Re: AD/BC debators

Pauline Shafer (pali@U.WASHINGTON.EDU)
Sun, 26 May 1996 08:33:32 -0700

Dear Mike and Timothy,
An interesting area you may want to look into is
Cabalism, and especially its manifestation in the tarot. Zero is of prime
importance in the make up of the system. But especially since you seem to
be looking at this as a fiction writer, it may be of relevance. The tarot
is purported to have conveyed a very important system, via an extended
story. The Main Cards, if considered like chapters in a book, are
sequential. Though the tarot has a bad reputation, I think it cannot be
dismissed without thought. Walter Banjamin was very influenced by the
Cabalah, and he has thus influenced significant thinkers in the social
The card that conveys Zero is the Fool. It is usually placed at the
beginning of the series, but most esoteric writings on the Cabalah say it
is really between the first and last cards, marking the returning nature
of the recursive story.

Hope this wasn't too off list topic,
Pauline Escudero
University of Wa. anthro.

On Sat, 25 May 1996, mike shupp wrote:

> Oh people, come quickly!
> An innocent soul on another list wishes to have zero explained to him!
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Thu, 25 May 1995 01:48:30 -0700
> From: Timothy Jones <skozicki@UCR.AC.CR>
> To: Multiple recipients of list ANCIEN-L <ANCIEN-L@ULKYVM.LOUISVILLE.EDU>
> Subject: The Discovery of Zero
> I am a fiction writer, and I am researching and speculating upon the
> origin of zero in Western mathematics. It seems this is a very obscure
> area. The concept of zero did not appear until the ninth century AD when
> it was introduced to Arab culture from India. The Sanskrit word sunya,
> meaning emptiness was translated into Arabic as safr, which became cipher
> and zero. What I am interested in is the notable absence of zero in the
> complex systems of mathematics in the ancient world. One can understand
> how zero wouldn't be immediately intuitive in primitive counting systems,
> but why didn't it occur to anyone later on ? It seems to have appeared
> only in India, China and among the Mayans. Is a fundamental shift in
> consciousness necessary for the concept of zero to become intuitive? If
> so would the shift in consciousness have implied a kind of philosophical
> pessimism? Could the absence of zero in ancient thinking have something
> to do with polytheism? The introduction of zero revolutionized
> mathematics, but does it imply a shift in consciousness of equal
> magnitude? If anyone in this discussion group has any ideas about this,
> or could point me to something written on the Web, I would be most
> grateful.