All life is a spiral upward, downward, or inward. Just as Dante’s Inferno is a spiral downward, like Geryon’s fell-flight, so is his mountain of Purgatory a spiral path upwards. Only Paradise, removed from material constraints, has true circles. In our own macrocosm, the Milky Way is a spiral.  And down to the microcosm, so is a snowflake, as Dr. Seuss reminds us in The Grinch, also spiral, or fractal in nature.

A spiral, or a twisted and labyrinthine line, curved infinitely inward, represents both physical and spiritual nature. Even look to the structure of the spiral itself. It begins with a point of departure from the pristine perfection of a circle–continues on a continuous slowly degenerating loop until it again fails to hit its starting point and loops back in on itself. How could this not be a representation of life in all its degenerating progress? Just as one attains greater consciousness and wisdom as one ages, so does the vitality of one’s body begin to fade. Perhaps just as when one marries, one turns one’s focus to a new family, and certain friendships or more tertiary ambitions fall to the wayside.

But spirals can also be directed outward, and while one’s loop is consistently going beyond one’s former boundaries, one can also expand or excel one’s limitations in other endeavors, almost unconsciously. As one begins to master a physical art, like Olympic Lifting for example, making great and deep strides which require an iron-like will, razor focus, and a great heart, one might return to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (only very loosely related) with a mindset primed and ready to learn up to or beyond the level attained in the prior sport. And that, like the spiral, is the deepest reason one pursues sports, as a measure of self-growth.

Not only does improvement in physical arts share its full expression through the spiral growth pattern. Really any measurable or immeasurable endeavor (harder to see, obviously)–which gives one’s self an opportunity to grow in a way that improves one’s capacity to learn and adapt, will invariably improve one to the next level in one’s art or craft–the deepest expression of one’s innermost nature. The greater one’s manner of self expression becomes (Language is the limit of our being?), the greater one’s conscious imprint on this world will be. This has very famously been called the true measure of a man. (know me by my effects?).

Every substantial form, at once distinct
from matter and conjoined to it, ingathers
the force that is distinctively its own,

a force unknown to us until it acts-
it’s never shown except in its effects,
just as green boughs display the life in plants.

Dante, “Purgatorio” (18.49-54)

And so the spiral shows the tripartite, or trinitarian, aspect of growth. Whether it be expressed as thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, or beginning, middle, and end, or as a man with an empty cup, who then fills his cup, and then empties it to fill it again, the spiral nature of becoming or degenerating is maintained in all endeavors. One must try, fall, and try again. Even in Jonathan Nolan’s brilliant new HBO prestige-show, Westworld, one sees both humans (The Man in Black–played by Ed Harris) and Hosts (Dolores). One sees that both the semi-conscious robots which inhabit this immersive, fun-house, west-style experience, and their violent delight-taking guests (humans) are both struggling to find meaning, to be truly conscious. And therefore a maze is designed as a sort of game to lead, or to the teach one, the way towards consciousness, or recognition of one’s place in the world, by recognizing the nature of the world. This process takes the form of traumatizing the hosts over and over until they finally develop trace memories of what has happened before–these memories are called reveries, and they very much upset the hosts usual Ground-Hog Day existence (they only ever live on a one day or one loop journey, and then as if the River Lethe were turned mechanical, they have their memories wiped after each loop.) One wonders to what extent this is a conscious analogy to us people who time and time again refuse to adjust and change, regardless of the negative results. It is as if we turn our backs on the truth. That said, at least one Host finds the center of the maze, reaches the next loop of the labyrinth, and expands “beyond her loop” to the next level of the spiral.

Dante would agree very much with this analogy for extending consciousness, having himself written (and supposedly had a vision of) a tri-partite after-life, very much with this analogy for extending consciousness. As would the apostle Paul, who tells us to become child-like. One must first be a child, and then “put away one’s childish things,” and then ultimately, one must again become childlike. One must empty one’s cup. One must become like the ocean and expand by placing itself beneath the raging rivers. A master begins as a white-belt, attains expert status as a black-belt, and eventually, his belt wears back through to white as he becomes a master. Such are the uniform lessons of the ever-changing spiral, ever growing outward, or inward, but always moving towards something, like Zeno’s paradox of the arrow which never reaches, but eternally approaches, its destination. Perhaps this is the limit of our mortal thought on immortality–forever becoming and striving against forever being–uniform and constant, without our beloved twists and turns, born of our own imperfect existences.


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