Even as I often criticize quantity thinking, I don’t mean to say that it is completely useless. Many quantitative truths are pervasively true. 2 + 2 = 4 in all situations, for example. This truth can be used for practical purposes like counting the number of people, animals, and houses. Numbers can be used for financial accounting. We can use a flat-space geometry for astronomical calculations of time because we can discount the effects of planets on our bodies and minds. Flat-space geometry can be used for many things in city planning. We can use algebra and converging infinite series to compute the lengths of arcs and lines. Thus, one is led to the question: How can something so useful be false? This post discusses the answer, along with how this usefulness may have been transformed into the truth and reality. The conclusion is: All that is true is also useful, but all that is useful is not true.
Table of Contents
The Problem of Counting Things
The problem with quantity thinking is that there is no logical foundation for numbers. Every attempt to give numbers a foundation has either relied on numbers (e.g., that 0 depends on 1 or 2), or it has ended up in logical contradictions (e.g., those based on set theory). That is because quantities, numbers, and counting rest upon the foundation of qualities.
Whenever we count two things, animals, or people, they are always distinct as qualities. For instance, we have to identify things as red, green, and blue, then by seeing that red is not green or blue, we distinguish them as separate entities, and then by prioritizing red over green over blue, we can sequence them into first, second, and third. Quantities are the effect of qualities but that effect can ignore the qualities based on which we distinguished them.
For instance, while counting people, we ignore their nationalities, colors, languages, cultures, genders, etc. and each person is counted as one person, regardless of the fact that some person is more or less capable, a socially superior or inferior person, a good or bad person. This equality is an illusion created by disregarding their qualitative differences. The fact is that if these qualities did not exist, then counting would also not exist. Hence, numbers are not a fundamental reality because they are always based on the effect of quality differences.
Practical Usefulness of Numbers
And yet, there are situations in which we do not need to know the quality differences. A merchant, for instance, can value all his goods in a single currency, and add up the total value. This summing of total value disregards the fact that each individual thing has a value based on its qualities. If we were using a barter system of goods exchange, then we would rely on the qualities of things being exchanged. If, however, we use the currency to denominate the value of things, then we can add up the total value and ignore the quality differences. That neglect is sometimes convenient but it cannot be the foundation on which we always study reality.
Quantitative sciences were formulated in India for cases where such neglect was convenient. The Roman numeral system is useless if we use it to balance an account that involves expenses and liabilities because it requires negative numbers, which then require a zero. The number associated with income, asset, expense, or liability is based on a quality, but in a balance sheet with disparate quality things, it is convenient to convert them into a quantity. Similarly, algebra and geometry were formulated in India for temple and city construction and time calculation. However, these quantitative sciences were restricted to certain limited use cases, and they were never considered to be on par with the Vedic texts, nor even a true description of nature.
The Spread of Quantity Science
Due to trade relations between India and other countries, the system of accounting spread to other parts of the world. Likewise, when foreigners came to India, they saw city planning, temples, and architectures, and they began to see the usefulness of numbers, algebra, and geometry. Then, many masons traveled to other parts of the world to consult and construct temples and cities and passed on their knowledge of algebra and geometry to others.
Historically, geometry and algebra were associated in Europe with masons. They employed a combination of qualities and quantities. In India, this practical use of geometry and algebra is called Vāstu-Shastra or the “scripture on things”. In modern time, this is called ‘architecture’. The difference is that Vāstu-Shastra associates directions, shapes, and sizes with meanings.
The direction, shape, and size itself is geometry and algebra, but the meaning tied to it is based on qualities. This quality science pervaded masonry in the use of astrology and astronomy for architecture. For instance, the shadows cast by the planetary movement were given significance in the construction of temples and cities. The significance comes from astrology and the movement from astronomical calculations. Masons were thus well-versed in mathematics and astronomy, and they employed a science of both quantities and qualities to create architectures.
