The Circle as Image of the Deity

The alchemical Squaring of the Circle, within the microcosm of the Work. D. Stolcius von Stolcenberg, Viridarium chymicum, Frankfurt, 1624. Extract from "The Golden Game", Stanislas Klossowsky de Rola. US Public Domain
The alchemical Squaring of the Circle, within the microcosm of the Work. D. Stolcius von Stolcenberg, Viridarium chymicum, Frankfurt, 1624. Extract from “The Golden Game”, Stanislas Klossowsky de Rola. US Public Domain

Medieval alchemists used the Quadratura Circuli, or squared circle, to represent the synthesis of the four elements — earth, water, fire and air. Carl Jung says “they knew in those days that the circle meant the deity” and later that “the idea of those philosophers was that God manifested himself first in the creation of the four elements. They were symbolized by the four partitions of the circle.” (ibid. p. 70) The alchemist say God as conceild within nature, and the alchemical work as holding the potential to “produce the dormant demiurge” (p. 67).  This production of the deity is often symbolized by the image of the “conjunctio” (see p.67), or “philosopher’s stone”, as the “a perfect living being of hermaphroditic nature” (p.68) Carl Jung says:

“This image of the Deity dormant and concealed in matter was what the alchemist called the original chaos, the earth of paradise, the round fish in the sea, the egg  the conjunctio; anonymous author of the Rosarium philosophorum says: “Make a round circle of man and woman, extract therefrom a quadrangle and from it a triangle. Make the circle round, and you will have the Philosophers’ Stone.” (see p.67)

Note: Jung says “We must step back not quite 300 years and find ourselves among scientists and philosophers of nature who are seriously discussing the enigma of the Quadratura Circuli  [squared circle]. This abstruse problem was in itself a psychological projection of much older and completely unconscious things. But they knew in those days that the circle meant the deity: ‘Deus est figura intellectualis, cujus centrum est ubique,circumferentia vero nusquam.’ [God is a circle whose center is everywhere, but whose circumference is nowhere]…The image of the circle– regarded as the most perfect form since Plato’s Timaeus, the prime authority of hermetic philosophy– was also given to the most perfect substance, to the gold, to the anima mundi or anima media natura, and to the first created light. And because the macrocosm, the great world, was made by the creator ‘in forma rotunda et globosa’, the smallest part of the whole, the point, also contains the perfect nature.”  Carl Jung (1938, p. 66-67)

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