The Man Behind the Mystery of Papa and the Pool Table

Welcome back to “Infinity and Beyond,” the hidden blog post site from www.papasitaly.com. This is the place where we spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, give the game away, reveal, disclose and make known for all to see, the symbols, secrets and synchronicities that can be found in the book, How Do We Love?- the true-story-Italian-adventures of Aniello Agostino Oliviero, aka, “Papa,” and me, his grateful granddaughter, Danielle. If you have not yet read the book, please take a peek at www.papasitaly.com! Don’t forget that anything you see in bold italics will show up in a future post!

Last month in this blog, we learned about Sacred Geometry, penguins and pinecones. And we promised that, related to at least one of those subjects, we would introduce a mysterious character from the ancient past.

Well, my dear friends, the next month is here and we are ready to reveal our very secret colleague.

In the book, How Do We Love?, in the Chapter on Rome, there was a story about our riotous attempt to cross the enormous traffic roundabout in front of the “Wedding Cake.” In the story, I made a reference to a Roman Emperor that never existed:

 “They must have waved their handkerchiefs for our valiant effort, amusing costumery and entertaining antics, and convinced Emperor Pythagoras to spare us.”

There was no Emperor Pythagoras in history, however the veiled reference is another cosmic egg in our hunt for the signs, symbols, synchronicities and secrets you can find throughout the book.

Friends, Romans, countrymen and women, ti presento…Pythagoras of Samos: the father (or possible uncle, or even great-great-great-grandson*) of the Pythagorean theorum- the right-angled key to the puzzle lock of…Geometry.

         Musei Capitolini, Rome. Copy of Greek Original. Source:Wikimedia Commons.

Whenever you see a mention of Pythagoras in the book, wise friend, it is a symbol of, a reference to, one of Papa’s favorite subjects, Geometry.

To traverse Piazza Venezia that day required the opposite of a simple, single line. It demanded a complicated, circuitous multi-cross, and I had no idea in which direction to begin. I scouted out a route with the lowest odds of injury…and could find none. After two minutes that felt like two hours, I gave up trying to figure it out on my own.

‘Papa, I give up! Which way?’

And then came not the answer, but the bridge to the answer. ‘Geometry, deah.’

Of course. Geometry. I climbed the steps of the monument. At the far left I was able to see my beautiful, peaceful, preferred path down the sidewalk, littered with orange barricades (see Figure 2.) Ah, the elusive, unattainable Line C. But, impossible as it was, that impeded route established the base. I then imagined two more lines and created a giant, imaginary triangle which led, hypothetically, to the picture spot. It was a Pythagorean Theorem of pedestrian possibility!”

Figure2Pythagorean theorum

                                                                                                        Figure 2. The Gauntlet

Reading Between the Lines

Now, those of us that have never heard of Pythagoras are probably content with that explanation. “Pythagoras? Father of geometry? Oh! yes, I think I remember that from high school…maybe…sort of, mmmm…baaaarely.” But those of us that know about the mysterious life of this man also know that he is more than just a mathematician with a penchant for solving riddles of lines a, b and c.

Pythagorean theory GIF

Pythagorean Theorum in Action. Author: John Blackbourne. Source: Wikipedia Public Domain

Please allow me to elaborate.

I stumbled upon the teachings of Pythagoras and his colleagues when I was learning about sound vibrations. I had become very interested in the science of energy as the basis of the entire universe- and the belief that the energy of different vibrations and frequencies is responsible for the existence of everything.

Everything.

Every. Thing.

From the tiniest parts of individual atoms in life forms to our increasingly expanding, infinite cosmic space, and the whole ball of beeswax between the two (including, but not limited to: bacteria, rocks, Twinkies, mother earth, sister moon, music, society, congress, lemurs, water and war.) Did I mention everything?

 As I learned about energy and its vibrations, I also learned about the power that sound vibrations can have on the human body. And that, dear friends, is where I ran into Pythagoras.

Pythagoras took his love of mathematics and Geometry, and applied it to sound vibrations- especially, music. In our sister blog at www.papasitaly.wordpress.com, I explained a fraction of it in the January story, “Aniello Agostino Oliviero’s Infinity Symphony in G Major.” (If you haven’t read the story recently, quite a few new links and videos have been added.) But for those of us that did not have a chance to dance along, or forgot the steps, here is a reminder:

“Math and music may seem disparate, a paradox- however, ancient cultures discovered that there really are patterns, hidden structures and relationships between numbers and musical scales. Pythagoras, an ancient Greek philosopher, mystic, mathematician and the father of Geometry, was one of the most famous to recognize such a mathematical pattern in music. The legend goes that he heard the sound of several blacksmiths hammering and decided there must be a mathematical answer to the beautiful sounds. Further curiosity led him to discover the musical scale of tones, called Octaves.1

Gaffurio_Pythagoras

                    Source: Theorica Musicae, Francino Gaffurio, 1942. Public Domain

Since Pythagoras laid a heavy blanket of mathematics over everything, he of course also applied mathematics to explain the stars and planets. He believed that the cosmos moved in very predictable mathematical patterns and equations, that these equations, ‘corresponded to musical notes, and with each movement of the universe, they collectively produced a symphony.’2 Pythagoras and subsequent philosophers called this cosmic symphony, ‘The Music of the Spheres.’

Pythagoras also believed that ‘musical instruments, when tuned to the mathematical Pythagorean Harmonics, were capable of tuning the human soul to sing the rhythms of the universe.’3 In short, Pythagoras asserted that if music is math, and the entire universe is math, then, by Pythagorean inference, the entire universe… is music.

