The Greek philosopher, scientist, and religious teacher Pythagoras developed a school of thought that accepted the passage of the soul into another body and established many influential mathematical and philosophical theories.
Born on the island of Samos, off Greece, in the Mediterranean Sea, Pythagoras was the son of Mnesarchus. Little is known about his early life. After studying in Greece, he fled to southern Italy to escape the harsh rule of Polycrates (died c. 522 B.C.E. ), who came to power about 538 B.C.E. Pythagoras is said to have traveled to Egypt and Babylon during this time.
Pythagoras and his followers became politically powerful in Croton in southern Italy, where Pythagoras had established a school for his newly formed sect, or group of followers. It is probable that the Pythagoreans took positions in the local government in order to lead men to the pure life that was directed by their teachings. Eventually, however, a rival group launched an attack on the Pythagoreans at a gathering of the sect, and the group was almost completely destroyed. Pythagoras either had been forced to leave Croton or had left voluntarily shortly before this attack. He died in Metapontum early in the fifth century B.C.E.
Pythagoras and his followers were important for their contributions to both religion and science. His religious teachings were based on the doctrine (teaching) of metempsychosis, which teaches that the soul never dies and is destined to a cycle of rebirths until it is able to free itself from the cycle through the purity of its life.
Pythagoreanism differed from the other philosophical systems of its time in being not merely an intellectual search for truth but a whole way of life which would lead to salvation, or to be delivered from sin. An important part of Pythagoreanism was the relationship of all life. A universal life spirit was thought to be present in animal and vegetable life,...
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