The Mnemosyne Foundation

Meaning of the Logo


The The Mnemosyne Foundation logo was designed as a visual expression of the aim and purpose of the Foundation. The following is an explanation of its meaning.

The Hexagonal Armature of the Logo
The armature, or framework for the logo is a hexagon whose outer points are connected by staves. This hexagon stands for one of the principal governing patterns in the natural world, and is a symbol of that fabric of matter and idea we know as the universe we inhabit.

The omnipresent hexagon is one of the dominant geometric configurations in the microscopic realm of both organic and inorganic chemistry. For instance, the hexagon is one of the tiny subunits that give structure to DNA, the chromosomal constituent of living cell tissue, of basic genetic, life determining matter. (The hexagon governs the organizational shape of the purine and pyrimidine bases, subunits of the nucleotides that make up the chains of the DNA double helix macromolecule). Apart from its role in DNA, the hexagon determines the structure of many other organic molecules. In the inorganic realm, we find the hexagon dominant as well and on a scale from minute to macrocosmic. It governs the microscopic organization of crystalline minerals such as quartz, provides the pattern water takes as it freezes into delicate snowflakes and hardened ice; and directs the structuring of gigantic rock formations such as those of the famed Giant Causeway of Ireland.


Center of a Snowflake at High Magnification, ©Royalty-Free/Corbis.

Basalt Columns of Giant's Causeway, Antrim, N. Ireland, ©Richard Cummins/Corbis, Oct'97.

The reason the hexagonal shape is favored in nature as a structuring agent, is that it (along with a few other polygons) manifests a crucial scientific property or quality known as symmetry. Symmetry describes the basic inherent regularity of certain shapes, where the whole consists of similar parts. For example, in a two dimensional, five-sided pentagon symmetry is expressed by the fact that the five sides of the figure are all of equal length. Similarly, symmetry is evident in the hexagon of the Mnemosyne Logo in the fact that all six sides of the hexagon are of equal length, but the symmetry in this hexagon goes further. When the hexagon is halved down the center, the sides become mirror images of each other.

Representative of structures and forces that cut a cross section through much of our physical world, from minute to megalithic, the hexagonal armature of the Mnemosyne Logo stands, on the one hand, for the natural world, for living matter in its many and varied forms, and for the mysteries and harmony locked therein.

In my research about this six-sided polygon with its internally connected branches, I have found it so interesting to learn that the hexagon holds a key position even in such mystical philosophic systems as the Nordic 'Runes.' This discovery was truly unexpected but so captures the guiding spirit of The The Mnemosyne Foundation that I would like to share some insights revealed in the ideas contained in runic lore, and especially in association with the HAGAL rune, to which this shape corresponds.

The Runes are an ancient system of thought that belongs to the Northern European cultural tradition. The Runes are apparently prehistoric in origin. What boggles the mind and what stunned me as I read about them, and, especially about the HAGAL rune is that the Nordic shamans, in centuries that are blurred in our historic consciousness, came to attach to this very shape (the Logo's hexagon, with a star pattern bound into it) the definition: 'the primal crystal, the crystal that holds the potential of all life.' Millennia before the scientific equipment of the early 1950s - through spectroscopy and diffraction - made possible the identification of the hexagon as part of the molecular structure of DNA and other life supporting compounds, the shamans characterized this special, symmetrical hexagon as 'the primal crystal, holding the potential of all life'. Precisely what it was that led the shamans to such a profound understanding of the significance of the hexagon - without, for example, the benefit of technology - but upon which they could begin to build a profound and discriminating body of thought, we will perhaps never know.

The pragmatic, skeptical 21st century mind might approach such terms as astrology, cosmology, and mysticism with a certain cynicism, yet certain concepts embedded in these ancient systems have been, and continue to be proven to be indisputably valid and relevant. I do not mean to raise concerns that we might be directing our initiatives towards esoteric cultism. The aim of The The Mnemosyne Foundation is - much like a course in the history of religions would be - to sift out the wisdom embedded in older and ancient cultures that was a product of the close scrutiny of natural phenomena and deliberations about existence and the human dilemma. Inherent to our curiosity and powers of observation as human beings, this source of wisdom belongs collectively to the human mind across time. So, if the reader will allow, I think it worth reflecting for a moment upon the associations attached to the rune HAGAL to further discover the fundamental insights reflected in the set of ideas that belong to it, even if these notions are expressed in a language so foreign to our modern intellectual sensibilities and parlance as to seem outmoded or outlandish.

