The following article is considering many phylosophic and literary subjects such as Anima Mundi, Vitalism , Panpsychism , perfect numbers , the measures of the Ark of the Covenant and other.
Ades and Flora
About Pi ( a film by Darren Aronofsky) I have already written in a previous article: it is a movie full of philosophical meanings and even of cosmogonic and mythological allusions. This time I would like to reconsider a crucial scene already commented , when Sol and Max are talking about the Japanese Go board as an image of the universe. In Sol’s kitchen, on the left of the fridge, hanging on the wall, there are at least two meaningful pictures : one is maybe a tribute to Flora, it is a floral pattern with spirals, and spirals are a sort of leit-motiv in the movie, and the other is the represention of a huntsman with three dogs, that you could easily connect, for instance, to Ades and Cerberos of the ancient Greek mythology.
Pictures from Pi: Faith in Chaos ( Spirals and the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci)
They both were representations of the earth with dogs as symbols of its three different reigns, 1) t
he underworld (not to be here intended as the place of the dead only , but also as the physical space below the surface of the earth), 2) the flat surface of the earth where we all are living and 3) the space above, the firmament with sun, moon and stars. Moreover, among the many allusive hints occuring here and there, there’s another significant card pinned up above Max’s computer lights with words written on top in capital letters and in a circular form : DE ANIMA and maybe, in a quite illegible cypher, ORACULUM.
An old Greek statue of Ades and Cerberos
Max experiments a special relashionship with his computer who has a personal name, Euclides, and at the end it becomes aware of himself. The idea is a sort of vitalism that makes Euclides nearly human: it hums, groans, moans , bewails, produces its corporeal humours, generates ants. It’s noteworthy the scene when Max examines the consistency, smell and taste of the secretion of mucus Euclides has emitted inside the mechanism of its engines. It’s an intelligent, nearly organic machinery, a living soul. It could be a representation of the universe we live inside, an intelligent organism that at the end will be destroyed just as Max will destroy Euclides.
Maybe you remember of Plato, who in a striking dialogue in the Book of Timaeus, was one of the first philosophers to introduce the idea of a universal soul. He imagined the world as a sort of big animal moulded out of the four elements: fire, air, earth and water. Plotin too , in his Enneades, wrote that:”The universe is an only single animal englobing in it all the other animals, forming just one soul with all its parts”. The universe turns out to be animated by an intelligent mind, the anima mundi of old.
Panpsychism is a concept according to which all organic and inorganic organisms are endowed with different psychic abilities. Similarly Max Cohen is basing his assumptions and work on the hypothesis that the stock market is a natural organism that beyond the apparent chaos has its own order and rules.Even if the stock market is an organism that is influenced by many hands and millions of brains, and predicting its behavior could be seen like a fool’s game , Max won’t give up :”We have to go out there all alone, all alone, no one can accompany us. We have to risk it all.” he states when talking to Sol.
Surely you don’t forget the studies made by Mandelbrot about the laws of the stock exchange and the definition of what a fractal number is. He was a brilliant thinker and extended that brilliance to the stock markets. He went to the trouble of actually measuring the behavior of market prices (with primitive computers, this was much more work than it would be today).Then he went on to invent fractal geometry which gave him other insights into market behavior, notably that market movements are “self-similar” or that a market crash should occur about once a decade. The crash came in 2008 just as Mandelbrot had forecast.
Mandelbrot’s ensambles also known as Mandelbrot’s fractals: these are multicolored suggestive images that are popular and well known even outside the matemathician domain.
Vitalism and Panpsychism
These forms of thought, in regard of a world considered as a complex organism, can be detected not only in Aronofsky or Plato, but also in Tales, Tommaso Campanella, Giordano Bruno, Leibniz or Maupertius. Leibniz, for instance, conceived the universe as inhabited by centres of energy or monades having their personal and sometimes inconscious representations. All these philosophers were convinced that at the origin was not the matter but the spirit.
So, among others, Plato wrote:” I need to say that this universe was born as a living being, equipped with an intelligent soul by the pronoia of God..” (Timaeus chapter vi 30b-30c) The greek pronoia is often translated as providence but it renders the meaning of thought, design, care, reflexion. Incidentally, this word providence is never used in the Bible except in chapter 24:2-3 of the book of Acts, where it doesn’t refer to God’s providence but to a man’s forethought, the governor Felix.
To search an example of this kind of thinking in modern times, you could find an evident form of vitalism or panpsychism in the thought of James Lovelock who in ” Gaia. A new look of life on Earth” exposed his theory. Lovelock is well known for having considered the earth to be a whole organism able to keep in balance all its elements and cycles, such as the production of oxygen and nitrogen that are the results of the combined interaction of different intelligent processes, being oxygen the consequence of photosyntesis and nitrogen the waste product of a process of denitrification performed by living organisms which have the role to fix nitrogen.
From Lovelock’s theory many phantascientific stories have been created as well as the Japanese manga ” Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” by Hayao Miyazaki” in 1984.
