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# 9.1 The Meaning of Phi

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• 9.1 The Meaning of Phi

## The Meaning of Phi

The value of this ubiquitous phenomenon was deeply understood and profoundly appreciated by the greatest intellects of the ages. History abounds with examples of exceptionally learned men who held a special fascination for this mathematical formulation. Pythagoras chose the five-pointed star, in which every segment is in golden ratio to the next smaller segment, as the symbol of his Order; celebrated 17th century mathematician Jacob Bernoulli had the Golden Spiral etched into his headstone; Isaac Newton had the same spiral carved on the headboard of his bed (owned today by the Gravity Foundation, New Boston, NH). The earliest known aficionados were the architects of the Gizeh pyramid in Egypt, who recorded the knowledge of phi in its construction nearly 5000 years ago. Egyptian engineers consciously incorporated the Golden Ratio in the Great Pyramid by giving its faces a slope height equal to 1.618 times half its base, so that the vertical height of the pyramid is at the same time the square root of 1.618 times half its base. According to Peter Tompkins, author of Secrets of the Great Pyramid (Harper & Row, 1971), “This relation shows Herodotus’ report to be indeed correct, in that the square of the height of the pyramid is Öf x Öf = f, and the areas of the face 1 x f = f.” Furthermore, using these proportions, the Egyptian scientists (apparently in order to build a scale model of the Northern Hemisphere) used pi and phi in an approach so mathematically sophisticated that it accomplished the feat of squaring the circle and cubing the sphere (i.e., making them of equal area and volume), a feat which was not duplicated for well over four thousand years.

While the mere mention of the Great Pyramid may serve as an engraved invitation to skepticism (perhaps for good reason), keep in mind that its form reflects the same fascination held by pillars of Western scientific, mathematical, artistic and philosophic thought, including Plato, Pythagoras, Bernoulli, Kepler, DaVinci and Newton. Those who designed and built the pyramid were likewise demonstrably brilliant scientists, astronomers, mathematicians and engineers. Clearly they wanted to enshrine for millennia the Golden Ratio as something of transcendent importance. That such a caliber of people, who were later joined by some of the greatest minds of Greece and the Enlightenment in their fascination for this ratio, undertook this task is itself important. As for why, all we have is conjecture from a few authors. Yet that conjecture, however obtuse, curiously pertains to our own observations. It has been surmised that the Great Pyramid, for centuries after it was built, was used as a temple of initiation for those who proved themselves worthy of understanding the great universal secrets. Only those who could rise above the crude acceptance of things as they seemed to discover what, in actuality, they were, could be instructed in “the mysteries,” i.e., the complex truths of eternal order and growth. Did such “mysteries” include phi? Tompkins explains, “The pharaonic Egyptians, says Schwaller de Lubicz, considered phi not as a number, but as a symbol of the creative function, or of reproduction in an endless series. To them it represented `the fire of life, the male action of sperm, the logos [referenced in] the gospel of St. John.'” Logos, a Greek word, was defined variously by Heraclitus and subsequent pagan, Jewish and Christian philosophers as meaning the rational order of the universe, an immanent natural law, a life-giving force hidden within things, the universal structural force governing and permeating the world.