Symbolism is an inherent part of the human condition. We represent things with symbols, communicate with them, and even think in terms of them. It cannot be otherwise for our conscious minds conjure thoughts that are themselves complex equations of symbols. When looking at a red rose, I have never thought about the chemical or quantum properties occurring in my brain that make up that thought, instead my thoughts are of its form, its color, its texture, its fragrance, its presence in the world – what I am experiencing is a summation of many parts brought to my awareness by my senses. My mind holds within it a visual, olfactory, tactile, historical and emotional symbol that consciously equals a red rose for me, but is not the physical thing itself. What is really quite amazing is that in reading this your mind is able to conjure up a thought that is a reasonable facsimile of the red rose I had in my head, one that makes communication practical, even if it is not entirely accurate.
Now enter the circumpunct, a simple dot within a circle. What symbolism is ascribed to such simplicity?
Ancient Egyptians used the symbol to represent the eternity of Ra, the sun god. The Pythagoreans also used the symbol to represent a view of eternal nature and infinity, the dot being everywhere and the circle’s boundary nowhere. Alchemists used the symbol more pragmatically and viewed the circumpunct as the symbol of gold, which was associated with the sun. Today it could be an apt symbol of the original singularity and its expansion that cosmologists believe gave rise to the universe.
I think, perhaps, the circumpunct is an intuitive symbol that humankind has used to represent the three ever-present questions: How did everything come to be? Where is it all going? What small place in it all can I call my own?
A red rose would smell as sweet by any name, but I am not so sure that one can say the same of the circumpunct. The questions remain the same but the answers to them change with the times. The quest goes on and on and on and on – circumpunct, no beginning and no end, the symbol of eternal search. As it must be, for otherwise “Nothing seek, nothing find,” and a life without meaning is a very unsettling thing that in the end, leaves you miserable and disappointed.