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The Revered Greek Polymath Pythagoras: His Life, Philosophy, and Influence on Vegetarianism

Pythagoras: A Stalwart Figure in History

Pythagoras of Samos, an influential figure who existed around 580-500 BC, is revered as a pioneering philosopher, mathematician, and musician. His ideologies continue to echo throughout human civilization even centuries later. As he was primarily known for founding the religious brotherhood which advocated strict asceticism, Pythagoras also made pivotal contributions to the development of mathematics, music, and astronomy.

Pythagoras and the Foundation of Mathematics

The mathematical principles laid down by Pythagoras have left a lasting impact. His theory, popularly known as the Pythagorean theorem, continues to be a cornerstone in geometry. His theory proposed the monad, a concept that fundamentally reshaped our understanding of numbers and their significance.

Pythagoras' Ideals and The Dawn of Vegetarianism

Among the multifaceted wisdom that Pythagoras offered, his advocacies regarding dietary habits are profoundly significant. He propagated a non-violent lifestyle, promoting the avoidance of animal slaughter and consumption. His way of life, often referred to as the Pythagorean diet, was essentially an early form of vegetarianism.

The essence of Pythagorean ethics was the aspiration to formulate a universal and absolute law. These ethical guidelines encouraged non-killing of living creatures, forbidding animal sacrifice, and restraining from consuming meat. These principles evolved into a philosophical morality between 490-430 BC, marking the onset of the modern vegetarianism movement.

Philosophical Views of Pythagoras on Animal Ethics

Pythagoras' quotes, as depicted in the works of Ovid and others, capture the essence of his beliefs. His teachings emphasized the equal right to life for all beings and discouraged the consumption of animal flesh. He propagated the notion of shared souls, stating that animals, too, hold the privilege of having a soul. His teachings also carried warnings against the ruthless destruction of lower living beings. Pythagoras advocated that the consumption of meat equated to an act of murder, something that was deeply ingrained in his philosophical morality.

The Impact of Pythagorean Doctrine on Sacrifice and Diet

Through his doctrines, Pythagoras presented a radical reformation in religious sacrifices and dietary habits. He discouraged animal sacrifices to the gods and encouraged abstaining from consuming beings that had life. His teachings were a direct contradiction to the then-accepted norms, inciting a new era of dietary principles.

Moreover, Pythagoras introduced unique views on specific foods, like beans. He linked beans to the origin of life and consequently discouraged their consumption, based on unique proofs and experiments of his time.

Pythagorean Teachings on Transmigration of Souls

Pythagoras postulated that souls are immortal and that after death, they transmigrate into other bodies. This theory was not limited to humans but extended to animals as well. His perspective on the soul further established his belief in the shared spiritual connection between all living beings, thereby reinforcing his argument against animal consumption.

pythagoras2Pythagoras' Influence on Future Generations and Societies

The influence of Pythagoras extended far beyond his lifetime, transcending geographical boundaries and impacting several eras. He was revered not just as a philosopher but also as a mathematician and musician. His teachings, particularly regarding ethics, animal rights, and vegetarianism, had profound effects on societal norms. The ideals of Pythagoras are often quoted by Greek writers such as Philolaus, Ovid, Plutarch, and Iamblichus, ensuring his ideas remained deeply rooted in society even after his time.

Pythagoras' Approach to Health and Diet

Informed by his philosophical beliefs, Pythagoras adopted a simplistic and nature-based approach to diet and health. He was known to be content with humble and natural foods like honey, honeycomb, and bread, preferring to stay away from wine. His diet was predominantly plant-based, consisting of herbs, cooked or uncooked, and rarely included fish. Pythagoras' choice of a diet was not merely for sustenance but was deeply intertwined with his philosophical and ethical ideologies.

Pythagoras' Advocacy for Peace Through Dietary Choices

Pythagoras is said to have advocated for peace through abstinence from animal meat. He postulated that individuals who abstain from killing and consuming animals would naturally find it iniquitous and unnatural to harm humans or engage in war. Pythagoras viewed animals as beings connected to us through a shared life force, a bond he likened to a fraternal alliance. His principles were particularly targeted at legislators, who he believed should lead by example in advocating for justice and peace.

Conclusion: The Everlasting Impact of Pythagoras

Through his profound wisdom and forward-thinking ideologies, Pythagoras has left an indelible mark on the pages of history. His mathematical contributions, spiritual insights, ethical standards, and dietary principles have deeply influenced human civilization. The teachings of Pythagoras, particularly his advocacy for a non-violent, vegetarian lifestyle, continue to inspire and guide generations worldwide. His legacy serves as a testament to his revolutionary thinking and his unyielding commitment to harmony and peace.
The figure above illustrates the multi-faceted influences that Pythagoras' teachings have had on various aspects of human civilization, underlining his timeless relevance and enduring legacy.

pythagorian vegetarian triangles

A Final Reflection on Pythagoras' Diet in Today's Context

As we delve deep into the rich tapestry of history and philosophy surrounding Pythagoras, it's crucial to remember the context in which he lived and how our understanding of diet and animal rights has evolved since then. As an organization, the International Vegetarian Union (IVU) has consistently promoted a full vegan diet, extending beyond the avoidance of meat to include the exclusion of all animal products, including honey, honeycomb, and fish.

The historical account of Pythagoras consuming these items doesn't negate our position but rather serves to underscore the fact that philosophical ideas and dietary habits evolve in parallel with society's moral and ethical development. Pythagoras was a pioneer in advocating for a plant-based diet and harmonious living during his time. His teachings served as the bedrock of what would later become the vegetarian and vegan movements.

Given the progressive nature of Pythagorean philosophy, it's entirely plausible to assume that if Pythagoras were alive today, he would align himself with the most compassionate and ethical dietary practices of our time - veganism. His deep respect for all living beings and his desire for societal harmony would undoubtedly lead him to denounce all forms of animal exploitation, embracing a lifestyle that truly reflects his belief in universal interconnectedness.

At IVU, we champion the vegan diet as the most effective way to respect animal rights, preserve our environment, and maintain health. We believe this aligns perfectly with Pythagorean principles, serving as a contemporary interpretation of his philosophies and thus a continuation of his profound legacy.

As we continue to learn and grow as a society, let us use the wisdom of our past to guide us towards a more compassionate and sustainable future. Remember, the truest form of respect for our predecessors is not to rigidly follow their practices, but to evolve their principles in light of new understandings and insights.
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