Category Archives: religion

The Arcane Arts of Ramon Llull : the Dignities

Oh, Ramon Llull, where have you been all my life? I’m sure he’s been there all along, death now over seven hundred years in the past, just like always. His legacy seems at first glance to be quite the essence of medieval religion and scholastic philosophy, but still significantly and obscurely different to be enticing to this one. And on further examination, much more.

My schema above has little to do with his grand elaborate figures, except for listing the sixteen attributes he called “dignities”. Llull’s diagrams are full of clock-like wheels within wheels, complicated tableau, and combinatorial patterns. He wished to create a universal model to understand reality, and who wouldn’t want to discover the same? It is said that his methods are akin to an early computer science, and I’m just now starting to understand why.

The magister based the substance of his methods on his Christian faith, although he converted in midlife from Islam. Living in Barcelona, it was probably a good place to make such a change, but felt his calling was to convert others as well, so traveling he went. The methods he developed to convince others of their errors in belief were quite remarkable, as were the volume of his writing.

Like Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who lived four hundred years later and was influenced by him, Llull wished to automate reasoning. But instead of building mechanical devices, Llull built computers from paper and ink, rulers and drawing compasses, scissors and glue. And instead of numbers as the smallest tokens of his computer, he used abstractions (i.e. words) that he felt would be understood by everyone in exactly the same way.

For example, he enumerated these sixteen dignities or aspects of his Christian diety, although sometimes he used the first nine. His constructions allowed one to pose questions and then obtain answers mechanistically that would be convincing to all observers of the correctness of the result. Too bad he was ultimately stoned to death while on his missionary work, although he lived to be eighty two.

Llull’s devices remind me of some of my pitiful charts and diagrams, and make me wonder if I may either adapt some of his techniques to my own use, or be inspired to develop others. I suspect I have locked myself into limitations by my approach, or are these constraints to my advantage? It might be hard to have spinning elements, but I can envision sliding elements like Napier’s Bones, origami-style folding and pleating, and even physical constructions like linkages and abacuses.

Now a martyr within the Franciscan Order, Llull’s feast day is June 30, which I’ve now missed. I hope to remember him to repost or improve on this by next year.

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramon_Llull

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/llull/

http://trepanatus.blogspot.com/2007/06/ramon-llull.html

https://history-computer.com/Dreamers/Llull.html

http://www.ramonllull.net/sw_studies/studies_original/compsale.html

https://publicdomainreview.org/2016/11/10/let-us-calculate-leibniz-llull-and-computational-imagination/

http://www.ncregister.com/blog/astagnaro/bl.-raymond-lull-and-the-worlds-first-computer

https://dangerousminds.net/comments/the_13th_century_thinking_machine_of_ramon_llull

The memory wheel

https://www.google.com/search?q=ars+magna+llull&tbm=isch

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The Four Horse-persons of the Apocalypse

In preparation for the “Good Omens” TV (specifically, Amazon Prime and BBC Two) series, I started reading the 1990 novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Concurrently, and after watching too much TV news, I started to think (again) about the Four Horse-persons of the Apocalypse. In the book, personifications of these entities appear as characters working conscientiously to bring about the end of the world (but so far without their trusty steeds). They are (by one interpretation):

  • War (or Conflict) (said to ride a Red Horse)
  • Famine (said to ride a Black Horse)
  • Disease (said to ride a White Horse)
  • Death (said to ride a Pale Horse)

These four riders famously make their appearance in the biblical book of Revelation, after the Four Living Creatures (essentially, the Tetramorph) say “Come” or “Allons-Y!”, depending on your translation. And indeed the Four Horse-persons are a powerful “meme” and are referenced in many popular entertainments and real-life derivative nomenclatures. I’m looking forward to the video series as I enjoy the main actors playing the “odd couple” of angel and demon, and after viewing the various trailers and photos.

Who says Armageddon (or the struggle against it) can’t be fun? Ok, I admit it’s scary but sometimes you just have to laugh!

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Omens

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Omens_(TV_series)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Horsemen_of_the_Apocalypse

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_creatures_(Bible)

https://publicdomainreview.org/collections/the-four-horsemen-of-the-apocalypse/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Horsemen_of_the_Apocalypse_in_popular_culture

Here Death is the end, but it’s only the beginning of the end (or is it the end of the beginning?) in the four-fold “The Four Last Things”:

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2017/09/06/the-four-last-things/

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Fearless Living

We can live with no fear if we remove these four pairs of opposites and have Right View.

— Thích Nhất Hạnh

  • No Birth
  • No Death
  • No Sameness
  • No Otherness
  • No Coming
  • No Going
  • No Being
  • No Non-being

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%ADch_Nh%E1%BA%A5t_H%E1%BA%A1nh

https://tnhaudio.org/tag/pairs-of-opposites/

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The Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism (八正道):

  • Right View (also Understanding) (正見)
  • Right Intention (also Thought) (正思唯)
  • Right Speech (正語)
  • Right Action (正業)
  • Right Livelyhood (正命)
  • Right Effort (正精進)
  • Right Mindfulness (正念)
  • Right Concentration (正定)

I’ve also translated the diagram into Chinese.

