Jesus & the Pythagoreans
The Christianity proclaimed by the English Folk Church is not an off shoot of Judaism. Our Christianity is one that reaches back to the ancient Aryan religions of the pre-biblical world, especially to our native north western Europe.
The original religion of the Israelites also grew out of these ancient religions, only becoming known as Judaism after the return from the Babylonian captivity. Jesus preached the older religion of Israel rather than the ‘tradition of men’ that had grown out of it, practiced especially by the Pharisees - the forerunners to modern Rabbinical Judaism. Our Christianity is therefore rooted in the ancient Aryan religion, the religion preached by Jesus Christ.
But where, you might ask, do we get these strange ideas?
In his book, ‘Jerusalem: the Emanation of the Giant Albion’ (not to be confused with the famous hymn), William Blake states that “All things Begin and End in Albion’s Ancient Druid Rocky Shore” and he asks the question, “was Britain the Primitive Seat of the Patriarchal Religion?” He went further, claiming that Abraham, Heber, Shem and Noah were all Druids! And if Britain were the seat of the ancient Patriarchal Religion, Jesus had come to Britain to return to the land of His forebears’ religion. “And did those feet…”
But was this just fanciful thinking of Blake’s part?
The association of Druidry with the ancient Patriarchal religion was quite widespread, especially amongst the Celtic Romanticists of the 18th and 19th century, including Blake himself. Some of this work was based on the work of Iolo Morganwg – work that many scholars now consider discredited.
But others take a different view. Similarities between Druid and ancient Hebrew worship have been commented on by archaeologists. Sir Norman Lockyear states, “I confess I am amazed at the similarities we have come across” (Stonehenge and other British Monuments)”. Edward Davies states, “I must confess I have not been the first in representing the Druidical as having some connection with the patriarchal religion” (Mythology and Rites of the British Druids as ascertained from national documents). The antiquarian, William Stukeley also writes, “I plainly discerned the religion professed by the ancient Britons was the simple patriarchal religion” (Religions of Ancient Britain)”.
Several classical Greek writers, including Alexander Polyhistor (c105 BC), Dio Chrysostom, Hippolytus, Clement, Cyril and Diogenes Laertius liken the Druids to the Persian Magi, the Priests of Egypt, the Brahmins of India and the Pythagoreans of Classical Philosophy. For instance, Hippolytus, writes in AD 200, “The Druids amongst the Celts having profoundly examined the Pythagorean philosophy.”
Polyhistor writes in ‘On the Pythagorean Symbols’, “Pythagoras was a pupil of Nazaratus the Assyrian … and in addition he was a hearer of the Galatae (Gauls) and the Brahmins.” Clement of Alexandria makes a similar point, though he may simply be repeating it. Julius Caesar tells us that the Druid religion began in Britain and spread from there into Gaul.
The Druids were not ‘witch doctors’ or ‘medicine men’, but highly skilled orators, philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, poets, priests, judges and doctors – all rolled into one. Their training could take up to 20 years and there were many Druid colleges around the country. Druid priests followed a particularly exacting training programme and were required to pass three separate exams in successive years. Degrees were conferred after three, six and nine years of learning – literally the ‘Three Degrees’. These disciplines were characteristic of the early Greek philosophers, such as the Pythagoreans and those who followed, such as the Stoics and Platonists.
According to Caesar, writing in AD 54, “the Druids make the immortality of the soul the basis of all their teaching, holding it to be the principal incentive and reason for a virtuous life” (De Bell. Gal. Lib. VI, chpt XIII). Indeed, they believed in transmigration of the soul, a position also central to Pythagorean tradition.
But evidence is mounting that not only did the ancient Britons hold religious beliefs similar to other ancient religions, but that theirs was the older. Indeed, it may go back even further than the Druids to proto-Celtic culture. Modern scholars such as Beresford Ellis and Euan Mackie support a continuum of culture from the Neolithic Stoneage into Druidical times.
In 1967, the archaeologist, Patrick Crampton, in his ‘Stonehenge of the Kings’, demonstrated from excavations at locations such as Clickhimin, that the ancient Britons were able to construct sophisticated buildings long before the Romans conquered the country.
