Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism

a2+b2=c2 

Even if you slept through most of your high school math classes like I did, you still might recognize this as the "Pathagorean Theorem."

Useful for figuring out the length of the hypotenuse of a right angle triangle when you know the lengths of the other two sides.

In case that's not confusing enough, here it's demonstrated with water:

I didn't say that explains anything, but it IS a cool demonstration of the math in practice.

For 99.9% of the world this is where their interest of Pythagoras begins and ends.

But, man are they missing out.

Turns out that Pathagoras was weird.

Super weird.

Like, start a secretive cult with none of the fun stuff weird.

And I love it.

I'm about 3/5ths of the way through a book by a German author, Walter Burkert.

He's exploring the influence that a man had on the entire history of Western thought & science. It's a tough job for someone who lived several hundred years before Aristotle, never wrote anything down, and preferred to keep his secrets to himself.

The version I'm reading is the first edition translated into English, and it's pretty easy to follow along with insofar as the English is concerned.

It's the Greek that gets me.

As far as I can tell, the Greek is left untranslated.

Entire paragraphs are included, and there are oftentimes more footnotes on the page than actual paragraphs.

If I didn't know any better I'd say I'm stuck in my own "House Of Leaves" nightmare.

It's strange to me that there are copious footnotes about the research done to verify the authenticity of the particular phrase, and choose to leave it as-is.

Even with that speed bump, it's still fascinating stuff.

Especially reading it with the eye of a magician.

It's like a scholar trying to figure out a 2000 year old set list of a magic show based on the Facebook posts of audience members if they waited 400 years to share anything about it.

That alone is enough to keep me moving forward seeing what hints he can unravel.

Secondly, the ideas hidden away in the Pathagorean "Academy" are so wonderfully weird and insightful that I'd be a fool if I stopped reading.

There are so many parallels to art, magic, performance, and the ideas I explore within the space of my mind reading show.

I expect a lot of this will be incorporated into my routines and give new life to some of the more standard approaches I take with a couple pieces I've wanted to revamp.

I will post a full review with my thoughts once I finish the book which should be soon considering how captivating it is.

Until then.

Written & posted by Jonathan on March 15, 2021.
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