But now, as promised in my previous article, I have to introduce numbers. Plato in the Repubblic, book viii, takes into consideration two perfect numbers, that scholars imagine to be 6 and 216. Plato explains:” Now for divine begettings there is a period comprehended by a perfect number, and for mortal by the first in which augmentations dominating and dominated…etc.” This can be seen as a quite obscure passage, as pointed out by Cicero (Ad att,vii.13) “est enim numero Platonis obscurius”, but , according to many experts’s opinion, perfect numbers should be 6 and 6x6x6, that is to say 216.
Another well known philosopher of the eighteenth century, Montesquieux, was said to live in a 6x6x6 cubic room. These numbers originate, of course from the book of Revelation 13:18 where you can read:”Here is where wisdom comes in: let the one that has intelligece calculate the number of the wild beast, for it is a man’s number; and its number is six hundred and sixty-six”. It should be said that, generally ,readers prefer to consider 666 as the devil’s number , but this could be a sort of misunderstanding, why? In Revelation you read that 666 is also” a man’s number”.
The measures of the Ark of the Covenant
Let’s consider the value of six in creation and in the Bible. All the organic life is based on number six : all living organisms are made of atoms that are organized on the basis of six protons, six electrons and six neutrons, a sort of 666, aren’t they? Exagons are the base of many geometrical organic forms: think to the simple but wonderful organisation of the cells of the bees in the hive.Then let’s search more into the Bible. Try to answer this question: which were the measures of the ark of the covenant set in the holy of holy in the temple in Jerusalem? The chest itself measured two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubit wide and one and a half cubit high.
In Jerusalem in 1867 an old water tunnel was discovered. Of great interest was the ancient inscription found on the tunnel wall in early Hebrew monumental script describing the cutting of the tunnel and its length. The inscription reads , in part: “and the water flowed toward the reservoir for 1,200 cubits…” (Ancient Near Eastern Text, Pritchard, p.321). According to the current units of measure this tunnel is 533 meters long, and on the basis of this calculation a cubit should correspond to 44.4 centimeters. Moreover, a number of buildings and enclosures found in Palestine by archaeologists can be measured as whole multiples of this unit, giving a farther reason for considering a cubit as a lenght of 44.4 cm. On this basis the measures of the ark of the covenant should be expressed in centimeters as 111 x 66.6 x 66.6, showing thus that 666 is an eartly number, a man’s number. As a matter of facts, was not the covenant a pact between God and man? Moreover, is not one the number of God? .
Anyway, Max Cohen was looking for another number, for the Schemhanphoras’s number , for the Universe’s DNA, for God’s name: “It’s more than God…it’s everything”. Max is looking for a hidden code in the Bible, in order to discover all the secrets hidden in the universe. In a similar way Isaak Newton was said to indulge in the search of mathemathically hidden messages in the Bible.
Pictures from PI: Faith in Chaos.
The 216 digits number, which Max hand-writes, is written on a piece of paper that has on the bottom”only God is perfect”, that is an admission of man’s impossibility to reach a complete undersanding of God and of his Creation.We should remember that the original title of the Aronofsky’s film was “Pi:Faith in Chaos”, thus clearly indicating the path you should follow to detect the basic meaning of the film.
The value of Pi in the Bible
The other number in the movie, of course, is Pi. Scholars often consider this as one of the most intriguing numbers and the most recognised mathematical constant in the world. It’s an irrational number, meaning its digits go on forever in a seeminly random sequence. Since there are 360 degrees in a circle and Pi is intimately connected with this geometrical shape , no wonder that Max often draws circles on his never-ending lists of data concerning the stock market. Some scholars claim that humans are programmed to find patterns in the world because it’s the only way we can give meaning to the world and ourselves. Hence you can explain Max’s obsessive search to find patterns in Pi.
We should notice that the Bible alludes to Pi in 2 Chronicles when describing the molten sea of copper. Some scholars interpret this to mean that the value of Pi is simply 3, as you can evince from the passage where Solomon gives instructions about the forging of a large copper basin that was to be filled with water. It was a large ornamented molten sea that stood upon twelve fashioned bulls. It could have had the function of a natural observatory. Here is the story as narrated in the second book of Chronicles: “And he proceded to make the molten sea, ten cubits from its one brim to its other brim, circular all around, and its height was five cubits, and it took a line of thirty cubits to circle all around it.” (2Chron. 4:2-5) When you calculate the proportions between the diameter and the circunference of the basin you will notice that the result is 3. We should probably consider the fact that the basin could be taken as a model of the sky above the earth and dynamic is involved. Time should be considered .
Why does Max burn the magic number list he has just discovered?
I would like to conclude this article by quoting John Donne’s (1572-1631) poem “Upon the translation of the Psalms by Sir Philip Sydney, and the Countess of Pembroke, his sister”, where he condemns attempts to find an exact value of Pi, or to square a circle, which Donne views as an attempt to rationalise God. Here are a few verses:
“Eternal God- for whom who ever dare Seek new expressions, do the circle square, And trust into straight corners of poor wit Thee, who are cornerless and infinite-”
And similar could be the reason why Max at the end burns the list of the 216 digits he has so passionately searched for: “It’s just a number…The number is nothing. It’s the syntax, It’s what between the numbers.” and God is not just a number….