A symbol is a representation of a quality or concept. Mankind has always used symbols to share ideas. Language is, in itself, a series of symbols, used in infinite combination, to communicate complex ideas. From the earliest times, our species has used visual symbols to convey information, share abstract ideas and consolidate knowledge. Cave paintings such as those from the Lascaux caverns in France still move us with tales of the hunt some 30,000 years after they were created, providing a window through time to show us the grace and beauty of the world of our ancestors.
In this book, we explore a single, geometric shape, the hexagram. Throughout history this shape has appeared spontaneously in many cultures and has many variants on meaning and interpretation. At least on the surface. However, the more one looks at any symbol, the deeper one delves, the more apparent it becomes that symbols have a universal appeal and speak to us at a level which transcends the artificial barriers of culture, reaching into the viscera of humankind.
The esoteric theory behind this universal understanding may perhaps best be illustrated by a single symbol that has permeated global mythology: the sun. Our far ancestors looked at the sky and saw a great golden globe. It gave warmth and light, which meant safety, food and comfort. Like a watchful eye, it rode the heavens each day and disappeared beyond the horizon at night. In the hours of darkness life was cold and dangerous. Dawn brought the sun’s return and the renewal of life. Winter saw the sun retreat, weakened and cold. Food was scarce, life was fragile and the hours of darkness long.
It takes little imagination to understand how our distant fathers learned to equate the sun with life, health and protection. Ancient solar symbols testify to their worship of the sun and their instinctive understanding of its life-giving virtue. One can imagine how, as communities evolved, sharing the captured gift of sunlight reflected in the Hearthfire, stories were woven to illustrate the power of this heavenly orb. Mythologies grew and were intertwined with faith and hope, becoming religions.
Supplication and propitiation, worship and prayer… all would have been offered to the Sun-god. The more concentrated the worship, the more the symbol of the Sun would have assumed a powerful place in the mind of Man. Abstract thought allowed the symbolism to be connected to other ideas, and the light which kept the beasts at bay became the Light towards which Mankind has always turned.
On the subtler levels, the continuous concentration of awe, worship and prayer consolidated the images we had created to symbolise the power of the visible sun. By focusing on these symbols of Light, we tap into both the Form of the human vision that was built to encapsulate a series of abstract ideas, and the very real and universal Force that symbol was designed to represent.
Symbols mean nothing by themselves… they are simply pictures, images. However, by accessing the correspondences, myths, legends and beliefs with which they are associated we can begin to understand the forces, natural and divine, material and abstract, which they were designed to represent.
In Ice Age Britain, man carved geometric designs into the walls of caves. We cannot know what they were intended to convey, but we can surmise that our forefathers would not have gone to so much effort without reason! The carvings at Creswell Crags include birds, ibex and bison and were, perhaps, part of an attempt to ensure survival through sympathetic magic. We cannot know why the geometric shapes were included, or what they meant to the man who carved them, but we can appreciate that they had meaning and importance to him.
Geometrical shapes permeate the art and symbolism of all cultures. Some 5,000 years ago, long before Euclid wrote ‘The Elements’ in the great, lost Library of Alexandria, geometry was being used for practical purposes to solve everyday problems. Geometry demands the capability to think and to visualise in abstract terms, translating a concept into a two dimensional representation. Art also demands the intellectual freedom to translate ideas and experience into symbols. Yet 70,000 years ago, in Blombos Cave in what is now South Africa, triangles and diamond shapes were being carved into a piece of ochre.
Some scientists have called this the earliest example of abstract art while others dismiss it as mere doodling. Either hypothesis may be true. Perhaps there was meaning to the pattern as it was deliberately cut into the stone, perhaps the mind of the carver flew free into daydream as his hands moved blindly. Perhaps, too, it was simply an expression of beauty. Whatever the interpretation, it serves to illustrate the fact that visual geometry is deeply rooted in the mind of Man.
The hexagram is a symbol that pervades the pages of history and culture. There can be few symbols that have a place at the heart of so many faiths, yet the origins of the hexagram are shrouded in the mists of time.
Extract – The Mystical Hexagram