Friday, October 24, 2014

Little Likening #2: Dyad and Doorways

In the last "Little Likening" I spoke of the Monad and the symbolism of the number one that I'd been reading about in a book called, A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe, assigned as part of a study series I participate in that is aided by monthly introductory and discussion audios. This quote is a nice transition from that post to this,
"So many of us are kept from eventual consecration because we mistakenly think that, somehow, by letting our will be swallowed up in the will of God, we lose our individuality (see Mosiah 15:7). What we are really worried about, of course, is not giving up self, but selfish things—like our roles, our time, our preeminence, and our possessions. No wonder we are instructed by the Savior to lose ourselves (see Luke 9:24). He is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new self. It is not a question of one’s losing identity but of finding his true identity! Ironically, so many people already lose themselves anyway in their consuming hobbies and preoccupations but with far, far lesser things." 
~ Neal A. Maxwell, Oct 1995 General Conference

Vesica Piscis
For the Monad and the number 1, the geometric shape was a circle with a point centered in it. For the Dyad and number 2, it is the Vesica Piscis. I'm a little hesitant to write about the number two symbolism after a quick Goole search for images to use revealed that there are a lot of interesting theories and history related to these geometric shapes arranged as they are and what it symbolizes is not the same for everyone. As a side-note, the most fascinating curiosity was finding this picture of the Washington Monument:

Do you see it?

But for this post, let's pretend you are me - you've just seen this drawing of two circles for the first time and have no previous ideas attached to it. 

Reading this part first struck a chord with me:
Like a pebble tossed into a pond, a circle can only reproduce more circles in its own likeness. The ancient mathematical philosophers saw this in the metaphor of arithmetic. They noticed that no matter how many times unity is multiplied by itself, the result is the same: one (1 x 1 x 1 x … x 1 x 1 = 1). So how does unity, oneness, step beyond itself and become the many? How can the Monad generate the other principles, other shapes, other numbers? How does the "same" produce an "other" How does the primeval "I generate its "Thou"? 
~ A Beginners Guide, pg.22

Because of where my mind has been for a while, I immediately compared this thought to the account of the Garden of Eden. I also thought of so many in this world that want to achieve sameness, thinking that is the only kind of equality possible. We ignore the unique traits of both genders or we seek to be like the opposite gender. I quote again, "It is not a question of one’s losing identity but of finding his true identity!" 

But getting back to the book this little likening is centered in, we are introduced in the chapter on the symbolism of the number two to the vesica piscis. Two circles arranged as shown above. You can also draw a line between the two center points of the circles (or all kinds of shapes for that matter).

These intersecting circles, linked across their centers to form a line, make an ancient and obvious symbol of twoness. The overlapping space between them is the vesica piscis…The straight lines we will draw in our constructions represent the tension and motion between the poles of every creating process…The principle of "twoness," or "otherness," was called the Dyad by the Greek philosophers of the five centuries before Christ…The paradox of the Dyad is that while it appears to separate from unity, its opposite poles remember their source and attract each other in an attempt to merge and return to that state of unity…we know we are under the sway of the Dyad when we are attracted or repelled by anything…Exactly two people of opposite gender, no more or less, can produce a child. When cool, dry air penetrates warm, wet air, rain precipitates. Woven cloth manifests itself at the intersection of warp and woof. Two poles of a battery, positive and negative, are needed to complete an electric circuit. Two fixed ends of a guitar string allow us to pluck it, creating vibration, sound, and music. One chopstick is motionless, the other moves, and together they can pick up food. There isn't anything composed of matter (or antimatter) that avoids polarity. Even the geometric compass operates by the interplay of two legs, one motionless and the other moving, the poles of center and circumference. The Dyad is the basis of every creative process…Human nature mirrors outer nature. All personal relationships have at their essence the archetypal tension between opposites…taking responsibility, or assigning blame, strength and tenderness; they are integral to political opposition parties, diplomacy, business partnerships and business rivalries…If there is something you don't like, you can assume that its opposite exists, which you will like. 
A Beginners Guide, pgs.23-26

The oldest story of the Garden of Eden addresses these ideas. As these passages remind us, there is need for "opposition in all things" (2 Nephi 2:11). Without opposition, nothing is created. Here I couldn't help but think of the part in the account recorded in the Pearl of Great Price, Moses 4:26 where "Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living; for thus have I, the Lord God, called the first of all women, which are many." Interestingly, I have learned that the ancient Sumerian words for one and two are also those for man and woman. 

