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Pythagoras (pî-thàg´er-es), c.582-c.507 B.C., pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. We know little of his life and nothing of his writings; all of our knowledge comes from his followers, the Pythagoreans, a mystical brotherhood he founded at Crotona. Members of the order regarded Pythagoras as a demigod and attributed all their doctrines to him. They believed in immortality and the transmigration of souls, and followed moral and dietary practices in order to purify the soul for its next embodiment. Skilled mathematicians, they influenced early Euclidian geometry, e.g., through the Pythagorean theorem (which states that the square of the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides). They were also among the first to teach that the earth is a spherical planet revolving about a fixed point. Beginning with the discovery of numerical relations between musical notes, they taught that the essence of all things was number and that all relationships-even abstract concepts like justice-could be expressed numerically.
Pythagoras of Samos, a very wise teacher of ancient Greece, knew how to work with sound. He taught his students how certain musical chords and melodies produce definite responses within the human organism. He demonstrated that the right sequence of sounds, played musically on an instrument, can change behavior patterns and accelerate the healing process.
"Pythagoras's discovery of the arithmetical basis of the musical intervals was not just the beginning of musical theory; it was the beginning of science. For the first time, man discovered that universal truths could be explained through systematic investigation and the use of symbols such as mathematics. Once that window was opened, the light spread across the whole breadth of human curiousity -- not least in the field of cosmogony [and ultimately in quantumgravity]. The genius of Pythagoras lay in the comprehensive way he joined the inner man and the cosmos" (_The Music of the Spheres: Music, Science & the Natural Order of the Universe_ by Jamie James; Abacus 1995).
"The argument took the shape of "Do you ask what it's made of - earth, fire, water, etc.?" or do you ask, "What is its 'pattern'?" Pythagoreans stood for inquiring into pattern rather than inquiring into substance." - Gregory Bateson
All things change, nothing is extinguished. . . . There is nothing in the whole world which is permanent. Everything flows onward; all things are brought into being with a changing nature; the ages themselves glide by in constant movement.
Ovid (43 B.C.-A. D. 17), Roman poet. Pythagoras, in Metamorphoses, bk. 15 (c. A.D. 8).
'Several centuries before Plato, Pythagoras, imbued with Egyptian doctrine, requested his disciples to reject the judgment of their ears as susceptible to error and variation where harmonic principles are concerned. He wanted them to regulate those immovable principles only according to the proportional and analogical harmony of numbers.' The work of the musician consists therefore only in knowing, as accurately as possible, the symbolic relations of all things so as to reproduce in us, through the magic of sounds, the feelings, the passions, the visions of an almost real world. And the history of Indian music, as that of Chinese music, is full of the legends of marvelous musicians whose voice could make night fall or spring appear.
- Alain Danielou - _Music And The Power Of Sound - The Influence of Tuning and Intervals on Consciousness_
At Thales's suggestion, Pythagoras, then a young man in his twenties, went to Egypt to learn from that country's fabled temple priests; there he remained for twenty-two years. According to his fourth century A.D. biographer, Iamblichus, Pythagoras spent his time in Egypt "astronomizing and geometrizing, and was initiated, not in a superficial or casual manner, in all he mysteries of the gods." Iamblichus relates, "Pythagoras arrived at the summit of arithmetic, music and other disciplines.' (although other sources claim Pythagoras also travelled to India to study with the Brahmans and Britain to study with the Druids, there is no evidence to support these claims.)
Many ancient schools, such as the Pythagoreans, placed great emphasis on the development of memory. It is said they were required to review the events of the day as the last task just before sleeping. Starting with the last thing done before retiring, they would go backwards through the day, recalling each event with as much detail as possible. This was to serve as a way of fixing the events in the memory, in much the same way as a film is developed. The Pythagoreans believed in the transmigration of souls, and the film of their lives had to be completely absorbed and digested in order to detach themselves from it, and to avoid the recurrence of mechanical tendencies and weaknesses, thereby preparing the aspirant for conscious entry into higher worlds.
They also believed that all learning is simply remembering the absolute truths that we perceive directly in the realm between death and rebirth. Our understanding of fundamental laws of the universe is actually recognition of something we already knew but had forgotten. The philosophers of old were not mere intellectuals, but the practitioners of high knowledge and virtue, who understood that, for undeveloped man, death is, in Rodney Collin's words, "the absolute insulator of our feeble awareness," and they strove to awaken in this life in order to enter consciously the world of the soul.
- Anthony Craig