These beliefs led to his theory that the human soul can be tuned to the music of the universe- a theory that our native ancestors already knew, and that philosophers, scientists and healers have been pursuing ever since.”

Aha! So, when we mention Pythagoras in the book we are not just doing it with a knowing side-glance to our friend Geometry, it’s also because we are huge fans of Pythagoras’s philosophies, beliefs and teachings related to sound, sound vibrations, music, and the rhythms of the entire universe.

Time-Traveling International Man of Mystery

Hopefully by now, you are realizing that when I mention something like a cigar in the book that it is not necessarily just a cigar. And that, similarly, just because it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck does not necessarily mean that it’s just a duck.  As I’ve mentioned previously, anything and everything in the book is fair game to serve as a nesting toy, a Russian Matryoshka, appearing simple and whimsical on the outside, but containing many meanings and secrets within. Pythagoras is definitely one of the more elaborate playthings I have hidden in the book, and, believe it or not, there is more to him than “just” Geometry and the Music of the Spheres.

Pythagoras, like Papa, was a man of many interests and avocations. Born in 570 BC Greece, on the island of Samos, he was known in the roles of mathematician and philosopher, but also mystic, scientist, musician, religious leader, legend, explorer, traveler, student, light-emanating golden-thighed deity, and possible time and space traveler.* In their online entry on Pythagoras, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy advises that many people thought Pythagoras was superhuman, a “Wonder-Maker,” and provides Aristotle’s “evidence” of that:

“Aristotle emphasized [Pythagoras’s] superhuman nature in the following ways: there was a story that Pythagoras had a golden thigh (a sign of divinity); the people of Croton called him the Hyperborean Apollo (one of the god Apollo’s manifestations); the Pythagoreans taught that “of rational beings, one sort is divine, one is human, and another such as Pythagoras” (Iamblichus, VP 31); Pythagoras was seen on the same day at the same time in both Metapontum and Croton; he killed a deadly snake by biting it; as he was crossing a river it spoke to him (all citations are from Aristotle, Fr. 191, unless otherwise noted).”

*(Sidenote for the Skeptics: It is important to pause and mention here that many people think Pythagoras was none of those things. There exist very few physical records of his writings, findings and teachings [the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a list of them: www.plato.stanford.edu/entries/pythagoras/.] And so, some people believe that while Pythagoras may have set out the punch bowl, it was his colleagues and followers over the centuries that actually filled it up with and drank the Kool-Aid.)

The Secretest of Secret Societies

Regardless of this academic area of disagreement as to what the man did himself or lead others to do, Pythagoras and his philosophies developed a huge group of very dedicated followers. Open lectures on some topics were provided to the general community, but the most secretive of information and knowledge was saved for a clandestine group called the “Pythagorean Brotherhood.”

This group engaged in number worship- a belief that mathematics and its related music was the key to the universe. They also believed in the transmigration of souls (reincarnation), treating all living creatures as one, restrictions on consumption of animal flesh and possibly full vegetarianism, and an event relationship between the cosmos, the planet and humans. Their motto was “God is number,” and they formed a secret society that turned into more of a religion– complete with symbols, rituals, rules and a very select congregation. Members were not allowed to speak of what took place within the brotherhood, and the one that did was possibly murdered.**

PythagoreanSunrise

Pythagoreans Celebrate Sunrise (1869), Fyodor Bronnikov. Wikipedia Commons

 The Pythagorean’s Secret Symbols

There were at least two well-known symbols sacred and secret to the Pythagoreans: The Pentagram and the Tetractys.

The Pentagram (The 5-pointed star)

Members needed to show the pentagram to gain admittance to the Pythagorean gatherings:

pythagorean_pentagram

Image Courtesy of John Baez at the Mathematics Department at University of California Riverside. http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/week265.html

There was never anything written about why the Pythagorean’s chose the pentagram as their sacred symbol, however future followers speculated it was for the mathematical potential represented by the pentagram. One being the pentagram’s capacity of division into an infinite** number of pentagrams (as seen above in John Baez’s drawing), and another being its representation of the mystical “Golden Ratio.” (For more explanation on the Golden Ratio, you can look back on February’s “Sacred Geometry” post.)

**(Dangers of Discovering Infinity Sidenote: Pythagoras and his immediate contemporaries “discovered” the mathematical concept of infinity when they discovered irrational numbers. Discovered is in quotes because  initially they did not accept the idea of infinity. You see, their “religion” was based on simple “whole” numbers, like 1, 2, 3, etc., and not “irrational” numbers and their infinite integers, like 3.1415… and so the discovery of the Golden Section (whose ratio is 1.618033988…to infinity), and other concepts with irrational numbers attached was a colossal awakening for the group (to say the least, it completely freaked them out by shattering the foundation upon which all of their beliefs had been based.) Because irrational numbers countered their previous dogma, the subject of mathematical infinity was not shared with the public- until, allegedly, one of the members of the Pythagorean brotherhood, named Hippasus, revealed the secret to non-members. Author Amir Aczel tells us that a “number of legends record the aftermath of the affair. Some claim that Hippasus was expelled from the society. Others tell how he died. One story describes how Pythagoras himself strangled or drowned the “traitor,” while another describes how the Pythagoreans dug a grave for Hippasus while he was still alive and then mysteriously caused him to die. Yet another legend has it that Hippasus was set afloat on a boat that was then sunk by members of the society.”4 Regardless of whether Hipassus spilled the magic beans or not, infinity was tinkered with but not widely entertained again until the philosopher Zeno expounded upon it a century after Pythagoras. )

The Tetractys

The Tetractys most likely came not from Pythagoras, but from a subsequent Pythagorean Brotherhood member, Philalaos.

