Let none ignorant of geometry enter here
Sign above the entry to Plato’s Academy
Let none ignorant of geometry enter here.
Sign above the entry to Plato’s Academy
The most recognized image in the world, after the Coca-Cola® logo, is one we all know well. Many of us use it on our websites, business cards, and in articles such as this one. It is Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man (Figure 1), named after an image created by the Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius, author of The Ten Books on Architecture. Vitruvius, in turn, took this image from the Egyptian mystery schools. Leonardo’s view of the human body is imprinted deeply in the archetypal collective unconscious and contains a great deal of both practical and esoteric knowledge. It is a riddle to be plumbed deeply. It is not a mere symbol but rather a living, breathing reality.
When I began my studies in architecture school, the Vitruvian Man was one of our first subjects of study. There is an infinite amount of information contained in the image. Vitruvius referred to this drawing of the human figure as the principal source of proportion for the classical orders of architecture, and it contains the exact proportions that we find in many of the architectural wonders of the world.
On the surface, the first thing you notice is the figure, arms outstretched, surrounded by a square and a circle. The center of the square is the sacrum, which is the geometrical center of the human body. The center of the circle is the umbilicus, or navel, the energetic center of the human body.
Figure 1: Vitruvian Man.
The esoteric and exoteric information hidden in Leonardo’s drawing is the root of what we now know as “sacred geometry.” The ordering forces as manifested in this figure give birth to all form. It reveals the ground upon which this visible world is created. It is the foundation for all sacred architecture, an unfolding of information and pattern that is awe-inspiring.
The Vitruvian Man has frequently been called the blueprint for the human body. The term “blueprint” is key to understanding the significance of geometry as an ordering force that brings health and balance to the body. For many years, I have worked with my wife and partner in healing work, Donna Thomson, to evolve an energetic approach to healing called SourcePoint Therapy®. The central premise of SourcePoint is that there is a specific energy field that is the blueprint of health for the human being. We can connect with the blueprint for the benefit of our own health and that of others. Geometry is the language of this blueprint.
The geometric configuration of the human body and the metabolic processes are present before the central nervous system develops . . . the innate wisdom of the body is not contained within any cellular structure. This innate wisdom which gives the body form is not a function of any system of the body. (Jealous 1996)
Twenty years ago, Dr. Jeff Maitland, as a member of the Advanced Faculty of the Rolf Institute®, introduced a taxonomic model of structural integration (SI) in an effort to articulate Rolfing® SI as a holistic practice. Dr. Rolf’s stated goal for her work was to see how the structurally integrated human being would affect the evolution of both the human being and human race. She emphatically stated that she was not primarily interested in the palliation of symptoms. She was interested in “human potential.” The taxonomic view was articulated to place the work of Rolfing SI in this great context of the evolution of the mind-body system as a whole, thereby honoring Rolf’s stated goal for the work.
The taxonomic perspective is taught regularly within the basic Rolfing training by many of the faculty. The functional taxonomy has been further articulated and has become an accepted and important aspect of our training and work within the taxonomic perspective of SI, along with the structural taxonomy. The remaining taxonomies (the energetic, geometric, and psychobiological) continue to be developed but have not yet become a widely accepted aspect of the Rolfing training and have been the subject of much debate.
It has been suggested that the geometric taxonomy be subsumed in the structural and functional taxonomies, both of which contain many references to geometric terminology. Rolfers speak about organization around “the Line,” as well as referring to cylinders, lemniscates, spirals, palintonic lines, and planes. We use many other geometric terms in describing our work. The Little Boy Logo that we all use is a geometric model of the alignment of the segments of the body around the Line. It is a model of optimal geometric relationship in space and the field of gravity.
I would like to propose that, in reality, the geometric taxonomy is the “mother” of all of the taxonomies, and that all of the others could easily be embraced in the unfolding fractals of this organizing and ordering force. For in reality, it is a sentient organizing force that gives our bodies and the world of nature its form.
