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Old Masters of Academia




Written and compiled by George Knowles

If you have ever done research into ancient history then you will no doubt have seem references to some of the old time masters of academia, the writers, poets and artists whose knowledge, wisdom and foresight have inspired so many.  Those whose works live on, collected on shelves in dusty old museums, where they continue to be referenced by historians and others.  But have you ever wondered who these old masters are?  Here is my attempt to find out about some of them:





Pythagoras was an early Greek mystic, healer, musician, mathematician and philosopher, whose work was mainly concerned with the theory of numbers to which he assigned mystical properties.  Later he founded his own school of philosophy out of which a movement with religious and political overtones evolved.  The Pythagoreans as his students became known, believed in the ultimate mathematical nature of the world, the mystical significance of numbers, and the possibility of the soul achieving union with the divine. 


Very little about the life of Pythagoras now exists as none of his work or writings have survived.  What is known about him is mainly that which has been passed down through his students and disciples, the work of his successors, and other early writers who proceeded him.  As such, many of the accomplishments accredited to him have been greatly exaggerated, and may even have been the work of his own students or contemporaries???


Pythagoras was born around 569 BC on the Greek island of Samos off the West coast of Turkey.  His mother Pythais was a native of Samos and his father Mnesarchus was a Phoenician merchant from Tyre.  A story about Mnesarchus claims that he brought corn to the island of Samos during a time of famine, and was granted citizenship as a mark of respect and gratitude.  During his early life Pythagoras is thought to have spent much of his time travelling with his father, during which they often returned Tyre where he gained an education taught by the priests and other learned men of Syria.


As a young man Pythagoras grew disenchanted with Samos and so he left to continue his education in Croton, Southern Italy.  Among his early teachers three in particular were to influence his future.  One of the most important was Pherecydes, with who he first studied mathematics and numbers; the other two were Thales and his student Anaximander who lived in Miletus.  Pythagoras often visited with Thales, and though he was an old man by that time, he influenced his interest in numbers and astronomy, and advised him to travel to Egypt to learn more about these subjects.  Likewise his student Anaximander lectured in Miletus on Geometry and Cosmology, and many of his ideas influenced Pythagoras.


In about 535 BC Pythagoras travelled to Egypt where he is said to have visited many of the ancient temples and took part in many discussions with their priests.  However according to Porphyry (234-305 AD, who wrote one of his earliest biographies “The Life of Pythagoras”), he was refused admission to all the temples except for the one at Diospolis, there after completing the rites necessary for admission he was accepted into the priesthood.  It was from the Egyptians that he picked up many of the beliefs and customs he would later impose on his own school back in Italy.


In 525 BC Cambyses II the King of Persia invaded Egypt, and during the ensuing conflicts Pythagoras was taken prisoner and transported to Babylon.  According to Iamblichus (250-330 AD) a Syrian philosopher who later wrote a treatise “On the Pythagorean Life”, he was transported as a prisoner of war to Babylon.  While there he was noticed by the Babylonian priests and was instructed in their sacred rites and mystical worship of the Gods.  He was also taught about music and excelled in other mathematical sciences taught by them.


By 520 BC Pythagoras had left Babylon and returned to Samos, but how he obtained his freedom cannot be explained.  Shortly after his return he set up a school, which according to Iamblichus was called the “Semicircle”.  In it he endeavoured to entice the local Samians to hold political meetings, and there discuss questions about goodness, justice and expediency.  Outside of the city he found a cave, a private place where he could dwell on his own philosophical learning’s, and where he spent most of his time doing research into the theories and uses of mathematics.


However the Samians took a dislike to his teaching methods and soon Pythagoras became embroiled in local politics.  In order to free himself from their politics, he left Samos in 518 BC and went back to Croton in Southern Italy.  There he founded the school from which evolved the movement he would forever be rememberedPythagoreanism”.  Unusually for that time, he opened the school to male and female students alike.  Based on philosophy and the religious principles he had experienced in Egypt and Babylon, the school quickly attracted many followers.