338px-Tetractys_svg

Source: Hemenway, Priya – Divine Proportion pp.63, Sterling Publishing, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

The Pythagoreans of Philalaos’s time expanded the practice of number worship, delving into number mysticism. These Pythagoreans believed that numbers were symbols of cosmology. For example, the number 3 represented harmony and the “noble number,” the number 6 was creation, and the number 7 was an awe-inspiring number as it represented the number of the 7 planets. But the most divine number of them all was the number 10, which represented the number of the entire universe. The image of a Tetractys is a triangular figure with four rows adding up to that perfect number 10. It was a symbol of worship to the Pythagoreans who would swear oaths by it:

Bless us, divine number, thou who generated gods and men! O holy, holy Tetractys, thou that containest the root and source of the eternally flowing creation! For the divine number begins with the profound, pure unity until it comes to the holy four; then it begets the mother of all, the all-comprising, all-bounding, the first-born, the never-swerving, the never-tiring holy ten, the keyholder of all.”5

The Tetractys is very mysterious and complex indeed. It has been related to many other symbols, including the symbols of the early Kabbalists, such as the Hebrew Tetractys,*** which contains the letters of the Hebrew “Tetragrammaton” (the four-lettered name of God in Hebrew scripture, also seen as the Latin letters YHWH.)

Boehme-heart

Symbol of the 17th century Kabbalist Mystic Jacob Boehme, from 1730 Libri Apologetici. Wikimedia Commons

***(Hebrew Tetractys Sighting Sidenote: I think it’s worth noting here, that the Hebrew Tetractys has been spotted in the most interesting of places: )

669px-Tetragrammaton_at_5th_Chapel_of_the_Palace_of_Versailles_France

5th Chapel of the Palace of Versailles. Wikimedia Commons

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

St. Charles Church, Vienna Austria. Wikimedia Commons

451px-BASILICA_OF_ST_LOUIS_KING_OF_FRANCE_MISSOURI_USA_Near_the_Gateway_Arch_TETRAGRAMMATON

Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, St. Louis, Missouri. Wikimedia Commons

The Tetractys’s influence can also be seen in other forms, such as the Roman Catholic Archbishops Coat of Arms:

562px-Template-Metropolitan_Archbishop_svg

The Baryon Decuplet:

Baryon_decuplet

(Subatomic Sidenote: The Baryon Decuplet is a physics term for a form that results from the movement of subatomic particles. It is interesting to note that this form is part of a theory by American physicist Murray Gellman, called the “Eightfold Way”- a title which is Gellman’s intentional allusion to the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism.)

And see if you can spot the two Tetractys’s, one upright and one inverted in the U.S. Dollar bill:

Great Seal symbols are masonic

Source: Carnaval.com

(Dan Brown Was Right Sidenote: In his book, The Power of Myth, noted American mythologist and writer, Joseph Campbell, said this about this symbol on the dollar: “In the Great Seal of the U.S. there are two of these interlocking triangles. Above (the eagle’s) head are thirteen stars in the form of Solomon’s Seal. Each triangle is a Pythagorean Tetractys where the apex represents the creative center out of which energy the universe and everything comes…Two of these symbolic triangles are interlocked on the Great Seal creating thirteen points with six apexes – one above, one below and four in the four quarters. The sense of this is that from above or below or from any point of the compass the creative Word might be heard so that anyone from any quarter might speak the truth because no one is cut off from it. This is the great thesis of democracy.”)

Finally, we also find the Tetractys in ten pin bowling, Chinese checkers (which, by the way, was developed in Germany and not China), and, I would like to offer my own discovery, the Tetractys in Billiards. Although the standard Billiards triangle rack holds 5 rows of billiard balls, for a total of 15, it is interesting that the first four rows form a perfect Tetractys, with 1,2,3 and 4 billiard balls in each row, for a total of 10. I know that, because, when I was a small child Papa only ever racked up the first 4 rows for us grand-kids. (I never questioned why at the time. We must have either misplaced 5 billiard balls from Papa’s beloved “pool table,” or he had learned from experience that he had a 10-ball-patience-limit for our version of pool, with its requisite accompanying green felt shredding, blue chalk flying, pool cue weaponizing, high-pitched shrieking, and whining accusations of cheating.)

Pythagorean Fan Following

Other mathematicians, scientists, philosophers, musicians and teachers were also members of and contributors to the Pythagorean think tank (always secretly), including famous Greek thinkers such as Plato, Socrates, Parmenides, and Philolaus (a contemporary of Socrates and the man reported to be most responsible for historical evidence of Pythagoras’s ideas and teachings). Over time, many an ancient sage subscribed to Pythagorean influences. Even the famed Italian painter Raphael showed his respect for Pythagoras when he included the likeness of Pythagoras in his famous painting, “The School of Athens,” which represented the most brilliant minds of ancient Greece.

RaphaelSchoolof Athens

School of Athens–Raphael (Rafaello Sanzio da Urbino) Wikimedia Commons. 

RaphaelSchool of Athens Pythagoras

School of Athens (detail, Pythagoras)– Raphael. Wikimedia Commons.

It’s Only Platonic

As mentioned, Plato was also reported to be an ardent, yet covert, follower of Pythagoras’s teachings, especially those related to Geometry. Plato had the phrase, “Let no one ignorant of Geometry enter here,” inscribed above the gates of his academy.4 But before and during Plato’s time and for some time after, Pythagoreans and other scientists, mathematicians and philosophers were often persecuted as a threat to the church and religion. (See our previous post on Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno.) For that reason alone, being secretive was an important part of being a Pythagorean.

