By the Numbers

26 06 2008

Above: the magic square in Gaudi’s Holy Family Cathedral in Barcelona

For the Pythagoreans, numbers, as opposed to physical substances, are the permanent, prime principles of the world. Numbers alone have unity and give rise to multiplicity in an orderly, knowable fashion. Physical things are transient, indefinable and impossible to know in essence. Numbers are the elements of everything, even of divinity. So they embrace all reality. Their configurations reveal the structure of the universe. Number four is one of those special configurations, for if one adds its constituent numbers, one plus two plus three plus four, they come to ten, the total range of single numbers. Four, or “the tetraktys” as the Pythagoreans called it, represents the total universe.

-Lucas Siorvanes, Proclus: Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Science



6 responses

27 06 2008
The Scylding

God often “plays” with numbers – think of the Fibonacci series, the “golden rectangle” etc.

And then there is the true story of a missionary in Japan (I’ve personally met him), who was in need of money for something or other. Somebody close to him got a gift of $200, and he then prayed – “Lord, I need $200 to”. Shortly thereafter, he got a contribution of – $202!

27 06 2008
Jonathan Noguera

Also, I’m not Prejean, in case you get confused again.

27 06 2008

According to Lagrange’s four-square theorem, every positive number is a sum of four squares. I just learned that today~

I sure God laughed at me for thinking I can read this and understand it:

26 06 2008

I was interested in the statues to the right (it’s the kiss of betrayal), and 1) found out that the cathedral facade is the work of sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs; 2) came across a page suggesting that 14 and 10 may have been used twice because they add up to 48, and 48 would be the sum of INRI (if the Latin alphabet is used numerically: A=1, B=2, etc., to I=9, N=13, R=17). But that could be nothing more than speculation. See for more.

26 06 2008

Well, these guys may not have gotten all the details right, but, given that the laws of natural science are essentially mathematical, it looks like their basic intuition was correct.

26 06 2008
Huw Richardson

Curious. While all the rows and columns add up to 33, the numbers 10 and 14 are each repeated – thus it is not a proper “Magic Square”. I’m sure Gaudi has a reason! But I wonder what?

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