ARCHITECTURAL SYMBOLISM, METAPHOR AND CENTERING
Walking a old, forested Buddhist compound outside of Tokyo, I was told that the temple site was a specially sacred site — and one that was anciently “magical.” The idea of spirit spaces, places that have special power, is the mix between higher symbolisms coupled with the sense of energy, presence and mystical alignments. And many of these alignments are founded on stars, solar movements and ancient storytelling. Myths lay the ground for celestial stories.
Throughout the site, there were a series of installations, or “discovered” objects — “center” stones (like the one pictured above,) trees and other references When I was in college, I’d worked on a massive hand drawn research journal on cosmological and sacred geometric architecture. So massive that I never completely finished it. What happened was that — towards the end — I came to the realization that its scale was likely unstoppable. It would go on — forever, so common was the theme.
Layers on layers; one discovery lead to another, and another and I realized that it would be a unending quest. Cosmological symbolism in art and architecture, particularly among traditional cultures, is deep and long-running, a feature of millennial heritage and vision. Cosmology — and architecture — are linked to the premise that relates to the nature of world view, the higher archetypes of experience, in a time when the blurring between the sacred, and the common, was a profundity of the mix of survival and the hopes of a higher deity.
E X P L O R E M O R E:
Architecture, Mysticism & Myth
E. BALDWIN SMITH
The Hindu Temple
Weltenmantel und Himmelszelt
This principle, from the siting of buildings to aligning with sunrise/set indices, to cardinal points positioning, labyrinths of journey and sacred quests, to deeper structures that map the layering of the universe — so-called, the world tree of life, the cosmic mountains of the world, sacred peaks and summits, and planes of consciousness. As far fetched as it might sound — these promises are merely hidden from view — but exist nearly everywhere. From Christian and oriental symbolisms of sacred place, to the world designs of very nature of the house — the focus, the place of fire, the heath, the baking oven; meeting halls — the inner and out corridors, the nature of entrance.
While there was a world view — aligning buildings [and their placements] with higher symbolic conditions — there is also the human metaphorical connection to the center – the straight line to the heart, or the spiraling journey and labyrinth to finding the journeyer’s person point of centeredness. One might think — human body, place, centering, the heart. Centering links to experience —
“when I come into the place, what is the center?
And how do I fit in the center — how am I centering myself?”
The question of being somewhere, being in a place that offers center, then being centered in oneself. In every city, there is the notion of a center — the central hub. Of course this has been defined and marketed as a proposal, from Vegas to Seattle, Vancouver to NYC. Neighborhoods have centers. But, for example, in traveling to some places — like the older city, town and village models of community — you find a center. A circle, a well point — water gathering, an old tree, a rock, a place in which people sit, gather, share — and watch the roundel of passage.
But the link from the body, and the centering of things, can as well relate to the place from which all attaches to the foundations of life. The ancient Greeks called this centerpoint, a symbolic stone placement — omphalos — the navel of the world.
Considering the idea of alignments — between the person, the place, centering and the sensations of experience — is an interesting contemplation (Latin for com [con] -“with” templum-“sacred place”).
In a note from the team at the Oxford English Dictionary, the word appears, elaborated and historically framed, below.
Brit. /ˈɒmfəlɒs/, U.S. /ˈɑmfəˌlɑs/
Inflections: Plural omphaloi.
Etymology: < ancient Greek ὀμϕαλός navel, centre, hub, round stone in the temple of Apollo at Delphi supposed to mark the centre of the earth, knob or boss (ultimately cognate with navel n.). In quot. 1847 at sense 2a via German Omphalos (1830 in the source translated).
1. The centre, heart, or hub of a place, organization, sphere of activity, etc. Cf. navel n. 2.
1845 T. De Quincey Suspiria de Profundis in Confessions & Suspiria de Profundis (1866) 174 If not of the earth, for earth’s tenant, Jerusalem was the omphalos of mortality.
2. Ancient Greek Archaeol.
a. With the. In the temple of Apollo at Delphi: a sacred stone of a rounded conical shape, supposed to mark the centre of the earth; also omphalos stone.
1847 J. Leitch tr. C. O. Müller Anc. Art 384 Apollo sitting on the tripod and with his feet on the omphalos [Ger. Omphalos].
1895 P. Gardner in P. Gardner & F. B. Jevons Man. Greek Antiq. ii. i. 70 Zeus set forth two eagles from the two ends of the earth and they met at Delphi, whence the Omphalos at Delphi was regarded as the centre of the world.
1925 F. J. Fielden tr. M. P. Nilsson Hist. Greek Relig. iv. 109 In the stone a power resided, and it was therefore annointed‥and received a cult. The famous omphalos at Delphi is a stone of this nature.
1954 R. B. Onions Origins of European Thought ii. x. 281 Such a seat of inspiration was the oracular omphalos stone, identified with the Earth-goddess at Delphi.
b. Any sacred stone of rounded conical shape, esp. one dedicated to Apollo.
1915 Classical Philol. 10 463 Certain other cults of Apollo and Asclepius‥in which omphaloi occur.
†3. A boss on a shield. Obs. rare.
1857 S. Birch Hist. Anc. Pott. (1858) I. 410 Some shields have their omphalos, or boss, sculptured to represent a head of Pan.
4. Archaeol. A raised prominence in the base of a cup, dish, etc.
1884 H. Schliemann Troja iii. 93 A copper cup with an omphalos.
Stories emerge, to the ideas of place, magic, profundity in the art of being there. But the question remains — what is the center? When there is a journey into any place, how does the journeyer find the center of it? And what center might the person of the journey find in themselves — being there?
In branding, seeking the heart of the brand and the center point of its being would be a founding message, a key discovery, a shattering of an earlier paradigm, a new modeling of how that story is told.
tim | someplace
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