In the wheel with its spokes and hub, the world’s great mystery is hidden and yet again and again open to experience.
A piece of metal strip or PVC pipe, or a wire form the basis of one of the widespread toys in the global south. Let us observe in our imagination a boy who, having assembled a piece of PVC pipe into a ring, “his wheel” and formed a wire into a driver and moves his “wheel” with it. The boy has made this toy by himself. Joy shines from the child’s eyes as he moves his wheel. With the wire in his hand, he guides and pushes it, running after it on the dusty path. He concentrates on keeping it moving in the direction he wants. Other children admire him and run along. Why are these children so full of joy while playing such simple games?
All that is mutable is but reflected;
What is inscrutable, here is affected.
What is not understood, here it is done.
J. W. v Goethe
Children are often very open to all these symbols which represent the eternity in matter and very often their spontaneous games are full of it. Later on, when they are adults, they forget all the games of their childhood.
Being so alive and connected as a child, with few materials the boy has created an instrument that can be moved, generating joy and enthusiasm. Since the discovery of the wheel, the circle with a centre and space between the centre and the outer rim (spokes) has stimulated people’s imagination and produced ever-new instruments, chariots and machines. The basis for this seems to be a universal law: wheel (circle, rim), distance (spokes) and a centre (hub) around which everything revolves can become a movement or are a movement. The wheel or the ring are ancient archetypal signs with many meanings. What is the magic of the connection of hub, spokes and circle (wheel)? What creates movement and joy in a child’s heart and our amazement when observing the universe, with its movements, circles of stars, planets and galaxies?
We do not want to examine the physical conditions, but how circular movement shapes our lives, our world and the universe. For children, the enthusiasm comes more from the eternal power which is behind the symbol. Buddha spoke of the “Wheel of Samsara”, the wheel of life and death, which keeps humans and the visible universe in an eternal cycle of becoming and passing away. The “Wheel of Samsara”, the interplay between day and night, the seasons, the earth’s orbits, the sun and the universe, has fascinated humanity from time immemorial and led to many investigations and conclusions. All Indian religions start from the wheel of birth and rebirth, conditioned by karma, the law of cause and effect. However, the goal of life, of an incarnation in our world, is to break this “everlasting” cycle and to come to the inner, the hub of this wheel, where you might overcome limitation. The centre in which all is one, around which all wheels turn, and which is yet unaffected by their movements – it is in our hearts where all seeking, all motion passes away in the peace and unity that cannot be expressed in words and which we can only approach in humility. That is why the Silesian mystic Angelus Silesius says:
If Christ were born in Bethlehem a thousand times and not in thee thyself, then art thou lost eternally.
Children are often one with the great mysteries behind the material world. For adults, the world’s great mystery is hidden and yet open to view in the wheel with its spokes and hub. The wheel: the world of change and the eternal cycle, the visible universe with its myriads of circular movements; the spokes: the path to a centre; the hub: the centre, the point, as the infinitely small but also the immeasurable fullness, unification, dissolution of all separations, the unity and tranquillity “which transcends all understanding”.
Does the boy with the wheel and the wire know about these philosophies? Indeed, not with his day consciousness. However, he carries a primordial memory within himself and sees the wheel’s movement with joy. As he grows older, the childlike joy is lost, and he is harnessed into the mill of life. And yet — there are moments in every life when we long for something, something we felt as children and which we seem to have lost through education, the hectic pace of everyday life and the daily pressures and hardships. It is possible that the grown-up remembers playing in his childhood with the wheel, and suddenly, he may hear an inner voice which makes him understand the symbolic meaning of the wheel. There is a “hub” in his own centre, and it’s calling him. It wants to lead him to overcome the constraint of being bound to the daily routine. And he may start to learn to listen to this call from within.
Do we listen to the inner voice?
Before the soul can understand and remember, it must be united with the “Silent Speaker”. […] Only then will the soul hear and remember and then speak to the inner ear: The voice of silence.[ii]
Do we listen to this inner voice, or does the turmoil of our world drown out the silent voice that speaks within us? When the blows of fate have softened us, and we no longer expect anything from this world, this silent voice can develop into an inner storm, as the Psalmist states:
As the deer cries for fresh water, so my soul cries for Thee …”[iii]
When we follow our inner voice, the mystery of the circle, the spokes, the hub and the empty space, as Lao Tse puts it, may open up intuitively:
The thirty spokes of the wheel gather in the hub, but it is only through empty space that it is of use.[iv]
Lao Tse describes the three visible elements of the wheel:
– The immovable hub, the centre, which occupies no space but is present and sustains the universe in every aspect;
– The circle, the rim of the wheel, which on the one hand symbolises the eternal movement, and on the other hand, the bond, the “hamster wheel”;
– And the spokes establish the connection between the centre and the circle. The path that can lead from the attachment to the wheel of Samsara to freedom from this world and to inner peace.
The “empty space” between the wheel (circle) and the hub is, as Jan van Rijckenborgh [v] explains, not empty but filled with two kinds of forces. One kind comes from our nature, our known universe, which has been called the “nature of death”, whereas the other kind is the Voice of Silence, the kingdom, not of this world. According to nature, human beings are bound to the Wheel of Samsara, but they can also hear the Voice of Silence and try to follow it. To which influences do we give ear, and which influences will dominate us?
Thus, we can see man as a threefold being within a field of tensions between the attachment to the wheel of Samsara and a being listening to the inner Voice of Silence, who follows this inner voice:
The hub: the God in us, as a sleeping unconscious principle or a new radiating reality.
The wheel: the wheel of Samsara, the circle, with the forces of nature that bind us to that nature order or a workplace where we can be pioneers for others who are seeking the path of liberation,
The spokes and the “empty” space from which, in infinite love and patience, emanates the call to return and in which we can follow the path that leads us to the hub.
In a “new man”, the hub, the spokes and the circle become one. Distances and separateness vanish in this new unity, and the wheel of Samsara stops. Can we experience the fullness, even the infinity, of this unity? The circle, the spokes and the empty space merge into the infinity of the hub, into dimensions where all divisions are dissolved, and “we” are led back to our origin. If we can experience something of this dimension in us, we can feel inexpressible joy, gratitude and love! We then can radiate this joy and this oneness, which are not of this world, to all longing for liberation.
Again, I see the boy who keeps his wheel in motion with his wire in utmost concentration. In this way, he becomes one with the hub, spokes and wheel. It is a unity which is experienced subconsciously. Will he be led with this experience through life when he becomes an adult and finds oneness with God, the world and humanity in a new consciousness?
[i] Angelus Silesius: Der Cherubinische Wandersmann (The Cherubic Wayfarer) published by Erich Brock, Diogenes Verlag, Zürich, 1979
[ii] H.P. Blavatsky: The Voice of the Silence, Adyar Verlag, Graz, 1972, p. 16
[iii] Luther Bible, Psalm 42:2
[iv] Jan van Rijckenborgh/Catharose de Petri: The Chinese Gnosis, Rozekruis Pers, Haarlem, 1991, p. 123
[v] Jan van Rijckenborgh: There is no empty space, Rozekruis pers, Haarlem, …..