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from the conic-relief dept.
And now I will expound the greatest interpretation of the Unicursal Hexagram that the world has ever seen!
-- Wait, that's hyperbole, not hyperbola. Sorry.
I have to say that I've never felt the attraction that some magicians have for using the Unicursal Hexagram as a planetary glyph. (If you don't know, the Unicursal Hexagram is illustrated in the red on black icon in the upper right hand corner of this article.) The conventional Hexagram, yes. Just as the Pentagram symbolizes the realm of the five elements (and the five senses) with its five point, so the Hexagram symbolizes the planetary realm with its six points, plus the central sun.
It's that central sun that's the problem. Since it's not attributed to a point, the traditional Golden Dawn method for invoking or banishing the sun is to trace all of the six other Hexagrams in one motion. This is a marvellous isometric exercise for the upper arm, but is time consuming, and thus many magicians, Isreal Regardie among them, switched to the Unicursal Hexagram, so that they can trace one solar Hexagram from the central point. (This creates a new problem: what do the four directions coming out of the central point mean? Which has lead to further ingenuity, etc.)
This doesn't seem satisfactory to me. For one thing, an Invoking Hexagram traditionally moves deosil; a Banishing Hexagram, widdershins. There's no way you can trace a Unicursal Hexagram without going both ways, back and forth.
But mostly, it's because I think I get what Crowley was saying when he introduced his use of the figure in The Book of Thoth, p. 11, "The lines, however, are strictly Euclidean; they have no depth." At first, I thought he was just babbling about the fact that the design uses lines of varying width, but that this is only for decoration. Then it occurred to me that he might mean just the opposite.
A digression might be in order. In geometry, certain curves can be defined and classified as "conic sections":
Weisstein, Eric W. "Conic Section." Eric Weisstein's World of Mathematics.
Instead of a technical explanation of how these curves differ, let's use the time honored "flashlight on the ground" analogy. If you shine a flashlight straight down on the ground, it will light up an area in the shape of a circle. This circle has one focus, and the circumference of the circle consists of those points which are an equal distance away from the focus.
If you tilt the flashlight just a bit, the circle will become an oval, otherwise known as an ellipse. What happens is that the one focus becomes two foci, and that the edge of the oval consists of those points at which the distance from focus 1 plus the distance from focus 2 are equal. If that sounds unfamiliar, it's enough just to know that, while a circle has one focus, an ellipse has two.
Now, what happens when the body of the flashlight is held parallel to the ground? The resultant curve is called a parabola. In this case, the ellipse has lengthened to the extent that one of the foci is nearby, and the other focus is an infinite distance away. Not only does the "oval" never close, the arms of the curve never come any closer together, becoming instead more and more parallel without ever entirely getting there.
The hyperbola is the strangest curve of all (no exaggeration!). We can start to picture it by imagining that we tilt the flashlight just a little further so that its body is angled slightly away from the ground, but enough so that some of the ground is still lit. This forms half of a hyperbola. In fact, the flashlight analogy breaks down at this point. Return instead to the conic diagram illustrated above.
In a hyperbola, the second focus, which was located at infinity in the parabola, has come all the way around the universe to land near the first focus from the opposite direction! This is a surprising turn of events, but it's a natural outcome of the formulae used to determine these curves.
Is it apparent what I think this has to do with the Unicursal Hexagram yet? The Unicursal Hexagram is a flashy symbol of the hyperbola, or at least of the same space-bending property that the hyperbola also possesses.
When Crowley says that the lines have no breadth, I think it's a clue that the widths are intended to imply perspective (they have the same breadth). The thick lines are those closest to us, and then the lines which cross in the center are moving sharply away from us, going through the "point of infinity" and back. And the "strictly Euclidean" business? Strictly a lie.
What this illustrates for me, then, is 0 = 2. I feel confirmed in this by the fact that the only place where Crowley actually uses the Unicursal Hexagram is in Liber Reguli, which is first and foremost an exposition of the 0 = 2 formula, as can be seen by the ritual's closing commentary.
And as for the solar Hexagram? Work those triceps!
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