Jay Kennedy, a Plato scholar, told National Public Radio that although Plato did not outwardly declare his dedication to the Pythagorean school of thought, Kennedy thinks he has found secret messages in Plato’s writings– secret messages embedded within every 12 lines of Plato’s The Republic- that refer to music. (Ancient music was based on a 12-note scale.) Kennedy believes this is no coincidence and the evidence reflects Plato’s show of solidarity with the Pythagoreans. “Plato was a closet follower of Pythagoras, who believed mathematics and music were the key to the order underlying the world,” Kennedy says, and has suggested that “Perhaps some scholar will find that— in The Republic, at least— that there is something like a melody or a score embedded in the text.”6

PLATO REPUBLIC

Papyrus Page from Plato’s Original Text of The Republic

The Pythagoreans and Pythagoras himself eventually grew very powerful, and, consequently, as is so often the case in all things new and mysterious and counter to long-held beliefs, were perceived as a threat to society. The primary meeting place of the fraternity was eventually stormed and burned, with many of the members (including possibly Pythagoras) perishing in the blaze. Some say Pythagoras could travel through space and time, and so his remains were never found. Others say he escaped to nearby Metapontum and starved himself to death. No matter what the method of his mortem, Pythagoras’s physical self was eventually gone, but his ideas, teachings and spirit would clearly carry on.

I recently found evidence of this enduring spirit in a most unusual place- embedded in the work of one of Pythagoras’s more modern fans, and a beautifully creative mind of our time, Walter Elias Disney. Mr. Disney had an animated short created, called, “Mathemagic.” The cartoon, starring Donald Duck, includes an introduction to Pythagoras (2:45-4:55); a discussion of the “mathemagic” of the pentagram (7:00); a demonstration of Sacred Geometry (8:28); examples of Sacred Geometry in nature (11:10-13:45); and even a nod to Lewis Carroll for the geometric references in Alice in Wonderland.

(Thanks to our friends at True Disney for the video.) 

Po-TĀ-to, Po-TÂ-to, Pythagoras, Pythagorean

Whether the teachings are from Pythagoras or of Pythagoras, we will probably never know, and it doesn’t matter to me. Like many extraordinary minds from the past, Pythagoras’s discoveries and teachings are far-reaching and have impacted us in ways we are not aware of and can’t even fathom. Pythagorean thought even influenced aspects of Hermeticism, Gnosticism and Alchemy, the powerful and influential religious and philosophical traditions (which are also threads of themes in How Do We Love?). To this day, a rainbow of realms of science, mathematics, music, mysticism, cosmology, art, literature and written thought can be attributed to the foundations of ideas brought about by the earliest Pythagoreans.

I don’t know if Papa had ever studied Pythagoras or the Pythagoreans– Papa never spoke the name, and did not attribute any of his learning to Pythagoras, other than the famed namesake Geometric theorem. But, then again…maybe Papa did know of Pythagoras– maybe in a former “transmigration of the soul” he was a Pythagorean mathematician, or musician, or both! It is quite curious that Papa singlehandedly came to the same conclusions about Geometry’s mystical and sacred nature permeating all things…And, now that I really think about it, if he did know Pythagoras, Papa too was sworn to secrecy. It does make perfect sense. Papa did teach me everything I know about the spiritual pursuit of Geometry, after all– and I still don’t know why he filled that billiards rack up with only 4 rows.

Infinity

 

 

Thank you for taking the time to travel back through history and meet Pythagoras! If you are still hungry for more on Pythagoras and his world of Geometry (as well as some additional theories on the murder of Hippasus) go to Vihart’s funny, smart, notebook animation video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=X1E7I7_r3Cw

That is it for this month! Be well, dear friend, and may you seek out and discover your own synchronicities, symbols and signs in the world around you. They are everywhere, all the time, and can guide us to where the universe needs us to be – if we just pay a little bit of attention.

Ce Vediamo al Prossimo Mese! See you next month!

References:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythagoras
  2. Christoph Riedweg, Pythagoras: His Life, Teaching and Influence, Cornell: Cornell University Press, 2005
  3. John Beaulieu, “Human Tuning”, Biosonic Enterprises, 2010
  4. Aczel, Amir D., (2000) The Mystery of the Aleph: Mathematics, the Kabbalah, and the Search for Infinity. Four Walls Eight Windows Press, NY., New York.
  5. Dantzig, Tobias ([1930], 2005) Number. The Language of Science. p.42
  6. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128288987
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Papa and the Pinecone: A Penguin’s Hair View of Sacred Geometry

Welcome back to “Infinity and Beyond,” the hidden blog post site from www.papasitaly.com. This is the place where we spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, give the game away, reveal, disclose and make known for all to see, the symbols, secrets and synchronicities that can be found in the book, How Do We Love?- the true story Italian adventures of Aniello Agostino Oliviero, aka, “Papa,” and me, his grateful granddaughter, Danielle.

Last month in this blog, we met Signore Giordano Bruno, Italian philosopher, mystic and Vatican Heretic.  If you did not have a chance to make introductions, please be sure to check out the post! In it, we shared why Signore Bruno keeps curiously appearing throughout the story– and in the process learned about his teachings and writings on infinity, and his relationship with astrology, cosmology, Hermeticism, Tom Robbins, Finnegan’s Wake, Alice in Wonderland, Jabberwocky and Papa’s completely fake, yet exceptionally accurate, Scottish accent. This month we turn the crystal ball upside down and backwards to look at the magical mystery of Sacred Geometry, and again answer the question, “How is all this connected to Papa?” As with the previous posts, anything that appears in bold italics will be covered in future blog posts!

