Monad (from Greek μονάς monas, "unit" from μόνος monos, "alone"),[1] according to the Pythagoreans, was a term for Divinity or the first being, or the totality of all beings. Monad being the source or the "One without division" (cf. singularity).

For the Pythagoreans, the generation of number series was related to objects of geometry as well as cosmogony.[2] According to Diogenes Laertius, from the monad evolved the dyad; from it numbers; from numbers, points; then lines, two-dimensional entities, three-dimensional entities, bodies, culminating in the four elements earth, water, fire and air, from which the rest of our world is built up.[3][4]

Historical background

According to Hippolytus, this view was inspired by the Pythagoreans, who called the first thing that came into existence the "monad", which begat the dyad, which begat the numbers, which begat the point, begetting lines or finiteness, etc.[5] Pythagorean and Platonic philosophers like Plotinus and Porphyry condemned Gnosticism (see Neoplatonism and Gnosticism) for their treatment of the monad or one.

Modern philosophy

The term monad was later adopted from Greek philosophy by Giordano Bruno, Leibniz (Monadology), and others.

See also


  1. Compact Oxford English Dictionary.
  2. Sandywell, p. 205. The generation of the number-series is to the Pythagoreans, in other words, both the generation of the objects of geometry and also cosmogony. Since things equal numbers, the first unit, in generating the number series, is generating also the physical universe. (KR: 256) From this perspective ‘the monad’ or ‘One’ was readily identified with the divine origin of reality.
  3. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers.
  4. This Pythagorean cosmogony is in some sense similar to a brief passage found in the Daoist Laozi: "From the Dao comes one, from one comes two, from two comes three, and from three comes the ten thousand things." (道生一、一生二、二生三、三生萬物。) Dao De Jing, Chapter 42
  5. Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers.


  • Hemenway, Priya. Divine Proportion: Phi In Art, Nature, and Science. Sterling Publishing Company Inc., 2005, p. 56. ISBN 1-4027-3522-7
  • Sandywell, Barry. Presocratic Reflexivity: The Construction of Philosophical Discourse C. 600-450 BC. Routledge, 1996.

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