This past week I was down in Washington DC for work and I encountered these concentric circle reliefs on the walls of one of the big conference rooms at my hotel. They are an architectural embellishment, but aesthetically very pleasing. Circles seem to invoke a spiritual sense. They seem to have a special meaning to us.
In a sense the circle is the simplest form of symmetry. Circles remind us of so many objects and concepts in nature:
- the ripples of waves on water – the so-called Huygens’ wavelets
- planetary orbits – the circle being the simplest ellipse
- atomic orbitals
- the celestial spheres
A critical point here, in relation to the photograph and to the list is that the rings are not evenly spaced but grow outward – appearing to obey some mathematical formula.
But I think that there is a much deeper meaning, which causes humans to relate so profoundly to circles. This is the maze at Chartres. As you enter the Cathedral, the great maze greets you. It mirrors exactly, in size, the great rose window that illuminates it from behind. The pilgrims would enter this place in the middle ages. They would fall on their knees and crawl without touching the black lines until you reached the center. If you touched you had to begin anew. The center is the central axis of the spiritual world – of the universe. The journey to the center, mirrors the pilgrimage. It is the journey of the Christ, of the Buddha, of the Hero of a Thousand Faces.