Essay by Mary Carroll Nelson


Pyramid Versus Circle

My fascination with pyramids began so long ago I can’t remember the first time I saw a photograph of the temples at Giza, but it was the Great Pyramid of Cheops that stayed in my mind as a mammoth mystery. Recent events in our country have focused my attention on the pyramid not only as a structure but as a symbol. Some current and past meanings of the pyramid are:
• Pyramids were tombs of the nobility.
• The Egyptian pyramids of Giza were places of initiation into the priesthood.
• Pyramids were devices to mark the passage of the year, and were oriented exactly to certain stars.
• Pyramids were built under guidance from extra terrestrials to serve as markers for future landings on Earth and to facilitate communication with these beings.
• Pyramids are energy devices which, through their form, emit vibrations.
• Pyramids with crystal capstones powered Atlantean civilization.
• Pyramids are symbols of masculine power and represent a way to organize society.

Manly P. Hall, in The Secret Teachings of All Ages, writes:
• "The Great Pyramid is indeed a sermon in stone…Among the shifting sands of time it stands as a fitting emblem of eternity itself." (Page XLI)
• "The Pyramid may be likened to the universe and the capstone to man. Following the chain of analogy, the mind is the capstone of man, the spirit is the capstone of the mind, and God — the epitome of the whole — the capstone of the spirit." (XLIV)

Alan Alford argues against the favored theory that the Pyramid is a religious monument built by a Sun cult as a solar symbol. He offers his concept that the Pyramid was "actually a creation symbol, as evidenced by the fact that its capstone, benbenet, symbolized the insemination of the sky." (World–, "The Great Pyramid." Page 1)

Maxim Yakovenko, in an Internet posting about Chinese pyramids, says, "I have a theory that these Chinese flat–topped pyramids were huge mechanisms for the generation of energy from the light, the sun and the universe."

J. E. Cirlot, in his classic A Dictionary of Symbols, gives this definition of the Pyramid: "…it is symbolic of the earth in its maternal aspect…it is a hollow mountain, the dwelling of ancestors and an earth-monument." (Page 255)

Clearly, pyramids are a subject for conjecture.

As a committed non–athlete, I have few feats of prowess to brag about; however, in Mexico at Teotihuacan, The Place Where Men Become Gods, I reached the top of the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. These flat–topped pyramids are said to be for offering sacrifices to and worshiping the Sky Gods. Being up there left me feeling a deeper connection with pyramids and their mysteries. Two earlier experiences had already encouraged my personal relationship with them.

In a newspaper there was a story and diagram of a pyramid discovered by the wealthy heir, Charles Berlitz, through sonar scanning off the coast of Florida while he explored the region in a mini–sub. He believed the structure under the water was a remnant of Atlantis. Though his announcement brought skepticism from the scientific establishment, his book on the subject was a best–seller.

I took the clipping of the drawing to show my first grade class and asked them what they thought the picture could mean. Immediately, they related the sub–derived drawing to the Bermuda Triangle and said things such as "It must be what is pulling planes out of the sky." The location where Berlitz claimed he sounded the pyramid under the ocean is the same that was predicted by America’s Sleeping Prophet Edgar Cayce as the site of ancient Atlantis.

Soon after finding this newspaper story, I bought the extraordinary replica of Manly P. Hall’s book, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, published in 1978, fifty years after the original printing. In his chapter on Atlantis is an llustration of a white stepped pyramidal temple, derived from imagination as well as descriptions of Atlantis. Berlitz first made his controversial discovery in the 1960s, but Hall had recorded his knowledge in the 1920s.

My second connection with pyramids occurred in 1981 when it was my good fortune to be included on a three week tour of China. This perk was payment for writing the catalogue to a ground–breaking show of Western Artists organized privately by Denver art dealers Pam Driscol and Deane Knox. X’ian, the site of the buried clay army, was on the tour, as well as the nearby Ming Tombs. These structures did not seem manmade to me at first sight, since they seem like round hills; I have since learned there are 300 pyramidal tombs in that vicinity. The tour group went inside the central tomb. It had been brought to such modern standards of lighting and display that it lacked the spirit of an ancient place.

