## 27 September 2014

### EASTERN SOURCES OF PYTHAGORAS

A Few Selected Fragments From H.P.B.’s Writings

Helena P. Blavatsky

H. P. Blavatsky (1831-1891)

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The following selections and references
are but a few among others. Students are
invited to make further research on what

(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)

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Quotation A:

The 10, being the sacred number of the universe, was secret and esoteric, both as the unit and cipher, or zero, the circle. Moreover, Professor Max Muller says that “the two words cipher and zero, which are but one, are sufficient to prove that our figures are borrowed from the Arabs. (See Max Muller’s “Our Figures”.) Cipher is the Arabic “cifron”, and means empty, a translation of the Sanscrit name of nought “sunya”, he says. The Arabs had their figures from Hindustan, and never claimed the discovery for themselves. As to the Pythagoreans, we need but turn to the ancient manuscripts of Boethius’s Geometry, composed in the sixth century, to find among the Pythagorean numerals the 1 and the nought, as the first and final ciphers. And Porphyry, who quotes from the Pythagorean Moderatus, (“Vita Pythag.”) says that the numerals of Pythagoras were “hieroglyphical symbols, by means whereof he explained ideas concerning the nature of things”, or the origin of the universe.

Now, if, on the other hand, the most ancient Indian manuscripts show as yet no trace of decimal notation in them, and Max Muller states very clearly that until now he has found but nine letters (the initials of the Sanscrit numerals) in them; on the other hand, we have records as ancient to supply the wanted proof. We speak of the sculptures and the sacred imagery in the most ancient temples of the far East. Pythagoras derived his knowledge from India; and we find Professor Max Muller corroborating this statement, at least so far as to allow the Neo-Pythagoreans to have been the first teachers of “ciphering”, among the Greeks and Romans; that “they at Alexandria, or in Syria, became acquainted with the Indian figures, and adapted them to the Pythagorean abacus” (our figures). This cautious admission implies that Pythagoras himself was acquainted with but nine figures. Thus we might reasonably answer that, although we possess no certain proof (exoterically) that the decimal notation was known by Pythagoras, who lived on the very close of the archaic ages (608 B.C.),  we have yet sufficient evidence to show that the full numbers, as given by Boethius, were known to the Pythagoreans, even before Alexandria was built. (This city was built 332 B.C.) This evidence we find in Aristotle, who says that “some philosophers hold that ideas and numbers are of the same nature, and amount to TEN in all.” (Metaph. vii, F.) This, we believe, will be sufficient to show that the decimal notation was known among them at least as early as four centuries B.C., for Aristotle does not seem to treat the question as an innovation of the “Neo-Pythagoreans”. [1]

Quotation B:

Space is the real world, while our world is an artificial one. It is the One Unity throughout its infinitude: in its bottomless depths as on its illusive surface; a surface studded with countless phenomenal Universes, systems and mirage-like worlds. Nevertheless, to the Eastern Occultist, who is an objective Idealist at the bottom, in the real world, which is a Unity of Forces, there is “a connection of all matter in the plenum”, as Leibnitz would say. This is symbolized in the Pythagorean Triangle.

It consists of ten points inscribed pyramid-like (from one to the last four) within its three lines, and it symbolizes the Universe in the famous Pythagorean Decad. The upper single dot is a Monad, and represents a Unit-Point, which is the Unity from whence all proceeds, and all is of the same essence with it. While the ten dots within the triangle represent the phenomenal world, the three sides of the equilateral triangle which enclose the pyramid of dots are the barriers of noumenal Matter, or Substance, that separate it from the world of Thought. “Pythagoras considered a point to correspond in proportion to unity; a line to 2; a superficies to 3; a solid to 4; and he defined a point as a Monad having position, and the beginning of all things; a line was thought to correspond with duality, because it was produced by the first motion from indivisible nature, and formed the junction of two points. A superficies was compared to the number three because it is the first of all causes that are found in figures; for a circle, which is the principal of all round figures, comprises a triad, in centre - space - circumference. But a triangle, which is the first of all rectilineal figures, is included in a ternary, and receives its form according to that number; and was considered by the Pythagoreans to be the creator of all sublunary things. The four points at the base of the Pythagorean triangle correspond with a solid or cube, which combines the principles of length, breadth, and thickness, for no solid can have less than four extreme boundary points.” (Pythag. Triangle, p. 19.)

