The Nature of Truth

Oct 11, 1996 16:20 from Mama Rose
I’d like to bring up the subject of truth here, for I don’t think this part of the debate (which has raged for the last week in Paganism, if anyone wants to review it) is a specifically Pagan issue.

Specifically: I don’t believe that the word “Truth” ought to be used as a proper noun, as in The Truth.

This is because I regard “truth” as a descriptor for the amount of validity in a verbal/symbolic representation of reality; and I regard all representations of reality to be, of necessity, not the whole thing.

Therefore, I regard any discussion of “Absolute Truth” to be semantically null. And yet, people keep doing it.


It is my opinion that Spirituality is the attempt of a single being to enter into a personal relationship with Reality; that Religion is the attempt to allow a group of people to enter into such a relationship; and that magick and science are attempts to exert control over Reality.

I believe that there is Reality: but Reality is, at one and the same time, so simple and so complex as to defy all overarching attempts to understand it. I believe that attempts to understand Reality underlies all religion, magick, and science. Possibly the phrase “the search for the Truth” refers to this attempt to understand Reality. If so, it presupposes an impossibility: isn’t anything with sufficient brain/computing power to describe even current Reality completely.

It is my opinion, moreover, that “morals” and “ethics” are attempts to allow people to live together in such a fashion that they will know, to a certain extent, what to expect from each other. To “relate” to each other. This being the case, morals and ethics concern “relationships” between people and between people and society, and between people and nonhumans. To that extent, they are “relative”, but the relativity in question needs two separate subjects. It does not imply that a person can hold opinions “relative” to hirself; but that those opinions impact, and are impacted by, another.

Relativity is not the opposite of “Absolute Truth” because:
as a descriptor, no symbolic representation of Reality can possibly be absolute;


ethics and morals depend upon relationships involving people, and thus *must* be open to change, but only with the consent of several of the people involved.

Oct 11, 1996 16:43 from Peccavimus
Mama Rose> Why didn’t you post that earlier? It actually makes good sense and I have to sit down and think about it. Truth is merely a descriptor of how much validity something has, but I just contend an idea has either 0 or 1 validity. No shades of gray. Well, I admit of one shade of gray: neither 0 nor 1. For instance, to use another similar word: on and off. Something is either on or off. It isn’t both. The light is either on, or it’s off. It has All of the quality of on-ness or none of it. Never both.

Oct 11, 1996 16:47 from Mama Rose

However, Pecc, that isn’t really true: a dimmer-switch allows a light to exist at all kinds of values from dark to bright. And “red” has a nearly infinite number of values. Red is different from blue, but purple allows both of them to partake of the qualities of the other, in all manner of ranges from “dark red” to “indigo.”

I mean, even look at the pointillists: their entire purpose was to show how the most accurate blues have yellow and orange inside them.

Oct 11, 1996 16:51 from Peccavimus
blinks profoundly dimmer switches.

So the question has to be, do items subject to truth (we can no longer say “the truth”) have a dimmer switch? Perhaps some items. (Yes, you finally got me to admit that there might in fact be some relative truths. . . and if you give me an example, I’ll admit that there are indeed relative truths) But do all items? No. I don’t think so. I am either a man or a goat. I am not halfway between a man and a goat — notwithstanding our beloved Pan, who is actually neither. Nor am I sometimes one or sometimes other.

Very deep.

And if this is the case, that some items are subject to absolute veracity, and some items subject to relative veracity, which of these categories does God strike that, do items relating to God fall into. Is God one or many? Yes, no, or both. Is god male? Yes, no, both. Is there a god? Yes, no, both.

