Greek Sages Before Plato In the Light of Mystery Wisdom-Comments
"Heraclitus'... saying, “Everything is in a state of flux,”.... Plutarch interprets in the following words: “It
is impossible to step twice in the same river nor is it possible to lay hold twice of any mortal substance in a permanent state...” The man who thinks in this way has seen through the nature of transitory things.... Such a characterization cannot be made unless the transitory is measured against the eternal."
*******Here we see the difference between the relative and the absolute, between the changing world of everyday life and the eternal we can come to experience through mystical knowing.
Steiner on Pythagoras: " Another form of world-conception, different from that of Heraclitus, grew from the same foundation in the essence of the Mysteries, within a community founded by Pythagoras in lower Italy in the sixth century before Christ. The Pythagoreans saw the foundation of things in numbers and figures, whose laws they investigated mathematically. Aristotle says of them, “They were the first to advance the study of mathematics, and having been brought up in it they thought its principles were the principles of all things. Since of these principles numbers are by nature the first, and in numbers they seemed to see many resemblances to the things that exist and come into being — more than in fire and earth and water, such and such a modification of numbers being justice, another being soul and reason, another being opportunity — and similarly almost all other things being numerically expressible; since, again, they saw that the attributes and ratios of numerical scales were expressible in numbers; since, then, all other things seemed in their whole nature to be modeled after numbers, and numbers seemed to be the first things in the whole of nature, they supposed the demands of numbers to be the elements of all things, and the whole heaven to be a musical scale and a number.”
The mathematical-scientific observation of natural phenomena must always lead to a kind of Pythagorean conception. If a string of definite length is struck, a certain tone is sent forth. If the string is shortened in definite numerical relationships, other tones come into being. The pitch of these tones can be expressed by numerical relationships. In physics color relationships also are expressed by numbers. When two bodies combine to form one substance this always occurs in such a way that of one substance one quite definite mass, expressible by number, combines with an appropriate one of the other substance. The Pythagoreans directed their observation upon such arrangements of measure and number in nature. Geometric figures also play a similar part in nature. For instance, astronomy is mathematics applied to the heavenly bodies. The point which became important to the thinking life of the Pythagoreans is the fact that man discovers the laws of numbers and figures entirely by himself, through his spiritual activity alone, and that when he looks out into nature the objects follow these laws he has established for himself in his soul. Man formulates for himself the concept of the ellipse; he establishes the laws of the ellipse. And the heavenly bodies move according to the laws he has established. (Of course we are not concerned here with the astronomical conceptions of the Pythagoreans. What could be said of them also applies to the Copernican conceptions in the connection under consideration here.) From this it follows immediately that the functions of the human soul are not a force apart from the rest of the cosmos, but that these functions are the expression of a law-abiding pattern which is interwoven with the cosmos. The Pythagorean said to himself: The senses show material phenomena to man. But they do not show the harmonious patterns which the objects obey. Rather, the spirit of man must first find these harmonious patterns within himself if he wishes to behold them outside in the cosmos. The deeper sense of the cosmos, that which reigns in it as eternal law-abiding necessity, becomes apparent as a present reality in the human soul. In the soul the meaning of the cosmos dawns. This meaning does not lie in what is seen, heard and touched, but in what the soul brings forth from its deep recesses into the light of day. The eternal pattern therefore lies hidden in the depths of the soul. Let us descend into the soul, and we shall find the eternal. God, the eternal cosmic harmony, is within the human soul. The soul is not confined to the physical body enclosed by man's skin. For in the soul are born the patterns according to which the worlds circle in space. The soul is not in the personality. The personality merely provides the organ through which what is interwoven with the cosmos can be expressed.... The more a man brought this eternal into existence within himself the higher they valued him. The life of their community consisted in fostering this communion with the eternal. In order to lead the members of the community to such communion, the Pythagorean education was established. This education, therefore, was a philosophical initiation. And the Pythagoreans could very well say that by their mode of life they strove toward the same goal as the Mystery cults."
******And here is the spiritual basis of education to the Greeks: pure thinking, as in mathematics and geometry, is produced just as much by the spirit of Man as is the source of mystical knowing. Developing the eternal in the soul through this objective, pure knowledge was a form of initiation, "a philosophical initiation", as Steiner puts it.