[Did you know the rites of the gods encode the secrets of mathematics and nature? Did you know Newton believed this, too? I'd like to thank James Kelley for offering this amazing piece as a guest post. -Jay]
By: James L. Kelley
Though it is well known that the word “Purusa” denotes “the man” in Sanskrit,1 one Indologist pointed out that Purusa also means “[t]he original eternal man, the Supreme Being, and soul of the universe.”2 Despite the potential ethereality of the latter shade of meaning, a scan of Purusa passages in the Rgveda assures our firm grounding in both the cosmic and the concrete, for the Vedic texts reveal Purusa to be “a mortal individual rather than an essence or subtle being…”.3 The Rgveda, which many believe to be the world’s oldest scripture,4 contains further passages that reflect the more esoteric teachings about Purusa—the Cosmic Man—whose story offers unique insights into the origin and destiny of humanity.5
Now that the significance of Purusa as the Cosmic Man in Vedic literature has been indicated, we can now begin our study of Vedic anthropology by considering the work of Dr. Abraham Seidenberg (1916-1988), a man who had much to say about Purusa and about sacred mensuration.
Seidenberg: A Life in Numbers
Abraham Seidenberg was born on the 2nd of June, 1916, in Washington, D.C. After graduating from the University of Maryland in 1937, he went on to get a doctorate in mathematics from Johns Hopkins University in 1943. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley from 1945 until his retirement in 1987. At various points throughout his career, Seidenberg held visiting professorships at institutions such as Harvard University and the University of Milan. It was during a stint at the latter school that Abraham Seidenberg died. The date was May 3, 1988.7 Seidenberg maintained a dual scholarly focus throughout his career. We will not elaborate on his substantial contributions to algebraic theory, choosing rather to zero in on the great mathematician’s work on the history of mathematics. Continue reading