In the Steps of Pythagoras

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. James E. Frey 32°

    “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)

My Brethren, within the Masonic system Pythagoras is one of the most prolific, yet unexplored influences on our fraternity. Within the Ancient Craft Pythagoras is mentioned as our “Ancient Brother” and is credited with the Pythagorean theorem, but other than this instance no reference to the Masonic connection to Pythagoras is explored in ritual. Who is this man we hold in such high esteem but is never incorporated further in our system? 
It is the goal of this series to explore the fundamental similarities of the Masonic philosophy and Pythagorean teachings. How is it compatible, and why do we consider Pythagoras to be one of the most influential Brothers in our mystic circle? But before we look at the man’s teachings we must first understand the Man. 

The life of Pythagoras is in obscured by the mists of time and is often overshadowed by the myth of his persona. The legend begins in the city of Delphi, while Pythagoras’ Parents, who were traveling merchants, found themselves traveling there on business. As was the custom they decided to consult the oracle of Delphi as to whether the Fates were favorable for their return voyage to Syria. When the Pythoness, the prophetess of Apollo, took her seat on the golden tripod she told Mnesarchus that his wife was with child and would give birth to a son who was destined to surpass all men in beauty and wisdom.  

The child was born at Sidon in Phoenicia between 600 and 590 B.C. just as the oracle had predicted and named the child Pythagoras, after the Pythian priestess. The legends of Pythagoras preserve that he was no mortal man; but one of the gods who had taken on a human form to instruct the human race. The mother of Pythagoras, was said to also have had a vision of a Apolloniacal ghost, which afterward appeared to her husband, and told him that he must have no sexual relations with his wife during her pregnancy.

During his young life Pythagoras traveled the known world and studied under a variety of teachers and went through the initiations of many mystery schools. It is said that the Rabbins instructed him in the secret traditions of Moses. He also went through the Mystery School of the Essenes, which instructed him in the mysteries of the Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism. Pythagoras then was initiated into the Babylonian, and
Zoroaster in the School of Athens
by Raphael 1509 CE
Chaldean Mysteries, which taught him advanced methods of astrology and mathematics. It also is believed that he was a disciple of one of the last Zoroasters, who was the primary teacher of a group of Persian mystics known as the Parsees. The record of Pythagoras’ studies is still preserved in the records of the Brahmins as Yavancharya, the Ionian Teacher. (Manley P. hall, 1928)

        “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. Then this intrepid ‘joiner’ wended his way into Phoenicia and Syria where the Mysteries of Adonis were conferred upon him, and crossing to the valley of the Euphrates he tarried long enough to become versed in, the secret lore of the Chaldeans, who still dwelt in the vicinity of Babylon. Finally, he made his greatest and most historic venture through Media and Persia into Hindustan where he remained several years as a pupil and initiate of the learned Brahmins of Elephanta and Ellora.”  (Frank C. Higgins, 32°, Ancient Freemasonry)

During his teenage years Pythagoras was a disciple of Pherecydes and Hermodamas. It was at this time he became distinguished for the clarity of his philosophic concepts. He was tall and resembled the God Apollo himself and caused those in his presence to feel humbled. There is a story that Pythagoras sat with a group of disciples teaching them the mysteries. He praised those who understood filling his disciples with ecstasy, while one caused the Master to become irate and scold him. It is said this disciple committed suicide that night. Pythagoras was so moved by this tragedy that he never again spoke unkindly to or about anyone.

Upon his return from his travels, Pythagoras established a university at Crotona, a Dorian colony in Southern Italy. This caused his wisdom and advice to be sought by local leaders and teachers of the area. As his reputation as a philosopher spread across the land, though he only gathered around him a small but dedicated group of disciples. It was these disciples whom he instructed in the secret wisdom of the world, which was founded on the fundamentals of occult mathematics, music, and astronomy, which he considered to be the triangular foundation of the arts and sciences.

Pythagoras being known for his outspokenness incurred both political and personal enemies. It is said one who was denied initiation to their mysteries became determined to destroy his philosophy. The man used false propaganda against Pythagoras and turned the minds of the common people against the philosopher. Then one night a band of murderers descended upon the university and burned it to the ground.

Upon escaping from Crotona with a small band of followers Pythagoras became trapped in the burning building. His disciples threw themselves atop the flames so that Pythagoras could escape using their bodies as a bridge. It is said that he later died as the result of grieving over his lost efforts to serve and illuminate mankind.

After his death his wife and surviving disciples attempted to perpetuate his doctrines, but they were persecuted by the local governments and his school gradually disintegrated. Little remains today as a testimonial to the greatness of this philosopher and teacher, but those builders who benefit by his teachings revered the memory of the great philosopher, if only in shadows. 

        “Pythagoras’ teachings are of the most transcendental importance to Masons, inasmuch as they are the necessary fruit of his contact with the leading philosophers of the whole civilized world of his own day, and must represent that in which all were agreed, shorn of all weeds of controversy. Thus, the determined stand made by Pythagoras, in defense of pure monotheism, is sufficient evidence that the tradition to the effect that the unity of God was the supreme secret of all the ancient initiations is substantially correct. The philosophical school of Pythagoras was, in a measure, also a series of initiations, for he caused his pupils to pass through a series of degrees and never permitted them personal contact with himself until they had reached the higher grades. 

        According to his biographers, his degrees were three in number. The first, that of ‘Mathematicus,’ assuring his pupils proficiency in mathematics and geometry, which was then, as it would be now if Masonry were properly inculcated, the basis upon which all other knowledge was erected. Secondly, the degree of ‘Theoreticus,’ which dealt with superficial applications of the exact sciences, and, lastly, the degree of ‘Electus,’which entitled the candidate to pass forward into the light of the fullest illumination which he was capable of absorbing. The pupils of the Pythagorean school were divided into ‘exoterici,’ or pupils in the outer grades, and ‘esoterici,’ after they had passed the third degree of initiation and were entitled to the secret wisdom. Silence, secrecy and unconditional obedience were cardinal principles of this great order.” (Frank C. Higgins, 32°, Ancient Freemasonry)


James E Frey, 32° is a Past Sovereign Prince and current librarian of Valley of Danville AASR. Founder of the R.E.B.I.S Research Society he sits on two Blue Lodge Education committees as well as a guest lecturer on Occultism and Esoteric studies in masonry. He is also a Member of the Oak Lawn York Rite, Medinah Shriners, and Golden Dawn Collegium Spiritu Sancti. He also works as a counselor with emotionally and behaviorally challenged children. 

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff, but there are no citations, I would not feel comfortable representing this material.


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