Framework used in the study
I have paid great attention to the study of fields that seem to be off topic, or, at least, shooting a topic of the FOL with a shotgun. I have chosen to do so to show my methodology and path to get answers to the origin of the FOL. Three main fields of the study that I have applied are namely geometry, mythology, and etymology.
Essentially, I want to mix the subjective and the objective view to the study because I can't believe the understanding of anything, especially in a humanistic field, can happen without getting involved. Following a bit of hermeneutic reflection1, getting involved in this case means practically drawing the Flower of Life symbol on its different stages by bare hands (as well as with a computer-aided drafting). Contemplating, reading, discussing the topic, traveling around, seeing, smelling, and touching symbols in their original environment are other ways of getting involved. The third way to get involved is to meet people in modern New Age groups and still alive historical fraternal and gnostic groups who pay attention to the more practical side of the studying symbolism of the ancients. Meeting people from traditional religious and spiritual groups is equally important because they keep alive the ancient heritage by paintings, frescoes, iconography, architecture, literature, and so on.
The problem of constitutional religious groups to give attention to the FOL topic probably comes from the fact that the Flower of Life symbolism was brought to the awareness of public by the New Age movement in the late 20th century. It's a pity if old traditions have totally missed the meaning of so ancient symbol.
But every once in a while there appear people, who have found the connection to the ancient past. For example, the art historian Patrik Reuterswärd interprets six-petal rosette as a Christian divine symbol, a forgotten sign of Jesus2 3.
This association to the pseudo-scientific and neo-religious societies can be the reason why some academic minds are also so eager to deny the significance of the FOL. Artistic individuals and groups are more enthusiastic to the phenomenon since they take the symbol as a creative source for their impressions / innovations. Festival decoration group Flowers of Life4, Flower of Life artpark for children5, Architect office Kanttia26, Geometrify Virtual Reality application7, and graphic designer Hannamari Mäkelä8 are just a few modern examples of inspiration the FOL symbol has given in a small country like Finland.
Recently (11/2015) the world-famous music band Coldplay announced the album A Head Full of Dreams with the FOL motif in the center of the album cover9. This happened after releasing a new record by Nightwish that is called Endless Forms Most Beautiful (03/2015). The latter album title can be seen ideologically as a secular one, because the name of the record is a famous quote of C. R. Darwin. The FOL symbolism, on the other hand, is often promoted by spiritualists, but nevertheless, both ideologies are attracted by the endless forms and mathematical structures in nature. Appreciation of these forms in a metaphysical manner are expressed much before the New Age movement or Darvin in the Timaeus, where Plato describes the world as "the most beautiful (grc. kallistos) of generated things"10 synthesizing cleverly both material and metaphysical worlds.
Nassim Haramein, the Director of Research at the Resonance Project Foundation11, has moved a tremendous mass of people to realize that geometry related to the Flower of Life hexagonal grid may explain the deep realms of physics of the universe itself. Worldwide influences of the FOL symbol are too numerous to mention here. Arguments on non-notability and non-significance of the symbol are very weak when reflected whether to the historical or to the modern influence of the symbol. The importance of the symbol has evolved from an anecdotal value to a real statistical phenomenon in the current society. This is also evident from Google Trends12 where "Overlapping circle grid" topic, which collects all Flower of Life related content under the same umbrella, is getting increased attention since 2009.
I have taken geometry to my toolbox for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is the fact that the FOL symbol and pattern is a geometrical shape made with a drawing tool, the compass. But the other reason is the profound philosophy behind geometry and the geometry of the circle especially. It leads us to shift thinking from linear to rounded and parallel. By dimensional introspections geometry teaches us to think consciously by analogies and urges us to change perspectives. In a cultic book Flatland - A romance of many dimensions by Edward A. Abbott, this is elaborated in great details:
"Look yonder," said my Guide, "in Flatland thou hast lived; of Lineland thou hast received a vision; thou hast soared with me to the heights of Spaceland; now, in order to complete the range of thy experience, I conduct thee downward to the lowest depth of existence, even to the realm of Pointland, the Abyss of No dimensions.13
Reflections of the same object may give us totally different impression when it is looked from a different point of view. For example, a special wedge cut from cylinder to a 3D model (picture 7.2) looks nothing special at first. But when the light is aimed from three sides of the object, we realize that the single object holds plane figures of a triangle, a square, and a circle.