The Spiritual Pursuit of Geometry

In the book, How Do We Love?, the references to geometry are not exactly veiled. This excerpt is from the chapter, “The Isle of Capri”: 

“From the time I was little I can remember Papa demonstrating the importance of geometry in everyday life. When I was about six, he tried to use geometry to explain the miracle of balance in a seesaw. Later, when I was about eight, he demonstrated how I could use geometry in billiards to shoot the eight ball off the side wall and into the corner pocket. When I was ten, he used it to instruct me how to swim to shore if I got caught in a rip current that took me from the safety of the creek out into the Sound, and when I was twelve, he revealed geometry as the secret to tacking a sailboat in the wind. Papa loved the idea of balance and symmetry, and it influenced every facet of his living and thinking.”

The book’s references to Geometry may be bobbing about on the surface, but the depth of their possibilities lies far, far below (and above). For geometry is not just about lines and planes and billiards and sailing and a dreaded class in high school- its concepts go further than our human brains can imagine.

For the longest time, I interpreted Papa’s odd adoration of Geometry in the most basic sense, similar to a person’s love of physics trivia, or infinity jigsaw puzzles, or collecting squishy, shrunken heads. I never pondered beyond what I knew about the subject (which was not much, other than the sticky residue around the edges of that which I had forgotten from school…). And even though the mention of the word “Geometry” made me cringe and make Calvin and Hobbes faces, I enjoyed benefitting from what seemed like Papa’s simple knowledge of lines and planes. But my perception of that “simple knowledge” expanded like the universe when one day I asked him, “Papa, what religion are you?”

His answer: Geometry.

“If I had to give myself a religion…” he began, pause, pause, pause….“do you know what religion means? It comes from the Latin root ‘ligare,’ which means ‘to bind’…”pause, pause, pause, “I would say that I have no religion because I am not bound to any one system of formal religious beliefs. But I would say that I have two spiritual ‘pursuits,’ if you will. One is Geometry and the other is Infinity.”

“Geometry?” I questioned. “How could Geometry be spiritual?” I wondered quietly to myself and eventually to him.

“Geometry is everythin’,” he would explain with complete matter of fact. “Foist, it’s all around us- in buildings, in flowahs, in seashells, we’re all made up of the same stuff. Second, it is us- we’re symmetrical, right? Eveythin’ in us has got two identical halves, right?; And, thoidly and lastly, it’s in what we do – everythin’ has to have a balance to it, everythin’ has to even out in tha end. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” He would say that last part with a fake British accent, his back straight, and pinkie extended away from his imaginary tea cup.“It’s all geometry, kid, that’s what I’m tryin to tell ya- everythin is geometry!”

Hot damn if I didn’t understand a word he was trying to say at the time. But that was because Papa’s simple, yet cryptic declaration and explanation was just a single flake of snow, on the head of a penguin, on the tip of an iceberg that happened to be a submerged arctic mountain range. In that tiny, frozen crystal lay Papa’s attempt to offer up just a fractal fraction of his idea, his theory, his hypothesis, his “who da hell knows??”, hoping someone, anyone, would taste even just a spoonful of what he was serving. And in this case, what he was serving, my dear friend, was sacred.

Sacred Geometry

Papa never used the words “Sacred Geometry.” I am not sure he even knew the term, and I definitely did not, until many years later when I started to dip my toe into the warm, yet murky waters of the ancient mystery schools. But the more I learned, and the more I spotted glimpses of clarity in the mystical mud, the more I realized that while Papa may not have used those words, “Sacred Geometry,” he was definitely conscious of some of the notions they brought forth with them.

The founders and followers of Sacred Geometry believe that the most fundamental, basic shapes and patterns in the universe have a spiritual and even religious value to them. They believe that each of these forms, shapes and patterns reflect the source or origin of all existence– and that recognizing and reflecting upon them can bring higher levels of consciousness and enlightenment. These patterns can be found in everything, from nature and art, to architecture and ancient religious and spiritual symbols. If you have not noticed these patterns before now, I am certain you will begin.

One of my favorite examples of Sacred Geometry in nature is the pinecone. We had pinecones all over the house in Connecticut, representing my Mom’s insistence that the enormous, overflowing box of them in the garage was not just an exciting place for spiders and roaches to hide and procreate, but that the accumulation would someday result in the greatest craft project in the history of all craft projects. I loved to hold them (the pinecones, not the roaches), pull on the cone “scales,” and especially stare at the bottoms, running my fingers across the swirling pattern that always seemed to be there and always looked the same. I was, of course, oblivious to the ancient secrets held within this crazy Christmas conifer (other than the pine nuts they produced, which Papa used to make the profanely yummy Italian, “pignoli cookies”).

BLOGPinecone

In the photo above, pilfered from www.goldennumber.net, we can see that beautiful, mesmerizing pattern on the bottom of the cone. Not only is it quite fetching, there is a reason it always looks the same. That reason is because it more or less is the same– each cone bottom spirals in a very specific way, a way that results from the plant’s need to grow in the most effective and efficient manner– a “common” physical growth pattern that occurs according to the “Golden Ratio” in what is called a “Fibonacci Sequence.”