Alexander Thom was a Professor of Engineering at Oxford University between 1945 and 1961. But he is best known for his surveys of Megalithic sites throughout Britain, which he started in 1931. Sailing up the west coast of Scotland, he noticed that the famous stones at Callanish were aligned due north. This was a particularly difficult feat in those times as the Pole Star was not aligned as it is now. This discovery led to thirty years of field work at more than three hundred sites. His first book, ‘Megalithic Sites in Britain’, was published in 1967. In this, he put forward the theory that some of the stone circles he had recorded were not round shaped, but elliptical or egg shaped. These, he claimed were constructed by means of Pythagorean triangles; right angled triangles in which all the sides were whole numbers. He also claimed to have discovered the unit of measurement which had been used to construct the circles. These were units of 2.72 feet which he called the Megalithic Yard and 6.8 feet (2 ½ Megalithic yards) which he called the Megalithic Rod. He writes, “It is remarkable that 1000 years before the first mathematicians of classical Greece, people in these islands were capable of setting out elaborate geometrical designs but could also set out ellipses based on Pythagorean triangles”.
Thom’s theories were, perhaps unsurprisingly, treated with derision by most archaeologists, but this seemed to be mainly based on a refusal to believe that so called barbarians were capable of such a feat rather than any objective critique of his research. However, some of these same critics, slowly came to accept that Thom’s thesis, though counter intuitive, was evidentially plausible.
One of the difficulties of Thom’s work is that it is highly mathematical and not presented in a form that archaeologists can easily relate to. When his work has been assessed from a mathematical perspective, rather than an archaeological one, conclusions have been much more positive. For instance, Professor Douglas Heggie in ‘Megalithic Science’ admits that he “found satisfactory evidence for something like” Thom’s megalithic units of length. He also gives qualified support for their geometry and orientation being based astronomically. Though cautious, Heggie goes on to ask the big question; ‘why were the Megaliths built’. And he finds himself attracted to Mackie’s ideas that Neolithic Britain, at least the elite of that society, was far more sophisticated than we have ever supposed. Mackie goes on to cite evidence from the measurements of the Iron Age brochs in Scotland to hammer home his case for a 2000 year continuity of astronomer-priests and wise men.
There is still much debate over Thom’s work. But there is a strong and growing body of opinion that, however much his views undermine received wisdom about ancient British society, they are tenable. A proto-Druid tradition pre-dated the Pythagoreans by 2000 years! Thom’s work provides evidence to support the classical writers that Pythagoreanism – or something akin to it - can be traced back through the Druids to the astronomer-priests or wise men who built the ancient stone circles. This tradition goes back more than 3000 years, strongly suggesting that Britain and North Western Europe were actually home to the ‘parent’ faith that developed not just into Druidry but also Pythagorean and other classical philosophy and maybe also to the religion of the ancient Egyptians, Persians and the Hebraic religion of the Israelites. In this sense, Mackie has provided evidence to support Blake’s assertion that the Patriarchal religion of ancient Israel is actually descended from the Druids.
If a connection between the original Israelite religion, Jesus and his teachings can be identified, a strong case can be made that the ancient faith of Israel that Jesus sought to restore was actually based on a much older tradition that was rooted right here in the British Isles.
Main Beliefs of the Pythagoreans
This section is not intended to be a detailed exposition of Pythagorean beliefs, but concentrates on those which have helped shape Christian doctrine. The intent is to show that core elements of Christianity do not stem directly from Judaism but from classical philosophy – or rather as the above section demonstrates something even older than that from which classical philosophy was derived.
Pythagoras himself is best known as a mathematician and not as a philosopher or theologist. But his mathematics and theology are interwoven. There are no surviving texts of his written work, if indeed he wrote anything down at all. But his beliefs have been captured by his followers and those who built on his teachings, not least Plato and Aristotle.
Living in the 5th Century BC, Pythagoras believed that the cosmos was a living being with a soul in its body and reason in its soul. He talked about the music of the spheres and the orbits of the soul. He believed that numbers are the basis of the Cosmos and that all things conform to the harmony of musical scale. They are what Carl Jung came to call Archetypes and as such are aspects of the divine.
Much has been written about where Pythagoras developed his ideas, but there is evidence that he travelled extensively and spent large parts of his life in Egypt or Babylon or both. Pythagorean mathematics, including the famous theorem, was well known in Babylon at least a 1000 years before Pythagoras lived. Pythagoras’ beliefs also appear to have held much in common with the Orphics, another strand of classical philosophy current at s similar time, although there is no clear view as to which influenced the other if at all. More likely, both stretch back further into some older tradition.
