Traditional and Modern astrology: a philosophical exploration (part 5 – Pythagoras)

Pythagoras and the Magic of Numbers

It is probably redundant to say that most everything in our Universe can be understood through numbers. Mathematics is truly the universal language, the secrets of which were first explored and brought to our consciousness by Pythagoras who lived from about 570 to 495 BCE. He was a philosopher, mathematician, mystic and scientist who established a philosophical school in Croton in Southern Italy. Plato was one of his students. Little is actually known about Pythagoras the man; however his ideas and teachings have been very influential. Pythagoras is famous for saying that “ALL is number”. While we may never know whether Pythagoras the man actually said this, we do know that he saw numbers as more than just a means of quantifying things; to the Pythagorians numbers were understood to have and to bestow qualities as well.

The ideas attributed to Pythagoras gave rise to sacred geometry as well as musical theory. His assertion that numbers had qualities and could be experienced expanded the notion we have of mathematics to include an esoteric dimension which included the ability to bring about healing. The doctrine of aspects in traditional astrology is based on Pythagorean principles.

Pythagorean number theory

One or the Monad is not considered a true number; it is the principle of number. It signifies the creative potentiality of all things, for it is potentially any number. It is both mother and father and is the source of all other numbers. One, is like God for it preserved; multiplying by one always gives you the number you started with, it preserves that number. It is unity that has yet to be manifested as it remains potentially anything and everything.

Two or the Dyad is also not considered a true number; but rather a process that flows from the Monad. Two is the source of multiplicity and the principle of knowledge, for it creates the difference between the knower and the known. The Dyad is said to attract the Monad to it and from it generates the rest of the numbers; as such it is related to love.

Three is the first actual number. It is a figural number because three points creates the shape or figure of a triangle. Three signifies knowledge and consciousness, as the knower and the known can now be recognized from a third perspective, bringing about conscious understanding or consciousness of knowing. The trine is related to three, giving easy understanding or communication between the planets.

Four is the number that represents manifestation and solid physical foundation. It is of course related to the square. The circle, which has no beginning and no end is said to represent unity or God as yet not manifested, the square represents manifested unity. From an astrological perspective four can be associated with the foundational cardinal point of the chart; the angles ASC, IC, DES and MC. These represent the body/health, home/family, relationship/marriage and career/purpose which are the foundation of human life.

The multiplication of three and four gives us the number 12 and we have twelve zodiac sign. While the addition of three plus four gives us seven which corresponds to the seven visible planets.

Six is a perfect number for it contains one, two and three (1+2+3=6), it is both odd and even (2×3=6). It is the number associated with reconciliation and represents “ensoulment” of the body by the soul. The number six creates 2 triangle that fit together bringing the elements together or God and the manifested world together.

We can see evidence of the Pythagorean number theory is the traditional doctrine of aspect. The monad is like the conjunction, the Dyad is like the opposition, the number three relates to the trine, the number four represents the square and finally the number six relates to the sextile.

Twelve was seen as representing a version of the bodies/sphere in the Universe: the one eternal and unifying God (realm of the fixed stars), the 7 planets, the 4 sub-lunar elements(fire, air, water and earth), arranged from most orderly to the least, from most perfect to most corrupted.

According to the Pythagorean understanding there were 3 parts of the Soul: the Curious part, that seeks knowledge, the Ambitious part that seeks honours and the Covetous part that seeks profit or power. Each part of the soul needs to function properly and be harmonized with the other 2 parts. We can associate these parts of the soul with the 3 traditional outer planets; the Curious soul with Jupiter, the Ambitious soul with Mars and the Covetous soul with Saturn (as the empire builder).


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