The Man and The Maths: Srinivasa Ramanujan

Last week, quite by accident, I came across a movie I might not have even bothered to watch. But who can resist Dev Patel especially when you haven’t yet seen “Lion,” another flick I’ve been hoping to see soon? Filmed in India and the UK, the scenery alone was marvelous. Patel plays the role divinely all the way to the perfect awe one might expect of someone who’d never been to a world-famous institution like the University of Cambridge.

I understand that feeling. It’s happened to me a few times–in temples in Delhi and Puducherry; in Old Sturbridge, Massachusetts, as I moved through the glass doors from the year 1994 back to the year 1834; in Washington, DC, where I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s children’s section, what they called “Daniel’s story.” I wasn’t ready to handle the main section of the museum and knew even the children’s section was going to be intense. One entered “Daniel’s story” with a paper make-believe ticket for travel on the cattle cars headed to one of the concentration camps.

So imagine if you will then, the awe, the reverence with which Patel in the character of the man they called Ramanujan took in those first few moments of seeing Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. Patel portrayed Ramanujan’s excitement for the experience as stronger than any fears he might have had. Aside from any natural apprehension Ramanujan had about traveling across oceans to a Western culture, his mother had implied such travel was somehow religiously forbidden for him to do. Of course, fears like those wouldn’t have been the same kind I would have had from the chilling realization of the WWII cattle car travelers’ destinations–the eventual death camps they’d been told were resettlement camps. I’m sure the Japanese in the United States, looking back on the same period of WWII, might have understandably been haunted by similar thoughts–that this too could have happened to them. Despite any relief that US history hadn’t taken the same path, the supposition is still there–that it might have. It’s similar to what I suspect survivors of September 11, 2001 might have experienced after they realized they had escaped. There’s the reverence of the moment, a perhaps helpless understanding of the depths and breadths of such moments. In that sense, yes, reverence.

World View

In my case, I might have assumed the memories of those who lost their lives as they faced that unknown future. In Delhi and Puducherry at the temples, I too felt the awe of powers greater than the one grain of sand any of us are; in Old Sturbridge, the awe of history, of time, of the accumulated wealth of knowledge and change and transformation evolving through those decades between then and now…and perhaps for Ramanujan, the awe of the knowledge shared in those hallowed halls for so many years at Oxford, Cambridge and other highly revered learning institutions in the United Kingdom already–and how much more he knew it was his turn to share and bestow on this well-respected school at Trinity College of the University of Cambridge already–and how much more he knew it was his turn to share and bestow on this revered institution. Whether or not he actually knew how special he was–beyond the natural assurance and despite what one might have sensed was cockiness–no one really knew, I’m sure. But perhaps he did know, or perhaps Patel portrayed him that well it seemed.

While I mentioned in the beginning how I might never have bothered to consider watching the movie, if truth be known, something beyond Dev Patel and his charismatic self tugged at me. From the very first moments I watched this movie, I felt like I’ve already met Ramanujan. Obviously not sometime between 1887 and when he died, but perhaps I met him in his new incarnation or I knew him in one of his past lifetimes.

Then again, perhaps it’s simply my love of Hindi movies which I’ve been watching a lot since I received a gift of a Netflix membership some months back. These movies are often my additional teachers as I continue to try to learn more Hindi. (It’s a slow process, but I love the language.) Recently, I learned a beautiful word, thanks to actor John Abraham. Meghdoot. “Cloud messenger.” That word is nothing short of magical to me, and it reminds me how often Indian movies seem to possess far more depth than most of those I’ve seen from Hollywood.

So of course it was natural for me, as soon as I realized I wanted to write about this man they called Srinivasa Ramanujan, to search for his birth data. Thanks to Astrodatabank, finding the data was easy. December 22, 1887, 6:20 PM (1820 hours), Erode, India.

Srinivasa Ramanujan - natal

Whenever I see a story like that of Srinivasa Ramanujan or another famous person, I try to see what drives him/her, what makes him/her tick. Is this a self-motivator, or is the initiative being driven from into him/her through another person? In Ramanujan’s case, others were extremely important to him: He recognized that he wasn’t a single individual whose life was unaffected by the world around him–nor was the world unaffected by him. He deeply cared about others’ opinions, thoughts, and feelings, and he seems like he always took that into consideration when he was making life decisions in adulthood.

My looking at this chart isn’t a validation of the movie, rather a snapshot into how Dev Patel portrayed Ramanujan as an individual. For this alone, Patel gets an A+ because he captured what I see here in the chart–the individual who deeply cared about his family’s feelings and thoughts.

