Friday, 30 April 2010

The Spiral

The Spiral is one of the most ancient symbols, which appears again and again since prehistoric times in various cultures, spread all over spacetime. Those ancient people noticed the spiral pattern in the world around them,  in the form of a snail, in the spiral growth of trees, in the movement of the Sun. They intuitively knew that the spiral was the basic symbol of evolution and expansion, but also of death and doom, thus they started painting it on murals or carving it on wood and rock, in an attempt to venerate the archetypical motif that surrounded them in numerous forms. 
The Spiral of the Goddess: One of the most popular symbols of the Celts , the Spiral or the Triple Spiral (Triskelion) became the symbol of the Goddess and of the threefold nature of the Divine. It was related with femininity and with the three stages of womanhood: Maiden, Mother, Crone. Another interpretation would be that of  the three realms of the material world: Land, Sea and Sky. Numerous variations of the spiral are found in paganistic and neopaganistic representations. Today, with the revival of paganistic religions, spirals are a common theme in jewelery, clothes and paintings.
The Spiral of Time: The Spiral signifies infinity, nature's cycles, the alternation of seasons (spirals were often used as solar calendars) and of cosmic cycles in eternity. In a few words, it is a symbol of Time. Time was born along with the universe. Its dimension is inseparable from the three dimensions of space. The big bang theory suggests that the universe was born from a tiny single point with infinite energy. When that point exploded, it gradually created the reality that we see around us, which is ever-expanding, like a spiral. If this expansion lead to perfection or to chaos, nobody can tell. And since we are all made of stars, as Moby rightly noted in his song, we can understand why some symbols talk directly to us,  in a molecular level and the vibrations of their thundering meanings can reach the depths of our psyche.

The Labyrinth: In a spiral we can see the image of a labyrinth. The labyrinth is an allegory of the spiritual journey , from the outer world towards inner silence or God,  like Dante's Inferno and the Minoan Labyrinth.  A descent to the unknown aspects of the soul. As we move along the curves of the spiral and through its twist and turns, which represent various trials, what happens is that we come face to face with the same things in life, but each time from a different angle.But nobody can guarantee that the journey leads  always towards enlightment. An expanding spiral eventually ends up in chaos, like the Tower of Babel. The dead ends of the labyrinth can become discouraging, dazzling and overwhelming and many times we find ourselves back where we started or even worse, trapped, with no sense of direction. 
The Spiral and the Serpent: We can't help but notice the similarity between spirals and serpents. Serpents were widely worshipped in ancient times. The dragons and nagas in China and India, the minoan serpent Goddess in Greece, the nordic  Jormungandrthe feathered serpent  Quetzalcoatl of the Aztects , the rainbow serpent in Australia, the python cult in Africa and so many others. Among them, the famous greek - egyptian Ouroboros: the serpent that eats its own tail, symbolizing rebirth through self-death, immortality, the cycle  and the totality of existence, Jung's cosmic force. There's a very rich tradition that refers to serpent cults, sometimes seen as benevolent, other times seen as evil, like the serpent of the Bible. The serpent often guards something of  great value, a treasure or a power that must not end up in the wrong hands, like kundalini or the tree of knowledge in Eden. In alchemy the spiral symbolizes the cyclical functions of nature, the androgyne, the caduceus. Even the Yin/Yang symbol, the swastika, the greek meander, are  variations of or elaborated spirals. 

The minoan Spiral: In ancient Greece, the spiral was associated with the bull, which symbolized fertility (bull's head and horns look similar to ovaries). We often see spirals on  amphoras or murals, as it was a very common decorative pattern. The interconnected spirals often symbolized water and the sea. Another interpretation of the interconnected spiral is that of the equinoctial points. 
The hypnotic Spiral: Hypnotists use  the pattern of a spinning spiral  to induce trance states. The  repetitive image causes the noise of the conscious mind to subside and makes it more receptive. We regularly see the spiral as the most distinct symbol of hypnotism.
The spiral expresses itself in numerous forms in nature: horns, shells, plants, galaxies, even in the DNA.  
Birth, death, expansion, chaos, symmetry, eternity, infinity, renewal, the constant flux of things are some of  the notions that spirals communicate to us, as they appear in a vast array of manifestations in the microcosmic and the macrocosmic level since time immemorial.  Perhaps, the recurring pattern of the spiral holds a key to the understanding not only of the universe and but also of our soul.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

The Hierarchy: a personal story about the existence of God

I've been an atheist for many years. I had never delved deep into the subject anyway, be- cause the lack of concrete proof about the existence of God always turn me off. I've been a person who needed rational explanations above all and I still am to a degree. I knew that I couldn't believe in God if there was no tangible evidence to support my faith. During that time, there have been moments when I asked the help of God, as we all do, but I did so probably because I was taught to , whenever things got really nasty. Prayer is a way to recognize our inability to deal with things we can't change. When we hope that something or someone  beyond ourselves can take care of our troubles.

Several years passed and then one day something happened. An insignificant event actually, but it did cause a train of thought that led me to believe that a "God" of some kind must exist. It was a summer day and I was sitting in the garden enjoying the last drops of sunlight. Ants were coming and going on the ground and around my feet, collecting food for the winter. If I moved my foot a bit, they changed course to avoid the "obstacle". Nothing unusual. It was obvious though: ants were aware of my presence, they knew I was there, yet they were not capable of understanding what they saw. They knew there was something  blocking their way, but what kind of creature that was, those ants would never be able to realize. And then I thought about other life forms and how they perceive each other. My cats for example, know me, they obviously understand that I take care of them. They trust me enough to let me pet them and play with them. Yet they will never be able to read this blog, they will never understand my intellect or that I'm a human and what a human is. It became quite clear for me:  there's a hierarchy in Nature, not only strenght-wise, but consciousness-wise also. Nobody can deny that. All living creatures have a certain degree of perception of the world around them. And if there's one thing that we could call a manifestation of God, that's Nature.  In that sense, believing that we humans have the highest degree of consciousness seemed ludicrous. We  are creatures that still have a long way to go before we understand the mechanisms and wonders of the world around us. Let alone the function of the universe or what the reality that surrounds us is all about or even our own minds. Think about the vastness of the cosmos and how we are ants ourselves in front of this magnificence. Not because we are small while it's big, but because its complexity (or simpicity) is way beyond our understanding. We can try to understand and that we do for millenia, but what if our intellect is not enough? Would those ants ever be able to recognize me as a human , no matter how hard they tried? My guess is that they wouldn't, even if they spent an eternity on this endeavor. Will we ever be able to answer the eternal question? Putting aside our innate arrogance that makes us think we can explain everything, we should consider the fact the we may never be able to give an answer, as an ant would never be able to understand nuclear fusion (and I have the feeling that the analogy ant - nuclear fusion falls short of the analogy human - God).

I still haven't an unshakable proof that there's a supreme Being, still the clues I have point to the fact that if there is such a Being (If I can call it a being), it must be something extremely incomprehensible for us. My logic (yes, that again) tells me that since in Nature there's this kind of order, we humans with our limited perspective can't be the summit of it. There must be beings way above us and then other beings above them also and so on.  Where does it end? Does it end anyway?

After that small  incident, a realization started growing in me, a notion that perhaps we must accept the fact that we don't know, because we can't understand and we never will. Even if the evidence is all around us.