Pythagoras

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Rest satisfied with doing well, and leave others to talk of you as they please.

Pythagoras (Πυθαγόρας) of Samos (c. 582 BCc.496 BC) was an Ionian Greek philosopher and founder of the religious movement called Pythagoreanism, often revered as a great mathematician, mystic and scientist.

Sourced

Above all things reverence thy Self.
  • There are men and gods, and beings like Pythagoras.
  • Number is the ruler of forms and ideas, and the cause of gods and demons.
  • Number rules the universe.
  • Time is the soul of this world.
  • Most men and women, by birth or nature, lack the means to advance in wealth and power, but all have the ability to advance in knowledge.
    • As quoted in The Golden Ratio (2002) by Mario Livio

The Golden Verses

Quotes cited as from the "Golden Verses", but drawn from various translations.
Work at these things, practice them... they are what will put you on the path of divine virtue — yes, by the one who entrusted our soul with the tetraktys, source of ever-flowing nature.
Meditate upon my counsels; love them; follow them; To the divine virtues will they know how to lead thee...
You will know, as is right, nature similar in all respects, so that you will neither entertain unreasonable hopes nor be neglectful of anything.
Holding fast to these things, you will know the worlds of gods and mortals which permeates and governs everything.
  • Honor first the immortal gods, in the manner prescribed, and respect the oath.
    Next, honor the reverent heroes and the spirits of the dead by making the traditional sacrifices.
    Honor your parents and your relatives. As for others, befriend whoever excels in virtue.
    Yield to kind words and helpful deeds, and do not hate your friend for a trifling fault as you are able. For ability is near to necessity.
    • As quoted in Divine Harmony : The Life and Teachings of Pythagoras by John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook. (1999) ISBN 0-9653774-5-8
  • Above all things reverence thy Self.
    • Variant translations:
      Above all things reverence thy self.
      Above all things, respect yourself.
      Above the cloud with its shadow is the star with its light. Above all things reverence thyself.
    • Respect yourself above all.
      • As quoted in Divine Harmony : The Life and Teachings of Pythagoras by John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook. (1999)
  • Work at these things, practice them, these are the things you ought to desire; they are what will put you on the path of divine virtue — yes, by the one who entrusted our soul with the tetraktys, source of ever-flowing nature. Pray to the gods for success and get to work.
  • Practice justice in word and deed, and do not get in the habit of acting thoughtlessly about anything.
    • As quoted in Divine Harmony : The Life and Teachings of Pythagoras by John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook. (1999)
  • Know that death comes to everyone, and that wealth will sometimes be acquired, sometimes lost. Whatever griefs mortals suffer by divine chance, whatever destiny you have, endure it and do not complain. But it is right to improve it as much as you can, and remember this: Fate does not give very many of these griefs to good people.
    • As quoted in Divine Harmony : The Life and Teachings of Pythagoras by John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook. (1999)
  • Let not sleep e'er close thy eyes
    Without thou ask thyself: What have I omitted and what done?
    Abstain thou if 'tis evil; persevere if good.
    • As translated by Fabre d'Olivet
    • Variant translations:
      Let not sleep fall upon thy eyes till thou has thrice reviewed the transactions of the past day. Where have I turned aside from rectitude? What have I been doing? What have I left undone, which I ought to have done?
    • Never suffer sleep to close your eyelids upon going to bed, until you have thrice reviews all the actions of the day: Wherein have I done amiss? What have I done? What have I omitted that I ought to have done?
    • Do not let sleep close your tired eyes until you have three times gone over the events of the day. 'What did I do wrong? What did I accomplish? What did I fail to do that I should have done?' Starting from the beginning, go through to the end. Then, reproach yourself for the things you did wrong, and take pleasure in the good things you did.
      • As quoted in Divine Harmony : The Life and Teachings of Pythagoras by John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook. (1999)
  • Meditate upon my counsels; love them; follow them;
    To the divine virtues will they know how to lead thee.