In the ancient Nordic languages, HAGAL literally meant hail, and it seems that the Nordic shamans derived the complex, symmetrical, hexagonal figures associated with the HAGAL rune from the blueprints of ice crystals, seeing in those crystals a primal, formal geometry that underlies the universe. HAGAL thus provided the basic pattern for each and every one of the other runic characters and the wealth of qualities, natural phenomena and human behavior they represented. In its most elaborate form - a form called the hexagonal lattice

- the shamans identified HAGAL as the Mother Rune. As such, HAGAL encapsulated the seven days of the week and the twelve months of the year, thus symbolizing incremental, seasonal cycles of time. The hexagonal lattice is indeed found in nature too, influencing such fundamental configurations as the shape of beehives and the organization of self-ordering systems of certain marine algae.

To the shamans, in its conversion from an icy crystal to liquid water, HAGAL signified not just structure, but its subtler and equally potent counterpart, transformation. Rainbows, perceived as a form of transformation of water, were associated with HAGAL and identified as 'bridges between heaven and earth.' In this role as 'bridge between worlds,' HAGAL implied a level of immense understanding of the dynamic forces that drive all created life and creative energy. HAGAL, 'hailstone,' a frozen crystal in the air, paradoxically, when reaching the ground, becomes liquid water - in other words, a damaging energy turns life supporting. Thus HAGAL represents not only the power held in the phenomenon of the freeze-thaw cycle but, as such, implies the so-called 'pattern of completion' that underlies the basic laws of the physical universe contained within the seed of every living and evolving thing.

HAGAL's tree is the oldest-lived European species, the Yew; its herb is Byony. An authority on the Runes and their lore, Nigel Pennick explains that the Yew and Byony are "… associated with access to the under and upper world through shamanism and death…" In this context, he notes that HAGAL "…signifies patterns of energy originating in the past that are active in and having an effect upon the present time. Accordingly it represents the power of evolution within the framework of present existence. Hagal is the rune that is at the root of things, both on a physical, material level, and in time." (Runic Astrology, 58; for full citation see end of this section.)

On yet another level, the six staves joining the outer points of the HAGAL hexagon to its center were interpreted as arrowheads pointing towards and away from each other, symbols of expansion and contraction, binding forces representational of the cycles of melting and freezing, and of disruption that carries the ability to transform, to clear the way for something fresh and new to follow. The outer and inner staves, then, stood for the power of a pattern - as, for example, the DNA code - that underlies not only structure (physical shape) but process (coming into being) as well. When applied in the world at large, to our challenges and to our actions, HAGAL has always meant 'advantageous adversity,' the breakdown of old patterns that bring restructuring for the better, necessary for great visionary and creative thinking to take place.

Interestingly - from the standpoint of what the shamans of old could see without the benefit of technology - it seems endemic to the human condition that as modernity and its sophisticated scientific instrumentation continues to amplify our perception through special lenses, big screen TVs, and cinematic scale to enhance sight, and through the digital world of recording and the like to embellish sound, we seem, proportionally, to be losing our ability to think profoundly and intuitively - processes that lead to insight, that faculty which is at the very core of wisdom.

It was surely a serendipity to happen across the HAGAL glyph, and exactly to the point of what my experiences as an academic have revealed - the many cultures and various expressive systems of life I have studied share, in common, certain ineffable principles that link them all. There was a time, perhaps even earlier than written history, when wise men looked at a snowflake and could see the universe mirrored therein. The 'bridge between worlds' represented by the hexagonal armature of our Logo represents not only that bridging of earth and sky by rainbows, or the oppositional forces in the thermodynamics of the freeze - thaw cycle, but the expansive energy flows counter balanced by the shift to states of structural solidity that give stability. As such the Logo's hexagon is a timeless affirmation of other critical dialogues as well - those between the humanities and the sciences, between mind and matter, between the celestial and the terrestrial, and ultimately between the macrocosm (the universe) and the microcosm (us, as we reflect upon and are, at the same time, a reflection of the very universe of which we are a part) - dialogues that must remain resolved in essential truth and harmony, otherwise disintegrate in chaos.

