The Golden number or ration is a myth, from Michigan here is the minutes of a discussion from the Freethought Association but Dr Karl from the ABC and many others have made similar points.
I can't take them seriously as a trading tool.
The topic for this meeting was “The Myth of the Golden Mean” presented by Shane Van Oosterhout and Bill Fischer, Adjunct and Associate Professors at Kendall College of Art & Design in Grand Rapids. Shane took the lead in presenting, while Bill ran the visual presentation and fielded some queries. Shane opened with a story about how a co-worker asked in an insistent manner if he was worried about doing his presentation this night. He really was not but when he asked why she was so concerned, she reminded him that this was the opening night for Mel Gibson's film “The Passion of the Christ” and maybe there would be a poor showing to hear his talk. He thought how, with this group, such concerns were not really an issue. Further, he commented that while he is a triple threat—gay, vegetarian and an atheist, it is the last feature that is the least well accepted by most others.
With his work at an art college (that incidentally this Secretary graduated from), he is well aware of the ubiquity in which the Golden Mean- also referred to as the Golden Section, the Golden Rectangle and the Golden Ratio-- is taught in mainstream fashion in art education. It is a given—not to be disputed or questioned. It appears in textbooks and is promulgated authoritatively by professors and professionals of many disciplines and is simply a part of what is imbibed by each successive generation of neophyte designers by those wishing to integrate art with something supposedly ancient, arcane, and sublime and with the added bonus of its strong whiff of science and mathematics. This is all part of the “unwitting use of fiction as fact that permeates our culture”, as Van Oosterhout said it.
This form, believed to be the Ideal or even “Divine” one is constructed mathematically as .618 X 1. Anything created that includes these dimensions is alleged to be automatically more pleasing to the human eye. It is thought to be derived from something almost magical or otherworldly. Seen as transcendent and cosmological, it is believed to tap into some universal truth within humankind. Indeed, Carl Jung's work was usurped to include this formula as part of his concepts on the “Collective Unconsciousness.” Modern science has gone a long way in explicating the role of our genetics and evolutionary past on our perceptions and preferences and in finding certain forms and patterns to be evocative of specific concepts and ways of determining stimuli in predictable ways. But our presenters' focus was on exploding the myth of the innate perfection to the human eye and mind of the so- called Golden Ratio.
The success of the strong belief in the power of the Golden Section is one more of marketing than science, Van Oosterhout maintained. We examined the historical context for this putative truth and were not surprised to find that its origin was in Ancient Greece, often thought of as the wellspring of beauty, art, truth and of mathematical values standing in for deeper, more resonating concepts. Numbers were viewed as having certain hidden meanings, Magic Numbers revealed the names of gods and could tell the story of the cosmos. Sometimes names, where letters had certain specific numerical values, were refashioned to shoehorn them into the magic number set, to lend more credence to the power of the representation. Pythagoras (580-500 B.C.E.), the Greek mathematician and philosopher is credited for developing the theory of functions, and the theorem for right angles but also, germane to this discussion, the significance of numbers and how they relate to harmony in a more universal sense.
“Harmony” Van Oosterhout noted, is the term most strenuously bandied about in the art world. If a work lacks harmony, no matter its other characteristics, it is a failure. The Ancient Greeks related music, visual art and the deeper values of the universe by the idea of harmony, and some used lengths of string with their different sounds to correlate with mathematics in determining ideals. The planets themselves made musical sounds, in their belief system. These constructs of the Ancients were borrowed and misinterpreted to lend credence to the phrase “Nature reveals Truth about how to make things beautiful.” They were thought to be the progenitors of the Golden Mean, even though such a description would not coined until long afterwards, in the 19th Century. In many textbooks it is dogmatically asserted that the Ancients used the Golden Ratio, calling it by that name, even though there is no basis in historical fact for this.
Five sided shapes—pentagrams- were held to be imbued with special power, and one can easily bring to mind Satanic rituals using that form to call up demonic entities and even the Masons use the shape in their iconography. When wedded to the Golden Ratio, there was believed to be an embedded Divine power. The belief that calling something by name exerted a special power over, or connection with, the being named was tied into the numbers (transposed from these letter symbols) and forms that could be constructed by the proportionate values, so forms that harkened to specific geometric constructs captured all these aspects in one fell swoop. A story of the Divine, of Absolute Truth and Universal Beauty could all be told by certain mathematical formulations rendered in geometric shapes.
Popular reverence for the thinking of the Ancients waned but was revived during the Italian Renaissance, which is understandable since it was a time of a great explosion in ideas regarding art, science and mathematics and how they inter-related. Those swimming in these heady streams, looked to the Ancients to try to uncover how they arrived at the concepts they had generated. The human body was seen as the most sublime form in nature (after all, we were the Special Creation of God!) so much was referenced from its proportions. The navel held special significance, and this can be seen in many old religions where a centrality is conferred upon a place, lending it sacred meaning and as a sort of source point for the mystery and power of their beliefs. Geometric constructs that placed the human navel at some central point on the body (even though this is not technically the case) were held to depict something of a deeper truth.
A problem that arose from employing the body for a system of measurement was that different people in other locations used different systems even though based on the body—for instance, if one wanted to build a structure based on arm lengths, and another population used, say, forearm to leg proportions as the unit of measurement, then the architecture altered accordingly. Palladio (1508-1580), an important Italian Renaissance architect, was particularly influenced by the Classical thinking found in a work by one of the ancient Greeks, believing it to be the bridge between the ancient and modern worlds and a way to capture the sublime in architectural forms. This, in turn became highly influential to 16th Century European thought which funneled into current views that are seen in America too.
The Bauhaus School went a long way in promulgating the concept of the Golden Mean into American consciousness. It was founded in Germany by Walter Gropius in 1919 and emphasized simplicity, functionalism and craftsmanship. It also held to a more rigid mechanistic, linear and harder edged way of creating art and architecture. It was the antithesis of the French Curve. Art instruction became almost totally subsumed by the Bauhaus tenets of modularity and boxy structure. The geometric architectonic look became wedded to ancient Truths of Golden Proportions to represent the Way to represent beauty and grace and harmony in any artistic work. Le Corbusier (Charles Edouard Jeanneret; 1887-1965) was a powerful proponent of this view. His writings and innovative buildings were seen to express a revolutionary approach toward aesthetic and architectural problems, and took an industrial, utilitarian approach. He was a co-founder of the short-lived Purism movement in art, also, that portrayed Cubism in a cleaner and more sterile way. His work influenced modern American towering building designs.
The decorative and curvilinear in art took a back seat. Art that was flattened, straight-edged or cubed was the new ideal. The Dutch artist Piet Mondrian founded the Stijl group and developed a geometric style that came to be referred to as “neoplasticism” typified by by primary-colored squares bounded by black outlines. His work was (incorrectly) thought of as capturing the Golden Section ideal along with the Bauhaus conception of beauty.
In Victorian times, it was fashionable to take images of architecture or nature and put tracing overlays on them to “reveal the Truth of the Golden Section” in them. In the former, it examined how close to the Ideal the human-made forms approached, and in the latter it was to reflect the innate universal beauty and harmony of natural compositions.
One of the contemporary artists that was presented to us by Van Oosterhout and Fischer was a woman named Billie Ruth Sudduth, who “studied” Native American baskets and found in them this same perfection of the Golden Ratio, believing that they had tapped into this Truth as well. She now incorporates basket making with her sense of sublime mathematics in what she calls “Math in a Basket” where she believes she is illustrating math principles to sixth and seventh graders via basket making.