Certain geometrical shapes have the power to reach deep into the unconscious and effect subtle changes in the mood of the observer. This property is perhaps most apparent when applied by a skillful architect. For example, visitors to classic Greek sites such as the Parthenon often experience a sense of inner tranquillity that can linger for days or even weeks. Similarly, the soaring grandeur of Europe's Gothic cathedrals resonates with some deep-seated potentiality within the observer, and evokes a sense of boundless spiritual possibilities.
The most direct explanation for the psychological power of abstract shapes is that they symbolize certain human emotions. An abrupt shape with irregular, jagged edges for most people symbolizes anger or anxiety, while a symmetrical, rounded shape represents feelings of relaxation and inner peace. It is possible that the near universal meanings of certain shapes reflect sonic pattern-making ability within the mind itself. There is firm evidence that some geometric forms are innately more pleasing than others: certainly babies are more strongly attracted to symmetrical, harmonious shapes than to unbalanced, uneven ones.
This preference may have as its source the symmetry of the human face, and the feelings of well-being and comfort associated with the parental face from an early age. Moreover, when a child looks at inanimate objects and begins to experience its own movements, it is profoundly aware of a sense of balance, and this awareness may with time become translated into visual terms. Our feelings about geometry may also be concerned with the intrinsic balance within nature itself, each state of mind counter weighted and in part defined by its opposite. This theme of balance is particularly evident in the symbolic meanings of the cross, perhaps the most wide-spread and ancient of all symbols. In many cultures it represents the cosmos: the vertical line stands for the spiritual, masculine principle, and the horizontal for the earthly, feminine principle. The intersection is the point at which heaven and earth meet, and the result of their union is mankind - symbolized by the cross itself.
Early in history the circle became a symbol of male divinity, appearing later as the halos around the heads of angels. Lacking beginning or end, It represents infinity, perfection and the eternal. It is often used as a symbol of God.
This form represents solidity: a perfection that is static, earthly and material. It connotes dependability, honesty, shelter, safety. As the most frequent shape in Hindu symbology, it stands for order in the universe and the balance of opposites.
The magical number three represents the sacred Trinity. Pointing upward, the triangle stands for ascent to heaven, fire, the active male principle: reversed, it symbolizes grace descending from heaven, water, the passive feminine element.
The Three Realms
In this 17th century design the basic shapes of circle, square (or rectangle) and triangle are used to represent the realms of God, mankind and Satan. The upper circle (1) is Jehovah, the infinite first cause, with the triangular rays of creation streaming both outward and inward; the lower circle (2) represents the world of angels and higher spiritual elements operating under God. The four triangles represent heaven (3) denoted by stars, angels and the symbol of the planet Mercury, rising above the elements of earth (4; sulphur, stones and beasts), air (5; meteors, planets and birds), and water (6; metals, fish and salt). Mankind is symbolized by the circle (7) straddling heaven and earth. The rectangle (8) at the base stands for the realms of hell and within them fire and chaos. Satan is the semicircle (9), a symbol of incompleteness.
The Buddhist Wheel Of Life
One of the symbolic meanings of the circle is the constant cycle of change, and this is graphically demonstrated in the Buddhist wheel of life. At the top of the wheel are the heavenly realms, followed (clockwise) by the realms of the titans (jealous gods), the hungry ghosts (earth-bound spirits), the
animals, and mankind. Holding the wheel is Yam, lord of death, who devours all. In the center are symbols of the three delusions that keep humans on the wheel of life and out of Nirvana — a red cock (lust), a green snake (hatred) and a black Pig (ignorance).
Just as the crescent moon changes into the full moon and back again, the crescent symbolizes change within the world of forms. It represents the newborn, and also the magical power that can transform shape. Because the crescent moon rides across the night sky, it has also come to symbolize rhe ship of light thar carries the soul through the darkness anti into the light of the new dawn. The crescent is an emblem of Islam. When paired with a star, it represents sovereignty and divinity.
A symbol of the female genitalia, and thus And thus of the female principle itself . When horizontal it becomes the all-seeing eye, best known in the form of the eye of Horus (the Egyptian lord of the skies). It appears in pagan cultures as a symbol for the sun god and in Christian iconography represents God the Father.
