Heaven's Fractal Net: Retrieving Lost Visions in the Humanities

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"Fractal" is a term coined by mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot to denote the geometry of nature, which traces inherent order in chaotic shapes and processes. Fractal concepts are part of our emerging vocabulary and can be useful in identifying patterns of human behavior, culture, and history, while enhancing our understanding of the nature of consciousness.

According to William J. Jackson, the more one studies fractals, the more apparent their connections to the humanities become. In the recursive patterns of religious music, in temple architecture in India, in cathedral structures in Europe and America, in the imagery of religious literature depicting infinity and abundance, and in poetic descriptions of the nature of consciousness, fractal-like configurations are pervasive. Recognition of this structure, which is also found in social organizations and ritual symbolism, requires only that one develop "an eye for fractals" by studying the work of researchers and observing nature. One then begins to see that the separation of humanities and science is convenient oversimplification, not an ultimate fact. Includes a DVD of animated fractals.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Fractal patterns, as defined by French mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, are self-similar, recursive, and potentially infinite. Jackson (comparative religion, Indiana Univ. & Purdue Univ.) argues that fractal patterns (and others) show the intelligent design of the universe and, consequently, an underlying universal intelligence. This argument from design is a version of Thomas Aquinas's fifth proof for the existence of God in his Summa Theologica, debated since by many philosophers and theologians, so the author breaks no new theoretical ground here. However, he does gather many instances of fractal patterns from the imagery of world religions, philosophies, and sciences, as if to show by mere dint of repetition that his argument carries universal authority. Lucidly written and thorough, this book contains good notes but lacks a bibliography. There is a certain self-satisfied tone throughout that irritated this reviewer but may not bother others. The finished edition promises many full-color illustrations. Expensive in both paper and cloth editions, this is recommended only for academic libraries or public libraries with substantial collections in religion.-James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253342799
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2003
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

William J. Jackson, Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, is author of Tyagaraja, Life and Lyrics, and Songs of Three Great South Indian Saints. Jackson lives in Indianapolis.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Introductory Reflections: Little Alps and Big Alps, Again and Again

Strand One: The Weave of the Net

Strand Two: Shipshape Earth and Other Fractal Holding Patterns

Strand Three: Like Father, Like Son

Strand Four: Creatures of Creativity, Creativity of Creatures

Strand Five: Atom Snowflow Kingdom Earth: Fractals in Literature

Strand Six: Elephant Carved in Ivory: Nature/Culture Fractal Wholeness

Strand Seven: Envoy: Child of Oneness


Indiana University Press

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