Pythagoras: Mathematical Mystic
Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher and mathematician who lived in the 6th century BC. He is often considered one of the most influential thinkers of his time, and his ideas about mathematics and the universe have profoundly impacted Western philosophy and science.
Pythagoras was born on the island of Samos in Greece around 570 BCE. He is said to have travelled extensively in his youth, studying with various teachers in Egypt, Babylon, and other parts of the Middle East. During these travels, he began to develop his ideas about the mystical nature of mathematics.
Pythagoras is best known for his eponymous theorem, which states that the sum of the squares of the two shorter sides of a right-angled triangle is equal to the square of the length of the hypotenuse. This theorem has practical applications in fields such as engineering, architecture, and physics, and it is still taught in schools worldwide today.
More than a mathematician
However, Pythagoras was much more than a mathematician. He was also a mystic and philosopher, and his beliefs about the nature of the universe and the human soul were closely intertwined with his mathematical ideas.
Harmony of the spheres
One of Pythagoras’s most famous teachings was the concept of the “harmony of the spheres.” He believed that mathematical principles governed the universe and that the movement of the planets and stars could be expressed in terms of musical intervals. Pythagoras believed the universe was like a great symphony, with each planet and star playing its unique part in a grand cosmic harmony.
Evidently, Pythagoras’s ideas about the harmony of the spheres were deeply spiritual in nature. He believed studying mathematics and music could lead to a greater understanding of the divine. He and his followers formed a religious sect known as the Pythagoreans, who sought to live in harmony with the universe and cultivate a deep spiritual connection with the divine through mathematics, music, and meditation.
Pythagoras: Mathematical Mystic – Strict moral code
Pythagoras was also known for his strict moral code, which included practices such as vegetarianism and abstinence from alcohol. He believed that the human soul was immortal and that the ultimate goal of life was to purify the soul and achieve a state of spiritual enlightenment.
Despite his mystical beliefs, Pythagoras’s contributions to mathematics were genuinely groundbreaking. He is credited with discovering many important mathematical concepts. Including the Pythagorean theorem, the theory of proportionality, and the concept of the perfect number. His ideas about the harmony of the spheres also profoundly impacted later thinkers, including Kepler and Newton, who sought to uncover the mathematical laws that govern the movements of the planets and stars.
According to legend, Pythagoras founded a secret society known as the Pythagorean Brotherhood. Which was dedicated to the study of mathematics, music, and philosophy. The brotherhood members believed that the universe was a harmonious whole and that this harmony could be expressed through mathematics.
One of Pythagoras’s most famous teachings was the idea that everything in the universe could be reduced to numbers. He believed that numbers had a mystical power and could be used to understand the hidden order of the universe. This idea is reflected in the Pythagorean theorem. A fundamental mathematical principle that underpins much of modern science and engineering.
Transmigration of souls
Additionally, Pythagoras also believed in the transmigration of souls. Which is the idea that after death, a person’s soul is reborn into a new body. He thought that the ultimate goal of life was to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Which could be attained through a combination of philosophical contemplation, ethical living, and mathematical study.
Consequently, despite his many contributions to mathematics and philosophy. Pythagoras remains something of an enigma. Few of his writings have survived, and much of what we know about him comes from the writings of his followers. However, his ideas continue to influence how we think about the world around us, and his legacy lives on in the many branches of mathematics and science that bear his name.
In addition to his mystical beliefs, Pythagoras was also an accomplished musician. He believed that music could heal the soul and create a sense of harmony in the universe. He taught his followers to play various musical instruments and to sing in harmony. Which was seen as a way of attaining a state of spiritual enlightenment.
Altogether, Pythagoras’s teachings profoundly impacted Greek philosophy and mathematics, and his ideas were studied and developed by many of his followers. One of his most famous disciples was Plato. Who was heavily influenced by Pythagorean philosophy and incorporated many of its principles into his own work.
Pythagoras: Mathematical Mystic – Too mystical?
Despite his many achievements, Pythagoras was not without his detractors. Some criticised his ideas as being too mystical and unscientific. Whilst others accused him of being too secretive and elitist. Nevertheless, his legacy endured, and the Pythagorean Brotherhood continued to strongly influence Greek philosophy and mathematics for centuries after his death.
Indeed, today, Pythagoras is remembered as one of the greatest thinkers of the ancient world. Whose ideas continue to inspire and influence people around the globe. His contributions to mathematics, music, and philosophy are still studied and celebrated by scholars and enthusiasts alike, and his legacy continues to shape our understanding of the world around us.
Whether studying the Pythagorean theorem, contemplating the mystical nature of the universe, or simply enjoying a beautiful piece of music. We owe a debt of gratitude to this remarkable thinker and mystic.