The Fibonacci Sequence and the Built Environment
When my husband architect Donald designed our home, he used a proportioning system which he has always used, that of a series of dimensions derived from the Fibonacci sequence. This sequence is formed by starting with 1+1 and then determining each successive number from the sum of two numbers before it— forming the sequence of 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34… . The ratio of these numbers is particularly interesting in that it rapidly approximates the golden mean, or 1.618… (3:2; 5:3; 8:5, 13:8…). Our home has this implied proportioning system of what is also considered of a pattern of wholeness.
I was in high school when I first learned of this ratio. Our chemistry teacher suggested we read Anthony Standen’s Science is a Sacred Cow, and toward the end was a chapter on “True Science, Mathematics”. In this essay, Standen discusses Plato’s Myth of the Divided Line (The Republic). A line divided in such a way that the smaller part is in the same ratio to the larger part, as the larger part is to the whole. This ratio is the golden mean.
Standen postulated that the best scientific use of mathematics is to bring the divine into the realm of the mystery of the material world through this proportion. He said science had missed the mark in not exploring the divinity of nature through the implications of this proportion.
Yes, my high school chemistry teacher is one of the big reasons I majored in chemistry as an undergraduate in college. The philosophy he introduced me to belied the actual practice of chemistry and proved Standen right in this separation of spirit and nature. It was not long before alchemy drew me along the path of analytical psychology, which turns out to be very similar to that Standen suggested in his 1950 book.
Sometime during my training to be an analyst, I read Jungian analyst Ed Edinger’s book Anatomy of the Psyche: Alchemical Symbolism of Psychotherapy in which Edinger addressed the golden mean as the ego’s proper relationship to the larger energies of the Self and of wholeness. He wrote:
The golden section a very interesting separatio symbol. It expresses the idea that there is a particular way to separate the opposites that will create a third thing (the proportion or meaning between them ) of great value. The value is indicated by the term golden and by the presumed beauty of the proportion. (p. 197-198)
Vocatus atqua non vocatus deus aderit. Called or not called, God is present. When we are in an environment that has these dimensions, there is a feeling of rightness and peace. The beauty of the present is always there, and we are at once in touch with something larger than ourselves.
I feel this way in our home. It is like living in a poem of form, something that is at once beautiful and functional. I think of the hospitals Donald has built, as well as the other public and private spaces he has designed.
Do those people recognize the peace and even awe that comes in such a structure designed with this pattern of wholeness? Do they understand that the form of such a space impacts them, whether they are conscious of it or not? Called or not called…
Once Donald and I were invited to a home Donald designed years before. They wanted to add a deck and they wanted Donald to do the design of it. When the owner opened the door, he greeted us,”Welcome to my cathedral—for that is how I think of this!”
May all of our homes be conduits of the divine into our everyday lives.