THE EYES HAVE IT
Pythagoras (569-475 B.C.E.) is already a middle-aged man. As a youth, he's said to have visited Egypt where he studied geometry - and based on what we've learned from the work of the Egyptologist Rene Schwaller de Lubicz, that means sacred geometry. And to have visited India - where it's likely he studied yoga and meditation. He's also learned 'astronomy' from the Chaldeans - which probably means astrology as well, since amongst the ancients the title 'Chaldean' was usually code for astrologer.
Pythagoras has been in Crotona now for almost fifteen years. The school he runs is more like a monastery, and not the kind of academy that Alexander's will leave in the wake of his conquests, and that the Egyptians who translate their traditional form of astrological awareness into written Greek texts will attend just three centuries from now. Pythagoras isn't teaching his students to read and write, and isn't teaching the art of public speaking - as is customary in Greek education.
Why would a man who will never write a book himself be interested in teaching the skills of literacy? And as for public speaking, the first thing you and I notice as we observe his inner circle of students - known as 'learners' - assembling on this very early morning is that everyone is going about their preparations in utter silence. No, Pythagoras has a much different experience in mind - teaching what he's actually known for: his enlightened way of life.
Without fanfare, the teacher himself enters the hall and, without saying anything, walks slowly towards a large doorway that opens to the eastern sky and the pale luminous promise of dawn. Immediately stopping whatever they're doing, everyone in the hall follows - including you and I. Once outside, we find ourselves on a spacious stone patio overlooking the sea. It's still quite dark; but we can readily hear surf crashing far below. There before us is the morning star, Venus, glistening in a clear sky, just above the faint glow of the rising Sun. A beautiful, crescent, almost-new Moon hovers slightly up and to the right of Venus.
The thirty or so 'learners' space themselves comfortably to both sides of and behind their teacher, and then unroll small reed mats. Still standing, everyone raises their arms, palms facing each other, in a salute to the celestial goddesses standing right before us. Pythagoras says a brief prayer; and then all sit crossed-legged on their mats. After a few more moments of silence, a third of the group begins to sound a single tone - the 'note' of Venus. Because each individual is sounding and breathing in their own rhythm, the tone we hear is continuous.
A few minutes later, another third of the group begins to sound a slightly different tone - the 'note' of the Moon. The two groups sustain their respective notes, and all of us participate in this musical meditation, for what seems like a very long time. All the while, Venus and the Moon slowly float above the increasing light - the initial faint yellow glow having morphed into a band of orange, and then into one intensely red.
This continuous sounding has a calming effect on our minds and thoughts. The steady vibratory quality of the tones is quite likely having a beneficial effect on our endocrine systems as well. Crotona is known for its skilled physicians, and there are probably some here today. Perhaps later we can find one with whom to discuss their understanding of the physiology of all this!
Suddenly, the first rays of the rising Sun break across the horizon and reveal a broad, blue expanse of eastern Mediterranean. With this, the last third of the group adds a still deeper tone to the mix. The Pythagoreans believe that the Sun, Moon, and planets all move according to mathematical equations that correspond to musical notes, and that taken together produce a 'symphony'. After a few moments of all three tones in beautiful harmony, individual sounders begin to drop out until, with the last note, everyone has gone silent. No one is moving, no one is speaking.
In response perhaps to some unseen signal, mats are rolled up and set aside; and then all rise to begin a series of graceful fluid movements that remind us of a combination of Chinese Chi Kung and Kashmiri Yoga. These movements are all done in silence as well. After forty minutes or so, the moments are completed and there's a closing prayer. Then everyone disperses. All will reconvene later in the day for discussion and instruction, when the 'learners' will be joined by the 'listeners', the outer circle of Pythagoras' students. But for now, you and I sit at the edge of the patio, while seabirds wheel about us, and we slowly digest all we've just experienced.
THE METAPHYSICS OF THE CONCRETE