The Ascent (Anagôgę) to The One is the central spiritual practice in the Pythagorean Tradition (see also "The Threefold Way" in "Part 4"). It is based on the principle that "like knows like." Therefore, to know The One, you must become The One. To know the Highest God, you must unify with and become the Highest God, a process of Deification (Theôsis). Further, since The One is the principle from which all things have their existence, by returning to The One we rediscover and preserve our eternal Essence, and thus the Ascent is the principal means of Salvation (Sôtęria) in the Pythagorean Tradition. Through Union with the Divine we come to see beyond our individuality and to understand our own roles as organs and instruments (organa) of Divine Providence. In a sense that will become clear, the Ascent achieves Immortalization.
There are three Paths of Ascent in the Pythagorean Tradition, each correlated with one of the three principle Attributes of The One: Its Beauty, Wisdom, and Goodness, and the corresponding connecting properties, Love, Truth, and Trust, which are the Chaldaean Virtues. This table summarizes their similarities and differences:
Pythagoreans differ about which path is better; different approaches seem to be suited to souls with different personalities and talents. I will discuss them in order:
We may begin with the Erotic Ascent (Erôtikę Anagôgę), in which the power of Love and Desire (Erôs), directed toward Beauty, raises the soul toward the Beauty of The One. Naturally, the guides on this path are Aphrodite and Eros (both of whom I have already discussed). Erotic Madness is the Vehicle of Salvation and draws the Lover and Beloved together, with the ultimate goal of union. It's best known description is in Plato's Symposium (209E-212C), where it is put into the mouth of the Priestess Diotima (via Socrates); other versions are given by many later philosophers (e.g. Ficino).
The Ascent proceeds through three stages, corresponding to the Material, Aetherial, and Empyrean Realms (see "Theogony" in Part I). At the material level, desire is aroused by the beauty of the body, which is experienced through the senses. This begins with love of an individual's beauty, but expands into love of physical beauty in general. The second stage ascends to desire for the beauty of the soul, which manifests in the moral excellences (Justice, Fortitude, Moderation) and the intellectual excellences (Prudence, Knowledge, Wisdom). This higher beauty is perceived by the rational mind rather than the senses. In the third stage one comes to know Beauty Absolute in the only way possible: by uniting with It, This union transcends the duality of subject and object - of