Circles and spheres

Quid ergo deus est? Ut ita dixerim, circulus spiritalis, cuius centrum est ubique circumferentia nusquam.

Deus est circulus cuius centrum est ubique, cuis circumferentia vero nusquam.

(God is a circle whose centre is everywhere, and whose circumference is nowhere.)  

Calligraphy by Kanjuro Shibata XX; Ensō ca. 2000

Calligraphy by Kanjuro Shibata XX; Ensō ca. 2000

Various versions and reformulations of this text are to be found scattered in a variety of places on the Internet. Unsurprisingly, we also find a range of attributions, including Empedocles (a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher), Blaise Pascal, Voltaire, and an anonymous 12th century work titled The Book of the Twenty-four Philosophers.

There’s an interesting piece on the subject in 1000 ways of celebrating the human spirit — which its author calls a “meta-blog bringing together several niche blogs”.

The meta-blog suggests: “Here is
one definition that defies that
indefinab[i]lity AND manage[s] to capture the essence of the combined immanence and transcendence of the theological position known as panentheism.”

Another site — http://www.luxlapis.co.za/yan/centre.htm — cites a 12th century theologian, Alain de Lille, who borrowed from the Corpus Hermeticum of the 3rd Century [sic]: “God is an intelligible sphere whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” And there’s a nicely-expressed passage from an itinerant Catholic priest, Giordano Bruno: “We can assert with certainty that the universe is all centre, or that the centre of the universe is everywhere and its circumference is nowhere.”

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One thought on “Circles and spheres

  1. That’s one of my favorite quotes! Emerson uses it at the beginning of his most jewel-like essay, entitled “Circles.” You’d like it; you should read it, if you haven’t already. Still looking forward to your language post.

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