(The references to Runic lore and Hagal found in this section depend on the writings, of Nigel Pennick, Ogham and Runic: Magical Writing of Old Britain and Northern Europe, Bar Hill, 1978; N. Pennick , Runic Astrology, [Freshfields, Berks, Capall Bann Publishing] 1995, 37-40; and Kenneth Meadows, Rune Power [Rockport, MA: Element Books] 1996, 60-62.)


The Star
In the six inner staves of the hexagram Logo one finds the familiar glyph of a snowflake, but also that of a star. As such the staves are intended as a further reminder of our connection to the heavens and to the cosmos, as well as to Mother Earth.

The astronomical, dictionary definition of a star identifies it as a self-luminous, self-containing mass of gas in which the energy generated by nuclear reactions in the interior is balanced by the outflow of energy to the surface, and in which inward-directed gravitational forces and the outward-directed gas and radiation pressures are in balance. The definition echoes the Nordic shamans' profound concept of essential forces held in equilibrium, revealed in the confronting arrowheads formed by the staves of HAGAL. Thus, in the fiery star we meet the very lesson held in the ice crystal that, in nature, something extraordinary results when potentially destructive, dynamic forces (freeze/thaw) - by holding each other in check - avoid chaos, generate order, sustain the ephemeral, establish harmony and create something beautiful.

We have always looked to the Stars as guides. From the beginning of time they have pointed our direction; held fast the compass to true North; kept us on course. Illuminating the heavens, the stars have always been a source of inspiration for visionaries and a place for dreamers to wish. In certain cultures, both ancient and contemporary, the stars are even believed to influence not only the course of navigational direction but of lives and events, both public and personal, and, as such, to influence the development of personality and character. In society at large, star describes those who have used their talents to rise above the ordinary, whose achievements are acknowledged as outstanding, who shine bright, who are stellar. "Ad Astris," aim high. Stars have always lit the way.

Star imagery pervades our thought as humans. It appears in many forms, from profound statements to cheerful refrains, but the positive message of courage and imagination, of accomplishment and the bettering of oneself is always the same. We can find it everywhere. Some years ago, I came upon a card, perfect for a friend who was beset by enormous life challenges and too many unsettling nightmares. The front of the card carried a dark blue, naïf silhouette of a stargazer standing on a curved horizon, with a radiant celestial sky above. Inside, it read, "I have loved the stars too dearly to be fearful of the night." I don't know who wrote the sentiment, but it has stayed with me, to draw upon especially in anxious moments.

Then there is that popular tune of decades ago: "Would you like to swing on a star, Carry moonbeams home in a jar, and be better off than you are, You could be swinging on a star." Or of much more recent date, the blockbuster movie, A Knight's Tale, where one finds a wonderful exchange between the protagonists John Thatcher and his child, William, when the father assures his son that a man can change his stars. The film - not accidentally - ends with a fade out that virtually transports William and his lovely Jocelyn from a medieval jousting arena into a star-filled night sky.

It is in the dreams of the dreamers, the stargazers, seeking to understand, and filled with the imaginings of new things for the betterment of themselves and of mankind, where true illumination often occurs. One notable example - and, as it would happen, synchronous in more ways than one with our present discussion - is that of the chemist, Friedrich August Kekulè. Kekulè was the principal founder of structural organic chemistry. One night, in 1865, while dozing, he began dreaming of atoms gamboling, linked and moving in long snake-like motions; then, suddenly a snake appeared in their midst and grabbed hold of its tail in a whirling motion. From that vision, he established and proved the ring structure of benzine, providing one of the important fundamental principals that would allow the elaboration of organic chemisty. Would the reader be surprised to learn that the ring structure of benzine that Kekulè discovered just happens to be a hexagon!

By the way, the snake biting its tail has an equally long history in the life of symbols. Representative of eternity, it became a favored device of royals, for one, the Archduke Ferdinand I of Tuscany.

