Sacred geometry involves sacred universal patterns used in the design of everything in our reality, most often seen in sacred architecture and sacred art. The basic belief is that geometry and mathematical ratios, harmonics and proportion are also found in music, light, cosmology. This value system is seen as widespread even in prehistory, a cultural universal of the human condition. It is considered foundational to building sacred structures such as temples, mosques, megaliths, monuments and churches; sacred spaces such as altars, temenoi and tabernacles; meeting places such as sacred groves, village greens and holy wells and the creation of religious art, iconography and using “divine” proportions. Alternatively, sacred geometry based arts may be ephemeral, such as visualization, sandpainting and medicine wheels.
Sacred geometry may be understood as a worldview of pattern recognition, a complex system of religious symbols and structures involving space, time and form. According to this view the basic patterns of existence are perceived as sacred. By connecting with these, a believer contemplates the Great Mysteries, and the Great Design. By studying the nature of these patterns, forms and relationships and their connections, insight may be gained into the mysteries – the laws and lore of the Universe.
The discovery of the relationship of geometry and mathematics to music within the Classical Period is attributed to Pythagoras, who found that a string stopped halfway along its length produced an octave, while a ratio of 3/2 produced a fifth interval and 4/3 produced a fourth. Pythagoreans believed that this gave music powers of healing, as it could “harmonize” the out-of-balance body, and this belief has been revived in modern times. Hans Jenny, a physician who pioneered the study of geometric figures formed by wave interactions and named that study cymatics, is often cited in this context. However, Dr. Jenny did not make healing claims for his work.
Even though Hans Jenny did pioneer cymatics in modern times, the study of geometric relationships to wave interaction (sound) obviously has much older roots (Pythagoras). A work that shows ancient peoples understanding of sacred geometry can be found in Scotland. In the Rosslyn Chapel, Thomas J. Mitchell, and his son, my friend Stuart Mitchell, have has found what he calls “frozen music”. Apparently, there are 213 cubes with different symbols that are believed to have musical significance. After 27 years of study and research, Mitchell has found the correct pitches and tonality that matches each symbol on each cube, revealing harmonic and melodic progressions. He has fully discovered the “frozen music”, which he has named the Rosslyn Motet, and is set to have it performed in the chapel on May 18, 2007, and June 1, 2007.
At least as late as Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), a belief in the geometric underpinnings of the cosmos persisted among scientists. Kepler explored the ratios of the planetary orbits, at first in two dimensions (having spotted that the ratio of the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn approximate to the in-circle and out-circle of an equilateral triangle). When this did not give him a neat enough outcome, he tried using the Platonic solids. In fact, planetary orbits can be related using two-dimensional geometric figures, but the figures do not occur in a particularly neat order. Even in his own lifetime (with less accurate data than we now possess) Kepler could see that the fit of the Platonic solids was imperfect. However, other geometric configurations are possible.
Mandala Artwork by my good friend Marlis Ladurée