Monday, 23 December 2013

Extract from 'Minyan Murders'

'Rien n'est plus fecond, tous les mathematiciens le savent...'
'English!'
'Yaah! No more of your endless bloody Racine!'
'That’s not Racine’ Obi intervened, ‘still, the boys are right. So, I’m sorry Celeste,  as Chair, I'm obliged to ask- could we please have that in English? '
'Ra Ra Rasputin,' David chanted drunkenly, 'Lover of the Russian Queen, C'mon baby do your thaaang.'
Celeste fumed and muttered but surrendered her paper to the hieromonk with surprising good grace. Indeed, she was being uncharacteristically well behaved. No doubt, she thought her paper would blow everybody else's out of the water.
  'Let me see. Yes. The quotation is from Andre Weil. He writes- 'Nothing is more fecund, as all mathematicians know, than these obscure analogies, these troublous reflections of two theories in each other, this reciprocal blurriness which is inexplicable save as the smudge marks left by furtive kisses, fugitive caresses, detecting which the Researcher will taste no higher pleasure because- when daylight dawns & the phantoms of his obsession dissolve,  when Conjecture incarnates as Certitude- then, at that very same moment,  those twin theories, revealing their common source- desert him by vanishing together.
 ‘As is taught by the Bhagvad Gita, we reach Knowledge and Indifference at the very same time. Metaphysics has turned into mathematics, making itself the marble of a sculpted treatise whose cold beauty can no longer move us.'
  'Okay,' said Richard, 'I get it. What Celeste is saying is that Descartes only introduced Geometry to Algebra so as to get up a three-way for fruity, future, French Mathematicians, but then- and this is what Andre Weil finds out- if Froggy will a wooing go, it turns out all Love but is Lust for a pair of for long sundered, latently Sapphic, twins who, so piquantly discovered to each other, promptly run off together to pleasure only themselves in perpetuity-  which, truth be told, is a picture actually kind of yucky- so, all we are left with is this sepulchral pornography which is utterly Ancient Greek in that it turns out the pin-up you've been beating your meat to is actually a bikini shot of your own ...'
  'Not Algebra,' Babu said, 'Arithmetic.  What the Weil conjecture is about is far more mind-blowing. He's saying ordinary Arithmetic-nothing more complicated than fractions- inputs into Diophantine equations you don't need High School Maths to understand- yet is deeply connected to algebraic topology.
  ‘But, to generalize from Weil is to miss the really prodigal aspect of Diophantus's genius- his rigorous eschewal of general methods- each one of his equations requires the use of a special techniques that won’t work for even its most closely related problem- which is perhaps what Celeste is getting at when she equates, his pupil, Hypatia's defence of her virginity- by the display of her menstrual rags- with 'the Paraclete's monstrance & Plato's remonstrance'.
‘I don’t dispute the importance of Weil’s conjecture- but its modish or seductive glamour for intellectuals, its impact on Structuralist Anthropology & Semiotics  and so on, seems utterly mischievous- after all, if Celeste is right, Hypatia, was killed by the Alexandrian mob, not because she was a Platonist- Neo-Platonism had already been assimilated to Judaeo-Christianity- but because she lectured on Diophantus and demonstrated a range of different heuristic devices, astrolables and orreries and other such apparently magical objects, each of which was highly efficacious in a highly specific context but useless in every other. Thus, Diophantus should be taken as showing how much can be achieved without the zero, the negative, the irrational, the imaginary, and this- by itself- delivers a salutary  rebuke to the System builders, the Generalizers,  the totalizing Theorists- who had actually invented those concepts in the first place- but, for that very reason, jealously prevented their being used in any useful way.
   ‘But, if I accept this part of Celeste's argument, regarding Hypatia, then I am obliged to take issue with the use Celeste is making of Weil’s Gita and Grothendieck’s Yoga.  Indeed, even according to the Brahmins' own hermeneutics, in so far as the Gita, or the Yoga Sutras, or anything else, confirms things already believed or known, that meaning does not exist in them. The confirmation is actually a de-confirmation. Hermeneutics has a heuristic which says, if we already know the meaning then that isn't the meaning. No apoorvata obtains- nothing novel is here- the chain of causation has not been affected- the action of reading could have been omitted for all the good it did.’
