Back Transdisciplinarity and the Unity of Knowledge: Beyond the Science and Religion Dialogue

Skip Navigation Links
Lidia Joanna Obojska
Judith Marie Povilus
From the Total Gift of Self to a New Relational View of Reality; From a Mystical Insight to the Foundations of Mathematics: A Transdisciplinary Approach


As mathematicians motivated by the conviction that there is a deep relation between the material dimension and the spiritual, we have attempted to convert relational patterns experienced in spiritual life into abstract formal terms.

The first part of our paper presents some brief theological input regarding the mystery of Christ forsaken on the cross, a fundamental theme underlying the Christian discourse on unity, and which has particular bearing on the theme of this Congress, revealing that “I am myself…when out of love I am lost in the other.”

Christ dying on the cross is the personification of total giving. In what Paul in Philippians calls kenosis, he pours out his life, human and divine. His total annihilation, to the point of no longer feeling His oneness with the Father, is expressed in His cry: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me”.

The depth and mystery of this event has been probed by theologians and others. In particular, we present the insights of Chiara Lubich, a prominent contemporary figure, who fathoms the significance of the event of the abandonment in the “economy of unity”. In Lubich’s descriptions, Christ’s kenosis is the key to a radical form of interrelatedness that could be termed dynamic oneness, lying at the heart of Christian anthropology. “As the Father has loved me I have loved you. Love one another as I have loved you...” “May they be one as I in you and you in me.” In particular, the commandment of love is lived out and measured against Christ’s love for us, to the point of abandonment.

Moreover, the abandonment evokes the interpersonal dynamics that lie at the very heart of the Trinity where each of the Three, being Love, is completely by not being, each mutually indwelling in an eternal self-giving.

From this perspective, reflecting as mathematicians, we felt challenged to describe, using language and methods proper to our discipline, the abstract pattern of relatedness that we discerned in the theological discourse outlined above. The results represent the contents of a scientific article, presented in the second part of the paper.

After reflecting on some of the still unanswered questions pertaining to the relation between point and line, we build on the primitive concept of relation to define a new type of relation (tr relation) capable of describing the kenosis in abstract terms. This results as a formal, non-contradictory expression of an ontology of “being and non being” at the same time. Finally, a dynamic identity composed of three distinct co-essential tr relations (Dynamic Identity Triple) is formulated.

The pattern that emerges can, we maintain, contribute in a general sense to enunciating a relational view of reality, and its repercussions have yet to be studied.

We conclude by mentioning some initial attempts to apply these results that connect back to the relation between point and line.

Lidia Joanna Obojska, born on August 3, 1968, in Warsaw, Poland, received a PhD in Astrophysics and a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Warsaw.

She worked as a research assistant at the Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw where she investigated the connection between chaotic dynamics and fractal geometry in space plasma (slow solar wind flow).

Currently Associate Professor at the University of Podlasie, Siedlce, she does research on axiomatic methods in mathematics including relational systems, a non-standard form of identity, and fractal geometry.

She has published a number of scientific articles both in astrophysics and in mathematical logic and spoken at various international conferences.

She is a member of Mathzero, an international group of scholars conducting inter-disciplinary research in formal logic.

She also completed two years of theological and sociological studies at the Institute of Mystici Corporis of the Focolare Movement in Loppiano (Florence, Italy).

Judith Marie Povilus is currently Associate Director of the Focolare Movement’s Sophia Association for Cultural Studies in Rome and Provost and Assistant Professor of Logic and Foundations of Mathematics of its Sophia University Institute, which began in October 2008.

Born in Chicago (U.S.A.) in 1945, Povilus holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome and a master’s in mathematics from the University of Illinois.  She taught mathematics at DePaul University in Chicago.

She is an expert in dialogue between Western and Asian cultures, with extensive experience and research in Japan, where she directed a center of the international Focolare Movement for several years.

In addition to several articles on the interface of mathematics and spirituality, she is a co-author of a scientific article on formal logic and the author of two books in theology: La presenza di Gesù tra i suoi nella teologia di oggi and Gesù in mezzo nel pensiero di Chiara Lubich (English edition: United in His Name:  Jesus in the midst in the experience and thought of Chiara Lubich).

She currently directs Mathzero, an international group of scholars conducting interdisciplinary research in formal logic.


1616 Walnut Street, Suite 1112, Philadelphia, PA 19103 USA  |  Voice: + 1 484.592.0304 Fax: +1 484.592.0313   |   Email  |  Privacy Policy