Of Symbols
Of Symbols
    There is a great temptation to equate language symbols (such as the characters of the English alphabet) to numerical symbols (such as the Arabic numeral system) in creating formulae or attempting to analyze and interpret concepts and ideas.  However, where a numerical system is employed to represent factual values (theoretical or actual), alphabetic symbols are assigned, in that:  for instance the guttural (as in the word "guttural") hard g sound, and the selection of the symbol with its distinct shape to represent that sound.  Yet, this g is also employed to represent a softer sound such as is found in "gender," for instance.  Also, it is employed to convey the genuflection of a vowel sound and in this role is said to be "silent" as in the word "reign."  Further, there are some languages that do not employ a hard "g" sound at all, some of which do not as a matter of choice in the belief such a sound is too reminiscent of a primitive, and unrefined past.  Thus meaning the symbol "g" has in one sense a limited capacity, and in other senses has no capacity at all.

    Such is not the case with numerical symbols.  If one takes the numerical symbol "1", it is without doubt the value this symbol represents is not varied.  A "1" means the same in any culture, in any language, at any geographical location.  There is no mathematical form which eschews the concept represented by this symbol on any grounds of preferred sophistication, or any other preference.  The same holds true for what is the entire set of cardinal numbers; 1 through 9.  Furthermore, were this not true mathematics would be well-nigh impossible as such precision as found in math would be compromised by whimsy and preferential consideration.

    Historically there arose a line of thought, or reason, employing an if/then structure which ran thus:  IF there is a supreme being, and IF this supreme being is omnipresent and omnipotent, THEN this supreme being is intertwined into all aspects of existence itself, and THEREFORE nothing can be arbitrary or accidental.  All of existence is an intricate out-flowing of intent.  Given this, the alphabetical system created (by the culture indulging this line of logic) not only cannot be said to be an arbitrary assignation of symbols, but is so interwoven with the Supreme Being as to be capable of a precise interrelating numerical value.  This gave rise to assigning numerical values to letters of alphabets, or numerology.

    Beyond this peculiarity of history, attempting to make sense (in a sense) of something such as the possible permutations of a set of alphabetical symbols (such as D G and O) and seeing one combination spells "GOD" while another spells "DOG" yet the other permutations spell nothing at all can be tricky indeed.  Employing the word "meaning" to describe a combination of letters which spell an intelligible word can also be tricky.  Sure, the G-O-D spells the "name" given to a deity central to certain religions which have sprung up over the course of human history.  However, there are cultures which recognize the existence of this same deity, which do not have the word "god" in their vocabularies (and of course some of these cultures also don't employ the hard g as was mentioned above.)  In these cultures the word "god," or the arrangement of the letters of another culture's alphabet system into this form "g-o-d" has no meaning at all.  If one attempted a substitution replacing the "g" with that culture's equivalent, the resulting "word" would still not be the same word "god".  Furthermore, that culture probably uses another word to signify this deity ("bik'ehgo'ihi'dan" in Apache, for instance.)

    The concept of the deity is ostensibly transferable from culture to culture.  However, even that, upon closer examination, results in differences so integral and varied that believing there is a consistent concept of a deity, similar to the consistent concept of the value 1 is at the least a possible point of confusion, and at the worst an absolute absurdity.  Here we find the true difference between alphabetical and numerical symbology.  In alphabetical representation there is room for inference.  Precision is not required.  It suffices to achieve the "general idea" of what is conveyed when attaching a word to a concept.  "Your [A] is our [B]."  It is not necessary they be identical as long as they are similar in a general way.  Such is not true with numbers.

    I have three numbers; 1, 2 and 3.  I can combine them in as many ways as one can combine the three letters G, O and D.  The permutations are based on the fact I have three of each, not specifically what each of the three are.  So, one combination is 321.  One is 231, and so on.  As you can see each expression of the three numbers is a specific value.  The values may be related to one another in some way.  Then again, in all likelihood they're just different numbers.  What makes this so is the formal arrangement of numbers, which unlike letters in English, are valued from right to left; ones, tens, hundreds.  Letters forming words have no value in their progression forward as they form words.  And, of course, in many languages the progression flows from right to left.  So with letters and the words they form, the "meaning" may exist or it may not depending upon who is "reading" them.  With numbers, that is never the case.
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