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« World Server's Spread, August 2007 | Main | ArkLetter 29 »



i do hope you get some takers!
my first question. at what point did the "0" enter europe and is it true, as i heard from a recent audio book on zero, that it was highly controversial and embattled? is this relevant to the Fool and your work?



Great question, Laura!

Yes, the zero was a difficult fit for Europe. Most professional number-crunchers were using the abacus, which has no 'zero' place. Neither do Roman Numerals. So it wasn't just the issue of substituting one glyph for another over a concept that was already well-established. It was an issue of creating an entirely new category of ideas, and then putting a place-holder into it. People had to learn new ways to figure.

Think of it this way. Before the zero, people were really thinking and visualizing in a nine-chambered model. Like it is for the birds and the beasts, the concept of ennumerating was more an act of seeing small groupings than it was about counting individual units. Studies with wild animals tending their babies have shown us how number is innately apprehended. The natural way of totaling would be more about threes and fours, eights and nines, whatever the eye could easily pick up in a glance. (You can see a great example of this in the suit-symbol arrangements on the pip cards.) Unlike what human-centric thinkers assert, base-ten counting is not integral to nature like 3/9 and 2/4/8 are.

Roman numberals take up the 10-base counting, and you can see that this decave count impacted the Hebrew number-letters because the letters each have both a 'natural' number based on their place in the sequence of 22, *and* a decimal number associated with them. But even still, neither the Hebrew alphabet nor the Roman Numerals have a zero. So it was still a conceptual leap for them to be introduced, even after people realized how much easier the so-called Arabic numerals were to manipulate and calculate with. Some people felt very superstitious that the zero was introducing demons into one's accounting!

What helped Europe incorporate the Zero was learning Hebrew Kabbalah. I'm sure there were other factors too, but the doctrine of the Ain Soph Aur is a fabulous mystical exegesis on the Zero. No doubt the Jews had been exposed because they were mostly speaking and living in cultures dominated by the Aramaic usages.

If abybody finds a site online or in a book that sums up the process of how Zero was taken into Europe, it would be great to hear about it. I wrote a little piece years ago for TarotL on the subject, but I'm sure it was just an overview of gross facts, not much insight. I purchased _The Mystery of the Aleph_ by Amir D. Aczel a few years ago thinking I'd hear something about the zero question there, but frankly I never made it through the whole book to see.

There's still a lot to write on that subject, given that it's been a huge bone of contention regarding the Fool care and variant Trump orderings etc. Eventually I'll get around to moving in that direction again if nobody else with a Continental pov chimes in.

Thanks for asking! And also for the good wishes regarding my desires for artists to interact with. All in due time, I'm sure...


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