The Pythagorean tradition recognises a primordial Divinity that encompasses all else; sometimes referred to as Aeon (eternal time), the All (Pan), the Whole (Holon) and the One (Hen or Monad). The number 1 is symbolic of the Monad, a point or a circle within which the attributes of all other numbers can be geometrically inscribed.
Number 2 represents the Dyad associated with division and disharmony, but also the potential for harmony. It is usually represented mythologically as a couple; Lord and Lady. The dualities represented by the Dyad form the basis of understanding the workings of the created cosmos; equal and opposites, male and female, light and darkness and so on. The individual Gods and Goddesses are also expressed as Dyad in that they take the form of couples. They emanate from the One and are therefore a part of it as are the lower beings or emanations, including human beings. So, as we are all parts of the whole, we are also distinct individuals. This is as true of the emanated spiritual beings we call ‘Gods’ or ‘Guardians’ as it is of ourselves. The distinction between monothesism and polytheism is therefore less stark than many assume.
The One, or Monad, is infinitely complex as it is the unity of all things, including all opposites. As such, it was referred to by the ancients as ineffable, invisible, unspeakable, unnameable and unknown. It encompasses not only what actually is, but also all possibilities of what might be. In otherwords, the One transcends time as well as space. This is the foundation of Divine Providence, for the Monad comprehends all that might be, and out of that totality manifests what is. Clearly, it is also similar to what our Germanic ancestors called Wyrd and Orlog – the primal law.
A key principle of Pythagorean theology is the Triadic Principle – the ‘Three’, representing harmony. This is based on the idea that opposites cannot unite with each other on their own and need something in common with each other to act as a ‘Mediator’ between them. This ‘Mediator’ connects the opposites of the Dyad, but also ensures they remain distinct. Pythagoreans saw the male principle of a Dyad as its unchanging nature or ‘Essence’. This has the potential to take on material form, which they saw as the female principle. As the male principle moves towards form, it loses some of its ‘Essence’ and so seeks to revert back to its origin to restore it. This dynamic process creates material ‘Energy’ emanating out of ‘Essence’; this ‘Energy’ being the third principle of the Triad – the ‘Mediator’.
Pythagoreans called this ‘Mediator’ the “World Soul” and saw it as uniting unformed matter and the immaterial thoughts of the ‘mind’ (Logos) of the One. We can see in this system the origin of the doctrine of the Trinity with the Holy Spirit as Mediator between Father and Son or Logos (the mind of God). We can also see the origin of Orthodox understanding of God as eternal essence and uncreated energies and of the dynamic activity between these, including the creative forces that brought the cosmos into existence.
The Pythagoreans used the Triadic principle to explain the Cosmos in terms of three orders of creation. These were the Empyrean Realm occupied by immortal, immaterial and unchanging beings, the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus. Then there was the Material Realm of Earth, ever changing and occupied by mortal beings such as ourselves. And then there was the Aetherial Realm, the heavens, occupied by celestial beings which are immortal but material and ever changing. These celestial beings came to be associated with the moon and the stars.
Pythagoreans believed that these divine realms, and the beings that inhabited them, were all inter-connected by divine chords. They called this the ‘Great Chain of Being’. This chain is composed of a great number of hierarchical links, forming a sort of ladder that links the higher planes of existence to the lower. The highest level is the One or God and at the lowest level is the mundane physical matter of Earth.
Beings within the different realms could communicate and influence each other through this spiritual ladder. Indeed, an important spiritual practice to the Pythagoreans was known as the ‘Ascent to the One’ in which contemplative meditation was used to enter a union with the One.
Pythagoreans also call the ‘One’ the ‘Good’ and the ‘Highest’, being the totality of all that is and all that is to be. This does not mean that everything else is evil, but it does reflect an idea that all else has not yet achieved the perfection that is the ‘One’. They also recognised various principles that are the ‘Essence’ of the matter they permeate. For example, life pervades all living things. The ‘One’ emanates its Unity and Goodness throughout all things, including the physical substance of primal matter of which all things are made. As such, and contrary to many later Gnostic sects, the Pythagoreans considered the physical world (matter) to be good, though not yet in a state of perfection, because it is part of the ‘One’ who is ‘Good’. This, incidentally, is also the teaching of the EFC.