   ‘Now, clearly, Weil's conjecture does have 'apoorvata' with respect to the Diophantine equations, clearly it does open up new vistas for his own subject. But only because  of the very domain specific way in which it is framed. Yet, Structuralism ignores this domain specificity and claims Weil's Bourbaki as legitimating its model.  I say this not as an expert on Structuralism, but because that is what I read on the very first page of Jean Piaget's  slim little volume on the subject. But, and this is the crux of my objection, Weil's conjecture has no apoorvata outside  a highly specific Research Program confined to Mathematics alone. Thus it can't have the meaning that Celeste is claiming for it. Why? How so? The fact is, Godel had already shown that each higher level axiom in Set Theory entails the solution of certain Diophantine problems which had been undecidable from the previous axiom set.  Godel, via Tarski, is the landmark figure for us who are outside Maths or on its fringes. What is the corollary?
 'Think of axioms as being rules- indefeasible rules like moral absolutes, deontic absolutes, rules about your duty- things like 'Thou shall not kill' and so on- then, what happens is that, the attempt to unify domain specific theories on the basis of greater and greater generality yields something which is the opposite of useful, the opposite of a utility belt of heuristic tools- what we get is an infinite rule set, an infinite deontics, a cancerous meta-metaphoricity.
  'That’s the danger with having rules in the first place. They are supposed to make things simpler because they are few and facts are many. But, what happens when you propose a rule?- even something as obvious as 'don't play with your own faeces'- the bad news is you are already on a slippery slope to- 'don't touch the person who carries away your faeces'- then- 'consider as Untouchable all people even vaguely related, or who perform a function vaguely similar, to guys who carry away shit'- till finally you end up with patently absurd stuff like 'Your mother becomes Untouchable to you during the hour when Saturn is in your paternal ancestor's Lunar House but ceases to be so if the wind is blowing from the west and the Stock Market is down.
  'Ultimately, the High Caste man hurriedly bolts down his flavourless food alone and naked- like a furtive animal. Everybody and everything, including his own clothes, have become untouchable and inauspicious to him by the metastasis of meta-metaphoricity. '
  'But, Babu,' Obi warned, 'That is precisely the point Celeste made when she invoked, the scholar vagabond, Solomon Maimon, as opposed to Moses Mendelsohn, as the true tutelary spirit of what she calls ' the lumpen Ashkenazi Aufklarung which equated the Talmudic delight in the creation of more and more rules, its thymotic meta-metaphoricity, with the unbridled 'Golden Liberties' of the Polish aristocracy, so ruinous to their country, yet which, much more than Marx, granted a relative freedom from both heteronomy and humanism to what would become Europe's new revolutionary class par excellence.'
  'Really? Was that what she was doing? Well, forgive me if I want to spare my people the holocaust visited upon the lumpen Polish Jew- revolutionary or otherwise. Celeste's Maimon is a Mathematical Spinoza, au fond. But, that unlucky conjunction is itself a Shoah. Why? You are tacking metaphysical univocity to a skeptical critique of dualism- whether dialethic, like that of Maimonides, or cognitive, like that of Kant. What's the upshot? Reason can still release from bondage- but only under the seal of vagabondage- the malamati dervish, the kapalika yogi and now the drug addled hippie pimping his College educated girlfriend in the name of Universal Love.
   'And this is the new Indology, the new Orientalism. Sex, drugs & rock & roll- as if that last, the confiscatory orchestration of the clinking of the fetters of the oppressed, wasn't already that undying Diophantine Dionysios which renders a class proletarian- child bearing- serving the community only by, even breadlessly, breeding and unpermitted the possibility of becoming, by the Logos or Love's leaven, either Eucharist or better bred.
  'This is the other side of the Structuralist turn in Antropology. When Dr. Ambedkar- the Liberator of us Untouchables- studied Anthropology at Columbia, it was still possible for that ad hoc or incipient Science or Monadology to serve a useful purpose. It provided the right stepping stone to things like Constitutional Law and Monetary Economics, which our Boddhisattva Ambdekar proceeded to master, but master only for our benefit. These are the practical tools by which millennia of oppression can be shattered. Anthropology, from being the servant of the Colonizer, the Imperialist, could have gone on to become the liberator of the slave class, the mender of  broken men. Instead, what happened? You have Levi Strauss- the notion that there is some sort of Universal Mind which structures all things outside Time. The appeal of Structuralism, for Anthropology, is that it unites, on the basis of greater generality, ad hoc theories based on observations of particular places at specific times. But, the effect has been the opposite of Liberative, at least in India.
