Tetraktys (Tetrakt)

This Tetraktys (from the Greek, tetras, four) is a triangular figure composed of the first ten points arranged in the shape of a pyramid. The tetraktys was devised by the Greek philosopher Pythagoras as a symbol of the Cosmos. It is composed of the integers one through ten, aligned in four rows (tetraktys means ‘fourfold).

The tetraktys was so sacred to the Pythagoreans that it formed the basis of their oath: “By that pure, holy, four lettered name on high, nature’s eternal fountain and supply, the parent of all souls that living be, by him, with faith find oath, I swear to thee.”

The dots represent numbers, and their descent symbolizes the order of creation of the known universe, and the increasing complexity of its manifestation. The four lower numbers represent the four elements; the upper, the monad, or first principle. The tetraktys and its mysteries influenced the early kabbalists, who devised a similar form to expound upon the Tetragrammaton (the four lettered name of god in Hebrew scripture). The Kabbalistic Tree of Life, with its spheres of emanation, is derived from the tetraktys.

A Kabbalistic tetraktys, designed by Christian mystic Jakob Boehme

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Oliver February 19, 2015 at 5:24 am

Hello there, and thanks for making this interesting site!
I came across a “statue” of sorts: 9 wine barrels arranged in the form of a tetraktys, except the top one is missing. could this symbolize the artist’s disdain for the “one”? or is this a new symbol all together?

Richard October 8, 2015 at 3:41 am

More likely the missing One would be an artistic attempt to render the concept that the ultimate unity is a mystery beyond knowing. I find the wine barrels to be of interest as well. Wine is a Dionysian symbol and represents transcendence in Greek Myth. In what context did the statue appear?

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