Mathematicians and Mystics
When I taught a science class to college freshmen, I also taught a writing class to college sophomores. All of my writing students were civil engineering and electronics majors, and all of my science students were criminal justice and visual communication majors. The writing students, more technically oriented, were relieved to know that there were methods, techniques and practices they could use to write an essay, and when I showed them unconventional styles, I sensed that they could taste the artistry in their own individual expression, and the freedom that comes with it.
Although the science students were supposed to have had some algebra, many had trouble remembering how to do large multiplication and division, and they were even less familiar with manipulating fractions and decimals. When they began their science projects, they were hesitant to look inside at the mechanics of the technology they were studying, preferring to keep their understanding at the level of “I push this button, and that happens.” I drew a black box on the board with three labels: to the left “in,” to the right “out,” and on top the word “magic,” with an arrow pointing to the inside of the box. I told the students that this was not what we were doing in this class; in this class we had to look inside and see how things work. I thought, if you want to know about the magic, come to one of my workshops! But even the mystic has her methods.
What is the difference between a scientist and an artist, a mathematician and a mystic? On some level we may feel that there is a clear distinction, and yet if we look closely, we may find more similarities than we had anticipated.
A scientist may try to predict the likelihood of future possibilities, using the mathematician’s tool bag, and a mystic may see into future possibilities using the artist’s tool bag. A mathematician uses the language of math to make the invisible, visible, to see patterns that she might not otherwise see. A mystic uses the language of the soul to understand the invisible world (including images, music, and poetry) and sees and feels the patterns in these realms.
A scientist uses instruments that she builds to sense potential energy and kinetic energy, voltage and current, the movement of charged particles. A mystic uses her body and her consciousness to sense stuck energy, flowing energy, dense energy, heavy energy, light energy, charging or sparks in a field.
While the mathematician and scientist are busy building the maps and images of these quantities and qualities, the mystic and artist will build the maps and images of the soul, the energy body, and the invisible realms.
The symbol of the four directions, or the tree of life, is an ancient symbol seen around the world, including the Incan Andes. The chacana of South America is a pattern made mathematically by squaring a circle, squaring a square thrice, and circling a square. In the case of the Inkas and pre-Inkan people, the chacana represents many things. It contains a great cosmology of physical directions, cosmic directions, right-relationships, levels of consciousness, and the soul’s journey.
The great spiral, seen in early rock art and throughout the ages, can be described mathematically and has various forms; the Archimedean spiral is a more circular variety and the logarithmic spiral less so, seen in the Nautilus shell and other plants and animal structures.
To the mystic, there is a death spiral, a spiral of the soul’s journey, a cosmic spiral, a vortex through time and space.
The scientist will observe the animal kingdom, writing down notes, taking pictures and staying observer to the world the animal lives in, helping her to understand the web of life that holds the whole of humanity. The mystic will study the animals, understanding the intricate web of life, and also enter the animal’s consciousness, when needed, to embody the animal’s gifts and qualities.
The scientist studies the plant, brings a sample into the lab, analyzes its components and properties and recommends its uses through a design of experiments. The mystic healer will change states of consciousness and speak with the plant to receive the knowing of the plant medicine.
The mathematician and scientist conspire to apply the calculus of wave mechanics, Green’s functions, and perturbation theory to describe and understand the beauty of a sunset, or the movement and scattering of an electron through crystals and with light. The mystic dances with the images and senses of this world and beyond to describe and understand the physical and the non-physical, the separateness and the unity, the play of life.
The mathematician and scientist will use their calculus to predict and perhaps steer a course, and the mystic will see into the future and the past and help to dream the next way into being.
A scientist who tunes in deeply to the subject she is studying may enter into the realm of the mystic and receive insights without calculation or the use of instruments. Humans can dawn either of these masks and play a different role on the stage of life. Each has a purpose and use.
When we want to understand the energy and properties of crystals and use them to build computers and lasers, and light emitting diodes, then we use Maxwell’s equations, and quantum mechanics. When we want to construct a building or bridge to withstand an earthquake, then we use complex computations involving dynamic forces. When we want to figure out how to build an airplane, or a spacecraft, and how to reach another planet, then we use the math of kinetics, fluid dynamics and Newtonian gravitation. When we want to understand how our universe evolved, galaxies formed and stars were born (are there other universes out there?), we use the mathematics of quantum geometry and Calabi-Yau spaces.
When we want to travel to a distant constellation and between universes, we journey with our soul and our consciousness. When we want to understand our journey, our future, how to clear and cleanse the energy of our being, then we use the consciousness and language of the mystic. In our lives and in our societies, we can choose when to use the mathematician’s tools and when to use the mystic’s tools.
I am reminded of something I have known before.
Two aspects of a duality need not be united to exist in coherence, but they can be separate and serve us. We can accept and be in balance with the light and the dark, the shadow and the enlightened, the unconscious and the conscious, the asleep and the awakened.
Freiberger, Marianne. “Hidden Dimensions.” Plus Magazine, 21Dec. 2010.
Snieder, Roel. A Guided Tour of Mathematical Methods for the Physical Sciences, (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2001)
Images courtesy of wikipedia:
(Article originally published December, 2010)