I just finished reading these books, which can be well described as a quick introduction to the general sciences and beautiful patterns in the world. Are they worth it?
To be honest, I have to admit I got these book with the wrong expectations. The presentation is awesome: I love hardcover books, and the paper is really thick. Several other books of the same collection make reference to the middle-age occult theory and similar pseudo-sciences that roamed the time. The reading may have not been pretty practical, in my point of view, but it would be an interesting and informative read, which I’m all for.
In my anecdote, I found these hardcover books that talk about the secrets of beauty between math, music and sacred geometry. I pick up random pages and I find that it mentions platonic solids, gematria, alchemical denominations… I bought Quadrivium without a second thought. Then I bought Sciencia to read first, because that’s the order in which this classical knowledge was taught.
But that’s not what I got.
Sciencia is less about esoterism and middle age beliefs, but rather more about a quick introduction to different sciences. Particularly: mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and astronomy. Quadrivium is a compilation of geometrical coincidences between nature, math and music, without a conclusion or direct purpose.
The mathematics part is, in my opinion, the worst one, and it made me start the book with a left foot already. Rather than being an informative and educational chapter, it was just a random compilation of facts about numbers and shapes, some of them were worthy of an “ah, nice”, while others more of a “yeah, ok”.
The section on physical formulas was just a compilation of formulas, as the title describes. Not much more, the text in between hardly provides any extra information.
The section “Essential Elements” of the book attaches nicely into the previous one, describing several different aspects of the physical world. It started to feel more like an introduction to different topics, and in a way that it never hurts to review again. It describes physics and chemistry around the history of discovery of the atomic structure and the classification of elements.
I’d say that the section on Evolution was the best one. It introduces several concepts of biology which eventually lead up to evolution and complex ecology, still maintaining the approach of introductory concepts. It does lay out basic explanations of concepts and providing a few examples here and there that serve as attention holders, since they are not the most usually known and strike the reader with a little bit of surprise when reaching them.
Then there’s a section on the human body. After having described the basics of life, this section now covers the details of human physiology, which is a nice approach to the book. While the subject and focus of this section is different, the shift doesn’t feel forced and keeps continuity.
The book now shifts dramatically into astronomy, and instead of doing a small-to-large progression, it actually starts out with describing the big bang and what the scale of the universe is, to later start zooming down until it reaches a planetary level, talking about Earth. The contents in this particular chapter do feel compressed, and it can be told with certainty that lots of contents hat to be cut out from the book. It doesn’t feel as informative for that very same reason, but nevertheless, it is quite an interesting introduction to astronomy.
Quadrivium is a little bit different, but it still feels disconnected. It starts with random facts about numbers and their relation to different esoteric or religious cults. Some of them quite known, some of them not so much, a couple of them even flat out wrong. These relationships are just exposed in a coincidental way, as they don’t come full circle to explain any particular concept behind numbers, nor the concepts themselves. Then it pretty much does the same with shapes, regular figures, tessellation patterns, solids, symmetries. It touches lightly on alphabets and numeric systems, but then goes on again on spitting out geometric coincidental data.
The section about music starts off pretty good, but climbs up very quickly in terminology and association of these concepts to the geometric properties seen before. If you don’t have a good background on music theory you’re not gonna get through this section understanding what it meant. The book is full of illustrations and examples, which helped a lot in following the content, I wish that this section came along with some kind of sound examples, but I know that books carry that limitation. It would have been a great educational addition to it.
The final section talks about the cosmos in general but again, there are no big conclusions anywhere, just some generic data about the universe and the patterns that it follows. I found it less impressive, and even low-quality new age books try to come full circle by looking at the whole universe and claiming “this is the number 1 we started with”, but no, not even that.
I did have great expectations of these books. I don’t think they are bad — in fact, if you look them up, you’ll find most people did enjoy them and did learn a lot from them. But it wasn’t what I was looking for, and it just wasn’t my experience.