THE SHAPE OF THINGS

              by LuviaJane Swanson

 

“Behind the wall, the gods play, they play with numbers, of which the universe is made up.”

     — Early 20th century architect Le Corbusier

     Mathematics. Geometry. Does the very thought trigger an attack of nerves? Or perhaps instead, fascination? Take a breath. Now, stand before a mirror…what do you notice?

     Unless you are an ancient Greek sculptor, or a painter studying Luca Pacioli’s “Compendium De Divina Proportione,” it is unlikely that you even perceive the degree to which your face and body conform to the so-called golden ratio. Neither is it likely that, in admiring the miraculous beauty of your body’s proportions, you consider how those same proportions might be mirrored and repeated ad infinitum throughout creation. The divine proportion referred to in Pacioli’s title refers to the domain commonly known as sacred geometry, which constitutes a perspective on mathematics that has been carried throughout history within various esoteric circles.

     In school math classes we learn that geometry entails the construction of shapes and forms, which requires memorization of countless propositions or rules about how it all works. The idea that some inherent mystery lurks behind the world of form pairs the notion of sacredness with geometry. 

     In the words of Randall Carson, of sacredgeometryinternational.com, "Freemasons, Hermeticists and Initiates into the Mysteries have for centuries held the conception of the universe as the material expression of…an invisible blueprint, set down by the hand of the Grand Geometrician…” Carson then points out that in the proverbs of the Christian bible, said "Grand Geometrician," aka God, sets “a compass on the face of the deep.” 

     This compass sets the point: the alpha and omega, the naught from which all form initiates. All is possible in unity, or "1", though as yet unformed.

     A second point connected to the first creates a line. Enter opposition, the yes and no, push and pull of light and shadow. Here human drama thrives in the compelling contrast that, if creation myths are to be believed, we fell for from the start. In "2" we find the conflict in a story’s plot, the tone and tension of sex, romance or a rousing battle, the tragedy of life and death, win and lose.

     Place a third point anywhere near the line and connect it to the first and second points: in geometric terms, construct a triangle. The third “view” point gives perspective. It can mediate, finding commonality where only differences were heretofore apparent. Compassion develops. Truce is declared. A musical chord resounds. 

     Special status seems to be conferred on "3": Three Little Pigs, Three Bears, misfortunes or blessings bestowed in triplicate, the divine trinity. In fairy tales, the king has three sons who inevitably must vie for their inheritance or the hand of a princess. 

     But, beyond the trine’s stability things become more interesting. Sure, a fourth point can create a square, but why not go 3-D? In Walt Disney’s "Donald Duck in Mathemagic Land," (nominated in 1959 for best short documentary Academy Award!) Donald is shown by Pythagoras himself how one might situate that fourth point at the center of the triangle instead, and then raise it up to make a tetrahedron. Spin the tetrahedron and get a cone. Cut the cone to find a spiral and you can end up with a galaxy. Or a molecule. Or human DNA.

     A bellydancer’s hips trace lemniscates of infinity as her arms undulate in sine waves. A qigong master or a Balinese temple dancer, moving in unison with unseen spiraling patterns, might seem to be dancing with existence itself. 

     We can only speculate about the magician’s tricks: what takes our breath as we gaze at the magnificent proportions of the Taj Mahal, enjoy the soaring harmonies of Ode To Joy or wonder at the symmetry of a perfect rose? Each great work of art seems universal in appeal. Perhaps something deep within the human psyche recognizes an element of its own embodiment, and that very recognition expands us and inspires, whether or not we have a clue as to the numbers or ratios involved.

 

 (reprinted from The Inflectionist magazine 2014)

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