Thursday, September 29, 2011


Geometric patterns can be found everywhere in nature, not only on a macroscopic level, but also on a microscopic one, in the organic world, as well as in the inorganic world. Many of these patterns seem to be what could be called “archetypal structures of matter and organisms”, in other words: of life. They seem to serve as the blueprint for all creation. Crystals, snowflakes, snails, shell fish, flowers, space constellations: all show geometric, Fibonnaci, golden mean and fractal proportions. In 2010, an international team of researchers have even observed a quantum symmetry hidden in solid state matter that shows the Golden Ratio. Our eyes scan an object the fastest when it is shaped following this same ratio. It seems that geometric patterns are integral features of the design of nature, the genesis of all form. Even our mind works in a geometric way. People experience round objects as ‘soft’, feminine, while angular objects are experienced as ‘hard’ and masculine, for example.                      
The ancients knew that geometric patterns and codes were symbolic of our own inner realm and the subtle structure of consciousness, because mind and matter reflect each other. Mind and matter are ruled by the same ‘principles’ and are enclosed inside the same framework. To most esoteric schools, sacred geometry integrates the physical perceived universe with the spiritual and unknown cause behind it. The Hermetic law of correspondence says: that which is above is like that which is below. We could even add: the inside is the reflection of the outside. Sacred geometry exceeds the different religions, it has its own spiritual implications. You don’t have to be a Christian or a believer to understand and experience the spiritual essence of a cathedral which is the expression of the unknown behind creation. The Qabalah calls this principle “Ein Soph Aur”, the limitless light, which can’t be approached nor understood by man. It's the inexpressable. In other words: not an anthropomorphic, humanized ‘higher being’ at all.

Sacred geometry is a universal phenomenon. In Europe, it can be traced back to Neolithic times and to the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations. Pythagoras got his famous triangle, based on the 3:4:5: proportions, from Egypt. Plato wrote in his Timaios that all the Greek inventions originated in Egypt. Later, the early church fathers integrated the Greek basic sacred geometry and Neo-Platonic philosophy in their teachings.
Most geometric patterns can be found in folk art, like samplers and quilts. Also on daily use objects like old dishes, clothes, furniture and so on. They are also induced by the use of psychedelic drugs like LSD and Ayahuasca. This is pretty good evidence for the fact that they are ‘archetypal’. Isn’t it amazing: the patterns our bodies and nature are made of, are the same as the patterns our minds generate.

Patterns made by sound and sand:
Tungsten atom, enlarged 2 000 000 times, and Solsticial Quadrilateral
Old Celtic knotwork and sculpture behind the altar at Avioth
Snow crystals and patterns in fluids
1798 Quaker sampler
Dendera Zodiac, Egypt
Tibetan Mandala

Kerb Stone K 13, 3500 BC, Knowth, Ireland

Westminster Abbey


Friday, September 23, 2011

26 SCHÖNBERG CEMETERY, Kehlen, Luxemburg

The Schönberg (“beautiful hill”) cemetery of Kehlen, Luxemburg, is, like its name says, situated on top of a hill. It has some very remarkable old tomb crosses dating from the 16th century. Some have the form of a Celtic cross, others have solar symbols and wheels. There is even a cross representing a crucified ass. Until recent times, the crosses were reused when a grave was cleared. Nobody knows why. The name Kehlen is said to originate from Callidovilla meaning the villa of Callidus.The history of Kehlen goes back to the Gallo-Roman period (at least). Celtic tombs have been excavated in nearby Nospelt.
The crucified ass brings to mind “The Golden Ass”, a Latin novel by Apuleius (125-180 AD), which can be found here:
Hercules, Gallo-Roman stèle at the entrance of the cemetery, at the point where two Roman roads once crossed

