One of the trade secrets of medieval stonemasons was “proving of the square” by use of the “point within a circle”. Indeed, if we make a circle, then draw the line through its center cutting the circle in half, at any point of the circumference which we would connect with these two points where line cuts the circle, we would form an angle of the square.
The point within a circle is one of the most powerful esoteric symbols. Its importance is not only in antiquity, which we may trace, neither in the bond between metaphysics and natural sciences, which this symbol makes, but also in many rich meanings, which a student of the Hermetic philosophy may read from it. As Manly Hall, in his book The Secret Teachings of All Ages, stated: ”The keys to all knowledge are contained in the dot, the line and the circle. The dot is universal consciousness, the line is universal intelligence, and the circle is universal force - the threefold, unknowable Cause to all known existence.”
Although undefined in geometry, a point can be described as indicating location with no size.
Nothing exists without a center. From the nucleus of an atom, the center of planet Earth, the Sun in the solar system to the black hole in the center of the Galaxy, everything has a center. Even the abstract idea has a center because we consider it “pointless” if there is not a center holding it together. The fixed point is called the center of a circle. At times, it is synonymous with the circumference, just as circumference (distance around the circle) is often equated with the circular movement. It is very often an emblem of the Sun, or it stands for Heaven, perfection, or Eternity. Psychological study asserts that the discovery of the circle in humans arrives at the age when the child discovers himself (“I am”), and distinguishes himself from others. According to Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), ”a circle represents the ultimate state of Oneness”. To the ancient Greek philosophers, the circle was the symbol of the number One, since it was the source of all subsequent shapes. They called it MONAD, from Greek “monas” (oneness).
A circle, understood as a circumference, is a symbol of adequate limitation and of the inner unity of all matter and universal harmony. Enclosing beings, objects, or figures within a circumference has a double meaning: from within, it implies limitation and definition; from without, it represents the defense of the content of a circle against disintegration and chaos.
Origins of the point within a circle, as is the case with many other ancient symbols, are lost in the mists of antiquity. A point within a circle was the Egyptian, Chinese and Mayan Glyph for “light”. In many ancient myths and modern scientific theories about the beginning of the Universe, the universal creation process begins with the expansion from a Divine Center, or from the Big Bang, as in the very first words of God in Genesis “Let there be Light”. On early Egyptian monuments the circle can be found with two letters in the center of it and bordered by two parallel serpents symbolizing wisdom and power. According to some scholars, the letters in the center stand for “beginning” and “end”, indicative of God or Creator. Some other similar Egyptian symbols known to us are ANANTA (meaning “eternity”) – a serpent in the form of a circle biting its tale, and CRUX ANSATA - a cross within a circle, symbolizing eternal life.
In Hindu mythology, Brahma speaks aloud the word AHM -“I AM”, a word made of the first, middle and last letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, which represents the circle’s three parts: the center, the radius, and the circumference. The point represents our own spiritual center or God within us; the radius - our mental and rational limits of understanding of God and the circle the sphere of our material existence. We can find the “point within a circle” as a symbol of “Phallus” in some old Indian legends. In many countries around the world, remains of ancient temples consisting of stones placed in circle can be found, with a single stone in the center. Although, the explanations of the real purpose of these temples are still controversial, these are usually connected with Sun worship practices in some cultures. The best known examples are Druidic Temples in Great Britain.
In the Kabala, the point represents YOD, the creative knowledge of God, and the circle the space in which He creates. The two parallel lines are symbols of justice and mercy of God. They are equal and upright because they are regulated by His perfect Wisdom. Christian theologian Lucian (c.240-312) wrote in the third century: “God makes himself known to the world; he fills up the whole circle of the universe, but makes his particular abode in the center, which is the soul of the just”.
This symbol appeared in the Masonic ritual work, most likely, early in the 18th Century. The first Masonic record mentioning a point within a circle was Prichard’s “Masonry Dissected”. Today, it is mentioned, either in the lecture of the First degree, or in the opening of the Third degree in most of the Rituals. By tracing the development of this symbol through different cultures around the world from time immemorial, we learn of various understandings of its meaning. There are three elements constantly present in all of the stories: God, Man and the Universe.
When we think about God, we often refer to Him as Creator of all things, Great Architect of the Universe, the One with many names, Divine Omnipresence or Ultimate Cause of Everything. If one would have to present graphically or to draw a picture that would represent God or the Ultimate Cause, and be understood and accepted as such by all human beings what would that picture look like? Is it possible to express the infinite nature of God by drawing a point within a circle on a blank sheet of paper? Many accept this possibility because they perceive Him as being the center of existence, with the whole existence emanating from His creative power. One can understand it as God or as the Big Bang, but it is still there and still the Absolute Force, or Power or Spirit that created the Universe- the point within a circle.
Is there any better way visually to present the Universe than by using a point within a circle? Through the ages this has been the prime choice of Philosophers, Magicians, Artists, Alchemists, and Scientists. The origin of the word Universe is Latin unus versum, meaning “one turn”. The human mind is incapable of fully comprehending time and space without the help of this symbol, which exists because of man’s effort to visualize more perfectly immeasurable and infinite that Universe represents.
Finally, we come to a Human being, the point within its own circle of existence. This circle is one’s family, neighbors, fellow workmen, community; all that surrounds one in the warm light of the Summer Solstice and cold light of the Winter Solstice, represented by two parallel lines. But then, a person is the eternal circle itself, trying to place in the center and keep in balance, the hidden point within, which then creates the puzzle, how can one draw a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere?