By Sandhya Jain
Was Renaissance artist-inventor Leonardo da Vinci a yogi-in-disguise who masked his divinity because of the age he lived in? A close look at his Man in Square and Circle seems to indicate just that
The leitmotif of the New Age is a desire to seek and comprehend ancient knowledge. This craving for knowledge dates back to that golden era when Europe opened its mind to nature and God—the Renaissance.
Although the Renaissance initiated the process of calling up knowledge hidden during the Dark Ages, there was always the formidable barrier of organized religion. It was, therefore, not uncommon for true seekers, or yogis, to camouflage themselves and their works with banal devices and ruses, leaving sufficient clues for others of their kind. Perhaps the best example of such a Renaissance yogi in disguise is Leonardo da Vinci—painter, scientist, mathematician, inventor and Renaissance figure par excellence.
According to Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet, an Italian-American based in Tamil Nadu, south India, who has been working on the Vedas for over 25 years and has written various well-researched books on gnosis, da Vinci was actually an avatar who concealed his true identity because of the limitations of the age he lived in. In her book Symbols and the Question of Unity, Patrizia argues that da Vinci instinctively understood the necessity of masking his full knowledge in order that humanity could one day benefit from his incarnation.
Da Vinci was, however, a bit of a tease. He seemed, writes Patrizia, ‘to be always touching the periphery of true knowledge, giving bits and dribbles, but never revealing the core’. Thus, no sooner does he cast light upon one field than he leaves it to illuminate another. Pointing to his habit of writing notes backwards, the author declares that despite all such tactics, the yogi’s mystical-spiritual essence shines unmistakably.
Nowhere is this essence better reflected than in da Vinci’s drawing Man in Circle and Square. Patrizia finds two aspects in this sketch. One is obviously related to proportions of the human body. This is believed to be so because in his notes, the painter mentions only the fact of proportions and the two different mid-points of the forms. He fails to elucidate any further.
However, the other aspect is subtler and it is here that da Vinci the yogi supersedes da Vinci the artist. In the sketch, da Vinci harmonizes the square and circle in the human body, depicting it as a Christian cross in the square, and as a St Andrew’s cross in the circle. It is difficult to perceive it, Patrizia argues, without being struck by its cosmic quality and intuitive knowledge of Unity. She finds in it a prophetic design that describes the transformation of Man to Superman.
According to Patrizia, the symbol of the square in the circle represents the mortal and the manifest divine. Its beauty lies in the essential unity of the two geometric symbols where, by refocusing and re-shifting the central point, the two movements can now meet and express themselves.
The basic simplicity makes this drawing, as well as its innate knowledge, all the more potent. Man is first placed in a square, which represents his descent into matter. Here, all is fragmented, divisible.
But, as the square is also the symbol of the cross, the Divine accepts this ‘crucifixion‘. The cross represents matter and the square its form that unites the four elements in a single flow of energy. In the zodiac cycle, the master mandala of the universe, the cardinal points—Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn—signify creation and make up the square on which the wheel finds its equilibrium. These points also represent four aspects of the Divine Mother: Mahakali, Maheshwari,Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati. The symbol’s completeness lies in the fact that it contains in itself that from which it sprang—the circle.
During the descent into matter, the body of man has its midpoint in the sexual center. From here man’s physical aspect takes shape and receives its life force. From here man draws and expends energy throughout his life. The sexual centeris the human being’s pivot, and human beings live on the cross, ignorant of the divine essence that inhabits the whole of their being.
Divine man is represented by da Vinci within the circle. Liberated from the confines of matter, he is different from mortal man, as can be seen by the shift of his center from the genital area to the navel. Da Vinci has graphically illustrated the harmony that springs from this refocusing The distance of any point on the circle from the center will be equal. In contrast, the square finds equal proportions only on the cross.
In simple terms, this means that if man wants to realize divinity, he must agree to relinquish his lower nature and turn to a higher manifestation. The higher vital center then becomes the channel through which he receives the life force. By continuing to live in the lower nature, man accepts his limited existence. He can only know the ‘extremities‘ at the four points.
But the man in the circle has the whole cosmos at his disposal. The circle represents a perfect harmony, a unity. It is the mother of all symbols. By dexterously combining the square and the circle, da Vinci reveals that in man mortal is man divine, that the microcosm is really one with the macrocosm. And what makes his design especially sublime is the fact that he has used man as his symbol.
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