  Sanskrit has a special place- a safe place, thanks to Nietzche's praise of the pitiless persecution of the Chandala- for Saussure and Structuralism but only because it is so patently synthetic, atemporal, and artificial. Thus,  though this same 'Sanskritization' equates the organic and the natural with dirt, death and pollution- it has been willy nilly valorized as the 'natural' or 'canonical' method for our people, the people it stigmatizes as Untouchable, to advance forward.
   'We must give up eating meat, drinking wine, worshipping God under vernacular, as opposed to Syndicate Hinduism's Sankritized, names and...and what? Will we be any better off? No. We will still have to carry night soil on our heads, except not just night soil, now we have to carry all that fucking Sankritized shit as well!'
  'Andre Weil, like his sister Simone, learned Sanskrit as a kid. He read the Bhagvad Gita in the original. That's why he came to India. But, in India, seeing the reality of Untouchability- worse even than the treatment meted out to the ghetto Jews- what did Weil do? He aligned with Gandhi, the last of the 'Mahatmas' to champion the Caste system.
  'Not that Gandhi was particularly Casteist himself. It was just that he was part of the nativist, lawyerly, reaction to the advent of impersonal British Law. Thus, there was a Temple road in Kerala which anybody could use because it was a public highway. Some High Caste lawyers go to Court and, simply to advertise their cleverness, have it declared a private road. Untouchables- but only Hindu Untouchables, not Muslims or Christian Untouchables- were now forbidden to use it. Gandhi goes to Kerala and holds a debate with the priests. He is defeated. They prove that they are only doing their duty- as is prescribed in some ancient text- they have no personal animus against Untouchables, nor do they deny the Spiritual greatness of the Saints from that Community. Indeed, they point out, since the Untouchable can continue to use the road simply by changing his Religion, there is no element of coercion. The whole thing is merely a voluntary observance of a ritual, and therefore a meaningless,  hoary old practice.  Now the priests were not saying that they were obliged to uphold Untouchability under all circumstances. They were only saying they did so because no inducement  or sanction obtained for them to do otherwise. If the Law was changed declaring the road, or the Temple itself, a public space, then they would not stick their necks out to fight it.  But, Gandhi did not believe in Laws and Courts- precisely because of their eschewal of meta-metaphoricity, their commitment to positivism- so he could not take the path that was being offered to him. Nor could he endorse Untouchables converting to Christianity or Islam- Untouchables, for him, had less sense than cows. Instead, this cancerous, seemingly voluntarist, type of Casteism becomes attractive to him. He affects his final apotheosis- making himself the ultimate object of Gabriel Tarde's law of imitation- by calling himself an Untouchable 'Bhangi' and therefore univocal with the Supreme Deity of the Brahmins- Lord Siva who laves the soul's impurities at the Creation ground.
   'Fine, you may say, if he had stopped it there. He didn't. In 1932, the second year of Weil's stay in India, Gandhi blackmails Ambedkar, by going on a fast. Why? The British- who had given Universal suffrage and Representative Government to Ceylon the previous year- they could do so because Ceylon's native elites were still loyal enough to accept the British provision of highly effective protection for minorities across the board- the British were seeking to move thing forward in the same way in India, though Universal Suffrage remained a far off dream, and part of their project meant protecting the Untouchable minority by granting them separate electorates. Gandhi- who had at first cooperated with Ambedkar, believing him to be a Brahmin- now used his 'non-violent' weapon of the fast-to-death against him. Ambedkar had to yield. His people would have been massacred in every village in India if Gandhi's health suffered during his hunger-strike. Ultimately, with mixed electorates, but reserved seats, only Uncle Toms would be elected- until, that is, the Untouchables evolved a gangster class that might pose a sufficiently compelling countervailing threat.
