(Picture by http://psion005.deviantart.com/art/Infinity-Inc-54384713...this person's fractal art is awesome! buy some!)
In my last post I discussed the ramifications of separating science and mysticism and its effects on contemporary society. Today I would like to offer an interview with my good friend, fellow mage, and fellow blogger Frater J.C. one of the contributors over at The Rosicrucian Vault. I have the pleasure to have personally known him for many years and not only does he posses and deep and fruitful knowledge of The Royal Art, but is one of the most learned and intellectual people I have met. He also has his degree in mathematics and wrote his senior dissertation on the famous mathematician Georg Cantor who I am slightly obsessed with due to his research into infinity and his work and discoveries with the transfinites (the hyper-link will take you to a nice over-view). My interview with J.C. covers some of these concepts and their links to magic, mysticism, and The Golden Dawn as well as one of my favorite subjects Sacred Mathematics. Enjoy!
Nosce Te Ipsum,
VH Soror FSO
Interview With VH Frater J.C.
FSO: Sacred Mathematics is an integral part of the language of many esoteric/mystic traditions and especially in the Golden Dawn. When did you first start to make connections between the intricacies of mathematics and magic? How has your relationship with mathematics and magic matured over time?
J.C.: Sacred Geometry permeates every corner of our tradition. You and I see it, others may or may not. I like your use of the term “Sacred Mathematics” as it lends itself to concepts that are outside the scope of, yet include, Sacred Geometry. Quite frankly, my interest in sacred mathematics has run parallel to my work in the occult. I can’t think of a time I was interested in one and not the other. When I was a teenager, my focus was on Golden Dawn work and at the same time I had an obsession with Hebrew Gematria. My relationship with Sacred Mathematics has been nurtured each step of my personal progression in this work, but it is really the last five years that I have really begun making what I would consider useful, practical use of the concepts of Sacred Mathematics. Prior to this I was immersing myself in the symbolism looking for something. Part of the problem is that there is little to nothing on the practical use of most of the theoretical ideas of Sacred Mathematics available. What I have been able to make use of has been through a lot of work and testing of certain applications.
FSO: As a scientist/magician and someone who has studied her fair share of math I have often though to myself that mathematics has an extremely elegant way of expressing universal ideas that are on the border of being able to be expressed intellectually and also living in that abstract world. A world it seems, above the intellect that connect us to higher states of consciousness as if it is a doorway into a higher realm. Can you speak on this a bit. Do you agree/disagree...what has been your experience?
J.C.: Well, mathematics is a language. And just as any language is meant to be able to order thoughts and communicate them to other sentient beings, mathematics does this in its own way. Mathematics can explain what the English language cannot, what Hebrew cannot, what any other language cannot. It can be used to explain everything from the mundane to the abstract, from things that exist in the material plane to things that very clearly cannot exist in Assiah. The great thing about mathematics is that if there is no known jargon or formula to explain something, some mathematician will add to the corpus of mathematical concepts, and thereby add to the language of mathematics. In that respect, mathematics is a language that is constantly growing and evolving. As with meditating with any symbol, color, energy, one can meditate upon any mathematical concept. This is particularly natural to do with mathematical models. Meditating upon, say a square, or even something like a system of ideas such as Calculus can lend itself to comprehending the natural ideas to which those systems or models correspond to in the world around us, and even in higher dimensions.
FSO: Do you think that the study of mathematics can deepen our skills in magic? Do you think that this lies only in the area of Sacred Mathematics, or do you think this extends into the more mundane aspects of math?
J.C.: Sacred Mathematics is practiced by everyone in the Golden Dawn tradition whether they are aware of it or not. Every time someone performs a pentagram ritual, a hexagram ritual, a qabalistic cross, among other things, they are engaged in Sacred Mathematics. When one meditates upon the point, line, cube, and beyond, they are engaged in Sacred Mathematics. These practices certainly are employed by many effectively, so that is evidence Sacred Math can indeed enrich the experience in this tradition.
FSO:What areas of mathematics do you think are indispensable to magical training? What areas of mathematics do you think someone could study in order to deepen thier knowledge and understanding of magic?
