Many of the ancient philosophical schools looked upon knowledge as a way of life. One of the more profound ancient schools was the Pythagorean School at Crotona. Individuals were instructed and conditioned on how to ‘live well.’ In our modern schools the emphasis on education deals with learning facts, figures, ideas and concepts, but there is not sufficient time spent on how to ‘live well.’
Individuals were instructed in how to use their own inner resources and to trust their own counsel which would lead them to becoming a true independent thinker that could meet every situation with a view-point coming from the highest source within themselves. Looking from the highest viewpoint one has a different perspective of any situation.
It was said that Plato would often take his students to a little hill overlooking the area in which he taught. He made it quite clear that in order to arrive at the highest and best decision, one must be observing from the highest view-point.
The question remains; is this heavy emphasis upon self-discipline impractical for today’s living or is there some real value in receiving an education that stresses self-discipline rather than just learning facts and opinions? Many of the ancient teachers believed that ‘the person who can govern himself is greater than the one who can capture a city.’ The individual who attains a great measure of self-discipline seems to have need for far less outer ‘things’ while the individual who captures a city never seems content.
In today’s world we seem to be living in an era of individual and collective insecurity. We have a great number of outside ‘things’ that keep us uneasy and we seem constantly aware that our world could change in an instant if some unwelcome event takes place. The purpose of the ancient approach was to build an internal security that would allow an individual to face any of the pressures that might manifest from any new and unwelcome circumstance.
For many people today, they do not feel secure, they do not feel completely safe, they panic easily and they are not happy.
The Pythagorean School (circa 525 BC) highlighted three branches of science as a core part of their teaching of inner discipline.
Through mathematics an individual’s mind is trained toward exactitude and a good mathematician is not a scattered thinker. Through the discipline of mathematics a person was ‘trained to live in an orderly way, causing all of his actions to stem from adequate causes, being thoughtful before action. The Pythagorean’s accepted the fact that they lived within a pattern of cosmic principles which cannot be violated.’ They believed that ‘God geometrizes, and the whole universe bears witness to the mathematical wisdom of the Creating Power.’
Obviously there were much deeper teachings associated with these disciplines. If people study these three disciplines strictly from the academic level then the end result will be the accumulation of facts, figures, laws and tables. The ancients spent time meditating upon the spiritual significance of these disciplines. Looking deeper within, and recognizing the core that resides at the center of any person, action, activity or substance, will always provide a deeper level of understanding than that of just reacting to a surface effect.
It was an important Pythagorean axiom that, ‘no person ever graduates from the school of life. One is a student to the end, and in his last breath he may still learn.’
To inspire and empower.