    I swear it by the One who in our hearts engraved
    The sacred Tetrad, symbol immense and pure,
    Source of Nature and model of the Gods.
  • Holding fast to these things, you will know the worlds of gods and mortals which permeates and governs everything. And you will know, as is right, nature similar in all respects, so that you will neither entertain unreasonable hopes nor be neglectful of anything.
    • As quoted in Divine Harmony : The Life and Teachings of Pythagoras by John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook. (1999)
  • You will know that wretched men are the cause of their own suffering, who neither see nor hear the good that is near them, and few are the ones who know how to secure release from their troubles. Such is the fate that harms their minds; like pebbles they are tossed about from one thing to another with cares unceasing. For the dread companion Strife harms them unawares, whom one must not walk behind, but withdraw from and flee.
    • As quoted in Divine Harmony : The Life and Teachings of Pythagoras by John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook (1999)
  • There is geometry in the humming of the strings. There is music in the spacings of the spheres.
    • As quoted in the preface of the book entitled Music of the Spheres by Guy Murchie (1961)

Unsourced

A thought is an idea in transit.
  • A thought is an idea in transit.
  • Abstain from beans.
    • This was long thought to be simply a dietary proscription, but many now think it is likely to have been advice against getting involved in politics, for voting on issues in his time was often done by using differently colored beans.
  • Anger begins in folly, and ends in repentance.
  • As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.
  • As soon as laws are necessary for men, they are no longer fit for freedom.
  • Begin thus from the first act, and proceed; and, in conclusion, at the ill which thou hast done, be troubled, and rejoice for the good.
  • Choose always the way that seems the best, however rough it may be; custom will soon render it easy and agreeable.
  • Choose rather to be strong of soul than strong of body.
  • Concern should drive us into action and not into a depression. No man is free who cannot control himself.
  • Do not become accustomed to behaving in anything without rule and without reason.
  • Do not eat your heart.
  • Educate the children and it won't be necessary to punish the men.
Sooner throw a pearl at hazard than an idle or useless word; and do not say a little in many words, but a great deal in a few.
  • Friends are as companions on a journey, who ought to aid each other to persevere in the road to a happier life.
  • Friends share all things.
  • I was at Euphorbus at the siege of Troy.
  • If there be light, then there is darkness; if cold, heat; if height, depth; if solid, fluid; if hard, soft; if rough, smooth; if calm, tempest; if prosperity, adversity; if life, death.
  • In anger we should refrain both from speech and action.
  • It is better wither to be silent, or to say things of more value than silence. Sooner throw a pearl at hazard than an idle or useless word; and do not say a little in many words, but a great deal in a few.
  • It is only necessary to make war with five things; with the maladies of the body, the ignorances of the mind, with the passions of the body, with the seditions of the city and the discords of families.
  • No one is free who has not obtained the empire of himself. No man is free who cannot command himself.
  • "Not frequently man from man.
    • This has been, correctly or otherwise, interpreted as being an exhortation to moderation about homosexual liaisons.
Reason is immortal, all else mortal.
  • Numbers inevitably will lead a person down the path of reason.
  • Reason is immortal, all else mortal.
  • Remind yourself that all men assert that wisdom is the greatest good, but that there are few who strenuously seek out that greatest good.
  • Rest satisfied with doing well, and leave others to talk of you as they please.
    • Variant: Rest satisfied with doing well, and leave others to talk of you as they will.
  • Silence is better than unmeaning words.
  • Speak the truth in all situations.
    • Said to be a lesson Pythagoras taught to his followers, which he had learned from the teachings of the Magi of Babylon.
  • Strength of mind rests in sobriety; for this keeps your reason unclouded by passion.
Virtue is harmony.
  • The most momentous thing in human life is the art of winning the soul to good or evil.
  • The oldest, shortest words— "yes" and "no"— are those which require the most thought.
  • The soul of man is divided into three parts, intelligence, reason, and passion. Intelligence and passion are possessed by other animals, but reason by man alone.
  • There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.
  • There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly.
  • Truth is so great a perfection, that if God would render himself visible to men, he would choose light for his body and truth for his soul.
  • Virtue is harmony.
  • Wisdom thoroughly learned will never be forgotten.
  • Write in the sand the flaws of your friend.

