I was invited to go to Burning Man when it was at Baker Beach in San Francisco in 1989. At the time I remember wondering what would inspire people to ritually burn an effigy of a man on the beach, and thinking it particularly chthonic (which didn’t appeal to my Apollonian nature) I didn’t go. After being hassled by the “authorities” in San Francisco, Burning Man moved to the Black Rock Desert in Northern Nevada in 1990 and has been hosted there ever since. 51,515 people attended burning man in 2010 and attendance was capped at 50,000 thereafter. The maximum attendance reminds me of the Great Pyramid slope angle of 51 deg 51 min but maybe that’s “just a coincidence.”

The reason I’m writing about Burning Man is because I looked at it in Google Earth and was amazed that this annual pilgrimage site in a remote desert occurs within a temporary urban design called Black Rock City (BRC) that appears to be a magical diagram. It was designed by the late Rod Garrett who was an architect.

Burning Man Black Rock City

The pentagon surrounding the complex is surrounded by a 6/5 meter high (1.2 meters that is) “trash fence” that has an exoteric purpose to collect wind-blown debris and an esoteric purpose to magically protect whatever is inside its perimeter.

I was pondering the shape of this Petri dish of human culture and chanced upon the concept of Yetzirah which has a strong correlation in terms of shape and meaning.

Yetzirah - World of Formation

Yetzirah is known as “World of Formation” in the Kabbalah. It seems to me that is what Burning Man is about: envisioning new modes of human interaction, a laboratory of culture, a world in formation. I read The Return of Quetzalcoatl (Tarcher 2006) a few years back and here is Daniel Pinchbeck’s take:

“I considered Burning Man to be a fulcrum for the evolution of consciousness on the planet, where cutting-edge scientists consorted with neo-pagan warlocks, and arcane bits of knowledge were exchanged at hyperspeed. But it was also a carnal carnival, an evanescent parade of erotic possibility. Nakedness, body painting, bizarre costumes, patterns of piercings, and every form of extreme self-modification became commonplace sights after a few hours at the gathering. As a laboratory of the contemporary freakster psyche, the gathering was not all sweetness and light.”

No photography is allowed at Burning Man unless approved by its organizers. In Nevada they seem to have an unspoken rule: whatever happens there stays there. This allows people to get into the spirit and let their guard down, let it all hang out (literally), do whatever they want, and be whoever they want to be.

BRC occupies 66.6% of a full circle within the 5-sided fence. In this sense we see another 6/5 comparison.

The magic square of the Sun’s 6 rows (or columns) add up 111 and produce a total of 666. The Sun therefore resonates with 666.

Magic Square of the Sun

Magic square of the Sun from Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s “De Occulta Philosophia”

Author William Neil recently contacted me and I learned from reading his site that the Tropic of Cancer is 66.6 degrees from the North pole, the Tropic of Capricorn is 66.6 degrees from the South Pole, the Equator is 66.6 degrees from the Arctic and Antarctic circles, and the Earth’s average orbital speed is 66,666 miles per hour (99.9%).

These repetitions of sixes also remind me of how the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is 666 nautical miles from the Kaaba in Mecca. The Eastern cornerstone of the Kaaba contains fragments of the meteoric Black Stone venerated at the site long before Muhammad was born. The Haj pilgrimage to the Black Stone in Mecca syncs with the pilgrimage to Black Rock City.

“The Black Rock” was also a mysterious 19th century sailing ship that was a key symbol in the television show Lost, shipwrecked on an island that was lost in time. It is interesting that the avenues in BRC are named after times on a clock face, such as 3:30, 6:30, and so on.

I noticed that the central axis of BRC leads directly to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. This is significant because the Cathedral there has been a major pilgrimage destination since the 9th century. Over 100,000 Catholic pilgrims still travel to Santiago de Compostela each year from all over the world. Is Burning Man aligned to become the secular pilgrimage destination of the new world?

Burning Man alignments

In the 9th century a hermit named Pelagius was guided to the place by a falling star and the etymology of “Compostela” is a corruption of Campus Stellae or “Field of Stars.”

Santiago de Compostela

Image by Manfred Zentraf under the CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported license.

Before the Catholic religion existed, the Celts made what was later known as Santiago de Compostela the place where souls of the dead gathered to follow the Sun across the Western sea.

Kevin McMahon noticed that a line originating at the center of BRC to the NW vertex of the pentagonal fence is at a bearing of 333.3 degrees true North (measured clockwise from north).