It is argued that “the human mind cannot conceive an indivisible unit short of the annihilation of the idea with its subject”. This is an error, as the Pythagoreans have proved, and a number of Seers before them, although there is a special training for it, and although the profane mind can hardly grasp it. But there are such things as metamathematics and metageometry. Even mathematics pure and simple proceed from the Universal to the particular, from the mathematical, hence indivisible Point, to solid figures. The teaching originated in India, and was taught in Europe by Pythagoras, who, throwing a veil over the Circle and the Point - which no living man can define except as incomprehensible abstractions - laid the origin of the differentiated Cosmic matter in the basic or horizontal line of the Triangle. Thus the latter became the earliest of geometrical figures.[2]

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[ Editorial Note:  On  this topic, another quotation which is too large  to reproduce here will be found  at  pp. 573-605  in the  volume II of “The Secret Doctrine” (original editions). (C.C.A.) ]

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[2.On Pherecydes, Pythagoras and Reincarnation]

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Editorial Note:

Boris de Zirkoff, the compiler of the “H. P.
Blavatsky Collected Writings”, wrote about the
following  fragment: “The original manuscript of
this brief account in H.P.B.’s own handwriting was
among the papers of her old and trusted friend, John
M. Watkins of London. It is now in the hands of his son,
Geoffrey Watkins. Because of the way the text starts,
this item may have been intended for a Glossary.” [3]

(CCA)

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PHERECYDES (Gr.). A Greek philosopher from Syros, the teacher of Pythagoras. Like the latter he is credited on the concurrent testimony of antiquity, to have travelled many years in the East, to have visited India and Chaldea, and lived in Egypt, where he was the disciple of the initiated priests of the two latter countries. On the other hand, such writers as Clemens Alexandrinus and Philo Biblius, assert that “Pherecydes did not receive instruction in philosophy from any master, but obtained his knowledge from the secret books of the Phoenicians.” [4]

The latter assertion cannot, however, interfere in any way with the former statement, that which is most interesting in it being the fact that the Phoenicians like all other ancient races had secret books, i.e., an exoteric religion for the profane and masses, and an esoteric system for those who aspired to initiation into the mysteries. Pherecydes is denied by modern Encyclopaedists the title of philosopher, because, as alleged, “he lived at the time at which men began to speculate on cosmogony and the nature of the gods, but had hardly yet commenced the study of true philosophy.” [5]

This is an error as great as so many others. Real philosophy dates from Pythagoras only in Greece, but was pursued millenniums earlier in other countries; nor would Pythagoras, the “lover of truth” ( . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ) that which he called philosophy, in the insanely materialistic albeit scientific speculations and theories of our modern philosophy, so-called.

However it may be, Theosophists may well look up to Pherecydes as one of their earliest Western teachers and authorities, since his work Eptamuchos - which others call Theokrasia and others again Theologia - is the first in classical literature which speaks of reincarnation, or metempsychosis, now so falsely understood; but which was synonymous with the ancients, with rebirth or the immortality of the soul. It is by the latter name that Suidas calls the doctrine taught by Pherecydes, and says that it was contained in two books, in which moreover, the septenary principle was plainly taught, though, of course, in more or less symbolical and allegorical languages. Thus he states in Kosmos there are three high principles, which he designates as Chthona (Chaos), Aether (Zeus) and Chronos (Time), and four lower principles, the elements of fire, water, air and the earth.

Of these everything visible and invisible in the Universe was formed. He was a great collector of Orphic writings, and his own were extant in the days of the Alexandrian Neo-Platonists. He is referred to by Aristotle as a mythological, and by Plutarch as a theological writer; and mentioned in a great number of classics. Diogenes Laertius calls him a rival of Thales, and some credit him with having been the first writer in Greece in prose, which he used to explain philosophical subjects. There was another Pherecydes of Athens, often confused with Pherecydes of Syros. But while the latter was a contemporary of Servius Tullius (cf. Cicero and Diogenes Laertius), the sixth King of Rome, and must have lived, therefore, according to the Olympiads, in the sixth century B.C., Pherecydes the Athenian lived a century later being a contemporary of Herodotus. He was a logographer, and has done nothing to merit a place in this work. It is curious that Democritus hints at, and Cicero denounces, the philosophy of Pherecydes and Pythagoras as being “cribbed” wholly from the Eastern systems. The charge is strange since both Pherecydes and Pythagoras never made a secret of the Eastern origin of their doctrines.

[3. On the Origin of the Pythagorean System]

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The following paragraph is also reproduced
from the “H.P.B. Collected Writings”. Boris
de Zirkoff reports: “This fragment in H.P.B.’s
handwriting exists in the Adyar Archives and is
reproduced here from a faithful transcript of the original.”

