Pythagoras: The Father of Philosophy

As much as I love Socrates (c. 469 BC–399 BC) (as attributed by the amount of posts here on the man) and his use of the dialectic method for discovering truth, I have been most guilty of bestowing upon him the grand title of being the “Father of Philosophy” (well, I think most historians have done the same).

But, alas, I must now humbly admit that I may have been a tad hasty in paying the old fellah that somewhat prestigious compliment (I still think Socrates was a legend though).

As was once said about the subsequent birth of a man who seemingly wrests from Socrates’ grasp the aforementioned patriarchal title:

WHILE Mnesarchus, the father of Pythagoras, was in the city of Delphi on matters pertaining to his business as a merchant, he and his wife, Parthenis, decided to consult the oracle of Delphi as to whether the Fates were favorable for their return voyage to Syria. When the Pythoness (prophetess of Apollo) seated herself on the golden tripod over the yawning vent of the oracle, she did not answer the question they had asked, but told Mnesarchus that his wife was then with child and would give birth to a son who was destined to surpass all men in beauty and wisdom, and who throughout the course of his life would contribute much to the benefit of mankind.

~ Manly P. Hall, ‘The Secret Teachings of All Ages’


Ironically, due to Pythagoras’ and Socrates’ claims of fathering philosophy, it was this self-same oracle who, after a few good years after Pythagoras’ death, told Socrates that he was the wisest of them all.

Pythagoras vs. Socrates

Pythagoras (c. 570–c. 495 BC), like Socrates, wrote next to nothing on his philosophy of life, so we can only rely on a second-hand source of his teachings through his student, Iamblichus (as opposed to Plato, who was Socrates’ most revered student).

Despite us not having access to any original writings, as well as the obvious questions of untrustworthiness of second-hand (and perhaps biased) material, there can be no doubting that Pythagoras was a heavyweight champion amongst philosophers.

In fact, it has been said that Pythagoras was the one who gave us the word “Philosopher” – so he apparently beats Socrates on that count (not that Socrates would have cared).  But what’s more important is the content of his expansive mind, and how his very thoughts and wisdom have influenced the great thinkers of ancient times.

Ancient Egyptian Influence

Pythagoras, who travelled far and wide in search of the highest knowledge and wisdom, was supposedly initiated into the Egyptian, Babylonian, and Chaldean Mysteries.  You won’t be surprised to know that both Plato and Aristotle followed suit in becoming Egyptian initiates too.

So maybe there is a case for the Priests of ancient Egypt to be held in higher esteem than the Greeks in terms of their wisdom, philosophy and knowledge (including advanced knowledge of mathematics, geometry, astronomy and architecture – this should explain how and why the Pyramids were built)

Anyway, as was said of Pythagoras’ attempts to become initiated to the Mystery Schools of Egyptian ancient wisdom:

After having acquired all which it was possible for him to learn of the Greek philosophers and, presumably, become an initiate in the Eleusinian mysteries, he went to Egypt, and after many rebuffs and refusals, finally succeeded in securing initiation in the Mysteries of Isis, at the hands of the priests of Thebes.

~ Manly P. Hall, ‘The Secret Teachings of All Ages’

Pythagoric Fundamentals

As for the teachings of Pythagoras themselves, he was (and is) mostly known for his knowledge of mathematics and geometry, so I personally would do well to learn something of worth from him, because I will be the first to admit that my maths is terrible (which is the reason why I won’t be saying anymore on the subject).

However, Pythagoras’ philosophy and wisdom teaches other subjects that an earnest student could embrace and apply to their life, as described by a select few of the following ‘Pythagoric Fundamentals’:

The study of geometry, music, and astronomy was considered essential to a rational understanding of God, man, or Nature, and no one could accompany Pythagoras as a disciple who was not thoroughly familiar with these sciences. Many came seeking admission to his school. Each applicant was tested on these three subjects, and if found ignorant, was summarily dismissed […]

Pythagoras was not an extremist. He taught moderation in all things rather than excess in anything, for he believed that an excess of virtue was in itself a vice. One of his favorite statements was: “We must avoid with our utmost endeavor, and amputate with fire and sword, and by all other means, from the body, sickness; from the soul, ignorance; from the belly, luxury; from a city, sedition; from a family, discord; and from all things, excess.” Pythagoras also believed that there was no crime equal to that of anarchy […]

Pythagoras declared that the eating of meat clouded the reasoning faculties. While he did not condemn its use or totally abstain therefrom himself, he declared that judges should refrain from eating meat before a trial, in order that those who appeared before them might receive the most honest and astute decisions […]

The favorite method of healing among the Pythagoreans was by the aid of poultices. These people also knew the magic properties of vast numbers of plants. Pythagoras highly esteemed the medicinal properties of the sea onion, and he is said to have written an entire volume on the subject. Such a work, however, is not known at the present time. Pythagoras discovered that music had great therapeutic power and he prepared special harmonies for various diseases […]

Pythagoras taught that friendship was the truest and nearest perfect of all relationships. He declared that in Nature there was a friendship of all for all; of gods for men; of doctrines one for another; of the soul for the body; of the rational part for the irrational part; of philosophy for its theory; of men for one another; of countrymen for one another; that friendship also existed between strangers, between a man and his wife, his children, and his servants. All bonds without friendship were shackles, and there was no virtue in their maintenance […]

~ Manly P. Hall, ‘The Secret Teachings of All Ages’

More to come on the Wisdom and Life of Pythagoras

So, Pythagoras (the man or the legend) certainly played a very important role in bringing philosophy to the fore in the modern world today and throughout the ages – sorry old chap for not getting to you sooner.

There will be more to come from Pythagoras as I have decided to dedicate three consecutive posts to him (lucky man!):

  1. In this first post, you can watch a documentary (below) on the man, his life and his philosophy
  2. In the next post, I will share with you some of his precepts of wisdom for us all to follow in: Iamblichus’ ‘The Pythagorean Aphorisms’
  3. And in the last post, I shall provide you with an eBook for you to download titled: ‘Iamblichus’ Life of Pythagoras’

Watch the video: ‘The Life of Pythagoras’

A short film about the life and achievements of the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras.

Question for the audience: Who do you think should be given the title “Father of Philosophy”: Pythagoras or Socrates?

Or do you have another philosopher in mind who you think is more deserving of that title?

I would be interested to hear your thoughts – thanks.

One Comment

  1. andrew romero says:

    pythagoras, for he coined the term itself.