Circumpunct or point within a circle
This symbol is often seen in Masonic Lodges and only briefly explained, usually in conjunction with the VSL and parallel lines.
But the base symbol of the circumpunct has meaning all by itself and has been used from time immemorial. Let’s examine its use through time and in Freemasonry.
The circled dot, circumpunct, or circle with a point at its centre is an ancient symbol. It can represent:
- Solar system
- Solar symbol used to represent the Sun
- The sun / Gold (Alchemical symbols)
- The sun / Ra (Egyptian hieroglyphs)
- The sun / a day (Chinese oracle script, the modern character being 日)
- Religion and philosophy
- Keter (Kabbalah)
- Spirit (Ojibwa)
- Language and linguistics
- Bilabial clicks ʘ (International Phonetic Alphabet) (Unicode IPA Extensions)
- Hwair (Gothic alphabet) (Unicode Gothic)
- Tha (Brāhmī script) (Unicode Brahmi)
- Eye (Blissymbols)
- Fisheye ◉ (Unicode Geometric Shapes)
- Circled dot operator ⊙ (which represents the XNOR gate; Unicode Mathematical Operators), and n-ary circled dot operator ⨀(Unicode Supplemental Mathematical Operators)
- A brief contact (brush) of the signing hand in SignWriting
- Other uses
- A nazar is a circled-dot-shaped amulet believed to protect against the evil eye
- Center of pressure
- Mensuration sign for 9/8 meter (Unicode Musical Symbols)
- Used, or cancelled, stamp (philately)
- The trademark of the Target Corporation
- As a symbol of the phallus or nature’s generative principle and of an Entered Apprentice Freemason
- City centre (European road-signs)
- End of trail. Gone home. (scouting)
- The Symbol of “Waterhole” in the Australian Aboroginies Symbol resembles the Circumpunct
- In Germany it is symbol for a “Gestempelte Briefmarke” (canceled stamp), while a star means “postfrisch” (mint Stamp)
- In geometry, it is often the symbol for a circle
Of interest to Freemasons is the description above; As a symbol of the phallus or nature’s generative principle and of an Entered Apprentice Freemason. The symbol has been used to represent the sun which of course would represent the regenerative in the Universe, much like procreation.
Manly P. Hall says the following about the Circumpunct:
“The most primitive and fundamental of all symbols is the dot.” — Manly P. Hall; Lectures on Ancient Philosophy
“The dot, being most proximate to perfection, is the simplest, and therefore the least imperfect of all symbols.
The dot, moving away from self, projects the line; the line becomes the radius of an imaginary circle, and this circle is the circumference of the powers of the central dot.
Hypothetically, every sun has a periphery where its rays end, every human life a periphery where its influence ceases, every human mind a periphery beyond which it cannot function, and every human heart a periphery beyond which it cannot feel. Somewhere there is a limit to the scope of awareness. The circle is the symbol of this limit. It is the symbol of the vanishing point of central energy. The dot symbolizes the cause; the line, the means; and the circle, the end.
Motion away from self brings a decrease in consciousness and power; motion toward self brings a corresponding increase in consciousness and power. The farther the light ray travels from its source the weaker the ray.
The dot, the line, and the circle are the supreme and primary symbols. The dot is spirit and its symbol in the Chaldaic Hebrew – the Yod – is actually a seed or spermatozoon, a little comma with a twisting tail representing the germ of the not-self. In its first manifestation the dot elongates to form the line. The line is a string of dots made up of germ lives – the monadic lives of Leibnitz. From the seed growing in the earth comes the sprig – the line. The line, therefore, is the symbol of the dot in growth or motion. The sun is a great dot, a monad of life, and each of its rays a line – its own active principle in manifestation. The key thought is: The line is the motion of the dot.
The dot, or Sacred Island, is the beginning of existence, whether that of a universe or a man. The dot is the germ raised upon the surface of infinite duration. The potentialities signified by the blank paper are manifested as active potencies through the dot. Thus the limitless Absolute is manifested in a limited way. – The Gnostic Warrior
The Circumpunct had more recent mention in Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol” which focused it’s attention on Freemasonry. Of course Brown took literary license and skimmed or glossed over some interesting facts regarding this symbol, which it turns out was “The Lost Symbol” referred to in the title and sought by the book’s protagonist. If you have not read this yet some years now after it’s release you really should.
On a more basic and ancient plane the symbol was for the ancients, just a symbol with practical meaning. It could be a letter in an alphabet or a symbol or a number. To Pythagoreans the symbol took on a philosophical as well as mathematical expression.
Fast forward to about 900-600 years ago and the beginnings of Freemasonry.
As we know or have been told that Freemasons evolved from the operative stone masons. One has to wonder what would they know or care about this symbol and how would it have made its way into Freemasonry?
Most often the symbol includes two parallel lines and a book (the VSL) at its vertex.
Consider the following written by Bro. Robert Johnson from the Midnight Freemasons Blog…
…And Cast No Shadow.
by Midnight Freemason ContributorBro. Robert Johnson 32°
Presented to Waukegan Lodge 78 on August 19th 2013 for Lodge Education
What is light? Of course we may think of it in the basic way, illuminations making things visible so that we may traverse lands, read and see the things around us, things that are necessary and some things which are just captivating, perhaps best described as those things which make us contemplate the glorious works of the creation.
The oldest pictograph for that of light is of course the sun. It is that which fixes the duration of seasons and years. Light brings us much joy and not just because it brings a bright and sunny day. We must consider the gifts that the sun brings; crops, a habitable planet even the gift of good mood. Exposure to the sun increases the body’s production of Vitamin D, which according to studies promotes a sense of mental well-being, a literal “sunny-disposition”.
It is no wonder our ancient ancestors including some brethren worshiped the sun. It only makes sense. We as Freemasons may see light a different way; we think it synonymous with knowledge. To be illuminated is to know something, perhaps to be wise to something which is lost unto the rest. And this is the way of our craft, to illuminate brothers to a new way of living, a new way of seeing and a new way of hearing.
To change direction but for only a moment, let us consider the space in our degrees in where we are taught the meaning of the circumpunct, the point within the circle. We are told that the point represents man and the circle; well that represents our boundary or our scope of concern. What about other areas in our Masonic system? In many Fellowcraft lectures, in countless jurisdictions the point is described and explained in the quote “A point is a figure without dimension.”
If a point is a representation of a man, then a man is without dimension. This is almost insulting. However, let us consider the following: the point represents a man indeed, who is without dimension, a mere spot on a piece of paper or indent in the sand or dirt, until that is, he grows.
Next let us look again at the circumpunct. A point or a man, surrounded by the circle, but again what does this circle represent? Perhaps not your boundary but instead its original meaning. The sun.
The point within the circle can be described also as a seed. A man surrounded by the light of the sun, the sun having the effect on a man that it has on a seed or the point. Eventually the seed grows and becomes more than just a point, it becomes a sphere, growing exponentially feeding on the light of the sun or in this case the knowledge that surrounds him.
Now we have come all the way around. The circumpunct, a point within a circle. A seed surrounded by the sun. A man surrounded by the light of knowledge.
When the point in the center becomes so big that it lapses equally around the circle, the man (you) now becomes the light. It then becomes your duty to be that light which shines on the seedlings, or new brothers. You must shine bright, be there to comfort, to guide and to nourish the new brothers growth. Let that light, let your light be so bright that you illuminate all things, and from you, let no shadow be cast.
There is an even deeper meaning to this ancient symbol and although not a topic to be openly discussed here; it would be fascinating to discuss in a tiled Lodge room.