In Southwestern England, Silbury Hill is a famed landmark not far from the Avebury Sacred Stone Circle complex. I have made several trips to the area. In contrast to the cold Ming tombs, this place is magical. Silbury Hill most resembles a breast; its rounded form rises abruptly from a flat field. In the late 20th Century, archaeologists from the University of Bristol did a probe of the hill and discovered an inner seven–stepped pyramid made from large blocks of limestone. The structure had been covered with earth to achieve its hemispheric contour and sown with grass. In hindsight, I add this site to my private pyramid contacts.

While pursuing this study I have consulted accredited scholarly material and also esoteric writings based on channeling. In our time there is a flowering of channelers who compare well with the oracles of the ancient world. From one to the other, their oracular messages are surprisingly similar. If asked, they will say they have an urgent obligation to share their arcane information at this particular moment in order to help the human race avoid a potential catastrophe. We are at a juncture in evolution when we could progress or sharply regress. I have heard enough of these pronouncements to take them seriously.

The channeling method is almost exactly the same as the protocol developed to "remote view" selected targets. Remote viewing was a project with military and civilian purposes and proved to be a valid way to secure factual information. I studied the system twice and had modest success with it. The steps of the process are: Clear your mind. Wait until an image forms. Sketch the image. Add any related details. To accomplish anything, the remote viewer maintains an inward focus. The channeler differs only in that his initial step is to self–induce a trance state. I suspect this is exactly the same as what the old prophets did.

Dr. Frank Alper was a channel living in Phoenix when I interviewed him and attended one of his sessions. He focused on Atlantis. In a trance he visualized the island continent and described in detail three–sided pyramids made entirely of crystal. He also spoke of the global band of familiar four–sided pyramids made of stone.

Alper’s contention was that pyramids were guided into existence by Elders — advanced souls who direct evolution on Earth. "When the first Elders of Atlantis incarnated on the surface, they brought with them all of their knowledge, all of their power…
"One of the first projects that was undertaken was the construction of various edifices, known as pyramids, on many areas of the planet. This was done as it was necessary to maintain communication and open channels… (and ) to channel collected energies to and from the ships and the energy vortexes emanating from the grid systems."
"It was the Elders who taught those involved in the construction of the pyramids the process of levitation to enable them to place the great stones in their proper positions." (Exploring Atlantis, Book I, March 16, 1981, first Page of session.)

Alper claimed the caps of the pyramids were faceted crystals, perfect ones that were made of natural ingredients in laboratory settings. His thesis is that Atlantis was powered by crystal energy, a thought one finds in other places.

I could add channeled material about Atlantis from Edgar Casey, Barbara Hand Clow, and others, but it would not change the basic idea that pyramids are associated with energy. They are also aligned with stars. Although Chinese pyramids and even those in Mexico show that there were burials associated with some of them, the Great Pyramid is not a tomb. Its mysteries are still so deep we have no accurate date for its construction and its inner chambers have not revealed their purpose. We could not duplicate these pyramids today despite our vastly enhanced technology.

What I could not discover is any simple definition of the pyramid as a symbol, but when I turn my attention to the echoes of pyramid building which remain with us in our time, they are numerous. I note I. M. Pei’s glass pyramid that forms the entry to the Louvre in Paris. In Albuquerque where I live is an iconic hotel with an aspiring pyramid at its top, easily seen for miles. Almost daily, we handle dollar bills that feature a prominent image of Cheops with an all–seeing eye across it.