Today, we consider one and two as merely number quantities, not realizing they are symbols of basic facts of existence. Surprisingly, ancient mathematical philosophers did not consider one and two to be numbers themselves since their representations - point and line - are not actual. A point has no dimension and a line just one dimension. Nobody can hold a true point or line in his hand. Likewise, no one or two points, lines, or angles will create any actual form by themselves. But an ongoing interplay beginning with a point and line is all that's required to construct the world's geometric patterns. Thus the Monad and Dyad were considered by the ancients to be not numbers but the parents of numbers. Their mating, the fusion of the principles of one and two, point and line, unity and difference gives birth to all subsequent archetypal principles revealed as numbers, symbolized by numerals, and seen as shapes in nature. The Dyad, then is the doorway between the One and the Many.  
A Beginners Guide, pg.30-31 
Once again, in my mind echoes the phrase, "mother of all living." As many have noted (this AWESOME speech among them) this was said of Eve BEFORE she bore any children. Reading about the Dyad has helped me understand a deeper layer to why that is and what it means to be a woman. James E. Faust spoke of Eve this way,

We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Eve. In the Garden of Eden, she and Adam were instructed not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, they were also reminded, “Thou mayest choose for thyself.” The choice was really between a continuation of their comfortable existence in Eden, where they would never progress, or a momentous exit into mortality with its opposites: pain, trials,and physical death in contrast to joy, growth, and the potential for eternal life. In contemplating this choice, we are told, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, … and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.” And thus began their earthly probation and parenthood. After the choice was made, Adam voiced this grateful expression: “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.”  
Eve made an even greater statement of visionary wisdom after leaving the Garden of Eden: “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.” If it hadn’t been for Eve, none of us would be here. 
~LDS General Conference, October 1999
I find it fascinating to contemplate those accounts of the Garden of Eden which show Lucifer/the serpent/Satan spending much more effort in getting Eve to partake of the fruit than Adam. I think he knew she was the one whose role it was to be that doorway. Adam had other roles. I realize now that is one more wise reason (to add to the many I've discovered) that Eve is portrayed as being created second. Number two is important in symbolizing her role. I also find it fascinating that all of nature, geometric shapes and numerical expressions in the language of math all support and witness of the wisdom in that choice Eve made to open the door - or maybe more accurately to be a doorway through which opposition and "twoness" could enter. Theirs would have been a life of stagnation if Adam and Eve remained in the Garden, just as 1 x 1 x 1 x 1… will always =1.  

"Opposites appear when separateness begins." (pg. 36) Once again, we could not progress until we experienced a separation from God and were allowed to increase in our knowledge of opposites. But in that opposition and "twoness" we are meant to learn a new kind of unity that allows for endless progression. 
[Two] is the only case where the addition of a number to itself yields the same result as it does multiplying by itself. Two plus two  equals two times two. Two represents a balancing point between unity and all subsequent numbers, between one and the many.…Symbolically, "two" acts as an intermediary, a transition, a door or portal between the Monad and all the rest of the numbers. [Christ is our advocate with the Father comes to mind here] Twoness is the hole or lens through which unity becomes and balances with the Many. This is the geometric lesson of the two linked circles, symbol of the Dyad. The almond-shaped zone of interpenetration between the circles has attracted the attention of geometers, artists, architects, and mythmakers through history. This is the vesica piscis, in Christian cultures a reference to Christ as the "fish" in the Age of Pisces. It's called a mandorla ("almond") in India. It was known in the early civilizations of Mesopotamia, Africa, Asia, and elsewhere. 
~A Beginners Guide, pg.31

In looking at this geometric shape of the two circles united, I know I'm not the first one to have seen how beautifully the center space represents Eve and Christ. If Eve was a doorway to a world of opposition where we could progress and grow to become more like God, then Christ is the doorway back. He is the way, the truth and the life; our advocate or way back to unity with God. It is so beautiful how God has imbedded these truths into everything around us! 

One more reason why I love this interpretation of Christ in Gethsemane with a female angel comforting him. It sure feels most fitting for Eve to have been the one to provide comfort at such a time with this perspective. 

