Whispering Symbols: Dot and Circle


I am too committed to my psychological and spiritual growth to cling to assumptions that have no practical value for me.  If believing in the connectedness of all life and the meaning in all things did not produce observable healthy change, I would accommodate myself to what did; but the fact is that mythos—the symbolic way of thinking that is sister to masculine logos—has served me exceedingly well in my efforts to become more conscious, whole, and connected.
Mythos is the language of the body, heart, and soul. It is associated with the feminine realm—i.e., all that is mysterious, unconscious, creative, felt, organic, and personally compelling. It whispers to us in feelings, physical symptoms, imagination, fantasy, and dreams that reveal unconscious dimensions of ourselves.
Both logos and mythos contribute to our fullest development. Children use mythos thinking automatically. This is why they respond to everything new with spontaneity, enthusiasm, joy and wonder.  But once the “masculine” phase of external striving begins, logos and the ego tend to dominate our thinking and spirituality, and life begins to lose its savor. Those who never leave mythos behind or who return to it later on discover undeveloped aspects of themselves by following meaningful symbols, powerful emotions, cognitive dissonance, uncomfortable personal dilemmas, and bodily symptoms through the labyrinth of the unconscious.
Symbols unlock doors to hidden chambers of ourselves wherein we discover purpose and meaning. Some symbols only have meaning for certain individuals or groups; others have universal appeal. Take, for example, a dot and a circle.  Why does every culture on the planet use these simple designs in religion, art, architecture, literature, and adornment?  Is this just an amazing coincidence, or is there something profound within each of us to which they speak?
In A Dictionary of Symbols, J.E. Cirlot tells us that a dot is a symbol of unity and the Origin.  A circle suggests infinity, the All.  And a circle with a dot or hole in the center represents the center of infinity, i.e., emanation or first cause. These symbols all speak to the same psychic reality, the Self which contains our predisposition to believe in a sacred realm, shapes our images and ideas about it, and motivates the spiritual search.
We cannot “know” our Source of Being—the eternal essence that we call God, Goddess, Father, Mother, Jahweh, Allah, Great Spirit, or whatever term you prefer—and words alone can never describe all that we intuit.  But the universal symbols of the dot and the circle resonate deeply.
Eastern religions have produced myriad renderings of circular mandalas, each with a center point, upon which devotees may focus their thoughts during meditation.  Similarly,  native peoples throughout the Western world have long created sacred circles in sand paintings and arrangements of stones as aids to worship in religious ceremonies. Jung saw mandalas as symbols of individuation, and his The Red Book contains many of the exquisite images he painted during his most intense time of inner exploration.
These and other symbols—like geometric shapes, abstract designs,  certain kinds of people, activities, animals, plants, elements, imaginary beings or objects—capture our attention with mysterious power because they carry important meaning for us. What symbols and activities attracted your childhood imagination and appeared in your fantasies? Do they still appeal to you today?  What do they say about your passions and journey through life? How can you bring them into your life to create more meaning and fulfillment?

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0 Responses

  1. Dear Jean,
    I love your blog and the contemplative spirit with which it is written. I notice you describe the unconscious as a labyrinth, and in the context imply it to be a place of confusion. I am a labyrinth lover – I facilitate groups with walking meditation and I am in the process of raising the funds to build Sydney’s first major public labyrinth. To me, a labyrinth is a path of peace and truth – a well of the Divine Feminine at which we may drink deep and nourish our souls. The concept of “maze” might have suited your purpose better in this instance. Sorry to nitpick, but these two words have been overlapped for too long…
    With thanks and best wishes for all you do.

