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Math for Mystics

Edith Prentice Mendez, reviewer

Math for Mystics: From the Fibonacci Sequence to Luna's Labyrinth to the Golden Section and Other Secrets of Sacred Geometry. Renna Shesso, 2007. Weiser Books, 500 Third Street, Suite 230, San Francisco, CA 94107. ISBN-13 978-1-57863-383-8, paperback, $16.95, 193 pages with index and bibliographic resources.

This book is characterized by its title - it is indeed meant for mystics, and will not be more than a curiosity for historians of mathematics. Mathematics has been used in the service of astrology for millennia, and this would seem to be such an attempt, as the author explains that she uses numbers to prepare for "spellwork" (p. 9). Although the text is footnoted, many citations are to occult literature. Weiser Books "publishes books across the entire spectrum of occult and esoteric subjects" (end page). 

The book does have its interesting points. An intriguing one is Shesso's conjecture that the Pythagoreans used finger counting and that their classification of male and female numbers has an anatomical basis: "The 'male' odd numbers land on the projecting fingers, and the 'female' even numbers nestle in the open crevices between fingers." (pp. 8-9) But other conjectures are even less likely - such as an attempt to link the Latin word for six, sex, with the English word sex, thus to the Tarot Lover's card (pp. 140-141).

The author describes math as "the dreaded M-word" (p. ix), so mathematical and historical errors are not unexpected. Shesso's variation of the Fibonacci sequence starts with zero (p. 101), which would have produced very few rabbits. One is a prime number for her (p. 130), and three-dimensional space has "height, weight, and depth" (p. 136).

I am not qualified to speak to the utility of this book for mystics, but I cannot recommend it for mathematics educators or historians.

Edith Prentice Mendez, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Sonoma State University

Edith Prentice Mendez, reviewer, "Math for Mystics," Loci (November 2007)