  'Weil was in India while all this was happening. Yet, he chose to accept Gandhi's interpretation of the Gita, even though he had just seen it used to perpetuate caste hierarchy in the name of non-violence. Why? Well, I suppose, because Gandhi's approach appeared to unite disparate theories, the prescriptions of different religions, on the basis of greater generality.  But, according to this more general theory, what does the Gita say? It says- do your duty- follow the profession of your caste-but do so without relish or hope of reward. Don't do another's duty even if you are better at it or will relish it more because that would be a sort of Violence- and Violence is always wrong.
'Weil took this lesson to heart. He was a mathematician not a soldier so he felt no obligation to hurry back to France and enlist once War was declared. But, this just put his own life in more immediate danger. Ultimately, he was incarcerated as a deserter. Yet, the truth is, for Mathematics to survive, for Weil's conjecture to have yielded fruit, Hitler had to be defeated. In fact, Mathematics played a big role in the defeat of Hitler. Turing with his Enigma machine,  Von Neumann on the mathematics of shaped charges at Los Alamos- indeed, when Oppenheimer quotes the Gita- 'I have become Death, the devourer of Worlds'- it is noteworthy to recall that, in the Mahabharata, the Just King has to learn Probability theory and a sort of autistic savant, Diophantine or discrete, maths before gaining the necessary auctoritas  to press the button triggering the Kurukshetra holocaust.
 'Interestingly, the other lesson Yuddishtra, the incarnation of Justice, has to learn- this happens just before his instruction in Game Theory- is that the so-called Sages and Anchorites are actually spiritually lower, not higher, than the low caste 'Vyadha'- the butcher or meat vendor- who worships his own parents as his Gods and lives extremely well without giving a thought to the strictures of Kings and priests.
'But Weil wasn't interested in the egalitarian Gita of the enlightened butcher. He preferred instead the slavish doctrine of the Bhagvad Gita- which makes the dispassionate Butchery of men a moral absolute and which seeks to unite all the different ontological and epistemological and soteriological traditions of India into one seamless Casteist strait-jacket. A joyless strait-jacket- as Weil points out. Why bother reaching for Knowledge if you reach Indifference at the same time? Weil's erotic subtext gives the game away. Essentially, the project is either masturbatory or meretricious. To climax, in this context, is to feel indifference, if not disgust, for the object that excited your lust. The reverse is the case with ordinary sexual intercourse, based on mutuality and reciprocity,  because it intensifies pair bonding, diffuses an exponential tenderness, and widens the circle of affection and responsibility, familial, social and oecumenic.
'In contrast, to assimilate sex to masturbation is, I suppose, to have united two projects on the basis of greater generality. But, it is also to disable Love as something that might shape Evolution, bring about Change, and thus abide with us for aye as a source-spring of Joy, of Hope, of Liberation.'

  'Babu, I appreciate what you're saying,' Obi said, 'more especially as it arises out of the terrible suffering of your people, but, as an Anthropologist myself, I am obliged to observe that you are completely misunderstanding not just Celeste's paper but also Levi Strauss's Structuralism.  He is certainly not legitimating your Indian caste system by asserting its correspondence to some deep Structure embedded in a Platonic 'Universal Mind'- indeed, just as he rejected a unification of Totemism with his theory of bride exchange precisely because women really do have babies while men don't actually produce more totemic animals for the hunt by their couvade- that is false pregnancy-  rituals, so too would he utterly reject Untouchability as abjectly delusional and working only by a purely verbal,  metonymic or meta-metaphoric, illocutionary force. '

'Non,' said Celeste, ' ma chère Obi, you are unjust. Babu has understood. You have not. It is, the Criminologist, Gabriel Tarde's monadology, not the Mandarin, Durkheim's, functionalism, which is important for understanding Zadig. Tarde believed Cartesian dualism- the hiatus between matter and mind-was resolvable in a gregarious Monadology, escaping the prison, the frustrated geometry, the concurrency deadlock, of an intractable and Bourgeois relationism, by a vulgar joy at mimicking the substantivism of Newton's hooligan God. These words- Structuralism, Functionalism, Structural-Functionalism- these are totems, nothing more. And Academic Anthropology, publishing its papers, is the couvade ritual which brings to birth more and more totemic animals for other clans to hunt.'
