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THOREAU: From MYSTICAL to MATHEMATICAL BEAUTY
Paul H. Carr, Ph.D.
“Mystic, Transcendentalist, and Natural Philosopher” (Scientist)
“The most distinct and beautiful statement of any truth must take
at last the mathematical form.”
THOREAU:
MYSTICAL to MATHEMATICAL BEAUTY
1.Mystic and transcendentalist
- Nature photography with Thoreau quotes
2. Contributions as a Natural Philosopher (Scientist).
3. Career as metaphor for the transition from a mystical
to mathematical view of nature in American thought.
- From 18th
Century theology of Jonathan Edwards
- To 20th
Cent. fractal mathematics of B. Mandelbrot
4. Re-envisioning nature’s beauty to save our planet.
Ice Melting on Walden Pond near the site of Thoreau’s Cabin
“Water Indeed Reflects Heaven” Thoreau
Geese Flying Over Melting Ice, 29 January 2002
"I look into the placid reflecting water for the signs and promise of the morrow.”
"Water indeed reflects heaven because my mind does - such is its serenity- its transparency-stillness...
Standing on distant hills you see the heavens reflected, the evening sky in some low lake or river in the
valley-
as perfectly as in any mirror they could be- Does it not prove how intimate heaven is with earth?"
Thoreau, 31 August 1851, Journal
Walden Pond, January 29, 2002
"Color stands for all ripeness and success."
Thoreau
"Water, by reason of its transparency and limpidness, is the mirror of bodies -
of physical etres, so also is truth equally the mirror of ideas." (Thoreau)
Upper Baker Pond, NH
IN WILDNESS IS THE PRESERVATION OF THE WORLD (THOREAU)
"The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild, and what I have been
preparing to say is, that in wildness is the preservation of the World. Every tree sends its
fibers forth in search of the Wild. The cities import it at any price. Men plow and sail for it.
From the forest and the wilderness comes the tonics and barks which brace mankind."
(Thoreau's "Walking.")
Audubon Sanctuary, South Natick, MA
"A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature.
It is earth's eye, looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature."
(Thoreau) Fawn Lake,
Bedford, MA
"A man's life should be as fresh as a river.
It should be the same channel, but new water every instant." (Thoreau)
Connecticut River, Orford, NH
SPONTANEOUS GENERATON?
"I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed
there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.“ Scientist Thoreau
“There is more religion in men’s science
than there is science in their religion.”
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers Sunday Chapter
Thoreau read Darwin's Origin of the Species shortly after its publication
in 1859 and wrote,
"The development theory (evolution) implies a greater vital
force in nature, because it is more flexible and
accommodating, and equivalent to a sort of
constant new creation."
Thoreau was thus one of the first Americans to accept Darwin's theory, in
contrast to the Harvard's renowned Professor Agassiz,
who believed that the geographical distribution of species was
"regulated by the limits marked out on the first day of creation.“
THOREAU: AS SCIENTIST
“I am a mystic, transcendentalist, and natural philosopher to boot.”
Swallowtail Butterfly
with Divine Proportion 1.618
BEAUTY in
SCIENCE
& SPIRIT
Thoreau’s career is a
metaphor:
from the Mystical to
Mathematical in
American thought.
Chapter 4,
"Beauty:
18TH Century Theologian of Nature, Preacher,
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
- Nature was a manifestation of the beautifying activity of God.
19th Century Naturalist, Natural Theologian,
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862):PIVOTAL
-“My profession is to be always on the alert to find God in nature,
to know his lurking places, to attend to the oratorios,
the operas, in nature.”
20th Century Mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot’s
“Fractal Geometry of Nature” (1924 - 2010 )
uncovered the mathematical structure of nature’s beauty.
From MYSTICAL to MATHEMATICAL BEAUTY
“The most distinct and beautiful statement of any truth must take at
last the mathematical form.”
WHAT is BEAUTY?
Is beauty “in the eye of the beholder”
or a Spiritual experience?
Without divinely created beauty,
nature becomes an object that may
be ravaged.
For example, the Canadian tar sands
can be beautiful in the eyes of its
owners because it is a source of black
gold.