My theory is that the pyramid lurks in human consciousness as an aspect of racial memory. It is such a powerful symbol that we have organized ourselves, for at least the last 5,000 years, into pyramidal structures. The pyramid is omnipresent in the United States wherever hierarchy prevails: in the military it seems appropriate, but not in the increasingly centralized nature of our government or the Federal control of the educational establishment, the interlocked financial system, businesses, social organizations and societies. They were set up as pyramids, with power concentrated at the top.

Our Founding Fathers did not create the structure of government we now experience. They designed a unique Federal Republic, a Democracy in which each qualified voter would have a say in sending a citizen representative to Washington, insuring local participation in decisions made. Clearly this is not the case today. We have a professional political class who move into powerful positions and then devote themselves to staying in power. They may get their start locally but once they reach the House of Representatives or the Senate they develop seniority, which is valuable back home. Our Government has become a permanent oligarchy in pyramidal form.

In other areas of the common culture, we speak of a business, such as Avon, Mary Kay or Shaklee, as pyramids, with many sellers on the bottom and a steep rise to the top where earnings ascend. Frauds are called "Pyramid Schemes" and it is not a positive comment. The pyramid has all the characteristics we associate with hierarchy. Notably, within the pyramid is an adversarial system, focused on duality. There are always two sides. One has to win. One has to lose. It is a male–dominated paradigm. Today, though more women are graduating from college and taking higher degrees than men, the successful elevation of an individual woman to the apex of power is still newsworthy.

Our pyramidal culture originated with the arrival of the Sky Gods, those distant, masculine entities whose worship moved northward from the depths of Asia and eventually — almost — quelled the earlier worship of an Earth Goddess whose major attribute was her felt immediacy and her fertility that nourished all creation. In Abrahamic religious practice, the sky god has been a single supreme male being, who is represented on Earth almost entirely by male rabbis, priests and imams, and in native cultures, by male shamans and chiefs. The change from Goddess worship to God worship was a slow process that never quite eliminated the feminine principle from human spiritual awareness. Within Christianity, through worship of Mary, the Earth Goddess was retained, especially in her guise as the Black Madonna.

• • • • • •

Evidence is increasing that we have reached another great turning of the Wheel of Life, and we see a change of consciousness just developing on the evolutionary horizon. Our next shift is toward a more holistic and nourishing paradigm. The pyramid will no longer serve as a symbol for this paradigm, but the circle surely does. It is time to introduce the circle wherever it is an appropriate way to organize ourselves.

We will not be the first humans to recognize the circle for its symbolic power, Recent archaeological discoveries, especially in Turkey, formerly Anatolia, reveal a far earlier level of civilization than ours that avoided the hierarchical nature of the pyramid. Notably from the 7th millennium B.C.E. Neolithic settlement of Catal Huyuk, archaeologists found well-preserved, ample traces of a people with a social structure that was matrilineal or matrifocal, but not matriarchal. Neither women nor men were dominant. Elinor Gadon tells us it was a peaceful society through eight centuries of civilization. No evidence of weaponry has been found there. The people who inhabited the site were agrarians. (Elinor W. Gadon. The Once and Future Goddess, A Symbol for Our Time, 1989. Page 25.)

Gadon sketches in the findings of Marija Gimbutas, a Lithuanian archaeologist, who analyzed Catal Huyuk’s plentiful remains as clear indications of a society that worshiped an Earth Goddess, the source of life. Gadon forecasts a growing awareness of the Goddess as an alternative to the patriarchy. She writes:
Ours is a search for meaning, for what has been lost and for what can be recovered. Our challenge as women and men of the late twentieth century is to open ourselves to other realities, to find other lenses through which to view human life, our relation to each other and to the world around us." (Page xiv)

Gadon’s thesis interests me, especially her vision of a return to the feminine principle of ancient times by citing the contemporay women’s art movement. Today, the urgent stridency of the early feminist artists has ebbed because women’s art is well–recognized historically and critically. I doubt that Gadon, an open advocate of feminist values, visualizes a total switch in society from patriarchy to matriarchy. She projects a holistic social system which respects both women and men. This is the position I take, as well.

