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The Meaning of Sacred Geometry Part 2: What’s the Point?

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Randall Carlson is a guest in the upcoming Evolver Learning Lab course, "Sacred Geometry Explained: How the Hidden Order of the Universe Can Enhance Your Life." Reality Sandwich's David Metcalfe hosts this 5-part live, interactive video course that covers the full range of this ancient art. Explore the geometry of the ancients, and revive integral theories and practices that open you to a wider vision of reality. Joining Randall as guests will be Robert Schoch, Paul Devereux, Richard Merrick, Dr. Scott Olsen, and John Martineau. It all starts on April 21.

This article is part 2 of a 3-part series. Click here for Part 1. The following originally appeared at Sacred Geometry International [LINK: http://sacredgeometryinternational.com/].

"Ante omnia Punctum exstitit…" "Before all things were, there was a Point." –Anonymous, 18th century ‘Le Mystere de la Croix'

Sacred Geometry, to be fully appreciated and experienced, must be undertaken as a contemplative, or meditative exercise.  From the initial act of putting pencil or compass point to paper each act of geometry is charged with meaning.

The process of producing the forms, patterns and symbols of Sacred Geometry should be undertaken as a ritual act, where each line, curve, shape, gesture or operation takes on a significance far beyond the mere act itself, and reveals fundamental processes of creativity on a vast scale and range of phenomenon, from the geometry of atomic and molecular organization, through the forms and patterns of biological systems, to the scale of the cosmos itself and the very structure of Space and Time.  

Indeed, the emergence of the Universe from the unknowable and unfathomable void, before the very existence of Time and Space, was an act of Geometry.  It is nothing less than this ultimate act of Creation which is replicated through the placing of pencil upon paper and from this point the drawing of a line or arc.  From these simple operations, the Geometrician soon learns to generate an infinite variety of form and pattern, and is, thereby, following in the footsteps of Nature herself, such being the indispensable requirement for success on the Hermetic path.

To ancient masters and teachers, geometry was seen as the definitive Holy Science from which emerged all other sciences.  Masonic author Carl Lundy affirms this status when he says:

"All science rests upon mathematics, and mathematics is first and last, geometry… Geometry is the ultimate fact we have won out of a puzzling universe."

The presumed requirement on the part of Plato, the acknowledged greatest Metaphysician of the Hellenic world, that anyone seeking admission to his academy must be conversant with the principles of Geometry, affirms the importance of this form of mental training to anyone desiring to tread the path to Metaphysical Knowledge.

It should come as no surprise that ancient Mystics visualized God as a Geometrician. That concept is nowhere better portrayed than in William Blake's famous 1794 painting The Ancient of Days, depicting the Demiurge, the Creator God of the Universe, setting his compass upon the Face of the Deep, and through the turning of the compass bringing Order out of unformed Chaos. This depiction exemplifies the verses from the 8th chapter of Proverbs, wherein Wisdom establishes her priority in the hierarchy of Creation by proclaiming:

"I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was… While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set his compass upon the face of the deep."

This concept of God as geometrician is also depicted in a number of medieval bibles.  As an example, the frontispiece of the Bible Moralisée, ca. 1250, shows God about to impart order to the disordered primeval chaos within the circle by a rotation of the compass.?

All geometric constructions begin with a single point, represented by the moment that the point of the compass or the point of the pencil contacts paper. The construction can commence with either a straight line or the arc of a circle. Through the combination of straight lines and arcs the entire edifice of geometry can be produced.

To begin an exercise in Sacred Geometry four tools are required: A clean sheet of paper, a straight-edge of some kind, a pair of drawing compasses and a good sharp pencil. With these tools, and an appropriate state of mind, the geometrician can imitate the primordial process by which the Universe of Time and Space emerged into existence. In the compass itself we have symbolized the primordial duality of Rest and Motion, of stillness and action, for one point of the compass remains fixed while the other moves, generating the center and the circumference of a circle, generatrix of all subsequent form.

