From Ancestral Puebloans to the Maori of New Zealand, the spiral has been held throughout the ages as a sacred symbol of life.
C.G. Jung said that it represented the cosmic force.
A spiral in three dimensions becomes a helix, which shows itself in every nook and cranny of the universe, from the extremely large to the unfathomably tiny (and don’t forget the toroid, sophisticated cousin of the spiral and helix, making a splash in everything energetic).
René Descartes, and his intellectual descendants, gave us a quite useful way to map space-time—plotting coordinates in the three perpendicular axes, making math a functional descriptor.
But what if he inadvertently led us astray, imposing an artificial system of thinking on the elegance of Nature?
What if we instead synced our way of thinking with the way the universe works?
Might we find a mathematics that resonates with nature and leads to a wealth of discovery in physics, biology and sociology?
Take the Milky Way (my favorite galaxy), viewing it from a thousand light years away it spins gracefully, casting out gossamer arms of star clusters (which if we observe for eons, we will see that they are spinning, too).
Revolving spiral arms of a rotating galaxy—did the spin of the galaxy initiate the spin of its arms?
It seems logical.
Move closer, at the speed of thought, and pick a star on an outer arm of one of those spirals—if we’re lucky it might be our old friend Sol. See that he revolves with his stellar neighbors around a central axis of the Orion Arm, while rotating on his own axis.
All the while, the Milky Way silently spins. All these motions trace out graceful spirals and helixes.
Moving closer still, we discover our own spinning blue island, Planet Earth.
If we traced her path in space, we would see that rather than circling the sun and returning to the same point in the solar system, in a year’s time she actually corkscrews through space just as the sun moves through the galaxy.
On top of that, the earth is rotating, so we get sort of a double spinning effect: corkscrew revolution and axis rotation.
Now, move in closer to the earth, and the most obvious effects of this motion on earth are the weather patterns or the low and high pressure systems that form varying spiral motions over the surface of the earth.
They seem quite complicated, but we’ve obviously gotten better at predicting these patterns’ behaviors over the last 20 years or so. Basically, though, we’re looking down at a system of vortices caused by the earth’s motion around the sun and its own axis.
Now, let’s focus on a single low-pressure vortex, say, springtime over North America.
We see that this counter clockwise vortex is moving over a warm air mass and spawning a system of even smaller vortices that we call tornadoes. Everywhere within the low-pressure system, in which the conditions are suitable, a tornado forms.
Recent weather science has established that tornadoes are made up of several smaller vortices spinning within the walls of the tornado.
Basically, the “vortex” is built of vortices. We can go further and see that the raindrops hurtling through the tornado have both helical (corkscrew) motion and rotational motion due to the coreolis force (if we cast a strobe light on the stream from our kitchen faucet we will see a helix).
So, if we had the complete perspective of a raindrop flying around in one of several vortices inside the tornado (spawned from a low pressure rotation that’s part of a system of vortices on the surface of planet earth) and that system was generated from the rotational and helical motion of the earth’s movement around the sun and through the galaxy—we would see a pattern emerging that tells us that the larger actions of a phenomenon are made up of smaller actions that mirror, but don’t quite duplicate the larger scale.
Ok, so what? Why is that important?
Spirals, helixes and vortices are the most obvious structures for which we can easily observe several iterations of a hologram or fractal phenomenon.
And even though we can say that the larger scale behavior is causing the smaller scale behavior, when we really get down to it, we’re only looking at effects. The true cause is distortions in space-time.
But what it gets right down to is that we are looking at how the universe organizes itself.
Fractals are fascinating because until we developed the computer, and could input several million variables to get that many examples of the diagram, we could only see a few versions in scale of the phenomenon.
Suddenly, with the advent of the computer, we could see the patterns emerge.
They were always there, waiting for us to become intelligent enough to see them. How did those Ancestral Puebloans know?
What mathematicians say is that fractals are real things; they are real descriptions of physical phenomena. Furthermore, if we can solve the equation on the small scale, we can begin to solve it on the larger one. (What that means is that contained in some of these natural phenomena is the information needed to build the larger scale.)
That’s why nerdy people like me are fascinated with holograms and fractals.
We have an instinct that fractal geometry describes how the universe is built. We extrapolate that the only reason we can’t see the fractal or holographic aspect of some natural phenomenon is because we haven’t been able to step far enough away from it, or allow enough time to pass watching it in order to see the pattern emerge.
But if it truly is the way the universe organizes itself, then it would follow that we can look to it to explain physical, energetic and consciousness-related phenomena around us.
And what’s really mind blowing is that we have the key to the very large and the very small hidden in plain sight.
Consider that the DNA (a helical structure) in one cell of your big toe has the information necessary to build an entire you.
What information might be contained in one intelligent species?
One galaxy of intelligent beings?
It provokes humility.
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Assitant Editor: Laura Ashworth/Editor: Bryonie Wise