In it he formed an inner circle of elite students known as the Mathematikoi, who were taught by Pythagoras himself and on whom he imposed strict rules and regulations of observance.  They were required to live permanently at the school in a monastic community, allowed no personal possessions and had to adopt a vegetarian diet.  They were also sworn to observe strict loyalty and secrecy regarding his teaching.  The outer school students were known as the Akousmatics.  They lived in the local neighbourhood and only attended during the day, as such they were allowed to own possessions and were not required to be vegetarians.  They were taught by the elite inner circle students and rarely had contact with Pythagoras himself.


Pythagoras passed down his philosophy, beliefs and teachings through the work of his secretive disciples.  His beliefs appear to have been similar to those of Orphism, in that he instilled on his students:  obedience, silence, fasting, simplicity in dress and possessions, and the habit of frequent self-examination.  They also had a strong belief in the immortality and transmigration of souls, indeed Pythagoras himself claimed he had once been Euphorbus, a warrior in the Trojan War, and that he had a memory of all his previous existences.


In 513 BC Pythagoras travelled to the Greek island of Delos where his old teacher Pherecydes was dying.  He remained there as his nurse until his death a few months later, before returning to Croton.  In 510 BC Croton was attacked and defeated by its neighbour Sybaris, and despite his desire to stay out of politics, it is thought that he was drawn into the political side of the dispute.  A few years later in 508 BC he was involved in another dispute, this time with a powerful nobleman of Croton called Cylon.  As a result of this dispute Pythagoras was forced to leave Croton.


According to Iamblichus:  “Cylon was a leading citizen of Croton with all the advantages of a noble birth, fame and riches, but otherwise he was a difficult, violent and tyrannical man who eagerly desired to participate in the Pythagorean way of life.  He approached Pythagoras but was rejected because of his character defects.  Unaccustomed to rejection, Cylon vowed to seek revenge and destroy Pythagoras and his followers.  In this way he activated a powerful political campaign of aggressive zeal against the Pythagoreans.  It was because of this that Pythagoras left for Metapontium and there is said to have ended his days”.


That Pythagoras moved to Metapontium to escape the wrath of Cylon is undisputed by most authorities, but what he did there and when and how he died, is still today the subject of much speculation.  Many believe he died around 500 BC??  What is known for certain is that the school he founded expanded rapidly after 500 BC, and thrived for a number of years even spreading from Croton to many other Italian cities.  They also became more politically active, which eventually led to their total suppression.


As a mathematical and philosophical community the Pythagoreans did much to advance the known sciences of their day.  Through their studies they established a scientific foundation for mathematics.  Using geometrical principles, they were able to prove that the sum of the angles of any regular-sided triangle was equal to that of two right angles (using the theory of parallels), and to solve any algebraic quadratic equations having real roots.  It is known today as the “Pythagorean theorem”.


They also formulated the theory of proportion (ratio), which enhanced their knowledge of fractions, and used it in their study of harmonics upon stringed instruments:  the harmonic of the octave was made by touching the string at ½ its length, of a fifth at ⅔ its length and so on.  Pythagoras himself is said to have made this the basis of a complete system of musical scales and chords.


In Astronomy they were the first to consider the Earth as a globe revolving with the other planets around a central fire.  They explained the harmonious arrangement of things as that of bodies in a single, all-inclusive sphere of reality, moving according to a numerical scheme.  Because they thought that heavenly bodies are separated from one another by intervals corresponding to the harmonic lengths of strings, they held that the movement of the spheres gives rise to a musical sound, called the “harmony of the spheres”.


Among the many mathematical investigations carried on by the Pythagoreans, was their study of odd and even numbers, and of prime and square numbers, to which they attributed mystical significances.  Their mystical concept of numbers became for many the ultimate principle of all proportion, order and harmony in the universe, and from that belief the occult science of Numerology evolved.  Today Numerology is associated alongside Astrology as a popular form of divination.







The New Encyclopedia of the Occult  -  by John Micheal Greer


Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.


Encyclopædia Britannica Library from Encyclopædia Britannica 2005 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. Copyright © 1994-2003 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.


Penguin Hutchinson Reference Library Copyright (c) 1996 Helicon Publishing and Penguin Books Ltd


Plus many other online sources, to many to mention.