Carl Jung - great advocate of the importance of man's dreams for the process of self-knowledge, and of the importance of the imaginative life as the most distinctive characteristic of human beings - spoke about dreams of the sort described by Kekulè. Jung noted,

"..it is a fact that, in addition to memories from a long-distant conscious past, completely new thoughts and creative ideas can also present themselves from the unconscious - thoughts and ideas that have never been conscious before …

"We find this in everyday life, where dilemmas are sometimes solved by the most surprising new propositions; many artists, philosophers, and even scientists" (and let us not exclude the Nordic shamans) "owe some of their best ideas to inspirations that appear suddenly from the unconscious. The ability to reach a rich vein of such material and to translate it effectively into philosophy, literature, music, or scientific discovery is one of the hallmarks of what is commonly called genius."

(Carl Jung, et.al., Man and His Symbols [New York: Dell Publishing Co., 21st printing, 1982] p. 25.)

It is no accident then that in the course of history and nations, stars have, and continue to appear on a multitude of shields, coats of arms, banners and flags. The flag of the United States, for instance, the 'star-spangled banner' of our national anthem, carries a field of dark blue and stars, inspired no doubt in part by the night sky ablaze with stars and rockets. In that field of blue, each star in the cluster stands also for a State and its sovereignty, and for its place, as well, within the higher order of a Nation. On another flag, the star near the crescent moon, the well known emblem of the Islamic religion, represents the planet Venus, symbol of love. As star imagery leads us to thoughts about modern nations - and, in this particular moment in time, as borders continue to blur through technology, travel, disruptions worldwide, economics and communication - let us not lose sight of the standards put forth by the wisest of the founding fathers of countries and religions, and the inspired symbols they chose to identify the noble paths to which course we should hold true as a global community.

On a clear night, anywhere away from city lights, looking up at the dark blue sky and its blanket of stars, there can be no doubt that each of us has made contact with the stargazer within us. A little less than half a century ago, we reached a point unprecedented in the history of mankind. We began actually traveling to the stars, literally touching them. In this new millennium, with so many powerful, diverse means to impact our world, may the disciplines governed by the sciences, politics and the humanities, working in concert and drawing from a collective base of knowledge and experience accumulated over time, and guided as well by a determined reverence for life, infuse our contemporary culture with a necessary respect for our universe in order to insure a growing, ever more profound understanding of our potential as human beings and our purpose in the great order of creation.

The Spectrum and Its Octagon
There is a multicolored octagon contained within the hexagram representing the band of colors visible to the human eye when natural white light is diffracted through a prism. In the atmosphere this phenomenon, called a rainbow, forms a great, banded arc of colors bridging earth and sky. Rainbow effects also veil the mists of powerful waterfalls with subtle iridescence. The natural sciences teach that the colors we see in rainbows or refracted through prisms always appear in a fixed order - violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red (or vice versa starting from red) - and represent that certain part of the huge range of vibration energies (called the electromagnetic spectrum) which, perceived by the cones of the human eye, are responsible for color perception - in other words, for much of our faculty of sight.

Like life itself, light and its spectrum of colors, whether as pure hues or as shades, tints and tones are complex and dynamic, and are often characterized by qualities such as brilliance, luminosity, and intensity. Emanating from the sun, light courses through the planetary realm, traverses our sky, and illuminates our world.

In the Mnemosyne Logo, the color spectrum is housed in an octagon. Octagons, like hexagons also provide principal determining structures of the natural world. Octagons and octaves, favored numerical patterns with special qualities, have often been used in symbolic language as representative of the higher order of things. As the eight sided boundary of the color spectrum within the Logo, the octagon is meant in this way and as a symbol of the musical octave, thus of the sense of hearing, as well, that faculty responsible for perception of audible wavelengths that present themselves in a multitude of possible arrangements. Within the unwieldy realm of sound, the octave represents a unique harmonic tonal pattern. Together, the wavelengths perceived and interpreted by sight and its companion hearing, the two most important of the senses, represent major doors to an understanding of each other and of our natural world.

In the context of the symbolism of the Logo, the color spectrum and its octagon represent light and sound, and signify the ability to really see and hear, to perceive as much as possible of the world around us. With cognition follows perception, bringing with it consideration of the things perceived, followed by deeper thought processes belonging to the intellect that ultimately lead to illumination, and to the insights leading to wisdom.