Canadian Tar Sands: “Scraping Bottom”
National Geographic, 3/2009
RE-ENVISIONING BEAUTY
Let us re-envision beauty to transform our relationship
with life on earth.
Science is based on respect for nature’s laws.
Spirituality engenders reverence for and the
consecration of nature, created, sustained, and
redeemed by a Divine power.
Thoreau’s Correspondence,
April 10, 1861
“Blessed are they who
never read a newspaper,
for they shall see Nature,
and through her, God”
THOREAU:
MYSTICAL to MATHEMATICAL BEAUTY
1.Mystic and transcendentalist
- Nature photography with Thoreau quotes
2. Contributions as a Natural Philosopher (Scientist).
3. Career as metaphor for the transition from a mystical
to mathematical view of nature in American thought.
- From 18th
Century theology of Jonathan Edwards
- To 20th
Cent. fractal mathematics of B. Mandelbrot
4. Re-envisioning nature’s beauty to save our planet.
THOREAU’S CAREER:
from the Mystical to the Mathematical.
“I am a mystic, transcendentalist, and natural philosopher to boot.”
This talk is available on my web page
www.MirrorofNature.org by clicking on
POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS
or at
http://mirrorofnature.org/ThoreauMythToMathAG.pdf
“Mirror Of Nature”
Photo CD
Landscape photos with poetry & Thoreau wisdom.
“The streets of the village are much more interesting to me at this
hour of a summer evening than by day. Neighbors, and also
farmers, come a-shopping after their day’s haying, are chatting in
the streets, and I hear the sounds of many musical instruments, and
the singing from various houses. For a short hour or two, the
inhabitants are sensibly employed. The evening is devoted to
poetry, such as the villagers can appreciate.”
HENRY DAVID THOREAU (1817-
1862)
Journal Account of a Summer Evening
in Concord, July 21, 1851 at 8:30 P.M:
Chap 9, “The Beauty of Nature versus Its Utility, The Environmental Challenge”
"And then the sun goes down, and long the afterglow gives light.
And then the damask curtains glow along the western window,
And now the first star is lit, and I go home." (Thoreau, Jan 7, 1852)
Walden Pond, January 29, 2002

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Thoreau: From Mystical to Mathematical Beauty

  • 1. THOREAU: From MYSTICAL to MATHEMATICAL BEAUTY Paul H. Carr, Ph.D. “Mystic, Transcendentalist, and Natural Philosopher” (Scientist) “The most distinct and beautiful statement of any truth must take at last the mathematical form.”
  • 2. THOREAU: MYSTICAL to MATHEMATICAL BEAUTY 1.Mystic and transcendentalist - Nature photography with Thoreau quotes 2. Contributions as a Natural Philosopher (Scientist). 3. Career as metaphor for the transition from a mystical to mathematical view of nature in American thought. - From 18th Century theology of Jonathan Edwards - To 20th Cent. fractal mathematics of B. Mandelbrot 4. Re-envisioning nature’s beauty to save our planet.
  • 3. Ice Melting on Walden Pond near the site of Thoreau’s Cabin “Water Indeed Reflects Heaven” Thoreau
  • 4. Geese Flying Over Melting Ice, 29 January 2002 "I look into the placid reflecting water for the signs and promise of the morrow.”
  • 5. "Water indeed reflects heaven because my mind does - such is its serenity- its transparency-stillness... Standing on distant hills you see the heavens reflected, the evening sky in some low lake or river in the valley- as perfectly as in any mirror they could be- Does it not prove how intimate heaven is with earth?" Thoreau, 31 August 1851, Journal Walden Pond, January 29, 2002
  • 6. "Color stands for all ripeness and success." Thoreau
  • 7. "Water, by reason of its transparency and limpidness, is the mirror of bodies - of physical etres, so also is truth equally the mirror of ideas." (Thoreau) Upper Baker Pond, NH
  • 8. IN WILDNESS IS THE PRESERVATION OF THE WORLD (THOREAU) "The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild, and what I have been preparing to say is, that in wildness is the preservation of the World. Every tree sends its fibers forth in search of the Wild. The cities import it at any price. Men plow and sail for it. From the forest and the wilderness comes the tonics and barks which brace mankind." (Thoreau's "Walking.") Audubon Sanctuary, South Natick, MA
  • 9. "A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth's eye, looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature." (Thoreau) Fawn Lake, Bedford, MA
  • 10. "A man's life should be as fresh as a river. It should be the same channel, but new water every instant." (Thoreau) Connecticut River, Orford, NH
  • 11. SPONTANEOUS GENERATON? "I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.“ Scientist Thoreau
  • 12. “There is more religion in men’s science than there is science in their religion.” A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers Sunday Chapter
  • 13. Thoreau read Darwin's Origin of the Species shortly after its publication in 1859 and wrote, "The development theory (evolution) implies a greater vital force in nature, because it is more flexible and accommodating, and equivalent to a sort of constant new creation." Thoreau was thus one of the first Americans to accept Darwin's theory, in contrast to the Harvard's renowned Professor Agassiz, who believed that the geographical distribution of species was "regulated by the limits marked out on the first day of creation.“ THOREAU: AS SCIENTIST “I am a mystic, transcendentalist, and natural philosopher to boot.”