Do our children realize the symbolism math and geometry were dominantly used to express and discover? No. They just memorize rules, or fail at memorizing them. At least that's all I've been doing to my own children. Wow. Ouch. 
…perhaps instead of teaching science to youngsters in separate pigeonholes of biology, chemistry, physics, [math] and so on, science courses could investigate the principles that run through each of them, such as wholeness, polarity, balance, pattern, and harmony. ~ A Beginners Guide, pg. 28

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Little Likening #1: The Monad

I've decided life is just in a higher gear with older children, teaching, our business, and projects etc. so I'm not going to wait for it to calm down before I write! Hence, here is the first of what I'll call "Little Likenings." 

My mornings are devoted to projects, writing and scripture study, but I'm reading three books right now and a few ebooks and they all rotate taking turns coming with me to the gym to be read during those 2 minutes of slower exercise between the 30 second sprints my health coach has assigned. Each day when I ask: okay, who wants to come with me today? One will nudge to the surface of the pile. 

Lately, A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe has called to me the most. I'm reading it along with two friends for a MIC series we participate in. It's filling up with wavy lines and notes scribbled while in motion. I have to try hard to remember I'm not alone at home for I burst out often with astonishment, surprise, or excitement at what this book is showing me and how its connecting to what I've been learning in my spiritual journey of the past years. 

First, some excerpts that I find fascinating and then the connections I'm starting to see. From the Introduction:

... the simple counting numbers from one to ten and the shapes that represent them, such as a circle, line, triangle, and square express a consistent, comprehensible language. The ten numbers are a complete archetypal sourcebook. They are the original ten patents for designs found all through the universe...Anything anyone can point to in nature is composed of small patterns and is a part of larger ones...Reading the Book of Nature first requires familiarity with its alphabet of geometric secret[s], fully in view but usually unnoticed...studying number properties and intellectually knowing the road map, the symbolism, is not the same as actually taking the journey. We take that journey by finding within ourselves the universal principles these properties represent and by applying the knowledge to our own growth. (Pages xx-xxiii)

 Thereafter, each chapter focuses on a single number from 1 to 10. This "Little Likening" will focus on the first chapter:

Wholly One

Called, the "Monad…ancient philosophers conceived that the Monad breathes in the void and creates all subsequent numbers (111111111 x 111111111 = 12345678987654321). [That is the coolest equation by the way, don't miss its symbolism!] Numbers only express different qualities of the Monad. The ancients didn't consider unity to be a 'number' but rather a parent of numbers…Nothing exists without a center around which it revolves, whether the nucleus of an atom, the heart of our body, hearth of the home, capital of a nation, sun in the solar system, or black hole at the core of a galaxy. When the center does not hold, the entire affair collapses. An idea or conversation is considered "pointless" not because it leads nowhere but because it has no center holding it together…dancers and gymnasts gracefully work with the Body's center of gravity to balance during motion…everyone has a psychological center of gravity, the thoughts, emotions, or desires with which we identify and from which we view the world at any given moment…our deeper self, the power that motivates the actions, emotions, thoughts and desires…the universal creating process begins with an expansion from a divine center, like the very first Biblical command, 'Let there be Light.' In Hindu mythology, the dimensionless Brahma speaks aloud the word aham, 'I Am,' a word made of the first, middle, and final letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, which represents the circle's three parts; the center, the radius, and the circumference, and our own spiritual center, psychological reaches, and outer material form." (Pages 2-10)

As I read these excerpts there are ideas in my head that gel together. First, I loved the idea of the number one symbolizing "the parent of numbers." (Wow, I can't wait to share the spiritual symbolism and aha's about the number two!! That will have to be the next "little likening"). 

Often, in that pursuit of a relationship with my creator, because I believe God to be an actual glorified being with a body, I've pictured him as far away from me. When I prayed or meditated, I focused outwardly, as if reaching for him (like I expressed here in this poem). Through various parts of my journey the last few years as I've yearned to strengthen my connection to and unity with my Heavenly Parents, I keep coming to this feeling that Paul meant something more when he spoke of us being of the "body of Christ." In my faith, we speak of the Light of Christ as being the power of Christ, 
"He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made… And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things." (D&C 88:6-7, 11-13)
 Therefore, we don't believe that God is in us (since we believe him to have a body), but we believe that the power of God is in all things and through all things so in that way, his power and influence is a part of us. We also believe the seeds of Godhood are within us just as everything in nature has the seeds to become what it's parent is. But because we are in a fallen world (wow, more on that with the symbolism of the number two!!) we believe we are fallen from this unity with God, but that Christ is our advocate - he is helping us regain that unity (and the symbolism of the number two shown in this book sure shows a purpose for that fall and for Christ to my mind - okay, yeah, I'm totally inspired by the number two now). 

