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Pythagorean Philosophers & Kabbalists

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This project is to showcase the dynamic exchange of ideas between the Pythagorean brotherhood and early Kabbalists.

Pythagoras and Mystic Science Dr. Daniel Farhey

Pythagoras, born on the Greek island of Samos, was initiated for the first time into the "Ancient Mysteries" of the Phoenicians and studied for about 3 years in the temples of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos. From there, he navigated to Egypt, the source of the "Ancient Mysteries". On the road, he lingered for a while in the gulf of Haifa at a temple on Mount Carmel, Israel (after the destruction of the First Jewish Temple of Jerusalem).

In Egypt, he was initiated and studied for about 22 years. Apparently, he studied for another 13 years in Babylon as well, while he was captured on his way back from Egypt to Greece. In fact, the "Ancient Mysteries' Magi" specialized in "science" as it was perceived in those days, with the considerable influence of their "specialization" in paganism.

The sparse knowledge of the Magi and the surrounding society caused the secrecy and mysticism.

Pythagoras returned to Greece settled in Crotona and founded there the famous Pythagorean school of philosophy, mathematics, and natural sciences. People from different classes came to his school to hear his lectures. Among them, women, even though the law in those days forbade them to participate in public meetings.

The members of the brotherhood, called "Pythagoreans", lived in complete partnership, undertook to set up every new scientific discovery to the name of Pythagoras and swore to keep secret every new idea. Pythagoras and his friends in the brotherhood did not leave after them any manuscript, thus our knowledge on their theories comes from different sources. The Pythagoreans attributed special mystic and sacred qualities to numbers and geometric forms.

The "Sophists" (scholars) opposed to the first and original Pythagoreans, taught for pay and somehow abandoned the secrecy and mysticism. Hippocrates, a Pythagorean, was the principal combatant against the secrecy and published for the first time a book entitled "Principles".

Subsequently, a very famous school was founded in Alexandria, Egypt, under Pythagorean influence. After the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem (332 B.C.), many Jews chased from their land escaped to Egypt and became involved in the instructional material and methods of the Pythagoreans, and especially of the "Alexandrian Pythagoreans"

After the year A.D. 415, these theories did not continue to develop in Alexandria and the principal subject for research and study was theology, while the paganism passed away with the art of science. In the year A.D. 529, all the schools in Athens were closed according to an order of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, thus ending one of the most brilliant periods in the development of mathematics and science. . . . More

Disciples, and Followers were

Rabbis & Kabbalists

"Rabbis" and "Cabalists", known in history books of mathematics and science as outstanding inventors and developers.

  • Rabbi Abraham bar-Chiya אברהם בר-חייא (known in science books as Savasorda) of Barcelona, who wrote and published in Hebrew the encyclopedia entitled "Source of Intelligence and Tower of Belief" and the book entitled "Liber Embadorum" treating about geometry and arithmetic theories. His books were translated into Latin and German and used as a source for other mathematicians.
  • Rabbi Abraham ben-Ezra of Toledo אברהם אבן-עזרא published his famous mathematic books in Hebrew "Book of Unity", "Book of Number", and "Stratagem". In his books he refers to two Jewish researchers who published books in the 10th century: A judge named Hazan from an unknown source and a physicist named Yehuda ben-Rakufial.
  • Maimonides of Cordoba הרמב"ם, the reknown philosopher, physicist, astronomer, and physician, is the greatest Jewish religious author (Rabenu Moshe bar-Maimon -- RaMBaM) since Moses.

Other contributors are :

  • Johannes Hispalensis of Seville;
  • Samuel ben-Abbas;
  • an unknown English Jew who wrote a book entitled "Mathematum Rudimenta Quaedam";
  • Moses ben-Tibbon
  • Jacob ben-Machir, members of the celebrated Tibbon family of Toledo, while the latter published continuation work to Euclid and Menelaus;
  • Jehuda ben-Salomon Kohen of Toledo that developed Euclid's work;
  • Isaac ben-Sid of Toledo.
  • Rabbi Levi ben-Gerson (RaLBaG) of Catalonia, the leading Jewish mathematician of the 14th century, was but more commonly known in science books as Master Leo de Balneolis. His book "Work of the Computer" in Hebrew was translated into Latin under the title "De Numeris Harmonicis".
  • Isaac ben-Joseph Israeli, a mathematician and astronomer, wrote in Hebrew the book "Fundamentum Mundi" that was translated into Latin and German;
  • Joseph ben-Wakkar of Seville,
  • Jacob Poel of Perpignan,
  • Imanuel Bonfils,
  • Jacob Carsono of Seville,
  • Isaac Zaddik;
  • Kalonymos ben-Kalonymos of Arles, known as Master Calo, whose works include a paraphrase of Nicomachus;
  • Jacob Caphanton of Castile, a physician with his book on arithmetics;
  • Jehuda Verga,
  • Levinus Hulsius,
  • Cornelius de Judeis of Nuernberg.

At this stage, this precious scientific work was stopped by the Inquisition, who saw dealing with science as mystic and as witchcraft, and expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492.

Among the Jews who emigrated to the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan Mehmet II, the conqueror of Constantinople, appointed Rabbi Moses Kapsali as Chief Rabbi (Haham-Bashi) over all the Empire. His successor in office Elia Misrachi wrote books on mathematics which were translated into German in Basle. He seems to have been the first to treat of finding the sum of the cubes of the first n natural numbers and to claim that the fundamental arithmetic operations are three: Addition, subtraction, and division, while he includes multiplication into addition. Their study was based on a work by Rabbi Abraham ben-Ezra, Euclid, and Ptolemy.

As a conclusion, the Pythagorean brotherhood was one of the world's earliest unpriestly cooperative scientific societies, if not the first, and that its members invented the "Multiplication Table" and raised important scientific problems which were solved only 1500 years later. On the tombs of some of them, one could find carved geometric tools as quadrant, square, cubit, and level. More

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