Chapter sixteen in Global Brain
by Howard Bloom
. 1st ed. Copyright 2000, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
"All the world is queer save me and thee, and even thou art a little queer."
--Attributed to a Quaker, speaking to his wife.
Tribal society doesn't leave a lot of room for sensitive navel-gazers. There's too much work to be done, and if you don't work the system finds ways to marginalize you. A few tribes allowed for berdaches, "a man-woman who dresses like a female, and becomes a wife," (151) but if that doesn't appeal, you end up SOL.
Thankfully, the rise of civilization gave those of us who want to freak the mundanes a chance to strut our collective stuff. "What the folks you'd grown up with had called weirdness could be your pass card to a brotherhood of strangers who shared your 'insane' sensibilities" (152). Look to Athens, which spawned the Sophists, the Cynics, and so forth. In modern times this is why jocks flock, why goths group, and why ne'er the twain shall meet.
This chapter makes a case study out of Pythagoras, probably most famous for his theorem about triangles, but also a musician, and the founder of a religious mystery cult that was a serious contender for a place in mainstream religion before the newly dominant Christianity, aided by proto-democrats who weren't too keen on the strict hierarchy he preached, stomped it flat. Still, Pythagoras is said to have "liberated" Croton, Sybaris, Catanes, Rhegium, Himaera, Agrigentum, and Tauromenas before this happened.
Pythagoras was what we call a Faustian introvert: his inner drives caused him "to take off on odysseys, occasionally returning with fresh visions . . . They dive eagerly into theory, penetrating the surface to root out the cause and effect. They also have flair for left-field solutions to problems that leave more conventional types perplexed. And they tend to think with both mind and emotionality" (156-157).
Pythagoras journeyed around Egypt, Persia, Arabia, and perhaps as far as India before returning home to Samos at the age of 56, where, according to the Syrian philosopher Iamblichus, he "fashioned a cave . . . in which he spent the greater part of the day and night, ever busied with scientific research, and meditating" until he had "unfolded a complete science of celestial orbs, founding it on arithmetical and geometric demonstrations" (159). Sadly, none of the Samians would listen, so Pythagoras took up the life of the guru in the colony of Croton, where he quickly amassed 600 disciples on top of 2000 general devotees. The philosophies of Pythagoras' cult (creatively dubbed Pythagorianism by modern researchers) have been called "weird," "occultist," "irrational," and even "crack-brained" by normally reserved historians.
Saint Augustine summed Pythaogras thusly: "Wisdom consists in action and contemplation . . . Socrates is said to have excelled in the active part while Pythagoras gave more attention to the contemplative part."
Back to chapter 15: The Pluralism Hypothesis: Athens' Underside
On to chapter 17: Swiveling Eyes and Pivoting Minds: The Pull of Influence Attractors
Up to the Index.