Oct 11, 1996 17:59 from Maccabeus
[note for the unwary: Maccabeus is a Christian of a particularly joyless creed.]
surprised to be arguing Mama Rose’s side, especially on this issue Pecc> True enough. But “man” and “goat” are arbitrary terms for organisms that fall within a certain range of characteristics. Such items belong to a cognitive schema that most items don’t fit perfectly. blinks Um, maybe I’d better try an example…During the age when our European ancestors first started really getting around, they ran into both Native Americans and apes, and neither quite fit their cognitive schema for “human”. Some of the descriptions of NA’s as animals which so many today find offensive are simply the result of one solution to the problem, and not an attempt to exclude obvious humans from humanity.

Not a very palatable example, but do you understand what I’m getting at?

Oct 12, 1996 18:49 from Mama Rose
Well, we’re talking descriptors here, right? so Marilyn Pappas is

  1. my mother;
  2. Eugenia’s daughter;
  3. John’s daughter;
  4. John’s sister;
  5. John’s mother;
  6. Bill’s wife;
  7. Leonard’s wife;
  8. a nurse;
  9. a devout Christian

Or take that last one: I could say that she is a “conservative Christian.” But my saying so takes into account the fact that I am a liberal Witch. Liberal Methodists also consider her to be a conservative Christian. Shori and Wagonboss might consider her to be middle-of-the-road. I am by-Hecate certain that Easy Money would consider her to be a liberal Christian. All of our descriptions of her depend on both our personal and our political relationships to her. She doesn’t change; but the point of view describing her changes.

Each and every one of those things is true; not all of them are true at the same time. And they are not completely true, in that they are not, in themselves a complete descriptor of Marilyn Pappas.

Does that give you enough examples? or would you like more?

Oct 12, 1996 21:18 from Peccavimus

bows the inevitible

Logically, if one makes an absolute statement, and it is proven that there is a single exception to that statement, then the absolute statement must be false. So not all truths are absolute. I still, however, hold that some are.

Oct 12, 1996 21:25 from Mama Rose
Well, all right; is it possible for you to give us some examples of this?

Oct 12, 1996 21:26 from Peccavimus

I am not a cow.
does it in a Nixon voice, just to amuse the kiddies
I am not a cow! \/
I am late to the homecoming dance.
considers pretending he’s Lewis Carrol with that one, but decides it’s a stretch

These are absolute truths. (And if anyone wants to argue that these are semantic just because they use words, I will ignore you, right after tweeking your nose and wiping the resultant boogers off on your forehead)

Chairete! ANd cheers!

Oct 12, 1996 21:32 from Ashkempt
Oh, sure, you SAY that you aren’t a cow. But all life, and indeed the entire universe, are connected. Thus even you partake of essential cowness. Thou Art Cow.

Oct 12, 1996 22:01 from Geffrey

Peccavimus – it’s interesting that for an “absolute truth” example you have chosen a statement about what you are, an essentialist statement.

Bodhi D. already made the point elsewhere that your propositional statement is limited by language. For example, the statement in my Profile is a propositional statement – is it absolutely true? That depends on the Welsh language. “You are not a cow” – is that an absolute truth to a person who doesn’t speak English? to an infant? to a mental patient? to a housefly?

You might argue that the words are superficial coverings – that the concepts behind “Peccavimus is not a cow” are what are universal absolute truth, not the exact English words in the context of the language.

In that case, yes the concepts behind “Peccavimus is not a cow” are much more universal a truth than the English statement. But it’s still not universally valid. It depends on a kind of living entity (e.g., an adult, “rational”, modern human etc.) who has evolved in such a way as to find itself segmenting the world into “Peccavimuses” and “cows” (and “not-cows” like “people”). In other words, that truth is relative to a lived experience which has found it useful to distinguish between PECCAVIMUS (the concept) and A COW (the concept).

