Pythagoras and String Theory: Old Wisdom Validated by New Science
Can Pythagorean Philosophy Help You to Live a Better Life?
Posted June 13, 2011
Philosopher Bertrand Russell believed that the way we understand our world fundamentally shapes the way that we live our lives. Thus, an anarchist lives a very different sort of life than, say, an Orthodox Jew; an eco-warrior marches to a different drummer than a Wall-Street Master of the Universe. I think we all get that.
But what if we bought into the cosmogony of the new high priests of science, the theoretical physicists, and embraced a worldview informed by a belief that the universe is composed of infinitesimally small little vibrating filaments? How would that affect how we live our lives?
Well, what some people might find interesting is that there was an ahead-of-his-time mathematician who actively promoted a way of living that he felt could put a person into harmony with a universe that he too believed was vibrating and harmonic. Say hello to Pythagoras, ancient mathematician, musician, philosopher, mystic and, yes, the first string theorist. Sorry Brian Greene and Michio Kaku, but an old toga-wearing Greek came up with a vibrating universe over 2,500 years ago.
According to physicist Brian Greene, author of The Fabric of the Cosmos (2004) and considered one of the founders of string theory: "According to superstring theory, every particle is composed of a tiny filament of energy...which is shaped like a little string. And just as a violin string can vibrate in different patterns, each of which produces different musical tone, the filaments of superstring theory can also vibrate in different patterns."
Yet this vibrating violin-string universe of string theory is also the vibrating and harmonic universe that Pythagoras described in a cosmogony that has come to be known as "The Music of the Spheres" wherein the entire universe was vibrating like a huge musical instrument.
Further, Pythagoras understood the fundamental and sometimes subtle relationship between music and mathematics. Indeed, he believed that the language of the universe was mathematics--the transcendent set of principles that could explain the relationship and structure of the innermost workings of the universe. Pythagoras believed that this fundamental level of reality couldn't be seen by the human eye, but it was accessible to the human mind and intelligible to the human intellect via the transcendent principles of mathematics.
Thus mathematics not only made the universe tick, but also was-is-the language of God. In that sense, math is the operating software of cosmic existence.
In keeping with these musical/mathematical aspects of the universe, a key construct of Pythagorean philosophy was maintaining personal harmony. In my book, How Plato and Pythagoras Can Save Your Life (Conari, 2011), I describe the Bios Pythagorikos (The Pythagorean Way of Life), whereby a person endeavored to "tune" themselves in order to be in harmonic alignment with the larger universal harmony via a healthy mind, body and spirit that are nurtured by rigorous physical exercise, a healthy diet, daily meditational walks, as well as deep contemplative meditations on math, music, cosmology and philosophy.
Once a person was well-tuned and in vibrational alignment, they could then self-actualize and become fully engaged human beings. The mystic Pythagoras even believed that such a well-tuned person could raise their level of consciousness and awareness and thus be able to "peek behind the veil" and experience what some have called "ultimate reality". For those not metaphysically inclined, then the promise of eating right, living right and thinking right is one of a better life. Either way, the outcome doesn't seem so bad.