The Mysteries Of Pythagoras in His Life in Rome

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Since the dawn of civilization in the fertile crescents of the Nile and the Euphrates, mankind has succeeded only so far as he has understood the power of number. As human beings we are born into a state of infinity and flux, a boundless and ever-changing world confronts us and its mechanisms remain concealed to those who cannot understand the method by which they function. The great insight of all learned minds throughout history has been that these mechanisms, these systems of Nature, are governed by number. They unfold numerically with cosmic uniformity and the regularity of their pattern can be understood and manipulated by the mind. With the tool of number and the methods of arithmetic, mankind has become co-equal with Nature, manipulating, dividing and creating from it everything he needs.The mystery of these ineffable numerical patterns is not, however, the property of all. Whether by ignorance or disinterest, the true secrets of number are not a topic pursued by the majority of the population. Practical arithmetic like simple math and geometry are indeed used by the average person the world over on a daily basis but mathematical theory, the esoteric meaning of number, has been and likely will continue to be an arcane science. Since its inception, mathematics has held such power over the human mind that even today it is viewed as a kind of magic by those who do not understand it. Even more so in ancient times was it regarded with the solemnity and seriousness that one would expect to find in the practice of high sorcery.

A knowledge of mathematical theory in the time of ancient Greece would propel an individual into the highest of esoteric circles and his understanding would forever set him apart from the common manPythagoras of Samos was such a man. His knowledge of mathematics and its mystical power was so great, so axiomatic to all that is now called math, that his name is still spoken with reverence some two thousand years after his death. Pythagoras was an insatiable learner. He traveled the length and breadth of the ancient Mediterranean world, absorbing as much mystical teaching as one mind could possibly hold. He was initiated into the Egyptian, Babylonian and Chaldean mysteries, he learned from the Rabbins of Israel and the Zoroastrians of Iran. There was no teaching that could satisfy his deep thirst for knowledge but there did come a time when he decided to begin returning what he had learned to others who sought knowledge with the same fervor and intensity that he did. Thus was established the Pythagorean mystery school on the island of Crotona where Pythagoras would spend the rest of his days, instructing his disciples in the mysteries of mathematics, geometry, music and astronomy. Where most mystery traditions attempt to display the unity of religions and exoteric practices, Pythagoras had the knowledge required to create a mystery tradition that unified the common aspects of the mystery traditions themselves which was itself an evolution of mystical teaching.

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Pythagoras was an incredibly powerful man who only grew stronger both physically and intellectually as he grew older. He demonstrated the mysteries as lived practice as opposed to the mildly interesting speculation that they have now been reduced to. He created on Crotona a mystery brotherhood that did not retreat from life and the world in the monastic form but attempted to shape and influence it. He and his disciples were active in the politics and communities that surrounded his idyllic place of learning. Of course, this activity led to the downfall of his academy after an inquirer who was denied entry swore vengeance and destruction upon Pythagoras and his students, resulting in their demise. Whatever was taught by Pythagoras, and no one now knows what the full curriculum entailed, it must have been so potent as to extract not only vows but also the actual practice of extreme secrecy as no record of his teachings other than the barest trace of his philosophy remains in existence. Although Pythagoras is known mostly for his mathematical knowledge (every young student now learns his eponymous theorem) his mystic teachings spanned many topics but all were unified by his belief in the Monad. The Monad was the Pythagorean concept of an overarching unity that contained within it all of creation. The Monad was the sublime unity of the universe, the “eternal by whose aid all created things are made”. It is indivisible, ineffable and without bounds of any kind. This concept pervaded all of the Pythagorean teachings, it informed his theories of music and color while also governing his relationships with other beings: his students, the common man and all the creatures of nature. This concept has been at the center of all mystic teachings throughout time and is perhaps the one axiom of the Mysteries; that all is One.

