By the Numbers

26 06 2008

Above: the magic square in Gaudi’s Holy Family Cathedral in Barcelona

For the Pythagoreans, numbers, as opposed to physical substances, are the permanent, prime principles of the world. Numbers alone have unity and give rise to multiplicity in an orderly, knowable fashion. Physical things are transient, indefinable and impossible to know in essence. Numbers are the elements of everything, even of divinity. So they embrace all reality. Their configurations reveal the structure of the universe. Number four is one of those special configurations, for if one adds its constituent numbers, one plus two plus three plus four, they come to ten, the total range of single numbers. Four, or “the tetraktys” as the Pythagoreans called it, represents the total universe.

-Lucas Siorvanes, Proclus: Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Science