Freemasonry and Pythagoras

Freemasonry and Pythagoras are two seemingly distinct concepts, with their roots in different periods and sectors of human history.

The former is a secretive fraternal organization, while the latter refers to an ancient philosopher and mathematician. Despite these differences, Freemasonry has drawn on numerous philosophical traditions, including the ideas of Pythagoras.

This article will analyse the influence of Pythagorean thought on Freemasonry and its rituals, symbols, principles, and philosophies.

Before exploring the relationship between Freemasonry and Pythagoras, it is important to understand the historical contexts in which they emerged. Pythagoras of Samos was an ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician who lived around the 6th century BCE.

He is best known for the Pythagorean theorem, which deals with the relationship between the sides of a right-angled triangle.

Pythagoras also founded a philosophical school that espoused a mystical belief in the power of numbers and geometry.

On the other hand, Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that emerged in its modern form in the 17th and 18th centuries CE. Its origins lie in the medieval stonemasonry guilds and it incorporates symbolism and rituals inspired by various historical and philosophical traditions.

Freemasonry employs allegory and symbolism to convey moral and ethical teachings, much of which are based on elements of ancient philosophy, including Pythagorean ideas.

One of the most notable connections between Freemasonry and Pythagoras is their shared emphasis on the importance of geometry. Pythagoras and his followers considered geometry to be a sacred science that revealed the fundamental order and harmony of the universe.

They believed that understanding geometric relationships could enhance a person’s understanding of broader philosophical and metaphysical concepts.

Similarly, Freemasonry places great importance on geometry, deeming it a sacred tool for uncovering moral and ethical truths.

The study of geometry in Freemasonry is used as a metaphor for the order and harmony that exists in the universe. The organization employs geometric symbols, such as the square and compass, to represent the need for balance and proportion in one’s life.

Another significant connection between Freemasonry and Pythagoras is the use of the Tetractys symbol. The Tetractys is a triangular figure composed of ten points arranged in four rows and was highly significant to Pythagorean philosophy.

It symbolized the perfect harmony of numbers and represented the divine structure of creation.

Freemasonry has adopted the Tetractys as a symbol of divine order and the interconnectedness of all things. This symbol represents the journey of Masonic initiates from ignorance to enlightenment, as they ascend through the levels of knowledge and become more aware of their spiritual nature.

Both Freemasonry and Pythagoras believe in the importance of living a life of harmony and balance. For Pythagorean philosophy, this entails the pursuit of balance between the opposing forces of the universe, as well as the harmony of the soul.

In Freemasonry, the square and compass symbolize this harmony and balance, reminding initiates to live a life that is both morally upright and well-proportioned.

Numerology, the study of the mystical and symbolic significance of numbers, plays a central role in both Pythagorean philosophy and Freemasonry. For Pythagoras, numbers possessed inherent qualities and meanings that could be used to explain natural phenomena and human behaviour.

This belief in the significance of numbers was deeply embedded in Pythagorean thought and influenced later esoteric traditions.

Freemasonry also incorporates numerology within its system of beliefs, most prominently through the use of the numbers three, five, and seven. These numbers represent important Masonic principles and serve as symbolic reminders for the organization’s teachings.

The number three features prominently in Freemasonry’s degree system, with initiates passing through three stages: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. The organization also operates in groups of three, emphasizing the importance of unity and stability within the brotherhood.

The number five represents humanity’s five senses, a key aspect of the Masonic initiation process. It also has ties to the five-pointed star, which symbolizes the balance of the spiritual and material aspects of human existence.

The number seven holds special significance within Freemasonry, as it represents the seven liberal arts and sciences: grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

These disciplines embody the essential aspects of human knowledge, and their mastery forms the basis of a well-rounded and enlightened individual.

A key theme running through both Pythagorean philosophy and Freemasonry is the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. Pythagoras believed that the study of mathematics, geometry, and other forms of knowledge could bring one closer to understanding the nature of the universe and the divine.

Freemasonry also encourages intellectual curiosity and personal growth, urging its members to engage in lifelong learning and continually seek enlightenment. The organization’s teachings emphasize the importance of understanding oneself, others, and the world, reflecting the intellectual aspirations of Pythagorean philosophy.

Freemasonry and Pythagoras might not share a direct historical connection, but they do share a conceptual influence. Both place importance on geometry, numerology, harmony, and the pursuit of knowledge.

Freemasonry has incorporated elements of Pythagorean thought, contributing to its rich tapestry of symbols, rituals, and teachings. This relationship between Freemasonry and Pythagorean ideas offers a fascinating insight into the way that philosophical concepts travel across time and space, continually shaping and influencing human endeavours.

Article by: Maarten Moss

Maarten Moss writes regularly as a guest author




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