The Pythagoreans did not consider mind and matter to be two mutually exclusive things as the ‘One’ is Mind and Matter simultaneously. We tend to think of our individual minds being separate and independent, but that is because we identify ourselves primarily with our ego-consciousness. But this is just the part of our mind that we are most aware of because it operates in the physical world of space and time. Beyond this conscious mind lies the unconscious, the Higher Self, and beyond this is the collective unconscious, which we all share, especially with people of the same ethnic background. Thus ‘race memory’ is a very real phenonema.
The wisest way to live, according to Pythagoreans, is in harmony with Providence. Wisdom is the means by which we attune ourselves to Providence and progress to union with the One. This also forms the basis of EFC teaching. Providence in this sense is Orlog, the nature of God and the goal of our spiritual life is to live in harmony with Orlog to achieve unity with God.
Pythagoras and Jesus
Jesus was a carpenter by trade and would have been familiar with measurements and dimensions. He also lived in the Galilee which had a large Hellenic and Hellenised population, so he is likely to have been familiar with classical Greek philosophy, including the work of Pythagoras.
As Jesus grew up and began his trade as a carpenter, Herod Antipas was building the new city of Sepphoris, just four miles across the valley from Nazareth. This was such a major project, taking at least 25 years, that Jesus could not fail to have been aware of it. Indeed, as a carpenter, he is most likely to have worked on it.
And if he had worked there, then he would have learned about classical architecture, including the mathematical symbols and proportions which, the Greeks believed, embodied perfection. The project was being led by the Roman architect/civil engineer Marcus Vitruvius who had taken on board the Pythagorean approach to design. If Jesus had worked on this project, he would have become very familiar with the underlying Pythagorean mathematics of its design.
Some scholars, from the 19th century onwards, have argued that there is a link between the Druids, Pythagoreans and the Essenes. Some believe that Jesus and his family were Essenes, although others dispute this. But even if Jesus were not a member of this group himself, he would have come into contact with them. The Essenes were known students of the Hebrew forms of sacred mathematics and skilled healers, said to be the guardians of a secret wisdom. Their ideas, says Strachan, can be seen to form part of a wider wisdom tradition linked with India, Egypt and northern Europe.
The author Robin Heath makes a link between the Essenes and Britain (Sun, Moon and Stonehenge: Proof of High Culture in Ancient Britain). In this work, he studies the geometry of ancient stone circles, trying to demonstrate how they were used to track and predict the movements of the Sun and Moon. He points out that the non-canonical Book of Enoch, which was one of the key scriptures found at Qumran, contains an intriguing set of astrophysical observations. In the book, Enoch is told by an angel to come north with him “to measure”, and in another passage the measurements given are those of the rising and the setting of the Sun at different times of the year.
One passage from the book, describing the sun at midsummer, states, “And the Sun returns to the east and enters into the sixth portal, and rises and sets in the sixth portal one-and-thirty mornings on account of its sign. On that , the day becomes longer than the night, and the day becomes double the night, and the day becomes twelve parts, and the night is shortened and becomes six parts.”
According to Heath, “the latitude can be deduced and Enoch is not in the Middle East, but at the latitude of southern Britain. And while I cannot say positively he was in Britain and the portals described are Stonehenge, the description fits very well.”
At this time, Britain lay unconquered by Rome and the Druids retained and continued to teach the ancient wisdom, including that of astronomy, geometry and mathematics. “It is to the Druids that a large number of the young men resort for the purpose of instruction,” wrote Julius Caesar, “and the Druids are in great honour among them. For they determine respecting almost all controversies, public and private… This institution is supposed to have been devised in Britain, and to have been brought over from it into Gaul; and now those who desire to gain a more accurate knowledge of that system generally proceed thither for the purpose of studying it.”  Cæsar: Gallic Wars, Book 6.
It is not such a great leap of faith, given the above, that one of these young men, whose uncle had strong business links with Britain, was Jesus of Nazareth! And of course he would not have limited his education to what we now call the sciences. The Druids were also masters of philosophy, theology and healing. They were also likened to the Magi, the magicians of ancient Persia. Indeed, Britain was, and still is, a land steeped in mystery and magic.
I hope that this article at the very least gives the reader pause for thought. There are, indeed, very good grounds to believe that not only did Jesus preach an ancient Indo European or Aryan religion, one that the original Hebrew religion was based on and He sought to restore in His native land, but that he did very likely come to Britain and learn much of that wisdom from the Druids.