  • 14. Swallowtail Butterfly with Divine Proportion 1.618 BEAUTY in SCIENCE & SPIRIT Thoreau’s career is a metaphor: from the Mystical to Mathematical in American thought. Chapter 4, "Beauty:
  • 15. 18TH Century Theologian of Nature, Preacher, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) - Nature was a manifestation of the beautifying activity of God. 19th Century Naturalist, Natural Theologian, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862):PIVOTAL -“My profession is to be always on the alert to find God in nature, to know his lurking places, to attend to the oratorios, the operas, in nature.” 20th Century Mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot’s “Fractal Geometry of Nature” (1924 - 2010 ) uncovered the mathematical structure of nature’s beauty. From MYSTICAL to MATHEMATICAL BEAUTY “The most distinct and beautiful statement of any truth must take at last the mathematical form.”
  • 16. WHAT is BEAUTY? Is beauty “in the eye of the beholder” or a Spiritual experience? Without divinely created beauty, nature becomes an object that may be ravaged. For example, the Canadian tar sands can be beautiful in the eyes of its owners because it is a source of black gold.
  • 17. Canadian Tar Sands: “Scraping Bottom” National Geographic, 3/2009
  • 18. RE-ENVISIONING BEAUTY Let us re-envision beauty to transform our relationship with life on earth. Science is based on respect for nature’s laws. Spirituality engenders reverence for and the consecration of nature, created, sustained, and redeemed by a Divine power.
  • 19. Thoreau’s Correspondence, April 10, 1861 “Blessed are they who never read a newspaper, for they shall see Nature, and through her, God”
  • 20. THOREAU: MYSTICAL to MATHEMATICAL BEAUTY 1.Mystic and transcendentalist - Nature photography with Thoreau quotes 2. Contributions as a Natural Philosopher (Scientist). 3. Career as metaphor for the transition from a mystical to mathematical view of nature in American thought. - From 18th Century theology of Jonathan Edwards - To 20th Cent. fractal mathematics of B. Mandelbrot 4. Re-envisioning nature’s beauty to save our planet.
  • 21. THOREAU’S CAREER: from the Mystical to the Mathematical. “I am a mystic, transcendentalist, and natural philosopher to boot.” This talk is available on my web page www.MirrorofNature.org by clicking on POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS or at http://mirrorofnature.org/ThoreauMythToMathAG.pdf “Mirror Of Nature” Photo CD Landscape photos with poetry & Thoreau wisdom.
  • 22. “The streets of the village are much more interesting to me at this hour of a summer evening than by day. Neighbors, and also farmers, come a-shopping after their day’s haying, are chatting in the streets, and I hear the sounds of many musical instruments, and the singing from various houses. For a short hour or two, the inhabitants are sensibly employed. The evening is devoted to poetry, such as the villagers can appreciate.” HENRY DAVID THOREAU (1817- 1862) Journal Account of a Summer Evening in Concord, July 21, 1851 at 8:30 P.M: Chap 9, “The Beauty of Nature versus Its Utility, The Environmental Challenge”
  • 23. "And then the sun goes down, and long the afterglow gives light. And then the damask curtains glow along the western window, And now the first star is lit, and I go home." (Thoreau, Jan 7, 1852) Walden Pond, January 29, 2002