Five is “the most typical structure in living nature.” It is found in plants, animals and almost everywhere, except for crystals – no naturally occurring crystal is known to have five sides.
“…They collide like protons and electrons, always in a five dimensional world, whose fundament is chaos,” wrote Henry Miller in his novel, Plexus. Indeed, it would seem that even chaos has some order. “Although chaos seems totally random and unpredictable, it actually obeys strict mathematical rules that derive from equations that can be formulated and studied.”
Mandelbrot and Julia are the names foremost in this field of study, now known as fractal geometry. Much like five raised to any power creates itself, they have found that “fractals are rough-edged objects that often appear self-similar; i.e., no matter what scale is used to view the pattern, the magnified portion of the fractal shape looks like the original.”
The number five is an integral part of the Fibonacci series. The Fibonacci set is a series of numbers which on first glance seem to have no set pattern, resembling chaos (1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,144…). The pattern to these numbers is that each is the sum of the two numbers prior. The series was first discovered by Fibonacci, and was the result of a study he conducted in 1209.
“Take two rabbits of the opposite sex. Rabbits can bear youth 2 months after their own birth. Assume a pair of rabbits produces another pair every month over a year….Fibonacci listed the total pairs of rabbits at the end of each month in this set.” The sequence repeats itself throughout nature. The number of petals most flowers have fall into this series, as does the patterning of their leaves, for example, pine needles grow in clusters of 2, 3, or 5. Also, if each number after the initial 5 in the set is divided by the next highest, it comes out to be approximately 0.618, or the golden mean.
One striking example is the apple tree and apple. The apple tree bears blossoms of five petals and the apple itself, when sliced horizontally, has five seeds and a star-shaped design inside. “Imagine the perfect apple, ripe and bursting with life. Sliced in half, it reveals a beautiful five-point symmetry – a star formed by the seeds inside.”
The number five pervades not only horticulture but the animal world as well. Five is considered to be the number of natural man according to Jung: representing his two legs, two arms and body. It “recurs in the figurations of animals, such as the five fingers and the five toes, or the starfish.”
Gathered by the handful at beaches, the starfish and the sand dollar are the most obvious life forms with five-fold symmetry. With the sand dollar, it goes beyond the star-shaped design on the top: it also has five holes, a five-spoked design on the reverse, and inside, five white bones fall out when broken open (when a skeleton is found on the shoreline). As scientist and author Delta Willis said, “The sand dollar, for example is related to the starfish by their common radiation of pentagons. When you flip over a sea urchin, on the bottom is a five-petalled pointsetta (much as when you turn over a sand dollar)…it never occurred to me to relate these configurations of five to my own fingers…such a connection seemed dubious – as suspect as astrology.”
Several artists have depicted man superimposed on the figure of a star, the best known being that of Leonardo daVinci. DaVinci superimposed man on an inverted star in order to show the various ratios and proportions of the human body.
The figure to the right is drawn by Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486-1535) for a book entitled “The Magic of Arbatel.” Here, man is depicted on a star, again showing the proportions of anatomy, perhaps not as artfully as daVinci, but in a way more clearly understood. This was the “microcosmic man” which represented the “four elements (earth, wind, fire, water) as the man’s limbs with his head representing the spirit.”