The Amethyst Sphere
Amethyst is violet in color; violet has the highest frequency and energy in the spectrum of bright, visible natural white light. As such, the amethyst sphere in the center of the Logo represents a call for excellence, a call to strive for an ever-greater understanding and maturity of vision. It is a call, through the exercise of our talents and creativity, to identify and to shift as often as possible to our own higher vibration, our higher nature, and from that vantage point to establish a fitting perspective for life and our purpose in it.

In the symbolism surrounding the amethyst, we find it associated with high mindedness. For example, in gem lore, one of the attributes of the amethyst is that it gives wisdom. In the lore of the Zodiac, amethyst is ruled by Sagittarius, symbol not only of the battle between our base and higher nature, but especially of the creative, higher mental attributes of Man, of the inspirational mind. Sagittarius has stood for the seeker of absolute immutable truths, for thoughts that have latitude of vision and wide scope of understanding, that are able to be planted into society at large, able to be apprehended, to take root and to bring about positive change and growth. Thus the amethyst at the center of our Logo is symbolic of wisdom and of the search for a practical philosophy suitable to catalyzing social growth and harmony, so that our earth may become a proper reflection of the higher orders that govern, and hold balanced the spheres of the heavens.

(For amethyst lore see the Encyclopedia Brittanica, 15th edition, Vol. 17, 467b).

The M
Though, in the third millennium, a golden M would be more likely to tempt us with cravings of Big Macs and great fries, our hope is that Mnemosyne's M might, on some level, be as tempting to the appetite of the mind and spirit. With this Website, and hopefully in the future with exhibition facilities as well, The The Mnemosyne Foundation seeks to follow an age-old precedent in the creation of an environment conducive to inspired thought. If I may, I'd like to take a moment to elaborate on this notion by reference to one special example that has a very rich heritage.

Rome, in the early 16th century, was one of the most powerful cities of Europe. It was the seat of the Holy Roman Church and as such drew great artists and many learned men from Italy and abroad. In that fertile political and social environment, a vogue caught on for crafting special gardens, designed as meeting places for loosely organized academies of learned individuals, poets, and artists. Inspired by the olive grove outside of Athens where Plato taught, these gardens were heir to the long tradition of the rarified locus amoenus (delightful place).

The Roman Renaissance gardens, in particular, were shaded by groves of citrus trees, bordered by bay leaf hedge, and fashioned with fragments from the ancient fora, with statuary and with distinctive fountains. Among the fountains, there was often one that referenced a sleeping nymph. This nymph appeared either in the form of a sculpted figure asleep near a cave, or on the bank of a stream, accompanied by an inscription, or by just an inscription alone, that brought its enchanting idea to life: NYMPHAE - LOCI / BIBE - LAVE - TACE (roughly translated "Place of the Nymphs: Drink, Wash, Silence").These 'sleeping nymph' fountains were much appreciated by the contemporary men of letters of the day because the allusion was to the Corycian Nymphs, or as we know them better, the Muses. The fountains thus associated the gardens which housed them with the mythological haunts of Apollo and the Muses, especially Mounts Parnassus and Helicon, where the Coycian cave, resting place of the Muses was located, and where waters of inspiration flowed freely from the Hippocrene and Castalian Springs. The fact that the fountains carried a slumbering nymph, rather than one twirling in dance and song, reinforced the association of inspiration with serenity and, likely, also with the belief that the gods often spoke to men in their dreams.

Those of us familiar with mythology may recall that the Muses (numbering nine) were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory, the namesake of our Foundation). They were divine singers, whose music and dance delighted the gods. They were the companions of Apollo and were sometimes confounded with "The Graces," personifications of grace and beauty, who like them had influence over artistic and imaginative work. Pindar said of them, the golden lyre was owned by Apollo and the "violet-wreathed Muses" alike. Most importantly, however, the Muses were revered as those who presided over thought in all its forms. Hesiod (writing perhaps as early as the 7th century B.C.) said, "He is happy whom the Muses love. For though a man has sorrow and grief in his soul, yet when the servant of the Muses sings, at once he forgets his dark thoughts and remembers not his troubles."

