If you were paying attention during math class in school, and we wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t, you would probably be familiar with the name Pythagoras. The Ionian Greek philosopher, mathematician, and scientist is one of the most revered throughout history. He was also the founder of the Pythagorean Society and the Pythagoreanism movement, which we will look into more in a little while. First, let’s refresh memories, and look a little at the man behind the movement.
Pythagorean of Samos, as he was fully known, is a man of whom we know less than we should. He is known as being highly influential in the world of philosophy and mathematics, though it is unclear the extent of what he contributed. I like to think Pythagoras thought of himself as a maverick, and a bit reclusive, and that’s why so little is known about the full extent of his work. It is thought, however, that he was a major influence on the life and work of Plato, so he’s certainly in good company.
What most people (who are familiar with the name) think of when they hear Pythagoras is the Pythagoras Theorem in mathematics. This is one of the key parts of assessing triangles, and it posits that the two smaller sides of a hypotenuse triangle when combined, are equal to the sum of the largest side. Of course, this may not have made math any more fun for you as a kid, but it was certainly an important theory!
But, don’t be fooled into thinking that the P-man was all about boring equations and sums, oh no! He was also something of a zealot and had a group of devoted subjects who followed his pseudo-religious movement, Pythagoreanism. Pythagoras and his followers settled in Southern Italy in about 530 BCE and developed a Pythagorean Society. We don’t know loads about it, but it’s clear they had some wacky notions. One of the core beliefs is in the transmigration of the souls into animals, a consequence of which led our fearless leader to ban the consumption of meat – one of the earliest examples of mainstream vegetarianism.
It also seems that abstinence was a big part of the movement, with many vices being denied – some more stricter than others. But, perhaps the main tenets of the movement were very mystical, and that a deeper understanding of the universe, through philosophy, would free the soul from continuous death and reincarnation. When studying the universe, Pythagoreans believed that objects, sizes, and colors can have different meanings and interpretations. But, they all believe that numerology is the one constant in the universe, and that’s why there is a special emphasis placed on math – they couldn’t worship wine?!
A numbers game
So, it seems the basic crux of a Pythagorean Society is one that is based around the importance of numbers, and the role they play in the world, as well as the difference between odd and even numbers, and other areas of mathematics. For instance, everything can be counted, everything has worth, and numerology brings about structure, stability, and serenity. Pythagoreanism isn’t dead! In fact, there is even a Pythagorean Society based in Devon in the United Kingdom. Of course, it’s less stringent than when Pythagoras was around, but it’s the go-to place for those looking for a deeper understanding of the universe, as well as achieving holistic well-being and spiritual enlightenment.
We’re not sure a bunch of numbers are the solution to the world’s problems, but then again, we don’t have a mathematical theory named after us.
Here’s to you, Pythagoras.