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
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 1999I 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