A Closer Look: Vegetarianism from A Microscopic and Macroscopic Lens
Vegetarian Philosopher Flow Chart
This graphic depicts the influences of Pythagoras's vegetarian philosophy as well as the direction of his philosophical legacy.
Pherekydes was Pythagoras's first mentor and introduced Pythagoras to the idea of metempsychosis, that souls, both human and animal, were passed through all organisms. Because living beings could potentially have or potentially would contain human life, the consumption of them would be considered cannibalism. This was the basis of Pythagoras's vegetarian doctrine. Pherekydes and Pythagoras's later mentor Thales were both Sophai, one of Seven Wise Men. Pherekydes began teaching Pytahgoras when he was very old and subsequently died soon after he began teaching Pythagoras.
Thales, considered the first Greek philosopher, created the preliminary foundation of vegetarianism. He claimed that all lifeforms initially came from the sea and were "full of gods," referring to the idea of panpsychism. His pupil, Anaximander, agreed, insisting that fish transmogrified into human. He believed that there was no beginning or end to creation, but that everything was cyclical. Both taught Pythagoras simultaneously.
Zaratas was a sage Pythagoras encountered in Babylong. He believed that one could be purified through their diet, and eating meat and beans inhibited an indiviudal from being pure. It is from Zaratas that Pythagoras incorperated the condemnation of beans from one's diet.
Pythagoras had two main bodies of followers. The first were the mathematikoi, meaning "scientists." They were strict followers of Pythagoean ideals and refused to eat meat. Akousmatikoi, on the other hand, still felt the same compassion for animals that Pythagoras felt, and this group enjoyed listening to the teaching of Pythagoras but had a looser interpretation of his words and did not have strict dietary or lifestyle restrictions.