'You're saying...'
'NO! I am NOT saying. This is not my paper. That is why I am giving it.'
'Good to know', said Richard,' If it isn't yours, it might mean something. Read on McDuff!'
'Yeah,' said David, 'but just the sexy bits.'
'David!' Obi frowned.
'No, is okay,' said Celeste, 'Give me the paper. Here- this is for you- if you didn't like the bit about the virgin Hypatia then perhaps you'll like this-
 'A young Egyptian, having become hopelessly infatuated with the courtesan, Thonis, made a contract for her services for an extortionate sum of money.  That very night, however, she appeared so vividly to him, in a dream, that his lust for her was utterly sated.
 'When he failed to keep their tryst, Thonis took him to court demanding the cash due her under their contract.  The judge, Bocchoris, ordered the Egyptian to bring in the money, and to hold it aside while Thonis was allowed only to grasp at its shadow -- the thing imagined being a shadow of the reality.'
  'Lamia, the flute player, the greatest hetaira of her day, protested this injustice to a colleague. Though the dream-Thonis had indeed sated the young Egyptian passion for her, the shadow of his silver had rather kindled than set free the courtesan from her desire for commerce with it.'
    Consider this as a metaphor for Zadig's mimetic monadology. Behind the hiatus between the real and the rational numbers- between what is and what Minds conceive- there is this eager grasping after shadows upon which Mathematics, like Judge Bocchoris, must pronounce Judgment, but pronounce Judgment only so Justice becomes the shadow for all whoring to pursue.
   Aliki has described Zadig's 'tâtonner of the axioms' as being like a set of cannibal mountaineers,  consuming those of their comrades who are a drag in the task at hand, and climbing the cliff faces of the different Diophantine escarpments, only to piously commemorate those they had ingested by being randomly possessed by their angry shades.
  Aliki's metaphor captures a lot about how Zadig's goal is to be achieved. I want to think about what it means for it to exist at all.  Let me read on
  'Suppose contracts for sexual services are legal and conscionable so Thonis can sue for damages. Surely the court has to grant substitute specific performance- i.e. the payment of the agreed on sum,  less, perhaps, Thonis's 'transfer earnings'- i.e. her regular tariff for walk-in trade- so as to make both parties as well off as if the contract went ahead?
   Is there a counter-argument? What if the defendant's lawyer maintains that Thonis performed some action such that her phantom appeared to his client and satisfied his desire so that she herself was not put to trouble? In that case, it is the phantom who should be rewarded and, it may be, the shadow of the silver suffices to do so. This argument holds because Thonis has 'unclean hands'. She has done something in bad faith so as to make the contract unequal in that the other party would no longer have a desire for specific performance on her part, should she have decided to renege.
  Thonis, of course, would maintain that she has no control over to whom or to what purpose she appears in dreams. She has not studied dream magic- quod nescis quo modo fiat, non facis- she didn't know how the thing could be done so she did not do it. Her hands are clean, she acted in good faith. Judge Bocchoris has rewarded her shadow with shadow wealth- and perhaps this is shadow Justice- but what of her own claim?
 The defendant's lawyer might argue that his client had not in fact entered a contract, but, being indifferent as between the phantasm of Thonis, and the actual Thonis, merely advertised the offer of an unilateral contract to both while stipulating what consideration would pass to the latter if she was the first to slake his lust. Thus, the courtesan should be disallowed substitute specific performance- which is damages- because otherwise something which is not, in essence, a bilateral contract is treated as being so.
 Thonis has a counter-argument in that, even if the contract is not a contract, nevertheless, by participating in it she performed a service in return for a promise of payment and thus has an action in Assumpsit or under an implied contract. What is the price of the service? Clearly, it is the price stipulated in the contract, even if that contract isn't a contract simply because the defendant did not stipulate for any other sum as consideration for Thonis's entering into this contract-that-is-not-a-contract.
