Sunday, February 26, 2012
OUR ANAGOGICAL SENSE
Anagogical Scene, Flint Hills, Central Kansas
Sky Lab II Vitruvian Man Logo
A good friend recently suffered a heart attack which was controlled with the application of a stint in his heart. He knew I liked to photograph the worldly beauty found in things like colorful blooms, sunrises and sunsets. After a few days in the hospital, he was released late in the day. He sent me a message that he and his wife had encountered a beautiful sunset building in the west as they drove home. A large opening formed in the clouds to release a burst of white crepuscular rays “shouting to all that GOD IS IN THE HOUSE”! The scene played out quickly just as they came upon the sound of church bells ringing. His closing salutation read, “WOW!! Life is GOOD”!
My friend had experienced an anagogical moment in life. I hadn’t ever encountered this term until that very morning as I ironically finished a book titled Da Vinci’s Ghost. I sought out the book because the image of Vitruvian Man has always captured my imagination and also provides an anagogical moment for many when encountered. It seems that the term anagoge could be defined as the uplifting spiritual sense that is experienced when we encounter glimpses of heaven in worldly things such as aha text or breath taking images. The book is centered around one of Leonardo’s most published drawings of Vitruvian Man. I’m certain that at some point in your life this image has crossed your path as well. The astronauts of Sky Lab II used it for their mission logo. The Roman architect Vitruvius first proposed that the human body could be fit within a circle, representing the divine, and a square, representing the worldly. That gave rise to the theory of microcosm, man representing the cosmos in miniature—created in God’s own image. Leonardo was able to actually draw this concept, possibly using himself as a model, and keeping man at the center of each symbol, by lowering the square and positioning Vitruvian Man with arms and legs spread in the circle while overlaying Virtuvian Man standing with legs together and arms outstretched in the square. The iconic image was the culmination of numerous hours of studying human anatomy to gain an anagogical perspective on ourselves and our universe. Leonardo was the consummate Renaissance Man whose genius and inquisitive mind literally moved the bar for all mankind. And although he departed this world over six hundred years ago, the ghost of his image still lives on in Vitruvian Man.
Leonardo discovered that there is a beautiful structure to the universe and the world we inhabit. The mathematical sequence of Fibonacci numbers can be determined as each number being the sum of the previous two, starting with zero and one. This series of numbers can be found in many diverse facets of nature such as in the spiral of a chambered nautilus shell or the branching of trees, the leaves on their stems and the veins in the leaves, the number of petals on many flowers, and the number of florets spiraling in the center of daisies and sunflowers. It’s been said that if you look into the glory of a blooming flower, you’ve looked into the face of God.
The Fibonacci sequence of integer numbers relate to an ancient Greek mathematical proportion of 1.618034 that appeals to both the intellect and the eye. It is achieved as you go further out in the sequence to calculate the ratio of adjacent terms. The visually pleasing golden rectangle the Greeks derived had a proportion where the length was 1.618034 and the width was 1.0 and this shape became the basis for their art and architecture. This became the famous ratio called The Golden Mean of Euclid and Aristotle and the divine proportion Leonardo da Vinci used for Mona Lisa’s face. It has since been valued as the most beautiful proportion to the human eye. The golden ratio is integral to the horizontal and vertical beams of the Christian cross. And da Vinci’s Roman Vitruvian Man strikes the same pose in the square as Christ’s body on the Roman cross.