By: WB Daniel Genchi Gila Valley Lodge 9 (F&AM) Florence, AZ
“Let none enter here who are ignorant of Geometry.” This is said to have been inscribed above the entrance of Plato’s Academy. A quote which this author found, at the very least, to be interesting and at the very most obsessively infatuating. I must warn on the onset before we begin on this journey down the rabbit hole, you must bear in mind that this topic is only the beginning. It is the scratch on the surface.
What you are getting is a very brief glimpse into the endless possibilities which any amount of devotion into the study and understanding of Geometry can provide. The culminations of ideas which have sprouted from this obsession have [for me] been more than eye opening. It is hoped that at its end, you will be inspired to ask further questions and seek your own light. All I offer is a glimpse into the rabbit hole. How deep it goes (as is in most of Masonry) is up to you.
Before we begin this journey together, it is important we take some time to reflect. Remember back to your initiation. Think back to what it was that brought you to Masonry. Bring back from the depths of your mind when it was that you first became a Mason. For what questions did you seek answers? Were you looking for the meaning behind what is seen and experienced? When did you first contemplate the possibility that there might be some “perfect order” to the world as you perceive it? Close your eyes for an instant and think back to that moment. Hold that thought in your head, and then reflect back to that very moment in time as we present these ideas.
It is important that you take what you learn and apply it in a way which fits your path.
What I am offering in this paper is not meant to be taken as law. It is not intended to impress upon you any unnatural truth or certainties. Rather, it is meant to bring to your mind those longing questions, that fruitful endeavor you embarked upon when you knocked upon the door of Freemasonry. It is an attempt to relate to you the importance of your journey founded by the Great Civilizations of Antiquity and shaped by your own thirst for knowledge.
All I ask is that you keep an open and receptive mind. Remembering that all which is presented to your view is subject to question and interpretation. The author would not have it any other way. I encourage you, above all else, to question everything..
Into the Rabbit Hole:
When I began researching topics for this paper, the lack of noble topics was in no short supply. Neither was my abundance of questions. As many things in Masonry often do the more I sought to answer one question, the answer(s) I found would quickly become replaced by even deeper questions. With a never ending web of questions, my mind began to travel. I began to reflect back on the various ceremonies of my degrees. I read and recited lectures and monologues. I poured through article after article. I devoured book after book. If there was an end to the World Wide Web, then it seemed as if I was determined to find it.
I found myself reading about alternative history (history outside and sometimes contrary to conventional historical accounts). I read about the various world philosophies and the civilizations of antiquity. I read about the Egyptians and their mathematical genius who gave way to the pyramids, the obelisk, farming, and irrigation. I read of the Mayans and their elaborate calendar (which remains the most accurate calendar to date) as well as their architecturally advanced Temples which considered and accounted for the alignment of the stars and planets as part of their design. The Greeks, the Romans, and the Persians for their ingenuity in the Sciences and Arts as well as their Military and Humanitarian achievements.
All of these cultures, which were ages ahead of their times and well deserving of in-depth discussion, for the sake of time and ink; this paper makes no attempt to dive into. These topics would be better served in a separate paper of their own.
In all of this however, there seemed to be a question I could begin to wrap my brain around. What did these civilizations have in common, and how did they relate to Freemasonry and my personal quest as a Mason?
It was during my attempt to answer this question when I came across this quote: “Let none enter here who are ignorant of Geometry.” At first read, this quote seemed to be innocent enough. It was direct and to the point. I mean, of course! Why would anyone ignorant of Geometry enter into Plato’s Academy anyway? What purpose would it serve to sit in a room where topics were being discussed of which you have no concept and are unable to contribute? I will admit at first glance, it seemed to be pretty cut and dry. It wasn’t until I came back to this quote that it began to look a bit peculiar.
“Let none enter here who are ignorant of Geometry.” What was Plato really saying? There seemed to be something deeper to this than what I was initially reading. I began to ask myself: where would someone wanting to learn about Geometry go if he wasn’t allowed in the one place that offered this knowledge?
It seemed as though there must be some significance or some deeper meaning I wasn’t seeing. How would you have knowledge of a topic as in-depth as Geometry prior to entering the place to receive that light? Oddly enough, this seemed to have struck a familiar chord with me. I began to think back to my initiation ceremony into the Craft.
I remembered the questions asked: “Where were you first prepared to be a Mason?”… “In my heart”. Not in the room adjacent to the lodge, as that was clearly the Second place I was prepared. It was first “in my heart”. Was it possible Plato was implying that you must first be a geometrician in your heart before passing through the portal of his academy? If so, then it would stand to reason, Plato was implying an understanding of a philosophical or esoteric element of Geometry, not merely the drawing of shapes and angles. This seemed to be the most logical path and so I went with it.
Before we go any further in this paper, for the understanding of the reader, it is worth mentioning that at the very earliest appearance of human civilization we observe the presence and importance of Geometry.
It is clearly evident that Geometry was comprehended and utilized by the ancient Master Builders, who gave the world such masterworks as the megalithic structures of ancient Europe and the Pyramids and temples of Egypt. It is also evident that Geometry continued to be used throughout the centuries as evident in the cultures and architecture of; China, Central and South America, in pre-Colombian North America, among Native Americans, in Africa, SE Asia, Indonesia, Europe, Rome and of course in classical Greece. Having established the importance of Geometry throughout civil society, let us define Geometry the word before we attempt to define Geometry the idea.
The earliest appearance in history of the use of the term Geometry as we have come to know it was by the ancient Egyptians. The word Geometry itself means “Earth measure”. This definition is generally attributed to the fact that the Egyptians would regularly use the concepts of Geometry to resurvey their farmlands, after existing boundaries were buried by the shifting dirt caused by flooding of the Nile river.