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**The Golden Mean** (also called the * Golden Section, Golden Ratio, Divine Proportion or Divine Section)*, represented by the Greek letter

In mathematics, two quantities are in the golden ratio if their ratio is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities.

Some twentieth-century artists and architects, including Le Corbusier and Dalí, have proportioned their works to approximate the golden ratio—especially in the form of the golden rectangle, in which the ratio of the longer side to the shorter is the golden ratio—believing this proportion to be aesthetically pleasing (see Applications and observations below). Mathematicians since Euclid have studied the properties of the golden ratio, including its appearance in the dimensions of a regular pentagon and in a golden rectangle, which can be cut into a square and a smaller rectangle with the same aspect ratio. The golden ratio has also been used to analyze the proportions of natural objects as well as man-made systems such as financial markets, in some cases based on dubious fits to data.

Mathematician Mark Barr proposed using the first letter in the name of Greek sculptor Phidias, phi, to symbolize the golden ratio. Usually, the lowercase form (φ) is used. Sometimes, the uppercase form (Φ) is used for the reciprocal of the golden ratio, 1/φ.

Michael Maestlin, first to publish a decimal approximation of the golden ratio, in 1597

The golden ratio has fascinated Western intellectuals of diverse interests for at least 2,400 years. According to Mario Livio:

Some of the greatest mathematical minds of all ages, from Pythagoras and Euclid in ancient Greece, through the medieval Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa and the Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler, to present-day scientific figures such as Oxford physicist Roger Penrose, have spent endless hours over this simple ratio and its properties. But the fascination with the Golden Ratio is not confined just to mathematicians. Biologists, artists, musicians, historians, architects, psychologists, and even mystics have pondered and debated the basis of its ubiquity and appeal. In fact, it is probably fair to say that **the Golden Ratio has inspired thinkers of all disciplines like no other number in the history of mathematics.**

Ancient Greek mathematicians first studied what we now call the golden ratio because of its frequent appearance in geometry. The division of a line into “extreme and mean ratio” (the golden section) is important in the geometry of regular pentagrams and pentagons. Euclid’s Elements (Greek: Στοιχεῖα) provides the first known written definition of what is now called the golden ratio: “A straight line is said to have been cut in extreme and mean ratio when, as the whole line is to the greater segment, so is the greater to the lesser.” Euclid explains a construction for cutting (sectioning) a line “in extreme and mean ratio”, i.e., the golden ratio. Throughout the Elements, several propositions (theorems in modern terminology) and their proofs employ the golden ratio.

The golden ratio is explored in Luca Pacioli’s book De divina proportione of 1509.

The first known approximation of the (inverse) golden ratio by a decimal fraction, stated as “about 0.6180340”, was written in 1597 by Michael Maestlin of the University of Tübingen in a letter to his former student Johannes Kepler.

Since the 20th century, the golden ratio has been represented by the Greek letter φ (phi, after Phidias, a sculptor who is said to have employed it) or less commonly by τ (tau, the first letter of the ancient Greek root τομή—meaning cut).

**-> **Phidias (490–430 BC) made the Parthenon statues that seem to embody the golden ratio.

**-> **Plato (427–347 BC), in his Timaeus, describes five possible regular solids (the Platonic solids: the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron, and icosahedron), some of which are related to the golden ratio.

**-> **Euclid (c. 325–c. 265 BC), in his Elements, gave the first recorded definition of the golden ratio, which he called, as translated into English, “extreme and mean ratio” (Greek: ἄκρος καὶ μέσος λόγος).

**-> **Fibonacci (1170–1250) mentioned the numerical series now named after him in his Liber Abaci; the ratio of sequential elements of the Fibonacci sequence approaches the golden ratio asymptotically.

**-> **Luca Pacioli (1445–1517) defines the golden ratio as the “divine proportion” in his Divina Proportione.

**-> **Michael Maestlin (1550–1631) publishes the first known approximation of the (inverse) golden ratio as a decimal fraction.

Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) proves that the golden ratio is the limit of the ratio of consecutive Fibonacci numbers,[19] and describes the golden ratio as a “precious jewel”: “Geometry has two great treasures: one is the Theorem of Pythagoras, and the other the division of a line into extreme and mean ratio; the first we may compare to a measure of gold, the second we may name a precious jewel.” These two treasures are combined in the Kepler triangle.

**-> **Charles Bonnet (1720–1793) points out that in the spiral phyllotaxis of plants going clockwise and counter-clockwise were frequently two successive Fibonacci series.

**-> **Martin Ohm (1792–1872) is believed to be the first to use the term goldener Schnitt (golden section) to describe this ratio, in 1835.

Édouard Lucas (1842–1891) gives the numerical sequence now known as the Fibonacci sequence its present name.

**-> **Mark Barr (20th century) suggests the Greek letter phi (φ), the initial letter of Greek sculptor Phidias’s name, as a symbol for the golden ratio.

**-> **Roger Penrose (b. 1931) discovered in 1974 the Penrose tiling, a pattern that is related to the golden ratio both in the ratio of areas of its two rhombic tiles and in their relative frequency within the pattern. This in turn led to new discoveries about quasicrystals.