    1. Hi Emily,
      Thank you for the warm words. I’m so glad you enjoy my blog. Thanks also for your clarification that a labyrinth and a maze are not quite the same thing. For example, the Cretan labyrinth that contained the Minotaur had many intricate mazes in it, whereas many others do not.
      Coincidentally, I too am a labyrinth lover and was instrumental in the fund-raising, purchasing, and painting of a large canvas labyrinth for indoor use in Central Florida! Ours is a replica of the one in Chartres Cathedral, and we’ve used it in some wonderful settings with many groups. I share your associations with the symbol. I also see it as a metaphor for the journey through the unconscious, which is not always completely pleasant and often feared, but ultimately enormously affirming and empowering.
      For me it is relevant in this post because it is a circle with a center point which I see as the Self. I love the fact that our labyrinth sometimes takes the walker very close to the center and sometimes to the very outer edges before you actually reach the center. This is exactly how I’ve experienced my inner journey, which has never been a clear and direct line from point A to point B! While I do occasionally manage to touch and even briefly inhabit the central holy space of the Self, mostly I circumambulate around it!
      The fact that you and I have some different associations for this symbol is a lovely example of how the same symbol can have different shades of meaning for different individuals depending on their personal experiences and subjective realities. This is exactly as it should be. In fact, it is the essential value of the mythos mode of thinking: it validates the worth of each of us, no matter who or where we are, in a way that is meant to promote our individual journeys to the Sacred.
      Thank you for writing!
      My very best to you,

  2. I have known about mandalas for a long time, being once a member of a Hindu-cult, but I could never understand why I draw so many dots. Whenever I doodle, I’m likely to make a flower and a dot, or a leaf and a dot, a feather and a dot, a heart and a dot… you get the point 🙂 It was great reading the article and finding out it was my way of trying to connect with the Origin, the Source. This makes so much sense, and helpes me in my own path. Thank you once again!

    1. HI Argenta,
      Yes, I got the point, and enjoyed a good laugh over it! I’m so glad you found this post helpful!
      You’re very welcome, and thank you for commenting.
      My very best,

    1. Ahh, yes. I love spirals too! Did you know that some scholars relate their meaning to labyrinths? Both illustrate cyclic development, the movement of involution and evolution in the cosmos, return and renewal, etc. I always see this as a very positive symbol pointing to the universal truth that spring’s new growth always follows winter, and summer’s blossoming always follows spring!
      Sending you much love,

  3. Jean, I am so happy you commented on my blog the other day, as I’d lost track of your blog here, and am having a wonderful time re/discovering everything you have written. A very rich personal and collective exploration….
    Best, will be back again soon,

    1. KA, I’m so glad you found my comment meaningful. It was a great dream!! And I love your blog. Your photographs are gorgeous.
      Thanks for rediscovering and liking my blog. It looks like we’re on the same path, each using our unique gifts to express and interpret it in our individual ways!
      My best to you,

      1. P.S. I know a lot of people don’t want to clutter up their mail boxes with lots of incoming mail, but if you want to receive my blog posts via e-mail as I do yours, you can subscribe at the above right of this page, just beneath my picture. WordPress doesn’t ask for any information other than your e-mail address and it doesn’t share this information with anyone else. J

      2. Yes, I just changed the wordpress notification / delivery setting so I’ll be reminded more regularly. A little more feminine-Jungian thought in my inbox can only be a good thing…. 🙂

  4. Jean,
    After reading this I decided to spend some time this morning writing down the meaningful symbols in my life from my childhood right up through to my present and the symbols that now surround me.The tapestry of symbols woven together over time have reflected who I am and what my life has thus far been about. Amazing. Thank you for another wonderful springboard for self reflection. By the way, the logo for MorningStar is a 4 pointed star/cross over a circle that connects the 4 intermediate points of the star to form a square with a circle within it and within that two pine trees and the morning star in the dawning sky above them. It’s been about women/the feminine finding direction in the dawn of a new day.
    Gratefully, for your contribution toward this dawning, Julie

    1. Hi Julie,
      I’m so pleased to know this post triggered some meaningful inner work for you. I love the combination of symbols you used for your logo. And I love, love, love knowing I’ve made a contribution to the dawning of feminine guidance! Sending much appreciation to you today.

  5. I spent time in India and was moved by a common daily practice. In the south, every morning, the women of a house, rich or poor, clean the walk in front of the house and create a chalk drawing (rangoli in sanskrit, or kolam in Tamil). From simple to complex motif, in both design and color, it is always a renewed welcome expressed in symbol. Not a bad way to start the day!

    1. What a beautiful custom! It’s what I call “living your myth.” Rituals like this keep us connected to the Sacred in ways nothing else can do. Thank you for telling me about it! Jeanie

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