Such ideas, inherent in human consciousness, have reverberated right to the present day. We don't have to look far to find them resonating in contemporary parlance, both literary and popular. I think its Billy Joel, who sings about "Piano Man", "…he (the barman) knows that its me they are coming to see to forget about life for a while." In a perhaps more serious tenor but a similar vein, Ayn Rand, in the introduction to a 1968 reprinting of The Fountainhead, willing shared one of the guiding raison d'etre of her thought and craft: "A spirit, too, needs fuel. It can run dry." (Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead [New York, Signet Books, 1968] vi.) The precious concept embedded in Hesiod's animated description, and in the work of those who have echoed it since, guides The The Mnemosyne Foundation as well: when one is keenly engaged in the exercise of one's bright, creative talent, we let go our self-centered preoccupation with worry and let our spirit be energized, and our entire being be brightened and uplifted. The aim of The The Mnemosyne Foundation, then, like that of the special Roman gardens dedicated to the Muses, and of the wisdom that has graced our path from the early moments of time, is to provide an environment particularly conducive to inspired thought and action, gracious behavior, candid discussion, and creativity at its best.

The ideas expressed in the lore of the Muses, and the fountains dedicated to them, allude to yet another very old and important notion entrenched in Western philosophy in which man is referred to as "microcosm." The ancient Greeks, for one, postulated that the human body, animated by its own soul, is a miniature version of the world soul that animates the universe. Succinctly stated, microcosm implies that man is literally a "little world" in which the macrocosm, or universe is reflected. Here - as with the compendium of wisdom associated with the HAGAL lore - we meet a thought that drives to an essential, irrefutable point (whether we believe in a world soul or not). We are surely part of a greater whole, and with our complex physical body, and equally complex intellect with its capacity for advanced reasoning and processing of information, we hold a very special place - though some future discovery might prove not unique - within the grand reality of things.

Precepts of the kind noted above pervade Renaissance and Baroque attitudes, especially about the creation of art. Arthur Wheelock has expressed the ideas so clearly that I cannot do better than to quote directly from his text, Vermeer and the Art of Painting (for the full citation see the end of this section):

Vermeer's approach to the depiction of reality was surprisingly consistent with ideas expressed by writers in contemporary Dutch art theory, particularly Cornelis de Bie and Samuel van Hoogstraten. Both writers stressed the importance of creating paintings that mirror nature so faithfully that they deceive the eye into believing that they are real. The reality that theorists urged for the visual arts, however, was not a slavish imitation of life itself, but rather a selective reality, controlled and ordered by the artist's intuition and his knowledge of the laws of perspective. This illusionism was important not only as an artistic conceit, but also because close observation of nature and the careful depiction of reality brought one closer to God's creation and to timeless truths of nature.

The Italian theorists of a century earlier would have made reference to divine inspiration rather than intuition, and to ancient models as well as to perspective. Nonetheless, the underlying principle that the divine is reflected in the natural world was the same. By the 16th century, in Italy especially, this concept was expanded exponentially to apply not just to the concept of Nature pervaded by the Divine, but to man's 'divinely' inspired creative enterprises as well. For example, the capacity of Renaissance artists to create a reality was measured against Nature's own miracles. These notions culminate in ideas such as are expressed in the epitaph carved on the sarcophagus of the great Renaissance master artist, Raphael: ILLE HIC EST RAPHAEL, TIMUIT QUO SOSPITE VINCI, RERUM MAGNA PARENS, ET MORIENTE MORI (roughly translated, "Here lies that Raphael, whom, while he breathed, great Mother Nature feared, but in whose death lay dying.") In other words, Mother Nature feared that Raphael was a more perfect creator than She, Herself, but since he was part of her domain of creation - as a human being - She, at one and the same time, could be proud but also dread to lose the increased stature that Raphael and his extraordinary contributions gave to Her.

The underling thought that drives the inscription depends on the Renaissance attitude that great master artists, when under the influence of the Muses - that is in the thrall of divine inspiration - could not only faithfully capture Nature's reality but even correct its flaws. Such idealized images were perceived as a reflection of what Renaissance thinkers termed the Divine Mind - akin to the world of perfect forms described by Socrates and recorded in the Platonic dialogues.

