What is your imaginary number?

I was once working with a coaching client who is an incredible mathematician and has a voracious appetite for the suject. Because this was a passion of his and because my coaching regularly explores our sense of purpose, it was inevitable that we would eventually talk numbers.

Now, before you start thinking that I have the slightest ability with maths, I’ve got to confess that my career in numeracy faced an arrested development aged 12. Having been taught by an ogre of a maths teacher who scared the living daylights out of even the mouthiest hard-nut in my class, a block to mathematics was created in me and since then has never dissolved.

Later in life, whilst driving to work I listened to a radio programme about imaginary numbers and something in that programme twanged a chord in me.

In my primitive mathematical understanding of what the programme was saying, the gist was this; imaginary numbers were invented as a tool to work out complex equations and these equations have resulted in science and technology making HUMUNGOUS leaps. Without the imaginary number these advances would never have happened, yet imaginary numbers don’t actually exist.

Unable to stop thinking about imaginary numbers, I left work early that afternoon, headed straight to Waterstones and purchased thirty pounds worth of books on the “divine equation”. When I got home I took them out of the bag and gazed at them lovingly. I knew I wouldn’t read them (after all I have the mathematical development of a 12 year old …. in fact probably less after all this time) and instead slotted them onto the sacred shrine of my bookcase, where they have remained ever since.

The imaginary numbers grew dusty.

Until now.

In this conversation with my client.

“Imaginary numbers fascinate me!” I declared, impulsively blundering into an intellectual territory that I was not evolved to survive in for more than two sentences. However, my kind client was very gentle and had a way of explaining the subject in a way that (at the time) made utter sense.

My interpretation of what he said was this: “In the mathematical world, imaginary numbers were created as a tool to work out complex equations, yet a huge amount of thought, time and energy is now being poured into studying imaginary numbers. People have become fixated with the tool, rather than continuing to use the tool to create and understand.”

I went away and chewed this over.

It was as though a new note had just been strummed on my imaginary number chord harp. Something was frustrating me with it; it was as if the equations and imaginary numbers and creation and imagination were all parts of a bigger cosmic jigsaw that I sensed went together, but in my current level of understanding and awareness, I was unable to communicate even to myself.

What I was kind of thinking about was this …

In the same way that imaginary numbers allow us to work out complex equations and create rad new technologies and make scientific leaps, by using imaginary “higher forces” humanity are also able to find meaning in the meaningless and make massive leaps in progress and consciousness.

The imaginary number is a blank


The power of faith is also a blank.


Yet as humans, rather than using faith and thought to create higher levels of consciousness and reality, we instead get all hung up on the imaginary number itself. We take a “tool” that doesn’t exist in time/space terms and dress it up. We colour it in. Give it form then worship it.

We call it Gods and Goddesses.

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Some people call it Lord.

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Some people call it Allah.

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Some people call it Jehovah and others call it Buddah.

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Some people call it Spirit or the Web Of Life.

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Some people call it Higher Self.

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Some people call it Energy; The Law of Attraction; Quantum Physics; Luck; Fate; Destiny; Prayer.

By surrendering to their  version of the “imaginary number” and believing in its power, members of A.A are able to recover from addiction. Research has shown that for people to recover from all addiction, recognition of an “imaginary number/higher power” is vital to their recovery.

In the workshops I run, Jayne and I call this “purpose”; the thing that people will push themselves the extra mile/ten miles/hundred miles for.

People who have achieved amazing feats in their lives have had their own personal “imaginary number” that they have faith in and trust.

I refer to my “imaginary number” as the Universe. I have no idea of what the Universe is (well, I do but I don’t claim that to be true for anyone but myself) however, in my experience the more I have learned to trust in my “imaginary number” the more profound my results in life have been.

I refer to the invisible force that secures me a parking space every time I ask for one as “Fred”. Fred isn’t an angel or a fairy or a parking space diva. Fred is an invisible number that acts as a tool for me to focus my intention and navigate subconsciously towards a parking space. The result is that I always get one.

Essentially, the imaginary number for humans is called “Faith In Something”.

And the imaginary number is simply a tool.

It’s a missing blank that we get to fill in.

Each individual can colour it however they like.

You are officially allowed your very own colouring in book!!

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Organised religions may attempt to claim the imaginary number and label it and tell people how it should be coloured. This is okay … but it kind of undermines people’s ability to own their own colouring book. You know? And it generally ends in unnecessary shit like this:

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If what my client believes is true and the mathematicians/scientists have forgotten that the imaginary number is a tool for creation … I believe the same can also be said for the religious organisations and governments they dilute, who have forgotten that faith is a tool for creation not an idol to be obsessed over.

The fact that my relationship with what I refer to as “the Universe” is actually just my relationship with an imaginary number has filled me with a massive surge of comedy today.

I love it.

I think it is funny.

In fact it makes me want to slap 3/God/Allah/79/Goddess/Poodle Fluff on the imaginary bottom and declare, “thanks, Imaginary Number, for making yourself so simple that even a 12 year old mathematical dunce could understand it!” And then add … “Right, what new daring outrageously good shit can we go out and create on Planet Earth?”

Then go out and do it.

I certainly won’t be telling anyone else what their imaginary number should look like.

Or doosh them up because their colouring in isn’t the same as mine.

The House of Bethan

What’s your imaginary number?

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