I had a great night Saturday at the School of Practical Philosophy on East 79th attending a lecture titled “The Meaning of Meaning,” an exploration of some of the various ways one finds the mean of arithmetic (as the middle of a difference), geometry (proportional measure), harmonics (an average of numbers found in music), and by other, uh, means. It was an one-hour lecture, so there wasn’t time to delve too deeply into a subject that spans four pages of explanation in the Oxford English Dictionary, but the talk was fluid—save for the outbursts of some rude woman in front of me who thought we all paid to hear her speak.
To illustrate a basic definition of a mean in geometry, our lecturer shared a symbol that happens to be found in alchemy, astronomy, and Freemasonry: the point within a circle. With the point as Cause, and the circle as Effect, the mean is a line that connects that point to any part of the circumference. In the parlance of most Masonic lodges, “the Point within the Circle represents an individual brother; the Circle is the boundary line beyond which he is never to suffer his passions to betray him,” so I found it interesting how our speaker likened this symbol’s message to the fundamental philosophic question: Who am I? Borrowing from the Gospel of Thomas, he quoted “He who knows the all, but fails to know himself, misses everything.”
And speaking of interesting, we pondered the meaning of the word interest: inter (between) and est (being). To be between. Like a mean.
We also got into Pythagorean mean, even employing a monochord to match number to tone, and the lecture concluded on the high note of the Golden Mean, an aspect of Sacred Geometry that every thinking Mason should know.
I highly recommend studying at the School of Practical Philosophy. If enrolling in the classes is not feasible, then stay current with the schedule of these lectures. There is one coming in a few weeks that continues the theme of last November’s “The Trial of Socrates.” From the publicity:
Plato’s Crito records a dramatic conversation in a damp Athenian jail between the great philosopher Socrates and his dearest friend, Crito. The stakes could not have been higher. Socrates is to be executed the following day, and Crito stands ready to implement a foolproof plan of escape.
Socrates consents to leave if reason proves this to be the right course of action. Crito has to make the case. How does he fare? What is true freedom worth?
Join us on Sunday, June 7 in a conversation that covers some of the most important questions a human being can consider.
The day includes an opening presentation, group study sessions, a Greek lunch, light entertainment, and closing reception. Family and friends are welcome and no prior study of Plato is necessary.
Reserve a place by purchasing tickets on-line or at the Registration Office on the first floor of 12 East 79th Street.
8:30 a.m.—Coffee and Registration
9 to 3:30 p.m.—Program, and Wine Reception to follow
$45 - Includes Materials, Refreshments, Lunch and Wine Reception
$25 - For full-time students