A charming visualization of this concept is given to us in an emblem from a popular emblem book, Cesare Ripa's Iconologia. The image demonstrates how far reaching and embedded these ideas were in the culture of the period. Ripa describes the emblem for Art, pictured here, as a woman dressed in green, holding a brush and chisel in her right hand, representing the major arts of painting and sculpture and signifying the imitation of nature. Her left hand is placed on a stake that supports a sapling, which Ripa explains as the vigor of art expressed through the art of Agriculture, a labor of humans that assists nature in the correction of potential deformities by a cultivator. (Cesare Ripa, Iconologia [Turin, Italy: Fògola Editore, "La Torre d'avorio" book, 3rd edition, 1988] Vol. I, 55.) Latin and English Dictionaries alike make the identical associations for the words 'cultivation' and 'culture', referring to the tilling of soil, the tending to and improvement of the land but, also, to the process of forming and refining through education and the humanities. And so we return full circle to the connection between inspired, artful thought and 'the gardens' that represent the highest vibrations of cultivation of land, mind and spirit alike, truly mirrors of microcosm and macrocosm.

One more point can be made, in the context of this discussion, regarding Ripa's choice of green for the color of Arte's robe. It is likely inspired by the very tradition that guided Dante in his choice of green as the color of the robes of the sword brandishing angels who guard the Valley of the Princes (The Divine Comedy: Purgatory, Canto VIII, 28). It has been noted that green stands for Hope, but in this particular passage it was used by Dante to bring to mind the color and state of mind of the earthly paradise as well. (A. Bartlett Giamatti, The Earthy Paradise and the Renaissance Epic [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966] 100.) Literature is rich with proof of the importance of 'the garden' to ancient, medieval and modern cultures. A. Bartlett Giamatti's book, footnoted above, is an especially fine text on the matter, for the fact that the author not only tracks down comparative sources but presents a profound philosophical and psychological analysis as well. The relevance of this book in particular to our discussion is made clear in the review written by distinguished scholar Frances Yates, who, in pointing to the poignant rationale that underpins Giamatti's approach, says,

"Giamatti asks where the image of the garden went, why modern man no longer conceives of happiness as a garden existence, no longer yearns for a lost Eden. He suggests that it is because man is diminished and 'in losing the Renaissance breadth of imagination, we have lost the earthly paradise once again, not simply as a state of joy, but also as an object of hope'."

Along these very same lines, 'the garden' has been called upon most recently again as the setting for a tender, contemporary parable of a young man, living in an arid climate, who finds the path to Enlightenment through encounters with sages in a lovely walled garden. (Geshe Michael Roach, The Garden, A Parable [Doubleday: New York City, 2000].)

What belief, then, there is historically in the power we have to fashion our world, for better or worse. Whether it is stated in Renaissance terms as our harmonious and inspired relationship to the natural world and our own nature, or, in the simplest possible philosophical terms, as potential mirrors of the great universe, we all have within us the proven drive to order chaos, to cultivate the garden of the natural world, of our hearts, our spirit and our intellect, through our creativity and aesthetic sensibility. By the way, the theories related to aesthetics in the arts are as dependent upon principles of symmetry as are the natural forces we discussed in our comments about hexagons at the beginning of this essay. And just as it is a force in nature, so in art, symmetry not only provides for stability but is part and parcel of balance and harmony. (For which, see the article by Jonathan Wilson, "Symmetry: Two Sides to Every Story," Focus, October, 94, p 62ff., cited above. This is a matter that we will explore in essays to come.)

As ancient societies did, so we, too, would do well to take to heart the fact that the course we choose for our lives is, in truth, a multicolored thread that we weave either artfully, or less so into the great fabric of existence. We are each in our own right responsible in good measure for the quality of events and outcomes that are marked by and define, not only the small sphere of our own lives, but ultimately of the grand scheme of time and existence. Clearly, as individuals, our own personal understanding of our aesthetic impulses is informed by our individual perceptions, beliefs, culture and the like. But when talent and intellect are guided by heart - the great seeker of truth - a splendid tapestry of extraordinary variety and hue will surely be fashioned.