Fibonacci Spiral of a pine cone. Source: www.thirdeyepinecone.com  (If you want to learn more, an exceptional explanation of the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci Sequence in plants is provided by our brilliant friends at “Math is Fun” at  http://www.mathsisfun.com/numbers/nature-golden-ratio-fibonacci.html )

Fibonacci Spiral of a pine cone.
Source: http://www.thirdeyepinecone.com
(If you want to learn more, an exceptional explanation of the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci Sequence in plants
is provided by our brilliant friends at “Math is Fun” at
http://www.mathsisfun.com/numbers/nature-golden-ratio-fibonacci.html )

So. We have firmly established that the pinecone is lovely, you can allegedly make crafts with it, it produces luscious little nuts, and it logically utilizes a natural pattern to grow in the most efficient way. But, what about it is…sacred? (Other than the cookies, that’s pretty obvious.) The key lies within those two fancy labels, the “Golden Ratio” and the “Fibonacci Sequence.” The terms represent two more snowflakes on our penguin, and carry with them mind-boggling implications within the spiritual, religious, physical, mathematical and scientific realms.

Leonardo da Vinci called the Golden Ratio the “Divine Proportion,” as it appears repeatedly in seemingly miraculous ways in nature- and as such, many people of his time, and since, have thought the patterns were expressions of our creator and thus held all the secrets to creation. Most of us are familiar with Da Vinci’s famous “Vitruvian Man,” which is a symbol of Divine Proportion of the human body- and, by extension, the entire universe and everything within it.

Ok, so this is not the original image of DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man, it is an interpretation, created by genius artist Eric at the Odd Sock blog (you can pick up the t-shirt version at http://theoddsock-ericnp.blogspot.com/search?q=vitruvian+man+with+guitar)

Ok, so this is not the original image of DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man,
it is an interpretation, created by genius artist Eric at the Odd Sock blog
(you can pick up the t-shirt version at
http://theoddsock-ericnp.blogspot.com/search?q=vitruvian+man+with+guitar)

Dan Brown drew these same ancient mysteries into popular culture in his book, The DaVinci Code, and with them came a modern day resurgence of fascination with the puzzles, mysteries and secret societies that arose from the study of…Geometry!

Because of the pinecone’s pattern, pinecones have long been the symbol of human consciousness, enlightenment and infinite and everlasting life. The pineal gland, the tiny, pinecone-shaped gland in the center of our brain, was named after the pinecone. The pineal gland has been called the “seat of the soul” and the “internal third eye.” As a symbol of these associations, the image of pinecones can be found everywhere throughout history, religion, spirituality art and architecture. On his website, Carl Weiseth, founder of Third Eye Pinecones*, does an excellent job of explaining the historical significance of the pinecone, giving examples of its use in Egyptian, Hindu, Mexican, Greek, Roman, and Catholic religions, as well as providing references to pinecones in the bible, freemasonry and crop circles:

“Catholic religious tradition is intricately interwoven with pinecones, perhaps most prominently atop the sacred staff carried by the Pope himself.” Source: www.thirdeyepinecone.com

“Catholic religious tradition is intricately interwoven with pinecones,
perhaps most prominently atop the sacred staff carried by the Pope himself.”
Source: http://www.thirdeyepinecone.com

Sculpture from the ‘Court of the Pinecone’ in front of the Vatican  Source: Carl Weiseth, “Pinecone Symbology” at   http://ournewearth.tv/news_details.php?id=88

Sculpture from the ‘Court of the Pinecone’ in front of the Vatican
Source: Carl Weiseth, “Pinecone Symbology” at
http://ournewearth.tv/news_details.php?id=88

Freemason sculpture from the Whitehall Building  in the New York Financial District  Source: www.thirdeyepinecone.com

Freemason sculpture from the Whitehall Building
in the New York Financial District
Source: http://www.thirdeyepinecone.com

The Woodborough Hill Crop Circle appeared on August 12, 2000 Source: http://www.circlemakers.org/totc2000.html

The Woodborough Hill Crop Circle appeared on August 12, 2000
Source: http://www.circlemakers.org/totc2000.html

So there you have it, dear one. When you read about Papa’s affinity for geometry in How Do We Love? It was more than just a reference to one of his “crazy idears.” It was a nod to a belief system that goes back thousands of years and holds mysteries beyond our imagination.

Now, my goal in this post was just to give away a secret or two– and to show how Papa’s love of geometry was more than just lines and planes. My intention was not to provide a comprehensive education– that is what Wikipedia and YouTube are for, right? Right. The aspects of Sacred Geometry we chatted about here represent only a few snowflakes on a few hairs of that penguin from iceberg mountain. The pursuit of Geometry takes us deep, deep within that submerged arctic range, and buried throughout are thousands of concepts, ideas and possibilities, including (but definitely not limited to!) Mandelbrot’s Fractal Geometry, The Flower of Life, and Harmonic Ratios. And as humans explored further those and related possibilities, they reached into the mysteries of light, cosmology and even music! Yes, that’s right, music, as in the Geometry of sound.

A number of historical philosophers, mathematicians, theologians, musicians and mystics focused on this “Geometry of sound.” We will shine a light on one wizard in particular– an ancient sage named….can you guess? Do you know already, wise friend? I think you do, we met him in the book when we visited Rome and tried to navigate that crazy Piazza Venezia! If you were not able to join us in Roman traffic, don’t worry, we’ll be going back again. But since I now find myself with a desperate craving for pignoli cookies, why don’t we save that particular encounter and introductions for the next post? In the meantime, if you want another hint and are hungry to learn a little bit more about the Geometry of sound, be sure to check our sister blog at www.papasitaly.wordpress.com and look for the January post, “Aniello Agostino Oliviero’s Infinity Symphony in G Major.”  And for more on Sacred Geometry, Fibonacci’s Sequence and other similar mathematical mysteries, here are three of my favorite YouTube links on the subjects:

Inner and Outer Worlds, Part 1: Akasha http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXuTt7c3Jkg

Inner and Outer Worlds, Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIMoxXO0XvM

Ancient Knowledge Part 1: Ancient Consciousness, Sacred Geometry and Cymatics http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVUU3p5iHMA

And we couldn’t let you go without a recipe- a very special one at that, never released before: Papa and my recipe for those sacred (and profane) pignoli cookies- now you will not have to wander around Rome or head to Mazzaros Italian Market if you want to eat them (although those are the preferred methods!)

