So I thought as an occasional series, I'd tell you about some of my favourite books. These are the ones I use again and again – for inspiration, for reference or just for fun.
The Mystery of Numbers
This is a ragbag collection of pretty much everything Schimmel could find out about numbers, but since she was one of the foremost professors of Islamic culture in the 20th century and a general know-all, it makes for quite a collection of stuff. It\s as if she opened the top of her head, reached in and rootled around, and yanked out a handful of crazy facts about each number. Mostly she's interested in mysticism, religion, myth, symbolism and astrology. And just occasionally some maths.
Randomness is why I like this book. It's organised from 0 to infinity with a short or long entry depending on how much there is to say.
Here are a few things I learned from reading it.
- The Pleiades disappear for 40 days every year.
- The idea of a seven-fold path to enlightenment is common to Siberian shamans and St Teresa of Avila as well as most other mystics in between.
- The German god Odin had a horse with eight legs. And this is a shamanic symbol too, used in Siberia to express ecstatic experiences.
- Who knows why a football team has 11 players? Is it because 10 is a perfect round number and 11 expresses human imperfection?
- The Jewish Kabbalah and the Muslim sufi tradition have quite a lot in common, including a fondness for the number one.
To buy this book at Amazon (and help support this site) click on the picture.