Ruth Nanda Anshen: The Fallacy of Opposition in Western Ideology. (03/05/2001)

Talking about harmony without a compass and a straight-edge; that is, talking about the absence of opposition in the natural world without recourse to Euclidean means of demonstration, description, and definition, which is the way Western thinkers have always dealt with the issue, if only because they cannot portray it definitively in strictly Euclidean terms, has always left the subject behind to drift aimlessly in an unspecified limbo where the very essence of what harmony means is overshadowed by a traditional dependence on binary opposition to communicate ideologically charged ideas. Ruth Anshen, for instance, in The Reality of the Devil: Evil in Man, engages in this practice in every way imaginable in her study of the nature of the Devil and of Evil in human culture. She does this with pure legitimacy, of course, because this subject cannot be expressed at all in Eurocentric terms, that is, without recourse to binary opposition, because Evil only exists in contradistinction to the Good. Had a conceptualization of harmony ever entered the thought processes of Middle Eastern and European thinkers, had such a thing ever been privileged in the development of its ideology, the opposition between good and evil, spiritual and material, between heaven and the world, between the eternal and the temporal, would never have arisen, could not have arisen because opposition as such is precluded from harmonic constructs by definition of the terms. To use its negative definition: harmony is the absence of opposition. In the long history of Western philosophy, from Hegel to Nietzsche, from Marx and Engels to infinity, if harmony exists as a real component of the natural world, then dialectical thinking, oppositional ideology, loses the primary ground of its justification and cannot help but fall into a borderland ringed around by delusion and mythic "wish-it-were-so's."

In the general context of Anshen's discussion of man's expulsion from the Garden of Eden, from paradise, she says that

"The separation of the qualities of strict justice and moral judgment in and by God from the harmonious whole, from their true interrelationship, from their sacredness and the Good-such separation becomes the cause of Evil. There is the quality of wrath on the one hand of God, and the quality of mercy and love on the other hand of God. And one cannot manifest itself without the other. Thus the great fire of wrath which burns in God is often tempered by His mercy. But when it ceases to be tempered, when in its hypertrophic tearing itself away from the quality of mercy, then it is transformed into that which is radically evil; it becomes the Devil incarnate and belongs to the dark world of Satan." (64)

Anshen argues (63) that the separation between justice and judgment occurred when Eve removed the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and was expelled, with Adam, from paradise, and away from the Tree of Life, because they had disobeyed God's only commandment. What I see here in Anshen's view is that the "harmonious whole," from which God removed justice and judgment when he banished Adam and Eve from Eden, must necessarily have been the nature of the world prior to original sin (eating the fruit). In other words, prior to human disobedience in breaking that single commandment, the world was a single, unified, "harmonious whole," or at least the Garden itself could be described in those terms. After that sin, however, the world ceased to be harmonious and became instead a punishment of exile into a place defined only by binary opposition. She also seems to claim that God Himself was altered in that expulsion since He then acquired the dualistic qualities of wrath on the one hand and mercy on the other.

Whether Anshen's view of this issue is strictly orthodox or not is a question best left to theologians to discuss and debate. I hesitate to grant it that status unequivocally because the early Fathers universally resisted defining the world and God in explicitly dualistic terms. She seems to be doing that here since God's wrath and mercy are clearly opposite qualities which, if applied as defining characteristics to the same entity, clearly mark that being as dualistic. Putting that aside, since the issue I want to discuss is not so much concerned with the nature of God but is rather directed toward the nature of the world He supposedly created, what Anshen says suggests that harmony is the proper term to use in describing the world as it was before the expulsion of man from paradise but, after that "event" occurred, it became proper to describe the world as a totally conflicted place definable only through the use of binary oppositions where good and evil are the primary ones of choice.

What I am inclined to say about this claim is that Anshen has it backwards. Saying it that way is not precisely true nor exactly what I mean. Defining the Garden of Eden as harmonious is the same as saying that harmony is only as real as the myth itself turns out to be. In other words, if harmony can exist as a qualifying characteristic only in the context of paradise, and not at all in the real world, then harmony is defined here as an illusion, as an unachievable dream, as a desired object of delusion that can never be realized by any human community. Turning this proposition on its head, so to speak, if it is possible to demonstrate the existence of a significant harmonic construct, one which can be tied directly to the natural world, even as an aspect that defines its actual structure, then harmony must be said to exist in the real world, even after the fact of man's mythic expulsion from the Garden, which would clearly and directly contradict the assertion that harmony can only be said to exist in the Garden of Eden prior to the fall of man. Doing this would make the existence of harmony in paradise a delusion in the terms of its own argument since paradise has been said to be harmonious and the real world contentious where they are clearly seen as being the opposite of each other, at least in Anshen's perception of them.

