From the Equal & Opposite Department of Pareidolatry & Apophenomenology.—Vortex Mathematics
So I was playing around with Marko Rodin’s crackpot theories on “Vortex Mathematics” from an aesthetic standpoint yesterday…
I was extremely hesitant to post this design because I didn’t want to reinforce any of Rodin’s crazy claims, but after a day of deliberation, I figured I could post it as long as I include this wall of text disclaimer:
Most people who know me (or at least my poker buddies in Los Angeles), know of my slight obsession with apophenia—that is the finding of meanings and patterns in random data—and that, coupled with my fascination with sacred geometry and symbolism makes “Vortex Mathematics” a perfect subject for one of my designs.
Rodin’s work is a textbook example of apophenia. He has shared an interesting and relatively beautiful number pattern, but ascribed to it all sorts of crackpot meanings without any solid proof of his theories… some very bad science in there if you care to delve into it. If you want to read a breakdown of Rodin’s full range of cray-cray, you can find a brief but excellent one from MarkCC via the Good Math, Bad Math blog on scientopia.org. He calls it Numerical Pareidolia (pareidolia, another slight obsession of mine, is a form of apophenia… quick example: seeing a face in a cloud).
So, if Rodin’s theories are complete shit, why am I sharing something that could be misunderstood as promoting them here at Equal & Opposite? Good question, but in order to answer it, I feel it important to first share a bit of my background.
When I was younger, as an assignment in English class, I read Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. If you were schooled in an English speaking country, you probably had to read it too. It was one of the few books during my teenage years of schooling that I remember loving at the time, and ever since then, I have been somewhat fascinated with finding symbolism and meaning in not only art, but every day life.
Uncovering hidden meaning could probably be considered one of my favorite past times. I am also one of those “odd” individuals who enjoys solving cryptograms, completing logic puzzles, and unraveling riddles; it’s from this same part of my brain that my curiosity of apophenia and pareidolia comes from.
In example, I am completely fascinated by number systems in gambling. Do I actually believe they work? Absolutely not; however, I will still sometimes play around with them because they are fun to think about, and they add another element to what can sometimes become a monotonous game. They can turn a random series of events into something that appears ordered, which I absolutely love. It’s a form of illusion, a trick of the consciousness, and, to me, that’s awesome.
Numerology, sacred geometry (sometimes), and other types of pseudosciences can often fall under the heading of apophenomenology (yes, I just made up that word, deal with it). From a design standpoint these things are interesting to explore because I can embed esoteric symbolism and meaning into my designs via geometry and mathematics, rather than just making an arbitrary set of pretty shapes. If you know my design well, you know I often follow a loose grid based on the golden ratio and the classical canons of page construction. It’s fun, it has a basic basis grounded in geometry, it lets me replicate patterns found in nature mathematically, and it allows me to turn some of my designs into little puzzles that people can unravel if they stare at them long enough.
What about the whole “sacred geometry” thing, do I give my designs “spiritual” significance? In all honesty, sometimes, yes. When dealing with almost any form of abstract symbolism, it’s near impossible to create something that someone can’t tag a spiritual meaning onto. I would prefer people find their own meaning in my work, so I don’t like to give too much exegesis on the subject, but I should probably point out that I am more or less an atheist, and science is my “religion.”
That said, I am extremely interested in religion, mysticism, and spirituality from a philosophical and psychological standpoint, and for the rich symbolism you can find when researching such subjects—from the most basic icon worship of paleolithic humans, to the crazy creole of iconography found in modern Catholicism. Magic, voodoo, cave paintings, sacrifice, communion, celibacy, pyramids, churches, praying, glossolalia, snake handling, mandalas… um… unicorns, unicorns with eyes that shoot lasers… just some quick examples of fascinating aspects of the mystical side of the human condition, and yes, there are patterns there. It should come as no surprise that the creation of my own visual mythopoeia is on my to-do list, and, of course, mysticism in some form or another is going to play a part in that. I am further fascinated by the great minds in human history who attempted to reconcile science with spirituality… Pythagoras, Newton, Darwin, et al…
Anyway, I want to make sure everyone understands I make no miracle claims with my designs that lean toward the esoteric. When people start attributing miracles to random shapes and numbers, that’s when your skeptic alarm should go off. This is what I would call pareidolatry (yes, another word I just made up, deal with it… again), the worship of meaningless patterns which appear significant.
If someone enjoys the things I make, then that’s fantastic, but I’m neither an accredited scientist, nor an ordained priest, so please don’t treat my designs like I am. I love the scientific method. I love figuring things out on my own. I love DIY science. I love naturally occurring patterns, and I love arranging them to my own designs. But, I also love the esoteric, symbolism, iconograhy, hidden meanings, and mysticism. I love thinking about what happens in the black box of the human brain that makes us do what we do as a species, and I love thinking about what happens when we stop thinking.
In the end, given these fascinations—healthy or not—here I am, simply a designer who would prefer to plug symbolism into my designs rather than something arbitrary. (<———that’s the TL;DR right there, folks.)
And all this leads me back to Rodin’s “Vortex Mathematics.”
Is it bad math? As an old colleague from Mexico City used to say, “Abso-fuckin-lutely.” But that doesn’t make Rodin’s studies any less fascinating to me. As far as the basic geometry goes, I found vortex mathematics to be visually appealing, despite the apophenia… actually, I found it to be more appealing because of the apophenia… regardless, I ran with it, and here it is. I hope you enjoy.
And if all of this is just too much “heavy” for you to take, you can always explore one of my zero-symbolism-involved, purely-aesthetic, low-brow designs by clicking this link.