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_Eightfold_Path

The Noble Eightfold Path

https://www.buddha101.com/p_path.htm#The%20Eightfold%20Path

https://www.orientaloutpost.com/shufa.php?q=eightfold

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Behold, the Tetramorph

I’ve felt a fondness for the Tetramorph for a long time. Four beings considered simultaneously: a man, an ox, a lion, an eagle.

They are the Babylonian symbols of the four fixed signs of the zodiac: ox or bull for Taurus (and earth), lion for Leo (and fire), eagle for Scorpio (and water), man for Aquarius (and air).

They can be thought of as representing the ancient four elements: earth, fire, water, and air.

They are mentioned in the Judeo-Christian Bible in the books of Ezekiel and Revelation. They have also been paired with the four evangelists and their books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (although the pairing is not fixed).

They are shown on the Tarot card for the “Wheel of Fortune” in the Rider-Waite deck, and the card for the “World” in the Tarot of Marseilles.

Why these four creatures, and not others?

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetramorph

The Tetramorph; The Sumerian Origins of a Christian Symbol

http://occultum.net/the-sacred-tetramorph/

Under The Sign Of Tetramorph

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrology_and_the_classical_elements#Elements_of_the_zodiac

https://quadriformisratio.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/the-tetramorph-and-more/

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The Four Last Things

Over the years, there has been much religious consideration of the four last things in Christian Eschatology. They are

  • Death
  • Judgment
  • Heaven
  • Hell

Many books have been written and many paintings have been painted. In my project to present every fourth thing, I imagine I’ll come to them eventually, but why wait until then? Or maybe I’m thinking of the “Last Four Things”.

Actually, I’d much rather play the video game on my Mac, because it looks like a lot more fun. Plus it uses classical music for a background soundtrack and images from Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings, such as the Garden of Earthly Delights. When will the Mac version be available? Anyone?

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_last_things

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_eschatology

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Last_Things_(video_game)

http://joemcrichardson.com/fourlastthings/presskit.html

Robert Southwell / A Four-fold Meditation of the Four Last Things

News:

FLT is finally out on Android and iOS! There is much rejoicing!

http://steamcommunity.com/games/503400/announcements/detail/1669015871902809029

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Religion and Science

sq_religion_vs_scienceWhat is the relationship between religion and science? Instead of one answer, Templeton Prize winner Ian Barbour presents us with four possibilities: independence (or autonomy), conflict, dialogue, and integration.

These four relationships described by Barbour can be useful to consider, as they describe what may exist between the two entities in the mind of an individual or the social discourse of a culture. For religion and science, what is their stance towards one another? Would you say they are independent of one another like Stephen Jay Gould’s non-overlapping magisteria, or in constant conflict as they appear to be in the media? Or are they in helpful dialogue with one another or even harmoniously integrated with one another? Or are they one thing some times, and then another thing at other times?

It seems that these four relationships are not restricted to just religion and science, as any two distinct institutions could have one or more of these interactions between them. For example there is religion and government, science and business, or public education and certain political organizations, to name just a few. Also, any two different religious institutions or any two different scientific fields could be in any of these relationships. For example there is the Catholic Church and all Protestant Churches, Sunni Islam and Shia Islam, and even Christianity and Buddhism. For science, consider physics and biology, chemistry and sociology, etc.

So why pick on religion and science? Is it because there seems to be so much conflict between them in our own minds? Are they frequently at odds with one another in the public and private spheres? And is that a good thing or a bad thing?

What is religion, anyway? Is it the sum total of all religious institutions and cultural behaviors? Is it the sum total of all religious beliefs held by individuals? Or is it the total of both of those things, plus more? And what is science? Is it the sum total of all scientific facts and literature, or the actual institutional structures and methodologies for all scientific practitioners? Is it the sum total of all scientific knowledge along with all the evidence for all that knowledge that are in the current minds of scientists and even non-scientists?

Without people, all you would have left of religion are the buildings, the texts, and the relics. Without people, all you would have left of science are the buildings, the writings, the instruments, and the facts. Both obviously have very large individual and social components that are sustained through teaching and learning. If post-humans or alien visitors found only the material residue of human religion, they could possibly understand it to some extent with enough anthropological work. If visitors found only the material residue of human science, I think they would be able to follow the chain of reasoning and the body of evidence to support the factual conclusions. Some facts and theories might be incorrect, certainly, but not most. Thus science contains an objective component not found in religion.

The first sentence about each from Wikipedia:

“A religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.”

“Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe”.

The definition of science is pretty clear, but the one for religion is a little vague. I’m not sure what an “order of existence” is supposed to be, and it’s not defined there on Wikipedia. Is it an ordering of things that exist, so humanity is assigned to fit in a certain place in a hierarchy, say between gods and animals, i.e. a “great chain of being”? Is that the same as a “world view”? It seems that a world view could contain an order of existence, but not necessarily the other way around. So one could have a world view without an order of existence.

Only you can decide for yourself which relationship exists between religion and science, and unless you have public writings on the matter, no one can investigate and draw their own conclusions of what you think. And anyone can produce a claim for the ultimate stance between religion and science, but of course such claims must be substantiated by reason and evidence. Scholars can produce informed discussions on the matter, to greater or lesser acceptance.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Barbour

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relationship_between_religion_and_science#Perspectives

http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=2237&C=2064

https://scienceandtheology.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/science-and-religion-barbours-4-models/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science

Also please see the previous post:

https://equivalentexchange.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/the-four-conic-sections/

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