Saturday, 6 August 2016

Onion Rings!

"No matter which way you slice it, you see rings"

"early 12c., from Anglo-French union, Old French oignon "onion" (formerly also oingnon), and directly from Latin unionem (nominative unio), colloquial rustic Roman for "a kind of onion," also "pearl" (via notion of a string of onions), literally "one, unity;" sense connection is the successive layers of an onion, in contrast with garlic or cloves." Source:

The onion - and its rings! - has frequently been used as an analogy and metaphor for different aspects of human awareness and organisation. It speaks of the many-layered aspect of things. It may be worth being reminded of it, every time we cut into one, for the pot or frying pan, often accompanied by irrational and unavoidable tears.

Onions and their symbolism have been around for a very long time. It is said the ancient Egyptians revered them for their representation of eternal life. Apparently with other essentials 'for the journey', Pharaohs were buried with them.

Could it be that the onion particularly in transverse section, and its association with the after-life, was inescapably linked to the understanding of the universe as it then was - a series of concentric spheres with earth at its centre?


It was an idea, ascribed mainly to the Alexandrian mathematician and astronomer, 'Ptolemy' (c. AD 100 – c. 170)  but much older in Greek/Arabic tradition, that held sway until comparatively recent times with the discoveries and theories of Copernicus and Galileo.

(It is perhaps worth noting that not until as recently as 1992, did the Pope indicate the position of the church over the Galileo affair might have been wrong! (Ref. 1))

Wikipedia states: Albert Van Helden has suggested that from about 1250 until the 17th century, virtually all educated Europeans were familiar with the Ptolemaic model of "nesting spheres and the cosmic dimensions derived from it


In the West, after Emperor Constantine - who in about 312 AD adopted Christianity for the Roman Empire - Ptolemaic concepts were admixed with Christian ideas of God, "the creator and sustainer of all things". This transformed into the idea that beyond the outermost and most distant sphere of fixed stars must be the dwelling place of God in a realm of timeless eternity.!Atlas_New_York.JPG

Lee Lawrie's colossal bronze Atlas, Rockefeller Center, New York.

No doubt the visual representation of the Greek idea of 'Atas' holding up the world on his shoulders fed into the visualistion mix. (Ref. 2)

And here an illustrated image from a mediaeval manuscript no doubt used to teach early scholars.

The celestial spheres illustrated in a medieval manuscript.

Here's a more accessible version of it.


However the onion section can represent other aspects of life also. For example it has been used here by by Yupo Chan to represent spacial land-use issues. (Ref. 3) Prof Geerte Hofstede (1997) uses the onion ring to conceptualize the various various layers of culture - values, ritual, heroes, symbols. (Ref. 4) We hear a lot about "our values" these days, but no-one appears to be able to reconcile them with our actual national behaviour around the world.


The onion and its rings was adopted by psychologists Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor in 1973 to illustrate their theory of social ' penetration', or how in social interaction, two people get closer through layers of psychological protection in the direction of intimacy. (Ref. 5.) "
  • Orientation stage. 
  • Exploratory affective stage. 
  • Affective stage. 
  • Stable stage. 
  • Depenetration stage (optional).


Dahlgren and Whitehead (1991) use the onion (and its rings) as a way of representing the complex factors and relationships that influence human health. (Ref. 6.)  It informed the Acheson Report (DH, 1998) (Ref. 7) and the Scottish Government's Equally Well (SG, 2008a). Some think it as the most effective illustration of health determinants, the promotion of which is a pursuit to which I have ineffectually devoted my life.

Wider Determinants of Health image


Writers have also drawn attention to the way in which we can view the human body as descending 'rings' each with its medical specialisms: the whole body, its organs, cellular activity, the role of bacteria and viruses, gentics, chemical and atomic processes.



