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Friday, June 17, 2016

Donald Duck, Geometry, and Esotericism

As the recently added titles on the above Youtube video point out, in this Disney cartoon, Donald in Mathmagic Land (made in 1959, not 1957 as it states), Donald Duck "learns basic concepts that are usually taught in esoteric circles such as the Pythagorean theorem, the mathematical complexity of pentagrams, and the Golden Ratio. These are the basics of the ancient art of sacred geometry. To learn these things, Donald Duck even had to join Pythagoras' secret society, which distinguished its initiated with the symbols of the pentagram."

The cartoon discusses the Pythagorean Society (generally just referred to as the Pythagoreans). Several associations of mathematicians, philosophers, so-called mystics, and other such scholars calling themselves Pythagoreans did indeed exist in Greece over the centuries. 

According to the writings of Diogenes Laërtius, Iamblichus, and others, Pythagoras himself formed a philosophical school or guild around 530 BC. The original Pythagoreans explored concepts of science, philosophy,  music, religion, and asceticism, but because many citizens felt they were a danger - partly from their political influence - many ancient sources have named them as a "secret society." According to the Scholion ad Aristophanes, they had oaths, symbols, passwords and other signs of recognition, and an internal code of conduct. The ideas of the man himself, along with the writings and theories of his adherants like Plato and many others, arguably formed the basis of what became to be regarded as Western philosophy, theology, mathematics, and scientific theory. There is no wonder why what developed into modern day philosophical and scientific societies and institutions hark back to Pythagoras and the Pythagorean school.

The clip above is an edited seven minute portion of the original's 27 minute length, but you'll get the gist. (You can watch the whole thing HERE.) When it was first released, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary - Short Subject. Many baby boomers today recall seeing it screened in school. Sadly, as the added titles suggest, it is likely that most current students now would probably have no more understanding of the concepts presented than they would if their teacher started speaking to them fluently in Cherokee.

H/T to Brooks Ashley Rowlett

1 comment:

  1. Found this doc a few yrs ago and almost flipped when I saw the golden rectangle become a MM Apron at 2:29 Instantly shared the vid with every Bro I knew who shared the interest.


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