Quotes about Pythagoras

Even the seeming remoteness of Pythagorean teaching helps one to realize that the current world view, while it seems destined to dominate the planet, is fleeting and temporary and, like others before it, will pass.
  • Ten is the very nature of number. All Greeks and all barbarians alike count up to ten, and having reached ten revert again to the unity. And again, Pythagoras maintains, the power of the number 10 lies in the number 4, the tetrad. This is the reason: if one starts at the unit (1) and adds the successive number up to 4, one will make up the number 10 (1+2+3+4 = 10). And if one exceeds the tetrad, one will exceed 10 too.... So that the number by the unit resides in the number 10, but potentially in the number 4. And so the Pythagoreans used to invoke the Tetrad as their most binding oath: "By him that gave to our generation the Tetractys, which contains the fount and root of eternal nature..."
  • What appeared here, at the center of the Pythagorean tradition in philosophy, is another view of psyche that seems to owe little or nothing to the pan-vitalism or pan-deism (see theion) that is the legacy of the Milesians.
    • Francis E. Peters, in Greek Philosophical Terms : A Historical Lexicon (NYU Press 1967), p. 169 ISBN: 0814765521
  • The following became universally known: first, that he maintains that the soul is immortal; second, that it changes into other kinds of living things; third, that events recur in certain cycles and that nothing is ever absolutely new; and fourth, that all living things sould be regarded as akin. Pythagoras seems to have been the first to bring these beliefs into Greece.

Divine Harmony (1999)

Divine Harmony : The Life and Teachings of Pythagoras by John Strohmeier and Peter Westbrook. (1999) ISBN 0-9653774-5-8
The concept of a harmonious universe ordered according to "the Great Chain of Being" — a chain that connects the continuum of matter, body, mind, soul and spirit — stands as one of the most fundamental ideas of western thought.
  • Pythagoras stands at the fountainhead of our culture. The ideas he set in motion were, according to Daniel Boorstin, "among the most potent in modern history," resulting directly in many of the pillars upon which the modern world is built. In particular, the very existence of science becomes possible only when it is realized that inner, purely subjective, mathematical forms have a resonance with the form and behavior of the external world — a Pythagorean perception. And a world at peace — that is to say, in a nuclear age, the survival of our planet — is predicated upon ideas of universal brotherhood to which Pythagoras, while not the sole author, made an enormous contribution. Even the seeming remoteness of Pythagorean teaching helps one to realize that the current world view, while it seems destined to dominate the planet, is fleeting and temporary and, like others before it, will pass.
  • Pythagoras' teachings have enormous relevance in understanding both the sources of our culture and, perhaps more importantly, where it may be heading or may need to head. But to appreciate this we have to understand him in modern terms.
  • At the dawn of our century, scientists were proclaiming that our understanding of the world was almost complete. Only one or two small problems in physics remained to be solved. One of these problems had to do with black body radiation and was solved by Max Planck. His solution, however, formed the foundation for quantum mechanics which was to sweep aside almost the whole edifice of fundamental assumptions in physics, and with it our understanding of the world.
    A hundred years later we are faced with a similar situation. The mechanistic viewpoint that began to dominate our world view in the seventeenth century has almost completed its hegemony. This paradigm, as historian Hugh Kearney points out, stems from only one of three main systems of thought that flowed from Greek thought into the modern world, each of which has dominated our world view at different points in our history. ... In spite of the dominance of mechanistic thought in the contemporary world, a perplexing residue of the magical tradition still survives in the form of several issues, solutions to which do not appear possible within the context of a purely mechanical view of the world.
  • It is important to recognize that the materialist, scientific paradigm that dominates the late twentieth century world and provides the basis for its dominant institutions, has its basis in the life and work of Pythagoras, one of the most significant representatives of the perennial philosophy and a founder of the magical tradition. This spirit, which gave rise to our world view, is a spirit that must be recaptured if our civilization is to flourish. The choice is a clear one to many, and was summed up in a book title by the late Pythagorean and futurist Buckminster Fuller, Utopia or Oblivion.
  • The concept of a harmonious universe ordered according to "the Great Chain of Being" — a chain that connects the continuum of matter, body, mind, soul and spirit — stands as one of the most fundamental ideas of western thought. ... It continues to be a profound influence upon the deepest strata of our thought. And yet a major rift has appeared in the consciousness of our time because the theme of harmonia has not been translated into the realm of human conduct. The challenge of our time may be to revive it, and make divine harmony "the great theme" of the next millennium. Any success we have in accomplishing this will be based, in large part, on the achievements of Pythagoras.

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