Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 13, Vol. 2. Vernal Equinox 2007
Sacred Geometry, Stephen Skinner. Sterling
Publishing Co., Inc., New York.
review by Samuel Scarborough
Over the last few years sacred geometry has become a topic of interest again within esoteric circles. Stephen Skinner in his book Sacred Geometry hopes to take advantage of the current resurgence of interest in sacred geometry. The first question that comes to mind is where does sacred geometry come from? According to Mr. Skinner, the roots of this art can be traced not only back to the Renaissance and the ancient Classical world of ancient Greece, Egypt, and Persia, but all the way back to the period when the megalithic sites of Stonehenge and other stone circles were first built. It is from the classic Greek writers, philosophers, and mathematicians that we in the modern world get the vast majority of our concepts for geometry and how it was and is used in various arts and sciences. Sacred geometry was considered by the ancient Greeks as one of the most tangible forms of reasoning, and used it not only for the solving of mathematical problems, but also for architecture, construction, and the art of sculpture. Today we think of sacred geometry in relation to religious and sacrosanct buildings or areas of cities. Each great cathedral had the use of geometry in its building, and even the layouts of cities have taken part in the use of sacred geometry by those that have designed them.
Stephen Skinner first explains in his book how sacred geometry was used in the ancient world by giving an overview of those that have contributed to the development of this art. Everyone from Pythagoras and his well known theorem, to Thales of Miletus, Plato, Euclid and Archimedes have made contributions. He follows the list of these contributors with a section on the various geometry shapes and theorems that were developed, from triangles, to solving three ancient problems (squaring the circle, doubling the volume of a cube, and trisecting an angle), to the development of curves and logarithmic spirals. From there Mr. Skinner goes into the classical Platonic Solids, and even discusses the thirteen Archimedean Solids. After reviewing these classic forms, Skinner shows how the ancients saw many of these forms and geometric formulae in nature. This is discussed from the spiral growth of leaves on a plant to the growth of the nautilus’ shell.
Finally, after the ground work is laid out, Mr. Skinner discusses how these formulae are used in the arts of painting, architecture, and sculpture. He discusses how the great Renaissance painters such as Michelangelo and DiVinci use this in their works, and how some of the great architects of the period use sacred geometry to build the great structures of the day. The artists such as DiVinci used geometry to help formulate the use of perspective. He covers how the architect Christopher Wren used these concepts from the Renaissance architects as well as those of earlier to build the impressive St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in the 17th Century.
Skinner next touches on how geometry relates to some of the more esoteric areas of study. Being from Britain, he goes into Glastonbury and the lay lines that radiate out from it and other famous sites throughout Britain. He discusses how many of the churches and cathedrals are built along or over these lay lines and were used not only by the Christian church, but by the earlier religions in those areas.
The final section of the book discusses how the concepts from the ancient world apply in the modern world. Mr. Skinner gives several examples of stunning modern architecture that use the concepts first developed over the last twenty-three hundred years. One such example would be the famed Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia.
The book is very visual and has a lot of diagrams, pictures, and illustrations on slick glossy paper. The writing and explanation of the material by Stephen Skinner is a bit lack luster. He seems to have written this particular book just to appeal to the New Agey interest in sacred geometry that has followed the writing of that piece of cult fiction, The DiVinci Code. In many ways, this book has the promise of more information, but really falls short of that promise. The illustrations do not often match what Mr. Skinner is writing about, or in a couple of cases, it is up to the diagrams to actually explain in better detail and language some concept that he is trying to get across to the reader.
Overall, I found the writing not as clear and concise as in some of
Mr. Skinner’s earlier works such The Oracle of Geomancy and
Terrestrial Astrology: Divination by Geomancy, and rather vague
in many areas of the book. Save the price of the book to either buy some
other book on sacred geometry or rent the movie The DiVinci Code.