…And now for something completely different.
The Square Root of God: Mathematical Metaphors and Spiritual Tangents
- Timothy Carson
OK. Not completely different. (There’s nothing new under the sun.) I certainly found some similarities here with works like Bell’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About God,” Rollins’ “The Idolatry of God,” and a few whispers of Dowd’s “Thank God For Evolution.” Still, I’ve never read anything quite like this.
While these pages are assuredly from the perspective of a “Jesus person,” I believe most of what’s written here would be of interest to those of other faith traditions, as well. We look at “God’s universal presence in all time and space,” against which backdrop “Jesus emerged.”
Mr. Carson starts by telling us that “Thinkers from every world civilization throughout history have somehow connected mystical spirituality and mathematics.”
Hmmm. I did not know that, but reading of the connections is just amazing.
We look at intersubjectivity and objective reality, and that “what we observe is filtered in unusual ways by the worldview we already hold.” We begin to see “the limits of any human endeavor to interpret the hidden nature of reality.”
Timothy takes us on a journey through quantum physics, religion, philosophy, music, art, time, space, pantheism vs. panentheism, and mathematical equations as they relate to and reveal that which we call “God.”
In the chapter titled “Number 1″ we read from the Old Testament books of Deuteronomy, Genesis, and Exodus. Here we find that “The essential metaphysical pronouncement is that there is but one ultimate and seamless reality and it’s source. There is one… irreducible, undivided unity… a singularity that is the simplicity within every complexity.” ”Even chaos has a hidden symmetry.”
It is from here we examine the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. We are led beyond both Unitarianism and Trinitarianism (I’ve been in those battles. They’re not usually pretty!) to a mathematical metaphor that suggests that God can never be the product of addition. As it is expounded upon, our author’s proposal would seem to satisfy Unitarians, at the same time retaining a sense of Son and Spirit in a way that would be palatable to many Trinitarians. We delve deeper into the ways that “mathematics and theology inform one another.”
There are also discussions about Thomas Jefferson, Plato, prime numbers, Shema, the Nicene Creed, healing, prayer, spiritual centering, the medical arts, and genetics.
In “Circle Up,” we examine (you guessed it) the circle. We’re reminded that every point on the circumference of a circle, although in different relationships to each other, are equal peers due to their identical relationship to the center. ”Circles are built into the structure of the universe in countless ways. Circles are everywhere.” ”From planets to stars, galaxies to atoms, matter and it’s energy are oriented to and shaped by the centers that hold them.”
Some of the ramifications and spiritual applications may come immediately to your mind. Others may surprise you. The story of “The Prodigal Son,” metaphysical harmony, variation of relationship intensity, grace, Jews, Christians, Islam, Buddhism, the arrogance of exclusivism, and rainbows all add to this mind-expanding section. We see how the “exclusivist, universalist, inclusivist and tolerance models” are all “found wanting. What is needed is something else, something more.”
Next up is “A Piece of Pi.” This chapter follows, of course, the discussion of the circle. Here, Pi becomes a metaphor of Christ, each being a “key” to unlock, although not fully disclose, a mystery. We look at “the anomaly in the web of time and space” that is the emergence of Jesus within history, and the related failings of classical theism.
We also survey the speed of light, sacred wisdom, parables, the Torah, the Gospel of John, and the two greatest commandments. And, as some other books have done, we look at the total insanity (my words) of traditional penal substitution.
“Shape Beneath the Shape” focuses on geometry. We inspect the “interplay of lines, circles, squares, triangles and multiple combinations thereof.” We consider the “primary distinction between Newtonian and Quantum physics.” Through the work of Picasso, we see that “the underlying truth of a thing disrupts how we are accustomed to seeing it.” This principle has been a repeat offender in my continuing escape from religious fundamentalism.
There’s a good piece on the double entendres in the Gospel of John. Plus, we see how the term “saved” has been grossly misunderstood as we talk about the nature of salvation. Here’s a good quote from this chapter: “Faced with a choice between the God of classical theism or no God, people are choosing the latter, no God. Fortunately, another pathway is available.”
Also included: Jacques Maritain, Freud, Jung, the Samaritan woman, Kabbalah, the Tree of Life, Process Theology, M.C. Escher, J.S. Bach, “The Matrix” (OK. Who hasn’t used that one?!?!?), the Gospel of Thomas, Galileo, and “Inception.”
“Quest for Infinity” starts us off by looking at “the medieval riddle of angels on the head of a pin.” When I hear talk of medieval riddles, my mind instantly goes to “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
“What…is the capital of Assyria?”
Pure comic genius. I digress.
In this chapter we’re taken back to the 1800s and early 1900s as we learn that the concept of infinity “was not in favor among the children of the Enlightenment.” Some mathematicians actually became mentally unstable as they tried to solve the mysteries of set theory without the “key” of infinity. We look at the concept of “naming,” which “held infinite new possibilities for breakthroughs, a joint venture of religious consciousness and mathematical insight.” The big bang, the book of Job, and the Revelation of John of Patmos are also considered as we regard “an incomprehensibly distant past [and an] indefinite future.”
In the Conclusion, we are not only given said conclusion, but a summary of sorts. We close with the “simple but profound truth” that we’ve been elaborating on all along.
Yes, I very much enjoyed this book. When I was first approached about reviewing this work, I found the title intriguing. However, the first thing I do concerning an author with whom I’m unfamiliar is check out the bio. When I saw he was a pastor at a place called “Broadway Christian Church,” I… well… didn’t have high hopes for the material.
Yeah. Snap judgement.
It just sounded too fundie. But, like not judging a book by it’s cover, you can’t necessarily judge the book by the name of the institution the author attends. :-)
As I implied at the beginning, there were times when I felt the book may be too Christcentric for those who do not consider themselves “Jesus people.” Taken alone, some statements might even seem to convey the very religious arrogance that the author actually stands against. But, taken in it’s entirety this book should be of benefit to anyone seriously investigating the Divine Reality that many of us refer to as “God.”
Buy the book. Click HERE.
* As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shoreline of mystery.
* Every human system is approximate at best.
* God is in everything and everything is in God.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
* Concentric spiritual pathways circumnavigate the same center even as they perceive the other in separate space.
* There is always a God beyond our concept of God.
* The figure of Christ is taken to be a normative paradigm of what humanity can be, but at the same time a paradigm of what God is.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
* The navigator of the sacred realm discovers a God already there, immanent, yet not fully disclosed or revealed.
* Biblical language, like the language of other sacred scriptures, is destroyed by those who rush to literalize it.
* The images of God that once carried the sacred freight [have] ceased to work and [have become] impediments to faith.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
* “Where is God?”
* Unity and diversity, singularity and multiplicity are included in a seamless divine field.
* The square root of God = … (Buy the book. Click HERE).
Visit “The Square Root of God” website: http://thesquarerootofgod.com/about/
To visit Timothy’s blog, Click HERE.
- – - Dr. Timothy Carson is a pastor and writer who lives in Columbia, Missouri. The author of four previous books, Tim builds bridges of understanding between historic forms of faith and contemporary thought.
When he is not writing about culturally relevant spirituality he is reading, taking in the arts, playing with raptors, traveling and otherwise contemplating the mysteries of the universe. – - -