to prefer the treasures of the mind and the soul to the accumulations of their mundane possessions. The verses also promise us that if we leave behind our material nature and cultivate self-control instead, this will at last be acceptable in the eyes of the gods (the perfect monad), thus will become one with them and partake in immortality.

Something essential for Pythagoreans was silence. This is an additional reason as to why we do not know more about this master’s doctrines; nonetheless due to the transmigration of his ideas, we know have this hidden cosmogony, another tool that enables mankind’s illustration.

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