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Just when you thought it was safe to get back on the Pythagorean list....

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  • sawmi@sharktown.com
    This (below) is a piece I wrote for another group - trying to tie Ken Wilber to Pythagorean thought. I thought I d put it up on this list to see if any of you
    Message 1 of 3 , Mar 10, 2012
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      This (below) is a piece I wrote for another group - trying to tie Ken Wilber to Pythagorean thought.  I thought I'd put it up on this list to see if any of you have any comments on, or criticism of, it. 

      Best wishes to all!
      Ol' Bill

      (COPY)
      I have to confess that The Spectrum of Consciousness is the only one of Wilber's works that I have read, and that I have not even read that "cover to cover" but only bits and pieces from time to time over the years.  So I am unequipped to specifically analyze his work in any detail.  However, I do have a general *historical perspective* on it that I'm somewhat attached to, and I'm interested in presenting it briefly to an academically inclined audience to see if anyone wants to criticise or comment on it. I tend to see Wilber as a modernizer and "legitamizer" of a very old concept, which had fallen into disrepute.  As such I applaud his efforts, but I am  personally more interested in the general concept than the details of his presentation. 

      So, fundamentally, what I am trying to do is to place Wilber's work in a Pythagorean perspective.  It seems obvious to me that this is where it belongs, but the situation is complicated by the fact that Wilber himself does not seem to agree - but then, what does he know? (:o)  In any case, he appears to find connections with essentially every major religion, and most philosophical schools of thought, but does not mention Pythagoras (c.570BC-490BC) even once - that I have found, anyway.  Not completely unexpected given that Pythagoreanism has been almost completely buried under modern religious and philosophical thought, but Pythagoras seems to me to be possibly the most influential thinker in human history.  Pythagorean thought is complex and often obscure, but his most notable innovation was that reality is best represented by numbers (mathematics) rather than words. (Just too easy to lie with words and their meanings are too mutable.) For those who are not Pythagoras freaks, Pythagoreanism was a great influence on Plato - and therefore all western philosophy - and developed through the very influential Neopythagoreanism of the 1st and 2nd century AD and later  greatly influenced Italian Renaissance (c.1300-1600) thought.  It was stripped of it's ethical and metaphysical content and became the basis for the scientific revolution in the 17th and 18th centuries.  (See http://pythagoras-divineharmony.com/pythagoras.htm  for a few more or less scholarly testimonials.)

      So how does Pythagoreanism become the basis for Wilber's "spectrum?"  The spectrum is a way of categorizing electromagnetic radiation according to it's wavelength. So blue light has a shorter wavelength than red light, and the same  scheme can also be used to categorize all the invisible forms of radiation like heat and x rays.  Well, before the spectrum concept entered western thinking, more or less with Newton's (1642-1727) experiments with light, a similar form of categorization of SOUND waves was used - the musical scale, which essentially categorizes sound waves in a similar fashion, from shorter to longer wavelengths.  In fact, Pythagoras is credited with developing the first Western musical scale, which bears his name and is still in use today, although for tuning purposes it has been largely replaced by a more modern "equally tempered scale."  The musical scale was a central part of the Pythagorean  concept of  *cosmos.* Wilber uses the term cosmos in the same way as Pythagoras did, to refer to all manifest existence, including the various realms of consciousness.  It should be emphasized that the *cosmos* concept includes both our subjective internal experience and the *objective* external world.  One can perhaps best (briefly) see how the musical scale was used to represent the cosmos in Renaissance thought in the drawings of Robert Fludd (see, for example  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musica_universalis - see "History" )

      So I would argue that Wilber represents a modern culmination of Pythagorean thought, basically replacing the older paradigm of a musical scale of wavelengths of sound with the newer paradigm of a spectrum of electromagnetic waves.  Although Wilber does not credit Pythagoras (as far as I can see), he does specifically acknowledge the *lineage* of John Lilly, who developed a version of the spectrum based on the Pythagorean-inspired speculations of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky (which are interesting, but I won't go into it here - one can also fit the kabbalistic tree of life into Lilly's framework with a little pushing and squeezing....)   In the link below, Lilly uses rather obscure Gurdjieffian nomenclature, but each *level* represents a (nominal) octave or doubling of frequency. http://www.whale.to/b/states.html 

    • Larry Rafey
      From: sawmi@sharktown.com Sent: Saturday, March 10, 2012 12:28 PM To: Pythagorean-L@yahoogroups.com Subject: [Pythagorean-L] Just when you thought it was safe
      Message 2 of 3 , Mar 11, 2012
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        From: sawmi@...
        Sent: Saturday, March 10, 2012 12:28 PM
        Subject: [Pythagorean-L] Just when you thought it was safe to get back on the Pythagorean list....

