At the heart of symbolism

The European Union flag (Detailed page)


European Union flag

Number twelve and the macrocosm

The circular belt of twelve stars represents the zodiac enveloping the Cosmos. The Cosmos symbolizes all that exists, which means the universal (macrocosm) as well as individual (microcosm) manifestation. Non-manifestation lies beyond the Cosmos and corresponds to the Centre or Principle at the origin of any manifestation.

The cross and the solstitial and equinoctial axesThe zodiac is crossed by two gates considered as passages giving access to the way in and way out of the Cosmos. Indeed, the human being is not doomed to stay in the obscurity of the cosmic world and can gain access to the light of the supra-cosmic or divine world. These gates are denominated as solstitial because they correspond to winter and summer solstices indicating the beginning of ascent and descent phases of the sun in direction, respectively, of the North Celestial and South Celestial pole. They are symbolized by the vertical axis of the zodiacal representations which may be found on church and cathedral porches. The cosmocrator Christ of Telasfarri Estifanas treasury (Ethiopia) offers an example of this.

The framework of the universal cyclic process, the macrocosm, encompassing both Heaven and Earth, refers particularly to the number twelve. Twelve was always used as a measuring basis of the circle (Heaven) whereas ten constitutes the basis for measuring the square (Earth). Transcribed at a human level, the cosmic cycle may be found in the annual cycle of twelve months as well as in the daily cycle of both diurnal and nocturnal phases of twelve hours each.

Number twelve, reflecting the regulation of the cosmic Order (etymological meaning of Cosmos), was adopted by most traditions. Let us simply think to the fruit of the tree of Life, the great Olympus gods, the Israel tribes, the Solomon's Temple gates, the halts of China Emperor inside the “Ming Tang” (Light Temple), the apostles, the Knights of the Round Table etc. These diverse transcriptions do not have any other goal than ensuring the harmony of the microcosm or human manifestation world with the macrocosm, domain of the overall manifestation.

Number five and the microcosm

The five-branched star of the flag is drawn with a branch pointing up or towards Heaven and two branches leaning on an invisible horizontal line symbolizing Earth. It represents an intermediate state between Heaven and Earth.

The pentagram and the compass pointsIndeed, number five is a symbol of the microcosm or human being who, with extended arms and legs, forms a five-branched star as shown on the pentagram of Henricus Cornelius Agrippa (16th century in our era). On this picture, the man is within a circle symbolizing Heaven, the centre of which stands at the crossing of two perpendicular axis representing the compass points or Earth.

Number 5, median for the numbers from 1 to 9, is a harmonic and balanced symbol. In the Pythagorean and ancient China traditions, it regulated the union, the sacred marriage between Heaven or masculine aspect (associated with number 3) and Earth or feminine aspect (related to number 2).

The star really represents the intermediate being between Heaven and Earth. Indeed even the mediator, when achieving within himself the union of the spiritual and the temporal and having rejoined the Centre.

The Centre, origin of the macrocosm and microcosm

As the stars and other wandering astral objects turn apparently around the polar star or the North celestial pole, the stars of the flag represent a dance around a Centre or an invisible star. This motionless Centre also symbolizes the immutable principle at the origin of the macrocosm and microcosm as well. It is invisible because nobody can get access to it unless having achieved the union of the spiritual and temporal and left the individual or human world for the supra-individual or spiritual world. Tasting prematurely the knowledge fruit symbolized by the thirteenth star results in dragging oneself towards the bottom as Icarus approaching the sun without due reason (regarding this peculiar subject, see the labyrinth). On the other hand, reaching the Centre after having accomplished all passage rites leads to bliss. That is where the popular superstitions surrounding the good and bad luck of the number 13 are coming from 1.

To reach the Centre, the human being will have to pass both gates previously mentioned:

  • The first gate, associated with the Summer solstice and called “gate of mortals”, gives access to the state of a being centred within himself, who has completely integrated all human manifestation possibilities and realized the perfect harmony of the microcosm with the macrocosm.
  • The second gate, related to the Winter solstice and called “gate of the Gods”, brings the being from its individual state to the state of spiritual Being having joined the world Centre and realized the perfect union of Heaven and Earth.

1 back The 5, 12 and 13 number sequence can take the shape of right-angled triangles as in layouts of megalithic sites (Carnac in Brittany for instance).