Vāstu-Shastra, which employs such a combination of qualities and quantities came to be known as masonry in other parts of the world. When Christianity arose in Europe, the masons were persecuted like pagans, because they were using astrological principles and a science of qualities, while Christians considered these things paganism. That led to the formation of secret societies, and distrust between masonry and Christianity was common. Even today, some people associate these secret masonic societies with something evil, because they have been considered evil since the time of Roman Catholicism. However, the masons were still building exquisite Cathedrals all over Europe, and their knowledge—although declining—was kept alive in some form.
The Development of Modern Science
A transformation occurred in the 17th century due to the Protestant Reformation: (a) Cathedral construction declined because Protestants rejected Catholicism, leading to a decline in masonic membership, (b) it gave masons freedom from Catholic persecution, (c) Protestants became interested in masonry ideas, and (d) masonry started accepting outsiders, adding ideas from other cults. This transformation converted masonry into the modern freemasonry movement.
The Royal Society of England in the 17th century had many freemasons, including Isaac Newton. It is sometimes speculated that Newton borrowed many masonic ideas to create his mechanics. But it is hard to be sure because he burned all the original papers, and none of the original drafts of Principia—which should detail how he worked out his mechanics to its final form—are to be found. After his death, Newton’s heir hid most of his writing to obfuscate the origins of his work. Most of Newton’s writing was not publicly available until the 1960s, and after that, researchers have dismissed connections between his calculus, physics, and freemasonry. It is hard to believe that. You cannot regard Newton as a genius on one hand, and a split-brain thinker on the other. Even if everything is not consistent, there are bound to be significant connections.
More accurate evidence comes from the historical precedents of infinite series expansions of functions such as sine and cosine, and numbers such as pi, in Indian mathematics, that precede the development of calculus by 300 years. Calculus inverts these expansions into summations. It is quite possible, although not certainly known today, that Newton got these via masonry sources but burned the original papers, and his heirs covered up his tracks for a very long time.
The fact that these calculations existed in India, does not mean that they denoted planetary movement. The Vedic understanding of planetary movement is that the locations and directions in space are represented by different qualities and the planets go around due to cyclical change in qualities as an effect of cyclical time. The time we measure as a result of planetary motion is an effect of Causal Time. Likewise, the trajectories drawn on paper are just a picture useful for temple construction, never to be confused with the cosmos. Newton applied such architecture models back to the cosmos by postulating that space is uniform and time is linear, attributing the motion to a gravitational force. He was most likely aided by the work that Indian mathematicians had done for architecture, although he misused it to describe the nature of the cosmos.
Masonry is an important bridge between quality and quantity thinking because masons need mathematical models to estimate the effects of planetary movement on the temple. But if that model is treated as that of planetary movement, then we are stepping outside the bounds of what the model was supposed to achieve. When Newton imputed these masonry models back to the cosmos, he stripped masonry of the science of qualities and gave birth to modern science.
Antecedents to Modern Masonry
In a sense, it is true that modern science emerged out of numbers, algebra, and geometry that the masons had originally developed in India. However, it is also true that what the West took out of this masonry was the science of quantities, and left out the system of qualities. Masonry was the perfect recipe for this because it was using a combination of quantities and qualities. Thereby, something developed in India became completely antithetical to the original Vedic ideas.
Masonry, however, is not an ancient science. Even until 5000 years ago, the most important cities were built either by demigods or through mystic power. The Mahabharata notes that cities like Indraprastha and Dwaraka were built by the demigod Vishwakarma. Even Lanka was built by Vishwakarma and rebuilt in a day when it was burnt by Hanuman. Similarly, temples were not formerly constructed in India, because practically everyone worshipped the deity at home.
Historians estimate that temple construction in India began during the Gupta period around the 3rd century CE, which is also considered the golden age of mathematicians like Aryabhatta and Baskaracharya who created Indian astronomy and mathematics. It is not therefore farfetched to assert that astronomy and mathematics were created in India mainly for temple construction.