During the Classic period of Maya civilization, which began around 250 A. D. in central America, a calendrical system, which was much older than that in its development and use, employed two intervals of time simultaneously in its articulation of the solar year which were divided into groups of 260 and 360 days respectively. The first group of day-names was called the tzolkin and was counted by combining 13 numerical coefficients with 20 names (13 x 20 = 260) in continuous and unbroken sequences over a long period of time. A second group of day-names, called the tun, was created by counting 18 months (uinal) with 20 days (kin), and/or numerical coefficients, in each one (18 x 20 = 360). An additional 5 days, called uayeb, were added to the 360-day interval to bring it into closer correspondence to the solar year which is 365.2422 days in length. This secondary interval of 365 days was called the haab. In actual calendrical practice, the Maya counted days by combining the 260-day interval with the 365-day interval in continuous and unbroken sequences which did not repeat a combination of tzolkin and haab designations for 18,980 days. This interval is referred to as the Calendar Round (CR).

An additional method of counting time, and one which directly utilized the 360-day interval of the tun, in place of the haab in the CR, was also employed by the Classic period Maya. This interval, known today as the Long Count (LC) notation, was composed of a five-place notational structure (written as, for instance), which accumulated a total of 1,872,000 days before it reached one terminal point and began over again, without pause or interruption, for yet another sequence. Calendar Round day-names were used in conjunction with the LC notation in exactly identical and repetitious sequences. The 360-day interval in the above example is represented by the number in the middle place (4) and signifies at total of 4 x 360 days (1,440). The sequence of Maya days began at a temporal position expressed as 4 Ahau 8 Cumku and ended when the count reached 4 Ahau 3 Kankin, 1,872,000 days later. Again, in the example above, 12 Lamat 1 Muan occurred 1,412,848 days after the initial date at 4 Ahau 8 Cumku. This interval is computed by adding the values in each place; that is, 9 x 144,000 + 16 x 7,200 + 4 x 360 + 10 x 20 + 8 x 1 = 1,412,848 days. Every day in the Maya LC notation can be computed using these constants (144,000, 7,200, 360, 20, 1 respectively) to determine its temporal location relative to the zero base-day at 4 Ahau 8 Cumku.

That this calendrical system is essentially harmonic in its structure can be verified from the fact that the relationship between 260 and 360 preserves a ratio between its extreme and mean segment equivalent to an ideal or absolute value of .61803403. The actual ratio here varies from .625 (100 divided by 160 = .625) and/or .6153846 (160 divided by 260 = .6153846). The system works harmonically in the Calendar Round, as it were, where the day-names are actually combined, by virtue of the fact that the counting of the first 365-day interval consumes the first 260-day period plus the next 105 days of the second 260-day interval. Since the uayeb days are parenthetical, and not considered by the Maya to be named days (where uayeb actually means nameless day), the split between tzolkin (260) and tun (360), in the LC notation, falls at 100/160, which calculates to a ratio of .625. The next 160 days, used to complete the second almanac and begin the count of the second haab (or tun), splits at 160/260, which calculates to a ratio of .6153846. Looking at this same structure in a slightly more sophisticated way, the interval of the Calendar Round, 18,980 days, where the actual day-names of the two systems are actually combined over time, the interval counts 52 x 365 days in the haab, and 73 x 260 days in the tzolkin. With respect to the tun, however, the same interval accumulates 52 x 360 + 260 days. Hence, when the end of the CR sequence is reached, the same ratio between 260 and 360 is recapitulated both to preserve the essential ratio and to begin its progress through the calendrical system yet again. In other words, the ratio between 100/160 exists at both the beginning and end of the Calendar Round sequence to perpetuate its existence forever (through 1,872,000 days) as time passes and is counted by the Maya system.

This calendrical structure is harmonic because it exactly matches the extreme/mean ratio of Classic Greek geometry, which was given by Euclid in Book VI, Proposition 30 of The Elements: "To cut a given finite straight line in extreme and mean ratio." In this example of the harmony, the lesser segment (100) divided by the mean segment (160) is equal to the mean segment (160) divided by the extreme segment (260), where the first value (.625) is more than the ideal value of the ratio (.61803403) while the second one (.6153846) is less than that same ideal. To say these two values are not equal merely quibbles over a difference between .007 and .003 of real space and time.

