At the heart of symbolism

The first official flag of the United-States

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First official flag of the United States

The thirteen white stars

The star “constellation” is composed of twelve stars surrounding a central one 1. The twelve peripheral stars represent the cosmic or manifested world as it appears to us; the central star symbolizes the Centre, the Principle or Being at the origin of all manifestation.

How this manifestation proceeds comes from the Tao Te King telling: “one produced two, two produced three and three produced all numbers”. So, the next number, four, constitutes the basis of the full manifestation development. These first four numbers, the sum of which equals ten, may be arranged in four “rows” containing respectively one, two three and four stars and called Pythagorean tetraktys.

Star arrangement and Solomon's sealTwo of these arrangements, drawn vertically and looking like arrows, are possible within the thirteen star pattern: one pointing upwards (in red) and the other downwards (in blue). Each of them represents the tetraktys: the number 1, located at the summit, refers to the Principle or Being, the number 2 to its polarization into opposites and the number 3 = 1+2 to its non-manifested and manifested aspects. These numbers have an “ontological” character while the number 4, at the basis, is equivalent to all numbers and symbolizes the universal manifestation. Indeed, the quaternary generates ten (1+2+3+4= 10) and therefore all numbers.

Both vertical arrangements are more commonly depicted as two (red and blue) triangles composing the famous Solomon seal, which may be seen at the top of the right drawing of the one dollar note (see dollar and euro). Note that both ways of drawing two vertical arrangements associated with the tetraktys, within thirteen stars laid out according to a central symmetry, are the only possible 2.

The star situated at the Centre is also central for both red and blue arrangements. So, these arrangements meet in perfect harmony in relation to the central star representing the Principle or Being. Moreover, the arrangement pointing upwards (in red) and related to fire has a celestial nature while the one pointing downwards and associated with water (in blue) has a terrestrial nature. Therefore, the “constellation” symbolizes the perfect union of celestial and terrestrial aspects realized within the “Universal Man”, mediator par excellence between Heaven and Earth. In properly Christian terms, the union between divine and human nature is personified by the Christ, who really has this mediator role.

The thirteen white and red stripes

As opposed to black symbolizing non-manifestation, white represents the manifestation of the Centre. As the colour containing the entire visible spectrum, white is also the colour of the Centre from the manifestation point of view. Therefore, white refers to the being who has reached a state beyond the human world, who has realized the union between celestial (Heaven) and terrestrial (Earth) aspects and returned to the Centre. As such, he acts as the representative of the Being, symbolizing the spiritual or sacerdotal authority.

The red colour is the “upper arch” of the spectrum of the rainbow colours and stands for the higher ranked being within the manifested world. It depicts the being who has integrated all human possibilities. As such, he is in charge of the military, judicial and administrative power and acts as the representative of the temporal power, directly transmitted by the spiritual authority possessor, at least in a traditional form of society. In a balanced society, he uses this power to defend the nation against external enemies and to ensure the cohesion of all communities gathered under the Star-Spangled Banner. In other words, he is realizing the equilibrium, the harmony of the society under the control of the spiritual authority.

1 back Earliest samples show a circle of twelve stars with the thirteenth occupying the centre.

2 back A simple way to check this unicity consists in drawing, only on white (or black) squares of a chessboard, thirteen stars without leaving any empty white (or black) square inside the pattern. As the drawing should be symmetrical with respect to the main horizontal and vertical axis, which are splitting the picture into four equal areas, this verification should only concern one of the four obtained quarters.