And many others if you will. This will eventually lead us to the axiomatic "every thing is same and every thing is different" statement. The main task of the thinker is to develop a resolution to see differences and similarities between objects and grow one’s ability to synthesize things. The next task is to find the threshold, where object keeps its identity while connecting to the bigger picture. And the third task is to determine if the result and the conclusion can give something new to the community. This is the land where words and forms really matter.
Geometry is also a tool of evaluation which allows us to understand principles behind overwhelming variations and an almost infinite amount of forms that nature produces. The geometrical figure made of intersecting circles (the FOL) versus the heraldic palmette (the Fleur-de-lis) versus the figure of a tree (the Tree of Life and the Menorah) look very different compared to each other. By reduction and changing views, it is possible to see how they are actually from the same origin. Of course, this is more apparent when the second method is combined to the framework: the study of mythology.
From the three of the methods, the mythological one is perhaps the most subjective and the most vulnerable for interpretations. Needless to say, throughout my research, the word myth does not mean unreal, fiction, or falsehood, but quite opposite. John D. Dadosky quotes Mircea Eliade in the book The Structure of Religious Knowing: Encountering the Sacred in Eliade and Lonergan:
In other words, a myth is a true history of what came to pass at the beginning of Time, and one which provides the pattern for human behavior.14
Since the Flower of Life symbol and pattern mostly occur on ceremonial vessels that have mythical creatures beside it as well as in religious contexts on mosaics and temple walls, it is natural to try to open the FOL symbol by mythology or by religious studies.
The ongoing evaluation process in anticipation of understanding in the light of the increased knowledge of the parts15 is a great guide in this quest. The hermeneutic circle is a sound tool to use to face the challenge of describing and understanding the meaning of the FOL. René Gothóni states, that:
Academic ambition dictates that we cannot remain on the level of description only, when we relate how humans experience religion, for instance. Likewise, the authenticity of experiences of life and societal responsibility obliges us as scholars not to ascend and entirely withdraw ourselves to the level of abstract concepts either.16
The methodology used in this study is far from being purely statistical and objective. Further understanding of the Flower of Life symbology requires interdisciplinary discourse between three aforementioned subjects at least. By the study of geometry, mythology, and etymology the qualitative dimension is strongly emphasized.
More pragmatic and objective methods, like the study of the etymology of words, can also be a tool of self-introspection. Since we learn to speak by imitation, most of the words and phrases (if not all) that we use, have a very superficial and flat meaning in the beginning. Questioning the origin of the words on a daily basis is a procedure which brings vertical deepness to the understanding of the world history and communication. A multitude of words tend to lead us to the same principal root words and syllables, so the procedure is reductive by nature. The reduction is one way to understand oneness, the connection between all things. This kind of work gives plenty of joyful and insightful eureka moments.
But the etymological study also leads to the augmentation because it forces us to learn several different language vocabularies. The increased flood of information requires great patience, filtering, sampling, and organized workflow to get it controlled. Etymological vocabularies are often very cryptic books aimed to specialists. In some areas, the science of the language is a very strict, mathematically aimed and proven method to find out language relatives. That scientific field is also very opinionated, and even prejudiced toward new theories or when old theories are highlighted, in a similar way the origin of the language was a controversial subject for ancient Greeks. For more flexible and relaxed students, the Nostratic or the Magdalenian proto-language theories, for instance, can be very thought-provoking. In my study I have followed an interpretive method presented by Franco Rendich in his Comparative Etymological Dictionary17:
by joining two or more basic ideas represented by the sounds of consonants and vowels. Such sounds, each of which has a particular semantic value, were governed, as we shall see, by precise associative rules.
Although the etymology of the dimensional principles presented on my book are not explicitly related to the Flower of Life symbol, botanical roots of the naming of the properties of the projective geometry should be interesting enough curiosities for serious students.