The first requirement of the proposition under consideration here, that a harmonic construct can be shown to exist in a human culture both after man's expulsion from the mythic Garden of Eden and in one that cannot be directly connected to Eurocentric or Middle Eastern civilization at the time that the construct came into existence and into use, has been met. What remains to be shown is that the Maya calendrical system actually counts some element of real celestial motion in real space and real time, that the elements of the system are actually connected to the real world outside any conceivable mythic structure. One average synodic period of Mars is equal to 780 days in whole numbers (3 x 260 = 780). 46 x 260 counts an interval of time (11,960 days) that Maya astronomers used during the Classic period to record a sequence of lunar and solar eclipses transpiring in sequential sequences over 32.745 solar years (at 365.2422 days each). A table of such eclipses was recorded on pages 51a and 51b (upper and lower halves) through 58a and 58b of the Dresden Codex. Also in the same document (pp. 46-50) Maya astronomers recorded a table that describes the relationship between average synodic periods of Venus (584 days each) and the length of the solar year as expressed by the haab (365 days each). There are a total of 260 positions of the planet recorded in the table which illustrates the fact that the table's length also correlates the connection between the 260-day tzolkin (146 x 260), the 365-day haab (104 x 365), and average synodic periods of the planet (65 x 584). This interval is twice the length of the Calendar Round at 37,960 days. Finally, 59 x 260 (15,340 days) counts an interval of time equal to almost exactly 42 solar years (at 365.2422 days each) at 15,340.172 days. What this means is that days of equinox and solstice, and any positions of the sun related to them, always occur on the same tzolkin day-names at intervals of 42 solar years. Days of record in the haab advance or regress (depending on whether the calculation moves forward or backward in time) by intervals of exactly 10 days over that same temporal duration. After two such intervals transpire, the haab position advances or regresses a total of twenty days, which moves it forward or backward by exactly one Maya uinal as that unit of time moves through the calendrical system (where 13 x 20 and 18 x 20 exactly define the two intervals under scrutiny here). After three double intervals (252 years), a single day of error accumulates (6 x .172 = 1.034 days), requiring a single day's adjustment in the calendar day-name of record for these solar events. Hence, the structure of the Maya calendar was designed to count and predict days by name on which significant solar positions occurred over intervals of time exactly equal to the true length of the solar year at 365.2422 days each. The method used to accomplish that important astronomical function was based on the extreme/ mean ratio as expressed by the relationship between the 260-day tzolkin and the 360-day tun.

What is clear, even obvious, here is that the 260-day tzolkin counts at least four definitive aspects of celestial motion (average synodic periods of Mars, the relationship between the sun, moon, and earth in eclipse sequences, the relationship between Venus and the solar year, and the interval of time that expresses the sun's relationship to the celestial equator) precisely and accurately over long periods of time. Since the interval is definitively harmonic, and since it accurately counts every relevant aspect of celestial motion in our solar system (two out of five visible planets, and the sun and moon), it must follow that the system counted by it must also be definitively harmonic in its essential nature. This conclusion is inescapable.

To argue or suggest that the Maya started out to create a harmonic calendrical system, searched diligently over several hundred years for numerical values that fulfilled that goal, and finally settled on the 260/360 split because it best satisfied the needs of the harmony they were seeking, would be precisely the wrong way to perceive that process of development. Instead, the Maya observed, counted, and recorded the regular motion between events that defined the parameters of planetary synodic periods in the context of the sun's motion relative to the celestial equator (equinoxes and solstices) and the relationship between the sun, moon, and earth in the context of eclipse events. What they discovered was that a calendrical system based on a 260/360 split between two distinct day-name sequences best describes the complex relationship that actually exists between and among the periodicities that define the motion of the celestial objects with which they were most concerned. The fact that the system they developed can also be described harmonically does not mean that the astronomers were necessarily aware of celestial harmony as such. What it does say, of course, is that the system of motion described by the Maya calendrical structure is an harmonic one in its natural periodicity.

Since that is clearly the case, the second qualification for the proposition being argued here is firmly established; that is, the true nature of the real world is best described by an harmonic construct that exist as an inherent condition of the structure of the planetary system that revolves around and through the gravitational field of the sun. Since the sun's planetary system did not arise out of nothing, but was conditioned by forces that have always existed and have always operated between and among material objects, it is not unreasonable to suppose that such conditions of harmony permeate the entire universe, are apparent in every corner of the cosmos. To argue, then, as creationists do, that the world can only be described by an endless series of contentious binary oppositions, that everything about the world is always conflicted by struggle and conflict between forces of good and evil, light and darkness, and so on and so forth ad infinitum, is at best a fallacy of perception that fails, and has always failed, to recognize the fact that the world is best defined by its inherent harmonic constructs. Since oppositions between this and that, here and there, now and then, are not supported in any way whatsoever by harmonic structures, using them to define the nature of reality, while that impulse may satisfy some deep and inharmonious drive to power and contention in those who fall victim to it, such oppositions cannot be embraced as anything other than a series of delusions fabricated out of a fallacy of human perception to envision the nature of the real world in which we live. The first sin, the original sin, was indeed falling victim to the delusion that the world was created by a wrathful God on the one hand who was also merciful on the other. No such thing as that can exist in a world conditioned by harmonic structures. Even less likely is the possibility that such an entity could have created an harmonic universe.