The Hidden Geometry of Flowers: Living Rhythms, Form, and Number
Can we imagine a world without flowers? Their beauty offers us delight in their color, fragrance, and form, and their substance offers medicinal benefits. Flowers also speak to us in the language of the plant’s form, provide cultural symbols in different cultures, and, at the highest levels, offer inspiration.
In this beautiful and original book, renowned thinker and geometrist Keith Critchlow focuses on an aspect of flowers that has received the least attention. The flower becomes a teacher of symmetry and geometry (the “eternal verities,” as Plato called them). In this sense, Critchlow tells us, we can treat flowers as sources of remembering—ways of recalling our own wholeness, as well as awakening our inner power of recognition and consciousness. What is evident in the geometry of a flower’s face can remind us of the geometry that underlies all existence.
Working from his own flower photographs and with every geometric pattern hand-drawn, the author reviews the role of flowers from the perspective of our interrelationship with the natural world. His illuminating study attempts to re-engage the human spirit in its intimate relation with all nature.
“I’ve been looking at plants all my life and it’s one of my great pleasures, Keith Critchlow”s book adds new dimensions to this enjoyment and shows how number and geometry are made manifest in the forms that we see in every garden, in wild flowers and in the cut flowers that decorate our rooms…. The plentiful illustrations help make this a book of inspiration and insight.” —Dr. Rupert Sheldrake
“This is less a book for what we call ‘reading’ than a book to be lived with as a delightful and instructive companion for a long time. It is a fascinating book, full of things useful and pleasing to know. And I admire the honest circularity of its plot that begins in mystery, passes through much knowledge, and returns again (in fact again and again) to mystery.” —Wendell Berry
“I have been waiting thirty-five years for this book.” —Julian Barnard, author of Bach Flower Remedies: Form and Function
“Like many people, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the publication of this book, and I have to say that it has been a real delight finally to read its inspirational thoughts and also to contemplate the large number of beautiful images and geometrical diagrams that is contains…. The Hidden Geometry of Flowers is a wonderful gift to the growing number of people who, dissatisfied with the impoverished and disenchanted worldview of materialistic science, are seeking to relate to the spiritual in nature once again. It is also a major contribution to the holistic science of the plant world, complementing studies by Goethean and anthroposophically inspired researchers into the formative forces at work in the plant kingdom….
“Anyone who gives proper attention to [this book] will feel that they are indeed brought closer to the mysterious form-creating life-processes that emanate from the world of spirit, and for this reason it is an enormously valuable contribution to all who are endeavoring to work towards a more holistic and spiritual awareness of the plant world.” —Jeremy Naydler, New View
“This remarkable and beautiful book is the culmination of years of research into the nature and geometry of flowers, drawing on the author’s extensive understanding of Platonic philosophy as a means of expressing and understanding the Good, the Beautiful and the True…. Reading the book is a form of living education which means that you will never respond to (I did not say ‘look at’) flowers in quite the same way again. This is highlighted by the Prince of Wales in his foreword, when he talks about the perception of beauty as a resonance with the patterns which we ourselves are made of. The result is a feeling of harmony, the subject of the Prince’s own book.” —David Lorimer, Network Review, winter 2011
“Critchlow takes four different perspectives to explore how flowers connect us to deeper truths: material, social, cultural and inspirational. His thesis is illustrated with striking photos of plants, together with drawings, diagrams and quotes from Eastern and Western writers, classical philosophers and religious teachers…. This book reads like the unfurling of a lifetime’s observation, and afterwards you look at the whole world differently, not just the garden.” —Garden Design Journal
“I eagerly awaited the publication of this book, and I have to say that it was a real delight finally to read its inspirational thoughts and also to contemplate the large number of beautiful images and geometrical diagrams it contains…. [The book’s] analyses open one’s eyes to the extraordinary ability of flowers to harness and express geometrical forms and proportions. They open one’s eyes, that is to say, to an underlying order and harmony that are intrinsic to the natural world…through contemplating the geometrical analyses in this book, the reader is directed in wonderment towards this vast domain of ordered and ordering forms…. The Hidden Geometry of Flowers is a wonderful gift to the growing number of people who, dissatisfied with the impoverished and disenchanted world-view of materialistic science, are seeking to relate to the spiritual in nature once again. It is also a major contribution to the holistic science of the plant world…. [it] is an enormously valuable contribution to all who are endeavoring to work towards a more holistic and spiritual awareness of the plant world.” —Temenos Academy Review
“In his summary he contends that ‘flowers have been so instrumental forming human ideas of paradise.’ His notions are supported by a broad range of illustrations that celebrate the great beauty of flowers in a variety of forms.” —Chicago Botanic Garden website
“At over 400 pages, this is a long work, but it is full of superb illustrations, providing instant appeal… it is also a book of substance as far as the writing is concerned… I consider this to be a book which will ‘grow’ on the reader—to extend the flower analogy—and it is full of memorable quotes, which the mathematically challenged reader (like me), or the newcomer to the perennial philosophy, can hold on to while waiting for full understanding to emerge.” —Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America
About the Author
Prof. Keith Critchlow (1933–2020) was a well-known lecturer and author and a founding member of Research Into Lost Knowledge Organization (RILKO), a founding member and Director of Studies of Kairos, and a founding member and President of the Temenos Academy. He was Professor Emeritus and founder of the Visual Islamic and Traditional Arts Programme at the Royal College of Art, now the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts. Trained as a painter, Critchlow discovered geometry intuitively. A period of intensive geometric practice (and work with Buckminster Fuller) led him to the recognition that the universal principles of geometry are revealed and confirmed both by the area of design where art and mathematics meet and in the study of nature and ancient and medieval sacred cosmological stone, temple, cathedral, and mosque architectures. Keith Critchlow had been a senior lecturer at the Architectural Association in London, and taught Islamic Art at the Royal College of Art. He also participated as geometer in various sacred architectural projects. His books include Islamic Patterns: An Analytical and Cosmological Approach (1999); Time Stands Still: New Light on Megalithic Science (2007); and The Hidden Geometry of Flowers: Living Rhythms, Form, and Number (2011).