Similarly, and almost as a repost to the early cosmology referred to above, as science revealed more of matter, so the 'layers' were revealed from the substance, through molecule of it, to its chemical elemental property, in all its periodic beauty (and in this regard I would recommend Primo Levi's excellent book 'The Periodic Table' Ref. 9) through atoms and its even tinyer proton, neutron and electron particles, and sub-particles revealed by huge accelerometers buried deep within the earth, the composition likewise likened to the onion rings.

As Robert L Wolke put it, "Even to many chemists and physicists, these concepts have never really become "reasonable." Familiar, yes. ... Or the earth around the sun. ... Or like the layer-upon-layer structure of an onion: No matter which way you slice it, you see rings" (Ref. 10.) Rather sums this article up! 

Perhaps chopping an onion will never be quite the same again?

REF. 1. From:
"On February 15, 1990, in a speech delivered at La Sapienza University in Rome,[72] Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, cited some current views on the Galileo affair as forming what he called "a symptomatic case that illustrates the extent to which modernity’s doubts about itself have grown today in science and technology."[73] As evidence, he presented the views of a few prominent philosophers including Ernst Bloch and Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, as well as Paul Feyerabend, whom he quoted as saying:
The Church at the time of Galileo kept much more closely to reason than did Galileo himself, and she took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo's teaching too. Her verdict against Galileo was rational and just, and the revision of this verdict can be justified only on the grounds of what is politically opportune.[74]
Ratzinger did not directly say whether he agreed or disagreed with Feyerabend's assertions, but did say in this same context that "It would be foolish to construct an impulsive apologetic on the basis of such views."[73]
In 1992, it was reported that the Catholic Church had turned towards vindicating Galileo:[75]
Thanks to his intuition as a brilliant physicist and by relying on different arguments, Galileo, who practically invented the experimental method, understood why only the sun could function as the centre of the world, as it was then known, that is to say, as a planetary system. The error of the theologians of the time, when they maintained the centrality of the Earth, was to think that our understanding of the physical world's structure was, in some way, imposed by the literal sense of Sacred Scripture....
— Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano N. 44 (1264) – November 4, 1992"

REF. 2. From:
In Greek mythologyAtlas (/ˈætləs/Ancient GreekἌτλας) was the Titan god of endurance and astronomy,[1] condemned to hold up the sky for eternity after theTitanomachy. Although associated with various places, he became commonly identified with the Atlas Mountains in northwest Africa (modern-day Morocco,Algeria and Tunisia).[2] Atlas was the son of the Titan Iapetus and the OceanidAsia[3] or Clymene.[4] He had many children, mostly daughters, the Hesperides, the Hyades, the Pleiades, and the nymph Calypso who lived on the islandOgygia.[5] According to the ancient Greek poet Hesiod Atlas stood at the ends of the earth towards the west.[6]
In contexts where a Titan and a Titaness are assigned each of the seven planetary powers, Atlas is paired with Phoebe and governs themoon.[not in citation given][7]
Hyginus emphasises the primordial nature of Atlas by making him the son ofAether and Gaia.[8]
"Atlantic Ocean" means "Sea of Atlas", while "Atlantis" means "island of Atlas".

REF. 3.

Location, Transport and Land-Use: Modelling Spatial-Temporal Information

By Yupo Chan

REF. 4. An organisational cultural perspective By Bob Waisfisz

REF. 5.

REF. 6.

REF 7.

REF. 8.'onion'%20rings%20Physics&f=false

REF. 9.

REF. 10.

Chemistry Explained - Page 120
Robert L. Wolke


  1. Who is working for whom? Who is working for what? Those are the questions that must be asked.

  2. Paloma Faith - "Do you want the truth or something beautiful?"

  3. RICHPLANET TV Documentary Jimmy Saville and MI5 & The Intelligence Controlled media

  4. RICHPLANET TV Documentary Jimmy Saville and MI5 & The Intelligence Controlled media

  5. RICHPLANET TV Documentary Jimmy Saville and MI5 & The Intelligence Controlled media