The crucified ass  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

25 Christ and the Sun

The  sun comes up and goes down in an eternal cycle. And just like the sun, humans  go to sleep at night to rise again in the morning. Seeds are put in the ground, seemingly dead, but the heat of the sun brings them to life. The sun rules the rhythm of life on earth, the cycle of nature as well as the cycle of mankind. Because the light of the sun is energy, pure energy, nothing could possibly exist without it. No wonder that the Sun was a major deity in ancient times, the light of the world. Maybe ‘deity’ is a wrong word, since they considered their deities as ‘manifestations’ of the ‘unknown’ behind everything outside and inside us. Hence the light of the sun shining in the dark is also a symbol of the light of consciousness shining in our mind.
The ancient Sun deities were the path of the sun through the sky captured in myths, and these myths became more elaborated over time. Both Christ and the Egyptian god Horus were called “the light of the world”, an obvious reference to the sun. The Persian god Mithra (Mithras in Greek), who spread all over the Roman Empire, was also given this ‘title’ (and Christ and Mithras have more in common). Mithras was born on December 25th as an offspring of the Sun and called “the invincible Sun”. It’s clear that we have to do here with a mythical astro-theology, echoing the Sun as the giver of life on its path through the sky.
When reading the passion of Christ lately, I became puzzled by the ‘three days’ between his death and resurrection. Why three days? I think the answer lies in the Sun as a religious symbol, and more specifically in the winter solstice symbolism. The first Christians didn’t celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Their main festival was the birth of Christ, celebrated in Spring. In the year 345 AD, pope Julius (337-352) ordained that the birth of Christ should be celebrated on the same day as the birth of Mithras, on December 25th. Thirty years later, in 375, the Vatican was built on top of the old Mithraic temple in Rome. It seems that the Roman Church chose December 25th so the Pagan celebrations of the Sun observed by the Romans on that date would be forgotten. A simple study of the tactics of the Roman Church and the texts of the different Councils reveals that in every case, the church absorbed the customs, traditions and general paganism of every culture and nation they converted in their efforts to increase the number of people under their control.
What’s so special about December 25th? It’s the time of the winter solstice, a crucial period for sun worshippers. It’s the day when the Sun is the lowest in the southern sky, the longest night of the year, and the shortest day of the year. During the short winter days the Sun does not rise exactly in the east, but instead rises just south of east and it sets south of west. Each day after the winter solstice, which occurs on December 21st, the Sun's path becomes a little higher in the southern sky after having remained motionless for 3 days. The ancients thought that the Sun had actually died. So the lowest point is the Sun’s death, the three days of standstill represent a stay in the grave, and the re-ascending is the resurrection of the Sun, just like Christ stayed for three days in the grave before his resurrection.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

24 THE CROSS (2)

The cross also represents the human form inscribed within the solar disk, its orientation in time (the four seasons) and space (the four cardinal points when facing the rising sun). The cross was one of the emblems of Quetzalcoatl, the lord of the four cardinal points, for example.
The cross evolved from a solar symbol of ‘life’ to a symbol of suffering expressing God’s self-sacrifice, a symbol of ‘death’ in a way. This was presented to the Pagans as ‘Christ, the new light of the world’, using the existing solar symbol as a means of conversion, by giving it a new meaning to suit their needs. This can clearly be seen in the evolution of the Celtic cross, like the one above (Gallen, Offaly, Ireland), in which the pagan symbolism is still respected. In a way, Christianity, in its outward aspect, has taken the cross out of its ‘traditional’ symbolic context, and regards it as a sign of a historical event, the death of Christ. Some esoteric societies, like the Rosicrucians, respected more or less the original symbolism of the cross: "the cross represents the human body and the rose, its center, is the individual's unfolding consciousness”.
In its simplest form the cross represents an orientation in space, a conjunction of dualities: high and low, left and right, seen from ‘the center’, and by extrapolation the intersection of two worlds (earth and sky). Or, the horizontal arm of a cross is associated with the terrestrial, the feminine, the elements Earth and Water. The vertical arm is associated with the sky, the masculine, the elements Fire and Air. The four elements, in a materialistic sense, stand for Hydrogen (Fire), Nitrogen (Air), Oxygen (Water) and Carbon (Earth), the building blocks of matter. In a more spiritual and psychological way, the four elements represent: intuition (Fire), thinking and reason (Air), emotions (Water), sensations (Earth). For C.G. Jung they were the four psychological faculties.
The Egyptian Ankh, a looped Tau-cross, was adopted by the Egyptian Coptic Christians as their version of the cross. The Ankh or Crux Ansata (the cross with a handle) is considered as a sun-symbol, hence the symbol of life (the sun rising above the horizon). Isis is often depicted holding the Ankh to show that she commands the powers of life and death.

King Ashurnasirpal II of Assyria (9th century BC) wearing a cross necklace


Monday, September 12, 2011

23 THE CROSS (1)

Celtic Cross, Île Saint Cado, Brittany, France

The general use of the cross/crucifix as the main symbol of Christianity became ratified at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680: it was decreed that “the figure of a man fastened to a cross be now adopted”. The word “cross” is nowhere to be found in the original Greek version of the New Testament. It is a ‘wanted’ mistranslation of the Greek word ‘stauros’, meaning ‘upright stake’ or ‘pole’. It never meant two pieces of wood joining at an angle or cross-shaped. In fact, the cross as a symbol greatly antedates Christianity, in both East and West. It was ‘borrowed’ by the church from Paganism, so to speak. The Roman emperor Constantine (272-337 AD), who was an adept of the Sol Invictus (invincible sun) religion, had the major share in uniting Sun-worship and the Cross. The Roman Church later ‘adopted’ the cross mainly because of Constantine, who converted to Christianity and ended the persecution of the Christians.
Babylonia, 1350 BC 
Prehistoric and early Celtic crosses clearly suggest that the cross evolved from a solar symbol (Sun disk). A cross inside a circle marks the four seasons, the transition of nature ruled by the sun, the four Celtic fire festivals, and also the four directions. Not very religious at first glance. It’s rather an image of the ‘organization’ of nature, the sun working through the four seasons, which was very important in an agricultural society. Scholars see it as an image of the Sun-deity, and it certainly evolved as such. But it’s remarkable that most prehistoric finds are interpreted as something religious without a second thought, while symbols have different levels, from purely practical to purely metaphysical.
Prehistoric Crosses, Tara, Ireland
Pre-Christian crosses
When one faces the rising Sun, the North is at the left, the South at the right, the East in front and the West behind. It’s the former position of the priest at the altar. The Sun, while progressing through the ecliptic, never reaches farther than 23 degrees and 28 minutes north of the Equator. That’s why the North (and the left hand) is associated with darkness and evil. In Waldbillig, Mullerthal, Luxembourg, the following weird image can be found, carved on the rocks, facing the rising sun. A remaining of ancient sun worship. The same image decorates the Templar church of Roth, also in Luxembourg.
Mullerthal, Luxembourg