The movie never indicated what had happened to his father, but Ramanujan’s Moon in Mars-ruled Aries formed a 24-minute partile (a partile is less than 1°) conjunction to the Midheaven (MC) and squared his Cancer Ascendant. The women in his life were his motivators. His mother and, after marriage, his wife.  I did a little research, however, and learned that his father apparently had just been overlooked for the movie. His father was alive at the time of these events.

Despite that Martian energy in his Moon, it seemed to me Ramanujan had an extraordinary amount of patience–a bit of a surprise, really, since his Moon also squared his Sun, often an indicator of high energy as well. But his Sun was in Capricorn and his Moon and MC received a lovely trine from 2nd house Saturn in Leo so instead of too much energy working against him through his being perhaps high-strung, it seems more likely that Ramanujan was very patient, methodical and perhaps more hands-off than one might expect. If the story about his mother and the letters as it was portrayed in the film is true, (No! I’m not offering a spoiler here! lol), he surely had incredible patience, not only for his ability to solve mathematically challenging puzzles but for his not having revealed any emotion at learning what had happened to his and his wife’s letters. Thankfully, despite an action that nearly claimed his life, he was spared and then found out the truth.

We look to the sixth house for habits, health, co-workers, even when the co-workers are students with us since our career in school is being a student. Ramanujan was an autodidact. Perhaps he might have been more loquacious if he had had Mercury in the 9th; but he made a curious statement to GH Hardy as their friendship developed, and this comment offered perhaps a better understanding of what Mercury was doing in the 6th: Ramanujan didn’t speak to others about his work. He said the formulas he developed were given to him when he slept and in meditation at the temple. Claiming God gave them to him, he said, “An equation for me has no meaning, unless it represents a thought of God.”

Hardy, an atheist, might have been a bit baffled, but somehow he accepted hearing this kind of statement from Ramanujan even though he was far less likely to accept it from someone else. But there were many things Hardy accepted from his Desi friend that he’d have been unlikely to have accepted from another. Where he didn’t flex was in his demanding Ramanujan to show proof of his findings.

Ramanujan’s having been an autodidact might not have been as remarkable as his having said God gave the formulas to him. Perhaps the implication in his statement makes sense when we consider the particular blend between the 6th and the 9th houses.  God didn’t just give him the formulas. It seems more as if God, for Ramanujan, was his guide perhaps, a mentor, his guru–which he would have admitted, of course–working with him, guiding his hands, his thoughts.

Now please understand, dear reader, I’m interested in seeing how the interactions of the aspects we see immediately and those we don’t see at first glance actually work together. The more I’ve worked with this one, the more involved I’ve become in fairly unexpected ways. When I see any chart’s heartbeat, for example, I’ve usually seen it as a sequential process. But this chart makes me realize now that the heartbeat isn’t only sequential but also symbiotic; that is, the bodies in the chart’s heartbeat are also interdependent. In Ramanujan’s chart, the heartbeat consists of Mercury, Jupiter and Pluto, but we can’t really separate these three. Ramanujan absorbed his work perhaps intuitively, perhaps not. Remember, he said God gave him these formulas when he was sleeping or meditating. He had apparently not considered the need to prove his work as a result.

While I used to think these parts of the heartbeat were singular to themselves, perhaps not. I saw the process of introducing the idea followed by how the individual receives it and then decides to act. But in Ramanujan’s case, if he had been receiving the formulas–what I previously called “ideas”–while sleeping or meditating, then the filtering of the idea and its reception would already be symbiotic and interdependent. The end result is a natural conclusion, or it appears so.

Pluto falls on the 12th house cusp, alluding again to the thought that he indeed did get the formulas from God as Ramanujan had said. Not that one couldn’t believe him, mind you. The copious amounts of work he brought with him–notebook after notebook, enough to develop books and studies longer than one person’s lifetime, said Mr. Hardy. But keep this idea about the heartbeat in mind because it gets, as one of the books in my childhood said, “curiouser and curiouser…”

When I first looked at the chart, my studies with the undecaquartisextile (UQSXT) series were foremost in my mind. Aside from whatever single undecaquartisextiles might be “lying” around, the patterns, as many of you know, have fascinated me. This chart had an especially delightful one. Take note of 4th house Uranus in Libra and its semisextile to Venus in Scorpio in the 5th house. The semisextile resolves in a Resonant Blooming Undecaquartisextile at 00 Taurus 48 in a 23-minute partile trine to the 6th house Sun at 00 Capricorn 25. But the complexity of this particular UQSXT (165°) pattern doesn’t stop there. The midpoint of the Moon and Neptune at 00 Taurus 29 falls in a 4-minute partile trine to the Sun–and conjunct the third point of the Resonant Blooming Undecaquartisextile in a 19-minute conjunction!