The gold M of Mnemosyne, Mother of the Muses, woven through and infused into the other components of our Logo, represents the inspired Mind - one fueled by talent and creative enterprise, dedicated to mindful, purposeful action as well as to guardianship of our universe. After all, it is our capacity for profound reflection that distinguishes us among living creatures. And, while many creatures create extraordinary things - spiders spin webs of exquisite complexity; ants build intricate mounds; beavers build dams, etcetera, etcetera… it is humankind that has the ability to reflect at a level that brings with it the capacity to create an elaborate plan of action. Whether we chant "carpe diem," or hum to " time is precious and it's slipping away…," whether we look to ancient oratory or hear it in popular contemporary song, the message hasn't faded - "Be your best self."

Soon after the events of September 11th I remember seeing a TV spot featuring former President, Jimmy Carter, who offered the following thought: "It used to be that men defined themselves not by what they have but by what they do." Purposefulness, accomplishment by virtue of utilizing our talents and creativity, our imagination and vision to achieve the highest possible aims, is essential to a strong sense of identity, personal fulfillment, and a sure route to understanding our place in the order of the great cycles of existence. This sort of inspired thought and action is crucial in insuring quality of life in our new and, from the vantage point of history (notwithstanding cataclysmic natural disasters such as an Ice Age), perhaps most challenging millennium ever.


(The literature on nymphaea [nymph fountains] is rich. For essays relating the imagery of nymph fountains to the Muses see, among others, E. MacDougall, "The Sleeping Nymph: Origins of a Humanist Fountain Type," Art Bulletin, LVII, 1975, 357-365; P. Bober, "The Coryciana and the Nymph Corycia," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, XL, 1977, 223-39; and, H. Brummer, The Statue Court in the Vatican Belvedere [Stockholm, 1970].

The references here to the mythology of the Muses depend on the related entries found in Edith Hamilton, Mythology [New York City: Mentor Book: The New American Library of World Literature, Inc., 1955] 37 and Pierre Grimal, The Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology [London: Penguin Books, 1991] 281-82.

For microcosm, I have referenced the definition as given in the Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition, Vol. 8, 102; and for the quotation on the tradition of the 'mirroring' of nature by artists, A. Wheelock Jr., Vermeer and the Art of Painting [New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995] 164.

Summary
In summary, the hexagonal armature of the logo represents terra firma, the firmament, as past ages referred to it, created life and the natural world. The star pattern, centered in the hexagon and linking its points, references the heavens, the celestial domain, the origin of light, the realm that still holds the greater mysteries of creation in the infinite expanse of space and the galaxies of which we are such a minute part. The spectrum that floods our world from the heavens in the form of light represents sight and with it the insight that inspires our creative enterprises.

The amethyst sphere at the center of the logo is the color of the highest frequency of prismatic light and signifies high mindedness and nobility of spirit. The M stands for the name of the Foundation, for the Titaness Mnemosyne, for Memory, Mother of those Muses who governed all inspired creative human activity, and thus stands for our ability to Mirror and to reflect upon the Macrocosm and, by our actions, to aim to create and to cultivate a better life and a better world in this brand new Millennium.

The lesson of the HAGAL lore, of the star symbolism, of the mythology of Mnemosyne, of the rainbow, and of other of the components represented by The The Mnemosyne Foundation Logo is that no matter what our individual beliefs, we cannot contest the fact that we are, as members of the human race, inexorably connected over time, through comparable circumstances and experiences. We are tied to our collective past and future. We face the same dilemmas, joys, challenges and lessons as did those who lived even millennia ago, about the many things that we continue to call mysteries, the forces over which we have little control, the greater existence of which we are a part - which we can observe, and consider, and hope in part to understand, and with whose rhythms we need seek to be in concert.

In sum total, The Mnemosyne Foundaton Logo is meant to express the fact that we live in a dynamic, animated universe of matter and spirit, connected physically and historically. Ultimately the question is not should we attempt to reconcile modern thought with ancient wisdom; the question is how can we do so. The Mnemosyne Logo is a symbol of the interconnectedness of things - of the totality of the realms of our physical world; of time; of mind and spirit; of intelligence and its pursuit of wisdom; of the special dialogue with our universe of which real human beings are capable - when we rise to meet the best part of ourselves in the exercise of our talents and creativity, and of the positive consequence of the best use of that energy in the enrichment of our own selves, our society, and ultimately our world. It is a call to action.

Cognitio Rerum Divinarum - Harmonia Mundi

Knowledge of Divine Things - Harmony of the Universe.

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