Pythagoras had some pretty cool ideas

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Since Orphism developed fairly late in Southern Italy, and among a fairly literate immigrant population at that, we can watch the fascinating process of a faith in evolution. Around the seventh century you see this Thracian element begin to merge with indigenous chthonic cults of Persephone and Dionysos and then around the fifth century you can note another strain being added into the mix, what I call the Empedoklean and Pythagorean strain. This strain is actually responsible for a lot of notions people have about what constitutes Orphism which is ironic since it’s kind of a-typical of the general movement. For instance by taking what other groups in this complex considered to be temporary mortuary taboos and transforming them into a permanent model of a pure life based on abstinence or even more significantly by bringing in the notion of metempsychosis which conflicts radically with the earlier beliefs held by such groups as evidenced in their ritual and myth. Although I am interested in disentangling these strands I feel a strong affinity for elements of Pythagorean Orphism and believe that a lot of useful information has been preserved in that stream of thought which supplements nicely Bacchic Orphism. In a way I suppose it’s analogous to the relationship between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox branches of Christianity.

One thing that I consider particularly valuable in their tradition is the strong emphasis on mathematics. (And you thought it would be the five-year probationary ban on speaking they imposed on new students; no, though that one’s good too!) In fact this was so important to them that before all of their holy places one could find this inscription:

Let none ignorant of geometry enter here.

While I’m not sure I’d go that far, I do believe having a basic math test before letting someone into ritual with you is kind of a good idea.

Okay, Billy. You start with one god. You add another. And then another. Now how many gods do you have?

If Billy answers anything other than three he should be turned away.

Think how much conflict like this we polytheists could avoid by such a simple measure.

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5 thoughts on “Pythagoras had some pretty cool ideas

  1. I can see it now: shirts and bumper stickers and the like which say:

    Polytheism: Pagans Who Are Good At Math.

    Or, something along those lines. ;)

  2. Speaking of Billy’s maths skills….

  3. henadology

    Well, yeah, I mean arithmetic is about the least “monistic” discipline conceivable, since it is all about units and the relations among them. Arithmos, let’s recall, means “series”. And then Plato takes it a step further, when he distinguishes common arithmetic from the “arithmetic of the philosophers” (Philebus 56de); in the former, we take no account of different kinds of units, reckoning “two armies” the same as “two oxen”, whereas in the philosopher’s arithmetic, we take into account the different ways in which different kinds of units form series. So not only is philosophy an art of seriality, it compounds that multiplicity by adding the inquiry into different kinds of unit. In the classical context, there is no doubt that Pythagoreans were seen as being the most pluralistic school of metaphysicians, precisely because their whole doctrine was about number, multitudes, relations, patterns.

    • In the classical context, there is no doubt that Pythagoreans were seen as being the most pluralistic school of metaphysicians, precisely because their whole doctrine was about number, multitudes, relations, patterns.

      And, in the context of Reign: The Conqueror, Pythagoreans are also about ninjas. Seriality, geometry, numbers, relation, multitudes, and ninjas.

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