Views of the Pythagoreans on Theology and Philosophy of ReligionJune 27, 2021
Pythagoras (570-500 BC) and his students had developed two separate views on the human soul, on the one hand philosophical and on the other hand theological. In other words, Pythagoras advocated the belief in transmigration with the immortality of the human soul.
In fact, these beliefs or teachings are by no means original, and most likely derived or borrowed from a non-Greek source. As a matter of fact, Herodotus points out that the idea of transmigration is not his original view, but an idea taken from outside. The homeland of the idea of transmigration is India. As for the immortality of the soul or the idea of life after death, it is also found in the Egyptians, Cretans, and Mycenaean civilization.
The Pythagorean’s belief in transmigration, which deeply affected Plato, is, first of all, based on a dualist human view. Accordingly, man is a composite being and consists of two different components, one being the soul and the other being the body. Of these, the soul is the basic, essential or essential component and constitutes the true essence of man. Therefore, where the body disappears, the true reality, the soul, does not fly away; it is immortal and has an independent existence from the body. According to the Pythagorean view, whose dualisms are radical and that therefore the happiness of man should be sought in the soul, its relationship with the body corrupts and pollutes the soul’s essence. Depending on its relationship with the body, the good or bad deeds it has done in this world, the soul remains in a birth wheel until it reaches absolute immortality and ascends to the divine realm, and after the death of man, it migrates to the bodies of beings higher or lower than itself in terms of value.
The doctrine of the immortality of the soul and transmigration is based, secondly, on the doctrine of the unity of nature, the homogeneity of being, and the kinship of all beings. According to the aforementioned teaching of the Pythagoreans, which defines psukhe as the source of vitality in man, the human soul is the soul, it is breath; in the same way, the world is a living, eternal and divine being and owes its existence to the eternal air that surrounds it. If man lives as long as he breathes and breathes, proving that his soul is the soul, the conclusion to be drawn from this is that there must be a very close relationship, a kinship relationship between man and the universe, microcosm and macrocosm.
The doctrine that all life is homogeneous, with the Pythagoreans, not only binds humans to animals in true kinship, but teaches them that their most precious part, their essential nature, is identical with something higher. This situation gives a purpose to human life: to develop the soul unlimitedly, to minimize the prison sentence called the body in every way, and to unite with the universal soul, of which the individual soul is an essential part. According to the Pythagorean point of view, as long as the soul is in the wheel of birth, that is, after the death of the body, it is forced to enter the body of another human or animal, it is devoid of purity as a reality that remains unpurified and remains attached to matter and unreality. He needs to get rid of the body completely by living the real life, the true type of life that befits human beings, and unite with the eternal, universal and divine spirit of which he is a part, by stepping out of the wheel of birth.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook, “History of Philosophy” Ahmet Cevizci