Friday, May 21, 2010

Numbers and How They Get That Way

Let's talk more about the meaning of numbers. Even to say "meaning of numbers" is interesting, for it is another way of saying the "quality of quantities" -- which is to say that numbers cannot only be quantities.

Although this is axiomatic, it flies in the ointment of a scientistic worldview that reduces all qualities to the secondary phenomena of quantities. For example, for the lonely scientist, the color red is just light waves vibrating at a certain frequency.

But as anyone who has read One Cosmos knows, semantics cannot be reduced to syntax, which means that meaning cannot be reduced to order. So reduced it becomes meaningless, precisely.

In other words, to reduce, say, a beautiful pink sunset to a certain frequency of light is to eliminate the sunset. It's analogous to saying that love is really just a side effect of oxytocin, or that there is a "God area" in the brain that explains religion.

But this is what science does, which in itself isn't problematic. Problems only arise when it conflates method and ontology, and thereby confuses its abstractions with reality. Reality is not reducible to numbers. Well, actually, as we shall see, it is. It's just that numbers cannot be reduced to quantity. A number is not just a number.

In the past, I have been frustrated by this subject, as it is often surrounded by a penumbra of occult nonsense, e.g., numerology. If you peruse the numerology department of your local bookstore, you'll soon realize that everything symbolizes everything else, which is logically equivalent to everything meaning nothing. It all becomes arbitrary rather quickly.

But as usual, Schuon discusses the subject in a way that is concise, universal, and essential. By "essential" I mean that he manages to convey the reality of what he is talking about -- the essence -- not just abstract meanings that are detached from that to which they are supposed to refer.

Just as science begins with the reality of the (immanent) world, metaphysics begins with the reality of the transcendent. Both worlds can be described by word or by number, by concept or symbol.

Schuon notes that "The Pythagorean numbers prove that number in itself is not synonymous with quantity pure and simple, for they are essentially qualitative; they are so to the degree that they are close to the Unity, their point of departure."

In other words, the most "qualitative" numbers are those upon which number is based, especially Zero, One, Two, and Three, but also Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, and Twelve (not sure about Eleven). Pure quantity only arrives later, as numbers become increasingly distant from that initial point of departure.

By the way, this is something that many fundamentalists forget, influenced as they are by our scientistic and quantitative age. That is, the Bible quintessentially uses number to express qualitative realities, e.g., "seven days," "forty years," "500 witnesses," etc. Some numbers convey "majesty," others "totality" or "unity," etc.

One obviously stands for Unity, while Two is duality, e.g., man and woman, form and substance, Creator and created, inside and outside, vertical and horizontal. Clearly, Two must be the number of manifestation, for without it, there can be no "second," nothing separate from the Creator. Thus, to say "Two" is to say "world."

Schuon asks if "one might wonder if Unity is really a number," since, "strictly speaking, number begins with Duality, which opens the door to that projection of the Infinite which is the indefinite." In other words, prior to Two, there is only the One, abiding in itsoph.

This is what we were attempting to convey in the opening pages of One Cosmos, except in a non-dogmatic way that would nevertheless express some of the essence of this principial reality. Once you get the jokes, you see that it's all quite literal, e.g.,

It was not good that this Godhead should be allone, so He expired with a big bong and said "let there be higher physics," and it was zo.

To ex-spire is to ex-hale (whole) or give up the ghost, which God does in breathing the creation into existence. And zo, of course, implies life.

I remurmur this like it was yesterday, but bear in mind that it's all really happening -- can only happen -- now, in the ontically vertical reality prior to each "moment" of time. Now is where all the eternity flows in, and there's not a thing you can do about it.

Thus, One's upin a timeless without a second to spore and noplace to bang anyway. The abbasolute day, before eve or any other middling relativities. Only himsoph with nowhere to bewrong, hovering over the waters without a kenosis.

Here again, this conveys the principial Unity prior to the duality of the mayafestation and man-infestation. That being the case, One cannot be in time, but is necessarily "in a "timeless." Only by banging with a second do we end up with those middling relativities, and a manifestivus for the rest of us.

