10 PRINT 'Om Mani Padme Hum'; 20 GOTO 10
January 16, 2017 11:52 AM   Subscribe

Are there any cases of the use of electronic/computational prayer wheels, by way of computation? (In real life and/or in literature)

I've been profiling a lot of code and was struck by how a small program can instantly be run millions of times, and my brain drew the analogy to the prayer wheels used by some tibetan monks.

The wikipedia page mentions one small example of motorized wheels, but I'm interested in hearing if there have been any larger computational efforts, or any exploration of the idea in more depth in fiction?
posted by scodger to Religion & Philosophy (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Arthur C. Clarke, The Nine Billion Names of God.
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:54 AM on January 16, 2017 [24 favorites]

came in to say what JimN2TAW said. worth reading.
posted by theora55 at 11:57 AM on January 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

from quite the opposite of the Buddhist tradition, high-frequency trading and bitcoin mining are both examples of generating perceived value from the repetition of algorithms
posted by scruss at 12:08 PM on January 16, 2017

Prayer wheel machines are used as power sources and divine motivators in Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
posted by JohnFromGR at 12:09 PM on January 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yeah, seems several of us thought about Clarke's story :)

There's also the idea in the movie Pi
posted by k5.user at 12:11 PM on January 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

This isn't a prayer wheel, but is a computer program built to facilitate religious experiences. It's called LoseThos, and was programmed by a man named Terry Davis, who built the program as a tribute to (the Judeo-Christian) God. In the Metfilter thread linked there, he comes in and talks with the community a bit. This Vice Profile isn't terrible, and mentions the Metafilter thread.

He has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, but the operating system is something he approaches honestly, and is his life's work.
posted by codacorolla at 12:13 PM on January 16, 2017

Nam June Paik has a couple of works along this vein, though not exactly, I think.
posted by phack at 12:13 PM on January 16, 2017

20 years ago or so I wrote a small shell script to request /OM_MANI_PADME_HUM from a computed list of webservers, with the idea that the 404 error would be saved in a log on a spinning disk. Now sites probably don't save 404 error logs for very long and the disk would most likely be SSD vs. a spinning platter. I don't remember where I got the idea but I doubt it was original, so that may be a worthwhile avenue of research.
posted by ChrisHartley at 12:17 PM on January 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

There are computerized prayers mentioned in The Handmaid's Tale.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:40 PM on January 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

There was an effort in the mid-late 90's to get people to save an image of om to your spinning disks. I still have mine. however with advent of solid state drives, it's effectiveness is probably diminished.
posted by evilmonk at 12:41 PM on January 16, 2017

Thanks everyone! Looks like everyone knew the Arthur C. Clarke story but me. Still interested if any more roll in.
posted by scodger at 1:58 PM on January 16, 2017

This project by an ex-Pogue might be wheelhouse-adjacent
posted by runincircles at 4:09 PM on January 16, 2017

Foucalt's Pendulum by Umberto Eco includes a scene where a programmer writes a BASIC program to calculate seven hundred twenty possible pronunciations of יהוה (the name of God or "Tetragrammaton," which appears in the Torah without vowels as is customary in written Hebrew and thus is open to a variety of spoken pronunciations.) The code and its output are included in the text of the book.
posted by contraption at 4:13 PM on January 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes, came to post Zelazny. One of my favorite books (so check it out).
posted by ElectricGoat at 5:57 PM on January 16, 2017

Philip K. Dick's The Divine Invasion has a holographic Bible described thus:

The Bible expressed as layers at different depths within the hologram, each layer according to age. The total structure of Scripture formed, then, a three dimensional cosmos that could be viewed from any angle and its contents read. According to the tilt of the axis of observation, differing messages could be extracted. Thus Scripture yielded up an infinitude of knowledge that ceaselessly changed. It became a wondrous work of art, beautiful to the eye, and incredible in its pulsations of color. Throughout it red and gold pulsed, with strands of blue.

(Cribbed this quote from a website, because I don't have a copy right now.)
posted by novelgazer at 6:48 PM on January 16, 2017

Oh, also brings to mind this art installation, Undo The Fall, a network of praying Apple computers.
posted by novelgazer at 7:37 PM on January 16, 2017

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