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Pythagoras stands at the fountainhead of our culture. The ideas he set in motion were, according to Daniel Boorstin, "among the most potent in modern history," resulting directly in many of the pillars upon which the modern world is built. In particular, the very existence of science becomes possible only when it is realized that inner, purely subjective, mathematical forms have a resonance with the form and behavior of the external world a Pythagorean perception. And a world at peace that is to say, in a nuclear age, the survival of our planet is predicated upon ideas of universal brotherhood to which Pythagoras, while not the sole author, made an enormous contribution. Even the seeming remoteness of Pythagorean teaching helps one to realize that the current world view, while it seems destined to dominate the planet, is fleeting and temporary and, like others before it, will pass.


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There is something for which Newton or better to say not Newton alone, but modern science in general can still be made responsible: it is splitting of our world in two. I have been saying that modern science broke down the barriers that separated the heavens and the earth, and that it united and unified the universe. And that is true. But, as I have said, too, it did this by substituting for our world of quality and sense perception, the world in which we live, and love, and die, another world the world of quantity, or reified geometry, a world in which, through there is place for everything, there is no place for man. Thus the world of science the real world became estranged and utterly divorced from the world of life, which science has been unable to explain not even to explain away by calling it "subjective".
True, these worlds are everyday and even more and more connected by praxis. Yet for theory they are divided by an abyss.
Two worlds: this means two truths. Or no truth at all.
This is the tragedy of the modern mind which "solved the riddle of the universe," but only to replace it by another riddle: the riddle of itself.

Alexandre Koyre

In the philosophy of Democritus the atoms are eternal and indestructible units of matter, they can never be transformed into each other. With regard to this question modern physics takes a definite stand against the materialism of Democritus and for Plato and the Pythagoreans. The elementary particles are certainly not eternal and indestructible units of matter, they can actually be transformed into each other. As a matter of fact, if two such particles, moving through space with a very high kinetic energy, collide, then many new elementary particles may be created from the available energy and the old particles may have disappeared in the collision. Such events have been frequently observed and offer the best proof that all particles are made of the same substance: energy. But the resemblance of the modern views to those of Plato and the Pythagoreans can be carried somewhat further. The elementary particles in Plato's Timaeus are finally not substance but mathematical forms. "All things are numbers" is a sentence attributed to Pythagoras. The only mathematical forms available at that time were such geometric forms as the regular solids or the triangles which form their surface. In modern quantum theory there can be no doubt that the elementary particles will finally also be mathematical forms but of a much more complicated nature. The Greek philosophers thought of static forms and found them in the regular solids. Modern science, however, has from its beginning in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries started from the dynamic problem. The constant element in physics since Newton is not a configuration or a geometrical form, but a dynamic law. The equation of motion holds at all times, it is in this sense eternal, whereas the geometrical forms, like the orbits, are changing. Therefore, the mathematical forms that represent the elementary particles will be solutions of some eternal law of motion for matter. This is a problem which has not yet been solved.

Werner Heisenberg

It is important to recognize that the materialist, scientific paradigm that dominates the late twentieth century world and provides the basis for its dominant institutions, has its basis in the life and work of Pythagoras, one of the most significant representatives of the perennial philosophy and a founder of the magical tradition. This spirit, which gave rise to our world view, is a spirit that must be recaptured if our civilization is to flourish. The choice is a clear one to many, and was summed up in a book title by the late Pythagorean and futurist Buckminster Fuller, Utopia or Oblivion.


It is mutual fear and distrust that mostly generate world tensions and these can be traced in no small measure, like other root causes of worsening world conditions, to different people's conflicting and often intolerant, value-belief differences ... Whereas in the past science did little, if anything, to remedy this situation and in some ways made things worse, our reformed "macro-determinist" science that includes consciousness and subjective values ... provides common universal ethical foundations on which all nations could work to build a World Government or at least a World Security System to help control nuclear developments and other global threats that require international collaboration.

Roger Wolcott Sperry

At the dawn of our century, scientists were proclaiming that our understanding of the world was almost complete. Only one or two small problems in physics remained to be solved. One of these problems had to do with black body radiation and was solved by Max Planck. His solution, however, formed the foundation for quantum mechanics which was to sweep aside almost the whole edifice of fundamental assumptions in physics, and with it our understanding of the world.
A hundred years later we are faced with a similar situation. The mechanistic viewpoint that began to dominate our world view in the seventeenth century has almost completed its hegemony. This paradigm, as historian Hugh Kearney points out, stems from only one of three main systems of thought that flowed from Greek thought into the modern world, each of which has dominated our world view at different points in our history. ... In spite of the dominance of mechanistic thought in the contemporary world, a perplexing residue of the magical tradition still survives in the form of several issues, solutions to which do not appear possible within the context of a purely mechanical view of the world.

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