The easiest way to expose the arbitrariness of such conceptual distinctions is to look at other life forms, or possible life forms, which do not find it useful to make such distinctions. Like the housefly I mentioned before. For a fly, or a mosquito, distinctions may pertain only to surfaces, and such a creature might see all surfaces as relatively continuous. Distinctions between surfaces might only be relative to: ease of landing, mammalian blood supply, shape of surface, etc. FOr a fly, or a mosquito, PECCAVIMUS and COW may not be distinct – the difference between them may be irrelevant. Whatever brain such a creature has or could have might not find it useful to distinguish between the two. “PECCAVIMUS not equal COW” thus would be a relative truth of most humans like Peccavimus, based on their developmental stage, brain functioning, and evolutionary developments about what kinds of segmentations of the formless universe are most useful. It is not an absolute truth, true for all parties everywhere always in exactly the same way.

This example is rather strained and pedantic. It comes much closer to home when we consider propositional statements people make all the time, that they think are absolute truths – like, “homosexuality is wrong” or “homosexuality is OK” or “I am a homosexual” or “I am a white person.” In examples like this, arguing about what constitutes “absolute truth” has helped keep people from listening to or believing or caring about other people, and it has hardened disagreements and perpetuated violence on matters that are actually without foundation in “reality.”

Oct 13, 1996 15:38 from Bodhi Dharma
I wonder Pecc, if you were a fat, unpopular female, you would be thought of as a cow by some.
Unpleasant fact though that might be.
This is just a small point, Geffrey already said what I was going to say (and said it better too) shrug

Oct 13, 1996 17:40 from Nirgun

Perhaps we should discuss whether or not accurate descriptive statements, while being true, are the same as absolute truths? I for one, see a pretty big difference.

A true description, like: I am not at the homecoming dance——–this is a description about a fleeting situation or about a particular constellation of material bodies.

But the logical-linguistic principles which enable me to make a statement that is coherent to others, perhaps these principles (such as A=A) are more along the lines of absolute truth?

Oct 13, 1996 18:02 from Peccavimus
Bodhi> Yes, but I’m *not* a fat, unpopular female, and that, my friend, is an absolute truth!


No, really, my point was basically in agreement with Geffrey’s (which might bear rereading).

Oct 13, 1996 20:01 from Bodhi Dharma
Pecc> in best self-help commercial impersonation Everyone has a little of the opposite sex inside of them, and everyone has a fat person inside just crying to get out.
For three easy installments of 19.95 we can show you how to acheive your hidden potential.

Oct 14, 1996 09:13 from Mama Rose
Huh. I was expecting something a little less …. transient. I mean sure, right now you are not a cow — or, at least, you weren’t a cow when you wrote that (I’m assuming; I know we have very wonderful computers these days that can accept input in a loooot of interesting fashions) — but you might, some day, become a cow. I mean, we might enter the realm of science fiction and postulate a situation wherein an alien technology, for reasons best known to itself, transformed you into a cow. Or, in your next incarnation, you might come back as a cow. Or, in the most traditional fashion, you might, buried, give sustenance to a flower, which gave sustenance to a cow, thus becoming one with it ….

Immediate reality moves, it changes. Usually — but not always — we can select a set of realities into which it is more likely to change, and describe those. (Remember, please, that I am postulating a difference between Reality and Truth.)

So what is this solve/solvent/solute/solution? It is nothing less than the separation of — whatever it is — into its smallest component pieces. The very prefix “ab” rather than the softer “dis” states that there can be no smaller pieces into which to separate it.
For a moment, look at how we’ve constructed the word “absolute.” (reaches for mental dictionary, since physical dictionary is out of reach) Ab is a negative, a rejection of or dismissal of the possibility of, the other major portion of the word. “Solu” belongs to the same class of words as “solvent,” “solution,” (in both its chemical and its problemical meanings) and “solve”; the word “dissolve” uses this root with the prefix meaning (more or less) “to undo.”

Let me give you a couple of examples: “This is no matrix; it is absolutely iron.” or a person who once had MPD, upon successfully reintegrating herself: “I am absolutely Susan today!”

Closest description of current reality: no smaller pieces combined with it.

But reality is transient. “Truth” carries a connotation of “Now and for all time.” (a bad connotation, possibly; but it tends to hang on, ESPECIALLY in the presence of the word “absolute.”)

