He has tried throughout his book to prove that there are two kinds of arithmetic in this world. One is that which says two and two are four. This is simple arithmetic which we all know, a simple calculation which verifies that if we add up all the parts of a thing, they can never be greater than its whole. Simple arithmetic states that if we break a thing into pieces and then add up those pieces, their sum can never exceed the whole. This is a simple, direct fact. If we change a rupee into one hundred paise, the sum of these one hundred paise can never be more than one rupee. Can it ever be? It is simple arithmetic that addition of parts can never be greater than the whole. But Ouspensky says there is another, higher, mathematics, and that is the mathematics of life. In this mathematics, it is not necessary that two plus two should equal four. At times, two and two may make five – or three. In life, he tells us, the sum of the parts sometimes exceeds the whole. We shall have to understand this a little more clearly, because if we cannot understand it we shall not be able to comprehend fully the significance of this first and the last sutra of the Ishavasya.
An artist paints a picture. Suppose we evaluate the cost of his materials. How much would the colors cost? Not much, certainly. And a canvas? Again, not so much. But no great work of art, no beautiful painting, is merely a mixture of colors added to canvas: it is something more.
A poet composes a poem, a song. All the words used in it are quite ordinary words which we use every day. Perhaps you might meet a word or two in it which is less frequently used; even so, we know them. Yet no poem is simply a collection of words. It is something more than the collection and arrangement of words. A person plays a sitar; the effect produced in our hearts on hearing the notes of the sitar is not merely the impact of the sound. Something more touches us.
Let us understand the phenomenon in this way. Shutting his eyes, a person touches your hand lovingly. Again, the same person touches your hand with great frustration. The touch in both cases is the same. As far as the question of physical, bodily touch is concerned, there is no basic difference between the two. Yet there is certainly some distinctive element in the feel of someone touching us lovingly: the touch of one who is angry is quite different from the loving touch. And again, when someone touches us with complete indifference we feel nothing in the touch. Yet the act of touching is the same in all these cases. If we were to ask a physicist he would reply that the degree of pressure exerted on our hand by another person’s touch could be measured – even the amount of heat passing from one hand into another could be worked out. Nevertheless, all the heat, all the pressure, cannot disclose in any way whether the person who touched us did so out of love or anger. Yet we experience the distinctions among touches that are qualitatively different. So certainly, the touch is not merely the sum total of the heat, pressure and electrical charge conveyed in the hand: it is something more.
Life depends on some higher mathematics. Something quite new, and full of significance, is born out of the sum total of the parts. Something better than the sum of the parts is created. Something important is born out of even the lowliest things. Life is not just simple arithmetic – it is a far more profound and subtle arithmetic. It is an arithmetic where numbers become meaningless, where the rules of addition and subtraction become useless. The person who does not know the secret of life, which lies beyond the ordinary arithmetic of life, does not understand the meaning and purpose of life.
There are many wonders to this great sutra. It is said:
When the whole is taken from the whole,
behold, the remainder is whole.