The H3O/Art of Life Blog
The Stolen History of Kemet: Pythagoras, Part One
By Dr. Josef Ben Levi
Presented by Omni-U Virtual University
Pythagoras was a Samian, the son of Mnesarchus, who was born in Samos in Ionia (580 – 500 B.C.). Samos is a Greek island in the eastern Aegean Sea. Pythagoras was the student of Pherecydes and was the first to call himself a philosopher.
In Attic, the earliest form of Greek, there are six words for “love”:
Eros- sexual passion
Philia- deep friendship
Ludus- playful love
Agape- love for everyone
Pragma- longstanding love
Philautia-or love of the self
From the feminine noun, “philia”, we get “Philo”. However, the word “Sophia”, also feminine, did not exist in Attic Greek.
Nonetheless, Pythagoras-speaking for the Sophists- derived the etymology of the word "philosophy" from the Greek words "Philo" (ϕιλο) meaning "love" and Sophos. From the first part of the word, “Philo”, we get one of the Greek words for "love" in the abstract sense.
From the second-word Sophos (σοφος)- meaning wise man- we get the word "sophisticated" or "worldly wise".; The word "philosophy* or "Philosophia" (φιλοσοφια) is often translated as "love of wisdom".
I tend to differ with that definition, slightly. I would argue that a more precise and correct definition would come closer to "love of the lady, wisdom", since the word for wisdom in Greek is a feminine word and, as far as I know, there are no men named Sophia!
However, not until after Pythagoras traveled to Kemet /Egypt and studied geometry and astronomy, for 22 years years, with the priests and brought the word, “philosophy”, back to Greece, does this word appear in the earliest Greek lexicon,i.e, Attic. It was only after that time that the word, “Sophia”, was added to “Philo” and Pythagoras was the first to be called a “philosopher”.
It was Thales of Miletus in Ionia, Asia Minor who had studied in Kemet and suggested to Pythagoras that he go to the Nile Valley to study with the prophets there. It was also Thales who provided a letter of introduction to the Pharaoh, Amasis II, for Pythagoras to study in Kemet. At first, Pythagoras was studying under Thales. But, Thales found that he was limited in the things he could teach Pythagoras, hence the letter of introduction. Pythagoras learned many things, as a student in Kemet,. under Amasis II or Ahmose, II during the 26th dynasty (570-526 BCE). He was also a student of the Kemetic arch-prophet Sonches at Heliopolis (Iwnu-On) at the temple of Amun. Plato also studied there under Sechnuphis of Heliopolis.
In “On the Pythagorean Way of Life”, Iamblichus stated that :
“… he visited every holy place, full of great zeal, and with a desire for careful inspection. He was both admired and cherished by the priests and prophets with whom he associated. He learned everything most attentively and neglected neither any oral instruction commended in his own time nor anyone known for sagacity or keen perception, foresight, good judgement. Nor any rites anywhere and at any time-honored. He also left no place unvisited where he thought he would find something exceptional. Hence, he visited all the priests, and benefited from the special wisdom of each.”.
Pythagoras founded The School of Pythagoreans, which combined numerology, mathematics, philosophy, and mysticism. He was the first of the Greek philosophers to name the universe as a world using the Greek word, "Kosmos", with the implication of an ordered reality,,i.e., a system directed at a positive goal. It was only after Pythagoras and Plato had studied in the Temple of the Nile Valley that they taught that earth was spherical.
It was Pythagoras, and many of his disciples that followed him, who developed a mathematical philosophy in which Numbers were the form and matter of the Universe. Pythagoreans also developed a calendar based on the Kemetic calendar with 12 months and 365 days. Their views include the constitution of the universe, the transmigration and immortality of the soul, the doctrine of compliments,10 pairs (which was later defined as “opposites” during the enlightenment), and the doctrine of the Supreme Being. He argued that the Substance of Beings were numbers that could only be grasped through the intellect: According to Pythagoras:
“All things are numerable and can be counted. Moreover, it is impossible to conceive a universe in which number is not to be found…”
Odd and even numbers are not mutually exclusive, but rather they are complementary since they derive from the same source (units). Thus, two extremes are complementary and create harmony when united.