Metaphysical traditions have provided us with a variety of models to facilitate comprehension of the fundamental process of Creation. In the Pythagorean system, in the Tantric system and in the Kabbalah, this process commences with the manifestation of a single dimensionless point, a point, however, of infinite potentiality.  

Modern cosmology now concurs with the ancient models by postulating the existence of an ultimate singularity that preceded the Big Bang- or however one cares to describe the initial moment of existence – the difference being that the archaic model requires an act of Deity while the modern view dispenses with a creative intelligence.

Kabbalistic Scholar Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi describes the process of Creation from the perspective of Kabbalah, the ancient system of Jewish mysticism:

"…the EN SOF AUR, the Endless Light of Will, was omniscient throughout Absolute All. From God knowing All, God willed the first separation so that God might behold God. This, we are told, was accomplished by a contraction in Absolute All, so as to make a place wherein the mirror of Existence might manifest. The place that was vacated was finite in that it was limited in relation to Absolute All that held it. This act of contraction, or Zimzum, as it was called, brought about the void of Unmanifest Existence even though it was, we are told, the size of a dimensionless dot in the midst of the Absolute." 1

In Kabbalah the point, or dimensionless dot in the midst of the Absolute, is understood to be the condensation, or distillation of God's essence. It first appears against the background of negative existence, but this background is separated from the ‘Absolute.' It is this separation that forms initial act of manifestation. The Absolute from which the infinitesimal point is contracted is beyond all words and definitions, it is beyond space and time, it is beyond Eternity, it is beyond Infinity. To speak of it is utterly futile; it is both everything and nothing simultaneously. Between this indescribable, unimaginable and incomprehensible state and the Universe of galaxies, stars, planets, atoms, molecules, gravity, radiation, life — in short — Creation as we experience it, lies the zone of negative existence. The same author, Halevi, in An Introduction to Cabala describes this zone:

"Negative existence is the intermediary zone between the Godhead and his creation. It is the pause before the music begins, the silence behind each note, the blank canvas beneath every painting and the empty space ready to be filled. Without this non-existent Existence nothing could have its being. It is a void, yet without it and its potential, the relative Universe could not come into manifestation."2

The Three Negative Veils

However, according to the tenets of Kabbalism, this zone has a structure comprised of three ‘veils'. That veil which is nearest our relative universe is the veil of Limitless Light, in the terminology of Kabbalah, the Ain Soph Aur. This Limitless Light Halevi likens to cosmic rays which are everywhere throughout the Universe and can penetrate densest matter. The second veil is Ain Soph, simply that which has no limit. It is the zone where the Ultimate void begins to emerge into something, but something without limits, utterly without end. NO-thing lies beyond this, the veil called simply, Ain. Beyond Ain is the Absolute. Halevi describes the nature and quality of the three veils:

"These three stages constitute a condensing, a crystallizing out of the Being who permeates the whole of All; of a point in the centre of a circumferenceless sphere. This distillation, this point, is without dimension either in time or space, yet it contains all the worlds from the uppermost realm down through the ladder of creation to the lowest end…This all inclusive dot is called the First Crown, the first indication of the Absolute, perhaps better known as I AM, the first of many God names." 3

The mention of the "First Crown'' refers to the now famous Kabbalistic "Tree of Life," which is represented graphically as a beautiful and elegant exercise in Sacred Geometry, where form and meaning are merged in a perfect synthesis, demonstrating the worlds and levels of creation emanating from the all inclusive "dot" through a process of geometrical evolution.  

The ladder is an important symbol of the Great Work, representing the linking of Heaven and Earth and is prevalent in the symbolism of Freemasonry.  Again, Geometry provides the key to this cosmic synthesis, but that is a matter for another discussion.