Waldbillig, Luxembourg

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

22 AVIOTH (5): two pre-Christian symbols / 2 the Triskele

Avioth, Triskele

The Triskele, consisting of three connected curves or spirals, is very common in Celtic art. It is the symbol of Brittany. At Avioth, the above Triskele can be found on the ‘Recevresse’, a unique Gothic tower like building next to the entrance of the cemetery, where the Madonna ‘received’ the pilgrims’ offerings. At  Avioth, the Triskele is used as an ornamental symbol of the Holy Trinity.

The Triskele is a tripartite symbol, and dates back to the Neolithic. It is found on megalithic passage graves like Newgrange (3200 BC) and on Bronze Age pottery. In Celtic culture the Triskele symbolizes the three levels of their universe, three overlapping worlds:
·         Gwynvyd, the upperworld;
·         Abred, this world;
·         Annwn, the underworld.
Sometimes it stands for the Triple Goddess (maiden, mother, crone) and the waxing, waning and full moon.
The Celts (and many other cultures) ascribed obviously great significance to the number three. They believed that the world works in powers of three. To them, everything of importance consisted of  three phases (birth, life, death / young, mature, old / past, present, future / mother, father, child / birth, death, rebirth / physical, emotional, spiritual). In a way, the Triskele is a glyph expressing the number three, the Triad, everything consisting of three elements.
The triad forms the base of many ‘Esoteric Systems’ and of the Perennial Tradition, the single stream of ‘initiation’ teachings flowing through all the authentic expressions of spirituality.

Avioth, the Recevresse

Sunday, September 4, 2011

21 AVIOTH (4): two pre-Christian symbols / 1 the Green Man

The Green Man, the foliate head, a composite of foliage and face, can often be found in West European churches and cathedrals, sometimes entirely made of leaves, often a  face surrounded by leaves and/or vines. Sometimes hidden in dark corners, or high up in the ceiling, hardly visible from ground level. In pre-Christian mythology, he represents the vegetation, returning year after year, like the ebb and flow of nature, the spirit of the eternal cycle of nature and irrepressible life. The name ‘Green Man’ was first used by Lady Raglan, UK, in an article on folklore in 1939. There are at least four of them at Avioth.
The first ‘recorded’ Green Man in a church dates from the sixth century: in Trier, Germany, the capitals of some columns from a Roman temple representing a Green Man were reused in the church replacing the temple. Why did the church ‘adopt’ this Gallo-Roman symbol? All images found in churches have some function, they are related to the bible, to the life of a saint or the teachings of the church. The Green Man doesn’t fit into any of these categories. But it was common practice for the early church to adopt Pagan symbols, so that converting became easier and less ‘shocking’.
Green Men are found throughout the Roman Empire but none of them seems to date from earlier than the first century. They were also found in Turkey and India, among others. They are often perceived as a Celtic symbol. Some authors think they are a representation of Bacchus or Dionysos, symbolizing the wild aspect of the growing power of nature. Silvanus (meaning "of the woods") a Roman deity of woods and fields, is also a candidate. The Green Man is also associated with Osiris, who was depicted as a green-skinned man, the underworld deity granting all life, including sprouting vegetation.
Above all, it’s an archetypal figure, since many different cultures know some form of Green Man. In a way he shows the intertwinement of man and nature, which may be the reason for his success in Neo-Pagan circles. The color green traditionally symbolizes the returning cycles of nature and their embodied attributes, namely those of life, fertility, and rebirth. Green was symbolic of resurrection and immortality in Ancient Egypt, and by deduction the color of hope. It’s often associated with witchcraft, faeries and nature spirits in European pre-Christian beliefs. Green is also the color of Islam.
The Green Man is a plastic image of the color green, an emblem. Like all symbols, it’s difficult to rationalize. The old gods weren’t ‘persons’. They were the representations of forces beyond human understanding.
Avioth, another Green Man

 Green Man, painting by Anne Brown