(CCA)

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(. . . . . ) Asiatics say, that owing to the Zodiac, used for thousands of years in our temples, and leaving psychological claims entirely out of question - we have the means of seeing in, and of thoroughly penetrating through that Cymmerian darkness that stretches back for the Westerners in an indefinite and impenetrable series of prehistoric ages. And this, the Asiatics say fearlessly, and to the face of Prof. Weber who would persuade on his scientific authority the credulous public that the Aryan Brahmins had no knowledge of the Zodiac before the first century of his era; and that the Hindus are “in any case indebted for the Zodiacal signs and the names of the planets to Greek influence.” For if he can show that Varâha-Mihira (in Pulisa) “employed a great mass of Greek words in his writings”, the Hindus can prove on as good authority, that while Varâha-Mihira lived in the sixth century of the Christian era, Pythagoras who flourished in precisely the same century (570 B.C.) eleven centuries earlier, got his astronomical and astrological education (including the knowledge of the Zodiac), his system of chelaship and religious brotherhood, for which he translated the Sanskrit terms of esoteric and exoteric into Greek, and even his knowledge of the heliocentrical system from the initiated Brahmins. His prohibition of animal food and certain vegetables and his doctrine of the transmigration of souls comes from India; as also it is from the Sramans that he got his System of inculcating unbounded reverence on the part of the disciple for their master or Guru, and for the matter of that even his doctrine of Numbers in their relation to the musical scale, and of the Universe as one harmonious whole. Our zodiacal signs have a common origin with those of the Egyptians, and for a good cause as may be one day proved. And to their Zodiac even European Egyptologists assign an antiquity of 4000 years before our era.  ( . . . . . ) [6]

[4. Plato Made Pythagoras More Intelligible]

Pythagoras brought his doctrines from the eastern sanctuaries, and Plato compiled them into a form more intelligible than the mysterious numerals of the Sage - whose doctrines he had fully embraced - to the uninitiated mind. Thus, the Kosmos is “the Son” with Plato, having for his father and mother the Divine Thought and Matter. The “Primal Being” (Beings, with the Theosophists, as they are the collective aggregation of the divine Rays), is an emanation of the Demiurgic or Universal Mind which contains from eternity the idea of the “to be created world” within itself, which idea the unmanifested LOGOS produces of itself. The first Idea “born in darkness before the creation of the world” remains in the unmanifested Mind; the second is this Idea going out as a reflection from the Mind (now the manifested LOGOS), becoming clothed with matter, and assuming an objective existence. [7]

[5. On Pythagoras, Plato and the East]

[Referring to the creation of the firmament “in the midst of waters”:]

The Hindus have an endless series of allegories to express this idea. In the primordial Chaos, before it became developed into the Seven Oceans (Sapta Samudra) - emblematical of the seven gunas (conditioned qualities) composed of trigunas (Satwa, Rajas and Tamas, see Puranas) - lie latent both Amrita (immortality) and Visha (poison, death, evil). This allegory is found in the “Churning of the Ocean” by the gods. Amrita is beyond any guna, for it is UNCONDITIONED per se; yet when fallen into the phenomenal creation it got mixed up with EVIL, Chaos, with latent theos in it, and before Kosmos was evolved. Hence, one finds Vishnu - standing here for eternal Law - periodically calling forth Kosmos into activity - “churning out of the primitive Ocean (boundless Chaos) the Amrita of Eternity, reserved only for the gods and devas; and he has to employ in the task Nagas and Asuras - demons in exoteric Hinduism. The whole allegory is highly philosophical, and we find it repeated in every philosophical System. Plato, having fully embraced the ideas of Pythagoras - who had brought them from India - compiled and published them in a form more intelligible than the mysterious numerals of the Greek Sage. Thus the Kosmos is “the Son” with Plato, having for his father and mother the Divine Thought and Matter (Plutarch, “Isis and Osiris”, I,vi.) [8]

NOTES:

[1] “The Secret Doctrine”, H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., vol. I, pp. 360-361.  We include in this quotation most of HPB’s footnotes (not all of them).  They are included in parenthesis within the text. (CCA)

[2] “The Secret Doctrine”, H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, 1982, vol. I, pp. 615-616. (CCA)

[3] The text is reproduced from “H.P.B. Collected Writings”, T.P.H., 1982, volume XIII, pp. 282-285. (CCA)

[4] F. W. Sturtz, “Pherecydis Fragmenta”, Lips., 1824, 2nd ed. (Note by Boris de Zirkoff)

[5] Wm. Smith, “Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology”, London, 1849, S.V. Pherecydes. (Note by Boris de Zirkoff)

[6] Transcribed from “H.P.B. Collected Writings”, T.P.H., 1982, volume XIII, pp. 324-325. (CCA)

[7] Reproduced from the text “The Mind in Nature”, by H.P. Blavatsky, which can be found in www.TheosophyOnline.com and its associated websites. (CCA)

[8] “The Secret Doctrine”, H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, 1982, see vol. I, p. 348. (CCA)

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On the role of the esoteric movement in the ethical awakening of mankind during the 21st century, see the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline.

Published in 2013 by The Aquarian Theosophist, the volume has 255 pages and can be obtained through Amazon Books.

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