In a comment following our Staff of Life post, the Gid pointed out the similarities between the iconography of Saints Agatha and Lucia, one holding a platter of eyes (Lucia) and the other, of breasts (Agatha). I responded that "....a circle with a dot in the middle could be an eye....or a breast....", proposing that perhaps there was a visual metaphor at play here.
But Gid, ever clever, responded with an entire post (Eye Nipples: What is This) and a comment on that post with a very good link to an article about the origin of the eye/breast association (Before the Milk of the Word: Nipple-Eyes). It's a good survey and has very interesting pictures, all the more fun to look at cuz, well: boobs.
The circle with a dot in the center, however, has also appeared on LoS in the past, a fact I forgot at the time. It was first mentioned in a post about the Voortrekker Monument in South Africa (Hier staan ons voor die Heilige God van hemel en aarde) as a solar symbol, that of Ra. I then stumbled across the same symbol upon the grave of Scouting's founder Lord Baden-Powell (not the Brazilian musician!). In traditional Scouting trail signs it means that the trail has ended and the Scout has gone home; a meaning BP used to mean his own death.
The symbol, it seems, kept....keeps....popping up. I've just received Terry Melanson's book on the Bavarian Illuminati, Perfectibilists (so far, so good, btw) and in the prologue what do I see but the very same symbol. Apparently the Illuminati chose it perhaps because of this very solar connection: power--Illuminating power--radiating outward from a very definite center.* This solar symbolism can be found in a variety of revolutionary contexts--a sun graces the flags of Uruguay and Argentina, for example. It goes without saying Freemasons played an integral part in the independence movements of both countries.
It occurs to me this symbol is also the origin of such Masonic, Revolutionary and other Enlightenment-era symbols as the Eye of Providence (here seen as a nipple!) and the radiating triangle, earlier defined on LoS:
"....as is most usual in the Masonic symbol, the rays emanate from the center of the Triangle, and, as it were, enshroud it in their brilliancy, it is symbolic of the Divine Light. The perverted ideas of the Pagans referred these rays of light to their sun-god and their Sabian worship.
But the true Masonic idea of this Glory is, that it symbolizes that Eternal Light of Wisdom which surrounds the Supreme Architect as a Sea of Glory, and from Him as a common center emanates to the universe of His creation."
So, aside from being an Egyptian (and ancient Chinese?) solar symbol, the "circled dot", or circumpunct, has a variety of other meanings, many from the mystic arts. (It is also Dan Brown's Lost Symbol). Apparently, according to Wikipedia, Freemasons themselves use it to symbolize control over the passions, although I've never seen it used in this context.
I consulted my copy of Mackey's Encylopedia of Freemasonry (a tattered, two-volume deal) and it makes no such claim about passions and the control thereof. What it does describe in the Masonic context is more startling because it refers back to the idea of double pillars and serpents, two other obsessions from past LoS posts, but not before outlining what "we may collect from the true history of its connection with the phallus of the Ancient Mysteries".
Copied/pasted from our pal Dave Lettelier at Phoenix Masonry, here's Mackey's take on the Point Within a Circle:
"....it is useless to multiply examples of the prevalence of this symbol among the ancients. Now let us apply this knowledge to the Masonic symbol.
We have seen that the phallus and the point within a circle come from the same source, and must have been identical in signification. But the phallus was the symbol of fecundity, or the male generative principle, which by the ancients was supposed to be the sun, they looking to the creature and not to the Creator, because by the sun's heat and light the earth is made prolific, and its productions are brought to maturity. The point within the circle was then originally the symbol of the sun; and as the lingam of India stood in the center of the lunette, so it stands within the center of the Universe, typified by the circle, impregnating and vivifying it with its heat. And thus the astronomers have been led to adopt the same figure as their symbol of the sun.
Now it is admitted that the Lodge represents the world or the universe, and the Master and Wardens within it represent the sun in three positions. Thus we arrive at the true interpretation of the Masonic symbolism of the point within the circle. It is the same thing, but under a different form, as the Master and Wardens of a Lodge. The Master and Wardens are symbols of the sun, the Lodge of the universe, or world, just as the point is the symbol of the same sun, and the surrounding circle of the universe.
An addition to the above may be given, by referring to one of the oldest symbols among the Egyptians, and found upon their monuments, which was a circle centered by an AUM, supported by two erect parallel serpents; the circle being expressive of the collective people of the world, protected by the parallel attributes, the Power and Wisdom of the Creator. The Alpha and Omega, or the Will representing the Egyptian omnipotent God, surrounded by His creation, having for a boundary no other limit than what may come within his boundless scope, his Wisdom and Power. At times this circle is representedby the Ananta (a Sanskrit word meaning eternity), a serpent with its tail in its mouth. The parallel serpents were of the cobra species.
It has been suggestively said that the Masonic symbol refers to the circuits or circumambulation of the initiate about the sacred Altar, which supports the three Great Lights as a central point, while the Brethren stand in two parallel lines."
As for those Parallel Lines, Mackey writes:
"In every well-regulated Lodge there is found a point within a circle, which circle is imboridered by two perpendicular parallel lines. These lines are representative of Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, the two great patrons of Freemasonry to whom our Lodges are dedicated, and who are said to have been "perfect parallels in Christianity as well as Freemasonry" In those English Lodges which have adopted the Union System established by the Grand Lodge of England in 1813. and where the dedication is "to God ad his service," the lines parallel represent Moses and Solomon. As a symbol, the parallel lines are not o be found in the earlier instructions of Freemasonry. Though Oliver defines the symbol on the authority of what he calls the Old Lectures, it is not to be found , any anterior to Preston, and even he only refers to ne parallelism of the two Saints John."
So, I apologize for not extrapolating on this in a convoluted essay, but I'm in the first third of three of my five weeks paid vacation. Vive la France!
Notes: A post script....
* I mentioned this reference to the circumpunct to Terry in a private email and he had this to say (quoted with his permission, natch):
"I only mentioned the circumpunct a few times in the book - twice I think. Later on though, I write a bit about Weishaupt's philosophic debt to Leibniz. The latter was a bit obsessed with the symbol, which he called the Hieroglyphic Monad....Weishaupt, as a philosopher, would have been alluding to the Monad more than anything."
A further email:
"Also, Einige Originalschriften is online for the first time; scanned and posted at Scribd. It includes copious examples of [the circled-dot's] use in the wild. The square too was used in their communications, to symbolize a Masonic Lodge."
A few days later....
You will recall that I referred to my copy of Mackey's Encyclopedia (Revised 1917 version) as "tattered". An old pair of volumes, they are bound in embossed leather; trouble is, the leather on the spines, still tenuously clinging to the binding when I got them, has since fallen off in several pieces (I bought them to use, not to look at on the shelf!) This is why I failed to notice that the circumpunct, with the two parallel lines, is embossed on the leather of the spine. Fortunately I still have those scraps of leather lying about.
One must only assume that Mackey, or at least his publisher, found that this symbol was worth using to represent the entire book at a glance as it sat on the shelf. The front cover, incidentally, features the square and compasses with an Eye of Providence in place of a "G", the sun and the moon, a hand bell and a Delta. Funny thing is, this is the first time I've ever remarked upon the circumpunct as a Masonic symbol (there are so many, after all), triggered by reading about the Illuminati.