Customer Review

July 24, 2011
The majority of the chapters in this book read like random notes arbitrarily pasted together without any discernible goal other than the creation of a chapter-length chunk of text. Historically, many beautiful things have been written on the connection between mathematics and the divine, but unfortunately these old ideas are obscured by exceedingly poor presentation in this book. The following sentence---which is quite typical in terms of opacity, though extreme with respect to incompetence---illustrates my point:

"For Anatolius, quoted by Ps. Jamblichus, the Number Seven, the only number that is not generated by any of the first numbers except the unity, and the only one that does not generate any other number, is likened to Athena, the virgin motherless goddess." (p. 129)

The basic idea that 7=Athena is very clever indeed, but unfortunately the presentation it receives here is far from divine.

First of all there are elementary editorial shortcomings. For example, we are given no page reference so apparently we must read through Jamblichus's entire book (100 pages of classical Greek) if we want to see the original passage in question. Also, the term "generated" is never defined or used elsewhere, so we have no idea what the sentence even means. It must also be understood that the vague phrase "the first numbers" refers to the first TEN numbers.

But worse still are the blatant mathematical errors which show that the author really has no idea what he is talking about. For in fact "generation" is here intended in the sense of multiplication, which means that almost everything in the sentence above is wrong:
--7 is NOT generated by 1.
--7 is NOT the only number not generated (2, 3 and 5 are not generated either).
--7 is NOT the only number that does not generate others (neither does any of 6 through 10).

Thus if you want to read about the beautiful idea that 7=Athena from an author who is not mathematically incompetent you are better off ignoring this book in favour of classical sources themselves, such as this:

"Since the number 7 neither generates nor is generated by any of the numbers in the decad, they identified it with Athene. For the number 2 generates 4, 3 generates 9, and 6, 4 generates 8, and 5 generates 10, and 4, 6, 8, 9, and 10 are also themselves generated, but 7 neither generates any number nor is generated from any; and so too Athene was motherless and ever-virgin." (Aristotle, fragment 203, not cited in the book under review)
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