         

        This (below) is a piece I wrote for another group - trying to tie Ken Wilber to Pythagorean thought.  I thought I'd put it up on this list to see if any of you have any comments on, or criticism of, it. 

        Best wishes to all!
        Ol' Bill

        (COPY)
        I have to confess that The Spectrum of Consciousness is the only one of Wilber's works that I have read, and that I have not even read that "cover to cover" but only bits and pieces from time to time over the years.  So I am unequipped to specifically analyze his work in any detail.  However, I do have a general *historical perspective* on it that I'm somewhat attached to, and I'm interested in presenting it briefly to an academically inclined audience to see if anyone wants to criticise or comment on it. I tend to see Wilber as a modernizer and "legitamizer" of a very old concept, which had fallen into disrepute.  As such I applaud his efforts, but I am  personally more interested in the general concept than the details of his presentation. 

        So, fundamentally, what I am trying to do is to place Wilber's work in a Pythagorean perspective.  It seems obvious to me that this is where it belongs, but the situation is complicated by the fact that Wilber himself does not seem to agree - but then, what does he know? (:o)  In any case, he appears to find connections with essentially every major religion, and most philosophical schools of thought, but does not mention Pythagoras (c.570BC-490BC) even once - that I have found, anyway.  Not completely unexpected given that Pythagoreanism has been almost completely buried under modern religious and philosophical thought, but Pythagoras seems to me to be possibly the most influential thinker in human history.  Pythagorean thought is complex and often obscure, but his most notable innovation was that reality is best represented by numbers (mathematics) rather than words. (Just too easy to lie with words and their meanings are too mutable.) For those who are not Pythagoras freaks, Pythagoreanism was a great influence on Plato - and therefore all western philosophy - and developed through the very influential Neopythagoreanism of the 1st and 2nd century AD and later  greatly influenced Italian Renaissance (c.1300-1600) thought.  It was stripped of it's ethical and metaphysical content and became the basis for the scientific revolution in the 17th and 18th centuries.  (See http://pythagoras-divineharmony.com/pythagoras.htm  for a few more or less scholarly testimonials.)

        So how does Pythagoreanism become the basis for Wilber's "spectrum?"  The spectrum is a way of categorizing electromagnetic radiation according to it's wavelength. So blue light has a shorter wavelength than red light, and the same  scheme can also be used to categorize all the invisible forms of radiation like heat and x rays.  Well, before the spectrum concept entered western thinking, more or less with Newton's (1642-1727) experiments with light, a similar form of categorization of SOUND waves was used - the musical scale, which essentially categorizes sound waves in a similar fashion, from shorter to longer wavelengths.  In fact, Pythagoras is credited with developing the first Western musical scale, which bears his name and is still in use today, although for tuning purposes it has been largely replaced by a more modern "equally tempered scale."  The musical scale was a central part of the Pythagorean  concept of  *cosmos.* Wilber uses the term cosmos in the same way as Pythagoras did, to refer to all manifest existence, including the various realms of consciousness.  It should be emphasized that the *cosmos* concept includes both our subjective internal experience and the *objective* external world.  One can perhaps best (briefly) see how the musical scale was used to represent the cosmos in Renaissance thought in the drawings of Robert Fludd (see, for example  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musica_universalis - see "History" )

        So I would argue that Wilber represents a modern culmination of Pythagorean thought, basically replacing the older paradigm of a musical scale of wavelengths of sound with the newer paradigm of a spectrum of electromagnetic waves.  Although Wilber does not credit Pythagoras (as far as I can see), he does specifically acknowledge the *lineage* of John Lilly, who developed a version of the spectrum based on the Pythagorean-inspired speculations of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky (which are interesting, but I won't go into it here - one can also fit the kabbalistic tree of life into Lilly's framework with a little pushing and squeezing....)   In the link below, Lilly uses rather obscure Gurdjieffian nomenclature, but each *level* represents a (nominal) octave or doubling of frequency. http://www.whale.to/b/states.html 

      • Larry Rafey
        Pythagoras broke with Ionic tradition by redefining what was meant by Primary Matter. Prior definitions had been essentially circular in nature (i.e.,
        Message 3 of 3 , Mar 11, 2012
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            Pythagoras broke with Ionic tradition by redefining what was meant by ‘Primary Matter.’ Prior definitions had been essentially circular in nature (i.e., Primary Matter is matter that is … well … primary … er … earth, wind, fire, etc.). or… what ever occupied space and was homogenous and undifferentiated.

            But then, there we are, you see. The dilemma presented itself over and over. The entire premise failed on its inability to distinguish matter even from the space it occupies. The argument becomes one of reduction ad absurdum. In other words, each step in the argument leads down the inevitable path to the ultimate query: what is it that distinguishes on thing from another? What makes a tree different from a cat and similar questions arise and, for that matter, what explained similarities.

            In short, Pythagoras suggested that qualitative differences in nature derived from differences in geometrical structure (he was a dedicated student of what was considered Physics at the time as well as of Geometry and its concepts of formal relationships, so this conceptual leap was not out of the question, strangely, any connection between the  two fields … Physics and Mathematics…had not as yet materialized … that’s seems pretty weird to us!). But Pythagoras managed to accomplish the unification in one great leap of consciousness. There was the lock and there was the key, but no one had ever thought of putting them together. What do you think about that? The reason was that their kind of Physics represented unintelligible abstract manifestations of undefined ideas. This is where science (our concept of Science) arrives in terms of its character for defining all concepts such that they may fit together in proper order. Without the science, there can be no contiguous imagery of the Cosmos as such. Science is not so much rational as it is decisive. The definitions not only define what it is but what it is NOT. That is, it cannot be vague or generalized or clear and certain knowledge could never be attained; nothing in terms of constructive advances would ever be accomplished.

             Geometrical form that point became the basis of all things cosmic (in the sense as Sawmi has described). Let’s face it, geometrical form is about as immaterial as it gets…quite abstract, so it can’t get more primitive (or primary) than that and yet successfully manages to explain the whole affair, including the behavior of different forms of matter.

            The wonderful essence of all this lay in the fact that all such formal relationships, infinite as they are in their variety, are just that … relationships, each once capable of being derived from another. Reduced to algebraic form, they attained even greater power to connect the dots, so to speak, in our ability to discern an emerging image of the cosmos (a work still in progress).

            In terms of Plato’s rather mystical interpretation of this infinite hierarchy of forms, the ultimate form being not mathematical but rather Devine (i.e., Goodness), Aristotle pointed out that, being infinitely diverse, mathematical forms may very well eventually achieve a non-mathematical (i.e., Divine) form, thereby justifying Plato as a “Pythagorean.” Plato’s idea that perceptible things were not ‘as real’ as imperceptible things derives from the common observation that all things perceptible are subject to change and that one will never discover a true circle in nature and that straight lines don’t actually exist, etc. Pythagoras also emphasized that forms is essence and is immaterial but that a plurality of form is, in fact material and perceptible.

            This basic argument boils down to what Science is all about: the idea of eliminating that which is deceptive. For example, the Sun appears invariably to be a part of the surrounding landscape. We now know it to be, in fact, nearly 100 million miles away. These illusions and transitions that tend to be a driving force for our imaginations are not part of the consideration of Science. That doesn’t necessarily make them false or problematic. They are an essential part of the Human consciousness and actually are part of the force of what drives a scientist or mathematician to do what they do. It is a myth that Scientists do not appreciate the figurative and imaginative. I think Einstein was a perfect example of this. I think it is a shame that the converse is not true; that artists and the like are so antagonistic toward Science and the Maths. There is no contradiction between reason and faith or reason and art. They are symmetrical in that it is virtually impossible to distinguish them in any true sense of the word (a paradox, so to speak). And that is the basis of the timeless dilemma that we witness throughout our modern history; two or more sides attempting to defend the indefensible; like saying that heads and tails are necessarily separable objects, distinguishable in that they are on opposite sides (but of the same coin!). Again, Time is partially translated into Space (and vice versa) almost unconsciously and yet we still have a hard time consciously perceiving the relation.

            Concerning Ken Wilber: he doesn’t seem to be saying anything different than De Chardin or Whitehead and others of their ilk but he is a lot messier in the way he states his message. Like Sawmi, I have a hard time digesting him. I tend to agree with his general concept but have no taste for the overwhelming details that he uses to support it. I don’t think there is any question that spirituality represents an emergent form of being (and perhaps there is more to come … or perhaps we will replace ourselves with nano-forms, who knows) but that does not negate all that came before as all that is integrated into the whole and is part and parcel of whole, along with the spiritual. It is the intellectualization of the spiritual that inevitably gets us into trouble (that we like to call ‘religion’).


