The Circle of Illumination


by Michael Maciel

Ever wonder what those lines on a globe mean, the ones that say Arctic Circle, Tropic of Cancer (and Capricorn), and the Equator? Well, they have to do with what’s called the “Circle of Illumination,” which is the half of the Earth that’s illuminated by the Sun.

The Arctic Circle, for example, is the farthest point south that the Sun’s rays can reach when the Earth’s North Pole is tilted toward the Sun. This is the point where the Sun never goes below the horizon in the Summer, which is why they call the Arctic the “land of the midnight Sun.”
seasonsThe Tropic of Cancer is the farthest northern point where the Sun’s rays can be perpendicular to the Earth, when the Sun appears directly overhead. At noon on that day, a flag pole casts no shadow. This happens on June 22nd every year, the day the Sun enters the Zodiacal sign of Cancer—hence the name “Tropic of Cancer.” The word “tropic” means “turning towards.”

Since the Earth is tilted on its axis by 23.5 degrees, the Arctic Circle is 23.5 degrees south of the North Pole. If the tilt were greater, the Arctic Circle would be drawn farther south on the globe, because that’s where the Circle of Illumination would reach.

If the Earth weren’t tilted at all, the Circle of Illumination would remain constant. The Sun’s rays would be perpendicular to the Earth’s equator 365 days a year, and there would be no seasons. The North and South Poles would only see the Sun barely peeking above the horizon all day long.

Plato's Academy

Here’s where this gets interesting.

Plato once said, “God always geometrizes.” The Circle of Illumination, along with the tilt of the Earth on its axis, forms the geometry of the seasons. It is also the basis of the symbol of the circle with a dot in the center, the symbol we commonly use for God. In a universe where everything tends to coagulate into a sphere, the circle seems the logical choice.


  • Ask yourself, what is my orientation towards the light of my being? Is it directly overhead, or does it barely peak above the horizon of my awareness?
  • At what times of the year (or day) does my spiritual consciousness peak? Where are my “equator,” my “tropics,” and my “arctic circle”?

(Remember this: geometry links metaphor to reality.)

If you want to take this meditation further, ask these questions:

  • Since all heavenly bodies are spheres, am I a sphere, spiritually speaking?
  • Does the geometry of spheres apply to me, and if so, how?
  • What is my “degree of tilt”? How much do my intentions wax and wane?
  • To what degree are any of these factors under my control?

Mystery Schools:

These were the questions that philosophers like Plato and Pythagoras asked their students behind closed doors. Outwardly, their schools were about philosophy and mathematics, but secretly they were Mystery Schools—schools of initiation.

sacredheartjesusBy the time Jesus came along, however, the once ubiquitous Mystery School Tradition had begun to wane. His mission was to restore it. But the emphasis this time would be on love—the geometry of our relationship to God and to each other.

The principles were the same, but now they were being given in a different language.

Unless we see Jesus of Nazareth—Jesus the Christ—in terms of the Mystery School Tradition, we will miss the greater part of his message.

And unless we see the Mystery Teachings themselves as rooted in geometry and cosmology, we won’t be able to see the intimate connection they have with our life here on Earth.

About Michael Maciel

Michael Maciel has studied the Ancient Wisdom Teachings and symbolism since the early 1970’s. He was ordained a priest in the Holy Order of MANS in 1972. Check out Michael’s YouTube channel The Mystical Christ with Michael Maciel, along with The Mystical Christ Academy on Patreon.
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