As a designer, I feel that all my work can be considered art - regardless of whether it's a package graphics, art for stationery products, or toy/game design. Da Vinci's Challenge is a special case for me, though, because it carries more of a classic sense of what art is; a creation that can evoke intellectual and emotional response, holds symbolic meaning, and has a unique aesthetic value.
The most amazing thing about Da Vinci's Challenge as a piece of functional art is its timeless heritage. The pattern of interlocking circles that defines the playing surface of the gameboard is an ancient symbol known throughout history by various names; the Flower of Life, the Language of Light, and the Language of Silence... all of which hint at the transcendental and mysterious essence of this beautiful design.
Its oldest known physical example is in the 6,000 year old Osirian Temple in Abydos, Egypt. The temple was a subterreanean complex dedicated to Osiris, the god symbolizing death and regeneration... the afterlife and resurrection. The once-underground chambers are the most ancient of all the ancient Egyptian ruins. The Flower of Life symbol is carved with laser-like accuracy on huge granite blocks in the temple walls. In the context of ancient Egyptian mystery religions, the Flower of Life represented the infinite, yet structured matrix that subtly forms the reality we experience. This underlying order can be called God, the Universe, the Quantum Field, the Tao, or whatever. It is the complete, all-encompassing flux of the world from the smallest electron fields to the largest scales of the cosmos.
This symbol was used by ancient priests and spiritual initiates as a mandala, a geometric or symbolic pattern that is used to focus on a particular state of mind or experience. The Flower of Life was used as a meditation on Unity and Interconnectedness. This is not some metaphysical, abstract mumbo-jumbo, but reflects the basic nature of the world we live in. Every aspect of the universe is connected and meshed at a base level. Science has firmly demonstrated the mystical concept that the cosmos is nothing but patterns of energy vibration interacting at different levels. The real Mystery is how this seemingly random quantum soup organizes itself into recognizable forms and a mind that can perceive these forms. It's easy to say, "God does it all." God IS the mystery, though, so in order to really understand this statement, one has to really investigate the Mystery!
When you look into ideas such as sacred geometry, divine proportion, fractals, physics, cosmology, and other such disciplines, you gain a greater appreciation for the beauty and unexplainable complexity of the universe. The greater your awareness of the structure and nature of reality, the better prepared you will be to utilize it to the benefit of yourself and others. Because of the connective neural structure of the human brain, our mental perceptions of the entire universe are based on our perceived patterns of causal or physical connection. The Flower of Life perfectly illustrates this ordered intricate web of scale, structure, and vibration that defines the world. The Flower of Life represents "The Face of God" more ideally than any anthropomorphic painting by Michelangelo.
Flower of Life Studies
by Leonardo da Vinci
Besides the philosophical meaning that can be drawn from the Flower of Life symbol, there is also rich mathematical knowledge that can be found within the perfectly symmetrical form of interlocking circles. Leonardo da Vinci used his keen intellect and sense of observation to study the geometries found within the Flower of Life.
The pattern is deceptively easy to create. It is begun by simply overlapping 2 identical circles so the edge of each circle touches the midpoint of the other. This symbol itself is one of the most ancient and universal symbols known to man. The intersecting circles form a central shape called the 'vesica pisces' which, in Christian art, is the basis for the 'Jesus fish' and the symbol of the womb that the Virgin Mary is often portrayed within. This is a symbol more widely used and much older than Christianity, though. It is a symbol of life, creation, vision, and birth. Incidentally, the vesica pisces also defines the energy patterns that lead cells to organize into vital human forms such as the eye, the urethra, the womb, and the mouth. When you start to see such patterns in nature, it is almost as if you are looking into the programming code of reality and the mind.
The third circle is added by placing its midpoint on one of the places where the first two circles intersect. Now the pattern has been establish and it becomes a self-replicating pattern. This step in the pattern can be seen to symbolize the Trinity where a third-dimension of Spirit and Space define the Creation pattern so it becomes a self-regulating phenomenon. From now on, a circle can be placed with its midpoint centered anywhere that the edges of two other circles intersect. The pattern can continue to be repeated and extended endlessly.
A circle is considered rightly to be the perfect form. It represents 'oneness' and 'completeness' its edge has no beginning and no end, but a definite form. This is the fundamental shape that represents the planets, the stars, the moon, the eye, bubbles, water drops. It is the most efficient and sound way to structure matter.
A circle is also the most pleasing to the eye, because of the structural self-similarity. This is easy to prove through understanding human nature. When we are first born, our mind is programmed to search for circles!!! We are automatically drawn to the circular eyes of our mother for recognition, and the round nipples of our mother for nourishment. This is truly the universal form, and has become the optimal natural shape to guide the survival instincts of human life. Even when we grow older, we are entranced by the circle and compelled to reproduce and continue our species through such mechanisms as our attraction to the 'round' parts of the anatomy. This is part of the wonder of the process of nature and how it is organized in such a fascinating, yet effective way.
The symbol made from the center seven circles of the Flower of Life is called the Seed of Life. It can be seen to represent the first 7 days of Genesis from which all Creation expands out of the One, the single center circle. From this basis, the pattern of Creation can expand indefinitely and can contain endless number and types of forms. The Flower of Life is, like I said before, a representation of the infinite, yet orderly matrix that describes both the interconnected structure of the mind and of the universe that it perceives.
The shapes and colors of the game pieces in Da Vinci's Challenge represent the duality that seems to be ingrained in our mental experiences and perceptions. The forms and patterns that are made using these shapes on the gameboard can be seen as a representation of the infinite forms that can arise from the underlying matrix of order in the universe and in our brains. The dual black and white colors, as well as the triangle and long oval shapes can be thought of as representations of yin and yang, male and female, active and passive, 0 and 1 binary characteristics that our duality-based consciousness is trained to experience.
By contemplating the overall random pattern these shapes make when they are all placed on the board by the end of the game, as well as the underlying matrix of the Flower of Life, you can draw comparisons to the structure and nature of the universe and the infinite forms that can also arise from basic elements and principles.
All good art and symbolism packs the maximum amount of information in the minimum amount of space. The Flower of life has been recognized throughout history as a symbol of prime importance because of the infinite amount of geometric, spiritual, and symbolic information that it can represent.
I encourage you to explore the concepts I've talked about here to help deepen your understanding of your own mind and the world we experience through the limiting filter of the mind. From the beginning of its conception, Da Vinci's Challenge has always been intended to be a source of insight, inspiration, and a connection to timeless wisdom for everyone who encounters it. Most of all, I hope it continues to be a source of enjoyment and bonding for those who play it.
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