Many of the proportions of the Parthenon are alleged to exhibit the golden ratio. The Parthenon’s façade as well as elements of its façade and elsewhere are said by some to be circumscribed by golden rectangles. Other scholars deny that the Greeks had any aesthetic association with golden ratio. For example, Midhat J. Gazalé says, “It was not until Euclid, however, that the golden ratio’s mathematical properties were studied. In the Elements (308 BC) the Greek mathematician merely regarded that number as an interesting irrational number, in connection with the middle and extreme ratios. Its occurrence in regular pentagons and decagons was duly observed, as well as in the dodecahedron (a regular polyhedron whose twelve faces are regular pentagons). It is indeed exemplary that the great Euclid, contrary to generations of mystics who followed, would soberly treat that number for what it is, without attaching to it other than its factual properties.” And Keith Devlin says, “Certainly, the oft repeated assertion that the Parthenon in Athens is based on the golden ratio is not supported by actual measurements. In fact, the entire story about the Greeks and golden ratio seems to be without foundation. The one thing we know for sure is that Euclid, in his famous textbook Elements, written around 300 BC, showed how to calculate its value.” Near-contemporary sources like Vitruvius exclusively discuss proportions that can be expressed in whole numbers, i.e. commensurate as opposed to irrational proportions.

A 2004 geometrical analysis of earlier research into the Great Mosque of Kairouan reveals a consistent application of the golden ratio throughout the design, according to Boussora and Mazouz. They found ratios close to the golden ratio in the overall proportion of the plan and in the dimensioning of the prayer space, the court, and the minaret. The authors note, however, that the areas where ratios close to the golden ratio were found are not part of the original construction, and theorize that these elements were added in a reconstruction.

The Swiss architect Le Corbusier, famous for his contributions to the modern international style, centered his design philosophy on systems of harmony and proportion. Le Corbusier’s faith in the mathematical order of the universe was closely bound to the golden ratio and the Fibonacci series, which he described as “rhythms apparent to the eye and clear in their relations with one another. And these rhythms are at the very root of human activities. They resound in man by an organic inevitability, the same fine inevitability which causes the tracing out of the Golden Section by children, old men, savages and the learned.”

Le Corbusier explicitly used the golden ratio in his Modulor system for the scale of architectural proportion. He saw this system as a continuation of the long tradition of Vitruvius, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”, the work of Leon Battista Alberti, and others who used the proportions of the human body to improve the appearance and function of architecture. In addition to the golden ratio, Le Corbusier based the system on human measurements, Fibonacci numbers, and the double unit. He took suggestion of the golden ratio in human proportions to an extreme: he sectioned his model human body’s height at the navel with the two sections in golden ratio, then subdivided those sections in golden ratio at the knees and throat; he used these golden ratio proportions in the Modulor system. Le Corbusier’s 1927 Villa Stein in Garches exemplified the Modulor system’s application. The villa’s rectangular ground plan, elevation, and inner structure closely approximate golden rectangles.

Another Swiss architect, Mario Botta, bases many of his designs on geometric figures. Several private houses he designed in Switzerland are composed of squares and circles, cubes and cylinders. In a house he designed in Origlio, the golden ratio is the proportion between the central section and the side sections of the house.

In a recent book, author Jason Elliot speculated that the golden ratio was used by the designers of the Naqsh-e Jahan Square and the adjacent Lotfollah mosque.

The drawing of a man’s body in a pentagram suggests relationships to the golden ratio.

The 16th-century philosopher Heinrich Agrippa drew a man over a pentagram inside a circle, implying a relationship to the golden ratio.

Leonardo da Vinci’s illustrations of polyhedra in De divina proportione (On the Divine Proportion) and his views that some bodily proportions exhibit the golden ratio have led some scholars to speculate that he incorporated the golden ratio in his paintings. But the suggestion that his Mona Lisa, for example, employs golden ratio proportions, is not supported by anything in Leonardo’s own writings. Similarly, although the Vitruvian Man is often shown in connection with the golden ratio, the proportions of the figure do not actually match it, and the text only mentions whole number ratios.

Salvador Dalí, influenced by the works of Matila Ghyka, explicitly used the golden ratio in his masterpiece, The Sacrament of the Last Supper. The dimensions of the canvas are a golden rectangle. A huge dodecahedron, in perspective so that edges appear in golden ratio to one another, is suspended above and behind Jesus and dominates the composition.

Mondrian has been said to have used the golden section extensively in his geometrical paintings, though other experts (including critic Yve-Alain Bois) have disputed this claim.

A statistical study on 565 works of art of different great painters, performed in 1999, found that these artists had not used the golden ratio in the size of their canvases. The study concluded that the average ratio of the two sides of the paintings studied is 1.34, with averages for individual artists ranging from 1.04 (Goya) to 1.46 (Bellini). On the other hand, Pablo Tosto listed over 350 works by well-known artists, including more than 100 which have canvasses with golden rectangle and root-5 proportions, and others with proportions like root-2, 3, 4, and 6. (2)

(1) – “The Golden Mean.” The Golden Mean. Http://goldenmean.vashti.net/, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.

(2) – “Golden Ratio.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Apr. 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.

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