Ingredients:

½ cup of Pine nuts

Two tubes of unsweetened almond paste

1 cup of powdered sugar

2 egg whites

Squeeze of honey

Pinch of Cinnamon

Dash of Salt

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F)

Put a little olive oil on a cookie sheet

Put the almond paste and the confectioner’s sugar in a bowl and mix until all blended. Add the honey and egg whites, blend some more. Finish with the cinnamon and salt and blend until everything is completely mixed!

Use a small spoon to place roundish globs on the cookie sheet, then squish pine nuts into the top of each cookie.

Bake for a lucky Italian 13 minutes or until they look toasty and smell amazing, and then share with as many family and friends as possible!

Thank you, again, for taking the time to join us here at “Infinity and Beyond.” If you have not yet had a chance to read the book, you can learn more about it at www.papasitaly.com. We would love to have you on the caravan!

Be well, dear friend, and may you seek out and discover your own synchronicities, symbols and signs in the world around you. They are everywhere, all the time, and can guide us to where the universe needs us to be – if we just pay a little bit of attention.

Ci vediamo la prossima mese! See you next month!

*(Pinecone sidenote: Read more about pinecone symbology-and ooh and aah over Carl Weiseth’s stunning pinecone and gem amulets (and miraculous recovery from a fall out of a pine tree!)- at www.thirdeyepinecone.com.)

Post-publishing update: Thanks to Patrick G. for sending this follow up to the post- a “WIRED” magazine article on CNN.com, about a brilliantly gifted Venezuelan artist named Rafael Araujo, who combines geometry and nature art to create amazingly complex, yet stunningly beautiful nature art! The link to the article can be found here:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/10/world/wildly-detailed-drawings-that-combine-math-and-butterflies/

and the link to Senor Araujo’s website here:

http://www.rafael-araujo.com/calculo_ing.html

Here is just a small sample of his miraculous mathematical art:

AraujoGeometricArt1

AraujoGeometricArt2

AraujoGeometricArt3

What Does Giordano Bruno Have to Do With Papa’s Italy?

For those of you just joining us, you either found your way here via serendipity, or through the website http://www.papasitaly.com. Either way, it was meant to be.

The first November post will give you a bit of background as to why we are here, so it will be helpful to take a look at that first – but the instant gratification version is that we are exploring infinity and the synchronicity, signs and symbols of the book “How Do We Love?”. If you are not familiar with the book yet, you can go to http://www.papasitaly.com to learn more about the true, epic adventures of Neil Oliviero, aka, “Papa,” and me, his granddaughter Danielle – as we “time travel” together between Italy, the Bronx, New York, and Modern Day Florida.

As we mentioned in the last post, every week we will walk through one of the symbols (what we call hidden “eggs”) in the book and explore what it meant to the story. As we do, you will soon begin to see that not only are the eggs worth cracking open, but they begin to mix and meld in their own mystical way – a way that can lead you, like Alice, down a wondrous rabbit hole of synchronicity, possibilities and learning if you allow it! Anything you see typed in CAPS will be discussed in a future blog. And every once in a while we will throw in a handy, dandy diagram to show you that everything, from the Hebraic alphabet to infinity, really is all related.

This first entry will start with Signore Giordano Bruno – Italian astrologer, philosopher and Vatican heretic. Everything else leads from him, friend.

In the chapter “Free and In Rome,” we meet Signore Giordano Bruno in the famous Roman piazza, Campo de’ Fiori:

“…most of its occupants are blissfully unaware that the festive piazza filled with soft lights and music and abuzz with shiny, happy people used to be a place of public punishment. They don’t know that the eerie statue of the mysterious man under whom they cavort is an effigy to the philosopher Giordano Bruno. His written works were placed in the “Index of Forbidden Books” in the sixteenth century, and it was in that exact spot that he was burned alive by the Catholic church, as were many other “heretics” of that time. Signore Bruno’s statue is positioned purposely so that he faces the Vatican—this once “dangerous” threat to society, memorialized as a martyr of freedom of speech.

That excerpt is, of course, a woefully inadequate and incomplete description of Giordano Bruno. To fully understand his accomplishments, his works, his life, his sacrifices, you would need to live and learn through several lifetimes, one of which should probably be his. As the vast majority of us have no desire to endure that which he did, we’ll have to be satisfied with just a glimpse into his world—a glimpse that will also serve our purpose of better understanding what he has to do with “Papa’s Italy.”

There are three main links between Giordano Bruno and the book:

1)   INFINITY. Giordano Bruno, who lived from 1548 to February 16, 1600, took on many roles during his abbreviated lifetime—philosopher, astronomer, astrologer, mathematician, writer, teacher.* But his mention in the book How Do We Love? is there not only because of his statue in the Campo de’ Fiori in Rome (where I consumed massive amount of fried squash flowers and wine), it is also a nod to Signore Bruno’s belief in INFINITY – which, as you know, is a key element in the story of How Do We Love?.

Giordano Bruno believed that the universe was infinite and included an infinite number of other planets (many of which he thought held other life forms.) At the time this was in direct contradiction to the beliefs of the Catholic church, however Bruno expounded upon these ideas anyway, both verbally and in writing in such tracts as “De l’Infinito Universo et Mondi” (On the Infinite Universe and Worlds.) Because of his beliefs, Bruno garnered a great deal of attention, both negative (before his death), and positive (primarily posthumously.) So there you go! Giordano Bruno and a hidden wink at infinity! But wait…as it is with infinity, there’s always room for one more!