Another modern Kabbalistic author, Charles Ponce, describes the process of Zimzum in similar terms as Halevi. (Although spelling it differently)

"The term tsimtsum originally meant ‘contraction' or ‘concentration', & appeared in the Talmud where it was used to describe God's projection and concentration of his divine presence, his Shekkinah, at a single point…This voluntary contraction on the part of God, the En-Sof in this case, is the act which causes creation to come into existence. Without this act there would have been no universe. " 4

The point, or distillation without dimension, to which Halevi and Ponce refer, has a precise correspondence in Geometry, for in any geometric figure a point is considered to be without any dimension whatsoever. The point lying on the center of a line, for example, divides the line into two equal parts whose sum is exactly the same length as the whole line. The point of division occupies no space at all, yet from such an utterly insignificant point, condensing out of the zone of negative existence, the whole edifice of Geometry emerges.

The "blank canvas beneath every painting and the empty space ready to be filled" is represented in the ritual of Sacred Geometry by the blank sheet of paper upon which the forms, figures and patterns are set down by the hand of the Geometrician, and, in the language of modern physics it represents the quantum vacuum from which a seething ocean of virtual particles springs forth to become the universe of infinitely varied form that we experience.

In the realm of Sacred Architecture the single point represents the omphalos, the position from which the physical form of the Holy Temple emerges, defined precisely by the sharp point of the plumb bob, suspended on the end of a cord and directed by the force of gravity to demarcate the vectorial line linking the celestial zenith with the center of the Earth. The construction of the Temple was perceived as a ritual act recapitulating the process of Divine Creation.

In Masonic tradition the single reference point was established in the northeast corner of the building, at which position the cornerstone was placed as the initial act of construction. In the northern hemisphere the northeast corner would be the place of greatest darkness, typically the part of the structure that would not receive direct sunlight. Therefore, symbolically speaking, the growth of the Temple itself, while undergoing construction, would be from the place of darkness towards the light.

The Temple with its various ratios and proportions, was understood by all ancient builders and mystics, to be the embodiment and symbolic representation of the universe itself, and, therefore, the building of the Temple was required to emulate the process by which the universe came into existence. It was understood that the Temple, like the universe, was a living entity and the minute point of origin signifying the Northeast corner was the metaphysical seed from which it grew.

This idea of an infinite potential materializing out of an infinitesimal point is exemplified in the New Testament parable of the mustard-seed, Mark, 4th chapter:

"Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?

It is like a grain of mustard-seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it."

These passages convey profound meaning on multiple levels simultaneously. The ‘mustard seed' has meaning in the metaphysical/spiritual dimension, representing the ‘siva-bindu' the point round which the kundalini serpent lies coiled; on the Hermetic/Alchemical level, it represents the germ of transmutation; on the level of nuclear physics, it is the extraordinary power contained within the atomic nucleus, and in the Cosmological dimension, the mustard seed represents the ultimate singularity containing the potential of the entire universe of Space and Time.

One of the pre-eminent Holy Books of Kabbalah is the Zohar, or Book of Splendor, dating from at least as far back as the Middle Ages, possibly much earlier, its origins are uncertain. Regarding the immeasurably small, infinitely potent point it has this to say:

"A dark flame issued from within the most hidden recess, from the mystery of the Infinite…It could not be recognized at all until a hidden, supernal point shone forth under the impact of the final breaking through. Beyond this point nothing is knowable, and that is why it is called reshith, beginning, the first of those creative words by which the universe was created."5 Zohar, I, 15a

Reshith means ‘beginning' as ‘In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth' the opening words of Genesis.  The perspective of the Zohar on these verses opens a portal onto a vast underlying cosmology that is only accessible to those who employ the mathematical and geometrical keys to unlock the hidden teachings concealed below the literary imagery.

 To read the entire article complete with illustrative images, please continue on to SacredGeometryInternational.com

Notes

1 Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi (1977) A Kabbalistic Universe, Samuel Weiser, Inc. pp. 7 – 8

2 Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi (1972) An Introduction the Cabala: Samuel Weiser, Inc. p. 28

3 Halevi (1972) p. 29

4 Charles Ponce (1973) Kabbalah: An Introduction and Illumination for the World Today: QuestBooks, p. 79

5 Quoted in Gershom Scholem (1960) On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism:, Schocken Books, English translation by Ralph Manheim, 1965, pp. 102 -103

Image by tasveersaz, courtesy of Creative Commons license.

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