Circles and Cycles
(From 'Earth People' Volume 1 Number 1)
Circles, Cycles, Spirals and Spheres
(From: ‘Earth People’ Volume 1 Number 4)
To us an infinitesimal fraction of a second is an entire lifetime to an atomic particle, just as our lifetime is a split second in the life cycles of earth, and the earth’s life is a split second in the life of stars and galaxies.
|Atomic Cycles, Quantum Physics.|
|Heart Beat, Breath.|
|Rotation of Earth.|
|Solar Cycle, (seasons).|
|Alternating Universal Female and Universal Male Influences.|
|1 Glaciation Cycle, Aboriginal Culture.|
|Earth’s alternating Magnetic Polarity.|
240 Mill. Yr.:
|Continental Drift from South to North and back.|
280 Mill. Yr.:
|Possibly the Solar System completes an orbit around the centre of the Galaxy or Milky Way.|
Carl Jung says that one of the most powerful religious symbols is the circle. He says that the circle is one of the great primordial images of mankind and that, in considering the symbol of the circle, we are analysing the self.
The circle represents time with the movement of the day and the three hundred and sixty degrees. The official Sumerian year was three hundred and sixty days with five holy days that don’t count, which are outside time and in which they had ceremonies relating their society to the heavens.
And Joseph Campbell says:
“The circle on the other hand, represents totality. Everything within a circle is one thing, which is encircled, enframed. That would be the spatial aspect. But the temporal aspect of the circle is that you leave, go somewhere, and always come back. [From the womb of mother earth to the tomb of mother earth. Ed.] God is the alpha and the omega, the source and the end. The circle suggests immediately a completed totality, whether in time or in space.”
From: ‘The Power of Myth’ [pp. 214-219]
"Mandala” is the Sanskrit word for “circle”. But it is a circle that is symbolically designed so that it has the meaning of a cosmic order. When composing a personal mandala, you are trying to symbolically coordinate your personal circle with the universal circle. The making of a personal mandala is an act of discipline to pull all the scattered aspects of your life together to find the centre of your spiritual being, the Axis Mundi, the still point in your seemingly chaotic world.
Whenever the number four or some squared form appears in a dream, Jung has noted that some aspect of the dreamer’s wholeness is scattered. Furthermore, he noted that circles seem to represent wholeness in a natural level, without beginning or end. The squares seem to indicate wholeness possibilities on a more conscious level.
The wedding rings that people wear are symbols of two lives coming together in union to one whole, in the image of God.
Most indigenous cultures use some form of the circle as a teaching tool to help them to understand the natural forces, not only around them, but also within them. The Lakota, for example, use the medicine wheel, however, their nature, in the northern hemisphere, like the sun, moves clockwise over a southerly arc. So my adaptation for the southern hemisphere has had the characteristics of the north and south swapped, and then, like the sun here, we move around the wheel in an anti-clockwise direction over a northerly arc.
Hehaka Sapa, or Black Elk, that’s Nicholas Black Elk who is not biologically related to Wallace Black Elk, was a member of the Oglala Tribe of the Lakota, or Sioux nation. In 1930-31 he dictated the following passage to Flaming Rainbow as part of his autobiography:
“You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation and so long as the hoop was unbroken the people flourished. The flowering tree was the living centre of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it. The east gave peace and light, the south gave warmth, the west gave rain, and the north with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance. This knowledge came to us from the outer world with our religion. Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The Sky is round and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round.
“Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of man is a circle from childhood to childhood and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tipis were round like the nests of birds and these were always set in a circle, the nation’s hoop, a nest of many nests where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.”
And when John G. Neihardt interviewed Black Elk for his book ‘Black Elk Speaks’, he spoke of his first vision as a young boy thus:
“Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and around about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle…”
Then he goes on to say that the sacred central mountain was Harney Peak in South Dakota. And then he says: “But anywhere is the centre of the world.”
Joseph Campbell explains that this statement distinguishes the actual mountain in the vision and its connotation as the Axis Mundi, which is the central point where the movement of time and the stillness of eternity come together at the soul of each individual. So for every individual being, it is as if the whole world revolves around them, but the trick in life is to realize the responsibility of taking care of your sacred hoop of the world as well as your Axis Mundi, because all hoops are connected.
Looking at my medicine wheel that has been adjusted for the southern hemisphere, you can see that the east is where all things are born into the manifest world; the sun gives birth to the morning, so this is the direction that we start all things. In the ages of man from birth to old age we find that the north represents adolescence; the west, middle age; and the south, the elderly.
The Axis Mundi is where you connect the manifest world of Earth Below to the spirit world of God Above. So I would like to finish with an example of my morning and evening prayer that is suited for the southern hemisphere.
My Morning Prayer
Tunkashila (pronounced Toon-kash-she-la), Grandfather, Creator of all things, Great Spirit, I give thanks for giving me life to walk another day on this earth. I thank you for all your creation, all spirit and all my spirit guides and helpers.
Maka (pronounced Muck-kah), Grandmother, the Earth, giver of all matter, I give thanks for giving of yourself so that I may live in this physical body and walk upon your surface another day.
