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Vitruvian Man

Vitruvian Man

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Published by markjohnson63

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: markjohnson63 on Aug 05, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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(this article was first published on the TarotL Tarot discussion list)article copyright Robert M. Place 2000
The pen and ink drawing by Leonardoda Vinci, depicting a man fitting hisbody to a circle and a square byadjusting the position of his arms andlegs, is probably the most famousdrawing in the world - judging by thefact that I see it in advertisements andworked into logos for holistic healthcenters and it is even the wallpaperdesign for my Windows main page.However, few people know its name orthe secrets that it contains. It is calledVitruvian Man.Vitruvius was an ancient Romanarchitect who wrote a series of tenbooks on architecture - one of the fewcollections of books of its type thatsurvived into the Renaissance. In thethird volume, which is on the proportions of temples, he states that these buildings should bebased on the proportions of man, because the human body is the model of perfection. He justifies this by stating that the human body with arms and legs extended fits into the perfectgeometric forms, the circle, and the square.This fragment of the philosophy of Pythagoras seizedthe imagination of the Renaissance. Many artists triedto illustrate this divine relationship, but with varyingsuccess. An illustration of Vitruvian man byCesariano in his Cosmo Vitruvius of 1521 reeks of failure. Cesariano drew a perfect circle and squaretangent to each other at the four points of the square;then he forced a figure of a man into the design sothat his hands and feet touch the points. The resultwas one of the most disproportioned figures of theRenaissance, with arms too long, legs too short, andhands and feet too big. A system of relationshipsalone did not make beauty happen. It took the geniusof Leonardo da Vinci to solve the problem. Leonardostarted by drawing a perfectly proportioned man and then found the circle and square in the
Vitruvian Manhttp://thealchemicalegg.com/VitruviusN.html1 of 37/23/2012 3:47 AM
figure. The circle and square are only tangent at one place, the base. The thing that he addedwas beauty. I keep a copy of his illustration on the wall over my drawing table and refer to it asa guide for my own figures.I believe that beauty in itself is a greater mystical revelation than any system of symbols or of correspondences. The one criticism I have of Tarot decks in general, modern or other, is that attimes they lack beauty. Sometimes the creators make the same mistake as Cesariano and try tomake reality fit their ideas instead of discovering them in reality. This is not to say that there isno underlying wisdom in their assertions, but only that at times their solutions are less thansatisfactory.I have lived with Leonardo's Vitruvian Man for many years now and it has taught me manythings. It has been like having Leonardo as a teacher. I would like to discuss this further andshow how this relates to the Tarot.Some of you will be asking yourself, why was it so important to the Renaissance artists andphilosophers that a human body could fit into a circle and a square? Some of you probablyknow the answer, but I will go into it for the benefit of those who do not.The ideas that Vitruvius was expressing can be traced back to Pythagoras. Pythagoras lived ina Greek colony in Southern Italy in the 6th century, BCE, the same time that Buddha lived.Like Buddha, Pythagoras taught his male and female disciples that life is an endless wheel of reincarnations until we purify ourselves and return to our divine source.Purification included a vegetarian diet, moral behavior, and contemplation of the numericalabstractions that underlie reality. Pythagoras was the first person to call himself a philosopher,which means to love Sophia (wisdom). We have no writing that can be attributed toPythagoras; yet, he is one of a handful of people that were instrumental in creating Westernculture. It is theorized that if he did write anything it would have been poetry and he wouldhave signed it Orpheus.Orpheus, the mythical, semi-divine musician, was the founder of the first mystery cult, areligion based on a secret redemptive ritual. This religion is believed to be a major source forthe Pythagorean teachings. Many of its followers were poets and musicians who believed thattheir inspiration came directly from Orpheus; hence, they would sign his name to their work.In the Orphic creation myth, the beautiful god, Dionysus, is born of the incestuous union of Zeus and Persephone. Zeus' wife, Hera, is jealous and wishes to destroy the child. Toaccomplish this she has her allies, the Titans, dismember and devour him. Of course, Zeus isheart broken and in a fit of anger, he burns the Titans to ash with a volley of lightning bolts.Only Dionysus's heart remained, and from this, Zeus creates a new Dionysus. However, fromthe ash of the Titans mixed with the devoured Dionysus, the human race was born. Therefore,the human race is part divine and beautiful like Dionysus and part vicious and material like theTitans. The purpose of the Orphic mystery was to redeem the Dionystic soul and make it thedominant influence in the lives of the devotees.The Orphics, like Pythagoras, saw a connection between music and numerical order. This typeof reasoning lead to sacred geometry. Pythagoras taught that numbers had qualities as well asquantity and that geometric figures were powerful magical symbols. The circle, beingconnected to the dome of the sky and the cosmos with its spherical stars and planetscontinually circling the earth was a symbol of Dionysus, the soul.
Vitruvian Manhttp://thealchemicalegg.com/VitruviusN.html2 of 37/23/2012 3:47 AM

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