Monday, July 23, 2012

World of Symbols: Sacred Geometry

Michelle Snyder, M. Phil, Symbolist

Humans love patterns. We doodle patterns, buy patterns, wrap gifts in patterns, we even dance in patterns. Music and art, science and math, all have patterns. There are patterns in the tiniest things and in the expanse of the universe. Patterns are combinations of repeated shapes. The most perfect shapes are those of the golden mean, or golden ratio – a mathematical equation (1:1.618) which manifests throughout nature. Beautiful faces supposedly develop in accordance with this equation. Around the world and in every culture, assessments of beauty can be connected with the golden ratio. From prehistory this has been observed. Around 5000 BCE a helen was a standard measurement of beauty: Helen of Troy was known as the woman whose face launched a thousand ships. A helen is an ancient term for the golden ratio.

The golden ratio is the foundation of Sacred Geometry. The term Sacred Geometry refers to philosophical beliefs that have sprung up around the golden ratio. The shapes of Sacred Geometry date to prehistory; abstract geometric symbols such as circles and squares have been used since before the Paleolithic Period, ca. 12,500 BCE. These shapes represent what is thought to be the essential structure of the universe, representing universal order. In ancient Egypt these geometric shapes were considered sacred, and by 550 BCE the golden ratio became a philosophy taught by Pythagoras as Sacred Geometry. Artisans used it to express philosophical and theological ideas as forms of grace and beauty. The architects of classical Greece designed their buildings according to Sacred Geometry to enhance a sense of tranquility and enlightenment.

Sacred Geometry also plays a major role in symbol design. Some images have design elements which act as a blueprint beneath the rendered image, so that not all information or meaning of a symbolic image is readily visible. Renaissance masters used the golden ratio to design their paintings. These geometric elements contribute meaning to the complete work. For example, an alchemical symbol of a tree with a bird on either side, reflecting the shape of a cross, adds symbolism of the cross to the meaning of the birds and the tree.

Circles and squares are two basic shapes in Sacred Geometry. Squares symbolize uprightness, honesty, and dependability; squares represent regulated life and actions. Masons ten thousand years ago knew the principles of geometry and used squaring tools in the construction of megalithic observatories to insure stable foundations. Circles symbolize infinity, inclusion, perfection, and centering. The Yogis and Priests of early Hinduism marked a circle around themselves as they knelt to pray; the circle represented the surrounding horizon. Sitting in the center of the circle they became associated with the center of the world, a place of stillness and peace.

Mandalas are designs, usually circular, that use the shapes of Sacred Geometry in concentric layers. These patterns of shape and color elegantly express Sacred Geometry. In Tibet and India mandalas are sacred works of art which function as meditative focus: by moving the eyes watchfully from the perimeter toward the center, the seeker becomes more centered. Holistic healers, physical therapists, and other professionals recognize the centering and healing aspects of mandalas; they are hung in treatment rooms. The next time you’re feeling a little blue, create a mandala of your own: an absorbing and centering task you may find fun!
Article © 2011 Michelle Snyder. Michelle’s mythology presentations and classes are scheduled for April & May – get details at Once Upon a Time: world of symbols blog:
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