The Light of Christ is the power behind all that Christ does. Importantly: "He…ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things…that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ." In other words, Christ's atonement (descending below all things) is a large part of what qualified him to have this power. That's how I understand it, at least. 

So that's one piece - the Light of Christ being in all and through all things. As a side reference, an ebook I read a while ago related a woman's near death experience after getting blown up in Iraq and living to tell of it. In the following passage, It almost sounds like she's quoting the scripture reference I've just used to explain what those in my faith call the Light of Christ (what she calls, the All That Is), does it not?:

 In fact, my understanding of the various dimensions—or vibrations or worlds or focus levels… is that they are aspects of one encompassing reality. The one reality includes all beingness or consciousness. It is the endlessly unknowable infinity of creativity and an apparent paradox of infinite numbers of unique individuals that are simultaneously one. This encompassing connection is within and of, and creates, is created by, and moves through each unique being, and is part of all while also existing separately from what I’ll call “All That Is." This All That Is can be perceived simultaneously as a force and as an individual consciousness that exists within each consciousness and yet is separate from each consciousness or being. It’s what might be referred to as God, but the ideas of gods that we have [those Religions she has been exposed to, but most of what she describes is what I believe in my faith] are a pale and incomplete shadow of the All That Is that I perceive. Projecting an idea of a god or gods upon that infinite creative consciousness inevitably limits an understanding of the All That Is in ways that reflect the severely limited comprehension that we have of ourselves and the physical universe. (Application of Impossible Things by Natalie Sudman)

The other piece is the Monad and that idea of the number one expressing unity with the parent of the many (all numbers, or all souls?).  Right here, I REALLY want to go into the number two's significance, but to keep this a "little likening," my last thought that I ponder and will share is this:

We speak of "centering ourselves" or searching for "inner peace." I've never liked those phrases because it felt like it excluded that most essential part of the Savior's role I depend on and slowly feel I am being recreated by. For some, when they speak of centering in their self, it even excludes God - they become a God unto their self. 

But maybe it's the third alternative (as it almost always seems to be).  Maybe when praying or meditating, it is not meant to be a reaching outward or upward so much as a centering in that Light of Christ that connects us to everything in unity. That's the plug or outlet that connects us to the Real. And what I see in the symbolism of this Monad is not about losing our individuality into some blending of sameness (1 x any number = that number, not 1).  But of being more centered in our true self that is an essential and unique part in the tapestry of the whole just as every part of the body, or of nature is essential and unique. Just as there are infinite points along the circumference of a circle. 

"God makes himself known to the world; He fills up the whole circle of the universe, but makes his particular abode in the center, which is the soul of the just." Lucian (c. 240-312). 

Maybe the whole debate for thousands of years over whether Christ had a body or not wasn't an A (he does) or B (he doesn't) answer. The answer, I believe, is C. Through the Light of Christ, this quote that speaks of God making his particular abode in the center is true. But also, the principle of the unique individual and unity of the parts with the whole is true. God is an individual being also - the One, the parent of the many; one point centered among infinite points along the circumference of its circle (universe?). 

The Monad; Wholly One. 

Who says there's no use for math?!?!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Meet the Mormons

I'm always in motion these days and my most frequent thought is, "when will I ever get a chance to write!" Even waking up early it's hard to squeeze it in with so many other priorities and projects right now. But I had to quickly say:

Last night, my family and I went to Meet the Mormons. Wow.

I was blown away by this movie. So tender. So touching. The way these stories are woven together and the beauty of each of their souls that comes through just makes you love being alive - the challenge of life, the daily creation process, the beauty in loving and being loved, in helping others and being healed, the pain that can be turned into immense joy. The diversity of each life. It was inspiring. Just go no matter what you believe. You'll come away nourished.

Plus, all net proceeds go to the Red Cross.

Read more about it here. And get a free mp3 of the song, Glorious by David Archuleta here.