J.C: I think there is a lot of work that can and should be done in the area of Sacred Geometry. It is a virtually dead art because so few are engaged in it. Constructing and meditating upon mathematical figures is a powerful method for gaining deeper insight into the nature of these figures which are prevalent in our tradition.
As far as the study of mathematics, I think only those with the inclination toward mathematics are going to pursue such studies to a degree that they can generate something useful. However, just because it takes a mathematical mind to construct, say, a complex geometric figure such as a icosahedron, that doesn’t mean someone else couldn’t gain something from the work and research of someone that can construct and immerse their mind in such a figure. Aside from the specific subject at hand, I think the greatest benefit from the study of mathematics in this area is the corresponding cultivation of the mind. The lack of a well developed intellect, in my opinion, lends itself to poorly constructed thoughts and ideas (which often leads people to form false beliefs) that seem to stereotype of what is called “new age.” Truth is important, and the study of mathematics is a historically effective method for cultivating the mind to be able to derive truth from any study, including esoteric subjects. This is largely why so many important philosophers, and even occultists, had a relationship with mathematics.
FSO: Now, there is a very interesting mathematician by the name of Cantor whose theorems you have studies in great detail. He postulated that not only does infinity exist it exists in different measures, i.e. that there are larger and larger infinities that exist (at least in mathematical terms) Have you found there to be any connections between these ideas and magical theories? Do you think the knowledge that there progressively larger infinites could alter or change our understanding of magic in anyway?
J.C.: The work of Cantor might be significant to me, it might be significant to you, but they are rather advanced mathematical ideas that probably won’t fit into the tradition as a whole, as only those who study the subject in depth can really think about and meditate on the spiritual significance such ideas.That being said, I think meditating on infinity as a simple idea is useful and would recommend it to anyone. You don’t have to study Set Theory and the Transfinites to get something out of a meditation on the infinite.For me, meditations on the concepts and models of infinity has had an impact on my mind, creative thinking, and my personal connection with the Quintessence. That connection it fostered with spirit also seemed to feed back into my connection with being able to have a deeper conceptual understanding of the infinite and the transfinite numbers.On the flip side, there is evidence that practices of mysticism have actually had a direct impact on the development of this specific branch of mathematics. There was a specific practice of “Name Worshipping” that flourished in Soviet Russia, which served as a simple, private form of Christian worship as publically practicing Christian worship was met with severity, up to and including death. The practice of Name Worshipping had a influence on the philosophy of existence for certain Russian mathematicians, which had an impact on their work and development with the concepts from Cantor’s theory of the infinite.
FSO: What would you say are the differences and similarities between the ideas of infinity expressed in mathematics and those which we contemplate in esoteric thought? For example do you think that we are dealing more with the concept of Absolute Infinity in our magical studies? Do you think that the ideas of the transfinites can be used to explain things such as the realms of the Sephrioth which are infinite worlds unto themselves which in some opinions become more and more vast as you ascend up the Tree of Life?
J.C.: I wouldn’t draw any connection between the Sephiroth and the infinite, as the Sephiroth are specifically defined to be the numbers 1 through 10. This is not just through arbitrary correspondence, but to say that the Sephiroth are those numbers. I would attribute the concept of infinity to realm of the veils of negative existence, particularly to Ain Soph (“without limit,” or infinity). Numbers are numbers. However, in academic mathematics the focus seems to just be on the quantitative aspect of a number, whereas in esoteric studies there is more of a focus on the qualitative aspect to a number. Historically these two halves of a whole used to be as one, but I don’t foresee them becoming reunited any time in the near future, with the exception of the few who have an interest in both.
FSO: Lastly, I like to leave this last question open to those whom I am interviewing to take some time to share their own personal wisdom about The Great Work. What have been the most important lessons that you have learned on your path...is there any knowledge that you think is important for others to know or to contemplate?
J.C.: Learn your basics, learn them well, and then find something that you can be passionate about, master that subject, and take it in new directions. Reworking and rediscovering old papers, lessons and works will only carry us so far. What is important, particularly in the Golden Dawn, is the development and establishment of further expressions of the tradition. Make it fun, and make it meaningful to you, but do it in a way that will be useful to the progress of the tradition. Otherwise, why bother being a part of a magical Order?