To the East Power, I give you thanks for giving us spirit, the enlightenment and far-sighted-ness of the Eagle, and for the birth of the Sun, Morning and Spring. And I give thanks for the element Fire.
To the North Power, I give thanks for the trust and innocence of the Mouse, for the warmth of Midday and Summer, and for the moon and the element Water.
To the West Power, I give thanks for the introspection and intuition of the Grizzly Bear or Koala, for the change of Evening and Autumn, and for the Earth and Minerals.
To the South Power, I give thanks for the knowledge and wisdom of the Buffalo or Kangaroo, for the stars and the element Air.
May all spirit work within me for the greater good of all.
MITAKUYE OYASIN (pronounced Mit-uk-oo-yay Ouy-ar-see), which means ‘For all our relations’, from the mineral people through all the plants, animals, all human beings and to the star people. (mitakuye-oyasin)
Circles, Cycles, Spirals and Spheres
Inspired by: Frank Cullen of ‘Thoughtful Themes’
(From: ‘Earth People’ Volume 1 Number 4)
Hello Sitting Owl,
Received with great thanks your two magazines and found inspiration in them. It is amazing how there is the common thread running through all seekers, the search for true identity and the relationship that it has with the whole of creation.
The circle is certainly, as you pointed out, the oldest of symbols, but does it remain true for us. There has been a great development in understanding and appreciation combined with the technical advances of the limited physical human mind, and I wonder if the circle is a true image.
A circle can only be seen if you are standing directly in front of it. If the circle remains stationary and we move around it that circle becomes a thinner and thinner ellipse until it disappears into a straight line. But consider the sphere.
We know now that atoms neutrons, molecules and even DNA chains all have the shape of a sphere. If we consider the sphere to represent us, the sphere will always seem to be a circle no matter what direction you view it from. The sphere also has a centre, which remains constant no matter where you view it.
The sphere could represent the unlimited potential that we have within us which comes into force in our lives when we are united with the centre or the deep internal core of our being.
Please do not think this is a refutation of your excellent article, because it is not and is not meant to be. It is possible for man to get stuck in tram lines of thought, e.g. the concept of the soul first came into being over 2500 years ago and aesthetic practices and images of duality has been in human thought ever since. Even to Malcolm Frazer oft quoted line "life wasn't meant to be easy" is a throw back to the soul concept. Life wasn't meant to be easy, it was meant to be ecstatic.
Man with his negative ideas over the centuries; have manipulated us into living lives full of death, without connection to the internal core of our being.
Best regards Frank.
Thank you for your important comments on the article ‘Circles and Cycles’ in the March – April 2000 issue of ‘Earth People’. However the human mind is only limited by its belief systems, a subject I hope to be discussing in the future.
Firstly, the DNA chain is actually a spiral, which points out that: although the Medicine Wheel represents time as a movement from birth in the East around to old age and death in the South (for the Southern Hemisphere), it also represents time in one year (the four seasons), one day, and down to one split second of thought, where all aspects of the wheel are considered and thus balanced so as to bring a balanced judgment to that thought. We must balance emotion in the North with conscious knowledge and wisdom (the Mind) in the South and balance Spirit or ideas in the East with matter or manifestation in the West. With this balance, it brings us to the centre of the situation (life, or self), which is the Axis Mundi, or the source. However, the next moment of thought, day, year etc. is again affected by the different aspects of The Wheel, however it is never the same moment, day, year or lifetime, so we have, by the previous judgment, made a step up, due to a revelation or down, due to a lesson to be learnt. This step is what creates what is referred to as the “Sacred Spiral”, which is still represented by the Medicine Wheel circle.
And secondly, as you have pointed out the image of a sphere is much worth considering, however the fact is that the sphere is still represented in the Medicine Wheel, in that as you hold your centre (Axis Mundi) in balance, you must also connect Father Sky, Heaven, God etc ABOVE, with Mother earth, the material world, BELOW. As the Hopi people say: “Beauty before me, beauty behind me, beauty to my left, beauty to my right, beauty above me and beauty below me. I’m on the pollen path.” Meaning the path of life and Bliss.
According to Frank Fools Crow (Wanbli Mato – Eagle Bear) 1890 – 1989, the Ceremonial Chief of the Teton Sioux: The Stone-people Lodge (Inipi, Purification or Sweat Lodge) not only represents the womb of Mother Earth for rebirth and the universe but also, once the above-ground part is covered and all items and tools to be used are inside, it becomes the dwelling place of Wakan -Tanka (Great Spirit, Creator, God the FATHER etc.) and Tunkashila (the SON) above; Grandmother Earth below and the Persons of the Four Directions (the HOLY SPIRIT).
See Below and article on 'Circles and Cycles' above and in Vol. 1 No. 2, which includes the Medicine Wheel there.
Diagram of Sweat Lodge (flattened)
and the 16 Great Mysteries
This one begins in the West as some of the Native Americans do (don't ask me why).
Basic form taken from:
'Gift of Power - The Life and Teachings of a Lakota Medicine Man'
By: Archie Fire Lame Deer & Richard Erdoes