Sacred geometry of the VW Polo
RYAN SHIRLOW goes in search of esoteric meanings and hidden codes in his ageing family car...
Forteans take a certain pleasure in the discovery of hidden relationships between disparate phenomena. Some we attribute to blind chance, but others we suspect are the work of people or processes we can at least attempt to understand.
The search for pattern and meaning is an important one, to which our brains are finely tuned. But what happens when this search overextends itself, and we see significance where none exists?
This tendency is known as pareidolia. We most commonly experience it when mundane images bring to mind something unusual: cats that look like Hitler, the infamous Face on Mars, the faces in trees or fence panels to be found in this very magazine’s ‘Simulacra Corner.’ 1
But pareidolia can also be caused by any stimulus of a suitably complex or random nature. If you spend hours listening to recordings of ghostly static, you may experience ElectronicVoice Phenomena (see FT104:26-30, 194:26-30). 2 And if you devote enough time to poring over a map of ancient monuments, perhaps mysterious alignments will appear.
So profound is this tendency that even in the absence of any external input our brains still try to detect meaningful patterns. People who suffer from ‘Charles Bonnet Syndrome’ report terrifying hallucinations as the visual centres of their brain fill in the gaps in their damaged eyesight (see FT125:14, 184:4649, 321:54-55). 3 There are even structured and musical forms of tinnitus reported by people
Conspiracy theory is a type of political pareidolia
with hearing loss (see FT300:24, 361:22).
Pareidolia could even be at the heart of any number of paranormal experiences: from misinterpreted shadowy figures, to lights seen in the sky, to apparently significant coincidences. It may be that it stymies our attempts to analyse aggregated data, forming disconnected reports into apparently meaningful ‘flaps’ or ‘window areas’. I believe modern day conspiracy theory is a kind of
political pareidolia: the search for meaning hidden in the noise of 21st century governance. Pseudoscience, alternative history and the New Age all rely on this instinctive analysis of poorly structured and contradictory data. Enthusiasts randomly divide or multiply dates and measurements by one another in the search for significance, a practice known as numerology or – when applied to art and architecture – ‘Sacred Geometry’.
At the heart of Sacred Geometry is a tangible core of real mathematics. Pi or the Fibonacci Sequence 4 are fundamental relationships which exist in nature and which have been emulated by artists and engineers since ancient times. But numbers can also be abused by quack academics, who construct tenuous links between unproven hypotheses, cynically parsing the data to prove their pet theories. 5
To showcase this kind of analytical pareidolia at work, I decided to write a short piece about an object so utterly banal that no mystical art could possibly have been employed in its design. I chose my 1993 Mark2FVolkswagen Polo.
By the simple technique of starting with what I wanted to find and working back to the evidence, I exceeded my worst expectations.
My search began with the famous ‘Golden Ratio’, which appears time and again in mathematics, biology and art (Leonardo DaVinci was a fan). It can be expressed numerically as 1.618:1. 6
The length of the first third of my car, when compared to the height at its very front, closely matches this Golden value. Clearly the designer had intended to catch my attention. Perhaps, as befits a car designed in Protestant Germany and built in Catholic Spain, my Polo is imbued with further Christian significance.
Clad inVirginal white, she is fitted with four steel wheels, each one representing a Gospel of the New Testament. One “measures a circle beginning anywhere”, as Charles Fort wrote in Lo!, but on this model the diameter of the wheel is 13in – a troubling figure in the Western Christian tradition, bringing to mind the 12 disciples and the traitor Judas Iscariot. This is no mere coincidence, for the engine also boasts four cylinders, and a capacity of 1.3 litres.
I sketched out approximate measurements of the car’s other dimensions; being approximate is good, because it allows you to bend the results to fit your chosen thesis.
My Polo, it transpires, is roughly divided into thirds across much of its form: the height from the ground to the side trim, from the trim to the window, and from the window to the roof – the closest point of the car to Heaven. The same pattern can be found from the bumper to the windscreen, from there back to the trailing edge of the door, and from there a slightly larger third to the rear of the car. Was the designer daring to imply that one part of this Trinity is greater than the others? Might the larger third of my vehicle represent the primacy of God the Father, in a clear reference to the fourth century heresy of Arianism? 7
It is good technique to simply ask such a question, then move quickly on. We will consider the matter proven.
These days, no stream of alternative consciousness is complete without invoking Hitler or the Nazis. Remember, the originalVolkswagen was a project of Nazi Germany – the original People’s Car. Openly fascist symbols such as the swastika are now banned in that country, so right-wing groups use more coded symbolism. 8 Might we find evidence of these dark forces behind the Polo’s dynamic styling?
I was relieved when I could not. There was no suggestion of the number 88 (i.e., ‘HH’ or ‘Heil Hitler’) in the design. This confirmed my belief that the Polo’s designer was pure of heart.
Elsewhere, another mysterious ratio appeared again and again: 1.3:1. This is the ratio of the length of the roof to its width. It is the height of the car divided by the distance to the bottom of the rear window. It is the depth of the bonnet to the width at its midpoint. What could it mean?
And how could the ancient Germans, working as they were, in the 1980s, with the basic computers of that era, have executed such a complex design, laden with religious and mathematical significance?
The answer is they could not – at least, not alone...
I had set out to cynically demonstrate how random facts about my car could be mashed together to produce ludicrous assertions. Instead, I had uncovered arcane revelations hidden in plain sight.
We must face up to the inescapable conclusion that my Polo was built to express secret, occult knowledge. But was it designed with the assistance of nefarious Freemasons, divine Angels, or beings from outer space? And what were they trying to tell us?
ABOVE: It’s easy to be swept away by the dramatic lines and elegant proportions of the ‘humble’ Volkswagen Polo.
TOP: The birth of the ‘People’s Car’. Does the innocent-looking Polo hide dark Nazi symbols? ABOVE: Good forteans should always keep clear and detailed notes. These may help in later evaluation, whether of the legal or psychiatric kind…