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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.


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Our time is Gothic in its spirit. Unlike the Renaissance, it is not dominated by a few outstanding personalities. The twentieth century has established the democracy of the intellect. In the republic of art and science there are many men who take an equally important part in the intellectual movements of our age. It is the epoch rather than the individual that is important. There is no one dominant personality like Galileo or Newton. Even in the nineteenth century there were still a few giants who outtopped all others. Today the generanl level is much higher than ever before in the history of the world, but there are few men whose stature immediately sets them apart from all others.

Albert Einstein

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.


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.


As do all who suffer from fixed ideas, it has a strong tendency to see espionage and persecution everywhere, and just as rheumatic people feel drafts everywhere, so does it sense pressure everywhere, the misuse of power, and knows how to explain in a satisfying way the feeble signs of life in the public spirit not on the basis that its strength is merely symptomatic and imaginary but on the basis that it is cowed by governments, somewhat as the Busybody explains that he accomplishes nothing during the day, not on the basis that he is fussy and fidgety but on the basis of the many affairs that burst in on him. ** Stages on Life's Way, Hong p. 466 (1845)

Soren Aabye Kierkegaard

Throughout the history of our civilization, two traditions, two opposing tendencies have confronted each other: the Roman and the Popular; the imperial and the federalist; the authoritarian and the libertarian. And this is so, once more, on the eve of the social revolution.
Between these two currents, always manifesting themselves, always at grips with each other the popular trend and that which thirsts for political and religious domination we have made our choice.
We seek to recapture the spirit which drove people in the twelfth century to organise themselves on the basis of free agreement and individual initiative as well as of the free federation of the interested parties. And we are quite prepared to leave the others to cling to the imperial, the Roman and canonical tradition.

Peter Kropotkin
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