Abba-sol-ute imples Father (abba) and central Sun (sol), while "nowhere to bewrong" conveys the truism (or True Is Him) that "there is none good but the One," since there is nothing yet separate from him.

Only with the self-sacrifice and self-giving of kenosis does the creation (the lower waters) come into existence, and with it, the possibility of evil -- which is inevitable (or in eve-ate-apple), as the ray of creation becomes increasingly distant from the central sun (like the numbers that start with, and partake of, One, but go on forever).

As Schuon writes, "to say Unity is to say Totality; in other words, Unity signifies the absolute Real, and likewise with Totality, which represents the Real in all its ontological 'extent'..."

In this formulation, Unity would signify the Absolute, while Totality would signify the Infinite -- and the One automatically implies the Other. Absolute is prior, but nevertheless contains the Infinite as its first fruit.

In case that wasn't clear, to say One is to say Unity, but to say Unity is to say Totality, the latter of which is deployed in time, hence, the creation.

Which is why we can say that the creation is God -- i.e., not other than God -- but God is not the creation. What this means is that transcendence automatically spills over into creation, thus implying immanence.

But immanence implies transcendence, which is why nothing is really just "what it is," least of all a mere (profane) number. That is, nothing can be completely "contained" by scientistic understanding, since every thing is also a theophany of the infinite God, a divine spark.

In short, One is everywhere and everywhen, especially when Two is Three, as soon we shall see. But that's enough higher mythsemantics for today. To be continued....

25 Comments:

Blogger greyniffler said...

I have read that the ancient Greeks did not believe that one is a number. Number, as they saw it, what what you have when you are having more than one.

5/21/2010 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger Aloysius said...

Sorry for the tangent but so much for Tibetan spirituality:

http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/im-a-marxist-says-dalai-lama-but-agrees-capitalism-has-helped-china/story-e6frfku0-1225869459169

5/21/2010 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

What's next, African-Americans endorsing the Democrat party?

5/21/2010 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Mikal said...

Lemme guess, Gagster -- you're a James Joyce fan?

BTW, another example of the 0-1-2-3 sequence is in the degree system of Blue Lodge Freemasonry, where the initiations correspond to the stages of human life. Here, 0 = non-Mason/prospect ("cowan"), 1 = Entered Apprentice (newborn/child), 2 = Fellow Craft (young adult/"passed" member), and 3 = Master Mason (mature adult/"raised" above fear of mortality).

5/21/2010 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger Mikal said...

Aloysius: If anything, that will probably just increase his status in the eyes of Western hipster doofuses (doofi?) who slavishly follow him. ("Just let the Dalai Lama impose Communism! He'll get it right this time!")

5/21/2010 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Peyton said...

But Bob, the Unity of Christianity is the Holy Trinity!

5/21/2010 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Quite true. And vice versa.

5/21/2010 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Only with the self-sacrifice and self-giving of kenosis does the creation (the lower waters) come into existence, and with it, the possibility of evil -- which is inevitable (or in eve-ate-apple)...

!
Of course, it couldn't be otherwise, but for some reason I hadn't thought of that before...

5/21/2010 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

One is identity, adding naught unto.


I picked a bad week to be out of pocket; however, immersion is its own reward.

5/21/2010 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Schwaller's early shorty on
Numbers

[[2 is not double-One
it is One split into 2]]
--in Pharaonic Egypt

and as Aivanhov recounted his master Peter Deunov explaining, one needn't mess with numbers past ONE, containing all the rest

5/21/2010 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Jason T. said...

Bob- "Which is why we can say that the creation is God -- i.e., not other than God -- but God is not the creation. What this means is that transcendence automatically spills over into creation, thus implying immanence."

Because God is at once Transcendent and immanent, Singular and Whole yet infinitely diverse in His multiplicity, there are likewise and endless amount of truths radiating from His Absolute Truth. Hence, regardless of who or when or where one is situated in relation to His magnificent Glory, there is always a new understanding/insight/revelation to be received on this side of the relative-Absolute binary. Thus, God is ever refreshing Himself through us, delighting in the potential of His own Creation(s).