I mean, the very fact that we are empowered to act AT ALL is a function of the fact that reality moves.

Huh. *That* might be an Absolute Truth: “Reality changes.” And its corollary: “Even this shall pass.” But – both of those might be wrong in a particular sense of which I know nothing, being, as I am, a resident on a backwater planet of a dim star here in the trailing end of the Saggitarius Arm of the Milky Way.

Better to say: as far as we terrestrial types can know, Reality Changes.

Oct 14, 1996 11:14 from Peccavimus
Of course, this is all very high and fine, but the point remains that if we don’t recognize at least some truths, then there is no way we will be able to communicate one with the other, and argument becomes pointless. It may very wel be that argument is pointless, but now you’re making the absolute statement, that there is no absolute truth, and therefore all I have to do is point to some things that are irrevocably true. Making up science fiction stories does not prove them false.

Oct 14, 1996 11:54 from Mama Rose

But that’s what I’m trying to get you to articulate: what things must we all recognize as true? I’m afraid that it make absolutely no spiritual difference to me whether you are a cow or you are not a cow.

Let me offer you an alternative:

We can work with, say, Time in the same fashion. There are several different conceptions of Time: the European popular one is different from the European scientific one, and both are different from either the Navaho or the Australian Aboriginal conceptions of time. But the European popular one is the one with which I am both most familiar and most comfortable, and it is the one I generally work with. Whether or not it is Absolutely True is unprovable (although it IS, my physics teachers tell me, DISprovable, if one cares to make the attempt) — and therefore moot. If I get the results I need in working with it in this fashion, then it is a sufficiently veracious description for my purposes. If I do not get the results I need in working with it in this fashion, then I will learn (with pain, I might add) a different conception of it and see if my results are any better with that.

There are things which are functionally true: which are true enough to work with. I can work with the concept that you are a non-cow; it really doesn’t matter to anything I am going to do whether or not it’s absolutely true, as long as it is functionally true.

IMPORTANT POINT: I am not saying that there is not a Reality which works or exists, clean and interelated and distinct; I am merely speaking of the description of that Reality.

So, rather than trying to play with simplistic and transient definitions, reach into your deep, Hellenic and Cabbalistic knowledge, and bring up something of which you are thinking when you insist that it is important that we all accept certain Absolute Truths.

Oct 14, 1996 12:16 from Same As All
What I’m wondering is why all the examples of “Reality”, such as cow-ness, etc, are dealing with attributes of the physical universe? Now the question seems to be, is there an ultimate Reality, which does not change? Well, examples of changing realities have been used to prove that there is no unchanging Reality, but it’s not enough for me. The reason why it’s easy to come up with realities which are nonpermanent is because all the examples are dealing with physical reality, which is not Reality, and does change. Think of the universe at its origin, and think of possible fates of the universe, and I think it’s obvious how much things change in this universe.

If there is a Reality, it must deal with spiritual matters, which are unchanging. Not everyone will ever agree with what these maybe, but if you want an example, perhaps the notion that God is Love? Or for some of us, God is One.

Of course, don’t whip out your calculators to tell me I’m wrong, just tell me, because I know these things aren’t provable through ordinary cognition, nor through disbelief.

Oct 14, 1996 12:28 from Mama Rose
I don’t agree that “physical reality is not Reality” nor that “If there is a Reality, it must deal with spiritual matters.”

I hold that Reality *is* physical, and that “spirituality” is an attempt to enter into a relationship with it.

Which is why I’m Pagan, I suppose: I do hold to the absolute Reality of That Which Exists. I reject the notion that the physical is Unreal.

Oct 14, 1996 13:03 from Peccavimus

You’re a cruel mama. 😉

Allright. Here’s an absolute cabalistic truth that is essential to an understanding of the universe: 5=6 In other words, that which is above is like unto that which is below, although that’s not quite precise, which is why I put it in the Cabalistic notation first — that *is* precise.

