That Great Book Written in Symbols

Mar 18, 2015
1 min read

“Philosophy [nature] is written in that great book which ever is before our eyes – I mean the universe – but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written. The book is written in mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without whose help it is impossible to comprehend a single word of it; without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.” – Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

If you cannot understand nature and the universe without understanding the language of symbols, how can you hope to understand something much simpler like temples, scripture, or gospel teachings? How many feel like they wander in vain through a dark labyrinth?

The study of symbols is unfortunately ignored by many; consequently much thought and meditation, much observation and appreciation, and much enlightenment never happens. Symbols echo the underlying structure of matter and reality. I believe that the foundational principles of all existence, and how the whole functions can be explained in the numbers 1 through 9. I know that may sound like a bold statement but it is actually pretty simple to explain. I’ll have to write about that sometime.

My own personal understanding has been immensely impacted by devoting time to the study of symbols and archetypes. I see everything through a new lens, a lens where everything is important and has meaning and purpose. This in and of itself doesn’t change you, knowledge is essential, but putting it into practical use beyond self-serving intellectual stimulation is the challenge of life.

Here are a few of my favorite resources for those interested in learning more:

A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe by Michael S. Schneider

The Day Star: Reading Sacred Architecture by Val Brinkerhoff


  1. Richard J. Nobbe III

    What about the number “0” ?

    • Depending on who you ask, zero isn’t a number it’s just a placeholder. But perhaps it could be used to represent space, an infinite void.

      • Richard J. Nobbe III

        Hmm, what about negative numbers? How about irrational numbers? How about numbers like i4, which are not considered to be “real.” Seriously just curious, I’m not asking this in a condescending way. I thought if anyone knew the answer it would be you or Schneider! I’m just trying to account for all known mathematics. Also, have you ever tried thinking about numbers that aren’t in the “base 10?” format. I’m sure you know that different cultures and civilizations have countless ways of counting, and expressing value. What think ye?

        • 1-9 are only a basic, comprehensible foundation where an infinite number of possibilities can spring forth. I unfortunately don’t have all the answers. Personally I think all of existence is the result of intelligence, communication, and law.

          • Richard J. Nobbe III

            What came first? Intelligence or law? I know the answer is that they both are from everlasting to everlasting, and I know the scriptures say that intelligence can’t be created, but we have hardly received the final word on intelligence. Is it possible that intelligence can be broken down into further particles? For example, we used to think the atom was the smallest particle, and therefore could not be divided. Then we discovered protons, neutrons, and electrons. Then we discovered quarks. Now we are discovering even more.

            Are there physical properties of light and truth that can be divided? And if there are, what are they? Are there different “kinds” of “lights” and/or “truths?” Just like the color white radiates all the colors of the spectrum, can Christ’s love reflect all the beautiful truths that exist in the eternities? Do each of them behave differently? Do some emphasize different things – maybe different points of doctrine? Are we born “made” of more of one “flavor” of truth than another? Is that why we are all different and have our own unique talents? Do we gain these “flavors of truth” by different experiences we had in the pre-mortal world? Is it part of the “stuff” we were/are made of?

            These are some of the things I’m thinking about. That and what I want on my burrito at Chipotle.

          • “Everlasting to everlasting” is kind of a jacked up English rendition of what the Hebrew understanding was. You have this word “olam” which suggests the idea of the distant past or future, beyond the horizon. In other words, “beyond of our perception” rather than it being a “time” or “duration” type concept.

            My theory is that intelligence is the most irreducible component in existence. I’m not even sure if it exists as matter or not.

            I think that only those who have had access to information beyond the horizon on those points could be qualified answer those questions. I’m not sure though that any mortal language and our current corpus of knowledge would be able to translate the truth into something we could comprehend.

            Note how those in scripture who see beyond the veil are often confused by what they see. Their paradigms are shattered and they realize that the truth was much different than they thought it would be. How much more difficult it is for that person to share his witness with others who also bear the same prejudices. Joseph Smith once said:

            “I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all.”

          • Richard J. Nobbe III

            Yeah, that must have frustrated Joseph Smith beyond measure. I think all prophets throughout history have had this frustration. Think of Adam with Cain, or Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai, or the Savior trying to teach his own people in his own land. Makes me think of a quote from Seinfeld, “People are the Worst!” Of course Heavenly Father doesn’t think so and neither should we. It all is a matter of spiritual preparation.

            I know many of the questions I asked do not have answers that we are likely to understand or have place for now. I love the example you gave of those who have seen and tried to explain and are often confused because of the paradigm switch.

            I know one day we will understand the answers to all these and other questions – and we’ll be prepared to understand them perfectly. It’s often difficult to understand pure celestial truth when one’s in a telestial world, but this is our challenge through faith, prayer, fasting, obedience, etc…

            When you say you’re not sure if intelligence exists as matter or not, do you mean matter that we can discern by telestial laws, (as in, something we can now measure scientifically on the earth?) Surely it exists as some form of matter, even if it’s not matter as we know it.

          • I’m not sure if intelligence exists as matter. Laws do not appear to be matter and they exist and influence matter; they react with each other. I don’t know exactly what an intelligence is, if it has size or any of its other properties other than it appears to be able to discern and choose.

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