The significance of such a complex aspect brings me full circle to my having mentioned the “other woman” earlier. No, not a physical woman, rather the subject of mathematics. The work itself apparently consumed him as much as any emotion might consume someone. But then perhaps the work captivating him as it did merely confirms the tremendous pull the subject had on him. Here, it might be said that the messages from God as he saw them had the same kind of tremendous hold on him as much as his more earthly world with his wife and mother had had.

An additional factor comes in with the second Resonant Blooming Undecaquartisextile from the Mercury-Venus semisextile that resolves at 00 Gemini 04–which forms a 38-minute partile conjunction to the Neptune-Pluto midpoint at 00 Gemini 42! When we’re in our mid-20s and again later in life, the interchanges in activity between Neptune and Pluto in our natal charts even just by transit can set the stage for tremendous inner transformation. Depending on where these bodies are transiting our charts, the transformation might be inward, or it can be seen as a significant change in appearance. In our times, the change can range from a man’s decision to grow a beard (or shave one off), change in clothing styles or even the choice of a car, to more dramatic shifts in actual health concerns arising or needing to be addressed–plastic surgery, for example.

But the Sun is forming a square to his Moon/MC conjunction, the latter of which establishes a single UQSXT to Uranus. A Sun-Moon square can often represent a nervous tension, a tearing–or split–of alliances in the heart, and surely this was seen particularly in one point of the film when Ramanujan had felt he’d lost the other treasure in his life–his wife.

Okay, now that this part is out of the way, let’s get back to the “curiouser” part…”

Have you noticed yet that the Moon (conjunct the MC) and Pluto on that 12th house cusp form a 25-minute partile sextile? While you’re pondering that, also note the sextile between 6th house Mercury and 4th house Uranus. They don’t form a partile orb, but certainly 1°29′ is well within orb  for the sextile. On the other hand, the yod itself is missing. However, here, in the midst of the Resonant Blooming Undecaquartisextile, we’re seeing an Undecaquartisextile Shadow Yod on each side as if it forms an hourglass! The third point in the Moon-Pluto sequence falls at 3 Scorpio 20 while the Mercury-Uranus sequence forms a second Undecaquartisextile Shadow Yod at 16 Taurus 05. Both are resonant (sensitive) points recognized by heightened energies (whether or not they’re actually identified by any physical bodies at those degrees and minutes). But the Undecaquartisextile Shadow Yod is already in that state because of the presence of the Resonant Blooming Undecaquartisextile.

Chiron at its current position forms both an opposition by antiscion and an out-of-sign opposition to Ramanujan’s Sun. John Davenport and I had been discussing the chart the other day and said something that struck me because I hadn’t yet seen it. (Ah the advantage of having colleagues on whom you can bounce ideas off for moments like these since they often seen through that extra pair of eyes what you may have missed!) “I was just thinking,” said John, “this life was summed up by Venus/Uranus opposite Moon/Neptune and the antiscion of Chiron opposite Sun…and look at the 29s and 0s here…” Look, indeed! What wasn’t apparent at the first glance, blossomed through those midpoints and undecaquartisextile patterns to reveal the rest of the story with the 0s–or the 29s, as I did when I finally got to Chiron. (Thanks, John!)

While I normally don’t bother offering Wikipedia as resources for biographies of famous people, Ramanujan’s life was extraordinary enough that every bio offers a new perspective to impress on the reader just how brilliant he was. Perhaps the one challenge many Westerners might have is in their realization that he married at the age of 22. His wife was 10. No, that’s not a typo. Until she reached puberty, she stayed in her family home and then moved with her mother-in-law to be with Ramanujan. A child apparently was born of the marriage that took place in 2009, but whatever happened to that child was not something I was able to discover. Perhaps no more fitting annual honor of this great mathematician could be than to celebrate his birthday on what is now known as National Mathematics Day (I believe this is in India, but perhaps other nations now celebrate it too).

Ramanujan’s chart revealed a Cardinal T-square not only with the Moon conjunct the MC in square to the 6th house Sun, but his natal Mars–opposed to the Moon–formed a 41-minute partile square to the Ascendant. By all indications, his patience with subjects other than mathematics grew thin. But for him, mathematics was more than a mere school subject: It was his world, his means of communication, his spiritual link to God.

Looking back at what I discovered in this chart, I had the feeling I was witnessing something special even now, so long after he left this life. Learning and displaying his mathematical abilities as he did is a different story: Did he learn on his own–as an autodidact–or did he have the ability to learn from God through his dreams and meditation? I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

In the meantime, in respect for his prayers and communication with God, I leave you one more prayer–and then the movie.

Beyond the books about him, perhaps there’s no better way to learn than getting a feel for who he was–“The Man Who Knew Infinity.” The following is the trailer to the movie. YouTube recently moved it to a pay for view.

Until next time.

Namaste, I love you,
Michelle

©2017 Michelle Young

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