Many types of symbols are found in religions. Animals and plants, as well as numbers and shapes, represent sacred meanings.
In the 9th and 10th centuries, Islamic scholars combined the concepts of Greek and Indian mathematics to more fully develop the decimal system and algebra.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, sacred math took on a visual aspect through the mandala, which represents the universe. These patterns were used as a meditation aid.
A recent book, “Creating Mandalas With Sacred Geometry,” by Susanne F. Fincher looks at the history of math and the mandala.
From its bright cover to the history and then the actual drawing methods, this book is a pleasure to use.
Fincher starts with a history hitting the high points of math, pointing out that the Pythagorean theorem and the golden ratio were used to explain religious principals.
Fincher explains that the concept of zero was slow to catch on in the Western world, but it did show up in some Christian thought. She also points out that Jewish mysticism and C.G. Jung embraced numerical formulas.
The next chapter explains some common meanings of numbers and the shapes associated with them. For instance, 3 is a triangle. It can represent marriage — two becoming one — and “third time is a charm,” because prayers are often repeated three times. Three is also the beginning, the middle and the end.
Fincher then slides into the practical — tips for drawing. Basic drawing tools from geometry class, such as a ruler, compass and protractor are on the equipment list. Instructions of basic grids for mandalas are provided.
The next chapter explains how to draw the various mandalas, including a yin yang symbol or a Star of David.
The book ends with a section of already drawn mandalas to be colored.
Many are finished versions of the ones already described either in the history section or in the drawing section. One is based on an Islamic pattern and another is an angular south Asian pattern.
This book is not intended for in-depth study of the subject. It is just a quick look at the topic.