Which is exactly why the freaking MSM is so freaking boring! They are just yabbering on and on about the same old stories they have been told since infancy, locked insdie of their wholely relative perspective. Nothing new, nothing emergent, nothing Real, just a constant stream of self (meaning worldly) referential blathering and whining. A buch of terrfied little babies! Might as well get them some pampers...

Do you smell that? Olbermann just pooped mimself again while ranting about how horrible the Right is.

5/21/2010 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of 1's and 0's....

Seal has a pretty nice cover of that one on his latest album, which made me want to look up the source(s). As good as the new album is, though, his sound is just a bit too clean, imho.

5/21/2010 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Numbers and How They Get That Way"...Or...

"...Nothing from nothing leaves nothing... you gotta have something, if you want to beee with me!"

And we all know that after that kind of 'beee', baby makes three.

(I'm not really sure either... but it demanded that I type it.)

5/21/2010 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger Sal said...

In other words, to reduce, say, a beautiful pink sunset to a certain frequency of light is to eliminate the sunset. It's analogous to saying that love is really just a side effect of oxytocin, or that there is a "God area" in the brain that explains religion.

After helping to take the 2nd grade to the Dallas World Aquarium, I treated myself to the "Lens of Impressionism" exhibit at the DMA. This was an exploration of the influence the development of photography had on the painters who were producing scenes of the Normandy coast in the mid-nineteenth century.

(Which depended on the spread of railway lines to the previously rarely visited area, but that's another story...)

Part of the exhibit was a series of photos paired with a painting of the same scene. Of course, he painting was 'more real'.

5/22/2010 07:08:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

What is beginning to dawn on me in trying to fathom a qualitative mathematics is the Reality of proportion. Beauty is symmetry and proportion, be it in a beautiful face or a Painting or in a Song. Isn't what we do in becoming human is (hopefully) move from subjective disproportion to trans-subjective proportion? Or am I simplifying too much?

Musical intervals can be translated to fractions (though that is now approximate in our 12-tone equal tempered system). I've seen where people have undertaken studies of Beethoven and Mozart to reveal that their music formally aspires to the Golden Mean. Certainly this proportion can be more easily shown in the visual arts. Ratio equals Rational (in the fullest sense).

I remain undecided whether the 20th century was a search for higher proportions or a denial of ANY sense of trans-subjective proportion. Maybe both. Again at the risk of oversimplifying--can that be symbolic of the forces at work in the world at the moment? Maybe it's always been thus--but it *seems* like the choice between the two is having more dire consequences. Maybe it always feels that way. Still.

The postmodern left sees as its *right* to be disproportionate i.e. "Nobody can tell me I can't live an Ugly life. It's all subjective (meaningless) anyway!!"

Either one believes there is transcendent Harmony or that there isn't. This makes all the difference in how one lives one's life.

5/22/2010 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Gagdad

Interesting to remember, when performing operational testing for a criteria, we normally try hard to have at least two measures of effect (MOE) and normally allow for a third, that being Subject Matter Expertise. Normally, any criteria will have a Quantitative MOE (e.g., time to perform) , a Qualitative MOE (e.g., did the operator find the task easy/difficult to perform) and lastly, a wise man's comment (regardless of measurement the result is either important or not to the whole shebang). What is always interesting in operational testing is that you are evaluating two things: the item of design fulfilling the requirement and secondly the correctness of the requirement. Many a thing has passed all its criteria only to discover the writer of the requirements didn't really know what the operator needed in the first place. This is known as expensive development, or Government central planning. For leftists, the idea that their utopian requirements always fail contact with reality, even though their criteria was met, never cause them to reconsider the accuracy of their requirements: accurate understanding of operators. It is a vicious circle, made more vicious by their lack of any real creativity in their design. The left seems unable to develop Subject Matter Expertise, but merely repackages the development under a new name with the same requirements. Don't know what this has to do with the immanent and transcendent qualities of God, but your discussion of numbers and their meaning lead me back to my testing days. Could we humans really test Gods creation? The left says yes, but most common sense folks understand we don't get to write the criteria for creation, much less our place in it. It really comes down to humility versus ego.