Oct 14, 1996 13:04 from Same As All
Mama Rose> 🙂 Cool! I think this is the most definitive discussion ever seen in the forum! We’ve sucessfully outlined exactly what it is we disagree about, and I feel quite sure, that at least between you and I, no further definition is required. I believe I know pretty much where you stand on the matter of Reality, as stated quite clearly and directly in your last post, and I hope you have as clear of view of what I believe is Reality.

Good discussion…

Oct 14, 1996 13:08 from Bodhi Dharma
Pecc> What do you mean by ‘above’ and what do you mean as ‘below’? I’m confused, I keep thinking of Rorschach ink blots and connecting ‘below’ as some sort of intrinsic meaning and ‘above’ as some kind of perceived meaning. But that isn’t what you mean is it?

Oct 14, 1996 13:12 from Peccavimus
Bodhi> It could be.

5 represents the human, the world, the physical universe in which we move, which is fundamentally two dimensional — even when taking into account space travel, most humans are walking about on the surface of a thin sphere — and very small. 6 represents the larger universe, all the things that are and can be, and is multidimensional. You can move up, down, forward, drekword, nikword, hikword, and dickward in this space. It’s grasps for a term God. It’s the “not that,” of zen buddhism, and the “das ding an sich.” It’s the “I AM” of the Jew and the Olympus of the Hellene. The reason I can’t explain it very well is that it’s too big to fit in words. It’s what’s left when nothing is taken away. It’s Blake, talking about seeing “infinity in a grain of sand, and Heaven in a wild flower.”

Now, these two things, the 5 and the 6, are equal. They’re the same thing. Any difference between the human 5 and the divine 6 is illusionary.

That’s my first absolute truth.
Oct 14, 1996 13:22 from Bodhi Dharma
Pecc> There is a zen koan (I probably quote it in here too much, but it remains particulary important to me shrug) that says ‘be still, like the reflection of the moon on a flowing river.’ If I understand you correctly, ‘below’ is the flowing river. ‘Above’ is the moon, the perceiver of the reflection, and all there is from which this stillness arises.
Do I have that right?

Oct 14, 1996 13:39 from Mama Rose
Also asserted as “As above, So below,” and vice versa; the principle upon which both magick and astrology rest.This would then be related to the Chaos conception of “scale”, where a particular formula and its visual component are, though complex, completely (if variously) self-reflected at all sizes, both infinitely large and infinitely small?

Same As All:
indeed. *bows*
Pecc, again:
But why are you distinguishing between the physical universe and a “spiritual” one? Are you postulating a required mind-body split?
And this: I’m not sure, but I perceive this still to be a very good example of a good solid working truth: the Unified Theory of Affect, if you will. However, I cannot justify honoring it with the term “absolute.”


Oct 14, 1996 14:39 from Maccabeus
Mama Rose> Same As All may understand you, but I’m afraid I don’t. What exactly do you mean when you say that physical existence is the Real? (not an exact quote; maybe I should say you just said that physical existence is Real.)

I thought I understood you, but I also thought I believed the second statement…That the physical is real. And it would be a real stretch to call me pagan (an example of absolute truth?:).

Oct 14, 1996 14:46 from Mama Rose
Same As All was articulating a Platonic concept: that there is a spiritual reality *behind* the reality that we see, and that this spiritual reality has MORE validity, more reality, than the reality that we see.

I believe that this concept is also articulated in the Hindu concept of Maya, wherein the world is seen as illusion — an illusion which affects each of its component parts (or, the elephant may be an illusion, but what made you think you weren’t?), but illusion nevertheless.

On the other hand, I feel that saying that “this world is illusion” denigrates the majesty of reality, and causes people to disparage things which are not a part of the “life of the soul,” or, to be specific, thinking. But then, I have seen in my own life and in the lives of friends the devastation which occurs when one lives wholly in the mind or the “soul” without giving equal weight to the body and the emotions and the “world.”