In the Rolfing community we frequently hear the phrase “Gravity is the therapist.” What is gravity? Gravity is often defined in physics as a geometric relationship between space and time. If we substitute the definition for the word, we have the phrase “The geometric relationship between space and time is the therapist.” Abbreviated, this becomes “Geometry is the therapist.” There are profound implications for our work if we investigate this thoroughly. For a few moments, drop your preconceptions and contemplate this statement: “Geometry is the therapist.” What is the deeper meaning? How does this statement relate to the information revealed in the Vitruvian Man? What are the implications for our work as Rolfers? In thinking about this, remember that the ancient Greeks, and before them the Egyptians, understood this simple fact: the human body is structured according to the ideal of the golden mean (aka golden rectangle).
The architecture of bodily existence is determined by an invisible, immaterial world of pure form and geometry. (Lawlor 1982, 4)
Geometry is not merely descriptive nor boundary defining. Consider the possibility that a point, a line, a plane, a circle, a triangle, a square, the golden rectangle and all of the spirals that emerge from its mathematical relationships, and a five-pointed star and all its fractal unfolding are actually energetic structures. These patterns have the ability to organize space in both the two dimensions of a plane and in the three dimensions of our lived, perceived reality. They are patterns that “give birth to, repair, and maintain the human body.” This is how the function of the Adam Kadmon, the archetypal human being of the Kabbalah, is commonly described. It is also how we describe the function of the blueprint in SourcePoint Therapy®.
A joyful radiance of health is attained only as the body conforms more nearly to its inherent pattern. This pattern, this form, this Platonic idea, is the blueprint for structure. (Rolf 1971, 1)
When we examine the Vitruvian Man and see the proportions of the golden mean so clearly manifested in the human body, when we perceive the Fibonacci sequence present in organic life, when we study the principles of sacred geometry in depth, then we can see that geometry is the language of the blueprint. This intrinsic geometric precision and proportion is not just a synchronicity of form, but is actually the ordering force that brings form into existence.
The chief characteristic of form . . . is its intrinsic geometric precision and proportion. (Ridley 2006, 188)
We find this principle of the blueprint, expressed as geometric proportion, in a variety of healing traditions, including osteopathy:
HEALTH is that perfect matrix, present within us from the moment of conception. . . . Health is more inherent in the geometry than the genetics. (Rosen 2000)
We can also find this principle of formative ordering forces present in the research of modern physics. In a 2010 article in Scientific American by physicists A. Garrett Lisi and James Owen Weatherall entitled “A Geometric Theory of Everything,” the authors state: “In fact, physicists think that everything in the world – all the forces of nature and even all the particles of matter – arises from different kinds of fields. The behavior of these fields hints at an underlying geometric structure” (Lisi and Weatherall 2010, 55). In other words, Deep down, the particles and forces of the universe are an expression of exquisite geometry. (Lisi and Weatherall 2010, 54)
This principle is also expressed beautifully in a video on YouTube entitled “Nature by Numbers” (www.youtube.com/ watch?v=kkGeOWYOFoA). This film vividly demonstrates the unfolding of life into form that is “informed” by the information of geometric pattern and proportion. Often people think the word “blueprint” signifies a static, unchanging pattern. The geometric blueprint that underlies organic life is a sentient, vibrant, interactive energy field. Take a moment to experience the video when you finish this article. The images are worth a thousand words.
In his book Science and the Akashic Field, systems theorist Ervin Laszlo tells us the “quantum sea” is a vast energy field filled with information that “informs” the material universe. He says we must apprehend this informed universe with “our hearts as well as our brains” (Laszlo 2004, 5).