5/22/2010 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Tigtog,
This is known as expensive development, or Government central planning.

See also Pentagon brownies
;)

5/22/2010 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Julie regarding Brownies

That is just the specification. There was no mention of the Contracting Approach and the set asides for disadvantaged makers of brownies. It always best to award contracts on the basis of ethnic or racial identity rather than on demonstrated proficiency in baking and packaging. Lets not forget the additional requirement to insure that certain congressional districts get greased to insure future funding for new brownies. From a man who had to eat "Turkey Loaf" while a Marine, I can tell you the process doesn't really satisfy the consumer.

5/22/2010 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Tigtog said "Many a thing has passed all its criteria only to discover the writer of the requirements didn't really know what the operator needed in the first place. "

Can't tell you how many software projects this describes, that I've had to revamp - no one ever asked Why, only What, and occasionally How.

"This is known as expensive development, or Government central planning. For leftists, the idea that their utopian requirements always fail contact with reality, even though their criteria was met, never cause them to reconsider the accuracy of their requirements: accurate understanding of operators. It is a vicious circle, made more vicious by their lack of any real creativity in their design."

The proregressive left (not so much the philosophers here, but those who thought of themselves as 'well intentioned') began with the idea that 'facts' were more important than anything else, and they redesignated Science as a system that generates facts - with that as their purpose, they immediately set about removing anything that smacked of the Poetic, of Story, of Inspiration, from schooling. Iliad? Out. Aeneid? Out. Bible? (incrementally - Out). Roland? King Arthur? Aesop? The Founding Fathers? Columbus? OUT!!!

What they've left us with, is an educational system centered around facts alone (and not even factual facts), all story, all semblance of WHY is out.

The next story you see on how Textbooks (a recitation of facts ONLY) are being revised and 'improved', you should see only that they may be including more factual facts amidst the phony facts - but the purpose, the story, the WHY - the One real purpose of Education to form Whole and Good people, is fundamentally excluded.

Quantity not only without Quality, but in denial of it.

If it continues much longer... our number's up.

BTW, an excellent essay here, along the lines of C.S. Lewis's 'Men Without Chests', over at First Principles, Making Men without Chests: The Intellectual Life and Moral Imagination R. J. Snell - 02/25/10.

5/22/2010 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Great essay, Van - thanks for the link.

5/22/2010 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Rusty Southwick said...

ge: [[2 is not double-One
it is One split into 2]]
--in Pharaonic Egypt


I've often asked people what constitutes 1 rock, because by breaking it you produce 2 rocks. So the law of identity itself has problems reconciling the unending dividing of quantities. Likewise in the other direction, the combining of quantities to approach the singular lends further credence to the notion that quantity is arbitrary at best, and meaningless at worst.

The actuality is that we can't distinguish where an entity might end and another begin (or even if there is such a thing as an entity!). It comes down to our arbitrary standards of distinction, based on perception of applied importance to qualities such as texture, color, shape, atomic properties, and the flavor of the day — all qualities which we don't adequately comprehend. The least irrational approach would seem to be that everything is a combined singularity, and that quantities are just illusions in our need to compartmentalize into finer components. Yet a component never had to be its own quantity.

To those who would insist 1=1, I would offer the "=1" portion has no utility and is merely redundant, since we can't establish any concrete instances of specific quantities. Ergo, "it is what it is." Or better yet, simply "it is." But even better, "is." That's about all we can say about quantities before getting too inaccurate for our own good.

