“Any skill which, beginning with the observation of the symmetry of living things, grows to the symmetry of all life, will be a portion of the power there which observes and meditates the symmetry reigning among among all beings in the Intellectual Cosmos. Thus all music—since its thought is upon melody and rhythm—must be the earthly representation of the music there is in the rhythm of the Ideal Realm.
“The crafts such as building and carpentry which gives us matter in wrought forms, may be said, in that they draw on pattern, to take their principles from that realm and from that the thinking there: but in that they bring these down into contact with the sense-order, they are not totally in the intellectual: they are founded in man. So agriculture, dealing with material growth: so medicine watching over physical health: so the art which aims at corporeal strength and well-being. …
“Oratory and generalship, administration and sovereignty—under any forms in which their activities are associated with Good and when they look to that—possess something derived thence and building up their knowledge from the knowledge there [in the cosmos]. …
“It should however be added that if the idea of man exists in the Supreme, there must exist the idea of reasoning man and of man with his arts and crafts; such arts as are the offspring of intellect must be there. It must be observed that the ideas will be of universals.” ~Plotinus
The symmetry of Living Things
There is a symmetry of living things, though it is more obvious in some than in others.
Cartoon illustrating the difference between bilateral (Drosophila), radial (actinomorphic flowers) and spherical (coccus bacteria) symmetry By Charl Hutchings – own; Made diagram on biorender, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=93231966
In this illustration, bilateral symmetry is not obvious to most of us, but the two other types usually are. Fractals and Fibonacci sequences also illustrate divine symmetry in living things.
So Plotinus is saying that this symmetry found in Nature is a reflection of a Divine Symmetry found in Heaven. The Laws of God, the Divine proportion, and symmetry descend to the lower levels of existence to varying degrees.
The Intellectual Cosmos
As I’ve mentioned before when quoting Plotinus, he often confuses the mental with the spiritual and intellect with consciousness. It is Divine Consciousness which is the model of symmetry and proportion, not the intellect of mind. It is the intellect that has actually moved us away from symmetry and divine proportion in many of the arts and crafts in recent decades. He is correct though in thinking that what is true in the cosmos is true on Earth, though probably to a lesser degree. That which is true of the physical universe, in general, is also true on individual planets. That which is true in the spiritual universe is, for the most part, true in the physical one. Not entirely, of course, because the physical universe is the realm of the fallen. It is distorted because it is not a true creation of God, but a creation of the Demiurge instead. But it would fall apart completely if it didn’t obey the laws of symmetry and divine proportion to some degree. Continue reading “Symmetry in Life and Art”