Squaring the Circle is a geometry problem and a spiritual puzzle. It dates back at least 4,000 years. All of the great cultures that expressed advanced mathematics and philosophy approached this problem and had a mythology to give it meaning. On one hand, it is a practical, geometric exercise exploring approximations of PI and Phi. On the other hand, it is a philosophical puzzle to combine opposites and find the perfect balance. Can a human find their way through the maze of different extremes that we encounter in our mortal experience? We must navigate between light and darkness, health and sickness, pleasure and pain, life and death, good and evil. The greatest minds in history have expressed pleasure and enlightenment from this geometry exercise. A famous Greek philosopher included a statement in his work “On Exile” referring to one of his fellow countrymen who worked the squaring problem:
“There is no place that can take away the happiness of a man, nor yet his virtue or wisdom. Anaxagoras, indeed, wrote on the squaring of the circle while in prison.”
The basic puzzle is this: Using only a square, a compass, a straight edge and a writing stick, create a square with the same circumference or area as a circle. It has to be done in a finite number of steps. You can not measure it numerically (with a ruler). It all has to be done through proportion and true principles using four unmarked tools.
It’s a geometry puzzle with meanings, here are some basic interpretations.
Writing Stick: This represents our desire, our appetites, what we hunger for, the energy and will that drives action (like drawing and working a puzzle). It could also be called faith in its verb form. It is associated with the belly, the source of hunger and desire.
Straight Edge: This represents precision, exactness and a division between opposites (good/evil, dark/light, etc.). It represents a decision, a commitment and an action that separates thinking from doing. The knee divides the upper leg from the lower leg, and the leg is symbolic of walking a path towards a destination. A straight line represents boundaries..
A square shape is symbolic of the “four corners” of the earth, the physical world, the tangible, the rational, our body, our material experience and the absolute of truth. It represents that which is defined and the finite..
A circle shape is symbolic of the heavens, the spiritual world, the intangible, the irrational or transcendental, that which surrounds and embraces our spirit and ideal potential. It represents that which is beyond definition, the eternal and infinite..
Squaring the Circle asks the initiate to reconcile the circle with the square, and through that process grow and receive wisdom. Can you reconcile the mind and the heart? Can you combine heaven and earth to find a place where they meet? Can you balance perfectly your intellect with your emotions to find a solution? How does your spirit and body combine to become one? Where is the boundary between justice and mercy? These are the questions answered through pondering and meditating on solutions to the puzzle.
It is said that all truth (a square) can be circumscribed (a circle) into one great whole (perfection and enlightenment).
The answers to Squaring the Circle will get you past the stumbling blocks, like gate keepers inside your soul, that prevent you from entering through the veil of mortality to your kingdom as a returning champion, a queen or king, the victorious hero from an epic quest.
Our contemporary modern society has moved away from metaphorical expression like this. We are often not comfortable working in symbol when it comes to the spiritual. If things aren’t factually true (such as the details of a myth), then they are false and should be discarded. We find artistic and religious metaphor silly, even pointless in our materialistic, technician-oriented culture. Left-brained labels and icons define all by putting things into neat boxes but leave out what the right brain intuits through relationship and proportion. If only there was a way to preserve this exercise of Squaring the Circle in a new religious framework, a way to re-purpose it for the modern world, many could benefit from such a metaphorical hero’s quest in their life journey. Someone would probably want to borrow from the ancients and from traditions handed down over the ages, since those that came before us already did so much work. It would be wasteful to reinvent the wheel completely from scratch, I would think. *wink*
-Brian Johnston, www.staylds.com