-What Kastalia Saw
Up against a blue wall, nine geese winging , follow a river (gifted to a daughter from a father) & the 3 meet some where, in 1st initial [S] this name She [the old river god] once had...
|------------------ ----and a Shhhhh stirs &
the movement forms
something like a stain
dissolving in flight
of a third remembers
in fluids without name
troubles to suggest
of curled branches
who sees not seeing
these arms...this trinity
here is the arc of hours
in days torn by birds
scratching out the eye
the I, without matrix
oozing there in edges
reminiscing of azure
One of the oldest symbols representing the universe,
a symbol found in countless
cultures around the globe,
is this one of the snake
swallowing its own tail or
"uroboros" as the Greeks called it.
Because it has this history
within the human psyche of
imaginal universe both defined
and undefined, it can be
regarded as an enthymemic topos symbol, a symbol
composing cosmos. Like all symbols the uroboros will
be ambiguous in representation, maintaining at once
paradoxical qualities of being and meanings.
Joel R. Primack,Professor of Physics, University of
California, Santa Cruz offers this version of the
Cosmic Serpent applying the ancient symbol in ways
that allow it to take on new meanings regarding
Cosmos and Culture. Such movement is mythopoetic
and where expressed provide us excellent example of
mythopoeisis. Mythopoeisis, in short, is narrative
tracing the movement of myth through culture.
Mythopoeisis, suggests William Doty, contains the
deep image associations (the expressions that relate
our sense of values) across boundaries and links or
connects them to the grandeur of the universe.
Here is an excerpt from Dr. Primack's essay. Dr. Primack writes
Why is this symbol useful? People asked to visualize "the universe" will far more
often think of the largest thing they know of than the smallest. Few realize that the
universe exists on all scales, everywhere, all the time. This is a truly extravagant
thought. Largeness is by no means the most important characteristic of the universe.
Focusing on it makes people feel small, not because they are, but because they are
simply ignoring all scales smaller than themselves in thinking about the universe. On
the Cosmic Uroboros, as I call it, if the mouth swallowing the tail is drawn at the top,
humans (at one meter or so) fall more or less at the bottom-i.e., at the center of all
the size scales in the visible universe. Many students are so stunned by this apparently
special place that they refuse to believe it and insist it must be a result of some tricky
choice of units. I don't know if the center of the Cosmic Uroboros is in fact special, but
finding themselves there certainly strikes a chord with most people. Perhaps it hearkens
back to the soul-satisfying cosmology of the Middle Ages, where earth was truly the
center of the universe.
At different scales, different laws of physics tend to control events. The Cosmic
Uroboros thus becomes not only a way of realizing that the universe exists on all
scales but also a map of emergent properties, with new properties appearing as you
move a few orders of magnitude in either direction along the body of the serpent...
What the Uroboros does not represent is evolution. Modern cosmology will never be
fully represented by a single idea. It contains several ideas that are each powerful
enough to change people's thinking, if they can be communicated. Another example
is Cosmic Inflation, which, of course, may or may not be true, but is the best
explanation we have today for the initial conditions that led to the Big Bang and the
relatively slow but stable expansion of the universe that has followed. In the tradition
of "as above, so below," here is a suggestion of how present-day issues could be seen
in a new way through the metaphor of Cosmic Inflation.
This essay grew out of Dr. Primack's collaboration with his wife, Nancy E. Abrams,
on their course "Cosmology and Culture" and on their book in progress. You can
read the full essay, Cosmos and Culture by clicking here.