In western mystical tradition the point contained at the center of the circle is “aleph,” the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and the I AM of self-awareness… the seed of life and self-aware consciousness that is defined by the circle to eventually expand to fulfill itself within the womb of the circle.
The circle is “beth.” Beth is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet and according to Western mystical tradition, is the letter from which creation began in the original Hebrew biblical text, because it is the first letter of the first word (“B’rashit”) of Biblical Genesis. It represents the container or maternal womb within which creation takes place.
The circle presents the maximal contrast of inside and outside, finite and infinite. It intimates the ultimate paradox: It is simultaneously limiting in its ability to contain and define, yet unlimiting and endless in its dimensions (π = 3.1415926…) and its expansive, recursive nature.
Perceived as the uroboros (the ancient symbol of the serpent swallowing its tail), the circle is the symbol of unity and eternity, the union of masculine and feminine opposites as the mythological “World Parents” joined in perpetual embrace. As Michael Schneider states, “… a circle implies the mysterious generation from nothing to everything.” While the circle accommodates all of the fundamental two-dimensional shapes within itself and the sphere accommodates all of the fundamental three-dimensional forms (Platonic solids) within itself, the spiral accommodates the primary creative process from which all the fundamental shapes and forms evolve.
All forms and organizing patterns of life arise from the circle. Within it lays the identity of the Creator. Understanding it allows one to understand one’s self because it is from the circle one was born. As the great mythologist and psychologist Eric Neumann states:
“So long as man shall exist,
perfection will continue to appear
as the circle, the sphere, and the round;
and the Primal Deity who is sufficient unto Itself,
and the self who has gone beyond the opposites,
will reappear in the image of the round, the mandala.”
Dr. Patrick Donovan
About the writer
Dr. Donovan is a Naturopathic Physician, author, educator, and a professor of clinical medicine at Bastyr University’s Natural Health Clinic. In 2010 he was voted by his professional peers as one of Seattle’s Top Doctors in the Seattle Metropolitan Magazine. Dr. Donovan writes and lectures on the transformational process of healing and believes a person’s healing journey is ultimately a quest for his/her identity, purpose and meaning. He has more than 35 years of patient care experience as a Registered Nurse (RN) and a Naturopathic Physician (ND), representing a wide range of clinical settings from hospital-based surgical and intensive care as a registered nurse to outpatient primary care as a physician.
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