Masonry is therefore exclusively a Kali-yuga “science”, and it was born in India in the last few thousand years due to the need for constructing cities and temples. Great kings wanted to show their power and wealth by constructing big cities and temples, and that gave birth to masonry. Through trade with other countries, this knowledge spread to other places too. However, after the successive foreign invasions, the destruction of temples, the reduction in the building of new forts, cities, and temples based on masonry principles, and the hands of masons being cut-off after they had created great architectures, masonry died in India. Modern temple constructions, for instance, use professional architects who know almost nothing about the effects of architecture on the body and mind, the role of planetary movement, and how to use it effectively.
In contrast, during Greek times, Plato associated meanings with various shapes. The tetrahedron was fire, the cube was earth, the octahedron was air, and the icosahedron was water. Egyptians entombed their Pharaohs in pyramids because they were sun-worshippers, and their Pharaoh was a descendant of the sun-god on earth, the sun was fire, and the fire was symbolized in a tetrahedron. By entombing the Pharaoh in a Pyramid, his body was effectively encased inside the sun.
Quality vs. Quantity Sciences in India
When people talk about advanced sciences in ancient India, they almost always refer to masonry, because it is the thing that most people associate with numbers, algebra, and geometry. You can talk about the advanced architecture of temples, and how they were tied to planetary movement. We can do astronomy based on these quantity sciences, however, we cannot do astrology, because astrology requires associating directions, objects, and forms with meanings.
Practically everyone has forgotten the much older science of qualities, based on non-binary logic, to the point where even the mention of the fact that binary logic is false, that numerical sciences can never be the real descriptions of nature, etc. raises eyebrows everywhere. This is because people everywhere have accepted that masonry is the basis of all knowledge.
Brahmana vs. Sudra Sciences
In the Vedic system, masonry will be called a Sudra science, because a mason is a Sudra. Of course, Sudras can be very intelligent; they can do advanced astronomy, mathematics, architecture. But they are called Sudra because they work with inanimate things. They were influenced by the other classes in the sense that they associated qualities with places, things, and directions. However, because this knowledge applies to inanimate things, their knowledge is the lowest. Qualities were more prominent for Vaishyas as they worked with animals and plants. They were even more prominent for Kshatriyas who organized human society. And they were most prominent for Brahmanas who were thinking and speaking about the superhumans.
Modern science is based on the lowest technical knowledge of masonry after it had been stripped of qualities. In a sense, it is less than Sudra knowledge, but it wants to define the superhuman.
If we understand the origins of quantity science, how it arose when the contact with demigods ceased, how it has practical usefulness—sometimes when not totally stripped of qualities, and at other times in a limited sense when totally stripped of qualities—and yet, it is not the basis on which to model reality, then we can distinguish between two kinds of science based on qualities and quantity. The quantity science, when not totally stripped of qualities, is a Sudra science, and has practical usefulness in building cities, buildings, houses, and other things. Then, the science completely focused on qualities, the understanding of life, the universe, soul, and God, is Brahmana science. These two can co-exist if we know which one is better and why.
While doing architecture, the science of qualities decides the relative locations, shapes, heights, and elevations of different structures, but once those things have been decided, other things can be done based on quantities. Architecture is not just about aesthetics, or what looks good to the eye. It is about invoking cosmic and human principles to design a structure in harmony with the cosmos, and suited to humans. The building is ādibhautika, but it has to be compatible with the ādiātmika (the human body and mind), and the ādidaivika (the cosmic structure). That requires us to understand how the cosmos influences ordinary buildings, and how those buildings then affect the human inhabitants. When we view architecture in this broader sense, ranging from the cosmos to the human mind, then we can understand how masons were required to be mathematically, astronomically, and astrologically astute, and yet, they were still Sudras.
This quantity science has limited applicability to inanimate things, while the quality science lies at the foundation of even how inanimate things are counted. The quantity science uses many simplifying assumptions—e.g., all things are qualitatively identical, space is uniform, time is linear, things being modeled have no mind, that each thing is indeed separate from other things—which are true to limited extents for inanimate objects, but not true in general. If we limit the simplifying assumptions to some cases, then quantity sciences can be pragmatically useful, although not true. The truth is always useful, but the useful is not always true.