Macrocosm and microcosm

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Robert Fludd's illustration of man as the microcosm within the universal macrocosm. Fludd states that "Man is a whole world of its own, called microcosm for it displays a miniature pattern of all the parts of the universe. Thus the head is related to the Empyreal, the chest to the ethereal heaven and the belly to the elementary substance."[1]
Macrocosm and Microcosm from Tobias Schutz 'Harmonia macrocosmi cum microcosmi' (1654)
By looking down, I see up. Part of a pair of illustrations in Tycho Brahe's Astronomiæ instauratæ Mechanica depicting his understanding of the connection between macrocosm and microcosm.[citation needed]
By looking up, I see down.

Macrocosm and microcosm refers to a vision of cosmos where the part (microcosm) reflects the whole (macrocosm) and vice versa. It is a feature present in many esoteric models of philosophy, both ancient and modern.[2] It is closely associated with Hermeticism and underlies practices such as astrology, alchemy and sacred geometry with its premise of "As Above, So Below".[3]

The philosophy was conceptualized by Pythagoras, who saw the cosmos and the body as a harmonious unity.[4] The idea was re-articulated about a century later by Plato,[5] and again during the Renaissance, by Leonardo da Vinci, who noted common features between the natural world and the human body such as the circulation of liquids and basic branching mechanisms.[6]

In modern sociology, the concept of microcosm has been predominantly used to describe a small group of individuals whose behavior is typical of a larger social body encompassing it. A microcosm can be seen as a special kind of epitome. Conversely, a macrocosm is a social body made of smaller compounds. In physics, scale invariance describes the same phenomenon.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Fludd in Utriusque Cosmic Historia, II; quoted by Pierre A. Riffard in Dictionnaire de l’ésotérisme, Paris: Payot, 1983, 34.
  2. ^ Pierre A. Riffard, Dictionnaire de l’ésotérisme, Paris: Payot, 1983, 34.
  3. ^ Antoine Faivre, Access to Western esotericism, State University of New York Press, 1994, 10-11.
  4. ^ Garber, James J. (2017-07-28). Harmony in Healing. pp. 15–16. doi:10.4324/9780203790281. ISBN 9780203790281.
  5. ^ McDonough, Richard. "Plato: Organicism". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  6. ^ Wallace, Robert (1972) [1966]. The World of Leonardo: 1452–1519. New York: Time-Life Books. p. 103.

Further reading[edit]

  • Theories of Macrocosms and Microcosms in the History of Philosophy, G. P. Conger, NY, 1922, which includes a survey of critical discussions up to 1922.
  • Plato, Republic, trans. By B. Jowett M.A., Vintage Books, NY. § 435, pg 151

External links[edit]