Let us take a journey from this perspective. Let’s imagine that the geometric proportion present in all material form preexists in that quantum sea. Imagine a single point in dark, vast space. Out of that point emerges a network of lines and points, which become pattern. Out of those patterns emerge multiple dimensions of energy, consciousness, and form, including the natural world and eventually the human body as expressed in the Vitruvian Man. The many manifestations from this point are organized according to exact proportions. Whole universes, including this human body, are the fractal unfolding of that single point. The creation of a mandala follows this progression, and symbolizes the emergence of the universal energy into form through geometric pattern.
What then is the significance of this for Rolfing SI and the geometric taxonomy? Rolf herself asked this question:
. . . Is “balancing” actually the placing of the body of flesh upon an energy pattern that activates it? The pattern of this energy would not be as easily disrupted and might well survive, relatively intact, traumatic episodes that distort the flesh. (Rolf 1971, 206)
The implications of this statement are profound. If “balancing” might mean, as she proposes, orienting the body towards an energy pattern that activates it, then our real work is simply organizing the flesh, the tissue, around an existing energetic pattern. As we have explored in this article, there is a strong likelihood that the pattern she is speaking of would have a geometric structure. This brings us once again to the original premise of this article: that the realm of pattern, the geometric taxonomy, is at the heart of our work as Rolfers and deserves serious consideration.
Many stories have been told about the body. When I first came to the Rolf Institute at its old location on Pearl Street, I had the good fortune to study physiology with Dr. Jim Oschman, a research biologist who has been a good friend of the Rolfing community and who has written several books on energy medicine. At the beginning of the class he told us that there was one thing that he wanted us to understand: everything we were about to learn in his class was just a story, and the stories change. I have always remembered this. The stories that were told fifty years ago about the body are different from the stories we tell now. And fifty years from now those stories will have changed dramatically.
Rolf stated in Rolfing and Physical Reality that as Rolfers we are simply invoking and evoking health, and that is what makes us different from other therapists (Rolf 1990, 202). From the perspective of the geometric taxonomy, what we are invoking and evoking is the underlying energy pattern of health. That pattern expresses itself in geometric form and proportion in the greater cosmos and in the human body. The accepted story of Rolfing SI has been that we work primarily with structure, function, and connective tissue to bring about change in the body. That view has been challenged in recent years. A new emerging paradigm proposes that the nervous system is actually responsible for the changes we see. The stories will continue to change over time, and eventually the story may return to what Rolf was musing about: an underlying energy pattern, a “blueprint of structure.” A future story could tell of an epigenetic, self-organizing energetic pattern, informed by geometric ordering forces, as the primary factor that is responsible for bringing change. The geometric taxonomy may reveal itself as being the heart of what we do, the mother of all taxonomies. It is an old story at the heart of many spiritual and shamanic traditions, and it is a new story emerging in the realm of physics. It may yet become a significant aspect of our story.
Bob Schrei is a Certified Advanced Rolfer with twenty-seven years’ experience, a biodynamic craniosacral therapist, an artist and former Zen teacher, and the co-originator of SourcePoint Therapy (www.sourcepointtherapy.com) with his wife and partner in healing work, Donna Thomson. Bob teaches SourcePoint Therapy® worldwide.
The author wishes to thank Donna Thomson for her assistance with editing this article.
Jealous, J. 1996. “Around the Edges.” The Tide (U.K. Sutherland Society osteopathic newsletter). Spring 1996.
Laszlo, E. 2004. Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions.
Lawlor, R. 1982. Sacred Geometry, Philosophy and Practice. London: Thames and Hudson.
Lisi, A.G. and J.O. Weatherall 2010. “A Geometric Theory of Everything.” Scientific American, December 2010.
Ridley, C. 2006. Stillness: Biodynamic Cranial Practice and the Evolution of Consciousness. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Rolf, I. 1971. Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures. New York: Harper and Row.
Rolf, I. 1990. Rolfing and Physical Reality. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.
Rosen, M. 2000/2008. “Biodynamics.” www. osteodoc.com/biodynamics.htm (retrieved August 9, 2013).