I believe that the “soul,” and its companion “spirituality” are *components* of the world, rather than the world being a pale reflection of them.

Because I celebrate this situation as “good,” I celebrate the Land and its cycles. This makes me Pagan.

Oct 14, 1996 15:25 from Maccabeus

Mama Rose> I see it now. Thanks.

Personally, I don’t believe it makes any difference whether the world is “an illusion which affects each of its component parts” or whether it is “real” in some other sense. Any such “ultimate reality” separate from this one would be undectectable anyway. If it interacted with this one, then to the degree it interacted it would become part of this reality.

God is transcendent because He is immanent and omnipresent; He is immanent and omnipresent because he is transcendent. The concepts are inseparable.

And yet, He seems farther away every day to some of us…


Oct 14, 1996 17:11 from Peccavimus
Mama Rose> No! There is no difference between the human and the divine. That’s what the equation means; there is a perceived split, but this split is false. It *looks* like 5 != 6, but the truth is that 5=6.

Bodhi> Yes, that’s it. But it goes farther: it says the water and the moon are actually all the same thing: tat tvam asi.

Oct 15, 1996 16:56 from Mama Rose

Please, let’s get a slight bit more concrete here. So that we are (more or less) on the same page, I’m working from the books Chaos Theory by Gleick and Turbulent Mirror by … damn, I forget who, but there’s no one else with a book of that name. Personally, I don’t have the math to do it directly, so I’ll have to draw simile from their dense but readable explanations.We have an irrational equation, symbolized here by the equation X times Y minus 1/3Y = Z, where the equation is repeated, with Z replacing the prior Y.

The results are sorted by whether they result in a “steady-state” solution; whether they head for infinity, or whether they fall somewhere in between, and by how much. They are assigned colors depending on the sorting. They are plotted according to a specific (if arcane to me, and therefore incapable of being explained by me) process: at which point they make a picture. As more equations are solved, the picture gets more and more detailed. There is some manner of zooming in on parts of them, so that one may see them more closely; and it is seen that, although at any one level of “magnification” the picture alters from region to region, it follows a visually identifiable pattern; and, when “magnification” or even “zooming out” occurs, it is seen that precisely the same pattern appears, even if some of the joining edges may be different; they, too, nevertheless, follow the same visually identifiable pattern as was seen before.

I related what you were saying to various of these different “levels of magnification;” if we suppose that the Universe has a single irrational equation, however complex the equation may itself be, iterated nearly to infinity, then it has to be true that the patterns seen at any one level are the patterns seen at any other level, simply because it’s all part of the same equation. I can suppose, then, that as there are levels of the universe which are too small for me to see, there are also levels which are much to large for me to see — but that the pattern will hold true. Precisely the same shapes will and must appear, simply because its all the same equation.This is not a description of 5=6?

Oct 15, 1996 18:27 from Peccavimus

Mama Rose>

Actually, the Mandlebrot set is a perfect example of 5=6. If you focus on certain parts of it, you’ll notice that they look very different, but if you continue to focus closer and closer, suddenly something quite similar to the original set — yet entirely unique in subtle ways — will appear. So runs the universe.I’ve noticed a strange and frightening tendency, and just now placed my fingertip firmly upon it. The idea of relativism — not rejecting others’ beliefs on the basis of your own — is a salutory one. However, too many people, instead of holding onto the idea that excluding other peoples’ strong beliefs is wrong, hold that it is wrong to hold strong beliefs, because they perceive some danger of becoming “Fundamentalist.” Yet it is obvious that among educated people, one may hold a strong belief, believe firmly that it is true (if you don’t believe it’s true, then it’s not a belief), and still not reject other ways of looking at things out of hand. This doesn’t require believing the other system, or even recognizing any inherent validity in it: all it requires is a flexible mind and the awareness that somewhere within one’s set of ideas, there are probably a few that are incorrect.
As an example: I do not believe in Freud’s theory: I am more a Rogers kind of guy. Yet I can read Freud and find valuable and useful things in it, not because it’s true — I’m convinced it’s not — but because I do not reject it out of hand as unvaluable because it is untrue. I extend the same thinking to religion. I think Christians are wrong. However, their mythology, theology, and ethics are not valueless because they are wrong. I read the Bible, talk to Christians, and have even adopted some Christian ethics. Again, I think Buddhists are wrong. Yet I can sit in zen meditation and find some value in it, and can find edification in reading the sutras. Thus it runs with Islam, atheism, Judaism, etc. This is the true relativism; not the wishy-washy fear of belief that demands we make such stupid statement as “it’s true for you.” Stupid and condescending statements, excuse me.
That’s what I think, and I got all that from eating a cucumber sandwich!Chairete!

