Naming Infinity (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
For most people, exposure to mathematics begins with arithmetic in elementary school and may extend to the study of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus in high school. Math is usually viewed as a rational, scientific discipline with practical applications. The notion that mathematics may have a connection to the divine does not often enter into classroom discussions. After all the job of a mathematician is to define precisely and to prove theories and equations, while the purview of a theologian is to explore the transcendent. Throughout history and across cultures, however, mathematics and spirituality have intersected in humanity’s quest to know the absolute.
The magic square number system formulated by the Chinese and the correspondence between Indian astronomy and sacred Hindu texts represent early examples of ways in which humans have linked mathematics and religion. During the classical Greek period, the Pythagoreans believed that creation was founded on the principles of mathematics. In the centuries that followed, Augustine, Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Baruch Spinoza, and others explored the notion that the divine essence underlying the structure of the material universe could be unveiled through the study of numbers. With the advent of the Enlightenment in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, however, secular views predominated in the form of deism, agnosticism, and atheism, and mathematics was...
(The entire section is 1842 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
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(The entire section is 28 words.)