This widespread symbol is particularly revered by the Jains, Buddhists and followers of Vishnu. It is essentially a cross spinning at its center, with the angles at the end of each arm representing light streaming as the cross turns. Spinning clockwise, it symbolizes male energy; anticlockwise, female. In Jainism, the four arms represent the four levels of existence. The anticlockwise form has been debased into a symbol of black magic and negative energies.
The Celtic Cross
The Celtic cross, which brings together the cross and the circle, pre-dates Christianity by many centuries. Its original symbolism was associated with fertility, the cross standing for the male generative power and the circle for the female. Within Christianity it represents the union of heaven and earth.
The Inverted Cross
In legend, Saint Peter was crucified upside-down, feeling himself unworthy to be crucified on the upright cross of Christ. The inverted cross therefore came to represent humility. It also shares the symbolism of the inverted tree of life - the idea that spirituality has its roots in heaven and reaches downward toward the earth.
Prominent in the symbolism of ancient Egypt, the ankh carries some of the meanings of the Celtic cross, and the idea of a key to unlock the mysteries of heaven and earth. Combining the symbols of Osiris (the tau or T cross) and Isis (the oval), it is a symbol of immortality, and is often depicted as being carried by the gods.
The Rosy Cross
This symbol echoes the Celtic cross, and its early meanings are also linked with generative power. Its more esoteric use by the Rosicrucians suggested the blood of Christ spilled on the cross and the seven stages of initiation, represented by the seven rows of seven petals that form the flower.
Leonardo da Vinci's Universal Man
The shape of the human body carries great symbolic significance. Even the gods are mostly shown in human form, and the Bible tells us that God made Man "in His own image". Man's body is held to be a reflection of the structure of the universe, displaying all its components and characteristics.
The Seal Of Solomon
Of great antiquity, the Seal of Solomon appears in the writings and practices of magicians, and has strong associations with Hebrew mysticism: hence its appearance as the Star of David. The upward-pointing triangle of fire and masculine energy meets the downward-pointing triangle of water and the feminine, the two merging in perfect harmony. The base of each triangle bisects the other just under the apex, for the symbols for air and earth. The Seal therefore portrays the four elements, which are combined with the number three (the triangle) to produce the magical number seven. However, as the Seal only has six points, the seventh is said to invisible, representing the spiritual element of transformation, which emerges to the inner eye of the magician as he meditates upon the Seal.
The Eye As Geometry
In addition to the symbolism of its oval shape (see above), the eye carries other kinds of geometrical significance. This illustration, from an 18th century Arab manuscript, shows the eye as an oval containing two circles, the inner of which encloses a mandala of divine wisdom. The eye takes the outside world into the inner, and can also project the inner world onto the outer. Certain mythical beings, such as Medusa, had the power to transmit their intentions through their gaze - the so-called evil eye.
Being endless, like the circle, the pentagram, or pentacle, stands for perfection and wholeness. At the same time its triangular components stand for the four elements plus spirituality. These twin properties give the symbol power to bind or banish evil spirits, and make it a favorite of magicians.
Originally built to house relics of the Buddha or his disciples,the stupa cam to be used as an all-embracing symbol.The square base represents earth,the circle water,the triangle fire,the semicircle air,and the flame ether.Energy flows upward through decreasingly dense levels of matter until it transforms in to pure-spirit.
The Celtic Triple Enclosure
This ancient Celtic symbol represents human consciousness. The outer square is that part of the mind that relates to the physical world through the senses. The inner square is the unconscious mind through which come visions of the gods and other worlds. The middle square is the part of the mind receptive to both physical world and spirit.
The most evocative of three-dimensional symbols, the pyramid represents the world axis. Its apex symbolizes the highest point of spiritual attainment, with the body of the structure representing man's ascent through the hierarchy of enlightenment. In the ancient world, the pyramids may have been the scenes of initiation into mystery cults, which took the initiate through the portals of death into the realms beyond, to return him to the world transformed.
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