  Judge Bocchoris, now, has a chance to put forward an argument touching upon the nature of Justice.  He can say that the moment Thonis brought a suit for damages under a implicit contract for a service- viz. the service of entering into a contract-that-is-not-a contract- her failure to specify that this was the case meant that he, himself, as Judge, was released from the duty of judging of that issue and only had a duty to provide a show of enforcing Justice with respect to a mere show or appearance of a contract. But, since no contract becomes Justiciable, being of itself permanently either unripe or moot (i.e. no party suffers injury save by some supervenient, multiply realizable, mental act of their own), it therefore follows that such Justice as is invoked by any Contractarian theory is but a meretricious phantom or wet-dream.'

    'I actually quite like that!' said David suddenly sober, 'Your Judge Bocchoris was a Straussian! Did you really write that? I mean that's Hilary Putnam's supervenience and multiple realizability and then the substitute specific performance thing and so on- it's Anglo-American is what it is- so you're telling the truth this isn't your paper.. so... what are you saying... you are Thonis, the courtesan or ...Jeez, I'm drunk again.'

    'I did write it. I wrote it just for you. There's something in my paper for each one of you. That's why it's not my paper. I'm not speaking. Don't you get it? This is Zadig's Seminar. His Silence is only meaningful while we speak. We have to become silent to let him speak us.'
'So if we say nothing, he will speak?'
'No. His silence will speak ours.'
'Okay, now I'm definitely drunk again' said David.
'Wharrabou'  me, Pet?' said Barney- who'd given up on being a bisexual, David Bowie, Space Pirate in favour of a lugubrious, shoulder padded, Roxy Music, New Romantic, persona- 'got any Smarties left over for yer lover-boy me ole china plate?'
------------------x------------------
'Barney was a spy! Typical American perfidy!'
   'It's your own fault ' David said, 'it was your paper planted the idea in his head. Byzantine General's & Theodora's orifices! Way to go, Celeste! '
   'But, I told you- it was not my paper, I was not speaking!'
   'Yes, that's why he listened.' Richard said, 'Though, for the life of me, I can't figure what it was about the Byzantine Generals theorem which gave him the billion dollar idea he mentions in his note. Frankly, if I could see any way to make money off it, I'd have left too. As it is, I have to stick with this bloody Seminar or give back my grant to the British Academy. Fucking Barney! Really, really, selfish of him to slope off to make money for himself. I mean, whatever this great idea is- it emerged out of our discussions- I mean, we should have a share in it. We really ought to sue that twat. I've an Uncle who is a barrister in Swansea. Maybe, we should give him a call.'
   'Wouldn't do much good.' David said. 'His Dad is a top patent attorney. Which actually isn't saying much because the Ninth Circuit, which covers California, isn't patent friendly- at least when it comes to algorithms or Software though that might be a different story if this mooted CAFC gets off the ground. Still, for the nonce, the fact that his Dad's surname is  Needledick- Bastard means that he gets a lot of co-licensing work. The nerds in Silicon valley recognize that they need a Bastard for a lawyer but are more comfortable with a Needledick-Bastard for when the time comes for them to be shafted themselves.'
   'That's his actual name?'
'No, it was done by deed poll as a condition of his divorce from Barney's Mum- she's the second best divorce lawyer in Southern California.'
  'The second best Divorce lawyer, you say? I suppose that explains her surname- Slacktwatted-Whore.'
  'No.  Why do you ask? She simply reverted to her maiden name- a fine Old Money, New Mexican one at that- but did lose custody of Barney and had to pay alimony on a scale which let her husband take his practice global. The truth is, Barney has had a pretty rotten time because of the divorce. I guess that's why he wanted to turn into a Rock Star so badly. Actually, Richard, if only you'd got him that role in the rock-opera you had Babu work on- what was it, Oscar Wilde and Lily Langtry?- he'd still be here. And we need him. I've been reading the fine print on my offer from the Corven Institute. There is a rule that this Seminar terminates if less than ten people attend two consecutive sessions. What that means is, I risk getting no academic credit for this through no fault of my own.'
   'Shit! In that case, me and Moyra might have to return our Grant money to the British Academy!'