2)   HERMETICISM. I included Signore Bruno for his philosophy on infinity, but also for the powerful role which the Hermetic Mystery School** tradition had on his beliefs. HERMETECISM is an ancient doctrine of spiritual and religious beliefs invented by a pagan prophet named Hermes Trismegistus. The doctrine revolves around three elements: ALCHEMY, ASTROLOGY and Theurgy. Alchemy and Astrology are two other elements I reference in How Do We Love? and will definitely be a dot to which we repeatedly connect in future blogs!

3)   AS ABOVE SO BELOW. As you now know, Signore Bruno subscribed to Hermeticism. The overarching maxim of Hermetecism is the phrase, “As above so below.”

In the Epilogue of How Do We Love?, in the chapter “The Sun Shone and I Saw All of Venice,” I included the following line and nod to Signore Bruno, Hermetics, Alchemy and Infinity: As was the galaxy above so was the mirror of the tiny lights below.”

You will see the phrase “AS ABOVE, SO BELOW” come up again in future blogs here, and, if you have not noticed it before, you will probably begin to see it come up in your own life is well. Synchronicity is funny like that, isn’t it?

Speaking of synchronicity, those were the three main links between Signore Bruno and the book- but as with all the best egg hunts, once you find a few, then the real fun begins! Here is a “Plummet Down the Rabbit Hole” that all started with Giordano Bruno:

∞Research on Giordano Bruno led me to read about the author James Joyce, whose book Finnegan’s Wake was supposedly based on the beliefs and teachings of Giordano Bruno.

∞Further, I learned that the composition of Finnegan’s Wake begins with a sentence fragment and ends with the beginning of that fragment, which makes the story one continuous INFINITE loop…

Finnegan’s Wake research led me to an interview with author Tom Robbins, one of my favorite authors of all time, in which Robbins divulges that he keeps a copy of Finnegan’s Wake by his bed and reads a line every night. There are several winks to Tom Robbins in How Do We Love?. Including this line from the chapter titled, “Raising Baby Ducks” :

“I parked the car and, luggage in tow, glad and dizzy, we floated through the stone tunnel …’”

The phrase  “Glad and Dizzy” is in reference to one of Tom Robbins’s own tributes in his book, Wild Ducks Flying Backwards and also in his childrens book, B is for Beer. There is also a reference to “Wild Ducks” in the Gratitude section of the book How Do We Love?

∞In researching more about Finnegan’s Wake (be sure to check out its namesake Irish drinking song…) I also learned that Joyce’s style of writing in Finnegan was influenced by “Jabberwocky”, the poem written by author Lewis Carroll who wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

∞Coincidentally Papa used to recite Jabberwocky all the time to show me: 1) how he could still remember it from 5th  grade; 2) his phenomenal Irish brogue that he unleashed for its delivery; and 3) how learning the complicated accent for the poem was the catalyst for his ability to speak with Irish, Scottish, British and Australian accents effectively.

∞Finally, I started this whole blog fandango (blogdango?) with a reference to Alice in Wonderland and the rabbit hole, having no idea that she was going to appear here at the end with Senor Carroll!

Ok, friends, that’s it for this month. Thanks so much for taking the time to play! Be sure to check out http://www.papasitaly.com for new events and information as well as information on where to buy the book “How Do We Love?” Please stop back in next month for the hunt for more golden eggs. And in the meantime, open your eyes wide, slow down your stride just a bit, and pay attention to the signs, symbols and synchronicities in your life. Who knows where they might take you?  Ci vediamo la prossima mese! See you next month!

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

~Lewis Carroll, from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872

The Hunt for Golden Eggs!

If you have found yourself here, friend, it is not by coincidence!

You are clearly a seeker—a searcher and finder of signs, symbols, serendipities and synchronicities.  They—and our attention to them—are the teeny bread crumbs that help us find the way on our mysterious path.  And, unbeknownst to many, the book, How Do We Love? is full of them!

In the book’s narrative you read about Italy, of course, and of family, and telling people’s stories. But all those adventures were shared with the purpose of communicating the idea that our time on this earth is all about love, personal growth and, ultimately— incredible transformation. Each of us has at least one lifetime of the exact moments, experiences, and relationships necessary for the “beautiful elaboration of our spirit, character and souls.”

I tried to convey the message with words and stories, but I also left you a backyard full of hidden, golden eggs that that are decorated with the same themes! You probably noticed quite a few along the way – some people already know the symbolism of roses as love, or figs as a symbol of Buddha’s enlightenment. But did you notice the number 11? The references to Giordano Bruno, geometry, Pythagoras, jasmine, Jack Kerouac, Tom Robbins, sunsets, spices, ascension, alchemy, or ancient Egypt, just to name a few? Oh, and did I mention these are magical eggs, friends? You can look at them, smile and continue on your merry way, or you can crack them open and see what’s inside!

Every month we will walk through one of the symbols in the book and explore its meaning and what it meant to the story. As we do, you will soon begin to see that not only are the eggs worth cracking open, but they begin to mix and meld in their own mystical way – a way that can lead you, like Alice, down a wondrous rabbit hole of synchronicity, possibilities and learning if you allow it! Anything you see typed in blue will be discussed in a future blog. And every once in a while we will throw in a handy, dandy diagram to show you that everything, from the Hebraic alphabet to infinity, really is all related!

Next month’s first entry will start with Signore Giordano Bruno – Italian astrologer, philosopher and Vatican heretic. Everything else leads from him, dear one.

 Ci vediamo la prossima mese! See you next month!