A St. John’s Day Contemplative Experiment

Masonry traditionally celebrates the days of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, whom we hold as our patron saints. While our Christian brothers may directly connect these figures with their religious beliefs, as a Fraternity we take note of their character and the placement of their days in the annual cycle of the seasons. This is especially true in the Preston-Webb ritual commonly practiced in the USA, where we find the Holy Saints John associated with the point within a circle bordered by two parallel lines.

The studious Mason can easily find many things written about this emblem and its various parts, and could significantly benefit from doing so. At present, however, let’s focus upon the point within a circle. Much has already been written about it as a symbol of the sun and as the starting place for drawing out many fascinating relationships of geometry and their relevance to Masonic symbolism. Yet it seems very little has been said about its most basic natural effects upon us as we look at it.

Rather than jump into an explanation of those effects, how about trying a little contemplative experiment with them right now? If you are willing, take a deep breath, relax, gaze upon this symbol for a minute or two, and note how your eyes naturally respond.

Most people find their eyes are most naturally drawn to focus on the point in the center. If you haven’t already done so, try instead to slowly follow along the circle with your eyes, and then return to the point. Do this a few times and take note of any subtle changes in how you feel when tracing the circle versus gazing on the point.

You might have noticed that tracing the circle required an effort you actually felt. In addition to the physical effort of moving your eyes, perhaps you even became aware of some resistance to moving away from the point, a resistance that involved small determinations about what you would and would not do. On the other hand, when you gazed on the point you may have noticed a feeling of rest, relaxation, even peace. Try it again and see how aware you can be of the differences between tracing the circle and focusing on the point.

It might have seemed to you as if the point at the center is the locus of a kind of gravity, a power that naturally draws your eyes to settle upon it, and draws your thoughts and feelings to naturally settle down as well. Of course, that power is actually within you. There is something inherent about us, something instinctual, producing this effect, and our instincts are meant to serve our wellbeing as physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual creatures.

Let’s wrap up this experiment with a few questions to take for further contemplation. What might this experiment be revealing about some of our needs and how we can most naturally address them? What possible symbolic relevance might the Holy Saints John, the solstices, and other associations with this image have to these needs and addressing them? What comes to mind as things for you to ponder and/or enact in your life?

Thanks for engaging in this experiment!