Written and compiled on the 02nd February 2008 © George Knowles



Best wishes and Blessed Be



Site Contents - Links to all Pages


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About me:

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Wicca/Witchcraft /  What is Wicca What is Magick


Traditional Writings:


The Wiccan Rede Charge of the Goddess Charge of the God  /  The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) /  The Witches Chant The Witches Creed Descent of the Goddess Drawing Down the Moon The Great Rite Invocation Invocation of the Horned GodThe 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief /  The Witches Rede of Chivalry A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality


Correspondence Tables:


IncenseCandlesColours Magickal Days Stones and Gems Elements and Elementals




Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /


Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /


Other things of interest:


Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) /  Esbats & Full Moons Links to Personal Friends & Resources Wicca/Witchcraft Resources What's a spell? Circle Casting and Sacred Space  Pentagram - Pentacle Marks of a Witch The Witches Power The Witches Hat An esoteric guide to visiting London SatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  Part 2  /  Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Native American Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection)  The History of ThanksgivingAuras  - Part 1 and Part 2 Doreen Valiente Witch” (A Book Review) /   


Sabbats and Festivals:


The Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)


Rituals contributed by Crone:


Samhain / Yule Imbolc Ostara /  Beltane Litha Lammas Mabon




Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron Magick Mirror Gazing




Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) /  AntelopeBatsCrow Fox Frog and Toads Goat / HoneybeeKangarooLion OwlPhoenix Rabbits and HaresRaven Robin RedbreastSheep Spider SquirrelSwansUnicornWild Boar Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat /  Rats /  Unicorn




In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  Elder


Sacred Sites:


Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /


Rocks and Stones:


Stones - History, Myths and Lore


Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:


Apophyllite  / Amber Amethyst Aquamarine Aragonite Aventurine Black Tourmaline Bloodstone Calcite Carnelian Celestite Citrine Chrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / Fluorite Garnet /  Hematite Herkimer Diamond Labradorite Lapis Lazuli Malachite Moonstone Obsidian Opal Pyrite Quartz (Rock Crystal) Rose Quartz Ruby Selenite Seraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodalite Sunstone ThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble


Wisdom and Inspiration:


Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakening The Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods I have a Dream by Martin Luther King /


Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:


Murdered by Witchcraft The Fairy Witch of Clonmel A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) /  Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-Lantern The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark


Old Masters of Academia:


Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras





A "Who's Who" of Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)


Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)


Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others


Abramelin the Mage /  Agrippa Aidan A KellyAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” /  Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” /  Alison Harlow /   Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda MetteyyaAllan Kardec (Spiritism) /  Alphonsus de SpinaAmber KAnn Moura /  Anna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman SpareBalthasar Bekker /  Biddy EarlyBarbara Vickers /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /   Charles WaltonChristopher PenczakChristina Oakley Harrington Cornelius Loos /  Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-NowickiDonald Michael Kraig Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edain McCoy /  Edward FitchEleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” Eliphas Levi /  Ernest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake /  Fiona Horne /   Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia Friedrich von Spee /  Francis Barrett /  Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft /  Gwydion Pendderwen Hans HolzerHelen Duncan /   Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Heinrich KramerIsaac Bonewits Israel RegardieIvo Domínguez Jr. /  Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick /  James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJean Bodin Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer  / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" /   Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim  -  the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) /  John Belham-Payne John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" /  John Gerard /  John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred /  John Michael Greer /  John Score /  Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von Eckartshausen Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" /   Laurie Cabot  - "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis SpenceLodovico Maria Sinistrari Ludwig LavaterMadeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMichael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" /  Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” /  Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMartin Antoine Del Rio Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /   Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /  Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillOlivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis /  Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsus /  Patricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPaul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school /  Peter Binsfeld /  Philip HeseltonRaven GrimassiRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Richard BaxterRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" /  Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Rossell Hope Robbins /   Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) /  Rudolf SteinerSabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" /  Scott CunninghamSelena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" /  Silver RavenwolfSir Francis Dashwood /  Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough"S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  Starhawk /  Stewart Farrar /  Sybil LeekTed Andrews The Mather Family - (includes:  Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) /   Thomas AdyT. Thorn CoyleVera ChapmanVictor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" /  Vivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWalter Ernest ButlerWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest /  



Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)



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