It is my belief that we progress in stages, over long periods of time, based upon widely shared intuitions that seem timed to coincide with pivotal moments, initiated perhaps by an unknown but perceived agent that affects our collective unconscious. We have experienced more than one probe of our currently accepted view of reality, both of them anomalous and both involve the circle: Since World War II, there have been repeated sightings and some interaction with what once were called Flying Saucers and are now known as UFOs, Unexplained Flying Objects. And, since the late 1970s, there has been a rapidly developing phenomenon in many countries of crop circles that appear each growing season. Although the formations have developed a wide latitude of designs, the majority of them are circles. I consider UFOs and crop circles to be signs pointing us to the symbolic meaning of the circle.

Carl G. Jung, the 20th century psychologist, who coined the words we bandy about now in the vernacular such as the collective unconscious, archetypes, anima/animus, has shaped many of our perceptions with his theories. Before his death in 1961, Jung published his essay on UFOs, describing them either as "a rumour" which could be interpreted as a shared hallucination, or a fact. He begins his book Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth with an unexpected, but relevant, comment about the change underway from the Piscean age to the Aquarian:
"It is not presumption that drives me, but my conscience as a psychiatrist that bids me fulfil my duty and prepare those few who will hear me for coming events which always appear as in accord with the end of an era…Apparently they are changes in the constellation of psychic dominants, of the archetypes, or ‘gods’ as they used to be called, which bring about, or accompany, long–lasting transformations of the collective psyche." (Page 5)

"Jung describes the flying saucer as a mandala which "has developed into a definitely psychological totality symbol…" (Page.20)

There is increasing evidence that governments have amassed data about these UFOs, and might have reverse engineered the most useful aspects of their construction and power systems, since it is widely believed that some of them have crashed and been found in the United States and other countries. If this is true, UFOs are more than a ‘rumour’ sunk into the lower levels of our consciousness. The ordinary person does not know what their government is doing about the phenomenon. Yet, their circularity is a recognized symbol.

In his theory of "wholeness," the British physicist David Bohm addresses the unity of consciousness and matter as the ultimate inclusiveness. Whereas Jung focuses on the integrated self, symbolized by the circle, Bohm’s theory concerns the universe where we find ourselves, which exhibits an order combining both a material nature and a potential one. His Wholeness and the Implicate Order is worth the many rereads it requires. His vision was so insightful that it illuminates the entire field of holism. A late outgrowth of his wholeness theory was his creation of a proposal for people to collect into a circle for the express purpose of sharing thoughts. He gave it the simple title "Dialogue." After his death, other scholars have continued his efforts as they maintain Dialogues based on his criteria. He proselytized that it was only through Dialogue that humans can solve their problems. A similar thought has animated my desire to write this essay.

From Wikipedia, the article "Bohm Dialogue," I found these quotations:
• "Bohm has introduced the concept of a dialogue stating that dialogue can be considered a form of free exchange of meaning between people in communication, in the sense of a stream that flows between banks. These ‘banks’ are understood as representing the various points of view of the participants."
• "…it may turn out that such a form of free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation, so that creativity can be liberated."
• "Meeting without an agenda or fixed objective is done to create a ‘free space’ for something new to happen."

Since World War II, the United States has become a nation of secrets where information that belongs to the citizenry is classified in order to deny transparency between the government and the people. Actual secrets regarding defense are only a minor part of the totality of secrets withheld from us. This tendency towards secrecy has spread into almost all levels of society. Businesses are especially protective of their interests, but local and State government have also lapsed into habits of sharing information only with favored persons. Private organizations that practice secrecy generate a culture that leads to an in–group and an out–group (I am reminded of art groups I joined in the many places we lived before settling down.) It is only in free exchange of ideas that a person is encouraged to think outside the box and come up with inventive inspirations.

