We writers who set marks onto the void form of the page, made and cut to size for fitting into our writing machines from the pulp of wood from the living tree, we know why the trees are sacred to the poets. And for those of us whose language is English, we have a lesson to study, for doing home-work in the sacred grove of the White Goddess, the Muse, the Patroness in one of her guises of all poets and writers, and artists: those whose work is in the fitting together, the making of models of wholeness. We must pay our attention to one of our (still at this writing, living) Sufi masters, Robert Graves, whose body, heart and mind have found a comfortable resting place in the Balearic Islands--longtime Sufi hangout and one of the last places the bronze age matriarchal tradition managed to survive. Palma itself, the big city, on the big island Majorca, is the city of the palm tree. Graves mentions the palm in the text of The White Goddess on (page 190, in the section on"A for AILM" in Chapter Eleven, The Tree Alphabet, which alphabet begins with A for AILM, the first tree, a silver fir, "sacred in Greece to Artemis the Moon-goddess who presided over childbirth, and the prime birth-tree of Northern Europe, familiar in the Nativity context."
Well, we had our sacred silver fir tree, the tip top of one cut off, sacrificed to the Green Man's axe, good woodsman who brought home the Christmas tree. And it came down on the evening of January sixth, when the Three Kings were supposed to have arrived at the manger beneath the silver firs in Nativity paintings of the Northern Renaissance visions, translated, eternal Bethlehems, concluding the twelve days of Christmas, famed in song and lore. And the question arises, if the Christ child, as a symbol of the Divine Essence within each of us, were to receive one present on the First day of Christmas, and then three presents on the Second day of Christmas, they could be piled under the Christmas tree in the form of a pyramid: in fact, this is the most elegant way to tight-pack four items in three dimensional space--so it's not as though it were just a pretty, or convenient, or conventional way to pile up the presents, it being not only all of these, but also "logical," or we might say in a technical sense "necessary."
Let us look a bit at this Necessity. In our ordinary language we possess the wisdom that "Necessity is the Mother of Invention." Necessity is conceived of as female in emblematic speech, and is accordingly understood as female in function, as giving birth. In the traditions of Greek mythology which underlay so many of the beliefs associated with our Western European languages, Necessity is also the Mother of the Fates. As it turns out, the Fates, besides being associated with spiders and weaving, are also associated with the human skull, with webs and networks, with the stuff of life, the aion--or, eon--as not only the duration or length of time of a man's (human's) life, but in an even more venerable sense as the fluid, cerebro-spinal, watery anatomical substance itself. It is the question of the edible nature of this specific substance around which an archaic teaching has been woven. Lessons of this teaching are of intrinsic and obvious consequence to those societies in which are preserved even vestigial remnants of the neolithic headhunt, and to those people in whom the subject of cannibalism still elicits an emotional response that is deeper than our rationality and more subtle than the irony or paradox in our humor when we laugh at cartoons of missionaries being boiled in the cannibals' pot.
The ace excuse of the major missionary faiths for wiping out "paganism" is, after all, a point loaded with practical as well as psychological consequence: that the ways of Established, Revealed Religion substitute a symbolic sacrifice for the real act. Of course, words such as "established, revealed religion," become themselves incantatory phases--as if several thousand years of practice didn't qualify a religious tradition to use the epithet "established." As if the old Uzbek shamans in their trances when their own spines became synonymous with the world mountain, with the living spiritual tree of life--as if their religious experiences weren't "revealed." No, what we really seem to mean in these self-righteous incantations is that the dangerous, unpredictable, highly subjective behavior of the shaman (male or female) who does experience a genuine revelation, that this behavior will be constrained by the social institutions of an established priesthood or organized church. Then, what revelation comes to mean is "being set down in written form." Joseph Campbell details this process of psycho-social institutionalization with engrossing tales in The Masks of God, especially in the stories of Black Hactcin among the Jicarilla Apache (Volume I, Chapter 6, "Shamanism, 1. The Shaman and the Priest", and in Chapter 4, "The Province of the Immolated Kings, 1. The Legend of the Destruction of Kash.").
Nor, either, is the issue is ever fully resolved for those of us who attend monster movies, get dressed up in Halloween costumes, and who have to spend any time in modern urban environments--that is to say "cities," the great invention of the neolithic. For it is in cities that the laws of men lay claim to superseding the laws of nature. The shaman must live in harmony with the laws of nature, in direct contact with nature, Mother Nature as an incarnation of Necessity.
One of the conventional ways in which we express necessary, formal relationships is through mathematical expressions and equations, theorems and calculi. A calculus, any calculus--such as G. Spencer Brown's Laws of Form, Boolean arithmetic and the Boolean algebra that is used in all switching circuits, in formal logic, and in providing the theoretical ground upon which all mathematics of computers is based--a calculus is a system of formal relationships. We conventionally draw a distinction between formal systems and haphazard chance: aleatory collections, assortments or arrangements. The word "calculus" is derived from the Latin verb calculare, meaning to count or to reckon. This verb, calculare, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is "from calculus, small stone (used in reckoning), diminutive of calx, lime, limestone, from Greek khalix, pebble." There are at least two fundamentally different ways of reckoning. The first is the way of the "Lucky Reckoners," expressed in Greek as Agatha Tyche; this way is associated with probability functions in the domain of statistics and elsewhere, with gaming, gambling, guesses, with taking chances, risks, pot shots, with hunches, odds, projections and extrapolations, and with what we imagine to be "the future." There is also a lot of guessing about what might have been the case in the past, which is why the discipline of history may be regarded as an art, rather than as a strict science.
The second method of reckoning is based upon necessity. This way eschews chance as a demon, or in the Greek sense daimon: as a part of a whole system with the potential of usurping control of that system, for its own apparent, short-term benefit, but to the detriment of the whole. Demons tend to be cybernetically primitive, as we say, tending to ignore, discount or override feedback from other parts of the system that may be indicating self correcting action. That chance is a demon in logical and mechanical systems is clear from the names given mysterious malfunctions: glitches, bugs, gremlins, the causes of which may be as inscrutible as incident cosmic radiation, the odd bit of antimatter or the stray neutrino, but which in most cases is of less concern than the doctoring of symptoms directly related to practical consequences. For it is within the domain of the practical, the objective, the measurable and countable or at least the logically (formally) derivable that the second mode of reckoning operates. We say this is in accordance with Necessity, or what the Greeks knew as anangke, and the rules by which we judge the relative degrees of necessity in formal mathematical statements or calculi are related to concepts of rigor and elegance.