In Freemasonry this is taught from the first degree and in the Fellowcraft in particular we study the divisible pieces of the Universe only to better understand the harmony that is present throughout. It cannot be overstated how central this all-pervading concept is to any mystery education. The mysteries are no individual pursuit, they are not undertaken to exalt the self. Repeated time and again throughout all esoteric schools of thought is the idea that the individual effects of occult study are only manifested when the subject has become like a mirror, reflecting goodness outwards, not hoarding it within himself. Unity is the highest concept to which mankind can aspire and is in the end his only hope of salvation. Only when the species moves as one can anything of permanence and achievement be built. All of this is contained in the symbol of one, a simple line connecting two points through empty space. A more perfect symbol could not be imagined and nor is one necessary, such is the simplicity of the monad. This is not to say that the other numbers of the decimal counting system held no meaning to Pythagoras. In fact, to the Pythagoreans, the numbers one through ten represented the ladder by which unity divides itself and works towards recombination. The Monad was not a stationary object but rather a living expression that wished to know itself through division. This initial division was represented by the number two. Two, like Lucifer, was the first to separate itself from the unity that holds all things. While often regarded as an unfortunate effect of the universe we inhabit, duality is essential to knowledge. Biblically, this is represented by the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. By taking duality within himself, man creates knowledge for without this duality nothing can be known, it simply is.

Without opposite and contrast there can be no comparison and discrimination which is the source of human understanding. This separation, however, creates within those who partake in it an inexhaustible desire to return to the unity from which they came. Three, typified throughout the world by the triangle, is emblematic of this desire for reunion, its two arms reaching upwards towards the monad in a gesture of embrace. Of course this monad cannot be fully integrated once the separation has occurred for that which separates will always retain the indelible mark of its separation. Pythagoras encapsulated this idea in one of his famous symbols: “Having departed from your house, turn not back; for the furies will be your attendants.”. The Furies were the spirits who destroy those who have sworn false oaths and turn back from holy destinations. Pythagoras knew that once a journey has been started it must be seen through to the end. Instead of turning back, the journey-man, like the F.C. with the three points of his A… turned down, must enter into the world and seek out its hidden mysteries. 4, or the tetrad, represents the world as it stands between 1 and 7 - source and perfection. Earth is the 4th planet of the solar system and everything upon its face can be divided by 4, the seasons, the elements and the cardinal directions being only the clearest examples. 4 is also the bottom of the Pythagoreans most holy symbol, the tetractys, representing the base of the sacred pyramid of ten. By exploring and rectifying through the world man becomes perfected and balanced, symbolized by the number five. Mythologically this process is represented by the hero descending into the bowels of the Earth to face a dragon.

This dragon is a creature of the Earth (4) who hoards a treasure and is slain when the hero plunges his sword (1) into its breast. Five is a union of even and odd, 2 and 3, and represents the reconciliation of opposites into a cohesive whole, the true treasure of mankind. It is a number of balance and equilibrium, dividing the perfect 10 evenly half. To the Pythagoreans, 6 was a number of conception and creation. Its symbol, the six pointed star, is formed of two interpenetrating triangles and represents the commingling of duality that must take place in order for things to become manifest. The six faces of the cube likewise represent this perfect marriage, giving birth to all orientation and direction - up, down, left, right, forwards and backwards. Without the hexad, as it was known to the Pythagoreans, there would be no navigation through the world and humanity would be without anchor. As the numbers of the tetractys were seen not as a mere list of interestings symbols but rather a specific path by which the soul travelled, the next number can be found by journeying deeper within the previous. 7 is the invisible centerpoint of the 6-sided cube mentioned previously. 7 has been regarded as a holy number by nearly all cultures of the world because of its invisible nature and mystic presence in all things. From the seven classical planets to the seven steps of alchemy and the seven officers of a Masonic lodge, the number seven represents perfection and the completion of a cycle. The ogdoad, or 8, was also symbolic of the cube. In contrast to the hexad however the ogdoad describes the interior of the cube, specifically its 8 interior angles. It is a truly even number as it is possible to divide it evenly until once again we reach the monad (1-2-4-8-4-2-1)

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