The second major prod to rethink our accepted paradigm is the phenomenon of crop circles. These designs, often huge in size, appear overnight in the fields of numerous countries. They have been coming for so long that there is a body of researched literature whose speculations involve geometry, mathematics, geology, aesthetics, symbology and mythology. One of the most perceptive and illuminated authors is Karen Alexander who, with her photographer husband Steve, publishes the annual Crop Circle Year Book. I collect their compilations as references. In the 2012 year book, Karen describes crop circles as "strange attractors" activating a shift in time. She writes:
2012 is the end of one great cycle in human history and simultaneously the beginning of another: the end of the old and the beginning of something new…December 21st 2012 marks the end of a great precessional age of 26,920 years…
Perhaps if the end of this great cycle in time is symbolic of anything, it may be in the fact that we are moving towards a greater understanding of this idea, this great mystery, and towards an integrating philosophy which will allow us to put back together this reality we have systematically taken apart and to reconnect with the whole. To move towards the end of the polarisation of duality… (Crop Circle Year Book 2012, pages 1-3)

Evolution is a spiral. I note that when it returns to an earlier spot, the spiral is not exactly where it was before; it is at a higher level. We say "history repeats itself" and "what goes around comes around" because we are aware of cycles; yet, each turn of the spiral is a synthesis of what has gone before. We need to become aware of our place in time so that we can consciously integrate the past and gain control over the future.

In my view, evolution is purposeful. The dynamic worldwide reliance on the pyramid as a model for organizing society fueled the rise in scientific and technological progress. We will not benefit, in the larger sense, from casting out the pyramid paradigm or by regressing to the circular system of Neolithic culture. A step forward, beyond patriarchal dominance and dualistic thinking, into a balanced, more accommodating system of mutual respect, is a worthy goal. Ideally, we can integrate both paradigms by retaining the advantageous energy and leadership of the masculine principle while simultaneously encouraging the unique insights and nurturing elements of the feminine principle.

• • • • • •

Bohm’s legacy in Dialogue is the tool to begin harmonizing our social structure. Technology provides the means to create temporary circles for the purpose of exchanging opinions, despite distances between the participants, through conference calls and virtual meetings.

Within my area of concern is the Society of Layerists in Multi–Media (SLMM). This is a network of artists who for over thirty years, have been expressing a holistic worldview in "Layered" art. Their work is not identified by style or medium but by its intention. Members of SLMM find inspiration in the entire gamut of their experience with the tactile world as well as their awareness of the ephemeral. The concept behind their work is that everything is connected to everything else. SLMM’s members are practiced in sharing effort for a common purpose. Occasionally, the society publishes books and holds exhibitions as outward manifestations of holistic thinking. These are collaborative efforts dependent on the input of all members who participate. As the society evolves, it stands as a working example of synthesis.

The society continues today with several hundred members dispersed across the United States and into Canada. Although SLMM adopted a pyramidal structure with a president, a board, and regional coordinators, this is an opportune time for the society to practice Dialogue. Between annual national meetings, conversations among artists far distant from each other can be efficiently organized and more widely shared than expensive conferences. During the annual gatherings, the customary General Meeting can be retooled as a Dialogue, a circle that includes everyone present. Dialogue would greatly enhance the vital center of the society. In this small way SLMM can act as a bridge betweem the pyramid and the circle, two paradigms that inhabit the collective unconscious of our race at a time of transition. From one small group to another, the concept of Dialogue could, I believe, spread outward to the larger society. Wherever there is an opportunity to ameliorate our self–imposed limitations it should be taken.

Now is the time.
Mary Carroll Nelson

Mary Carroll Nelson

Other Essays Listed by Name:

What Lies Beyond? The Art of Layering Art Today, Art History Tomorrow
Can We Believe In Holism and Be a Partisan Too? Words in Their Time Synchronicity and Holism
©2010 Mary Carroll Nelson
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