The story of mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, can only be told with a halo of myth and amazement, as the lives of artists are often retold. Born in 1887 to a Brahman family, Ramanujan had no access to formal education until his adulthood. By then, Ramanujan had already developed a complex and fascinating body of work which is still being unraveled by scientists in all different disciplines even to this day.

One reason Ramanujan still draws attention, even from those without advanced mathematical knowledge, is that imagination and spirituality were an indivisible part of his reasoning. In work that clamored at the foundations of disciplines the author had never studied, something very nearly miraculous happened. But that risks missing the extremes of Ramanujan’s workmanship; workmanship which resulted in important changes in theoretical mathematics by providing new solutions to old problems.

In his book The Man Who Knew Infinity, Robert Kanigel explained Ramanujan’s particularity in the practice of mathematics as a method of expressing spiritual, philosophical concepts – and even those related to divinity – with an absolute devotion. Although he was born into a context where religion is part of the daily lives of millions of Hindus, his interests extended to the religious thinking of many other cultures.

Ramanujan’s intention, possibly realized but interrupted by his early death, was nothing less than to formulate the absolute, and god or the gods, mathematically. This intention was analogous to that of physics concerning any other natural phenomenon.

In a quest similar to Einstein’s famous “unified field theory,” Ramanujan worked to create a “theory of reality,” based closely on the way that Hindu religious thought conceptualizes the function of zero. According to this approach, zero is not equivalent to nothingness or emptiness, but to what Spinoza would call a “power.” Under this notion, with zero as a power, Ramanujan contrasted (or multiplied) the infinite; “all numbers, or any individual act of creation,” whose field precisely encompasses a whole.

By multiplying infinity (∞) by zero (0): ∞ x 0 = “the myriad manifestations of that reality.”

It may seem abstract, and it can seem an oversimplification on multiple fronts, but we can approach the interpretation in a less arid way by thinking that reality is simply what we do with it. This is both in our position of performing “any individual act of creation,” as it is in the fact that we are part of everything created. To say it differently, reality is that which occupies its own place: a complete void, it overflows a nothingness through which life passes.

 

*Image: Public Domain 

The story of mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, can only be told with a halo of myth and amazement, as the lives of artists are often retold. Born in 1887 to a Brahman family, Ramanujan had no access to formal education until his adulthood. By then, Ramanujan had already developed a complex and fascinating body of work which is still being unraveled by scientists in all different disciplines even to this day.

One reason Ramanujan still draws attention, even from those without advanced mathematical knowledge, is that imagination and spirituality were an indivisible part of his reasoning. In work that clamored at the foundations of disciplines the author had never studied, something very nearly miraculous happened. But that risks missing the extremes of Ramanujan’s workmanship; workmanship which resulted in important changes in theoretical mathematics by providing new solutions to old problems.

In his book The Man Who Knew Infinity, Robert Kanigel explained Ramanujan’s particularity in the practice of mathematics as a method of expressing spiritual, philosophical concepts – and even those related to divinity – with an absolute devotion. Although he was born into a context where religion is part of the daily lives of millions of Hindus, his interests extended to the religious thinking of many other cultures.

Ramanujan’s intention, possibly realized but interrupted by his early death, was nothing less than to formulate the absolute, and god or the gods, mathematically. This intention was analogous to that of physics concerning any other natural phenomenon.

In a quest similar to Einstein’s famous “unified field theory,” Ramanujan worked to create a “theory of reality,” based closely on the way that Hindu religious thought conceptualizes the function of zero. According to this approach, zero is not equivalent to nothingness or emptiness, but to what Spinoza would call a “power.” Under this notion, with zero as a power, Ramanujan contrasted (or multiplied) the infinite; “all numbers, or any individual act of creation,” whose field precisely encompasses a whole.

By multiplying infinity (∞) by zero (0): ∞ x 0 = “the myriad manifestations of that reality.”

It may seem abstract, and it can seem an oversimplification on multiple fronts, but we can approach the interpretation in a less arid way by thinking that reality is simply what we do with it. This is both in our position of performing “any individual act of creation,” as it is in the fact that we are part of everything created. To say it differently, reality is that which occupies its own place: a complete void, it overflows a nothingness through which life passes.

 

*Image: Public Domain