In ancient time the circle had deep significance among thoughtful men in many nations. As the symbol of eternity many regarded it as not only suggestive, but also as possessing a mystic power belonging to no other figure, and many of the earlier religions appear to have constructed their places of worship and sacrifice in circles, as at Stonehenge and elsewhere. We do not know all the possibilities of moral and spiritual teaching which in those early prehistoric days the wiser and more enlightened souls may have derived from this almost universal symbol. We see that every far-reaching belief has had its due effect on the growth and development of the race, and down the long ages of evolution mankind have passed through stage after stage of growth and progress, and amidst much of superstition and childish simplicity there has been also mingled with the very childish and superstition that which has lifted some, if not all, into a realm of spiritual vision, from whence a new starting point has been possible, and deeper, truer, and higher paths of life been entered upon.
So from the symbol of the old sacred circle we may possibly get a new lesson in the progressive spiritual life by which our souls may afresh be lifted into a stage of renewed thoughtfulness and increasing power and virtue; for is not every human soul the center of a circle, with influence radiating to an unknown circumference? Does not the central love of each soul diffuse "it power for good or evil almost beyond our thought."
Most suggestive is the old biblical phase so often used by the writers of Jewish history: "He did that which was evil and made Israel to sin," especially when contrasted with the record of the life of Jesus, when it is said of Hum: "He went about doing good." These two examples may be taken as types of the contrasted lines of those who have exercised a wide influence on their fellow-men. We look almost with horror upon the circle of misery, death, and destruction caused by the lives of such men as Alexander, Caesar, or Napoleon, whilst we rejoice in the mighty influence for good radiating from an Isaiah, a Paul, a Shakespeare, or a Whittier.
The circle of the tyrant and destroyer contrasts as darkness to light with the circle of the saintly and the wise. Who can measure the difference between the life—power of a Nero and a Marcus Aurelius? But, coming to the simpler and more practical questions of what can be done with the common life of every ordinary man and woman, do we know how possible it may be for each of us to become centers of sacred circles, ever widening with increasing beneficence? Every living soul walking in the ways of holiness and peace must every day be sending out from such a center thoughts and words and deeds which never die. We venerate the exalted, transcendent soul who blesses the world with thoughts that soar and words that burn; but we may also be exceeding glad that every common life constrains the central power of making itself a circle of influence beyond the dreams of poets.
The power of one loving, self-sacrificing soul, in the most obscure position in relation to public life, may be an eternal circle of light and truth. When Jesus tool a little child and set him as the type of those in the Kingdom of Heaven, He wanted us to understand the value and beauty of a gentle, simple, and innocent life, and in all such loves we have the real and wonderful sacred circles from which flow forth the common graces and wholesome virtues the world needs to keep it sweet. We can see the value of the sacred circle as showing the radiant power emanating from Confucius, or Buddha, or Jesus; but we could but learn that each man is also a "Son of God," and may become a center of Light and Love and Peace, ever extending an influence for Truth and Righteousness, what a growth in moral sanity, and even saintliness, might begin and be continued in a ever-widening circle of power essentially divine! How soon the "war drum" might be exchanged for the "olive branch," and the selfish aims of men and nations be superseded by universal benevolence and brotherhood. The great destructive circles of the warriors and the tyrannical circles of the despots, or would-be despots, must in the end give place to wiser and better counsels, and nobler and higher aims. The reign of force and fraud, and the seeming victory of evil over good, must finally give place to circles of ever extending goodness such as a modern poet foresees and proclaims when he writes—
Whilst he that drank the hemlock, he that drank
The cup more dread on Calvary's hill, remain
Servants and mighty conquerors of the world.
However far we may seem to fall below the port's ideal today, the fact remains that Reason and Righteousness and Purity of heart must be the centers from which the regeneration of man flow with ever growing power, till the good leaven of holiness shall have leavened the whole of our humanity, and the sacred circle of man shall be co-extensive with the race, with every man for a center of that one peculiar good gift he is able to communicate, and all striving together for a common end—the realization of Truth and Beauty within the soul and throughout the world, and to diffuse—