Pythagoras held that the virtue of harmony (Ma’at) within the universe was a result of the unity between two principles that were male and female. The Kemetic prototype of this doctrine can be identified within both the Hermopolitan and Heliopolitan systems which had compliments as partners in the creation process. For Pythagoras, one obtained harmony through the union of positive and negative, male and female, body and soul, etc. Pythagoras’ "foreign" practices and beliefs, such as geometry, incited fear and uncertainty in his home state of Greece.
Another example of the earliest known securely datable reference to the story of Pythagoras' studying philosophy in Kemet comes from the ancient Athenian orator, Isokrates/(Iσοκράτης), who lived 436 – 338 BCE).
At some point between c. 390 and c. 385 BCE (i.e., a little over a hundred years after Pythagoras’s death), Isokrates wrote an oration titled "Bousiris", in which he praises the Egyptians, ie., the people of Kemet, and their customs at great length, attributing the greatness of Egyptian/Kemetic civilization to the supposed reforms of a mythical Bousiris (Wusir-Osiris), an "Egyptian" king.
In Greek mythology, Bousiris was an Egyptian king who was killed by Heracles. It may also refer to the Greek name of a place in Egypt/Kemet, which, in the Egyptian/Kemetic lexicon, was named pr-wsir, i.e., “House of Osiris" but, had the civil name of ḏdw. The location was an important necropolis and a center for Osiris' veneration, hence the name, "Bousiris".
In order to illustrate the greatness of Egyptian/Kemetic piety, Isokrates tells a story (which was evidently already well known by the time he was writing) that none other than Pythagoras himself studied among the Egyptians. In Bousiris, sections 28–29, he wries,
“If one were not determined to make haste, one might cite many admirable instances of the piety of the Egyptians, that piety which I am neither the first nor the only one to have observed; on the contrary, many contemporaries and predecessors have remarked it, of whom Pythagoras of Samos is one. On a visit to Egypt, he became a student of the religion of the people and was first to bring to the Greeks all philosophy, and more conspicuously than others he seriously interested himself in sacrifices and in ceremonial purity, since he believed that even if he should gain thereby no greater reward from the gods, among men, at any rate, his reputation would be greatly enhanced.”
“And this indeed happened to him. For so greatly did he surpass all others in reputation that all the younger men desired to be his pupils, and their elders were more pleased to see their sons staying in his company than attending to their private affairs. And these reports we cannot disbelieve; for even now persons who profess to be followers of his teaching are more admired when silent than are those who have the greatest renown for eloquence.”
James, George G. M. Stolen Legacy: The Egyptian Origins of Western Philosophy. United States: Feather Trail, 2010. Print.
Bakalis, Nikolaos. Handbook of Greek Philosophy: From Thales to the Stoics. Victoria, BC.: Trafford, 2005. Print.
Clement of Alexandria, Stromata (Miscellanies). Memphis: Bottom of the Trail Pub. 2012.
John Dillon & Jackson Hershbell, Iamblichus: On the Pythagorean Way of Life. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1991.
Chad Trainer, The Merits of the Milesians. Philosophy Now Magazine issue 69 September/October 2008.
Theophile Obenga, African Philosophy: The Pharaonic Period: 2780-330 BC. Paris: Per-Ankh. 2004.
Herodutus, Book II:81, London: Penguin Classics, 1972.
Diogenes Laertius, The Lives and Opinions of the Eminent Philosophers. Forgotten Books, 1853/2012.
Innocent C. Onyewuenyi. The African Origin of Greek Philosophy: An Exercise in Afrocentrism. Nsukka: University of Nigeria Press. 2005.
Okasha El-Daly. Egyptology: The Missing Millennium: Ancient Egypt in Medieval Writings. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press. 2005.
Peter Flegel. Does Western Philosophy have Egyptian Roots? Philosophy Now Magazine, October/November 2018 Issue 128
Connie Waters, Why Didn’t Pythagoras And His Followers Eat Beans? AncientPages.com. January 18, 2019