Here are a few facts from my forthcoming book, Taking Measure: Explorations in Number, Architecture, and the Cosmos (to be published in November 2012):

  • The Sun is 333,000 times more massive than the Earth.
  • It takes light 3.3 nanoseconds to travel one meter.
  • Earth’s polar circumference is 6/5 x 33,333,333 meters (99.98%).
  • The Dome of the Rock is 33 miles from the sea.
  • The Dome of the Rock is 33.33 degrees distant from Stonehenge at a bearing of 111 degrees.
  • 33.33 x 33.33 ≈ 1111


I noticed that the center of BRC is exactly 432 km from Masonic Center at 1111 California Street in San Francisco. The Sun’s radius is 432,000 miles (99.8%). See my Secrets of San Francisco post.

About a mile north of BRC is a remnant of the design created in 2009 by artist Jim Denevan who drove his truck around in numerous circles.

Burning Man and Jim Devevan's Land Art

Here is a detail of Denevan’s large scale work that measures 3 miles in diameter. The central axis of this land art is oriented toward Black Rock City at 222.2 degrees true north.

Denevan Land Art detail

I immediately recognized this design as an “Apollonian Net” because it is one of the first sacred geometry pieces of art I made about 5 years ago. I remember it was quite challenging to draw all the circles tangent to each other. I can’t imagine how challenging it must have been to drive a truck in this precise pattern. Kudos to Jim Denevan.

Apollonian Net by Scott Onstott

Here is an example of this geometry, very similar to the complete land art in the Black Rock desert:

Apollonian Gasket with curvatures

Image by Todd Stedl under the CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported license.

The numbers above indicate curvatures which are the reciprocals of the circles’ radii. This particular Apollonian gasket has some highly interesting curvatures.

In hyperbolic geometry all Apollonian nets are congruent. In a sense, there is therefore only one Apollonian net, which can be thought of as a tessellation of the hyperbolic plane by circles.

The curved surface of the Earth is an elliptical plane which is the exact opposite of a hyperbolic plane.

Jim Denevan’s web site shows an image of his land art superimposed over New York City’s Central Park, presumably because it is generally at the same latitude.

In fact the precise center of Black Rock City has the same latitude (40°46’58.48″N) as the center of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on the edge of Central Park.

That drew my attention to these center points. The center of Burning Man is where they burn the effigy of “The Man” at the end of the week long experience. I measured the two concentric circles surrounding this in Google Earth Pro and the inner circle has an area of 25,920 square meters (the Great Year is 25,920 years) and the outer circle has an area of 111,111 square meters.

Burning Man concentric circles

The Solomon Guggenheim museum was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) and is world famous. FLW conceived of the concentric circle design as a “Temple of the Spirit.” The Guggenheim has recently become a Lego set in their fascinating Architecture theme. Lego offers other FLW designs including Fallingwater and the Robie House, with has unique roof elements having a slope of 33 degrees. They are so cool that I’d like to build them all.

I overlaid the image of BRC over the Guggenheim to scale and maintained the same orientation. The comparison has several geometric points of agreement with the edge of the pentagon paralleling the edge of what Mark Gray has dubbed Man-Aton (Manhattan). BRC itself touches the opposite edge along the East River. Center Camp of BRC is overlaid immediately adjacent to the Met and its Temple of Dendur where I discovered an alignment in Secrets In Plain Sight – Volume 1 and Cleopatra’s Needle which is discussed in Volume 2.

Black Rock City superimposed over Central Park

I made an illustration a few months ago about the name of wise Solomon being a reference to the Egyptian sun god. The Israelites came out of Egypt after all.

Sol Amon

“Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six (666) talents of gold.” -1 Kings 10:14

Solomon Guggenheim was married to Irene Rothschild and together they controlled one of the world’s largest fortunes. Today the Guggenheim Foundation operates the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (designed by architect Frank Gehry) and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice among many other things. Guggenheim Partners manages over $100 billion in assets and another family vehicle, Guggenheim Investment Advisors, oversees $50 billion in assets. You get the picture, the Guggenheim family is among the elite 1%.

Guggenheim Skylight

Image by Rebecca Kennison under the CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported license.

The rays emanating from the disc at the center of the Solomon Guggnheim museum skylight have 36 major divisions. The sum of the numbers 1 through 36 is 666.

“Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six (666).” Revelation 13:18

So this skylight resonates with the Sun and “The Man.”