Equations only show us how the hypothetical quantities relate to one another, not to how any of it relates to reality. Comes back around to Bob's earlier apropos statement that science is basically in an interdependent loop to justify itself. When an atheist makes the irrelevant argument that mankind once thought that electricity came from Zeus, and that now we "know better," this none-theist is still not producing the origin of electricity and therefore not giving evidence against the source of energy and life. All they're doing in these histrionics is describing the process. i.e.-how the brain functions when responding to certain stimuli. Fine, but they're still stuck in their loop in those descriptions. Still doesn't tell us what love entails. Only told us a mechanism for it. Science can always be no better than a self-referential exercise.

In the end, we could aptly say that 1 is the only-est number.

5/22/2010 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Rusty said "I've often asked people what constitutes 1 rock, because by breaking it you produce 2 rocks. So the law of identity itself has problems reconciling the unending dividing of quantities."

No, no problem with the 'law of identity', only your failure to use it properly, your failure to take account of context... which would be more obvious if you used the name Aristotle gave it (who was a bit of a sharper tack than Rand), when he first identified it, and called it the 'Law of non-contradiction', here stated in his Metaphysics

"...For a principle which every one must have who understands anything that is, is not a hypothesis; and that which every one must know who knows anything, he must already have when he comes to a special study. Evidently then such a principle is the most certain of all; which principle this is, let us proceed to say. It is, that the same attribute cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same subject and in the same respect; we must presuppose, to guard against dialectical objections, any further qualifications which might be added. This, then, is the most certain of all principles, since it answers to the definition given above. For it is impossible for any one to believe the same thing to be and not to be, as some think Heraclitus says. ... "

Whether or not you did so intentionally, such dropping of the context is one of the chief techniques of sophists and other dishonest fools (aka: Leftists), in order to equivocate and obliterate the possibility of meaning.

"The actuality is that we can't distinguish where an entity might end and another begin (or even if there is such a thing as an entity!). It comes down to our arbitrary standards of distinction, based on perception of applied importance to qualities such as texture, color, shape, atomic properties, and the flavor of the day — all qualities which we don't adequately comprehend. "

We can 'distinguish where an entity might end another begin' just fine - IF - we remember that our distinguishing of such things can only be distinguished within a given context, and to the degree which that context allows - fail to do that, drop that, and one tends to spout the sort of idiocies you just have.

There is a direct tie between equations, quantities AND qualities, and reality - and you strengthen no argument for God by denying reality or our ability to know it. You might want to keep in mind another gem of Aristotle's, in his Nicomachean Ethics,

"...for it is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs..."

and from his "On Metaphysics(Book IV)"
"... for not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education. "

You'd do well to scrub the Mill, Peirce, Hegel, Kant, Rousseau & Descartes from your mind, go back to basics, and try again.

5/22/2010 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Well... that's been bugging from the moment I clicked 'Publish'.

What I said was correct, but How I did was out of line, sorry about that Rusty (and all else).

5/22/2010 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Is Consciousness the One called God?

mathematized into the smallest kernel sayable, colonel?

5/23/2010 05:04:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Van and Julie re Men With Chests:

"First, literature and poetry. The point, I take it, of literature and poetry is not to provide material to analyze and deconstruct. The poetic is, rather, a form of reason which allows us to know the real, the good, and the beautiful in a participatory way—i.e., that allows us to know and live in the truth of Being by a kind of kinship or acquaintanceship. Literature is true; it gives us a hook onto the real. Or perhaps I should say that good literature and poetry is true, and stories are particularly capable of forming our tastes, loves, and images."

Excellent article. I was especially struck by the observation above. Personally, I am so tired, soul wearied, by our current cultures cannibalistic appetite to deconstruct all that is worthy, timeless, and good into nothing more than chicken droppings. Why do we support academics who spend their time and our money in a quest to demean those things hard earned by our ancestors? Are we really that sure of the superiority of our modernity? Watching Greece torch itself left me with the distinct feeling of watching retarded children play with fire. I spent the week traveling in Azerbaijan viewing a poor peasant people eager for their new destiny. Their gratitude for freedom and opportunity was a stark contrast to the ingratitude of the "moderns". I am old enough to remember that homogeneity of positivism that once populated America. I miss it.

5/23/2010 06:50:00 AM  

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