"… you were not born to live as brutes but to pursue virtue and knowledge. …" (Dante Alighieri - Inferno, XXVI.) "The Universe cannot be interpreted until we have learned its language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written; the Universe is written in a mathematical language, and the letters are triangles, circles and other geometric figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand even a single word." (Galileo Galilei)
Galileo Galilei's sentence was the the opening words of one of my papers, wrought about 2 years ago at the request of W. Master of the Worshipful Lodge G. Washington in Como, [Italy] in whose ranks I had temporarily moved. Our W. M. intended to propose the paper tonight, titled "The Science of Numbers and Letters" but, after rereading it, I preferred to focus this paper only on a particular symbolic construction taken from the previous one.
The Smaragdine Tablet, attributed to Ermete Trismegisto, reads: "It is true without lying, certain and most true. That which is below is like that which is above and that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing."
In accordance with the path outlined in the Smaragdine Tablet, I will try to translate from the general to the particular, from the Macrocosm to the Microcosm, from the Universe to Man, the teachings mentioned: how can the initiate reach the goal? By studying and knowing the universe and therefore himself? The simplest and most immediate answer, for us Freemasons, is inherent in the Solemn Promise (in the Oath), which we make as soon as W.M. commands that the Light be restored to to Candidate. that is: for him to "ceaselessly walk the traditional Initiatory Path," using the tools that will gradually lead us to smooth the Rough Ashlar.
The examination of the Apprentice Mason's Ritual indicates the path, symbolically interpreting it: the Lodge becomes a Workshop transforming itself into a Temple through a three-fold phase: the first is the Bro. Master of Ceremonies calling the Brethren to assemble, immediately before the start of the Meeting — the Lodge gathers in the Hall of Lost Footsteps [anteroom].
The second phase is the squaring of [walking around] the black and white mosaic quadrangle [pavement] containing the Lights (Wisdom, Strength and Beauty) by the Dignitaries and Officers in procession: the Workshop is set up; but the Consecration of the Lodge into Temple is complete only after W. Master and the two Wardens circumscribe the square previously drawn in a circle.
On the physical-rational level, this operation, due to mathematical laws, cannot be performed. The circumference, obtained from the product of a rational number by an irrational number, can never be rationally defined by a rational number. It is, therefore, necessary to overcome this inconsistency, to transcend the physical and the spiritual plane, to enter the soul dimension, outside of time and space, where everything, as indefinite, is feasible.
Analogously, another clear indication of what is the path that Man must follow to reach the Light can be deduced from the symbolic examination of the famous Leonardian representation of the Vitruvian Man, which shows the symbolic union between art and science: The Vitruvian man is perfect within two geometric figures, the circle and the square, both forms considered perfect. The quadrangular structure represents the squaring of the material. In other words, the regularization of what by its nature would have remained shapeless and chaotic. This figure (like the rectangle or quadrilateral, which constitutes a symbolic variant) is a symbol of definition and delimitation.
If the Circle is perfect, the Square is just, so much so that it was adopted by the Pythagoreans as a symbol of justice. It, therefore, represents the Law, as internal normativity, external code and conceptual order. The Square is the symbol of the earth, in opposition to the sky, symbolized by the circle. The Square is an anti-dynamic figure, anchored on all four sides, it represents arrest or the isolated instant. This figure implies an idea of stagnation and solidification and stabilization. While the flowing movement is circular and round (circumference), stopping and stability are associated with angular figures, with hard lines and sudden changes.
According to Plutarch, the Pythagoreans claimed that the Square brought together the power of Rhea, Aphrodite, Demeter, Hestia, and Hera: the Square means that Rhea, the mother of the gods, the source of duration, manifested itself through the modifications of the four elements symbolized by Aphrodite, who was the generating water, by Hestia, who was Fire, by Demeter who was the Earth and by Hera who was the Air.
The circle represents the state of primordial substance, impalpable and transparent, uniform and undifferentiated. In fact, the Circle without corners and edges symbolizes harmony, which thanks to the absence of oppositions, such as top and bottom, etc., translates the undifferentiated into equality of principles. It is the symbol of the spirit and immateriality of the soul. The symbolism of the Circle is twofold, both magical and heavenly. This figure as heaven represents the intellectual and spiritual dimension.
Indeed, in its opposition to the Square, this geometric figure embodies the sky in relation to the earth, to all that is material. The Circle, as heaven, is connected to the perennial cycle of life.
This concept is well expressed by the circumference, a geometric figure in which it is not possible to distinguish the beginning from the end, a symbol of eternity and therefore of perfection. The circular movement, which is also that of the sky, is perfect, immutable, with neither beginning nor end, nor variation; this means that it can represent time, which, in turn, can be defined as a continuous and invariable succession of instants all identical to each other, and hence the concept of cyclicity. The circumference also determines a separating limit between the defined internal surface and the infinite external surface.
Man comes into contact with the two figures in a completely proportional way and this represents the perfect nature of the creation of man in harmony with Earth and Universe. And along this path, we will, as chemists and pharmacists do, carefully dose the thick and thin energies to reach the Philosopher's Stone (V.I.T.R.I.O.L.). In other words, what Guénon calls The Great Triad (Heaven-Earth-Man) is nothing other than the result of the amalgamation of the three elements. But to obtain the amalgam it is necessary to overcome the obstacles placed by our own organism: Numbers (Science) stimulate and act on the brain (mensura), Letters (Arts) stimulate and act on the heart (Emotions).
We should, therefore, in our Microcosm, measure out reasoning and passion, reach the state that epicureans and skeptics called "ataraxy" [imperturbability], to get closer to the description of the essay "De Costantia sapientis" written by Seneca "I confirm, therefore, that the wise man is not subject to any injury. Therefore, no matter how many darts are thrown at him, because he is impenetrable to all. Like the hardness of certain stones resists iron, just like steel does not allow itself to be sawed, engraved, filed, but it repels these tools back, like certain materials cannot be consumed by fire, but retain their consistency and shape even in the midst of flames, like certain rocks, prominent in the high sea, break the waves, without showing any trace of the violence that has plagued them for so many centuries, so the soul of the wise man is solid and gathers the strength necessary to be as immune of injury, as the things I have just mentioned."
The initiatory path indicated by spiritual Alchemy helps us to move from the center of the square circumscribed by the circumference (Static balance) to the center of the Sphere which is obtained by rotating the circle in three dimensions. This transmutation, with the tools at our disposal, is obtained by using the Square to build the square, the compass to circumscribe it and, imagining to replace the figure obtained with an arm of the compasses itself, rotating it on the plane to create the sphere in the center of which resides the Harmony of dynamic Balance.
DALLA TERRA AL CIELO
From Earth to Heaven
(Inspired by Leonardo's Vitruvian Man)
A dissertation presented by
W. Bro. Giuseppe Leggiero
W. Master of the R∴L∴ ADRIANO LEMMI No. 400 OR. MILANO - (Translated by Bro. Vincent Lombardo)