Oct 16, 1996 07:38 from Bodhi Dharma

Since we are talking about mathematics here, let me bring up an example where 5 != 6. – the parabola (or actually any curve)
take a curve, any curve, and examine it closely. What you get are a set of points all laid out in a row. Zoom in until you are looking at only two points, what do you get? A straight line. Zoom out, until you are looking at the whole set of points, what do you get? A curve.
But a straight line != a curve
what happened here?

Oct 16, 1996 11:25 from Mama Rose

Okay, so we’re on the same wavelength here (the Mandelbrot set being a result of one of those equations I was describing so laboriously). Okay: I would call this a “description of Reality with a high quantity of accuracy,” or a Good Solid Working Truth. If you want to call it an Absolute Truth, your definitions and mine aren’t sufficiently different to affect each other badly.Very good. All right then, would you please articulate another such Truth, so that we may similarly compare notes?

Bodhi Dharma:
But, Hyperbolas don’t exist in Nature. We’re talking *irrational* equations here, not *rational* ones.

Oct 16, 1996 12:55 from Peccavimus
Also, no matter how much you magnify the line of a parabola, it’s still a curve. Just because it’s an imperceptable curve doesn’t make it not a curve.

Oct 16, 1996 13:07 from Bodhi Dharma

Mama Rose>
Point taken about the ‘rational’ vs. ‘irrational’ equations.
If we could reduce the line to just two points, then we are indeed talking about a straight line, not a curve (at least based on my limited understandng of math – I’ve had only 1 1/2 years of Calculas)Okay, so that counterexample is inappropriate.
Here’s another, the Tao (which I correlate to your ‘above’) is inherently indescribale. Yet, the everyday world in which we dwell and operate is describable (elsewise we couldn’t operate in it).
The everyday world is the ‘below’.
So, the ‘above’ == indescribable. The ‘below’ == describable. right?

Oct 16, 1996 13:35 from Peccavimus
This is actually a very good example. You magnify the arc: you get very close and your nose is on the line and it looks straight, but then you back away and you realize that it’s actually curved. Whoah! It must be two different shapes!

Not at all. They are identical.

The Tao is undescribable. The physical world is describable. And they are one and the same thing. Are you separate from the Tao? You know better than that! You are describable because you are *part* of the Tao, and there are things that I can point too to compare you with. But the Tao is the Tao. Can I compare the Tao to a fish? I’d be stupid to try. Lao was a moron to compare it to water, may the Gods bless him exceedingly. The Tao is all there is: 6 is all there is. I can’t compare 6 to five, except to say that six *is* five, and five *is* six.

How can I point to something that describes the Tao when whatever I point to *is* the Tao? Circular definitions, you see, are not acceptable!

Oct 16, 1996 13:39 from Zor Prime
Mama Rose> I’m not sure if this will have any relation on the more spiritual aspects of your entailment of “fractalness,” but the jury is still out as to whether continuous features like hyperbolas, circles, parabolas, etc, are only approximations of a discontinuous natural world, or whether these structures are truly smooth…

Oct 16, 1996 16:43 from Maccabeus
Bodhi, Pecc> Interesting discussion. Perhaps this sounds a little more mathematical than spiritual, but I pondered the curve thing for quite some time, and finally concluded that any curve is made up of an infinite number of infinitely short straight lines. (Well, things like hyperboli and such; not fractals.)
So at the infinitesimal level, curves and straight lines are the same thing. Does this mean anything to you guys, or am I wasting metabolic energy typing this?

