Mathematics and the Divine seem to correspond to diametrically opposed tendencies of the human mind. Does the mathematician not seek what is precisely defined, and do the objects intended by the mystic and the theologian not lie beyond definition? Is mathematics not Man's search for a measure, and isn’t the Divine that which is immeasurable ? The present book shows that the domains of mathematics and the Divine, which may seem so radically separated, have throughout history and across cultures, proved to be intimately related. Religious activities such as the building of temples, the telling of ritual stories or the drawing of enigmatic figures all display distinct mathematical features. Major philosophical systems dealing with the Absolute and theological speculations focussing on our knowledge of the Ultimate have been based on or inspired by mathematics. A series of chapters by an international team of experts highlighting key figures, schools and trains of thought is presented here. Chinese number mysticism, the views of Pythagoras and Plato and their followers, Nicholas of Cusa's theological geometry, Spinozism and intuitionism as a philosophy of mathematics are treated side by side among many other themes in an attempt at creating a global view on the relation of mathematics and Man’s quest for the Absolute in the course of history.

Key Features

· Mathematics and man's quest for the Absolute · A selective history highlighting key figures, schools and trains of thought · An international team of historians presenting specific new findings as well as general overviews · Confronting and uniting otherwise compartmentalized information


Scholarly public working in history, philosophy, theology or mathematics and a more generally oriented, academic but less specialized public.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Ho Peng-Yoke, Chinese Number Mysticism 2. Kim Plofker, Derivation and Revelation: the Legitimacy of Mathematical Models in Indian Cosmology 3. Reviel Netz, The Pythagoreans 4. Ian Mueller, Mathematics and the Divine in Plato 5. Jean-François Mattei, Nicomachus of Gerasa and the Divine Arithmetical Ladder 6. Dominic J. O'Meara, Geometry and the Divine in Proclus 7. Marie-Pierre Terrien, Religious Architecture and Mathematics during Late Antiquity 8. David A. King, The Sacred Geography of Islam 9. Faith Wallis, 'Number Mystique' in early medieval computus texts 10. Maurice-Ruben Hayoun, Is the Divine Universe Divisible 11. Charles Lohr, Mathematics and the Divine: Ramon Lull 12. Hugue Garcia, Christian Gnosis 13. Edith Dudley Sylla, Swester Katrei and Gregory of Rimini: Angels, God and Mathematics in the Fourteenth Century 14. Jean-Michel Counet, Mathematics and the Divine in Nicholas of Cusa 15. Teun Koetsier and Karin Reich, Michael Stifel and his Numerology 16. Ivo Schneider, Between Rosicrucians and Kabbala - the Mathematics of the Biblical Numbers of Johannes Faulhaber 17. Eberhard Knobloch, Mathematics and the Divine: Athanasius Kircher 18. Volker R. Remmert, Galileo, God and Mathematics 19. André Charrak, The Mathematical Model of Creation According to Kepler 20. Jean-Marie Nicolle, The Mathematical Analogy in the Proof of God's Existence by Descartes 21. Donald Adamson, Pascal's Views on Mathematics and the Divine 22. Ger Harmsen, Spinoza and the Geometrical Method of Proof 23. Philip Beeley and Siegmund Probst, John Wallis (1616-1703): Mathematician and Divine 24. Kees de Pater, Newton and the Ocean of Truth 25. Herbert Breg


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© 2005
Elsevier Science
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About the editors

Teun Koetsier

Affiliations and Expertise

Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Luc Bergmans

Affiliations and Expertise

University of Paris IV Sorbonne, Paris, France


"...Mathematics and the Divine makes a valuable contribution to opening up the history of this topic. It should provide welcome encouragement and assistance to others who would like to explore this arena further for themselves." -in THE MATHEMATICAL ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA