Thursday, February 28, 2008
In my dream last night, Euclid had been a kind of sorcerer, and his Elements was not just a book of geometry but of wizardry. The forms he had constructed were pentagrams and hexes. I remember that it was important to have exactly the right instruments, and that people were searching for Euclid's own compass and straightedge, which had been made of some incorruptible gold alloy and placed in a green velvet lined box in a hidden drawer. In the dream, Newton was also a mage and his Principia was not just about forces and planets, but how to wield forces and take advantage of astrology.
It's easy to guess where it all came from: my dad's own drafting tools, the Golden Compass, a conversation I had a couple days ago about geometric arguments in Newton's work, the Baroque Trilogy, the whole Hermetic tradition. It also matches my intuition that magic couldn't work the way it does in most books, where a couple of words suffice for every spell. More complicated effects would require a more complicated description. It would be more like programming the universe than saying the right password.