Oct 16, 1996 19:10 from Bodhi Dharma

it is basically a truism in Calculus that a curve is composed of an infinite number of infinitely short straight lines.
At least, that is what I was taught. Pecc claims otherwise and, as I don’t know the extent of his math background, he may know something I don’t.
You are confusing me. I never said the hyperbola was a different hyperbola merely because you are looking at it at different scales. I was providing a counter example to your claim that ‘as above so below’. On the infintismal scale, a hyperbola is composed of straight lines, which is a property quite different from the very large scale where there is nothing straight about a hyperbola. Straight lines below, curves above. Seems to contradict your assertion.
As for the Tao, you’ve lost me. Please clarify your point.

Oct 17, 1996 00:41 from Firestix
curve/straight line> I hate to break this news to you but a curve is made up of an infinate number of points. *still not shure how this falls in spiritual* take any equations of a curve and start chunkin in the numbers to see. For example x=y^2 when y is 1 x is 1; when y is 2 x is 4 (now yes this is 2 points) but when y=1.001 x=1.002001; and when y=1.002 x=1.003002 now if you were to plot these on a graph they wouldn’t match the line of when y=1 and y=2… now you can keep changing values and you will never find three points on the equation which line up to make a straight line.

Oct 17, 1996 06:17 from Same As All
I’m not sure how this relates to spirituality either, but I think the point of the curve being made up of an infinite number of infinitily small lines has to do with the calculus of curves. Any point on a curve has a slope associated at that point, and that slope corresponds to a tangent line for that point of the curve. The slope of the infinitily short tangent line is what I believe was being refered to. Depending on the nature of the curve, at any point the associated tangent will have a specific slope.

BTW, the plot of all of the slopes of the points of a curve is what is called a second derivative, for those who, like myself, had an immune response to calculus, and ended up rejecting the transplant (as I did). And the second derivative is itself another curve.

Oct 17, 1996 11:14 from Bodhi Dharma
Firestix> Its no big secret that a line is made up of an infinite number of points. Its also no big secret that any three points on a curve will not give you a straight line, however, I’m speaking of any two points, not three. And as for the relation to spirituality, many people feel that the world around us reveals spiritual truths. It’s practically a tenet in Paganism and is also included in some versions of Christianity.
So, we are looking at an example of something in our world to see what truths are contained in it.

Oct 17, 1996 11:40 from Mama Rose
looking very mysterious

But the secret that Nature teaches us:

Life is irrational. That is what creates its order.

Oct 17, 1996 11:49 from Bodhi Dharma
Mama Rose> laughs trust me, the more I study mathematics, the more convinced I become that math is irrational too!

Oct 17, 1996 15:54 from The Watcher
Cheers to Mama Rose and Bodhi Dharma for breaking the cycle of debate on the nature of curves and circles. (mostly since I have nothing to contribute due to my ignorance of math). I find legitimating ones’ belief-system (religious or otherwise) through so-called empirical means very interesting. But I’m not sure how effective it is, since even academics argue over what ideas and statistics are empirical and which are not. I’m just a Taoist with a feeble mind, so I try to stay simple, like: do all faiths promote love and such things or are these things relative to cultures and geography? Just an essay-type question.

Oct 17, 1996 17:38 from Bodhi Dharma
laughs again
as a double major in anthropology and computer science, I’ve had plenty of experience with both mathematics-type proofs and essay questions. IMHO, mathematics-type proofs are, by far, the easier of the two.
Calculus vs. PostModernism? arghh I’ll take the Calculus please.

Tuppence in the change bowl.

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