Spirals: The Pattern of Existence by Geoff Ward
In Colin Wilson’s Introduction to this intriguing series of essays, he describes Geoff Ward as ‘a writer who makes a living by journalism.’ Later, Ward himself refers on more than one occasion to his talent for the guitar. These seemingly innocuous CV entries in truth speak volumes about the mind that produced this work. Through its seven chapters, Spirals demonstrates the practical demands of the left brain that wrote it running parallel, but never conflicting, with the sensual desires of the right. Early on, Ward explains the significance of this number: its ‘special resonance throughout human history; the colours of the rainbow, the notes of the Western musical scale ... deadly sins ... days of the week (and) the number of levels of consciousness in the Kabbalah.'
It is claimed the number seven is - and has been since the dawn of time - intrinsically related to the spiral form as a symbol of the evolutionary process, be it the shape of DNA that makes us what we are, or the form our galaxy long ago adhered to. Microcosm and macrocosm united in structure. Subsequently, the number acquired magical properties amongst tribal sects across the world that couldn’t possibly have made physical contact. Yet, a seven-fold spiral has been found carved on a 23,000-year-old mammoth ivory in Siberia, the Hopi Indians subsequently perceived it as the symbol for Mother Earth, while the Druids harboured a mystical adherence to Ursa Major’s seven stars. Many other examples referred to suggest the most jaded University professor would be hard pressed to palm them off as mere coincidence.
Chapter 1, Into the Swirl, compares the ancient European landscape’s man-made spirals created up to the Middle Ages, pondering on them as patterns symbolic of man’s attempts to ‘keep his society in harmony with the universe.’ Chapter 2, The Spell of the Archetype, utilises Jungian theory in seeing the archetypal pattern as much a part of the unconscious mind as physical reality. This manifests itself in representation, both mythological and factual, handed down – not as something static and fixed, but as an ‘instinctive’ and ‘inherited tendency.’ In Chapter 3, Ritual, Art and Nature, the spiral’s ‘deep, sigilistic fascination’ returns, in part, to the topic of the first chapter, while highlighting unearthed objects from such sites and their possible linkage to the dawning of human consciousness and its subsequent use in mathematics.
I approached the fourth chapter, Dragon Magic, with some scepticism. However, Ward opens by personalising his own experience of unconscious (or perhaps subconscious) spirals when, as a boy, his bored, boyhood double-spirals, zigzags and diamond shapes first appeared as aimless doodlings. Again, Jung, Kabbalah cosmology, and also the New Testament are each offered up reasoning their recurrence as part of his own past role in the collective unconscious. (I won’t spoil his punch line by quoting their alleged source here).
In the fifth chapter, The Spiraculate Universe, the concept is posited of the whole universe adhering to the shape, post big bang; what might be called a description of the ‘ang’ in bang. Vacuum energy expanding outwards in a matter of seconds immediately after creation. Literally, a vacant moment before the accepted laws of physics took over. Coil of Life looks at the idea of form as ‘an evolutionary conditioner,’ and there will be no surprise at the shape the RNA of DNA is as it multiplies the latter. And the final chapter, Vortex of Time, sees the Earth’s orbit around the Sun more as a helix than a formal circle, which few of our Government-backed scientists would argue with, since the planets in our galaxy all appear to orbit in multiple spirals. But, Ward links this back to Jung and his theory of synchronicity (or, ‘meaningful coincidences’) in people’s everyday life.
Rather than take an intransigent position on hard-nosed, Government-funded science on the one hand, or facile, New Age musings on the other, Ward bravely unites both, ultimately positing the likelihood of a far broader, more radical branch of science emerging from each. This grounded in the concept of consciousness being a gestalt, or uniting, human experience, rather than one subjective to the individual. Ward claims this discovery can only be positive, if only we’d wake up and smell the primordial soup. Only then will Man see how Life exists because it must – not by accident or default.
There is a quite beautiful metaphor in the spiral being the form nature automatically graduates to, radiating out and drawing in energy forever. Let us hope – if Ward’s conclusions are even close – we can use the so far untapped dynamism of our spiral cortex to swim away from an otherwise inevitable descent down the plughole of existence.