Sunday, May 03, 2015

Philosophy reflection #2: Pythagoras

Pythagoras of Samos is undoubtedly known by every geometry student on the face of the planet for his theorem. He may be less known for his philosophy, but the numbers Pythagoras’ Theorem help us figure out also lean into Pythagoras’ thinking. He ought to be known for his philosophy, for he surely influenced many! But, who?

Here’s a hint; one could easily draw a line from Pythagoras’ 6th century BC philosophy to Nostradamus’ 16th century AD prophecies. What could the connection be?

Pythagoras was the forefather of numerology, which is the – I believe, occultic – belief that numbers are the key to understanding everything. For example, someone dedicated to numerology as their philosophy would study the numbers in someone’s birthdate and draw wild conclusions.

Pythagoras believed the nature of the universe to be arithmetical. This was never more pointed than in his belief that the very fabric of the universe was made of music and was expressed in the intervals between musical tones.

Well, all geometry students are both thankful for Pythagoras’ command of numbers, and all the folks who really love math love Pythagoras for discovering and explaining irrational numbers. Honestly, I am not thankful at all for these mathematical discoveries! My head spins at their very mention!

Pythagoras took things too far; even numerical things. His lasting legacy of mathematical genius has blessed the world, but his social, political and philosophical ideas are the stuff the world ought to forget.

Pythagoras loved and believed in numbers so much that he reverenced certain numbers and numerical patterns. He worshipped math! Oh my!

Before you take to fondly remembering your favorite algebra teacher, let me also tell you Pythagoras believed in the transmigration of souls and reincarnation. If that’s not enough, he venerated beans to the point of forbidding his disciples from eating them. In simplest of terms, the nut worshiped beans!

Now, some people, such as agnostic / atheist, Bertrand Russell inflated Pythagoras’ contribution to Christian thought, saying, “The whole conception of an eternal world, revealed to the intellect but not to the senses, is derived from [Pythagoras]. But for him, Christians would not have thought of Christ as the Word; but for him, theologians would not have sought logical proofs of God and immortality.” (History of Western Philosophy)

On balance, what little Pythagoras added to the discipline of thought is far, far, far outweighed by his helpfulness in the arena of math, which, I might add, is serious thought, too, but in the former, I am referencing philosophy. And, we should pay some thankful homage to Pythagoras’ for his early understanding of music. Let’s face it; when it came to religion, Pythagoras was a nut.

Now, what has any of this to do with anything worth thinking of?

Some Pythagoreans so love him they give him near messianic acclaim, but, the truth is Pythagoras was no one’s savior, and especially not the Savior.

What I can say is Pythagoras’ thinking was thought about and out by many, and that Nostradamus and Marcion are directly in his line is enough to cause me caution, and more than enough for me to say, enough.

Where some, like the aforementioned Thales, thought only of what they could physically observe, Pythagoras was guilty of solid observation followed by flaky conclusions. He was a spiritual man, but, and here goes…what spirit? Or, spirits?

So, in thinking of thinkers, and thinking of the thinker, Pythagoras, I think this of Pythagoras: “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.” (1 John 4:1-3 NLT)

Is Pythagoras’ worth knowing?
For a math student, absolutely.
For a philosophy student, absolutely.
For Regular Joes like me, well…with caution, and very little credence.

Like all thinkers, I pour their thoughts through the Scripture, and what survives that filter is worth considering. Pythagoras is indeed helpful, but more for math than spiritual life. Add it up and subtract the negatives; hang on the Pythagoras in the calculator but drop him from Sunday school.J

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