          From: sawmi@...
          Sent: Saturday, March 10, 2012 12:28 PM
          Subject: [Pythagorean-L] Just when you thought it was safe to get back on the Pythagorean list....

           

          This (below) is a piece I wrote for another group - trying to tie Ken Wilber to Pythagorean thought.  I thought I'd put it up on this list to see if any of you have any comments on, or criticism of, it. 

          Best wishes to all!
          Ol' Bill

          (COPY)
          I have to confess that The Spectrum of Consciousness is the only one of Wilber's works that I have read, and that I have not even read that "cover to cover" but only bits and pieces from time to time over the years.  So I am unequipped to specifically analyze his work in any detail.  However, I do have a general *historical perspective* on it that I'm somewhat attached to, and I'm interested in presenting it briefly to an academically inclined audience to see if anyone wants to criticise or comment on it. I tend to see Wilber as a modernizer and "legitamizer" of a very old concept, which had fallen into disrepute.  As such I applaud his efforts, but I am  personally more interested in the general concept than the details of his presentation. 

          So, fundamentally, what I am trying to do is to place Wilber's work in a Pythagorean perspective.  It seems obvious to me that this is where it belongs, but the situation is complicated by the fact that Wilber himself does not seem to agree - but then, what does he know? (:o)  In any case, he appears to find connections with essentially every major religion, and most philosophical schools of thought, but does not mention Pythagoras (c.570BC-490BC) even once - that I have found, anyway.  Not completely unexpected given that Pythagoreanism has been almost completely buried under modern religious and philosophical thought, but Pythagoras seems to me to be possibly the most influential thinker in human history.  Pythagorean thought is complex and often obscure, but his most notable innovation was that reality is best represented by numbers (mathematics) rather than words. (Just too easy to lie with words and their meanings are too mutable.) For those who are not Pythagoras freaks, Pythagoreanism was a great influence on Plato - and therefore all western philosophy - and developed through the very influential Neopythagoreanism of the 1st and 2nd century AD and later  greatly influenced Italian Renaissance (c.1300-1600) thought.  It was stripped of it's ethical and metaphysical content and became the basis for the scientific revolution in the 17th and 18th centuries.  (See http://pythagoras-divineharmony.com/pythagoras.htm  for a few more or less scholarly testimonials.)

          So how does Pythagoreanism become the basis for Wilber's "spectrum?"  The spectrum is a way of categorizing electromagnetic radiation according to it's wavelength. So blue light has a shorter wavelength than red light, and the same  scheme can also be used to categorize all the invisible forms of radiation like heat and x rays.  Well, before the spectrum concept entered western thinking, more or less with Newton's (1642-1727) experiments with light, a similar form of categorization of SOUND waves was used - the musical scale, which essentially categorizes sound waves in a similar fashion, from shorter to longer wavelengths.  In fact, Pythagoras is credited with developing the first Western musical scale, which bears his name and is still in use today, although for tuning purposes it has been largely replaced by a more modern "equally tempered scale."  The musical scale was a central part of the Pythagorean  concept of  *cosmos.* Wilber uses the term cosmos in the same way as Pythagoras did, to refer to all manifest existence, including the various realms of consciousness.  It should be emphasized that the *cosmos* concept includes both our subjective internal experience and the *objective* external world.  One can perhaps best (briefly) see how the musical scale was used to represent the cosmos in Renaissance thought in the drawings of Robert Fludd (see, for example  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musica_universalis - see "History" )

          So I would argue that Wilber represents a modern culmination of Pythagorean thought, basically replacing the older paradigm of a musical scale of wavelengths of sound with the newer paradigm of a spectrum of electromagnetic waves.  Although Wilber does not credit Pythagoras (as far as I can see), he does specifically acknowledge the *lineage* of John Lilly, who developed a version of the spectrum based on the Pythagorean-inspired speculations of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky (which are interesting, but I won't go into it here - one can also fit the kabbalistic tree of life into Lilly's framework with a little pushing and squeezing....)   In the link below, Lilly uses rather obscure Gurdjieffian nomenclature, but each *level* represents a (nominal) octave or doubling of frequency. http://www.whale.to/b/states.html 

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