Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity

by OrphanCrow 2 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • OrphanCrow

    During the time that the Silver Sword, the JW Bible, was being examined in the Russian courts as to whether or not it was going to be recognized as a "real bible" or be declared extremist (which it was), I did some research for historical context, trying to get a better understanding of the social environment that would be evaluating the JW bible.

    The most crucial piece of information that I was interested in expanding and tracking down was how the JWs' use of 'the divine name' in the bible would be perceived in Russian culture.

    I started from the premise that the act of naming denoted ownership. And I was interested in how that act would be interpreted against the backdrop of Orthodoxy in Russia, given that Russian Orthodoxy has had its own historical and controversial schisms over the rituals and interpretations of "the divine". Even though we live in the 21st century and this drama is played out in front of us, how it is scripted is based on centuries of belief and ritual that are not present in the birthplace of the JWorg.

    I also thought that the Org's habit of claiming divine favor based on "knowing" god's name would not play out well against the history and inherent religious biases that run deep within Russian culture and so I wanted to know how the act of naming god might be viewed in today's culture.

    Anyways. I stumbled across a book - it is available for free download - that is really interesting. I wasn't looking for it in particular, but it is a fascinating read. Very engaging.

    Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor

    A review of the book:

    Reviewed by Alexey Glutsyuk

    And another review by Paul J. Zwier

    There are several places online that one can download a digital copy of the book - Naming Infinity - and it is also available in hardcopy (which will have the photographic images not included in the digital copy...damn)

    In 1913, Russian imperial marines stormed an Orthodox monastery at Mt. Athos, Greece, to haul off monks engaged in a dangerously heretical practice known as Name Worshipping. Exiled to remote Russian outposts, the monks and their mystical movement went underground. Ultimately, they came across Russian intellectuals who embraced Name Worshipping—and who would achieve one of the biggest mathematical breakthroughs of the twentieth century, going beyond recent French achievements.

    Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor take us on an exciting mathematical mystery tour as they unravel a bizarre tale of political struggles, psychological crises, sexual complexities, and ethical dilemmas. At the core of this book is the contest between French and Russian mathematicians who sought new answers to one of the oldest puzzles in math: the nature of infinity. The French school chased rationalist solutions. The Russian mathematicians, notably Dmitri Egorov and Nikolai Luzin—who founded the famous Moscow School of Mathematics—were inspired by mystical insights attained during Name Worshipping. Their religious practice appears to have opened to them visions into the infinite—and led to the founding of descriptive set theory.

    The men and women of the leading French and Russian mathematical schools are central characters in this absorbing tale that could not be told until now. Naming Infinity is a poignant human interest story that raises provocative questions about science and religion, intuition and ­creativity.
  • Cimarrona

    This is super interesting - the history of the relationship between mathematic theory and religious opinions about the use or non-use of a name for "God/s." Wow. Thank you for sharing.

  • OrphanCrow

    It is a super interesting book, Cimarrona.

    The book reveals much about the world of the intellectuals and monks/priests inside post-Revolution Russia - how they did or did not survive, how they continued their studies and teaching professions - and how so many of those gifted and learned people were eliminated, never to be heard of again.

    The decade(s) following the Revolution of 1917 is known as the years of "godlessness". Those were the years in which the Soviet propaganda was directed toward the elimination of religion, and they were also the years that thousands of Orthodox priests lost their lives.

    I read another book about Russian history recently that dovetails somewhat into the same years that "Naming Infinity" deals with - primarily the post-revolution years and into the Stalin era. This book, too, deals with religion in Russia, or rather, the lack of religion in Russia during its communist years.

    "Godless at the Workbench" is another super interesting read except it is not available in digital format. I bought a hard copy. It joins my favorite book collection.

    Godless at the Workbench

    This publication documents the exhibition of illustrated journals (by famous Soviet artists), posters, archival photographs and films testifying to the Soviet anti-religious campaigns of 1918-1939. Because religion in the Russian empire had been one of the main markers of social identity, these campaigns (which heavily relied on visual propaganda) were determinant in the creation of a Soviet identity divorced from pre-revolutionary culture. Primarily, Godless at the Workbench explored the link between visual culture and the development of Soviet identity, through the visual materials produced for the anti-religious campaigns, or documentation of the campaigns. This exhibition was presented at Dunlop Art Gallery from January 17 to March 7, 2004.
    Curator: Guest Curator Dr. Annie Gérin
    Description: 169 pages, hard cover, 37 black and white, 39 colour images
    Essay: Dr. Annie Gérin
    ISBN: 1-894882-09-1

    The essay by Dr. Gerin is excellent and I did find some of the images from the book posted online.

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