'Yeah.  Look, we're all totally screwed unless we make some systematic arrangement to rope in alternative delegates to keep up the quorum. As far as I can make out, the only condition is that they have to be less than 21 years of age. There doesn't seem to be much of a lower limit. That's why, when Obi brought along her twins, Zadig let the Session go ahead. But now they have had to go into hiding, we're really up against it. I mean the fact that Zadig still isn't saying anything means that  a lot of us just aren't that motivated to show up. Not that I blame Li Xi- her Embassy work takes priority-and obviously, we've got to respect the fact that Shahrukh is on a roll at the Chess Olympiad up at Oxford.  Still, it's a bit of bad luck that Mohammed is stuck down at Ascot seeing about his Uncle's Derby winner. What I don't get is why Moyra had to rush down there to make sure the horse is getting organic oats and not chowing down on Fried Chicken or something equally unvegan.  But it isn't just Moyra, now there's the problem with Aliki- her love life is out of control- we can't depend on her... Honestly, this whole thing is turning into a farce. Say what you like, at least Barney was a regular.'
'There might be a way round this.' Rasputin spoke up.
'How?'.
'Well, I think this Seminar is set up like a Minyan- the Jewish congregation. Wherever ten are gathered then an extra two- the Shekinah, the Divine Presence, and the Torah, the Law- also appear so that the number is 12 for the 12 tribes of Israel. The Rabbis establish that ten is sufficient for the quorum because the ten spies- who give discouraging reports  about the Land of Canaan thus incurring the wrath of the Lord- are described as a Minyan. Now, clearly, we here don't make up a Minyan. Only David is fully Jewish and, in any case, women, normally, wouldn't count. Furthermore, where is the Torah? And if there is no Torah, why should the Shekinah descend upon us? It may be, if Celeste is right, that there is an apophatic Torah in Zadig's Silence and that attracts the Shekinah. But, this permits an additional possibility. You see, according to the Kabbalah, after puberty a second, higher, type of soul is infused and there is a possibility of a third soul being added as one approaches the age of 21. The soul of a male zadik, a Jewish Sage, can enter a woman's body. In fact a female zadik could also do this if a woman has the nefesh, the soul, of a homosexual man and this needs to be cancelled.  So long as the ibbur is of male Jewish Sages, or for the purpose of cancelling homosexual nefesh in a woman, the defect of a person being female or non Jewish is remedied. In that sense this Seminar could indeed be a Minyan.  But, bear in mind, this is Zadig's Minyan. If Aliki is right, his mimetic monadology works backwards from the optimal outcome in a manner that crams competing ditopologies into Concurrency dynamics.
   'What all this boils down to is that  five people under the age of 21 can, if ibbur is ongoing, count as ten souls. In fact, even two people under twenty one, along with two children under puberty, could exceed the quorum because the children have two empty slots- one for the ruah and one for the higher type of soul known as neshama.
   'I think that's what happened when Obi brought the twins- -being under the age of puberty, they had only the nafesh, the basic soul, but not the higher type of soul called ruah or spirit. You see, I've been keeping track of our numbers and carefully observing Zadig to test my theory. I think he halts a session when he thinks the quorum is broken. But, it isn't just a matter of 'bums on seats' to employ Richard's  phrase- it's something spiritual. If a third soul is descending on us- if the talk takes a spiritual turn- the number goes up. But, when a profane turn is taken- the number can go below the Minyan and so he gets to his feet and dismisses the Session. What I'm trying to say is that we have to do two things- get in surrogates to make up the physical Minyan but also pay attention to the spiritual side of things, the serious side of things. We must permit this ibbur- this entry of a third soul, the soul of a sage- into ourselves. We must be hospitable to the Shekinah and seek to respond to the Wordless Torah.'
  'That may be,' Obi said, 'But, if we ourselves are to benefit from this Seminar- I don't mean benefit in any purely personal or selfish way- then our own interaction is important. As Celeste has shown, Zadig knew Gabriel Tarde's inter-personal Monadology. Recall the Byzantine Generals theorem. So long as the number of spies is less than one third of the whole, we have fault tolerance. This means there must be at least three of us, plus one innocent, involved in any productive deliberation of our own  because the truth is none of us came here with unmixed motives, none of us have clean hands, so none of us knows whether, in this context, we are spies or not.'

   'One more thing,' Rasputin said, 'The ten spies formed a Minyan because they hadn't acted in concert. If even two of us act in concert, the Shekinah withdraws. The result could be disastrous.'

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