The Circle of Life

Here a circle, there a circle, everywhere a circle….

When you  start looking, circles really are everywhere. Have you noticed that?

Think about it. The  eyeball is round. The pupil in the middle of it is round. It sits inside a round hole on a round head that contains a roundish brain. The cells inside our body are round. Blood cells are round and circulate around the body to nourish the round cells.  Our feet are firmly planted on a round planet. We look up at the sky to see a round sun, a round moon, round stars.

What is it  that is so special about roundness – or circles.

Angeles Arrien, a cultural anthropologist, undertook an extensive research over twenty-five years. She identified five universal shapes that are consistently found throughout history and cultures across the world. These shapes are not only consistent – they have shared meanings. Her research, which included looking at myths, fairy tales and archetypes, informed her work published in the book  Signs of Life.  You can read more about her work in this post.   The universal shapes are the cross, square, circle, triangle and spiral.

The Circle, according to Arrien’s research, is about wholeness and the individuation journey. It is about heaven, unity, reclamation of Self, sun, heroic journey, archetype = Self, identified strengths, initiations, victorious struggles, resourcefulness, triumph or despair; death or new beginnings; ‘going around in circles’; identity and authenticity issues – need of space.

Let’s just take this whole circle thing from a couple of other perspectives to add a bit more to the mystery of circles.

This site identifies the  circle symbol meaning as universal, sacred and divine. It represents the infinite nature of energy, and the inclusivity of the universe. It is a basic symbol of  protection, inclusion and wholeness.

To the  Native Americans the circle is the sun, the moon and her children –  man and woman. However, it goes much deeper than that as the circle also embodies a spiritual energy.

For the Chinese, the circle expresses the shape of heaven, with earth signified by a square. A square inside a circle in Chinese art represents the union between heaven and earth. The deeply significant yin yang symbol is circular, and thus speaks to us of encompassing the whole of duality with intent for unified balance.

Jung  viewed the circle as a geometric archetype of the psyche.

Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man – the circle and square combining – make the ideal balance. The circle is symbolic of the mind and thought. The square a symbol of the body.

The five-fold Celtic symbol is about balance. The four outer circles symbolize the four elements: Fire, Earth, Air, Water. The middle circle unites all the elements with a goal to reach balance between all four elements or energies. These elements are essential for the stability and progression of all life…so the symbol is a pretty big deal and conveys the importance of harmony with all of Nature.

So – the humble circle is not just a circle. Unless you choose it to be so.

©  Raili Tanska

Written in response to Lady Calen’s Exercise 12

Steps for Peace

“A blessing is a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, heal and strengthen.”
~ John O’Donohue

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16 thoughts on “The Circle of Life

  1. Very interesting, Raili. I’ve always seen circles (and spheres!) as whole, complete, eternal – more than just a shape. Mind you, when I create my PowerPoint objects from the ‘basic’ shapes, well, they become more than just a shape too!

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